Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

Happy New Years to you and yours.

Many people make resolutions at this time of the year.  The end of the old year, the beginning of a new is the time to make changes right?  What better time?  Gym memberships double, recipe books for sugar free, gluten free, and Paleo eating all go on sale.  Better yourself, change, improve, resolve to do it all.  “You can join for free for 30 days!”

On January 1st most people are too tired and hungover to start making changes.  But that’s okay, big things are going to happen on January 2nd I tell you, big things.     

They say things like, I am going to;

“Eat better”

“Work out more”

“Be kinder”

“Travel more”

“Love more”

“Complain less” 

At this time of year Pinterest and Facebook abound with messages of hope and gratitude.  People are going to manipulate the universe with their vibrators.  Wait, no that’s wrong.  They are going to positively use their vibrator daily.  No, no, that’s not it.  They are going to put out a positive vibration into the universe and the universe will in turn give them a vibrator.  There, that must be it. 

Go get a mason jar they say and every day write down something you are grateful for and shove it into said jar.  Next year at this time, read them all.  Apparently I will have no memory of next year so I need a jar full of memories to refer to.  And I ask you, why would I need to write anything down if I am already happy as a clam from using my vibrator daily?  “Start a journal and write good thoughts every morning”, they (I don’t know who “they” are) recommend.  Make a vision (aka Bristol) board of all the goodness you want to happen. I can’t stop my warped mind so now all I can think about is seeing myself writing, “used my vibrator last night”. Grateful. Check!  Into jar it goes.  I sure hope my kids never find my vision board covered in pictures of various vibrators?  That would be awkward. 

Seriously I am done with the vibrator talk. 

“Remove negativity from your life”

“Be positive”

“Be happy”

Those are my favorites.  We need to face reality that the real world can be hard and it can be dark.  We cannot pretend that away.  We cannot shove our heads in the sand and live there.  I dare you to dig a hole in the sand, or dirt, your choice.  Stick your head into said hole and have someone fill it up covering your entire head.  Now breathe.  How did that work out for ya?  Bad stuff happens and the only way to get through it to the other side of bad is to accept it, feel it, and only then can you even begin to let it go.  Denial only extends suffering.  I once offered a friend a valium to get through the loss of her dog and she said, “no, I don’t want to avoid feeling this”.  I thought back then how silly that was.  Feel things?  What is this “feel” you speak of?  But she was absolutely right.  Had she numbed her pain away she would have had to numb it away forever.  You only have to talk to an honest addict to see how that story goes. 

Pretending you are happy will simply exhaust you.  If you are happy, be happy.  If you are sad, be sad.  Just feel your feelings.  Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should do everything in their power to be happy.  Find things that bring you joy and participate in them.  Try to think of something happy when you are sad just to remember that there are things that do make you happy.  Sadness can be very overwhelming.  The goal is not to avoid being sad, but instead to avoid the sadness hijacking your entire existence.  If a depressed person walked out into the sunlight and said to themselves how beautiful the sun felt on their skin that would be one moment in time that they are not sad.  That moment could save a life.   

There is truth and validity in everyone’s feelings and part of the problem today is the shame we seem to be attaching to any negative emotion.  See “remove negativity from my life”.

I know, I know, my “vibrations” are freaking you out right now.  You might even stop reading this just because I am not saying “sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns”.  I am saying be real, be honest, be authentic, be truthful about your feelings.  There is no other way to get past them. 

Mental illness including, but certainly not limited to addiction, depression, PTSD and the resulting deaths due to them all are on the rise, not going down.  Being positive is not working for the people we are losing every single day to mental illness.  Maybe we need to keep our heads up, out of the clouds, out of our phones and just look at the people around us.  Are they healthy, happy, even safe?  Let’s not avoid the mentally ill because they can be negative or hard to be around but instead embrace them, validate them, and let them know they are loved.  Perhaps if we actually do love more, we will lose less people to suicide and overdoses.  I see people all the time say that love will conquer hate when it comes to racism, bigotry and inequality, shit even terrorists, but I don’t see a lot of, “love the shit out of the unhappy person next to you”.

Do you know what I did today for my new year resolutions? 

