Honoring Family and Friends

I’m not used to writing a blog, but I am trying to remind myself to update here once in a while. I think of this as sort of a personal diary, but more of a bringing myself to the world type thing. Anyway, today I learned that a family member and a friend died yesterday. Two in one day. The same day I went with my boyfriend, Hans, and his family to visit their family cottage.

The boat is named Muistot, Finnish for memorabilia. It used to belong to Hans’ grandfather before even his mother was born.

We ended up visiting his mother’s parents grave. It was very emotional, but I felt like everyone was hiding their emotions. I felt the wave rise up in me at the thought. At understanding this life, and at seeing his mom standing there. I thought and felt so many things that tears streamed down my face. I was wearing sunglasses. I wanted to hide it. I didn’t feel like I should be allowed to cry if no one else was, or showing their emotions. I stayed behind a little while to collect myself, but it coloured the entire experience.

I thought that one day I would be her, standing above my dead parents. A day I have dreaded for much of my life. I also thought that we would do that same for his parents one day. I wondered if we would be as quiet. I wondered if we would want to walk away and hide our emotions, and try to get on with our lives as if it didn’t hurt.

Then I looked out at the whole cemetery and thought that all of these people once probably did that, and now they are in the ground. And how many more there are, and yet to come. Rows and columns of graves, all over the world.

Today, I learned that my cousin, Rebecca Jones, died. Shortly after that, I learned that my friend, Zachary Guinn, died. I have had friends and family die before, but two in one day is a new sort of thing, the experience is overwhelming, but I feel like I have mostly shut down. I didn’t know Rebecca very well. I think we only met a few times when I was young. I would hear about her through my father. I always thought highly of her, she seemed like the kind of person who went after what she wanted, and I admired that.

auntbandrebeccajones

My Aunt Betty on the left, and cousin, Rebecca Jones on the right.

 

Zack, I met in massage school at East West College. He had an incredible smile and infectious laugh. His happiness was palpable. We worked closely together when I did a case study on him, to understand the effect massage had on lowering blood sugar. I was saddened deeply to hear he died from complications associated with his diabetes. I always kept the jacket he gave me, one that he had designed for Columbia Sportswear, as a prototype, but it didn’t get selected. It always made me think of him, but I never stayed in touch after I graduated school and moved to New Orleans. He was far too young, but I know he did his best to live his life to the full. Everyone loved his energy. He was a remarkable person, and I know I won’t be the only one to mourn his passing.

source: Jessica Rattner via Zack’s Facebook wall


In the story I am writing, death is a major topic. I think about it all the time. I’m coming to understand it as a part of life, but each loss is unique, and difficult. I don’t think it is ever going to get any easier. If you are reading this, I want you to know how thankful I am that you are here on this earth. I hope we are friends, and I hope we help each other to enjoy life a little more each day.

Keeping Track of Changes

I have never been very good at understanding how much time has passed. I have always tried to be meticulous when I journal to write dates and even exact times when I begin to write. Somewhere along the way I kind of stopped doing that. I kind of stopped writing journals too, I guess. Anyway, I really wanted to write this post about the things I have stopped doing and how I feel that it has affected me. The things I want to talk about are substances.

First Thing: Alcohol

I stopped drinking it. It wasn’t really intentional, I didn’t feel like making any kind of big deal out of it. I knew Summer was coming, which in New Orleans is very depressingly skint. Money was going to be tight and I was headed to Canada for the summer. I had quit drinking Whiskey already, because apparently it makes me kind of mean, pick fights and such. I wanted to have a better relationship with Hans, so I stopped drinking it, even though it was my favorite thing. I stopped drinking it, but I didn’t stop drinking. I still drank wine, and beer, and occasionally something else (rum, gin, vodka…)

One day I had a breakthrough realization of a tattoo and piercing ado that I wanted to get. It was very emotional and had a lot to do with me understanding that writing is what I love. It’s in my heart and soul, it’s in me, it is me. But I had stopped doing it. I got “write.” tattooed on me, and I got snakebites. My piercer said I could drink liquor, but not to drink beer or wine because it would irritate the piercings.

I listened to her, because arbitrary rules are fun to me sometimes. And that is how I stopped drinking beer and wine. What was I going to drink now that all my favorite drinks were off the table? I started to experiment. I ventured into flavoured vodka territory. It was tasty, it was fun! I wasn’t hurting anyone. But I am a big drinker, and boy was it expensive. And I had the summer to think of! That was how I stopped drinking. That was over two months ago now. I really have lost track of any exact time table. I’m happy to be saving the money. I’m happy not to be ingesting the extra calories. My liver has also sent me a “thank you” card.

Other things happened when I quit drinking. I felt all the pain of my body. The pain that I drank to numb. I felt my anxiety. I felt my depression. I felt my desperate shyness. I felt a lot of things that I hadn’t wanted to feel. I still feel these things. The thing about feeling stuff, is that you have to do something about it. I think I noticed that most when in Canada. I feel myself slowly starting to do something about it. Whatever it is.

