Inside

About five years ago while relaxing at my family’s cabin in the woods—once my favourite place on the planet with its isolation and quiet so permeating you actually feel deaf a lot of the time—a friend who was accompanying me for a ‘writing retreat’ asked me, “How long could you spend up here completely on your own without any contact from the outside world?”  It didn’t take me long to answer.  That was like asking me when my birthday was.  “About 6 months,” I responded.

She was flabberghasted.  “With NO phone calls or visits from anyone at all?”  She needed clarification because, while she swung onto the introversion scale, she couldn’t quite believe my complete lack for need of human contact.

“No,” I said, thinking about what that would mean.  Six entire months without a phone call.  Six months without a visit from anyone at all.  Our cabin (at that time) was my idea of bliss: they hadn’t brought a cell tower anywhere near it so texting (or phone calls) were out of the question and the internet was a spotty, hit-and-miss experience which I didn’t care about in the least.  My parents hooked it up one summer when they were living at the cabin but it wasn’t something I spent time on because the cabin wasn’t about being connected—for me it was always about disconnecting.  My favourite thing in the world is to completely disconnect from everything and everyone and simply take in the quiet in all its magnificent magical marvellousness.

I’d watch the birds flitting between branches, swooping low over the lake, pulling worms from the ground, flapping their wings on the water, hovering around like giant bumblebees searching all the red on the deck for nectar.  I’d watch the chipmunks scurrying along the shore in their acrobatic naturalness and even watched them come up on to the deck from the ground below it (which was no small feat for humans let alone chipmunks) and stuff their cheeks with the cotton filling of the armchair until they looked like their cheeks would burst open in a volcano of white lava but chipmunks are clever and know just when they’ve stuffed their cheeks enough.  Off they’d scurry to unload their cache into wherever they were making their nest.  I’d listen to the squirrels chirping away in the trees and watch them commute along their tree branch highways collecting nuts and maybe even just exercising.  Back and forth they’d go like blue collar workers from one job to another.  I’d watch the people from other cabins canoe, kayak, rowboat, peddle boat, raft their way from one point to another and back again on the water—at a safe enough distance from me in my solitude to warrant only an occasional wave rather than the banal and uninspiring small talk so many people feel is necessary.  Sometimes I’d see deer in the yard eating breakfast and quietly tiptoeing through the green before running off up the driveway when something would inadvertently startle them.

Being at the cabin allowed my writer the freedom it needed.  It allowed my introverted self to decompress from the hustle-bustle of city living.  It allowed my brain to relax enough to sleep—often 10 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep every night.  It allowed me a kind of liberty I didn’t have otherwise.  Demands and expectations from other people: friends, family, co-workers, the world in general all melted away when I was at the cabin.  It wasn’t that I didn’t love or even enjoy my friends, family, co-workers; it was that it was more than I could cope with day-in and day-out for months on end.  When my friend asked me the ‘how long’ question, six months sounded like the perfect amount of heaven.

At home, I often don’t go out for at least a week at a time.  It isn’t that I don’t enjoy the changing colours of the leaves on the trees or the rustle of leaves under my feet (the rustle happens less often than I’d like it to because I live in such a damp climate) but I’m perfectly content in my home.  I don’t even bother to open the blinds most days because I like the cosiness of my home and if the blinds are open somehow the cosiness bleeds out.  I do like the blinds open when the sun is shining brightly as it floods my cosy den with added warmth and makes building or disassembling my LEGO projects much simpler on my eyes but some days when the sun is banging on the windows begging me to let it come inside with me, I ignore the request.  A niggling voice somewhere deep inside me says I should open the blinds.  I should go out for a walk in the glorious sunshine…but I rarely do.  At the end of the day, if I stay inside, if I putter around doing what feels right for me then I am more content than a narcissist staring longingly at their own reflection in a mirror.

Extroverts (or not-quite-so-introverted-introverts) ask me what on earth I do all day; how do I keep busy; why I’m not out for a walk or off meeting someone for coffee or lunch. This question often surprises me because I’m so busy all day every day—I have more to do than I can even keep on top of—and I wonder what on earth all these people who question me spend their days doing.  I have hobbies and interests that take up a lot of my time and I love to read and I love to write and sometimes, despite knowing how much time I’m wasting, I even get stuck playing computer card games after I’ve forced myself to check email when I realise a week or two have gone by since I last looked.  I have a Facebook profile but rarely log in to it—I have two friends that I ‘poke’ on Facebook and the last time I went on there to ‘poke’ them it told me I hadn’t done so in two months.  I can’t even remember when that was but it was at least two months ago.  The internet bores me.  I have a couple of pages that I visit frequently as they are informative for one of my hobbies but I know that if I open one page to take a look it often leads to another page and then another page and while I find it all interesting, I don’t want to be stuck there staring at a screen all day.  I don’t find it energising.  I find it saps my spirit and leaves me a lot less productive physically and mentally—and probably even emotionally.

