Thoughts—Lost and Found

I like to understand how things work. The mind is no exception. In fact, nothing fascinates (and puzzles) me more than human behavior.  Why do we think the things we think, and do the things we do?

Can you imagine what it must be like to be a shrink? I can—sifting through minds for buried clues about what makes a person tick, the a-ha moments, the healing… the big fat pay cheque.

I’d very much like to study to be a therapist, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I do not actually want to be one. I just want to know what they know to help me navigate through my own life—to understand myself better, to understand others in my life better, and to be better able to maintain healthy relationships.

A few years ago, I was in therapy. I had agoraphobia—I could not leave my house, or even put on my shoes, without having a panic attack. My therapy sessions (with Jenine) were done over the phone. When I began working with Jenine, I had been suffering with paralyzing fear of fear for about two years. I knew that my way of “fixing it” wasn’t working—if anything, I was making things worse for myself. I really was ready to ditch my way of doing things in favour of something that worked, no matter how hard it was. I did absolutely everything Jenine asked me to do—even the stuff I thought was pointless and stupid, and the stuff I was scared shitless to try. I’m happy to say that her strategies worked. I no longer have panic attacks, in fact, I no longer feel (unjustified) anxiety. I healed because I completely surrendered to Jenine’s methods.

I seriously doubt that all, or even most, patients are as cooperative as I was. I felt resistance to her every step along the way, yet, I somehow managed to put it aside. I had to. I was part of a clinical trial, and my time with her was limited. When my 12 weeks were up, if I wasn’t better, I was shit out of luck. I couldn’t function in society the way I was. I had to make it work.

Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to work with people who aren’t willing to let go of their resistance, people who won’t give you all the information you need to have in order to help them, people who don’t fully trust you, people who pick and choose what advice they wish to follow, and people who are unwilling to ditch behaviours that are keeping them stuck? That’s why I don’t want to be a therapist.

This is going to sound bizarre, but after going through therapy myself I’ve become more and less tolerant of people who struggle. I now have so much more empathy for what other people are going through. When I encounter someone who is suffering, I automatically try and put myself in that person’s shoes. I try to understand how that person got there. However… I lose that empathy, and even get kind of angry, when someone in pain keeps “wishing” for things to get better, but continually resits making changes.

If you want to find something better for yourself, you have to be willing to lose what’s keeping you stuck! Yes, it’s hard, but it’s harder to be miserable.


Day sixteen of The Daily Post’s Writing 101.

“Today’s Prompt: Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings.

Today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of lost and found more generally in this post.

…In your “lost and found” tale, tell us something larger — a life lesson, perhaps — about finding and losing something.

You can find part one of my “lost and found” series here, and part two here. All three posts in this series are similar, but not really.

Caturday, April 25th

Yesterday, when I was in the kitchen taking photos of water droplets for my Classical Elements post on my photography blog, Moe decided to help himself to my “subject”. Moe_Water_CaturdayMoe was blocking my light source in this shot. As a result my RAW image was very dark. At 1/8,000 of a second shutter speed (the speed I was using to capture water drops instead of a stream) I needed all the light I could get. I did the best I could to brighten this photo in Lightroom, but my image turned out very grainy. I still think it’s cute though.

Finding Insight

The Saturday before last, while all the “cool kids” were out doing what ever it is that “cool kids” do, I was curled up in my bed reading a book I had bought nearly two decades ago. The book is called Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. It’s part psychology, part endocrinology. I happen to be obsessed with both of those subjects right now, so I thought it would be a fun reread.

Just as I was ready to put the book down and call it a night, I found an old cash register receipt between the pages of chapters 3 and 4. The receipt was from Marra’s Groceries in Canmore, Alberta. It was one of those old-school ones—real paper (not the shiny stuff with BPA) and blue dot matrix print. It was dated June 4th, 1996. The total bill was $6.66. I knew, with certainty, when I saw the receipt that it belonged to an ex-boyfriend I had been living with at the time. How did I know this? It was for a bottle of water and a package of cigarettes—his lunchtime special.

At precisely 11:11pm, I put my book away in the drawer of my nightstand, tucked the 19 year old receipt under the base of my lamp, and switched off the light. That tiny little slip of paper next to my bed haunted me until morning.

I’m a vivid dreamer. I dreamt about that ex all night long, only he wasn’t my ex. It was his physical form, but he was someone else—the “friend” I recently wrote about in this post. I won’t bore you with the details of my dreams, but I will tell you that they were loaded with symbolism. I had a hell of a lot of a-ha moments the next day when I sat down with my dream dictionaries. The fact that my subconscious morphed these two men into one was…um…I don’t even have a word for it. It was bloody brilliant! It opened my eyes to something I had not been able to see before.

