InkTober 2017: Day 20 – Deep

Isn’t it interesting that when we talk about feelings it’s with regards to how deep we feel them? Two phrases that immediately come to mind because they reference the depths within our bodies to which we may feel emotions – whether good or bad – are ‘from the bottom of my heart’ and ‘in the pit of my stomach’. Metaphysically or mystically there’s also the phrase ‘deep in my soul’ that’s meant to describe a depth that goes far beyond anything we feel within our bodies.

I’m not good at doing or feeling things superficially. When I do something, I put my all into it. When I feel as if I’m just going through the motions or I’m less than enthusiastic about any task before me I know that it’s not where my interest and passion are. Similarly, when I meet someone and spend a bit of time them, if I don’t feel excitement at the thought of speaking to them or seeing them in the future, I know my heart isn’t in it and it won’t be fair for me, or them, to deepen our involvement.

Where I believe our feelings should be when we’re in relationships is soaring about the clouds. I know many people believe it’s an unrealistic expectation to feel that way in every moment, but why should anyone settle for less. A relationship – actually any significant endeavour – is hard work, so why shouldn’t it generate the best possible feelings when you’re in it? I can’t see anything wrong with having that approach. Besides, isn’t that the way you’d like the person you’re involved with to feel about you?



InkTober 2017: Day 19 – Cloud

As a child, did you play the game where everyone would lay on their backs in the grass and look for shapes, usually animals, in the thick fluffy white clouds as they floated by? I loved that game. I also loved trying to see the things that others saw, although I wasn’t always successful. However, what I loved more was the slight dizzy feeling I would get as the clouds and their blue backdrop of sky moved above us because it made me feel as if I was moving too.

Sometimes I would lie on the grass for what felt like hours. Then when I finally stood up, I would feel unsteady. I always needed a moment to steady myself on the solid ground before I could start running around again with my friends.

I wonder if I’m the only one who felt that sensation?


InkTober 2017: Day 18 – Filthy

I was raised in a family where swearing, especially among children, was unacceptable – even taboo. Because of this, for most of my life I’ve considered swearing a filthy habit or something done by those who have a limited vocabulary and inability to express their thoughts without relying on profanity. I’m not so sure I believe that so strongly now. In recent years, as my illness has refused to subside, my opinion has softened. Maybe it’s partially because my pain medications have somewhat lowered my inhibitions or it might be that when I’m in extreme pain my mind doesn’t always function clearly.

Whatever the reason, swearing has become part of a shorthand for me to express my anger, frustration, and pain. However, I’m still a bit reserved about when I use obscenities. I won’t swear in front of my parents or elder members of my extended family, probably because somewhere deep inside me I still fear some sort of punishment for using what I was raised to believe is “bad language.” I don’t swear when speaking to the doctors whose support and efforts to get me healthy have been steadfast. And I definitely don’t use curse words in the presence of children.

So when, if not in front of all those I’ve listed, do I spurt coarse four-letter – and occasionally longer-lettered – words? I use curse words when I’m talking to friends and family (like my brother) with whom being myself, all of myself, is never questioned. I blurt them out when, frustrated, I fumble through explaining to my therapist how I’m coping with all aspects of my illness. I can also string curses together, better than a sailor does, when I’m on my own and hopelessly trying to do something that never posed any difficultly when I was healthy.

Although I may not swear in every conversation or every instance of frustration, I must admit that I don’t view doing so as filthy as I once did. It has earned a place in my linguistic arsenal as a tool that helps me get to the point of what I need to communicate faster than trying to search for the appropriate words when I need that energy to focus on what ails me.



InkTober 2017: Day 17 – Graceful

Women are expected to be graceful – Always. But that’s not a practical thing when you’re a human being, unless you’re a dancer; and even then you may stumble or make a misstep in a choreographed routine from time to time. Maybe that’s why I was a tomboy when I was younger until the end of my teen years. I must have had some internal guidance telling me that it was impossible to live up to the pretty ribbons my mother perpetually tied in my hair and the patterned dresses she zipped and buttoned me into that made it impossible for me to move as freely as I desired.

