Tag Archives: adapting

The Cracked Brigade

“As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that perfection is a frame of mind and my frame is cracked.”

I wrote that as one of my daily quips last week, and I was quite surprised at the response. People coming forward and saying that they too were cracked. And I mean cracked in the best of ways.

An actor I greatly admire recently came forward and stated that he didn’t feel he was worthy. He didn’t think he was good looking enough or smart enough or talented enough and that he was just lucky. I beg to differ. And hundreds of thousands of people around the world agree with me. He has insecurities just like us and I think he’s brave to come forward and admit that. What we see is a chameleon, a true actor, but what he feels behind closed doors is human. I think that is often difficult for men to admit to and perhaps women as well. I have spoken to people who have actually talked to him and they’re always surprised when they find that he is as nice as he appears to be.

As one of my readers stated that: “we are all cracked”. We all have flaws that we think are negatives and yet they are not. They are part of who we are, plain and simple.

There’s a lovely old story that I remember about a farmer who used to pick up water from the well and bring it up to the house. Each day he took two clay jugs, filled them to the brim and walked a meandering path back to the house. One day one of the pots apologized to the farmer for not doing his job. (OK, OK, this is a story, it’s not real life.  It’s meant to illustrate a point.) The pot said that because he had a crack he never arrived back at the house as a full jug. Too much of the water had leaked out, and he believe he was a failure because of it. The farmer smiled and said: “Take a look at the path we take. I knew you had a crack and so I planted seeds along the path. I always make sure that you were leaking on that side. Look at the flowers that have blossomed. You have been watering those seeds and now look . . . The world is a prettier place, because of what you contributed through your crack.”

Those cracks are chinks in our armor that allow us to share the essence of who we are. That is a pretty special gift and one that I cherish.

 

The Building’s Listening

This building has a story

Of ups and downs and love gone wrong

Of broken dreams and silly pranks

A childhood fondly lived.

But broken windows and sagging doors

Don’t hide another truth,

Illicit deeds and crimes concocted

Guns and knives and bloody wounds

Death has lingered here.

But now the future has a stake

Windows broken can be repaired

The doors and walls and ceilings too

And then the fun begins,

The floors and windows once again

Will hear the children laugh.

Pouring rains and winter storms

Are not welcome here.

Come inside and sit a spell

Our tale is still being written

This building’s taking notes.

 

Kindly Clutter

 

Last weekend I had an unusual occurrence. I stopped thinking. Now that sounds a little odd but my mind is constantly in motion. It’s a little creepy when I say it out loud but it simply means I am always aware of thoughts. Good thoughts. I work out short stories in my head or posts for my blog or poems.  A lot of my quips come out of my gentle musings. I watch TV or read  to distract me but I’m rarely able to do one thing at a time. And then last weekend it all stopped.

You know how people are always saying in order to truly relax you must rid your mind of all thought. I can’t do that. I’m like a hamster on a wheel going around and around and around. It’s been like this my entire life so to me it’s just like white noise. My mind is always cogitating in the background and for the most part I don’t pay attention. I explained to a friend that one has a brain, a mind and body. We are our own trinity.  Think of it as your brain is the hardware, your mind is the software and your body is the packaging that keeps everything from falling apart. I told you my mind works in strange ways. So, when it stopped, I was . . . bereft.

Do you remember the expression:  “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”? It’s from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Of course, I modified it for my circumstances . . . Clutter, clutter everywhere and not a thought to think. My mind is full of clutter, as is my home. I have always admired the concept of minimalism but I could never live that way. I need my clutter. It enlightens me, it inspires me, it consoles me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For almost two days I wandered around my apartment trying to distract myself. Fortunately, my weeks-worth of posting was already set. It’s like walking through a visual world and not being able to see. One of my senses was gone. It was not gone for long. But it did leave me unsettled. I have now gotten a post out of it so it wasn’t all bad.

I greatly admire people who have lost an ability and have been able to function beautifully with what they have left. Then again maybe I do understand. I lost my legs 20 years ago or rather I lost the use of them. I’ve been in a wheelchair for two decades and my life really hasn’t changed significantly. Yes, I have to modify how things are done and there are things that do defeat me but I can usually find a work-around. It helps to be tenacious and occasionally cranky. The Ancient Mariner may have been becalmed on a salty sea with nothing to drink but I have people and words to go to for thoughtful nourishment.