I made a list of things that make life worth living.  Please don’t worry, I am fine right now.  My mood is somewhat stable, I am exhausted after holiday socializing and want some alone time but I feel okay.  What I am certain of however, what I know is that the darkness will come back.  It will be overwhelming and it will knock the wind out of me taking my breath away.  So today, I made a list of things to stay alive for.  It’s not a happy jar I will only open next year at this time but an actual list to refer to when my mind starts to fuck with me.  And it can be as simple as the fact I love riding my new Christmas present, a fancy old fashioned bicycle whom I named Maud.  I can’t ride her in the Spring if I am not here in the Spring.  I just need a list, a reminder of why I should be here.  I am not going to make a single resolution that I might not be able to live up to, or could lead to failure and thus unhappiness.  There will be no goals beyond staying here, alive, and as well as someone with disease can be. I guess I did make a resolution then, to keep fighting.  And it’s okay that this is all I am resolving to try to do. 

Meet Maud

I just want all of you out there that suffer with mental illness to know you are not alone.  Do not make today or tomorrow about more than staying here because that’s enough.  It can be hard enough all on its own.

And to all of you that are healthy, love the person next to you whether they are happy or not.  Maybe your love will give them a second of happiness in a lifetime of sadness.  Maybe that second of happiness will keep them alive.  You never know right?  Sure can’t hurt to try.  If you think you can love a racist into tolerance, even acceptance, the you can most certainly love someone who might be just as hard to love.   

There you go, if you are into resolutions make that one.  “I will love a sick person”, no matter their illness for it makes no difference.  Sick people need love too.

Here’s to sticking around to see all of 2017! 



Friday, December 16, 2016

Uh Oh

Today marks the one week anniversary of me not stopping. As only I can, I was all in for the week, all in. Doing too much, too fast, without thought to my wellbeing. I rock at this.

My step Mom went out of town last weekend leaving my Dad on his own. She asked me to check in on him regularly as he struggles to get around now without a walker or scooter, in the house it's two canes. Instead of the check ins I decided to pick him up Friday and take him up north to the family cottage for the weekend. It's one of my favourite places on earth and one of the few places where I can actually get a solid nights sleep. I figured it would be a nice Daddy Daughter bonding weekend. I worry a lot when my Dad tries to do things himself, I fear his falling, so I babied the shit out of him for days. Remember I am supposed to be wearing a cast for up to 6 weeks, but it's removable so I ripped that puppy off and got to work taking care of ma' pops. Before I even picked him up I whipped up some homemade butternut squash soup, BBQ'd up some meats to have with veggies as fajitas, made a giant lasagna for the dinner we would be having for my brother's birthday at the cottage, and of course the pre-requisite madagascar vanilla bean cake with buttercream icing and raspberry coulis. 

The view at the family cottage.  

My Dad and I talked non stop all weekend. I had taken up my knitting and my laptop.  I went up with high hopes of doing some writing which I haven't been doing much of as of late.  If the words didn't come to me then I would keep knitting some NICU baby hats. I also bought my Dad several newspapers in hopes of keeping him distracted also so I could write but I forgot he likes to discuss everything he reads in the papers.  My Dad had it in his mind our weekend was about talking all about life, his, mine, and everyone's we knew.  So discuss life we did.  We cried from laughing so hard and sometimes our eyes leaked from other emotions we were unfamiliar with (insert required therapy here)*laugh*. I learned things about my Dad I never knew and I think maybe he did about me as well. He kept calling it our "Big Chill weekend" and I kept looking for all the drugs and booze that were featured prominently in that movie. Trust me, in talking deeply with my Father and his lack of filters, a few of the conversations could have used some drugs.  All in all, the weekend was pretty great. Draining yes, I slept 10-12 hours a night, but amazing too. In there we also had a nice visit with my big brother whom I adore and his puppy I'd never met. I doubt I will ever meet another dog that talks as much as his does.  I had an old friend with a husky who talked a lot but never like this.  If you say "I love you" to my brother's dog she will basically say it back.  In what sound like full words she howls back "I love you" clear as day.  And as only Irving's can (my maiden family name), we all ate until we almost needed emergent care. The two boys were eating Tums like they were candy. Being made of lead my stomach needs no such things.  I take great pride in my championship consumption skills. 

