A Stigmatic Society and a Little Girl’s Laughter

“I have a problem with stigma.”

I see this statement shared continuously over every feed of every social media platform that I use. It makes me ecstatic. I have spent countless hours in therapy agonizing over the ways in which to move beyond Bipolar and operate as a normal, functional human being. But here’s the thing, guys. I kinda don’t fucking want to. I have felt an immense pressure to appear as this beam of light, and an enormous responsibility to give that light to the darkness of stigma, to hold myself up so that the damage it causes is too well-lit for anybody to continue to put it on the back burner.

My main difficulty with the negative connotation surrounding mental illness used to be for reasons such as a combination of high expectations and little empathy. I had to reassure myself constantly that people just didn’t understand, that they couldn’t see the way that I suffered. Don’t get me wrong, these things still bother me, but there are other things that go undetected. Important things. People don’t see the way that I thrive.

They do not see me as I lay on my back, chin up to kiss the stars while combinations are twisted against thousands of safes, releasing my thoughts to tumble over one another. They do not see me swell in gratitude as words appear and I welcome them as if they were diamonds spilling from thin air into my open mouth until I glimmer from the inside. They do not see the kind of release it brings as I send them back to twirl in infinity. What ails me… it heals me, too.

I am never more creative, never more alive than during or directly following an episode. The closest comparison I can make is this: Sometimes, as I sit back and observe my 3 and 5-year-old nieces at play, I swear that they are one blazing billboard, a sign that my illness is also genius. For one thing, they feel. A lot. Loudly and unabashedly. They let me know over and over with their exaggerated moans of both delight and frustration. They do not approach any situation with modesty, and I’ve never heard either of them say “I’m not very good at that.” In fact, they are pretty damn certain that they know everything.

Most of the time, I’m pretty sure that they do, too. Once, after I gave one of them shit for running ahead, she replied “YOU are not the boss of me. You’re not even ANYBODY’S boss!” There were 2 things that occurred in this situation: 1) The thing that I actually did, which was force her to hold my hand and walk alongside me, because toward traffic is not a cool direction in which to gallop. 2) The thing that I desperately WANTED to do, which was to pull her close to me and tell her that no, nobody was her boss. To ask her to always to own this idea and to never believe in such a thing as a ceiling, glass or otherwise.

They also keep that shit so real. They ask whatever questions pop into their thoughts, and if the answer doesn’t give them satisfaction, they invent their own. They particularly like to do it in situations that make me, as an adult, uncomfortable. Somewhere along the way, we are all taught that a very small portion of our wildest visions apply to real life. We begin to learn that we may not grow up to be an astronaut and a ventriloquist and also a ballerina. We begin to understand that the place in which we imagine unicorns that eat broccoli and people who use their hearts instead of their fists is commonly referred to as “La la land.” This place houses everything that we see that is “never going to happen” because it’s “not real.” Maybe it is learned from our parents, or teachers, or that assbag 6th grader who guards the swings and yells truths that we did not ask to hear.

Being told to mellow out, to calm down, to get a grip is being told to unlearn everything that we are conditioned to do by nature. Whether this is necessary is another matter entirely, but it certainly isn’t easy. When I watch either one be told “no,” my heart breaks and bursts at once. Not because I don’t believe in discipline, but because the way their faces curl up in confusion mirrors a feeling that I am so very familiar with. Before Bipolar, before depression, before psychosis and before mania, I had forgotten what it was like to experience this series of discrepancies between what I felt and what was acceptable. To hear such beautiful symphonies and to feel such despair upon realizing that nobody else could hear them. To try my best to assimilate, wondering why the real world couldn’t be more like me.

Please understand that while I associate the confusion of mental illness with the confusion of growing up, it is not meant to say that it is childish or that it can be snapped or grown out of. There are plenty of reasons that I could list as to why it is much, much more complex than that, but that would take me days, and frankly, it’s not why I’m here. What I AM here to tell you is this:

Stigma says that we are an inconvenience, that our symptoms are a burden, a drain. Stigma says that we should be rewired and rewritten to be read in a way that is more fitting for society to accept. Reality says that we are precious, wholesome and magnificent, that our symptoms are the cracks of creativity. Reality says that we shall reclaim our identity and recover. We won’t grow out of it, but we will grow through it.