I love spending time alone and I am sad to know that I don’t have a lot of people in my life who are ‘like me’ so that I don’t have to explain or justify or spell it out.  I love spending time with the people I care about in my life.  I love being completely alone as well—maybe even more.  I need the down time—I need bags and bags of down time.  The people in my life either haven’t tapped in to their own introverted tendencies or I am surrounded by extroverts who can’t wrap their heads around the fact that dancing on table tops shouting at the top of my lungs when a good song is playing isn’t something that revs me up nor floats my boat.  Give me a room filled with books and an extremely comfortable chair and I can stay there very happily until a decade meanders past me.  I’m simply at my best when I’m not trying to meet the expectations of anyone other than myself.  It amazes me to think that not everyone would want that for themselves—the complete freedom to be exactly who they are, all the time.  To me, that’s heaven on earth.

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Living Wish

If you could make a wish and that wish would be guaranteed to come true, what would you wish for?  People often say they’d buy a house or pay off their mortgage or take a dream vacation or even pay off the mortgages of the people they care about.  What if that wish was more than just monetary?  I know the world revolves around money—those who have it, spend it, those who don’t have it, wish they had it.  But dreams are often so much bigger than what money can ever buy.  Sure, a paid-for home is a security very few people truly have (when we balance homeowners around the world) and dream vacations are wonderful experiences with memories that last a lifetime but what about making a wish that lasted forever instead of for now?

As an introvert, I am a keen observer and my life has been spent watching, listening, hearing, empathising, caring and sometimes I’ve even caught myself staring.  People frustrate and fascinate me in equal measure.  People are, in general, simply going about their days doing the best they can for each day they have—whether the best they can is to climb Mount Everest that day or the best they can is to muster up enough energy to pick up the remote control and watch ‘My 600-lb Life’ all afternoon.  Every human being had a beginning and are living in the middle and wondering, worrying or planning their end.  Nobody knows for sure when they’re going to cease to exist—even top-notch medical diagnoses can’t predict the day or the moment when a person leaves the world as they know it.

Dying wishes are always referred to—an edict for that person’s entire existence—the one thing they would have done if they’d only known they’d never have the chance to do it again.  Family members and loved ones sometimes bend over backwards to fulfill the dying person’s wish, even after they’ve long gone.  It’s a way of giving that person the one thing that seemed to mean more to them than anything else—but did it mean enough to them when they were living to actively pursue that one thing?  It makes me wonder.

Recently, my uncle died after months of hospitalisation and while my aunt and my cousins and his grandchildren knew he was leaving them, they couldn’t know when.  What day he would decide to slip away from them forever.  When we’d first learned that he’d been admitted to hospital, we went to see him—my parents and I.  My aunt was there, my cousin (his daughter) and a while later, another aunt and another cousin showed up.  That was the last time I saw him because his wishes were that nobody but his wife, children and grandchildren should be with him.  They were his wishes and, like it or not, we had to accept that those were his wishes, no matter how it affected us or made us feel.  Many in our family did not get an opportunity to say goodbye to him and he, in turn, did not get the opportunity to say goodbye to them either.

It got me thinking—whatever my uncle’s motivation was for spending his last months away from the swell of our extended family, the fact was that it was his wish and, as far as I know, everyone respected that wish.  He was dying and so we respected his wishes.  Why is it not that way for those of us who are living?

Through my life I’ve really struggled with the social dynamics that are constantly surrounding me.  I grew up as a member of a large extended family and while I enjoyed playing with my cousins as a child and even spending time with them when I was a teenager, I found the socialising draining and felt like I needed a long period to recharge afterwards.  It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the interactions and the games and conversation; I thoroughly enjoyed them; however they were an effort for me rather than a simple ‘visit’ like it seemed to me it was for them.  Christmas was a whirlwind of family get-togethers and even friend get-togethers when I was a child.  We would have a big family gift exchange at my grandparents’ house and we would get together at the house of the parents of my mother’s high school friend and we would spend Christmas dinner with my other grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins and we would make a Boxing Day visit to my dad’s high school friend and his wife and whatever other get-togethers cropped up through the years.  As I became an adult there were work parties and get-togethers with friends and all kinds of gatherings which, while I enjoyed myself, I began to really dread as the years went by.  The parties and noise and merriment were overwhelming and not something I found myself enjoying so much.

