the box

It is bulging. Its sides are reinforced with duct tape. It’s been reopened many times to accommodate just one more thing, haphazardly retaped each time. Its label says Keepsakes, when it should actually say DANGER.

But at 34 years old, this box is too heavy for me to lift anymore, and it’s too full to for anything else. It’s stuffed full of pieces of my life that I don’t want to think about, parts of me that I’ve carefully concealed. The things that bring me shame. The things that make me hide. The things that make every nerve in my body stand up when people get too close to it.

For a short while, I started putting these things into someone instead of the box, and I felt safe. I didn’t feel like I needed to hide or perform. I could just be. I want to stay this free and unburdened, but I feel the weight of my life and The Box I’ve been carrying around, and it is enormous.

I messaged my therapist and told them about The Box, and in that moment it finally gave out, spilling the contents all over the place. Huge manifests of things I’ve been and hoped to be still, little scraps of hopes and dreams, slips of papers with the lies I’ve told, a book of accounts that list all the hurts and outstanding apologies that aren’t coming. The lists of roles and expectations that I’ve abided by. All of these things are going to need to be inventoried before they can be safely recycled to be made into something new. It’s an exercise of taking taking them out and talking about them, piece by piece.

Always be you.

Ferdinand. A symbol of strength and gentleness, and a reminder to smell the flowers.

I cried when I got this. Not because of the pain, although I sat for five and a half hours in one go. I cried because I thought of all the shitty days that got me here. I thought of all the times that my mom sent me The Story of Ferdinand to remind me of my strength, to remind me to slow down and smell the flowers and to remember there is still beauty in the mess.

I thought about how we fought when she told me she was moving 1,200km away, and how she sent a physical copy of the book to me as a peace offering. It worked. I cried then, too.

I cried because this will be with me long after she leaves this world. I showed her and she was delighted. She said, “Always be you.”

These are a few of my favourite things

Christmas is coming. Consider this a brief list of my favourite things that someone in your life (or you!) might like, too:

  • Hammock with straps and carabiners that I hung on my patio. It packs down to a small pouch, and works equally as well when used between two trees, available from the evil corporation here
  • Contigo travel mug. What makes this special? It does not leak when it’s locked. I have put this in my backpack upside down with my Macbook. The sealing mechanism flips open for easy and more thorough washing – no more gross coffee cream scum. Available from the evil corporation here
  • Bamboo sheets from Daniadown. These feel like silk against the skin, but they’re lightweight and breathable, and they wash so well. Daniadown is Canadian! Available here
  • Poetry books. I purchased 14 this year. My favourites were from Bianca Sparacino, Trista Mateer, Atticus, and Nikita Gill
  • Anker Soundcore Mini bluetooth speaker. I take this everywhere. Available from the evil corporation here
  • Roku Express HD Streaming Media Player. Don’t have a SmartTV? This is the answer. I also love that I can take it with me when I house-sit/travel, and I’m already signed in to all of my streaming accounts. Available from the evil corporation here
  • Vessi Weekender shoes. Pricey, but they’re the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever owned, and they’re waterproof. Great for those awful, wet PNW winters Get $20 off with my referral link
  • Stickers. I put them on everything – my laptop case, my Contigo travel mug, my Nalgene water bottle. Get every sticker your bold heart can imagine over at Redbubble I’m sorry in advance that you’ve reverted back to a child-like state and need to decorate everything. Actually, I’m not sorry at all.
  • Did you take up sewing this year? These sewing clips were a game changer. Easy to use and less stabbing my fingers and bleeding on my projects is always a plus. Available from the evil corporation in a tub of 100 here
  • Three port usb wall chargers for charging phones, sex toys, backup battery packs, whatever. I have two of them and it’s really nice to be able to charge everything at once instead of hunting around for charging cubes and fighting with the power bar for space. Available from IKEA here
  • ROCKS! I love polished rocks. I like holding them, looking at them in the light, carrying them around with me when I’m anxious. I would normally nerd out at rock and gem shows, but you know, covid. Here’s another Canadian retailer with a great selection of rocks
  • Flannel shirts from UNIQLO, so cozy
  • Patches, pins, and prints from Stay Home Club
  • Political, queer, and feminist shirts and pullovers from March for the Movement excellent quality, so soft. I get compliments on my tshirts from this shop everywhere I go
  • 1-litre Nalgene water bottles. I almost always have one of these with me. They’re durable, and they never smell bad, regardless of how long I’ve left something in them. Available from the evil corporation here
  • This constellation onesie from Tentree. Great for lounging, camping, sick days, and hangovers. It is by far my favourite article of clothing, and the company plants ten trees for every article of clothing purchased