 

The Stuff of Dreams

At the end of a busy day there is nothing more comforting than to curl up under the covers, head resting gently on a pillow. The muscles relax, the body settles, sleep is nudging at your brain cells… Soon… Soon… Sleep. “To sleep: perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub . . .”

Excessive amounts of time and money have been spent trying to explain why and how we actually dream. Sometimes a difficult problem can be solved while we sleep. Sometimes we live in a fantasy. Sometimes we get the knickers scared off us!  And sometimes we either do not dream or we simply cannot remember them. There are times our dreams leave us unsettled, irritated for reasons we do not understand. Have our dreams touched a nerve that we are not aware of? Through our dreams have we touched another? What does our mind do when we are sleeping, when our bodies have no control?

They say that we are at our most restful sleep when we reach REM: Rapid Eye-Movement. We may appear to be comatose but our eyes are moving constantly hence the name. When we are sleeping the deepest is that when our minds are active? When our eyes are closed what does our brain see? What does our mind extrapolate? These are questions I am not sure I want answered.

I love to dream. I think of it as a very inexpensive quick vacation. In University I took a psychology course where they encouraged us to write down our dreams. For years I kept a note pad and a pen near my bed and as soon as I woke up, I wrote down impressions or ideas, thoughts that had come to me in the night and I had been able to retain.  Some were nonsensical but others… Within a few hours the memory of those thoughts had evaporated. When I looked back at my notes, I was often surprised. But I occasionally found solutions to problems I had been cogitating for days. That intrigues me. Does our mind have the ability to work without direction? Are our brains and our minds actually two different entities that work together but have the ability to work separately? There is a scary short story in that… Yes, I have gotten many of my story ideas in the middle of the night, not always when I’m awake.

I find going to sleep is like going into a movie theatre not know what movie I am going to see. I don’t even know what kind of movie it is. I find that exhilarating! Sleep well tonight, you never know who you might meet.  Maybe  I’ll see you there . . .

After the End   

         It was over, the end.  It was the end of shopping malls and ice cream cones.  It was the end of School Prom Nights and High School football games.  It was the end of late-night television and microwave popcorn.  It was also the end of high-speed car chases and that singing purple dinosaur on children’s TV.  It was the end of TV.

         No one knows what happened.  No one knows how it started. Everyone knows when it ended and when a new beginning began.  It was last night and today.  Today is the first day of the rest of my life.  Let’s hope it isn’t the last as well.

         My name is Ana Elizabeth Evans and I am . . . well I am here.  I know  what I was yesterday.  Yesterday I was a secretary, a good one.  Today . . . well today I am alive and I don’t think that is all that common. I don’t even know if I can explain what happened.  When I went to bed everything was fine.  This morning everything is not.  Something happened in the night that changed everything.  The world as we know it, ended.  There was a horrible explosion, the earth literally moved.  I thought it was an earthquake but I have never felt one before and I don’t live where they happen.  Power is out so I can’t check the news on the radio or the TV.  I haven’t seen anyone since I woke up.  The sky is a funny colour, sort of like putty, old cracked putty.  And there is a smell about, not offensive, just odd.  Like hand cream, sort of.  I can’t place it but it seems familiar.  And the quiet.  I have never heard such quiet.  There are no birds, no insects, no cars.  Creepy.  I have to wonder if perhaps it is not the world that has gone strange but maybe it’s me.  I have read stories where people are hit by cars and are in a coma and they actually live a whole life in their heads while their body rots in some hospital bed.  I’m not sure I like that thought.  Fiction.  Either way I am alone.  All alone.  I should be panicking, screaming, going crazy.  But I’m not.  I am calmly writing in my journal as if it’s just another day.  I am also hungry.  And there is nothing in my cupboard.

There used to be a variety store a couple of blocks down the street.  I wonder if it’s still there?  I wonder if they have anything to sell?  I wonder if I will need any money?

