Flash Fiction: The Sun Sets on New Beginnings

The reddening sky cast an ominous glow across the waters of the river. The serene rippling of the water’s surface casting red and orange flashes into the eyes of any onlookers. I rolled my eyes as far back as they could go, pushing the ridiculous and pathetic poetic language from my mind.

My seat on the curb of the street was not a comfortable one, but it was a quiet place to get away from the busy rush of the real world. Beneath this red and orange sky, I sat silently, watching as the sun descended behind the cityscape.

As the last sliver of the sun slipped away, I leaned back onto the grass and closed my eyes. The occasional sound of a car passing over the bridge above served to do nothing but remind me that I am awake, and that my mind refuses to shut off.

The slight crunch of gravel was the only other sound that was heard, slowly approaching as I lay prone. I ignored the sound.

“Comfortable?” A soft voice inquired, the lilt in the voice hinting at an accent I could not yet place.

“Oh yeah, like sleeping on clouds.” I retorted, hoping the dismissal was clear. I was not interested in socializing. Not here, not in my space, please not now.

Shuffling of clothing was heard, and then I felt the presence of another person sitting down on my left. Huffing out a sigh, I opened my eyes to look at the intruder. My eyes opened even wider when I got a look at who it was.

Smooth, dark hair hanging over her left shoulder, revealing a shaved patch just above her ear, with angled bangs that accented both her entire face as well as her eyes. Hard to say what colour either were, as the dimming sunlight casting shadows and covering everything in a slightly orange-ish tone. The smooth complexion of her dark skin was unmistakeable, and I could swear I should have recognized her.

If only I had a better knack for facial recognition.

Nevertheless, I was drawn to her face, the soft contours of her jawline and the sharp piercing gaze of her eyes. I tried to speak, but words were caught in my throat. Oh no, not again.

She must have seen the perplexed look on my face, because she asked, “Are you okay?”

I shook my head, the words stuck behind the knowledge that I needed to speak. I pulled myself up into a seated position, shifting my backside onto the grass for a softer seat.  Burying my face in my hands and letting my long blonde hair fall over my face, I pulled myself together.

“You are very pretty!” I finally spoke, my voice coming out louder than I had intended. I didn’t look to see if I had scared her away, though I probably did. People didn’t like my inability to speak, and they generally hated the way that I would, according to them, yell out what I was thinking.

“You’re very pretty too.” Her voice sang through my hiding place, and I looked up into her face, searching for the hint of sarcasm that had to be there. I couldn’t hear it, but it had to be there. But it wasn’t.

“I’m… I’m Eli.” I told her, hoping that she would tell me her name. Hoping that she wouldn’t decide now to run away.

“Nice to meet you Eli. I’m Zoe. Can I buy you a coffee?”

I nodded, voice stuck in my throat again, but for a different reason. She stood up, and she looked so tall. My shoulders turned in and my head dropped, but she reached her hand out and wrapped her fingers through mine and pulled gently.

She was the magnet and I was the metal ball as she pulled me towards her, lifting me from my lonely seat on the curb beneath the quiet bridge. In my mind, all I saw was a weight scale, and she placed tiny weights on her side and lifted me up from the depth of my own loneliness.

“Come on, there’s a Starbucks at the corner over there.”

I smiled, at first only slightly but then it grew.

“I love Starbucks.”

The weight scale balanced in my mind as we walked together, our arms barely touching as they moved between us with each step forward. My mind was silent, at last freed from the trite poetic lines that often passed through my consciousness.

“So, what are you interested in?” The gentle sound of a Northern accent graced the words she spoke, and I found myself wanted to hear more.

“Um, I like poetry.” I said, my stomach falling as I spoke the words. Why did I say that?

The sound of a giggle entered my ears, stopping my heart momentarily. “I like poetry too. Have you ever heard any slam poetry?”

I nodded, shoulders relaxing and stomach returning to where it belonged. I reached my hand over and touched hers, sliding my fingers between hers and wrapping them up the back of her hand. Her knuckles clenched beneath my fingers and I felt the tips of her fingers touch the back of my hand like a ghost.