I find it strange when people say I’m hard to shop for. Am I? Is it cozy? Can I eat it? Does it hold a beverage? Is it a rock? Sad girl poetry? Come on now.

endings

I wanted to be good for you. I wanted to fill you with hope and warmth and instead I made the gaps bigger and the dark places darker. I never wanted you to feel like you had to set yourself on fire to keep me warm. I wanted to be good for you. I am sorry I couldn’t be with you the way I wanted to, the way you needed. You worried that you weren’t enough for me, but darling, it was the other way around.

when i give you a song

When I give you a song, it is yours. And it will be forever, and forever is a long time. I may make someone else a playlist, but your song will not be on it. And one day, your song will come on when I least expect it, in an unlikely setting, and I’ll either soften with warmth or I’ll bristle with pain. That song is yours, carved into my being with your initials next to it.

Music is love in search of a word. - Sidney Lanier

this is normal.

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m navigating a separation. And living by myself for the first time ever. And I have a job with a lot of responsibilities that requires me to keep track of hundreds of things at a time (my work-life is ruled by spreadsheets.) AND I’M IN A SIX WEEK INTENSIVE COURSE ON TOP OF IT ALL.

Some days I feel so fucking great, I’VE GOT THIS! SLAYING THE EMAIL DEMON! SOLVING ALL THE PROBLEMS! I CAN SEE EVERYTHING CLEARLY, I KNOW WHERE ALL THE PIECES FIT AND I AM CHARGING FORWARD! DEADLINES ARE MY BITCH!

And other days my executive function evaporates and I feel useless and anxious and like a massive failure. I can’t focus, I can’t do what I know needs to be done, and I can’t commit to anything. I try very hard to redirect my attention to things I would rather do in the name of productivity. But… the pandemic makes this worse. Working from home makes this worse. Going through a separation makes this worse. Doing school work in addition to a full workday makes this worse. All of these things combined with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and bouts of insomnia?

It’s overwhelming. It makes me question my ability to do my job. It makes me question if I can be in project management long-term. Am I even any good at this? Some days, YES. Most days, yes. Bad days are allowed, I tend to forget that. I had a bad day yesterday and today isn’t great. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be back on track?

But my therapist reminds me that this is a lot, that all of those things would be hard on their own. But all at once? That’s next-level overwhelming, it’s NORMAL to feel completely swallowed. Most people aren’t doing all of this. Most people aren’t doing all of this with a brain disorder, clinical depression, anxiety, and running on less than five hours of sleep on a given night.

I’m actually doing really well. I’m still showing up to all of it. I may not be as productive as I want, and the timing might be all over the place, but the work is getting done. I picked the worst time to do a 180 on my life, but you know what? I’m HAPPY. I’m grateful. It still feels right, even though it’s overwhelming and stressful, and that’s normal. It’s normal.

sometimes we’re living, and sometimes we’re not

I had to actively keep choosing to live in 2019.

There were scary moments of suicide ideation, when I felt like I was so far away from everything I’d worked so hard to achieve, moments of ambivalence and quiet acceptance that this is it for me, it will never get better, I will never contribute to anything good again. I was able to say those things out loud. And with a supportive doctor and a loving therapist, I was given the space and tools to heal, and the colour seeped back into my life.