In the sanctity of my own apartment I would steel myself for months knowing that the holiday season was approaching—as soon as the summer was over I would start to feel a panic creeping slowly up on me.  I would immediately launch into the card making and gift-buying, taking everybody on my list into consideration as I carefully chose something I felt they would truly enjoy.  I would wrap them up, address the cards, put the stamps on the ones I wouldn’t be seeing in person and, before the end of October, I would simply wait.  I would wait and the stress would build and I would distract myself by reading a good book or going out in the cooler weather to photograph the changing leaves or the frosty patterns of fallen leaves or bare branches and I would try not to focus too much on the month that gave me so much stress and anxiety.  Normally, I would find an excuse not to attend whatever work get-together had been planned but trying to find a way out of the family gatherings and especially Christmas day itself was always a lot more difficult—feelings were on the line.  Not my feelings—if I could find a way to duck out of the whole season entirely without hurting anybody else, I’d be over the moon with giddiness and joy—but I never found a way to do that.

This past year, my wife and I decided that trying to keep others happy was making us miserable and, while my wife enjoys Christmas, the stress of obligation had been wearing on her for years—first with her own family and then with my family.  Like me, it had nothing to do with enjoying family members’ company or interacting with them—she gets on with them very well—it’s the break in a Christmas that is what we want it to be rather than what everyone wants it to be for us.  In June last year, we booked ourselves a bed and breakfast far away from where we live and from anyone we knew.  We agreed not to buy each other gifts and just to go away and be content in our own company, drinking in the peace and the lack of festivities that we both found so draining.  We opted to fulfill our own wish rather than everyone else’s.  We begged out of the big family get-together and despite initially accepting a dinner invite from another family member for a week prior to Christmas, we opted to renege on that one as well, simply because it was more than I was able to cope with (there have been a number of very stressful things going on for me and my solitude was paramount in getting through them prior to heading out of town for a relaxing Christmas).  I wanted to enjoy my getaway, not feel rushed or obligated or over-stressed or overwhelmed by what I had been going through already.  It has taken me nearly half a century to focus on me and what I want this time of year—and hopefully it encourages other people to accept that Christmas means something different to me than it does to them.  I’ve done it ‘their way’ for so many years and from now on, I’m going to do it my way.

Our Christmas was pure magic and the quietest one I’d ever experienced.  It was perfect.

My wish (my living wish, if you will) would be that the people who know me and who say that they care about me to accept that what matters to me is just as important as what matters to them.  I would love it if people would stop arguing with me about how I feel or about what I want or putting their values on me as though it fits me like it fits them.  I’m not perfect—I too have placed my own expectations on others despite those expectations not being realistic for those particular individuals.  I’ve learned to back off and to back down and give the benefit of the doubt and I always approach people with the very best of intentions and with my heart in my throat.  I am not malicious or two-faced in my heart; I am generous and giving and as kind as I can be, no matter how other people choose to accept this of (or from) me.

When others are struggling, I do what I can to empathise and even to help; when people are dismissive and belittling, I do what I can to distance myself from their negativity.  While the holiday season is the time of year I find the most difficult, I do find myself having to say ‘no’ more often than I want to throughout the rest of the year as well.  It isn’t that I don’t value the fact that you thought of me or that you want to spend time with me—I am flattered and I am grateful that I matter to you.  It is the fact that, at times, there are events and occurrences going on in my life that take more out of me than I know how to deal with sometimes and when I am experiencing those moments and those times, I am not going to make good company.  I will not be a good conversationalist; I will not give to you what it is you are seeking from me in those moments.  My wish is that the people in my life who care about me will recognise that it is okay and it is acceptable for me to set the boundaries around myself which I need to.  I do not set boundaries for myself to hurt others nor to alienate them, nor to offend them.  I set those boundaries because I am unable to function within someone else’s.

This is my living wish.

 

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End of January

To be honest, I am not a big fan of Christmas.  There are a lot of things about it that I do like, but once the beginning of November hits and ‘Christmas’ pops up everywhere, the first thought in my head is, ‘I wish I could go to bed and wake up at the end of January’.  It used to be ‘at the beginning of January’ but now that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and the past two Januarys have heralded in the worst pain my joints have ever known I much prefer to wish for the end of January (to save myself at least a month of pain).