We entered the Starbucks, her holding the door open for me, and stood in line. This time, I ignored the crowd that stood before us, ignored the seats full of people, ignored everything that normally made me run away. I looked up into her eyes, and I felt at ease, my mind silent and the tenuous balance of the scales in my mind solidly stuck at even.

 

~~~~

(c) Laura Kaeding August 2014

Anxiety about Aging

There are quite a few things that give me anxiety, from mild discomfort to full blown panic attacks. One of those things is the pervasive fear of aging and dying. Normally I can ignore that it happens, but other times I will suddenly NOTICE that time is passing far too quickly and it makes me very anxious. This tends to happen around important birthdays (mine, my daughter’s, my parents/grandparents, and occasionally my cousins).

According to my therapist, my fear of aging and dying is one of the most logical phobias in my arsenal. But I can’t help but feel like it is holding me back. I am unable to think too far in advance without getting tremors. The concept of writing up a will makes me want to vomit violently for hours. Even just typing this is making my stomach tie into knots.

*time passes*

I wrote the above 2 paragraphs in July of 2013. It is now January 2014. I hate this about myself. Looking to the future is a bucket full of terror and anxiety, and I want to feel less held back by this. I just don’t know how.

The Process of Elimination: My Journey to Mental Peace

            Mental illness is no walk in the park. The struggle to retain full societal function can be massive. Struggling with unpredictable impulsiveness due to an unknown mental illness causes feelings of vulnerability and helplessness. But, with the knowledge gained by putting a name to the struggle, it becomes possible to reverse the situation. Sometimes alone and sometimes with help, mental illness can be manageable. Once the ailment is pinpointed, the treatment options, as with any treatable illness, such as diabetes or anemia, can be narrowed down and regaining control of life is within reach.

            My struggle with mental illness began at the tender age of ten, and I only found a measure of peace at the age of twenty five. That was when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, general anxiety, as well as dependent and avoidant personality disorders. Such a detailed diagnosis might lead some to duck and hide, or to think that there is no hope, or even that they have an excuse to act as poorly as possible. For me, the diagnosis was a relief; finally an explanation for why my mood was so volatile. Why I could not experience confrontation or rejection without a complete emotional shut-down, and why I was so self-destructive. My diagnosis was the starting point that allowed me to begin to rebuild my life, my way.

            My first experience with the mental health community came at the age of fifteen. I was sent to a local counsellor whom I saw for three sessions before being told that my depression was due to my romantic attraction to girls. Since I refused to go back to her or open up with my mother, I was left to my own devices until the age of eighteen. I was in my last year of high school.

            At the age of seventeen, I became a mother. In order to complete my high school education on time, I switched schools and found one specifically designed for young mothers. The school had great programs, such as a food bank, counselling services, on-site childcare, and smaller classrooms. The smaller classrooms were devised around the learn-at-your-own-pace education concept.

            One of the on-staff therapists worked with me until graduation. The therapist provided me with an outlet as well as some insight on the inner workings of my brain. Slowly, I realized that my mood was not unipolar depression, but more labile and erratic. Upon realizing this change, I began in-depth personal research and preliminary introspection. After graduation, I was left without a source of therapy and had to fend for myself once more.

            Fast forward seven years: after a great deal of introspection, great support, and great friends, I was at a psychologist’s office, asking to be seen and diagnosed. Enough was enough, and I needed to know why I thought, acted, and lived the way that I had been. After seven months of therapy, at last I had my answer. Laid out in a clear diagnosis was the reason for my inability to function normally (at least without an immense level of invisible frustration and effort).

            As intimidating as it was to read the full description, I grasped the words and delved into their meaning. I researched many sources to determine how the different diagnoses interacted with one another within my mind.

