Insomnia and Ichiban

It’s 2:23 AM and there’s no slumber on the horizon.

I’ve been talking a lot about brokenness lately, and in doing that I’ve discovered something that makes this whole situation less daunting. I’ve discovered that there are perks to being broken. One of these perks is that we have the truly incredible opportunity to completely reconstruct ourselves into something new and extraordinary. After all, if we have nothing left to lose, what is there to stop us from grasping what it is that we truly long for?

I’m not saying that this discovery is going to make it hurt less. Oh, no. I know that it’s a dull ache that courses through our veins and rushes through every muscle and makes our knees buckle, takes the air from our lungs. It sits in our minds and fucks with us when it is most inconvenient, like in the grocery store parking lot or a friend’s bridal brunch. It rings in our ears like a fire alarm that some delinquent kid named Adam pulled, just for kicks. There’s no real emergency, because the fire’s already burned itself out. There can be no more flame if we have already turned to ash.

I know it’s sort of odd to compare ourselves to a building, but let’s imagine this, just for a second, okay? I want to know, now that your whole life is scattered on the ground, being carried on a breeze, did you like the vessel you were living in? Was it the home you’d always dreamed of? Was your floor plan open and spacious, was there light spilling in? Did you like the furniture? Was the foundation sturdy enough for dreams to flourish and warm memories to linger? What about the people inside of the building? Did they contribute to the hard work that comes with maintaining a peaceful environment? Did they plant flowers, clean the windows, paint your walls in pretty pastels? Did they lay on the floor with you and laugh, their clothes saturated with water and dish soap after an impromptu chore war?

If the answer is yes, then you already know what it is that you long for. If you can shout “Absolutely!” to every one of those questions, you know what is possible, and if you should choose to do so, you can lay the bricks one at a time until your foundation is as strong as it ever was. The building will not look quite the same, but there will be no denying that what you’ve built is strong, significant, and beautiful.

But if you are honest with yourself and know that the ashes on the ground are only reminders of a life you were living, but not choosing, if the home was dilapidated, dusty, and dark, maybe it’s better this way. Maybe it’s better because today you can stand at the edge of the property of what used to be and know that there is nothing left to cling to. Maybe it’s better because the people moving through your doors were only marking your floors and making a mess on top of a mess. Though it is a bitter freedom, it is freedom all the same. Grieve as long as you need to, but promise yourself that when you are finished, you will take a deep breath, one last glance at the remnants of your broken spirit and walk away. And as you’re walking away, decide that you are going to rebuild. Decide that you are going to rebuild in a brand new neighborhood surrounded by meadows. Or next to a set of tracks so that you can hear the train whistle through the night. Or in a high rise above the bustle of a city. Rebuild in whatever environment offers you peace and serenity. Paint your walls in calming, neutral tones. Or Pepto Bismol pink. Put windows everywhere to let the light spill in from every angle, and then put curtains up for those times when you just want to sit with the darkness. Whatever you do, don’t cheat yourself, because this is your chance. This is your soul. This is your opportunity to create yourself in a way that you can truly live with.

The reality of the situation is that our lives are going to fall apart many times between now and the grave. We are going to be demolished and reconstructed over and over, and every time we will look different. We will feel different. We will BE different. We do not play this life with marked cards, and that is unfortunate, but it’s also part of the fun, isn’t it?  Yes, there are Octobers, but there are also Mays. There is war, but there’s also a group of people a table over laughing and arguing about who is going to take care of the bill. There is death, but there is also life that replenishes itself over and over in a very natural, gradual way.

So, now that we’ve imagined our endings as beginnings, let’s start building, shall we? You can always find me here, on Facebook or Twitter. Let’s create together.

Taking Back October

I don’t really know how to explain this, but…

I fucking hate October, dudes. I hate it for a multitude of reasons that are not rational or reasonable. If October was a building, I would set it ablaze and watch while it turned to ash with a smug grin knowing that it would never rear its ugly head at me again.

You know, September is nice. The leaves begin to change and you can tread softly among them, still having enough of summer left inside of you to keep warm. September brings change, and with that changes comes routine. The school doors open and the radio blares, telling drivers to slow down to 30 km/h to protect our most precious investment. There are people in big, comfortable sweaters with beads of sweat on their foreheads because it’s still t-shirt weather, but they’d rather embrace autumn before it takes them by surprise. September is the month in which you can have a slurpee and a latte in the same day because the possibilities are infinite.

Then there’s October.

For most people, October means pumpkins and candles that smell like pumpkins. October means scarves and boots. October is the breath they allow to escape from their lips and watch it dance through the crisp evening wind. It brings screeching, healthy babies in delivery rooms and “Santa comes in 2 and a half months, mommy!” Yes, it would seem that there is a lot about October that is worth celebrating.

But I can’t bring myself to do that.