         Well, the store was there, the people were not.  I picked up a few things to eat and a paper, yesterdays.  Everything is so quiet.  And that sky, so odd.  There is no electricity so I can’t cook anything.  Cereal, that doesn’t have to be cooked.  No milk.  Bread and peanut butter.  Bread won’t last forever, so I had better eat it now.  I’ll feel better once I’ve eaten.

         I don’t feel a lot better.  I just don’t feel hungry. The paper didn’t enlighten me.  Just more of the same, politicians angry because  someone said something nasty, it was probably true, people stealing and killing and invading, and, and, and. . .  We live in a very nasty world.  Did live in a very nasty world.  I have to find other people.  There must be someone else around, I can’t be the only one left.

* * * * * * *

         Ok so I am not the greatest walker.  I doubt if I have walked two miles.  But this is, was, a very busy town, there should be people around.  There doesn’t seem to be any damage to the buildings.  An earthquake would damage buildings, wouldn’t it?  There should be some kind of sign to explain what has happened.  The stores aren’t locked.  At least the ones I’ve gone into.  I read once that there are bombs that will kill the people and leave all the buildings intact. What about bodies?  Why wasn’t I affected? I’m hungry again.  There is a deli just down here somewhere . . .

         Ok I’m not hungry anymore.  This really can’t continue, food is going to spoil and then I’ll get sick if I eat contaminated stuff.  I should pick up some non-perishables.  Of course, if no one is around and the stores are open . . .

         In some ways this is way too much fun.  I can shop without anyone nagging me or looking over my shoulder.  I don’t have to stand in line.  I don’t have to pay! The downside is I don’t have anyone I can tell about it either.  Funny, I don’t really remember other people.  I mean my boss, my co-workers, friends.  That’s silly.  Isn’t it?  My boss was Mr . . . Ms . . .  I must have a concussion.  That would explain a lot. I must have fallen out of bed when the earthquake, or whatever it was, happened and that’s why I can’t remember things.  Whew, good explanation.  Life is easier when it makes sense.  Or at least enough sense that I can understand it.  I wonder if I could change my apartment? If no one is around, who is going to complain? Definitely ground floor, no elevator.  I guess air conditioning is not going to be an option, or heat.  That could be a problem. The temperature is pretty comfortable.  Not too hot, not too cold. Weird, there isn’t even a breeze.  I feel very . . .safe? I wonder what happened?

* * * * * * *

         It has been a couple of days since I wrote in my journal.  I guess I should try and write everything down so I can attempt to understand what is happening to me.  I found a nice apartment on the ground floor and moved.  It’s near the harbour so I can look out on the water. No boats of course, or rather lots of boats, no one in them.  This place is strange, there are no pictures or clothes, no personal items at all.  It’s almost as if it was just sitting here waiting for me to come looking for it.  It’s exactly what I would have wished for; lots of windows, big kitchen, big bedroom.  There are no lights of course.  I guess nothing is going to work until someone figures out what happened and fixes it. I know I am not alone, there just isn’t anyone near me.

         I had a funny dream last night.  Not ha ha funny. but odd funny.  Someone was looking over me, perhaps trying to help? I was in a lot of pain and then the pain stopped, just stopped.  Dreams are supposed to mean something.  As if your subconscious is trying to sort things out.  If that is the case then maybe it was God looking down at me wanting to help.  The pain could be the confusion I feel at not being able to find anyone or explain what has happened.  The pain went away which could mean I will find someone to explain everything to me.  There is an easy answer to all of this.  I will find a library and get a book on dreams.  Books still exist outside of computers.  See, now if we relied solely on computers our world would cease to exist.  No electricity, no computers.  Score one for low tech.

         I found a supermarket and brought back lots of bottled water and crackers and stuff that won’t rot.  Naturally that means mostly junk food.  I will eat the fresh stuff as long as it lasts and then I’ll have to think of something else.  People survived quite well before refrigeration and microwaves.  I’ll look for a book on early settlers while I’m in the library.  I should start making a list of all of the stuff I need.  Eventually I’ll need blankets, but not yet.  I have to find a hardware store, a camping store – a propane stove, then I can have hot stuff.

