InkTober 2017: Day 8 – Crooked

My life has not moved along a straight linear path in recent years – it probably never did. Because of my health, it has swung from one extreme to the next – from quiet calm to frenzied panic – without much warning. If I had to draw a graph to represent that activity, the line would have few crooked curves; it would be a line with jagged high peaks and deep valleys illustrating the sharp turns I’ve experienced while living with this yet to be fully diagnosed illness. However, as sharp as the turns have been, they haven’t all been bad. At the top of some of the high peaks, I’ve had some unexpectedly joyous moments and it’s been those moments that have kept me grounded and moving forward with some hope of a full recovery.

Interestingly, the difficulties of my health were not the first things I thought of when I read the word ‘crooked’ from the list of InkTober prompts. Although I’ve traveled to California before, I’ve never been to San Francisco. So why Lombard Street in San Francisco was my first thought I don’t know.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I must have locked away the piece of trivia about Lombard Street being named “the crookedest street in the world” because of the eight hairpin turns in its design resembling zigzags that carry it down what was once a steep slope (27% grade). All the photos of Lombard Street I’ve ever seen, show a beautiful hillside lined with planted bushes of bright flowers and homes built on either side of a winding street paved with red bricks; and because of these features this street is a huge tourist attraction in San Francisco. Maybe one day in the not-to-distant future, when I get back to traveling on a regular basis, I’ll take a trip to see it.



The Difficulty Of Being Loved

FACT: When we are loved, it’s not always easy to accept it and take in the full meaning of it.

The difficulty of it lies in trusting the realness of receiving something immeasurable without any expectation of having to give a single thing in return. It’s especially difficult when we have lived lives where we survived abuses and/or significant traumas where love and tenderness were withheld to increase suffering. How can a person trust a reality where things are given without a price or obligation attached, when one’s whole existence screams that it isn’t possible to have that, to be worthy of that, or deserving of another human being who regards your being with tenderness and care?

I’m a witness to this struggle now. I’m seeing this unfold in the life of one of my friends and the mental health toll is enormous. My friend’s partner is in the midst of a major health battle and seems incapable of accepting, or acknowledging, how deeply they are loved and cared for by so many people. This person could be told every hour on the hour that they are loved and they still might never believe it. The exhaustive effort invested in repeated attempts to show love in tangible ways with the gifting of things, through deliberate actions, physical emotional comforts, and just being there are all dismissed as insufficient or outright meaningless; which makes the giver, in return, feel unloved.

Being on the receiving end of this dismissal may be a deeper pain than never being loved. Watching someone I love live through something like this makes me feel helpless. There isn’t enough I can do or say to make this situation better. I can be supportive. I can tell my friend kind words or make suggestions about how to cope. However, I know my actions and words only salve the pain during the moments when we interact. When those moments end, my friend is the one who returns to living this difficult reality. A reality that – if I’m reading things correctly – is not going to end well, no matter how much I hope for an alternate result.

As this situation unfolds, it’s getting harder for me to understand why people make living the lives we have so much harder than they must be. Why do we treat each other so harshly? And why, when we are most in need of it, do we reject the kindness and love of those closest to us?


Bonnie Raitt – I Can’t Make You Love Me


InkTober: Day 31 – Friend

“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you who you are.” – Unknown

I heard that phrase a lot while I was growing up. My paternal grandmother was an especially strong believer in that theory. She was often right about which of the kids we brought home to hang out would be the one to try to tempt us into trouble or be less observant when it came to following rules. As I got older, even when I professed to be my own person and an independent thinker who could choose my own friends, those words often floated up into my thoughts at times when I questioned whether I should keep someone in my life after witnessing troubling behaviours and attitudes. It became one of the many thought-provoking phrases to help me figure out what to do.

However, I haven’t always gotten it right. There were times when I suppressed that wisdom and let others convince me to act against my feelings. When I do that, I tend to find myself in situations that are less than desirable or outright harmful to me. Situations that range from being pushed to socialize with people who are so negative that talking to them is a physically draining experience; being at events with people whose favourite pastime is talking trash about whoever might be absent, while recognizing if I was absent I could be the topic of cruel conversation. I’ve even had to aggressively confront people who are so bigoted and intolerant that they comfortably verbalize negative stereotypes and make stomach turning generalizations about anyone not like them.

The most extreme situation I faced in recent years, involved a decade-long friendship. With this friend, I could no longer deny that he had a substance abuse problem and he wasn’t just a hard partyer. He came to my home to visit me shortly after I became ill to ask for some of my pain medications so he could get high. That situation did place me in direct harm and I got there because over the length of our friendship I repeatedly downplayed how incompatible the habits and vices of this person were with mine; and I wanted to believe that as long as he didn’t impose that part of his lifestyle on me we could continue being friends.