On the surface, these two men seem to have little in common. What they do have in common is the fact that they frequently engage(d) in self-destructive behaviours that they’re not willing to let go of. That particular thing does not make them stand out as similar. I think it’s fair to say almost everyone on this planet has self-destructive behaviours they are unwilling to let go of. The types of “self-destructive” behaviours  these men engaged in were unique to each of them. I put the words “self destructive” in quotation marks here because they weren’t entirely self-destructive—they affected me too. The part of all this I didn’t see until now is how they both punished me (harshly) for expressing my feelings about those behaviours.

In the case of the ex, we never actually fought in the traditional sense. There was never any yelling, slamming doors or crying, instead, anytime I spoke up about anything he did that negatively affected me, (like when he’d gamble away entire pay cheques) he’d somehow make it my fault. I’d have to listen for days on end to all the things that I did to make him do the things he did. If I really struck a nerve, he’d take the punishment further by not allowing me to drive “his” car, or not showing up to eat meals I prepared for us.

With my “friend” the dynamic is a bit different. When he does something that upsets me, if I let him know how I feel, he just doesn’t respond. Period. This can go on for months at a time. If I bring it up when he starts talking to me again, he disappears again. The issue(s) don’t get discussed. Ever.

I see now that both of them had been “training” me to shut the fuck up so that they could continue their destructive behaviours without ever having to face them. If I didn’t shut my mouth about touchy subjects, both of these men would attempt to control my confrontational behavior by “punishing” me. It worked, to some extent. I became afraid of the consequences of speaking up. I, very often, would just sit back and bite my tongue with both of them.

In all the dreams I had that night, I felt a tightness in my throat, pressure on my chest, an urgent need to exhale. It was a familiar feeling. I felt it many times in my waking life around each of them. Right before I woke up that Sunday morning, my grandmother (who died almost 15 years ago) found me in a crowded mall parking lot, where I had been waiting for “him”—the dreamed up composite of the two. She asked me, “what are you still doing here? I replied, “I don’t know anymore.” She said, “You know what you have to do.” I exhaled. I felt relief.

Before getting out of bed that morning, I checked my e-mail. My personalized daily horoscope was in my inbox. It said, “Something has to change. You knew it as soon as you woke up this morning. Your mirror provides the springboard for some important resolutions today…”

I have not felt this free in a very long time. I can breathe again.


For day thirteen of The Daily Post’s Writing 101.

“Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second instalment — loosely defined.”

Home Alone in ’84

In 1984, the year I turned 12, my parents, finally, after months of my nagging, agreed to allow me to be at home alone after school. I was ecstatic! My brother, who is 4 1/2 years younger, was not at all happy about that. He still had to take the bus to the babysitter’s house.

When I’d get home from school, I would enter the house through the back door. I didn’t have a key. I didn’t need one. Our doors were always unlocked—front and back. Day and night. Anybody could have walked right in at any time. Nobody who wasn’t supposed to be there ever did let themselves in. Things like that simply didn’t happen where I lived in those days.

The first thing I’d do when I’d get in the door was kick off my open-toed shoes. I’d send them flying through the air in the general direction of the shoe tray. Sometimes, they’d land on it. Sometimes they wouldn’t. Next, I’d carefully slide my royal blue duffle bag under the snack bar. Most of the time, the bag would stay there until I left for school the next day. I’m not even sure why I kept dragging that thing to and from school. At that age, I had a severe allergy to homework. It nearly killed me each time I had to do it. I was in my fourth year of university before I got over that life threatening condition.

Once my bag was tucked safely out of sight, I’d make my way into the living room and give the on/off thingy on the TV a tug. We had a floor model B&W that sat in front of a monstrous picture window. It took forever and a day to for that friggin’ thing to warm up. If I wanted to catch the start of Another World at 3:00—and I did because there was a killer nurse on the loose—I had to turn it on as soon as I got home.

In the ten minutes it took for the TV to come to life, I would listen to a couple of tunes. On the wall opposite the TV, we had a cabinet style AM radio/turntable/8-track stereo system. We didn’t have any 8-tracks, but we had lots of 33s and 45s—they were all stored inside of the stereo unit.

On my twelfth birthday, Mom and Dad gave me one of those  K-tel vinyl compilation records. My two favourite songs on that album were Journey’s Faithfully, and Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. I’d often choose those songs to play while waiting for the archaic boob tube to light up. With the volume on max, I would glide across the rust coloured carpet, singing at the top of my lungs in front of an imaginary audience of thousands (all of them somehow fit on our 3-seater sofa). At 3pm sharp, the concert was over. It didn’t matter if I made it to the end of the song or not. I was done performing. It was time for me to park my bum on the floor in front of the TV. That was how Mom, little bro, and I watched TV. We had a room full of perfectly good furniture and everyone, except Dad, always sat on the floor.