Last night my wife and I watched the Santa Claus Parade of lights go past on the street in front of where we live.  The crowds began staking claims on the sidewalks in front of the house an hour before the scheduled start time.  It was the perfect day for it—after weeks of almost relentless rain, yesterday the sun came out and pretended it was summer for one day.  It was chilly but beautiful and we went for a walk just to take advantage of the weather.  Folding chairs, camping chairs, blankets, tuques, mittens and glow sticks accompanied the growing chatter of excited children’s voices as the crowds grew thicker and the anticipation grew nearer.  We opted to stay inside because we had a great view from the upstairs windows (and it was much cosier).

After over an hour since the first people claimed their piece of the curbside, the first float came into view and the excitement rose higher as children’s voices raised and laughter ensued and flashbulbs went off (okay, smart phone bulbs—I’m old fashioned and haven’t joined the smart phone trend yet) and the people on the floats waved and the people on the ground handed out candy canes and the drivers of the floats honked their horns and blared Christmas music from inside.  The decorated vehicles were creative and sometimes dramatic and whimsical and fun to watch.

One float was filled to capacity with enthusiastic children who harnessed the power of a microphone and one child in particular (obviously a serious extrovert filled with Christmas cheer) belted out song after song and broke just long enough to declare, ‘Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!’ before launching into the next lively rendition of Christmas song—this child’s voice could be heard all the way down the street long after the float was well past us.  It was my favourite moment of the parade!  There were Christmas light decorated pick-up trucks, old cars with horns that regaled the crowd with ‘ba-woooo-ga!’, semi-trailers with line dancers and hockey teams, fire trucks, mail trucks, remote controlled vehicles, people, even a dog wearing a wreath of lights around its neck was in the parade.  The last float, of course, was Santa and Mrs. Claus sitting in a lovely sleigh being led by 8 sparkling reindeer lit up with white fairy lights and led by a little Rudolph with his nose glowing bright red; the back of the Claus float had an intricate and lovely lit snowflake the size of a large tractor tire and became my favourite part of the parade (after the enthusiastic child earlier).  It was fun and energetic and the perfect night for it.  I was grateful I got to see it from the warmth and prime location of inside.

Which leads me to the purpose of this post in the first place…gratitude.  While I’m not a fan of Christmas (the obligation, the expectation, the disappointments, the frustration, the crowds, the sometimes uncharitable attitudes of some people) I like the lights and I like the parade (because it’s fun to see children getting excited) and the cookies—I’ve always loved the selection of cookies at Christmas time.  What I find hard to digest is the seeming lack of gratitude.  There are so many examples of it in my experience that I have witnessed and it hurts my heart.  I’m not talking necessarily about people who were ungrateful for what I gave to them (although like many people, I’ve experienced that) but the ingratitude that I’ve seen myself between people who are not me.  I wonder if it’s an embarrassment to show gratitude or if it’s genuine disappointment in a gift that renders the receiver ungracious.  Perhaps it’s a sense of entitlement which causes the receiver to dismiss the gift with a lack of gratitude.  Whether people enjoy the gifts that were picked out for them or not, barring the obvious last-minute-gas-station-on-Christmas-Eve-coffee-mug-screaming-Merry-Christmas-in-motor-oil-drips kind of gift, there is something I wonder if recipients of gifts are forgetting…

Whether someone went out and braved the throng of Christmas shoppers in the malls, stood in line after line for (cumulatively) hours on end, fought through traffic and waited for a parking space, whether in rain or snow or blaring sunshine; whether they shopped very conscientiously at independent retailers and free trade market stalls; whether they spent days or weeks or even months creating and hand-crafting the gifts they would be giving; whether they sat at home on their laptops scrolling through gifts online and forfeiting their personal information on a supposedly ‘secure’ site to find a gift for everyone on their list…no matter how it came to be that you, lucky you, were one of the recipients of a gift, show your gratitude that this person cared enough about you to keep you in their thoughts while trying to find something that was ‘just right’ to show you that you matter to them.

Their time, energy, attention and love for you should be given a great big smile and a heart-felt THANK YOU because at the end of the day, if you were fleeing for your life, would you want that same someone to save YOU or to save the reindeer sweater they bought for you this Christmas?  Show gratitude to the people who show you that you matter to them.  THAT is what Christmas is all about.  THAT is what would make me like Christmas more than I do now.  Gratitude is the very best ‘thank you’ out there and it costs you nothing at all.