I can’t bring myself to do that because the October I see brings a bitter prairie wind to remind me that all that is living and vibrant will soon be no more. The leaves beneath my feet crunch, and I find myself strategically stepping over them because the sound isn’t a happy one; they’re fucking dead. October usually brings the first snowfall, and what’s wrong with that, you ask?  It’s a sloppy, wet, dirty snowfall. I don’t build snowmen or make angels or frolic about. The first snowfall is there to warn me of the silence that will soon take hold; a silence that I am never prepared for. Whatever is left standing is killed by October, and I’m left with the memory of what was. I’m Canadian, so October means thanksgiving, and thanksgiving means putting on my biggest, most comfortable sweater and my biggest counterfeit smile while I pretend that October didn’t kill me, too. I always plan what Halloween will look like, but I can never decide which monster inside of me would win the contest, so I end up avoiding it altogether.

How completely and utterly morbid, right?

Just around the corner looms winter, and I’m okay with winter, too. I become accustomed to the brisk air. I appreciate the rosiness that covers my cheeks and the end of my nose. I make my peace with the stillness and start to think about what was in a nostalgic manner, entertaining the idea of what will be again. I recognize the seasons as a delicate and necessary pattern, and I leave October behind, jumping on the train of possibility, the train of hope. So it goes, and so it goes.

I wanted this year to be different- I really did. I wanted to laugh so hard that everyone could see my gums. I wanted to smell a pumpkin spice candle and remember how much I love the odor without the sadness that lingers long after it is gone. I wanted to dance over the leaves and hear nothing but a beat to match the tune in my soul instead of the sound of voices breaking and bones cracking. Despite my best efforts, it hasn’t been easy. I still hear goodbyes, feel the tightness in my chest and see the wilted leaves.

But guess what? I’m here, right now, writing this. This is the first year that I’ve been able to tell you, and everyone else, what October means to me. This is the first year that I have allowed October to cut me open and bleed me out, dripping the words into the post I’ve just written. I have to believe that it’s the first step. (You know, if ya wanna get over it, go through it, yadadayayaya.) This is not my favourite month, and I don’t imagine that it ever will be, but maybe next year it won’t seem so lonely and hateful. Maybe this is my way of taking back October.

After all, there’s still 16 days left. Maybe October will surprise me.

Facing The (Sheet) Music

I’m angry today.

I’m angry today and I can’t quite figure out why. I mean, nothing unusual happened. In fact, if I really think about it, nothing happened at all. Yet I’m still sitting here pouting like I did that time in 4th grade when my music teacher told me I got to play the recorder. I was pretty jazzed about this recorder, you guys. I was jazzed because I was going to go home and wear dark sunglasses and make beautiful music that the whole neighborhood was going to pay me to hear. (I don’t know why I wanted to wear sunglasses while I played. I also liked to pretend that I was blind at the time, so I can only assume that I learned this from Stevie Wonder.)

BUT GUESS WHAT- I took that damn recorder home and beautiful music did not come out of the wretched instrument. It just honked when I blew into it, and DAMN, that pissed me off something fierce. Go ahead, picture a 9 year old girl wearing men’s sunglasses indoors screaming at an inanimate object. Let the image sink in.

I took it back the following day and let my music teacher have it. I told her that it honked and I was not interested in honking. I wanted to be famous, okay? She very gently told me that I would not make beautiful sounds until I practiced and learned to read music. I was obviously not convinced and honked the bullshit recorder for the 45 minute period rather than read the bullshit sheet music, just to punish her.

Anyway, I guess I’m angry today because things are not progressing the way that I want them to. I’m looking around me and seeing all of the people I graduated with going on and making great lives for themselves while I’m stuck here taking 5 hours to load the dishwasher and trying to remember what I was just doing. (Oh, yeah, loading the dishwasher.) I’m angry because these voices won’t stop screaming “BLUE PAINT! BLUE PAINT!” Like that should mean something to me. I’m angry because I totally just thrust myself on the floor and kicked and screamed and threw the biggest tantrum I can remember since the aforementioned recorder incident in 4th grade.

I know I’ve got to cut that shit out. I’ve got to cut that shit out because I’VE GOT SHIT TO DO! Yes, yes, I do. I’ve got a life to live, and a future to create, and that’s up to me. I recognize that life is not supposed to be easy, and that it’s a constant transition of learning and growth. I recognize that beautiful music does not just happen. Beautiful music takes hours of concentration and beating on the craft, and I can’t make any if I’m sitting here bitching because I don’t feel like taking the steps necessary to create it.

It’s up to me to understand that life isn’t going to sort itself out in grand motions. It’s going to happen a single note at a time. If I’m honest with myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because if it was easy there would be no incentive to push forward and reach for more. If you’re wondering, that day did come for 9 year old Karlee. It came after weeks of practice and tantrums and more practice. “Holyshitholyshitholyshit I MADE A SOUND!” Then, when I realized I could make a sound that didn’t cause flowers to wilt, I practiced harder, and made more sounds until they all came together in a pretty melody. (I think the melody was some off-key version of “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad.”)

Today I’m remembering my 9 year old stubborn, theatrical self and using that image to get off of the ground and continue loading the dishwasher. I might even wear sunglasses while I do it.