Second Thing: Cigarettes

Oh lord. Just as I never thought I would quit drinking (I’m still not sure if I have, actually), I wanted to/didn’t really want to quit smoking cigarettes. I smoked for years before I even considered myself a smoker. I don’t know how long I smoked for, maybe ten years? The heaviest was when I was drinking, or working in Casting, because that shit is stressful. I never went much beyond a pack a day. I had tried to quit before. I feel certain that I am done for good now though. I quit at the same time I stopped drinking, save a few here and there.

The last cigarette I smoked was bummed from someone I met late night at a skatepark (Dunbat) here in Toronto. It was after midnight, so it would have been the 4th of July. That’s over a month now. I can smell better, and taste better (in both senses, no pun intended). I’m sure there are a whole lot more rewards for this one down the road. My lungs are still recovering from a cold and from smoking, I’m sure. I feel good I finally did this.

Third Thing: Sugar

This one is huge, because I feel like it was the most intentional. I kind of knew that sugar wasn’t great for me. I mean, there was no way to pretend it was a health food, am I right? One night I sat down with a documentary called That Sugar Film. I sat with it, knowing it was going to provide me the kick in the pants I needed to take action. Boy, did it ever.

I learned a lot from that film, and from subsequent research and firsthand experience. I feel like I am a strong advocate of a No Added Sugar life. If you are somehow magically reading this, look into it. I feel very strongly about this.

I haven’t eaten any added sugar for the past three weeks. Let me explain a few things to you. I was always a skinny kid. People often thought I had an eating disorder, that is how skinny I was. When I moved to New Orleans, the food was so good. I gave up my ten years of Vegaquarianism after just one year of living there. I began gaining weight rapidly. It was as if I didn’t know myself anymore. I felt myself expanding and it was awful. Sometimes, I got positive feedback from people. They said the weight looked good on me. I had to completely re-evaluate how I felt about myself. I fucking hated myself- to be honest with you, my friends. I didn’t want to hate myself, but I felt terrible.

I tried to look on the positive side of things: Ass and Boobs got bigger. I had to think of myself as a “curvy” woman now. My brain didn’t get it. I was supposed to fit into smalls, but now larges felt small. I couldn’t buy a pair of pants and have them still fit me by the time I got home. That is how I felt. What the hell is going on, am I right? Okay, sure- I was drinking a lot too (that is also sugar, eh?). Around my middle section I was getting fat. I mean, no one was bringing a forklift to get me out of the house, but for me it was significant weight gain. I gained close to forty pounds. A lot of it was around my middle. I started getting people congratulating me on my impending baby. I cussed them out.

I felt humiliated. I felt ashamed. I felt fat. I hated myself. I didn’t know what to do about it. And at this point, I will tell you that I could live with the weight I gained on the outside. But the weight on the inside, surrounding my organs, pushing up against my ribs? I could NEVER feel comfortable in my own skin. I often said I felt like a sausage packed to bursting, too tight in my own body. Add the scoliosis and chronic pain from a broken rib in 2005, I could never get comfortable.

All of that to say, it’s only three weeks into this and I already feel so much relief from the pressure the fat inside of me was causing. I also feel much more clarity approaching me in my thoughts. I feel energy and drive to do things I am passionate about.

Fourth Thing: Marijuana

This “quit” was not intentional. And it has only been about three days I haven’t smoked weed. I typically smoke once a day, nearing my bedtime. It helps me to wind down, put my thoughts in perspective, do any writing or creating I might feel compelled toward. Being that I am a depressive person, and an anxious person, and a person with an overactive mind, prone to insomnia, this has been the worst three days.

I haven’t been able to sleep very well. I feel nervous and jittery. My emotions are up and down and can’t seem to find equilibrium very easily. I have felt moody and suicidal. I have developed skills over the years, to cope with my thoughts and emotions. I talk myself out of things, I convince myself of other things. Basically, I have learned to be my own therapist. My friends help me a great deal. Hans helps me more than anyone, he’s basically a hero. I keep helping myself as best I can.

I don’t intend, plan, expect, or desire for this fourth thing to be a true quit. Marijuana and other psychedelics, offer me tools, gifts of perspective. They offer me respite from the constant grinding of the gears in my mind. They let me see myself and my situation in a new light. I often experience a positive, reassuring mindset, even if I must go through an ordeal to achieve it. Oh, my lady Mary, how I miss you.

I shall not lament upon this any longer. I will leave you with a brief list of the things I have (re)added to my life over the past two months: roller skating, writing (fiction and nonfiction), modeling, photography, editing (video and photo), makeup (fashion, nails, etc. so fun!), being more open with the world, reaching out to friends (gettin’ on that social media),  and accepting and loving myself more (little by little, each day).

I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other.