Gratitude may be an overused word but it certainly needs to be stressed because it is a dying art which needs desperately to be rejuvenated.  Be part of the gratitude movement—it’s free and guess what?  You get so much back when gratitude is a part of who you are.

Here’s to the end of January!

 

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Noise

Noise.  It’s all there seems to be anymore: noise.  The night before last I was lying in bed, earplugs firmly embedded as deeply as my ears would permit and I was reading Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic and quite enjoying it for its other-worldly wackiness.  I could hear a kind of thumping and it went on for quite a while.  I stopped reading.  Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump.  It sounded a bit like my own heart beating and since I was wearing earplugs, it wasn’t so far-fetched that I could hear my heart beating.  Then it stopped.  Thinking it was something next door or upstairs, I started reading again, and realised it couldn’t be my heart which stopped beating or I’d be dead.

 

The thump-thump-thump-thump-thump began again so I pulled out one of my earplugs to determine the source for this noise.  Half-hearing, I couldn’t work out if it was next door or upstairs so I pulled the other earplug out.  Using earplugs at all is something that frustrates me: my ear holes are so tiny that it often takes 4-5 tries before I can get the earplugs to sit comfortably inside my ears (each ear takes that many tries) so I didn’t pull them out without some frustration.  Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump.  It was coming from the room above mine.  I looked at the clock: 11:30pm.  It was a Wednesday night—a school night; a work night, not a night school shop class kind of night.  Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump.  It went on until midnight.

 

Who does that?!  Who lives in an apartment with neighbours around, above and below them, and decides that shortly before midnight is the appropriate time to take up that latest construction project?  My neighbour upstairs, that’s who.  The one I’ve nicknamed ‘Pogo’ because when she ‘walks’ around I swear she’s jumping rather than walking.  It sounds like she navigates her apartment on a pogo stick.  You think I’m exaggerating?  You should come for a visit.  Other people have come to visit and when she gets on her pogo stick they look at me as though it’s me bouncing around like Tigger on speed (which would be a feat, given that it’s Tigger after all).

 

This morning (a Friday) it was maybe 7:15am and I was reading again when Pogo decided to grace me with more noise.  This time she was obviously deciding what to wear because she opened and closed—pardon me, slammed shut—her dresser drawers more times than even I know how to count up to.  I can count pretty high, too.  So much for concentrating on The Light Fantastic.  Around 8:00am the phone rang and I debated with myself whether it was worth the possible physical ramifications to try to get out of bed and ‘run for it’ which in my language is ‘stumble’ or even ‘hobble’ for the phone in the furthest room away from me in an effort to reach it before it hit the answering machine.  I decided against it and sat through all of the ringing followed by my out-going message and then the message left by the caller.

 

I decided my morning had started much too long ago now—I think Pogo had finally chosen the right pair of socks or whatever it is she keeps in her dresser drawers because she’d moved on to her Pogo stick and was maniacally bouncing around the rest of the apartment by now.  So, I got up and went in the shower, hoping for a bit of quiet in there.  Apart from the noise of the water, it was probably the quietest moment I’ll have all day.  Someone (probably Pogo) was bouncing around somewhere and a different kind of thump-thump-thump was discernable through the water falling but I took my time and prepared myself for the day ahead despite preferring a slow, quiet transition from asleep to awake (especially since I’d only gotten about 4½ hours of sleep).  I went into the kitchen to prepare myself a drink (not that kind of drink, although I could have used it already) and find something for breakfast.  I wandered into the living room where I returned the call to the person who’d called earlier to invite me to lunch; texted my wife about whether she wanted me to take a book back to the library for her and turned on my computer to attempt to write.

 

Pogo decided that this was the optimum time to ramp up her bouncing and she pogoed her way around the living room above me (I swear she has an inborn magnet that knows which room I’m in because she lives alone and is somehow always directly above whatever room I’m in—and I have a 2-bedroom apartment—as does she).  The best sound she produces is when she decides to open and close her sliding glass doors (which she does repeatedly as though she’s debating with herself whether or not to go outside) and then the noise to top all noises: she sits down on one of her plastic chairs on the balcony but then stands up, drags it a few inches, drags it back to where it was, drags it across the balcony another foot or two, drags it back again and then sits down only to stand up five seconds later and play should-I-shouldn’t-I with the glass door again.  You think I’m kidding.  Again, come visit me some time and hear for yourself.  I have the Friendly Giant upstairs rearranging her balcony furniture in regular intervals.