What I am here to tell you is that dirt is misunderstood. So often we gaze at the flowers and the foliage, paying no mind to the dark, fertile environment from which they sprouted. It is not only your transformation, your end result that should be loved and appreciated.

The next time stigma runs its slimy fingers over your hopeful face in an attempt to draw your eyes closed, this is what I hope your quivering voice will say:

“You speak so boldly of that which you do not know. You stretch my spine so that I may look more like a wooden soldier than a human being. You seek to blind me of the problem, blur my purpose, dress my voice in shackles and my face in a neutral expression. But when you speak, I do not recoil. I do not close my eyes to your lullaby of ridicule. When I stand up straight, it will NEVER be because you pulled me there. It will be because I have wept away the blur and I see more clearly than ever why my voice is so fucking valuable. I will pick every lock until it is your turn to tire and live in silence.”

I hope that as you haul lumber, shuffle papers at your desk or lay sleepless in bed, you will know that whatever you are at this moment is as brilliant as it is tangled. I hope that whenever stigma looms, pouting in your dusty corners, you will honour your inner 3-year-old as you mutter “YOU are not the boss of me.”

Spinning a Tale to Avoid Going Stale

I collect fear.

I collect fear in the way that some people collect stamps or coins or porno. When exhibiting fear, I trail my middle finger along my wrist, searching for my pulse the way that others might run their fingers along grooves in the glass that encase their prized possessions. I examine fear under the lens of criticism, side by side with the possibility of a pleasant outcome. It doesn’t seem to make a difference how shiny this pleasant outcome might be. It doesn’t matter that the light hits it and illuminates even the darkest corners of my mind. I cradle fear, holding it close, feeling the familiar warmth and weight until I inevitably place it on display next to the seemingly endless rows of fear that already occupy an alarming amount of space.

I am at capacity.

My fears range in logic like antique furniture ranges in value. Some are commonly owned and frequently discussed, like heights, spiders and tight spaces. Others are more concerning, like social situations and happiness. Still others are illogical and strange, like death by choking on ginger beef and opening medicine cabinets. (These make great conversation pieces and sit on a pedestal in the middle of the exhibit.) It would seem that I have a rather expansive and well maintained selection.

Do you know who travels from all four corners to visit the showcase of fear? Nobody. For such an exhausting amount of work, this presentation is not very fucking lucrative. I spend the majority of my day bent over the agony of my anxiety, and at this point I’m not even sure what for.  Most of these fears will never have the chance to become anything more than what they are, yet they are the only thing I am aware of that have the uncanny ability to blossom and decay simultaneously.

Much like my painted circle, this exhibit has got to go. There is nothing to gain in absorbing the glory and the plight of those around me. It’s like drinking molasses in attempt to quench a biting and undeniable thirst. Besides, if this life has taught me anything, it’s that misery will find me no matter where I hide. Should it not find me doing something that I love? Should it not quiver in doubt at the sight of my courage?

After Tough Mudder I began to wonder where I would take Lipshits and Mental Fits. There was a period where I wasn’t sure that there was anything significant to draw from, no experience intense enough left to jam into the keys. Like most writers, I am acutely aware that almost any subject can become stale, and that’s just not something I ever desire for my blog. I write it as I live it. It’s as if almost every tear slipped from its chamber, landed and splattered here for all to read. Though I’m more than pleased, I’m a little sick of crying.

Just before the race began, the speaker asked “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” I almost laughed, since aside from that moment I made a valiant effort never to venture into the world of intentional change. I crossed the finish line and wondered why not. I wiggled my fingers and toes, scanned the clusters of faces, heard the garbled hum of hundreds of voices and thought “Everything works.” I have spent the last 3 years becoming comfortable accepting that I am damaged, like the dented can of tomato soup that we keep on the back wall of the shelf. There is no reason for this. I am so capable, so full of good intentions. It’s time that I acknowledge and honour not only my dents, but my durable and nourishing nature.