As if all that wasn't enough I battled snow that wouldn't stop coming. I had forgotten what lake effect snow was and on Georgian Bay it is unrivalled. Again, remove cast and shovel.  My Dad cannot walk on uneven ground even with braces and canes.  I had no choice but to keep clearing the walkway.  Maybe not my best decision to keep taking off my cast but hey, life's full of challenges.  Surprisingly while my back hurt from never stopping, carrying everything, doing everything, and shovelling, it did better than it has in years thanks to regular physio and exercise. You know what's not good for a back? A snowblower from 1989. You don't know how strong you are until you get the teeth of a snowblower caught on one level and it's stupid little 1989 wheels on another level of the entry of a garage.  Both levels which are made of sand and gravel framed in wood.  I pushed and pulled that thing for a good 15 minutes but it was stuck in the sand and wedged between the wood framing. Now what? My Dad couldn't help. My brother was back at home. Remember this thing was made in 1989, and made of steel, all steel. In a fit of pent of family drama rage I might have picked the entire machine up and gently (*ahem*) placed it back into the garage. Then I had to pack up my Dad and the car and drive two hours home. Now my back injury was screaming, as was my foot. 

The devil's spawn

That trip ended Monday late afternoon. My Dad was tucked safely back at home with my step Mom arriving home that evening.  I went home and directly into bed, ice on the foot, heating pad on the back and a little pain medication for both.

Tuesday I had the emotional pleasantry of saying "goodbye" to my favourite therapist to date as she embarks on a six month sabbatical otherwise known as the "abandon Nicolle trip (sidebar, "because she's totally unlovable"). That's not really what she named the sabbatical, that's what I like to refer to it as. I have worked with her for months leading up to this through those abandonment feelings and the new therapist will continue to work with the old one while she is away which is great. I really like the new one too so that helps.  It actually wasn't as bad as it sounds.  I did have a horrible abandonment reaction and my emotions didn't regulate well, but we handled it.  That's typical of my mental illness.  My reactions are often out of whack with the situation.  Thankfully the situation was with my therapist so we were well equipped to handle it.  I think I went to bed at 630pm Tuesday, from mental exhaustion. I couldn't stop crying. People leaving me, or my perception being that, is incredibly hard for me like a lot of people.  From my deep weekend with my Dad and the things we covered to having to say goodbye to anyone, let alone my therapist, was incredibly depleting for me.

Wednesday morning always arrives with my 630am physio appointment. 630!!! AM!!! And it's half an hour away. It's not really so dramatic. Hardly any thing is with me. I like the appointment time because there is no traffic which means the stupid are still in bed. And Wednesday is donut day. Because I work so hard on Wednesdays I get a donut. And yes I am aware that's ridiculous and very childlike in its entirety but it works for me. It doesn't work for my ass size but it works for my enthusiasm for physiotherapy at 630am. The rest of Wednesday was spent preparing for a lunch I was hosting at my house.  It was spent recreating the lasagna I tested on and made for my brother's birthday dinner but only this time I was making it twice the size. The meat sauce cooks all day and is made from scratch.  The lasagna is full of spinach and ricotta and cheesy yumminess. Once it's almost too heavy to lift is when I stop adding layers. I also made my pregnant friend and her toddler son homemade chicken fingers from scratch. The son for obvious reasons got chicken fingers. His Mommy the baby maker, because apparently anything the consistency of cottage cheese makes her gag and that's no fun for anyone involved. It was also her birthday so chicken fingers it shall be I said. Then I got to work on her cake. 3 massive tiers of charlotte chocolate cake. I wasn't a huge fan of the consistency of the first round of icing so I took it and the pieces of cake I had cut off to level the layers up and mixed the two to make cake pops. Cake pops are just a blend of icing to cake in a 50/50 ratio. Because that is what you do after cooking all day and it's 9pm, you try to make cake pops for the first time ever. How long could it take to melt up enough vanilla bean white chocolate to cover said pops? A while. "A while" being much longer than "a bit". They really couldn't even be called "pops" because shockingly I made them too big.  Apparently "go big or go home" is my life's motto. Due to their enormous size I couldn't get them to stay on straws, sticks, or any other random vehicle I tried to hold the fucking things up.  I was exhausted by this point so I rolled them in the white chocolate and put them in the fridge to harden up and then sprinkled them with icing sugar so they would look like snow balls.  What better way to decorate a giant cake than with giant snowballs of cake?