Back to Another World for a moment… if I ever stumble upon a doorbell like the one at the Cory mansion, I’m soooooooo getting it! My childhood home had two distinct door bells—one for each door. Doorbells were a novelty in my neighbourhood at the time. Just having them made me feel privileged, but neither of our bells held a candle to the one at the front door of Cory mansion—”Ding-dong ding-dong, ding-dong ding-dong”.  Our back doorbell went “ding” and the front one went “ding-dong”. Boring!

After my soap opera ended, I’d head to my bedroom (leaving the TV on so that I wouldn’t have to warm it up again to watch Video Hits with Sam Taylor at 5:00).

My room was my favourite place in the entire house. I had red carpet, a red coverlet on my bed, and red tie-backs on the large sliding window. Two of my walls were yellow, the other two were wallpapered. On the wall opposite the door, the paper had randomly sized stripes (white, yellow, blue, green, red). On the window wall, the paper was Raggedy Ann and Andy. I was getting a little tired of the dolls on my wall by the time I was 12, but I still liked the way the room colours were so perfectly coordinated. On my dresser, I had a “ghettoblaster” and a metric tonne of cassette tapes. I was crazy for Duran Duran in those days, and I blasted their music each and every weekday between 4:00 and 5:00. I’m sure everyone within a mile radius was sick to death of hearing The Wild Boys. Ah, those were the days!

At 5:15, I had to start winding down my party for one. Mom, Dad and little bro would step through the door anytime between 5:20 and 5:25.

This little trip down memory has led me to YouTube. At this very moment, New Moon on Monday is playing on the left half of my screen. I’m old now (and I’m at work) so, I have the volume set to about a thousand decibels lower than I played it in my youth, but do you know what hasn’t changed since then?  I still think Simon Le Bon is dreamy.


For day eleven of the Daily Post’s Writing 101.

“Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old?

Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.”

Caturday, April 18th

 

Tyson—August 1, 2012.

Tyson—August 1, 2012.

Tyson in his “big boy bed”.

This is a cat who was rescued from a home where he had been confined to a tiny bathroom. He now takes full advantage of his free rein in the Clarke family home. I interrupted his nap when I went to visit him on this day.

Coffee Break

Sarah tore open two pink paper packets of sweetener, dumped the contents into her coffee, and surveyed the room as she stirred . When her eyes reached the back of the room, she smiled. It was the kind of smile that made Sarah’s eyes dance. “What sweet child.” she said, to her sister.

Amber, elbows on the table, clutching her mug with both hands, raised an eyebrow and replied, “Are you talking about the one who won’t stop screaming, the one throwing french fries at his dad, or the one colouring on the tablecloth?”

Sarah rolled her eyes and said, “The one over there under the table.”

“Yeah, you’re right. The way she wiggles while she shakes everything out of her mother’s purse onto the floor is pretty darn adorable. Seriously, what planet did you come from?”

“Oh for the love of God, Amber!”

Ha! I see two tampons, a corkscrew and a  hairbrush. Wait, is that a Chanel lipstick? Oh, look! Birth control pills! I’m tempted to grab them and pass them around the place.”

“You’re such a bitch!”


 

For day seven of the Daily Post’s Writing 101.

“Today’s Prompt: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue.”

 

Feng Shui Dana

Around this time last year—tax time—I discovered that I was, as I had long suspected, dirt poor. The proof was on my desk in black red and white.

Driven by desperation to cure my financial woes, I sat at my computer and typed something like, “feng shui for money” into the Google search bar. The SEO gods had my back that day. They directed me to the YouTube site of Dana Claudat.

When I landed on Dana’s channel, I watched a few of her videos, took a break to thoroughly scrub every drain in the house, then I returned to my chair and watched some more. Every single one of her videos was jam packed with information I desperately needed to hear. I listened closely to every word she had to say. It was only when I ran out of video content that I made my way over to her blog, the Tao of Dana.

It didn’t take long to realize that Dana’s blog is even more awesome than her YouTube channel. Every day, without fail, she posts fan-freaking-tastic content that totally knocks my socks off. Her approach to feng shui is fresh, unique, and inspiring. She radiates positivity, so much so,  it’s contagious. (Trust me, I’m someone who has always tended to lean toward the negative. If I can leave it at the door when I visit her site, anyone can.) It’s obvious she loves what she does, and that she cares deeply about the people who follow her. She’s a natural leader, and most importantly, she walks the talk.

Dana talks a lot about clutter. I happen to have a very low tolerance for clutter. Unlike just about every other person in my life, she understands why clutter-free spaces are important. They are freeing! I’m filled with delight each and every time she talks about the benefits of space clearing and de-cluttering. 