So I’m bringing something new, and I hope you enjoy reading about it. I’m calling it “First Time Friday.” It’s my way of forcing myself out of the confines of comfort on a weekly basis in order to grow. This week I’m playing bingo. I don’t like the idea because I imagine it being stuffy, featuring uncomfortable lighting, people bathing in Red Door and a ton of laboured breathing, but I hear that you get pretty coloured dabbers and can swear unabashedly, so it seems like something I should carve somewhere into the story of my existence. I’m going to post about my experience every week on the Lipshits and Mental Fits Facebook Page, so follow me there to see pictures and expose yourself to (even more of) my nonsense. If anyone in the Grande Prairie area wants to join me on my personal mission to try anything and everything, drop me a line on the page and I’ll fill you in on where I’ll be and what I’ll be tackling that week.

I hope that I teeter and shift until I split wide open with gaps large enough to allow the light to seep in. I hope that I meet people who will share their stories, filling me with inspiration like a tank of helium and allowing me to give some of that back to all of you who have shared my journey. I hope that I too can be a floating orb of colour across the sky, unaware of the distance between myself and the ground or the fact that there is no hand holding tight to my string. I hope that next time I can write

“I collect dreams.”

Life Outside the Lines

The term “comfort zone” is funny to me.

I don’t know about you, but I was never really all that comfortable inside of mine. It was this space in my mind that I created to lounge around eating chocolate chips and making excuses for every part of my life that had fallen apart because I had been diagnosed with a mental illness. It was a lot like sitting down in the middle of a concrete sidewalk, painting a circle around myself and deciding that this tiny spot was an adequate area in which to spend the rest of my life.

But life didn’t stop because I had laid claim to this part of the sidewalk. People walked by in an endless stream of conversation and laughter, beckoning me to join them.

“Hey Karlee, we’re going to a concert. They’ve got this really great opening act and you look kinda lonely.”

Because I still desperately craved friendship and human interaction, I would say

“Nah, man. Crowds are hell on Earth, nosebleed seats are the worst, and does live music ever sound as good anymore? You guys should come and hang out with me in here. I’ve got chocolate chips and I won’t charge you $8 for a beer.”

Nobody ever wanted to come and hang out in my painted circle in the middle of the sidewalk, and though I would find myself angry, calling them stupid assholes under my breath, I knew why. I knew why because I actually really liked live music and $8 beer and contagious energy, but I feared all of these things at the same time, and besides, I couldn’t just leave my comfort zone. Soon enough, people watching felt like a tedious exercise. They stopped approaching my circle. Where it used to feel like an eternal cluster of people walking toward me, I could only see them walking away.

“Where are you going? Come back. Come back and tell me about all of the parts of your day that went awry so that I can feel better about being trapped inside of this circle. Don’t just walk past while I catch fragments of conversations about things you enjoy. Why are you doing this to me?”

A comfort zone is supposed to be this sanctuary that shields us from the danger of the world outside. Some might argue that it does, but I would remind them that it doesn’t shield us from the danger that builds and boils inside, which is perhaps the most destructive and the most widely experienced danger there is. It wasn’t until someone I love very much sat down in the circle across from me with a somber expression on their face and held a mirror directly in front of me that I realized this. “What are you doing? Did you come in here just to upset me? What the fuck am I supposed to do with this? Get out of my circle.”

I was so angry. I screamed and I cried and I yelled, hoping to remind them that I needed the circle, that showing me how aged and sad and blank I looked only made it worse for me since there was no way out. They didn’t even react. I sat alone in my circle, staring into the mirror. I examined the bags under my eyes and the way they seemed permanently swollen from weeks without any real sleep. How could I be so exhausted, so drained if I were truly as comfortable as I believed? It occurred to me that I hadn’t even tried to escaped the confines of the painted line that surrounded me. I began to wonder whether the circle was keeping the pain out or if it was really just keeping me in.