 

So, while listening to the dulcet tones of Pogo and her OCD bouncing what other noises do I hear?  A weed whacker, of course!  It’s much too early to avoid this completely necessary noise-production as far as my landlord is concerned.  The more noise, the better!  The droning buzz lasts for what feels like forever while Pogo is having a fun-fair-for-one upstairs and all I want to do is relax with my drink and my breakfast and have a quiet morning.   It’s only 8:30am and I feel like I’ve been buzzing for hours.  I’m sure that as soon as I think the noises have stopped the lawnmower will start up and that’ll go for at least an hour.

 

I wanted to work on my novel but I find that creativity gets trampled by all the extraneous noise produced by other people.  All I can think about is that little cottage on the hill in South Wales one day—the only ‘noise’ I hear is baa baa baa when the sheep decide there’s something to baa about.  Of course, there’s always the cabin which we leave for next weekend.  During the day people around the cabin make noise (like lawnmowers and band saws—someone’s always building something up there) and sometimes the reverberation from the adventure-seeking ATVers up in the hills but at night—everyone just gets quiet and the nights are the best part of all.  The silence is deeper than silence; more profound than deafness and hearing myself breathe is almost more than I can bear.  Still, I’ll take the sound of my own breathing over Pogo and weed whackers any day of the week!  Bliss does await…

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Who Do You Think You Are?

The other day I was at a ‘function’ with the usual faces present.  Some faces were new but overall I was very familiar with the crowd.  It was lovely despite the drizzling rain and greyness about the weather outside and being social (something I find difficult) was relatively simple—even with the faces I didn’t know.  One face was sat alone so I took a break in my own socialising to go and interact.  I wish I hadn’t.

 

Somehow the topic of my working status was raised and the response I received from this person was so cutting and biting—so filled with judgement and disdain that it knocked me over.  At present I am not in full-time work—something that my wife and I have discussed and are comfortable with since she is the one financially supporting our family right now.  This person (who, might I add, hasn’t worked in well over 50 years) decided that my present state of joblessness was something for which I should feel shamed and denigrated for.  All I could think was, ‘who do you think you are?’

 

I did not approach this person to ask for money nor to borrow anything nor to impinge in any way on their life or their finances—I approached this person because, sat alone at a function seemed a little lonely for them.  I approached this person out of the goodness of my heart and the generosity of my spirit.  Clearly this person doesn’t share those traits with me.  This person has somehow raised themselves up onto a pedestal of betterment than ‘the common man’ and has given themselves permission to pass judgement and rule shame onto anyone who doesn’t meet with their own personal ideas of what each separate individual should be doing with their lives.  Who do they think they are?

 

As human beings we are all guilty of judging one another.  We experience the world in a certain way through our comings and goings, our education, our socialisation and our exposure to the world around us and even sometimes the world beyond us.  The current US presidential hopeful spewing hatred and judgement and speaking without any intelligent thought or thinking of the effect that his words has on millions of people is astounding to me—who does he think he is?  Compare him to someone like Nelson Mandela—openly hated and penalised for simply being born of the ‘wrong’ race (something another human being decided was the wrong race).  After nearly three decades in prison he came out speaking of love and acceptance and embracing one another no matter what.  It is a man, a human being, like Nelson Mandela who I would sit and listen to for hours because he didn’t judge or seek revenge on his jailers.  I give zero energy and even less attention to the person spewing hatred in the hopes of being elected; I don’t need that poison in my life.

 

While I may see another person wearing something I personally wouldn’t wear or living in a manner in which I personally wouldn’t live or working in a profession I personally wouldn’t work in, who am I to judge them?  I have no more right to pass judgement on your life, your interests, your choice in a profession, your taste in clothing, nor in your cooking skills.  You are an individual who came through the world in your own unique way and it is your life’s experiences which led you to the place in which you exist today.  I have not walked in your moccasins therefore I have no right to pass judgement on your life.  Inside the privacy of my own brain I may wonder how you can like certain things but I keep those thoughts inside the privacy of my own brain.  They are for me to cope with—it is not your responsibility to try to cope with my thoughts or my feelings or my opinions—it is my responsibility alone.

 

When I was growing up my mother taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say then not to say anything at all.  I took that lesson to heart.  No, I was not always flawless in my execution—I was young and naïve once upon a time—but as the years went by and maturity began to take root inside of me and even more importantly—empathy—my mouth remained closed if I had nothing positive to share.