Her site is not just about moving things around and cleaning things up. It’s about ditching all the crap that doesn’t serve us, and making room to invite in more of what we want.  In the 12 months I have been following Dana, she has inspired me to really shake things up. Because of her influence, I see the world differently—more positively.  The way I approach just about everything now different than it was just one year ago. I used to let fear hold me back. I’m braver now. I’m more open to trying new things. I play more. I create more. I appreciate more. I see more possibilities. Everything is better than it was one year ago.

 


For Day Six of The Daily Post’s Writing 101.

“Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

Today, write a post focusing on one — or more — of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected. It can be your new partner, your newborn child, or the friendly barista whose real story you’d love to learn (or imagine), or any other person you’ve met for the first time in the past year.

Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.

Give us a glimpse of what makes this person unique. We all have our own quirks, mannerisms, and individual gestures, both physical and linguistic. “

Caturday, April 11th

Here’s an oldie from the Moe archives. I caught him in a yawn. Yes, really, I swear it was a yawn. He doesn’t hate the brush, nor is he possessed by the devil.

No_brushing

This photo came to mind after sweeping up enough fur this morning to make a whole other cat. I’ve been a little slack with his brushing (and my sweeping) lately.

It’s None of My Business

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by the ATM to deposit a cheque and to pay a bill. On the ledge below the cash machine, there was a bank receipt someone had left behind. I picked it up, slipped it into the wastepaper receptacle to my right, and carried on with my transactions.

A few hours after I had  been to the bank, the prompt for today’s Writing 101 assignment arrived in my inbox.

“Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path.You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.”

I hate this prompt.

I considered writing a romanticized fictional post, but it just felt wrong. The idea of reading a letter found on a path makes me feel very…um…icky.

Let’s pretend this letter is real. It’s not a tweet. It’s not a status update. It’s not a blog post. It’s a letter, and it’s not addressed to me. What’s written on that page is no more my business than was the financial information on that slip of paper I found at the ATM yesterday. The end.

 

Losing Battle

I’m a big believer in signs from the universe, and unfortunately, I’m able to easily recognize them. I’m also pretty darn great at ignoring those signs when I think I know better. (Yes, I really am that arrogant.)  The most recent sign, however, is a difficult one to ignore.

Two months ago, I planted 5 types of pepper seeds. All but one type—Thai chilli—germinated. At the time, I found it very odd that out of 20 randomly selected seeds collected from at least a dozen peppers, not one of them was viable. I tended to them for a full 6 weeks before pulling the plug on them. (FYI, pepper seeds can take anywhere between 1-3 weeks to germinate. The hotter ones often take longer than the sweet ones.)

Fast forward to yesterday. While I was watering the seedlings in my temporary grow room, I noticed that all 5 of the pots I had planted sweet basil in were full of life, and not one of the 10 pots I had planted Thai basil in had any growth at all. Damn those Thai bastards! 

If I wasn’t so bummed about losing a total of 30 (potential) plants, I might have laughed at yesterdays discovery. It was clearly a sign from the universe. I know, you probably think I’m off my rocker. If so, you may be correct, but please continue reading. My point will soon become clearer . Maybe.

You see, I have one (1/2) Thai “friend”. (The fact that he is part Thai would be totally irrelevant to this story if not for the series of crop failures mentioned above.) He’s not speaking to me at the moment. It’s not the first time he has given me the cold shoulder. It’s not even the second time, or the third, or the fourth… It’s been going on for about a year and a half now. When it first started happening, I thought I must somehow be responsible.  I tried to get to the bottom of why it was happening (many times). He was never interested in discussing it. Ever. After months and months of this on-again-off-again silent treatment, I began to see that this behavior issue is his problem—it has little if anything to do with me. I tolerated it (barely) hoping that someday he’d have a breakthrough in therapy and that he would finally grow the fuck up. Deep down, I do know that this is not likely to happen, but for some reason I have a hard time accepting it. 

Some time during the nearly two month long freeze-out that began right around New Year’s, I finally realized this behavior is a form of emotional abuse. So, did I tell him to take a hike when the small-talk resumed at the end of February? Um, nope. I thought if I kept some firm boundaries, I’d be able to protect myself. Things didn’t work out the way I thought they would. This is week 2, I think, of the most resent freeze-out.

Now that you’ve got a little background information, do you see why I’m convinced that the fate of my Thai seeds was some sort of divine intervention? Could that message be any more obvious, or more poignant?

I could have continued to tend to my Thai seeds for eternity. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome. It’s not my fault that they refused to grow. Continuing to care for them would be pointless. It would only lead to frustration and disappointment. The only option that made any sense was to let them go. I did.

Will I ever get the courage to let go of my “friend”, or will I continue to waste my time and energy fighting this losing battle? That may (or may not) be a story for another day.


For Day Four of Writing 101.

“Today’s Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.”