I thought about this for weeks until I decided that I didn’t want that to be my life anymore. I told myself that if I tried, and if it didn’t work out, at least I could say with certainty that my comfort zone was where I belonged. I took my first step outside of the circle on a September day last year when my friends said “There’s this kickboxing thing going on at the elementary school. You wanna go?” For the first time in what felt like forever, I said yes. And that’s when I met Alycia.

The class started at 8. I showed up at 7:15, determined not to walk in late so that people wouldn’t look at me or take note of my presence. The parking lot was full, but the doors were locked, and it was cold. There were these two little boys standing in the foyer staring at me through the window with their mouths open, as if I were a giant pickle wearing a toque. My brain was all “Fucking shit fuck, Karlee. These kids think you’re so weird that they don’t even want to open the door for you. Go home and watch documentaries about people who do things like this.” I waited it out another 5 seconds and sure enough they opened the door. I was reminded that kids are just funny little beings who can’t seem to help hanging out with their mouths wide open.

When I walked in to find her I was the first one there. Under any normal circumstance I would have felt overwhelmed, but when she looked up I saw that she looked just as nervous as I did. She fumbled around, handed me a form and introduced herself. She asked me my name and I told her a little about my situation. My hands started to sweat when I told her “Sometimes I might have trouble understanding you. I hear voices.” She was the first person who didn’t look at me like a science project after the words fell out. She just smiled and said “That’s okay. We’ll make it work.” As the rest of the ladies poured in, she took us through the class and didn’t hover over me once, except to say a quick “nice work.” I couldn’t remember the last time I felt like I was the same as everyone else. I went home and cried.

Wednesdays became magic for me. I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but I waited all week to go to class and do something that people outside of my tiny circle did. I began to allow myself to dream of doing more. One evening Alycia told us that the company hosting the classes was pulling the kickboxing program out of our town, and my heart broke. I had become so attached to her and the people who took the class with me, even if I didn’t talk much. There was two whole seconds where I feared that I would be stuck inside of my circle of doom before she said “I can’t give up on my Sexsmith girls, though, so I’m going to teach it on my own.” I will never forget that moment, because it did something very specific for me. It reminded me that the margin of risk can be less important than the possible reward. It reminded me that the reward is not always in paper form. Sometimes the reward comes in the form of a smile or a hand to hold or a “thank you.”

Alycia teamed up with Frances, an equally radiant soul and together they opened Pure Fitness, which quickly became my happy place, my escape. It was the one place besides my own home that I could feel free and secure. When I would have episodes, they would both smile and tell me how proud of me they were for coming, for fighting through the voices, for coming back again. They would tell me that I could leave if it got too much, but that they wanted me to stay, and that it was okay not to have my shit together all the time. Alycia came over to me once, standing in front of the bag confused. She said “You tell those voices that I have you and that you’re just fine. You tell them that you’re kicking ass.” At the end they would meet me with hugs and I would leave every time feeling like someone more self-assured than the person who walked in. I forgot about the noise and the pressure and I felt a true appreciation for all that I could do when I allowed myself to feel as if I deserved it.

I don’t know why I felt that I didn’t deserve it. I don’t know why any of us do. All that I am sure of is that it is a lie. Maybe it’s a lie that we invent in moments of confusion and sadness, and maybe it’s a lie that is whispered to us enough to recognize it as a familiar and comfortable pattern. Maybe it is then that we paint our circles, telling ourselves that if we don’t dare to desire anything beyond that which we are certain we are capable of, we won’t be disappointed. I wish that I had the words to tell them what it means to me to know them, how much I didn’t know I needed them. I wish I could tell them that heroes don’t always wear capes or armour. Sometimes they wear 3 year olds on their backs and smiles of encouragement on their lips. Sometimes they are single moms who give up the remainder of their free time to make other people feel great about themselves. Plus, it makes all the difference to be trained by people who will enjoy a well deserved slice of pizza and beer with you when the week is through.