 

To the person who declared themselves ruler and judge of all other people’s lives—I have only this to say to you: I feel sad for you that your own unhappiness has been unleashed onto others and forced them into the uncomfortable position of having to feel as though they need to defend themselves to you.  You are not a god nor are you a supreme human being.  You are fallible and fumbling through this thing called life just like the rest of us.  Not even judges of the supreme court who are given the ‘right’ to judge by other people—have the right to judge one human being’s existence based solely on their own experiences; they have a code they need to abide by before any judgement is passed.  So, unless you are truly flawless and perfect in every conceivable way, remember that you do not have the right to pass judgement on others just as nobody else has the right to pass judgement on you.

 

One thing that has always eluded me when people make cutting, biting or hurtful comments is what they get out of it?  As human beings we generally do things because we get a reward for it: we go to work because we get paid for it or we go on holiday because it allows us to relax or we give someone a gift because it feels good inside to give to someone else.  What do we get when we cut down someone else or judge them openly?  I don’t get anything from it which is why I don’t do it.  Why do you?

 

Empathy, compassion, understanding, acceptance, love, kindness and flexibility are all fantastic traits in any human being.  If you struggle with any of these, perhaps you need to look inside and tend to your own garden before you destroy somebody else’s.  If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.  It’s much easier than you think.  Nobody gets hurt by praise or compliments and isn’t that what we all want from others?

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Afraid of Love

Something tells me that people are afraid of love. It seems to be the most important thing to everyone yet very few people claim to feel loved. I think loving others is quite easy. You love their laugh or their smile or their common sense or their intelligence and these things, in turn, mean you love them. You get to know them more based on their laugh, their smile, their common sense, their intelligence…and the more you get to know them, often, the more you fall in love with them. You fall into the purple haze.

I call it the purple haze because it’s a bit like being high or drunk: you see the other person through foggy lenses and everything practical becomes magically unimportant. It is this purple haze which leads even the cleverest of people into the realm of the relationship. You love the other person so much you cannot wait to be with them again, touch them, smell them, listen to them talk, go out for dinner and sit across from them, staring longingly into their eyes. Little annoyances which would normally drive you insane are lovingly dismissed and forgiven and even forgotten while you’re in the purple haze. Don’t worry; those little annoyances that have been adoringly dismissed will secretly morph into the bane of your future relationship with that person. If only the purple haze didn’t mute them so thoroughly, you would be able to make more clear-headed decisions about whether this person was truly right for you. The question is, though, without the purple haze, would anyone be truly right for you?

When I asked people that I knew if they could explain to me what it felt like to be loved nobody could answer me. They explained what it felt like to love someone else but not a single person could explain what it felt like to have another person love them. I’ve written about this before and it’s still perplexing to me. If I’m honest, I’m in the same boat: I have no idea what love feels like. I’ve watched movies and television and seen the characters fall in love and got all gushy inside and thought to myself, ‘that must be what it feels like’. When I was younger I wondered what it felt like to have unconditional love from a parent. I was told that I had to earn love and that love wasn’t something that happened ‘just because’. That confused me because the television and the movies I watched showed that people loved each other unconditionally—even parents and their children.

This isn’t a subject that anyone seems to be comfortable talking about. I’m not comfortable talking about it. If I don’t know what being loved feels like then … does that mean nobody loves me? It’s awkward and strange and one of those things you just don’t share with other people. It’s like menstruation or masturbation or depression—everyone experiences these things but nobody talks about them. Why is it that the most difficult parts of our lives remain secret? Don’t get me wrong, there are some people out there who will talk about anything, openly, loudly, in public and those people often receive (however oblivious they are to it) looks of concern, worry, disgust, embarrassment or shame. Why? I think it’s because nobody else wants the table turned on them because nobody else wants to admit that they, like everyone else, feel alone and unloved.

When I say ‘unloved’ I mean it in the self-believing sense of feeling loved. We generally understand that people love us but in a detached kind of impersonal way—we don’t feel deserving of love. In relationships we often accept the love that we think we deserve and if someone is belittling us in a relationship it is because we think we deserve to be belittled. I’m not trying to paint everyone as someone who decides ‘yes, I think I’ll try the belittling girlfriend/boyfriend this time’ but if it happens in a relationship, do we immediately stand up and say, ‘I don’t deserve to be belittled. You can stop that behaviour or I’m afraid I can’t be with you any longer.’ No. We are often surprised the first time it happens and even the second time it happens. Perhaps we ‘give it back’. Perhaps we convince ourselves that, ‘they didn’t mean it’ or that ‘it was a one-off’ because we love that person and can’t imagine why they would treat us with such disrespect. Perhaps we grew up with belittling so we don’t see it as something out of the ordinary.