            I learned about comorbidity and how some illnesses attract others and how they feed off of one another. The comorbid affliction exacerbates the situation unless it is dealt with. I discovered, in speaking with some of my family, that there was an unspoken family history and that “a family history of mood disorders [is] associated with a higher likelihood of having comorbid anxiety disorders” (Serretti et al. 101).

            I learned that some of my difficulties in building and maintaining meaningful relationships are due to the environment I grew up in, while others are built into the chemical imbalance in my brain. After a few more months of talk therapy, I made the most important call of my life. I called my general practitioner to tell him that I was ready for the next step.

            The hardest part of the whole process was admitting that I might need more than just therapy. I had seen very few positive examples of friends on psychotropic medications, and no one I knew had bipolar disorder. I was an anomaly in my social circle and was afraid to become further distanced from those I knew. The fear of being ostracized kept me from obtaining the last stage of treatment. I started to develop the conscious knowledge that there is nothing shameful about having a mental illness.

            When I called my doctor, I opened with: “So… I got my diagnosis.” After receiving a positive response, four words followed: “Non-psychotic bipolar one.”

            I’m fairly sure that I heard his jaw hit the floor. Due to my perceived high social function, the diagnosis of such a serious mental illness came as a shock.

            A similar trend had occurred among many of my friends and family members, with exclamations such as “I never knew you were bipolar!” or the patronizing “I thought you were just PMS-ing!” As it turns out, those with non-psychotic bipolar disorder learn very early in life how to “cope with the inner turmoil” (Jasko 302). Many are even able to function in society at a cost of higher stress and an invisible struggle.

            The conversation then led to setting up an appointment to discuss medication options, and a side trip to the nearby hospital’s psychiatry unit for a one-on-one consultation with a psychiatrist. I started the dosage that night, and noticed an increase in energy and productivity within a week.

            I am lucky, at least so far, that the first medication I tried has been effective and successful. This is not common with mental illness, and particularly not with the spread of diagnoses under my belt. Part of the difficulty with medical treatment of mental illnesses is due to the inherent differences between physical illnesses and mental illnesses. (Albee and Joffe 434).

            Despite the ever-present stigma against the mentally ill, there is a brighter side to the whole situation. Once I allowed myself to be treated fully, as anyone with a manageable illness should, I was able to take a more active role in my own life and, therefore, in the lives of those around me. My illness is not a handicap; it is an opportunity to learn more about understanding “the human psyche and how to deal with its complexities at a level far beyond the average person” (Jasko 303) beyond mere necessity. From my years of experience with mental illness, I have learned that getting support and treatment makes the difference between satisfaction in life and mere survival. The journey to mental peace is often a long one, but it does not need to be a lonely one.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Albee, George W, and Justin M. Joffe. “Mental Illness is NOT ‘An Illness Like Any Other.’” Journal of Primary Prevention 24.4 (2004): 419-436. Web. 5 April 2013.

Jasko, Andrew. “The Scarlet Letter of Mental Illness: Destigmatizing Bipolar Disorder.” Pastoral Psychology 61.3 (2012): 299-304. Web. 10 April 2013.

Serretti, Alessandro et al. “Influence of Family History of Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Suicide on Clinical Features in Patients with Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder.” European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience 263.2 (2013): 93-103. Web. 10 April 2013.

 

Disrespect and Dismissal – don’t do it

Recently I had someone do a third thing that made me really uncomfortable and I think it’s the last straw. There is only so much I can allow someone to disrespect the memory of someone I hold dear. There is only so much I can take of someone disrespecting me and my life.

If you follow me on facebook or tumblr,  or you know me in real life,  you’ll know that I recently got a fairly brutal sunburn after playing an afternoon of volleyball. To answer the question you’re thinking, no I wasn’t wearing sunscreen and no I don’t regret it. I knew the risk when I decided to play, and I took it because it was worth it to me. Volleyball is my number one sport, and I am not often willingly social (especially not at work) so I went out on a limb and had a fantastic time.