Being a girl became more challenging as I hit puberty. When my body started to change, in some ways it made playing the sports, which were mostly designated for boys, harder to play. Later, life still became more physically restrictive as I was told how to stand, what to wear, how to paint my face and style my hair, and sometimes how to speak, all in the service of putting my femininity on full display. Yet none of that made me feel graceful. Not the curves my body developed, not the clothes I wore, nor the mannerisms I adopted.

The only times I felt graceful was when I was doing something physical. Doing things that my now deceased grandmother never tired of reminding me were meant for boys: running outdoors, kicking a soccer ball, throwing a football in a perfect spiral, competing in gymnastics, skiing across open terrain or down hills, riding my bicycle, or even my least strong activity, swimming. Doing those things made me feel I had full autonomy over my body to test my strength, and push my physical limits. Unfortunately, my body no longer affords me the ability to do these things as I wish to.

So how does one exercise the gracefulness their body literally prevents them from being? In my case – and I suppose it might be the same for others living with a chronic illness – being graceful has become about how I face the daily challenges and large adversities that loom within all the unknowns to come. One can be the demanding “bull in the china shop” trying to force action from or answers out of doctors, who although they haven’t cured you yet, go above and beyond to figure out what is happening in and to the body they’ve chosen not to give up on and to which they continue to deliver care.

I can also work to preserve what was once plentiful in my physical movement, through mindful interactions within relationships with friends and family. The primary way I see doing this for myself is through acceptance. Accepting that the strength and agility I may be losing from within my body because of continuous pain is being replaced by something stronger, the love and care from those who remain close to me.


InkTober 2017: Day 16 – Fat

I have allergies. Thankfully, they are not the severe kinds that make people have to walk around with an EpiPen® (epinephrine injection). Some of my allergies are seasonal and haven’t required much attention by way of taking antihistamines or other remedies for many years. Others are along the lines of sensitivities to foods (e.g. dairy) and the environmental kinds that one can’t escape, such as dust and mold. I also have a couple of odd ones that don’t merit discussion because they are so out in left field. However, there is one allergy that fits perfectly with the image that popped into my mind for the Day 16 prompt: Fat.

I’m allergic to cats. The hairier and the more they shed the worse I react to them. I may sneeze, cough, become itchy from the top of my head down the length of my body, and I have, on occasion, gotten red very-raised hives on different parts of my skin. All of these symptoms can arise without direct contact with a cat. Luckily, taking antihistamines – usually ahead of visiting the home of people who have cats – is helpful with coping. Luckier still, although I’m asthmatic, I can’t recall ever experiencing severe issues with my breathing because of my proximity to cats.

The incredible thing about being allergic to cats is that they ALWAYS seem to know who is. It’s as if they have an internal radar that helps them to hone in on people who are allergic to them. In my case, I’ve had a broad range of experiences that confirm this theory. First, there’s what comes across as a simple friendly behaviour cats engage in to say hello to the new person in the room: purring and rubbing themselves against, around, and through your legs with their entire bodies starting with the tip of their whiskers to the end of their tails. I’ve been told this is just their way of letting you know you’re liked, but I suspect it’s a way of collecting intelligence then marking you for further action(s).

Those further actions may include but may not be limited to sniffing parts of your body, usually exposed parts like feet and hands. There are the frequent strolls-by that involve more, sometimes extended, contact between their bodies and the bodies of the allergy-inflicted. The main goal of this and other contacts being maximizing the transfer of their allergy aggravating hair and dander. However, for me the ultimate action that cats take against the allergy-inflicted is the “I’m-going-to-make-your-body-my-bed-by-stomping-all-over-you-until-you’re-as-soft-as-I-can-make-you” dance.

What this entails is a cat, either stealthy or in one pouncing motion, finding its way to your lap. The most memorable of these stompings came under the feet of a rather large, hairy, old, fat, orange cat. This cat landed on my lap then unceremoniously raised its hind end and tail and started moving in a tight circle on my lap. Each turn caused more hair to fall off its body to my clothes, yet all I could do was sit there until it found the exact position in which it wished to plant itself to take a nap. The length of that nap seemed eternal and I can still picture that fat mound of orange hair rising and falling as it breathed in and out.