It is out of the ordinary—let me rephrase that: it should be out of the ordinary. Nobody is a perfect human being and expecting the person you’re in a relationship with to be perfect is setting yourself up for a big let-down. The other person is exactly who they are and exactly who they will always be … whether you like it or not. Trying to ‘change them’ to mesh better with your own ideals will only lead to hurt and resentment. The purple haze doesn’t show a perfect person—it shows you the warts and the scars and the war wounds that person has collected throughout their life which make them unique and specifically them. The fact that these marks are shown during the purple haze doesn’t make them go away once the purple haze wears off and reality sets in. Those marks and scars are still there and no amount of scrubbing will erase those scars. So if you spend the rest of your relationship trying to scrub those scars away, you are engaging in a futile act which wastes both of your time.

My likes and dislikes are not going to mesh with everyone—there will never be another human being who will share all of my likes and dislikes. Some will come close and I’ll have to be flexible about the others (and they will have to be flexible too). That’s the only way to live with another human being in a semi-harmonious state: to accept and to bend and to simply allow that person to be who they are. Wholly harmonious doesn’t truly exist … harmony can only come in the form of one or both people never saying anything negative no matter how much something annoys or disturbs or troubles them. It comes only with complete silence about their personal thoughts, feelings or opinions. It comes only with a swallowing of who you are to save the other person any pain—or to prevent life becoming more tumultuous. Harmony is a goal that very few (if any) couples ever achieve.

Silence is golden but is silence love? Silence is everything that you are unable to express to the other person because the other person has let you know that they don’t want to know what you think or feel or what your opinions might be. They didn’t let you know directly but in another way: when you first took that risk they sent you a very clear message through their response to it never to do it again. The stubborn ones (i.e. independent-minded people) keep trying even though it’s rarely (if ever) received well; even though it ends in catastrophe every time. The stubborn ones hate to give up.

The question still remains … what does love feel like? What do you feel when you know someone loves you? Do you feel it in your intellect or do you feel it in your body? What does it feel like to you? I’d love to hear someone provide me with an answer.

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Nominated Questions

I was nominated by ‘sentimental piece of shit’ (of all the names…) *wink* to answer a few questions and while I rarely do anything ‘personal’ online (other than blog) I’ll bite this time.  The questions that were asked of me are below.  Thank you for the nomination and thank you also for reading my blog.

1. Which countries have you visited so far? I have visited several parts of Canada; several parts of the US (mainly west coast but also Michigan); several places in England, Wales and France.  I have also technically been to the Netherlands but that was only to change planes so I have not seen anything but the airport!
2. What do you write and why? I write novels and I write this blog.  The reason ‘why’ is because I don’t feel I have a choice–I must write!
3. What’s your favourite (non-blogging) website? I have to admit I’m a LEGO fan so browsing through their products is one of my favourite pastimes!
4. Why did you start blogging? I found it a great outlet for the shorter ‘blurbs’ that I wrote about things that affected me in my life rather than the novels which are obviously a lot longer.
5. What/who inspires you? I began writing when I was about 9 or 10 years old however my first novel was written because of a dream I had.  Currently I am writing a novel based on a dream that my wife had recently!
6. What’s your favorite book? Any book which tells me a story that is almost impossible to put down.  Apart from that, I love Janet Frame’s writing.
7. What are the best things about
your blog? (Go on, let’s have some self promotion!) My blog represents my thoughts and sometimes my feelings.  In my every day life I don’t usually express my feelings so the blog is a great outlet.
8. What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made? I took a chance on love and moved to another country and now I’ve been married to my wife for nearly 7 years.  I classify this as a ‘mistake’ only because I went in cold turkey and sold everything I owned and left the country for one I’d never lived in before but in the end, it paid off enormously.
9. What is your best quality? I’d have to say my thoughtfulness and consideration of others.
10. If you won the lottery what’s the first thing you’d buy? A car–I don’t have one and it can be quite frustrating.
11. Which is your favorite song? 🙂  This changes often but all-time might have to be ‘Me n’ Julio Down by the Schoolyard’ by Paul Simon.

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