Friday (the day after getting the burn) there was a family get together for one of my cousin’s birthday. A few of my aunts and uncles asked me about it, with concern, to ascertain whether or not I was taking care of it properly. Asking if I was putting lotion/aloe/vitaminE on it, etc, to maximize and speed up healing. Making sure I was staying hydrated. Shaking their heads a bit when I told them I don’t do sunscreen, but acknowledging that it was MY decision. Once they realized that I was doing what I could and that I knew what I was doing and that I had all the information to make the best choices, they dropped it and opted for poking fun at me for being so white and lobster-like. All was good.

Then this one person, not an aunt or uncle, not a cousin or grandparent, but someone I met less than six months ago, gets uncomfortably into my personal space and lectures me. Full on gives me a shit talk for being an independent person making her own decisions. Not gonna lie, I was flabbergasted at her gall. And when I say in my personal space, I mean less space between her and I than between Dean and Castiel when Dean gets uncomfortable.

dc_ps
source: supernaturalwiki.com

Excuse me.

My mother doesn’t even talk to me like that. My family, you know, the people I’ve known for the twenty-plus years I’ve been traveling this planet, don’t talk to me like that. I am an adult who is perfectly capable of making decisions based on prior experience. Not to mention that I have had this skin since birth, I think I know how it works.

I do not appreciate being talked down to. I do not appreciate being lectured. And I sure as shit don’t appreciate you coming into my personal space when I don’t even know you. Anyone who knows me knows for a fact that if you TELL me to do something, I’m going to go out of my way to piss you off. Because I’m not a child to be talked down to, I’m not a whipping post, and I’m not a slave/servant. I am a person who can makes choices and do whatever I choose (including the opposite of what you ask me, especially if you do it in a disrespectful way).

I kept quiet this time,  and the last two times you made me uncomfortable but third times the charm. You had your chance and now it’s time for me to step up.

No one, and I mean no one, deserves to have their personal space invaded. No one deserves to be lectured for making choices about their own body. NO ONE and that includes me.

(If anyone in my family is reading this, I’m sorry if I make you uncomfortable. But I can not and will not accept this in my life.)

Moral of the story: don’t lecture people you don’t know, and don’t get in people’s personal space unless they fucking invite you in.

Thank you and I’ll see you later

Didja Miss Me? I’m Back!

Hey guys! It’s been a while, eh?

Sorry about that. I don’t have a good excuse, except that the last two months have been a pretty low point in life.

I guess that’s the thing about battling a mental illness, you don’t win all the battles. I have spent the last two months in a funk, culminating in my doing nothing productive in life beyond reblogging posts on Tumblr and colouring in a piece of lineart for the Supernatural fandom. (if that sentence makes no sense to you… it’s probably a good thing).

Now, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t read any books until I finished my second academic essay (assignment 5 of my English course)… but then I accidentally stumbled upon well-written fan fiction (don’t look at me like that). And I rationalized it to myself… it isn’t a book, so my rule is still in place.

Except that I kept reading and colouring instead of working on my essay. Now I have 2 weeks left until my exam, and I still haven’t sent in my final assignment.

Balls.

Anyways, I just wanted to reach out and let you all know that I am still alive. I haven’t forgotten about this site. I will be posting my fourth assignment on hear in the near future, and I hope you enjoy it because I worked really hard on it.

Beyond that, stick around. There may be more fun yet to come!

Peace, love, and epic procrastination <3

Why I Refuse To Support The Salvation Army

As much of an advocate as I am for second-hand and thrift stores, I just could not take this lying down. I had to share it with you, as it strikes deep within my core values and it set off  deep personal unrest.

If you had told me even four years ago that the Salvation Army is discriminatory against homosexuals and queers, I would not have believed you. Despite knowing that they are a church and religious based group, I had (apparently incorrectly) assumed that they were out to help everyone and anyone that needed help.

Yet, there is this:

“In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all its soup kitchens in the New York City area—which would have ended $250 million worth of contracts with the city—if they were forced to offer benefits to same-sex couples. This move would have lost the Salvation Army around $70 million in direct funding from the city and endangered the lives of several thousand people reliant on the Salvation Army.” (source: prosebeforehos.com)