Below is a better representation of it's size, please note the dowel needed to keep it upright.  The snowballs are cute, admit it. 

The white thing in the middle is the dowel, or foundation necessary to keep it standing.  

Thursday arrived with my fussing around the house putting out drinks, setting the table, lighting candles (note to self: not a good call with a toddler coming over), and making up the salad and breads. This was the FIRST time in a long time I didn't feel social anxiety that was off the charts. It's usually "cancel last minute" worthy. I was so pleased with myself and my strides in therapy. I took a moment to really allow that to sink in and I have to say, it felt pretty great. Maybe I was just exhausted from going non stop for a week, maybe I was using sheer willpower to suppress my true feelings but I really think it's the work I've been doing.  I am going with that.

My friends all arrived and it was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Now that was some writing skills right there. My friend Megan's little boy Grayson is just adorable. My heart melted when I heard from behind me, "I wuv you Ri-wey" and I turned to see Grayson on the dog bed hugging my old dog Riley. *sigh* The guests I had over were really what I would consider to be family. They gave me Riley 13 years ago and we've been friends ever since. I call my friend Gael (the breeder of Riley) his grandmother.  Megan her daughter is his sister, etc etc. One of the other girls owned Riley's mother, and the other owned his sister.  Really I guess they came to see him! I hosted a lunch in my dog's honour.  It's the least I could do after 13 years of joy.  I think that's more than partially true especially for Gael, his grand mummy and breeder. She desperately wanted to see Riley one more time before the inevitable happens. He fades one day, up the next. Currently we are battling a pulled shoulder. He's just not moving well at all right now so appears every bit his 13 years. But it was a beautiful day, truly beautiful. I loved it. 

I wuv you too Grayson.  You too Ri-wey.  

After my company left as I usually do, instead of relaxing for a minute, I put the entire house back to the way it was pre-lunch. All the dishes were done, floors washed, food packed up and dinner prepared for the husband. At around 4pm my little privacy terrorist, a neighbour child rang the bell to come have her visit with Riley and her "older bestie", that would be me.  I was exhausted but she's too cute to send away.  And this is what she looked like when I woke her up and told her she should probably go home.  

Too cute for words. 

I was asleep last night again by 730pm. Out cold on the couch. I woke up to answer a few messages from my guests and have the husband walk me to bed and I was back out cold almost instantly. I don't normally sleep well at all so all this sleeping is a good indication that I am mentally spent.

This morning I got up feeling refreshed. I slept in a little, and felt ready to take the entire day off and just relax.  Per normal procedure I threw on my coat and I headed over to Tim's to get my coffee.  On the way I realized I needed toothpaste so I went to the little local pharmacy. And this is where the entire happy story of my incredibly full and mentally stable week ends. I know you knew it had to.  I know you know that a title of "Uh Oh" could only mean bad things were coming.  I pulled up to the pharmacy and there was a van parked diagonally (pretty much horizontally) across three parking spots. I shit you not. This person had pulled in on a severe angle, almost perpendicular to the spots. Now this is where the fun starts. I have just barely contained my emotions for a week. Maybe, just maybe I had been stuffing down my anxiety and emotions all week.  Maybe I used every skill I have been taught so I wouldn't lose myself to anxiety, sadness, depression, anger, and even mania. Either way, that story was O.V.E.R.  I snapped. This guy was parked in front of a pharmacy, frequented by seniors as it's a small neighbourhood store. He was literally parked across all three spots next to the handicapped spot directly in front of the store. All the spots were gone. He had taken two entirely due to his angle and his ass end was just enough in the third spot that if you were to park there I have little doubt you would have blocked him in which would have been fun until he tried to get out of the spot and I am sure he'd have hit you.  And just as I am fuming and getting out of my car (in my cast no less), the van owner walks out of the store to get something out of his vehicle.  He didn't run out to move the vehicle but just to retrieve something and head back into the store oblivious to the entire universe. 