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 I lost 50 lbs, but that isn’t what I want you to take from this. What I earned from the hours I spent working on my physical strength and battling my ego was far more magnificent than that. What I earned was a dream come to life. Yesterday I accomplished the goal that I quietly allowed myself to envision when I took the first steps out of my circle. Yesterday I battled my head and my heart as I ran 11 miles, conquering my fear of heights, crowds, darkness and greatness, often all at once. Yesterday I sobbed as I crossed a finish line that was so much bigger than the event itself. I finished the race against my brain. I can’t tell you what a miracle it was to wake up today and know that I am an undeniably strong, committed, worthy person. To say with absolute certainty that I am capable of whatever ridiculous, crazy, unfathomable idea graces my thoughts. To believe that I am a credible source when I sit here and type that you are capable of all of these things, that you too are a worthy individual.

I know that this is incredibly long-winded, but I wanted to be able to write it from start to finish to tell any of you who are stuck inside of the painted circles that your past or circumstance has left you with that there is a way out. Whenever you’re ready, dare to reach out and run your finger along the line, noticing how little depth it has, how little control it has, until you feel comfortable enough to move beyond it. Tell your story. Talk about your circle. I don’t know anybody who wants to hear a tale about someone who adapted to everything with ease, so give them your rawness and your jagged edges, show them the undeniable will that it takes for you to make it through a single day. Not everyone will like it, but there will be more than enough that love it, that love you, so much so that you may find your edges have smoothed being surrounded by people who give a shit what happens to you.

Today when I look in the mirror I see someone who is young, curious, beautiful, and best of all, happy. I see someone who sleeps through the nightmares her brain plays for her. I see someone who a painted circle is just no match for.

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Ferris Wheels That You Wanna Get Stuck On

Today

I’m tired.

I’m the kind of tired that lets me know that even if I could slumber, there aren’t enough hours in the night for the kind of rest i require. The kind of tired that makes my eyelids feel a little too heavy. The kind of tired that makes the whole world look like an apparition.

I’m the kind of tired that smiles weakly when you say “You’re so strong.” The kind of tired that smiles but wants to tell you not to call me that, because today I don’t want to be. Today I want to imagine that my legs are long and feminine, delicate and intricate. Today I don’t want to see the bruises that cover my knees. Today I want to imagine that words are beautiful for the way that the syllables roll off of tongues and not because of the weight they carry. Today I want to paint my nails and ignore the dirt underneath from years of holding this very ground too tightly while the world spins and tilts and all I can hear is “You’re so strong.”

I remember holding a handful of magic. It looked like glitter and felt like every good thing my mother ever sang to me about before bed. I had so much of it that at any moment I could imagine that I was a plane and you were the landscape. I could look over you and see only the vast amount of you, the way there was never an end to you, feel the distance between us as if it were only temporary, only until I needed some crackers or a nap and decided to touch down upon your ground once again.

When you’re young, you don’t notice that handful growing smaller until it’s too late. By the time you stop running and open your palm, you’re already seeing the magic flicker away on a breeze. It doesn’t matter how tight you close your eyes, how hard you wish, you can’t take flight and so you must see the landscape for what it is, accepting the inalienable truth that there are monsters far worse than any you’ve seen in your nightmares, watching the people you love unzip their skin to try on new flesh that doesn’t quite fit like you remember it should.

The trouble is that I’ve spent all these years with you surrounding me and keeping me flat against you so that I wouldn’t have the space to breathe, to think, to dream. I did, though. All these years on the ground and still I can feel myself suspended in the air, see you inviting me warmly to fall, promising me that it would be an adventure I couldn’t imagine from all the way up there.

I still see the magic occasionally, clutched in the sweaty fist of a child. I see the trail of glitter flowing behind her as she runs and yells “come and get me!” I watch the way she trips over her feet, but feels no fear because she doesn’t know yet that she can fall. She doesn’t know yet that there are monsters who will trip her and hold her down, and I can’t tell her. She squeals with delight as I chase her around the room hoping always that she will want to play cat and mouse, hoping always that she never lets me catch up.