         When you think about it, it’s not so bad.  I have food, not high class, but edible.  I have water, I have a roof over my head, I can walk around naked if I want to.  Okay maybe not naked.  I can read for as long as I want to, I don’t have to share the bathroom.  Interesting device still flushes, just uses lots of water.  I don’t really miss television, or subways, or morning rush hour, or . . . I miss people.

 * * * * * * *

         I am going to get myself into shape.  I have decided that I have to have something to do that does not involve pampering myself.  Pampering is only nice for a few days.  I am going to do this.  I will walk for two hours each day, I will do fifty sit-ups, I will . . . Who do I think I’m kidding?  I am lazy by nature.  The only walking I’m going to do is to the store and back.

         I wonder why I never tried to get my car to run.  Silly.  That concussion must have knocked too many marbles loose.  One doesn’t need electricity to run a car.  But you can’t gas one up at the pumps without electricity.  There are lots of cars around, I can siphon gas from them to put into mine.  I need to find a book that tells me how to siphon gas.  I am going to need a cart to carry all these books back to my apartment.  Maybe I’ll just read them there and make notes on what information I need.  So now I need some pens and some paper.  This list is getting long.

         People are funny.  When they are around you day in and day out all you want is to be left alone.  What is it they say ‘be careful what you wish for, you may get it’?  Well, I got it.  I am alone.  I have the necessities of life, but I have no life.  I am alive but I am not living.  It has been long enough now that I am sure there is no one else left.  I look out on this beautiful world and I am ashamed.  We take so much for granted.  We abuse what we have and then cry foul when it is taken from us.  Maybe we don’t deserve this paradise we were given.  Maybe our time here is over.

It would be interesting to know how future scientists will explain what happened to Homo sapiens.  They won’t be able to use the meteor theory.  I hope people are remembered for the beauty that does exist, did exist.  The paintings, the sculptures.  If the buildings survive, then we as a people will survive in our literature, our galleries, and our homes.  Our stay here was over too quickly but maybe we didn’t mature as fast as our technology.  That was the mistake.  We became slaves to the very things we invented to make our lives easier.  But we were good.  I hope who ever occupies this world next will learn from our mistakes and remember us for what we were at the core.  As a people we were fallible but essentially good.

         I’m tired now.  I have written for too long, and thought too much. Yes, I will go to sleep now. Maybe the pain will go away again tonight.

* * * * * * *

         “The explosion that occurred last week in a downtown apartment building is believed to have been caused by a faulty furnace.  The final victim died this evening.  She was a secretary with Ellerton and Fitch, a prominent investment firm.  One of the partners, Mr. Robert Ellerton stated that Ms. Evans was the best secretary he had ever worked with and that she will be missed.  Ms. Evans died at 8:07.  In other news . . .”

         The nurse gently pulled a sheet over Ana Elizabeth’s head.  Perhaps now she was in a better place.

The End

Fear

Fear is a great equalizer. We all feel it. The level at which we feel it and for what, does differ. And it’s not all negative. Fear keeps us from doing stupid things like jumping off a cliff just to see what happens. Fear is also a great motivator. We want to do well so we work towards our goals. But fear can also be debilitating. Far too often we are crippled by our fears.

I have many fears. The most unbearable one I have is the fear of snakes.  I have not seen one in decades because I live in a city where they are incredibly uncommon. But I spent my youth camping. And let me tell you, that is their world! When I look back at that time it is with amusement. I can recall the incidences when I was in the presence of one of those . . . animals and from this great distance I can laugh at it. But at the time there was an incredible rush of adrenaline. My mind stopped processing images and words coherently and I would enter a state of panic. It was blind terror.  And there was no reason for it. I’ve never had a bad incident or a childhood trauma. It was just there.

I used to be afraid to draw attention to myself, to look like an idiot. Well, that ship has sailed. But I’m having way too much fun to be worried about it.  As I have aged, matured (stop snickering!) the power of that fear has lessened. I have accepted that some people won’t see me the way I see myself. I may even irritate some people. I don’t care. I would rather not of course but I’m not going to spend my life worrying or being afraid that someone won’t like me. Their issues are theirs not mine. I think that’s being quite mature!