Unfortunately, I needed a jolt this shocking to remind me that it’s not realistic to have people whose views about the world are so drastically different from your own so involved in your life. I don’t mean that my friends always have to agree with me, but it’s hard to maintain a harmonious balance when you don’t share similar core values. Overall, I consider myself very fortunate, because when I think about my closest friends, I can see that I’ve chosen some incredible people to be in my life. The people in my life who are closest to me are loyal and trustworthy. They are supportive and tell me the truth instead of telling me what they think I want to hear, and we never have to hide our true feelings about anything from each other. They have empathy for others and always treat everyone with respect. Most importantly, we have meaningful connections, which I never worry might negatively affect my life

InkTober - Day 31 - Friend


InkTober: Day 29 – Surprise

I love doing things to surprise the people in my life that I care for. I don’t feel it’s necessary to wait for a special occasion like a birthday or holiday to do something nice for them. However, I don’t like being surprised. I especially dislike someone telling me they have a surprise for me because the suspense of waiting feels terrible. It’s hard to quiet my mind as it jumps from one possibility to the next trying to figure out what the surprise might be. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I don’t like having someone do nice things for me.

I think not liking being on the receiving end of a surprise has a lot to do with always trying “to be in control” of all aspects of my life. The crazy thing about that is if you understand anything about life, you know you can’t control anything about it. Time passes, the seasons change, and we grow older. We can’t stop any of it and we can’t speed it up or slow it down. All we can do is manage how we react to each unexpected event, and even those we know are about to unfold.

I say manage because I’ve learned – it seems like a lot more since becoming ill – that sometimes our emotions surprisingly overwhelm us. This means our reaction to a situation may not match the scale of what has happened. We also need to take into account that our reactions are also coloured by our past experiences so what we feel in a given moment may not even be about what’s happening in that moment. A current event could reawaken a memory or long-forgotten feelings and it’s not until we stop and put things in perspective that we might figure this out and make sense of our surprising reaction(s).

So, knowing all of this, how can anyone expect to control anything?

InkTober - Day 29 - Surprise


InkTober: Day 21 – Big

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by a situation you didn’t know what to do with yourself? That happens to me more often than I care to admit. I’ve occupied that space of frenzied energy quite a bit in recent years because of my health. There were moments when I couldn’t comprehend all the information given to me by multiple doctors in appointments and I walked away feeling scared and lost. Many times, I couldn’t make sense of what my body was doing or why, but knew I had to seek help in addition to my daily cocktail of medications. Of course, it sometimes gets worse when the solutions proposed to restore my health seem crazy, and then disappointingly don’t deliver the expected results.

However, with all of this unpredictable craziness in my life in the last few years, I’ve been forced to put a lot of things into the proper perspective. Sometimes people and issues in my daily life make me angry, but the physical reaction my body responds with forces me to take a step back and remind myself that whatever I’m dealing with in that moment, isn’t as big a deal as what I’ve been doing my best to cope with for three years. And when I contrast my health trials to some of those of the people I’ve connected with through social media or people closer to me within my circle of personal relationships, they pale in comparison.

Perspective is an interesting thing. We need to remember to keep our sights on the big picture so the little things don’t tear us down.

InkTober - Day 21 - Big


InkTober: Day 20 – Squeeze

It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me that I always squeeze my toothpaste – or other things that come in tubes – from the bottom. Nor would they be shocked to learn that I care about the direction toilet paper is rolled: it should always be from the top. I also like my dishes, and cans and boxes of food stacked and organized a certain way, as well as clothing and linens being folding and stored in distinct ways. When CDs were a big thing, I had a filing system for my CD collection, so I could easily know where to find music when I wanted to listen to something specific. My friends definitely mocked me for this, when I explained my system because they wanted to play or borrow music.

I’m not suggesting that I’m OCD – at least I’ve never been diagnosed – but I appreciate order. Although it’s become impossible to keep some of that order since becoming ill. Whether it’s because I’m too tired or sore to do something the way I usually would, or trying not to be rude when someone takes the time to help me. The order that I once prided myself on keeping is falling by the wayside. There seems to always be dishes in my kitchen sink. I rarely put away all my clothes, whether immediately after being laundered or if they don’t make the cut when I’m choosing an outfit, and because of that I have a perpetual mound of fabric sitting atop the chair in my bedroom; and sometimes on the side of the bed on which I don’t sleep. I recently told a friend that I need a desk. He replied, “You don’t need a desk. You need a dining table.” Alluding to the fact that my dining table is now littered, with all the things (my laptop, pens, markers, pencils, notebooks, sketchbooks) I would want to place on a desk.

I can’t seem to muster the energy to get things in order. However, I don’t necessarily believe it’s a bad thing that I’m not so strictly organized anymore. The energy I once squeezed into cleaning or making sure I placed things in specific places, even when I was exhausted, isn’t channelled into those areas anymore – not that I don’t have my moments of weakness when someone does me the favour of doing my dishes. I’m using that energy, when it’s available to me, to do creative things and take care of myself. Furthermore, instead of a place where things are always neatly organized, I’m enjoying the idea of having a home that looks and feels lived-in.

InkTober - Day 20 - Squeeze


InkTober: Day 19 – Flight

I envy the freedom of animals with the ability to fly. Reaching the heights of the clouds and floating above everything on the ground. I suppose that’s why I love huge roller coasters that make you feel like you’re so high in the air you might fall off the earth; and, why I’ve gone skydiving. I wanted to get back on the plane and climb up to 10,000 feet so I could glide down again, as soon as I landed and collected my parachute. It might even have been why I enjoyed gymnastics so much when I was younger. If I try hard, I can vividly remember swinging between the uneven bars then releasing my grip from the high bar and feeling my body in flight for mere seconds before landing in the safety of the mats.

Such bodily freedom shouldn’t belong only to animals with wings.

InkTober - Day 19 - Flight