I want to see her up there laughing and transforming from planes into fairies into dragons and back. I want to tell her never to believe you, I want to tell her never to touch you because you will steal her magic and you will steal her mind. I want to tell her to stay up there as long as she can, where clouds are cotton candy and stars are balls to throw and chase across this universe.

She will have all the time in the world to learn to read, to long divide, to kiss the back of her hand and imagine some kid named Stephen. She will never again have the time to spare with her guard down and her head thrown back, eyes crinkled. She will have to worry and ground herself from now on. I will have to put band-aids on her elbows and across her heart. I will have to watch her wrestle with the world between reality and the places she’s seen in her sweetest visions. I will have to tell her that the only magic in her fist will be the magic that she creates to lift her head from the mud and continue on this unforgiving journey.

I will read her Roald Dahl and promise her that the cold dissipates and seasons run through one another, always creating space for her to branch out and bloom again. I will kiss her forehead and tell her that I will read her the next chapter tomorrow, because I’m

Tired.

The Rules (and Other Bullshit We Buy Into)

I just saw something that blew my mind.

Sometimes I think life on the prairies can be pretty dull. I can see for miles, and it often feels like this is all there is. Then there are other times, like now, when I see my very timid border collie rolling around with and grooming a cow, and I realize that this is probably all that most people could ever want.

I remember the moment I stopped believing in God. Before then, everything made sense to me, and if it didn’t, there was comfort in knowing that it wasn’t up to me to figure it out. It’s been so many years and it’s hard for me to tap into that mentality, but it was a very pivotal point in my life and I want to give it the recognition it deserves. Back then I was secure in knowing that I was serving a better purpose. My bible was like the app store. If I was upset, lit with a fiery rage, dizzily happy, there was a verse for that.

As I got older, though, these reasons, this faith became harder to blindly rely on. I had questions, and nobody had answers. I didn’t have a problem living in the Christian world, and I liked going to church. I have fond memories of sword drills and doughnuts after Sunday school. What I did have a problem with was ignoring my instincts and the urge to ask questions for fear of being shushed or seen differently.

I liked church because I knew who I was there. I could recite John 3:16 and play Stella Ella Ola and feel the presence of something bigger than I. When the questions came, when the feelings came, it all changed. All of a sudden “God has a plan,” wasn’t enough to help me sleep, and I discovered that people weren’t really as forgiving and wholesome as they had previously claimed. I was angry to have spent so many nights with that bible clutched to my chest, giving it my vulnerability and trust. I had gotten this idea that God would protect me from anything.

In the 7 or so years that followed I became more and more angry with God, and the anger stacked higher than the Empire State Building. I found the entire concept laughable and felt a certain sympathy for those who had given their lives to serve His purpose. Eventually it got to the point where I didn’t believe in anything at all. If you scroll through my posts from a year ago, you’ll see that there.

However, I heard someone on a very popular television show say “You can’t not believe in God and be angry with him at the same time.” I feel like it’s important to note that I am not comforted or appeased by the explanation of science, either. It’s factual and I’m so grateful for everything that’s been accomplished through scientific knowledge, but the factual reasoning for where we came from and where we’re going is something that I find quite dismal as well.

You know what I want to know? Where does the soul go? The body, yes, I see that it slips out of life and decays, becoming part of the Earth. But there was more to the body, there was the way they laughed and the way their thumb would ache when it was about to rain and all they knew about living inside of that vessel. I want to know where that goes.

I don’t believe in karma, but coincidence is often hard to stand upon. It’s the way that you meet someone and know that you’ve been looking for them your whole life. Your hands fit, and your lips meet each other with a force you don’t understand, but give into anyway. What happens to this connection when all else turns to dust? Will we float next to each other in the vast universe? We can only hope.

We can only hope. We can only do it right this time. I know it seems morbid to think of this life coming to an end, but it’s the only chance that we are guaranteed. If you love someone, don’t wait for the next life to tell them. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll come back again born for the stage and perform in small costumes and make love in the change room.