This nauseates me. What makes gay homeless people less deserving of love and assistance than straight homeless people? How can the homeless problem be solved in such a way?

As I may have previously mentioned, I am not Christian. But I respect those who are, and I respect that the Bible and Christianity/Catholicism does have good teachings. In the Bible, it says “Love thy neighbour” and  “Judge not lest you be judged yourself” [paraphrased], not “Love thy neighbour, unless (s)he’s gay” and yet there are people who claim to follow the bible and do not follow these key tenets.

sallyann

How can anyone claim to be a Christian (or Catholic) that follows the Bible (considered the words of God) not treat those around them with love and respect? Jesus is said to have died for our sins, and yet we continue to throw around harmful judgments and unfair disrespects of those around us. 

“Is this the kind of charity you want to be donating to? More importantly, is this a charity that should be receiving government funding? Sure, the Salvation Army does some noble things. Using charity money and government funding to further an anti-gay, Evangelical agenda is not one of them.” (source: prosebeforehos.com)

“They like to trick folks by saying “we don’t discriminate in the provision of our services.” True enough, you can shop at a Salvation Army store to your heart’s content. But they DO reserve the right to discriminate in hiring, promoting, and firing gay people, and in the benefits they provide their employees. And they come right out and admit that “practicing homosexuals” are not welcome in the “church.” ” (source: americablog.com)

I am certainly glad that I have not put money into their hands. I have always preferred The Mission (for helping the homeless) and Value Village (for secondhand purchases) and I will continue to keep it this way. The Mission may also be faith-based, but from what I’ve found so far they do not discriminate based on gender-preference or sexuality, and their financial statements are easily requested from their website.

My suggestion, take it as you may, is to refuse to support such a discriminatory and judgmental religion-based charity in favour of those who will help anyone in need, regardless of class, creed, gender, and orientation. Save your change from the collection Santas at Christmas time and give to a different charity (such as The Mission, Save Our Streets, etc). Avoid the Salvation Army thrift shop in favour of Value Village, consignment shops, and flea markets. Use your money to show this organization that its discrimination of our homeless and poverty-stricken is unacceptable.

Who do you support, and why? Do you look into where a charity spends its money, or do you just assume innocence and honesty among bureaucrats? There are honest business-people out there, and there are the lying-cheating-scum we always hear about. If you know of an honest, truthful, open, and supportive charity that you’d like to share, please share it in the comments below, or send me an e-mail.

Peace, love, and donate <3

Book Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Originally, I had never heard of this book and would probably have never picked it up. But when Philip DeFranco (of the Philip DeFranco Show on Youtube) mentioned he was starting a book club and that Outliers would be the first book, I was intrigued. I had no idea what I was in for, I had no idea what type of book it was, and I didn’t even know that it was a non-fiction book on the outliers of society.

Consider my mind: BLOWN! (For my personal view and feelings about what the book brought up, click here to see my face talking about it)

There are a few basic theories about what formulates individual success, and the background look into the stereotypical “rags-to-riches” story isn’t the entire story.

There are trends and opportunities availed to some that aren’t availed to others. It’s fascinating to see it all broken down, all looked at from every angle. All analyzed to the enth degree.

It may seem like beating a dead horse, to look at the same examples of genius for clues as to what made them so successful. Bill Gates, Bill Joy, the Beatles, etc, each of them became who they were through a series of hurdles and timing coincidences. If Bill Gates had been born 2-3 years earlier or later, it is basically impossible that he would have become the founder of Microsoft. If the Beatles had never played at a Hamburg strip club for over 270 nights in less than 2 years, they would never have been able to have the stage presence and practiced ability to burst into fame in the mid-60s.

The book also shows that having the highest IQ doesn’t mean you have the highest likelihood of success in whatever field you choose. Having a high-enough IQ is more important, and having the ability to talk to people and stand up for yourself is just as important as having an above average IQ when it comes to getting opportunities and being able to seize them when they do show up.