The other two storefront spots were taken.  I am not that lazy. But walking across a slushy parking lot sucked donkey balls.

I stood in place and took three practised breaths whilst in my head said, "there is a red sign, there is snow on the ground, the sun is shining". It's a grounding tool, to distract your mind from what is causing mental anguish. Unfortunately being that I am a smartass my last thought was, "there is a fucking asshole in that store and a partridge in a pear tree". I entered the store and purposefully walked up to the van owner and the following transpired.

Me: (Pointing outside) Nice parking job, you took three spots from people who might also want or need to get into the pharmacy.

Him: The whole lot is empty. They can park anywhere. YOU can park anywhere.

Uh Oh.

In his defence, it was pretty empty on the other side of the lot. But he said, "YOU" in capital letters (I could see them in the cartoon bubble above his head) so all rationale was gone.

Me: So that makes it okay for you to use three spots? Because the lot is empty people can park further away and walk around you?

Him: It's only two spots. I parked in two spots.

Me: Well I am glad you are conceding to using up two spots instead of the customary singular spot.  But really? Go look at the ass end of your van. It's three spots. There is no way anyone could get into that third spot without being concerned you will back right into them considering the skill you showed driving forward into those two spots.

As I walked away from him a woman in the store next to me turned and said "thank you" and explained she had a bad knee and it's hard for her to walk in the slush. I said, "yup, I hear you", and flashed my cast. From behind me I heard, "I don't know what the big deal is?" 

Uh Oh.

Me: The big deal is you're either lazy or an asshole, or both. I can live with the lazy part but being an asshole is hard for me to accept. You don't give a shit that people are inconvenienced by you. Somehow you feel that's okay. Her knee is bad and I have a broken foot and we are supposed to walk around your car because you took up three spots without a care for anyone in the world but yourself. So which is it?  Are you are incredibly lazy, a giant asshole or both. You look perfectly healthy and able to park like someone with half a brain. What is wrong with you? And now that you know it's an inconvenience to well, everyone, why don't you go move your car?

I approached the pharmacist and said, "if he is waiting for a prescription you should ask him move his car while he waits, it's unacceptable". The lady with the knee was now also at the pharmacy counter and thanked me again telling the pharmacist how bad his parking job was.

Suddenly I hear from behind me again, "I couldn't park anywhere else there were two trucks blocking the lot".  He appeared to be now pleading his case to the pharmacist.

Uh Oh.

Me: (Now perhaps in a raised voice) Okay genius, so which was it? The lot was blocked by trucks and you were forced to park that way. Or the lot is empty so I shouldn't complain because there is nothing but empty spots everywhere for me to park in? What I think the answer is, is that you are a giant asshat making excuses for being an asshat. What matters to me now is the fact you are still standing here talking to me, annoying me, instead of moving your fucking car so someone else needing the pharmacy won't have to work around you and your piss poor parking job. Stop fucking talking to me and instead MOVE YOUR DAMN CAR!

I went to the cash to pay for my toothpaste and said to the cashier, "I am really sorry for that. My temper sometimes gets the best of me in situations like this regarding complete ignorance". This part made my day.  She replied, "you know what, sometimes an asshole needs to be told they're an asshole". I love her. She's my new bestie. I asked for her phone number because I said, "you know my husband is going to tell me there was no need for me to try to explain to that man why he is an asshole". Pretty much verbatim to what he said when I recounted the story for the record. I thought if I got her phone number she could explain our side of the case.  

(I didn't really ask for her number, that would be crazy and obviously I am sane).

I realize now I might be a little more tired than I thought and perhaps it's time to stick close to home and rejuvenate the soul a little. If anyone is looking for me I will be watching old movies, knitting, sleeping, and probably meditating as I think a little "ohhhhmmm" might be necessary right about now.

I am still proud of myself though. It was a whole week of non stop action and still that van didn't get a single dent, or key scratch. My truck is at home and not still parked in that third spot to block him in...forever. The police were not called and I feel okay, just a little tired. Yay me. No seriously, this is progress.

Really it is.

Now listen, it is.

Stop it.  It is.