I don’t know what the reasons are, if there are any. All I know is that a smile can mean the difference between normalcy and a life worth living. Maybe it’s only because I like to write, but I often ask myself if my memoir would be worth reading. Not for sad and impossible feelings, but for my experiences and the way they’ve shaped my being. Did I take risks in love and life? Did I get low enough to empathize with, and high enough to envy? Was I honest enough to connect with people I’d never met?

Writers are introverts, perfectionists, wise. And this is all a crock of shit because I am none of these things and I’m still here telling you stories that probably don’t even make sense to anybody but me. Here’s what I wish for you, above anything else: Have courage. Have courage to be open and honest and to connect with people on a more modest (but extremely human) level. Have courage in love. Don’t kiss someone for the sake of it. Kiss them because it is all that you can think about in that moment and if you were to run you’d forever regret it. And then write it down, exactly as it bleeds from your fingers.

The only problem is that none of us think we have anything to say.

L Is For The Way You..

After nearly 23 years on this Earth, I’ve discovered that I have a lot to say.

I love words. I love the way that words sound differently rolling off of people’s tongues, the way they give colour to an otherwise ordinary story. I once dreamed about a woman and I’ve never forgotten her, because the way she said “square” took my breath away. I’ve tripped through pages of books and fallen in love with the characters. I’ve sobbed at 3 AM when love was lost. I used to imagine that I could cover my body with stories I’d treasured so that I could read them when being in my own skin felt excruciating.

The problem isn’t finding the words. The problem is having so many thoughts and words to sort through that I just can’t bear to turn those gears. The words burn holes in my brain while they are being held captive. When they are set free they seem to catch fire and flicker out of control, beyond my reach and become a mighty inferno that I can’t quite remember creating. Words echo, you know. Even when you’re not in an empty space. Words bounce off of the walls of brains, and some never recover.

If words take space inside of brains, If what I say should echo through the tunnels of the mind, they should mean something. And so it is that I torture myself daily. What, more that anything else, do I want to say? If there was one thing that could be heard and recognized forever, which words should fall from my lips? I want to tell you, and everyone to do what you love. But it could never be just that coming from me, could it? No, I have so many more words, so much more on top of it. I know somehow that this is the only way I’ll ever be able to say it and really be heard. This is my goddamn blog and I’m going to elaborate.

To do what you love, you have to pursue it relentlessly, hopelessly. If you’re not willing to die to let it flourish, I’m not sure it’s what you love. Nobody ever wants to read the story about that guy who kinda liked lacrosse and played it a lot but not on shark week or during lent. People want to hear stories about men and women who gave everything they had to their passion and abandoned the fear of risk. People want to hear stories that are built from the ground up, with twisted plots and a naked honesty. They want to hear about the failures that led to the inevitable successes.

To do what you love, you have to be willing to make the climb. Imagine the road that separates you from that which you desire. It’s steep and slick and the weather is never in your favour. You roll your ankles in the deep ruts, you slip through the mud and bruise an elbow. Nobody on the sidelines tosses you an Advil, cleans your wounds, no, no. If there is anybody there at all, they will be telling you to turn back; out of love, fear, disbelief, spite. You have to be willing to look through the fog and see the beam of what you love in the distance, you have to be willing to use your mind, your free will and your perfectly capable, beating heart to say “I have to finish this.”

Don’t be a fuck about it, though, okay? If you want people to root for you, offer them the same encouragement, too. Don’t step on anybody, and don’t mow anybody over in the hopes of traveling this road in a more timely fashion. I won’t tell you that karma will get you, because I’m not sure of that. What I am certain of is that what you love will be forever tainted with memories of those you caused pain to on your journey; not so sweet. If what you love causes you to harm others, it is not what you love. It is an unhealthy obsession that you have taken on and need to confront. Love should call us to do many things, but never to cause violence or harbour hate. Love doesn’t share, and it will not coexist with hatred.

To do what you love sometimes means saying goodbye. To habits that you loathe, to friends that bitter your warm and open energy, to crutches that you have found necessary to lean on in the past. It forces you to abandon your demons, your need for validation and uncertainty. What you love you should be sure of. What you love is sure of you.