When the cat had slept satisfactorily, it slowly stretched its body then lowered itself to the floor and walked away without the slightest hint of a thank you or an apology for lowering my allergic defenses. This action and others like it is why I believe that cats can sense when someone is allergic to them, and no one can ever convince me otherwise.


InkTober 2017: Day 15 – Mysterious

One of my favourite things to do when I was a teenager was ride the subway in my city from one end to the next, for hours, while writing. I would sit on a seat that gave me a wide vantage point to watch people as they entered and exited the subway car in which I rode. Watching people’s movements inspired my poetry and prose writing. Trying to see beyond the clothes and blank expressions, they wore, made my mind work to create personas or circumstances I felt suited each man, woman, or child as they moved briefly toward me then permanently away from me out the train’s sliding doors.

On one occasion, I wrote a short poem about a man whose presence caught my attention. He was tall and he stood in the doorway of the train’s car with one shoulder leaning against the Plexiglas-enclosed entryway. However, I couldn’t read too deeply into him because he wore sunglasses, which prevented me from seeing his eyes and made him more mysterious than he probably was. Not being able to see a person’s eyes always makes it difficult for me to read them and in this case, his sunglasses made it impossible.

As the man continued standing in the doorway, I was unable to hide my interest in him. Although I couldn’t see his eyes I knew he was looking at me. As he stood there, I wrote about him and I wondered if he knew he was my subject. I got my answer when the train arrived at his stop. Before he left the train, he looked directly at me and smiled. I was so taken aback by that sudden unexpected connection that I smiled back. I smiled back not knowing for certain why he smiled at me.

As silly as it may sound: to this day, thinking about that experience unnerves me. Why did that man, whose eyes couldn’t be seen, smile at a teen-aged girl while they rode on the same train?


InkTober 2017: Day 14 – Fierce

I had trouble drawing my sketch and writing my thoughts coherently, for this prompt since I read it a couple of days ago. I knew what I wanted to draw to represent the word ‘fierce’ and I knew exactly what I wanted to say. However, I’d never drawn a lion before and, on top of that, I had some writer’s block too. I tried a few times to start the sketch but it wouldn’t take shape the way I wanted it to. I did a lot of erasing and had to sharpen my pencil many times. I wanted to draw a lion that looked like a creature to be feared, instead of a stuffed animal but that’s not an easy thing to do when you’re not an accomplished artist.

Why the words wouldn’t come is a different and very personal matter. What I was trying to truthfully articulate is something I’ve struggled with in my life: putting on a façade to appear tougher than how I feel because I don’t want others to know that their attempts to wound me have landed with painful accuracy. As a woman, I’ve done that repeatedly to push through and past situations, while pushing away the someone(s) who felt they had the right to betray my trust or recklessly harm me. I did it so many times that it became second nature, while showing what I truly feel and how deeply I feel it became gruelling work.

I assume we all like to believe that we are or can be fierce when a situation makes it necessary. I say “necessary” because the human body’s nervous system is not designed to be on constant alert. Being fierce at all times requires a hyper-vigilance that takes a toll on one’s body and mind. We are designed to sense danger, get ourselves to safety, then shut down that alert system so our bodies return to a (relative) state of calm. Moreover, the measures needed for keeping out the bad, mean not allowing enough of the good to find its way through; and it can be exhausting to keep this cycle going.

My fierce demeanor was so well-practiced I could probably teach how-to classes and make a fortune. First, there’s the posture one must take where your back and shoulders are held with such stiffness your body oozes aloofness and an air of I don’t give a f…, which may send a message that feelings – if it’s believed one has any – can’t be accessed or hurt. Then there’s the sharp cutting glance that takes years to master and to an untrained eye may resemble the batting of an eyelash. The sender must make sure the receiver feels the whittling sharpness of the look to their core in an instant. While the accompanying words – their calculated pitch and timing between them – further build the effect of an impenetrable stone structure that towers protectively above one’s physical frame.

Many years ago, I had to look at my life and figure out how well this strategy was working for me. The primary question being: Was my fierce demeanor attracting the people and the experiences I wanted in my life? If it wasn’t, what did I have to change? Although, I didn’t have to overwrite who I was completely, it took years for me to unlearn and untangle myself from these exhausting self-protective practices. Furthermore, the work is ongoing because there is no single action or magic pill that can give you everything you want overnight.