Fear is something we share with the animal world. Have you ever seen a dog or cat that is afraid of loud noises or thunderstorms? Yes, I have too. It is not a pretty sight. And we all deal with our fears in different ways. Some approach it openly and others shy away.  What is important is that we do deal with it. When we refuse to acknowledge our fears, we enter into a whole new realm of issues. Issues that may remain until we deal with it. This last two years has proven to many of us how deep those fears can run. We have learned to deal with a whole new reality and that is terrifying. Some have risen to the challenge others have needed a little help, there is no shame in asking for it.  And we all need a little help now and then. All we have to do is say please…

 

 

The Fragility of Life

Right now, more than at any other time in my life, I understand just how fragile life is. I’ve always known that a life could be snuffed out at any time for a myriad of reasons but this last 18 months has proven even more devastating. Over 5 million people have been lost to a tiny virus we can’t understand or see except through the eyes of our scientists. Yes, life is fragile.

Perhaps even more delicate, more tenuous is the life from within. I’m not talking about the bearing of children, I’m talking about our psyche, our feelings, our identity. People talk about mental health a lot these days and it is a huge issue but so many of us do not talk about it when referring to ourselves. I have not suffered severely during this pandemic. I am safe, I am entertained and I am well. That doesn’t mean I’m not suffering.  But when so much of the world is truly in such dire straits from loss of family, friends, jobs, protection, the list is endless. These people are suffering. I feel unworthy to use the word.

I am sad. I’m becoming apathetic. I am far too comfortable in my hermit mode and I know all it takes is for me to put on a mask and walk outside my door. But I don’t want to. I listen to my books and I watch TV. I’m not contributing anything. The fact that I have set up a schedule for my blog forces me to stick to a routine and that helps. I talk to friends on the phone and video chat. I’m not a complete isolationist. But I’m living too much in my mind and while it’s a very fine mind it is not where I should be. So, I’m writing about it. Think of this as a gentle rant.

I am uncomfortable in crowds so I don’t go out often. I’ve been out for lunch a few time with friends and I have enjoyed myself. I run errands when I need to and I’ll pick up a few treats occasionally. I haven’t been inside a bank since March 2020. I haven’t been to the mall in at least the same amount of time.  I’m not hiding from life, I’m just keeping it within the walls of my apartment. And I’m not the only one. There are others out there also feeling sad and perhaps a little overwhelmed. They don’t say anything because they don’t think they are genuinely suffering.  I disagree. When you get angry for no reason or cry for no reason, you are suffering. You are not alone! None of us are. That’s the first step, completed. Second step: try something new. Learn a new language, try writing your thoughts down, join a chat room or call a friend. They may be feeling exactly the same things you are. I hope the day will come soon when we fear less and hug more. I’ll see you there.

Culture of Ignorance

We live in a culture that does not want to know. We want food to arrive on our tables and programs to arrive in our TV but we don’t want to know how. Why? Because it’s not always pleasant to hear about how the animals are slaughtered or what it truly takes to put on a TV show. We talk about wanting to know the truth but quite frankly, as was once said by Jack Nicholson: We can’t handle the truth! OK that’s not exactly what he said but you get the jest.

We would much rather be entertained by our news than informed. If we are informed then we need to take action and let’s face it we are also a lazy culture. But that’s only part of the world. So much of the world is struggling while we sit back and watch our comedies. I am guilty of this. I find I watch the news less and less because it is depressing and I feel helpless. I want things to get better for everyone and yet I don’t know what I can do. I don’t have an amount of money that I can throw at the issues to correct them and I don’t have any skill set that can make changes. All I can do is offer moral support and when you are hungry from lack of food that’s not good enough. So, I support what agencies I can and hope for the best.

But there is an even more pervasive and destructive ignorance that is far too common:  manners. When I was growing up, I spoke to everyone with respect or I would deal with my parents at home. Not a pleasant thought. I said please and thank you, I said excuse me and when I did something wrong, I owned up to it and I apologized. Does anyone else find these common courtesies are happening less and less?