If you don’t know what it is that you love, don’t worry. To love you must live, and if you do it openly, freely, it can only guide you to what you love. Now that you’ve heard my two cents, Go do that!

Sweet Little Lies

It’s been a minute.

I apologize for the very small amount (none) of posts for the month of February, but lately I’ve been feeling a bit like an onion. Layers of my being have been torn off, and I have been dealing with the frosty breeze of truth against my new and tender skin. It sounds like a pretty lame excuse, but it took a lot of out of me. I would sit down to write and instead of the words I desperately needed to bleed, all that my imagination could give me were dancing hams.

I’ve talked a ton about self-esteem and the importance of identity, but life has a funny way of making you live up to the words that you say, and that’s what this month has been about. I sat down one day and tried to come up with a list of my attributes, and for reasons I still don’t understand, I couldn’t come up with any. When I finally stirred up one or two I could be sure of, my mind would always stop me before I wrote them in ink. It seemed so permanent, so final as if it were being carved into my skin where I would never be able to cover it. My mind would override my hands with doubt and I would be less convinced that I had any attributes to speak of. That page is still very much blank.

I’ve had the time to mull it over, and I have come to the conclusion that my identity, my core being is not at all what I thought it was. For an extensive period of time now, my soul has been neatly wrapped in a tight and unforgiving plastic. I used to assume that this was the fault of other people, but I can’t go on believing that, because it wouldn’t be the truth, would it? No, this plastic is so tightly wound that it would have taken total cooperation from my soul for it to be possible. This is how I know that the culprit is and has always been me.

When Eleanor Roosevelt said “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent,” she was bang-fucking-on. People will lie to you all day long. They will tell you that you don’t have the guts, the balls or the ovaries to do what it takes. They will tell you that you don’t deserve it, so you shouldn’t want it, shouldn’t chase it. They will tell you that your best will never be enough. Sounds daunting, right? I thought so, too. If I’m truthful, I didn’t ever think I’d get ahead of those people and their chatter, and so I stayed amongst them for fear of the walk of shame, the fear of failure, the fear of coming up empty.

Here’s the catch:

People will lie to you all day long. They’ll tell you that George Michael was in NKOTB. They’ll tell you that you won’t hurt yourself jumping off of a balcony. They’ll tell you that kale chips taste just like the real thing. If you went about your life blindly believing these things, where would you be? Well, you could be in a full body cast, eating a single kale chip before you violently spit it out, watching a television special on WHAM. And you will realize that they were wrong, they were wrong about everything. After that you will be slapped with the harsh reality that trusting this information lies with you and you alone. You realize that it was your mistake, and that’s worse.

The lies start as soon as we are able to communicate, when we absorb the actions, the words, the personalities of other people in order to develop our own. We don’t even see the bars of the prison we’re in until we realize that there is more on the other side, until we understand that success, beauty and skill is all relative. The prison is all of the misguided notions we carry about ourselves, the doubt that crushes our ambition and the mirror that makes us repulsed by our own reflection. The upside is that this prison is unlocked, should we make the choice to walk towards freedom.

I’ve realized that I have been walking around under the weight of lost hope and the barriers that keep me from progress, and it’s not anybody’s fault. The blame is on me for letting the words of other people under my skin instead of the burn of desire and the hunger to grab hold of it. What’s troubling is that I still feel fear for letting the lost hope, the barriers float away like a leaf in the midst of an autumn gust. I feel fear because I have no idea who I am without those familiar footholds to stand in. If I let go of all that is weighing me down, I might be lifted, I might be happy. It’s strange and funny that I fear greatness and success over mediocrity, but I think this is true for most people.

So here I am, peeled down to my core, stripped naked. It feels tragically hopeless and liberating all at once. However, I am thinking of myself like the onion. I am bare, but this is the nourishment that I have to offer. This is the flavour I bring to the lives of other people. This is my shot to contribute something unique to the world. Though there will always be people who wrinkle their nose at me, there are plenty who are willing to spread me around their lives and become entangled in mine.

Bitter and beautiful; that’s how I like it.

PS. I played “Careless Whisper” throughout the entire duration of this post.