And then one day in October I was unusually tired, and the lymph nodes in my neck and collarbone were the size of small rocks. And within days, everything slid down a mountain and I was in a hospital, slick with sweat and unable to open my eyes under the glaring bright lights of the emergency room. There I was, with a fast-growing and deadly infection, with an incompetent ER doctor who prescribed antibiotics that were never going to work with a raging fever, a doctor that didn’t ask the right questions and missed huge red flags in my blood work, a doctor that didn’t listen to begin with, and provided a misdiagnosis. Screaming, unending pain in the side of my head, fevers that soaked my bedding every few hours and made me delirious and dizzy like I’d consumed a whole bottle of wine, vomiting until I felt like my insides had been wrung out to dry. Another trip to the ER, a scary diagnosis, intravenous antibiotic treatments that put stress on my heart and disrupted electrolyte levels, and antibiotics that made me vomit until I had stars in my eyes. At times I wondered if the treatments might kill me if the infection didn’t. Tests. Tests. Tests. Treatment, tests, reassessment, home. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The fevers subsided, and after six days of out-patient care, I was discharged to continue treatment at home, every six hours, for ten days. I was prescribed anti-nauseants given to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy because those oral antibiotics had to stay down or I’d have to go back to the hospital. And yet, in those weird and awful moments, there was laughter, and hand squeezes, and love. There was overwhelming kindness. There were people pulling for me everywhere.

But I had to choose to live. So many people don’t have that luxury. Friends in their thirties have died unexpectedly of heart attacks and drug overdoses, leaving behind young children and devastated friends and family. Friends dying the long, slow death of cancer. These people wanted to live. Every day of their lives had meaning.

Life is inherently good, and I want to share my guiding principles that have seen me through the roughest moments time and time again.

  • I am trying to love my life as I am living it. There are nonnegotiable moments of discomfort, of course, but there are places where I have power to turn away from things that aren’t serving me.
  • Life is so short. Today matters. I want to be ready to die at any time, to know I’ve lived life to the fullest, tried all the strange and wonderful things that I could have, embraced the opportunities, failed, and learned every step of the way.
  • I’m scared of everything, but that hasn’t held me back. I try everything once, and if I hate it, I know that I don’t have to do it again. But often, I’ve tried it again, further down the road, and was overjoyed to discover I felt differently, and sometimes, overjoyed that I passionately still hated it and I was RIGHT!
  • I’m allowed to change my mind as I fail, learn, and grow, in whatever order that comes in.
  • Failing is important. Everyone needs to fail. It’s hard, it can be shameful, but the value is in learning from it. Did you really, truly fail if you came out of something better and stronger?
  • My self talk is important, and I had to go to therapy to learn how to be kind and empathetic to myself. This is not about enabling or placating bad decisions because they feel nice in the moment, but it is about listening to the uncomfortable feelings and allowing myself time to be sad and angry and disappointed, without shaming myself for feeling those things or placing blame for them.
  • I’m trying to live a life I’m proud of. I’m imperfect, but it helps to be able to take stock every now and then and reflect on the things you feel good about.

I used to think you only live once, but my mom recently corrected me. You only die once, but you live every day.

Fall Love

crisp mornings
balmy afternoons
crunchy, brown leaves
damp, dewy grass
hot apple cider
stew and biscuits
flannel sheets and billowy duvets
clouds of breath hanging in the night air
thick socks nestled in tall boots
hot bubble baths
porters and oatmeal stouts
early sunsets
children practicing soccer
condensation on car windows
sweaters that cover your bum
Sunday dinners
mugs of tea
soft, plush robes and slippers
setting the thermostat
watching movies under a blanket
hot chocolate
jackets with a lining
magic gloves
infinity scarves
steamed milk
spiced whiskey
hockey
Thanksgiving
oatmeal