One of the basic premises of the book is the 10,000 hour rule. This is a theory-slash-general rule that is tossed about all over the place. To get the skill in one thing to be considered an expert, you need to rack up about 10,000 hours of practice in that skill. Be it music, science, writing, etc. Before that 10,000 hour mark, you are just an amateur working your way up the ladder of experience.

The 10,000 hour rule has a great deal of significance because it’s factuality has been tested and examined throughout the years. It is now generally considered a fact, a rule of thumb, a necessity for those who wish to break through into their chosen subject.

Where people assume that it’s just luck that allows a brainiac like Bill Gates to become the technology company tycoon he is, there are years and years of practice and experience, time to test theories and build knowledge. Almost anyone, given the same opportunity to practice as the big-wigs have, can become just as experienced, just as knowleged in the subject.

What makes an outlier? A combination of ability, effort, and luck.

Are you an outlier?

Peace, love, and read on!

Sharing my academic writing: Course 1 Assignment 2 (Part 2)

Next up in sharing my academic writing was a rhetorical analysis of an essay from the textbook. I got to choose from a list, and I chose one that spoke to me at an emotional level. A rhetorical analysis is kind of like a summary, except that you look deeper into the diction, the themes, the wordings, and the types of sentences used to look into why the response is what it is, and what mechanics were used to create it.

I hope you enjoy it, and please share your thoughts!

 

A Brief Rhetorical Analysis of ‘Canada’s “Genocide”: Thousands Taken from Their Homes Need Help’

     Michael Downey’s Canada’s “Genocide”: Thousands Taken from Their Homes Need Help paints a painful picture from three decades of recent Aboriginal cultural history through the careful use of a serious yet informational tone. Downey opens his essay with an example of someone forced through the system in the late 60s, who came out the other side with next to nothing and yet goes on to reach success in life despite the early tragedy. This introduction serves as foreshadowing of the facts used to support his thesis: that the forced adoption within the native community caused tragedy both at the personal and cultural level, along with the belief that the native community and culture can thrive beyond the tragedy of the past. By placing both specific and non-specific examples throughout the text, he keeps the focus on how the system ignored the people it was affecting, while also being able to hold the emotional attention of the reader. Downey keeps the reader engaged and emotionally attached to finding a resolution to the cultural scar left behind. The carefully chosen words and conscious paragraph placement elicit an emotional response in the reader, while also spreading knowledge and calling for societal change. Using mostly common language and limited technical jargon, along with carefully placed statistics and numbers, Downey effectively expands the reach of his essay to any individual by maximizing overall comprehension and readability. Even his choice of wording for the title, using both evocative language – “cultural genocide” – and hinting at a call to action – “need help” – show the thesis and overall message of the essay. One of his quotes resonates, as it shows the blind racism that still permeates today, David Langtry said “It was perhaps – perhaps – done with the best intentions” (qtd. in Downey). The conviction this quote shows is that the system truly thought the best thing for these children was to be removed from their parents and culture, and placed into a family made up of completely different values and beliefs. Downey closes with his call to action, implying that the spread of information is essential for society, and that there are changes possible to better help those who have been affected by this tragedy.

 

Works Cited

Downey, Michael. “Canada’s “Genocide”: Thousands Taken from Their Homes Need Help.” Acting on
     Words: An Integrated Rhetoric, Research Guide, Reader, and Handbook
. By David Brundage and

     Michael Lahey. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson, 2012. 444-448.

Video! Sidewalk Chalk Bombing for women’s rights!

 

Wassap! Here is a new video for your enjoyment. I found some cool stuff on the sidewalks downtown…

A form of peaceful protesting against the mindset of victim blaming and rape culture.

A call to arms for safer streets for EVERYONE, regardless of their clothing or choice of activities.

Because the person to blame is not the assaultee… It’s the assaulter.

 

Peace, love, and stay safe!