And I don’t blame the youth for this. I find a lot of them are trying to live up to the standards that we had when we were their age. That’s a good thing. I find older people are becoming less tolerant and more angry. Yes, we have gone through a horrible pandemic, we still are. Nerves are frayed and tempers are short. But isn’t this the time when we need to come together? When we need to stop and think. We’re doing OK. We will make it through this but only together. We need each other. As much as hermits hate the idea of camaraderie and I do hate crowds, we need each other. And that is not a bad thing.

Who are you? Who am I?

Who am I? At this exact moment I’m a writer sitting in front of my computer trying to coax words out of my brain to be formed into some semblance of intelligent thought. How am I doing so far? In a little while I’m going to be ensconced on my balcony with my ear buds in, totally immersed in an audiobook. In the same manner in which I used to lose myself in the pages of a paperback I now am able to lose myself in the voice of an actor performing an intriguing story. Then I will be a reader.

When I was working, I had a persona that I would put on every morning. Professional, calm and focused. I had a job to do. And for the most part I did it very well. I don’t want to brag and say I was perfect because, well, you know, that is so not me. Perfection is something to aspire to, not brag about.

I consider myself an accomplished and confident woman. I wasn’t always. And I still have those moments when I’m not. As a child I was terrified of everything. I had no self-confidence, I thought I was ugly and stupid. Maybe all children go through that phase. And how sad it is. But I was none of those things, I just didn’t know it. I didn’t know who I was or who I could be but over the many years I learned. I read about people I admired, I read about situations that I might one day be in and how to handle them. I would go to parties with pertinent topics to speak about intelligently because I had done the research, just in case somebody asked. I made me who I am today.

But I didn’t do it alone. Family and friends helped to mould me, to support me. Teachers and schoolmates, strangers on the street helped make me who I am today. Every interaction I’ve ever had with someone has left a mark as I have left a mark on them. Hopefully a positive one. But everything we do has consequences. If you smile at a stranger then perhaps they will smile at another stranger and the domino effect is born. Heady stuff I know but we are all interconnected. And that makes us all brothers and sisters.

Some days I am brilliant but some days I’m also that small child that was terrified of the air.  And at my core?  I still believe in who I am, right now.

 

Crisis Adjacent

I have never been in the middle of a forest fire or a hurricane or a volcano eruption. I have never felt the earth open underneath me in an earthquake. I have never faced down an angry assailant or looked death in the eye. I have never experienced a major crisis but I have been close to a few. I have been crisis adjacent .

My father was in a plane crash and that was pretty tense for a while.  but I didn’t find out about it until after we knew he was OK. I have come across car accidents just after they have happened. I offered what assistance I could but I was never in any danger. I have been trapped on a Lake in the middle of a horrendous storm but with all the canoes secured together we just floated it out. I guess I have just been incredibly lucky.

Many years ago, a friend of mine was in Mexico during a horrific earthquake. She was terrified. She and her companions huddled in the doorway and waited for the shaking to stop. She left the country the next day. I cannot begin to imagine what she went through. Maybe this is why I enjoy watching disaster movies. It isn’t so much for the disaster but how people respond to it. The hero and heroine always come out looking wonderful but it’s the side stories that interest me. It is the image of a stranger reaching down to help another. They don’t discuss ideology or politics or even the weather. They just help one another. I know it’s a movie and I don’t ever want to experience a tsunami to find out how I will react. Maybe if I watch enough disaster movies, I will know what to do but one can never be absolutely certain until you are in the moment.

All the planning in the world can be derailed by a simple misunderstanding or a missed appointment. We can have the best intentions but at the moment we freeze . Why? Because life is not an algorithm. It is a series of moments strung together to form your life, your existence.  Our reaction to what is happening around us is predicated on our past, our experiences and our understanding of the situation. People with proper training react without thinking. Police officers , first responders. These people have trained and acted out scenarios so that they will know exactly what to do without taking the time to formulate a plan. Sometimes seconds really do count.

For the rest of us we just react, hopefully responsibly. But it is in that moment of crisis when all the ego is burned off and what is left is the true merit of a person. I wonder what I will do …