Saturday, 31 March 2012

march 31, 2012

today was the one-year anniversary of my bike accident.

these were the jeans i was wearing when it happened. i was able to get the blood out eventually, but the holes remained.

before the accident, these were my favourite jeans. i wore them practically every day for about a year. i remember, when i was in the treatment room of the e.r. getting stitched up and glued together and having all kinds of painful, undignified things done, my friend lili called out from the hall: "were they able to save the jeans??" *laugh* she's always known how to make me laugh in the weirdest moments.

i'm going to mend these jeans for my mending post tonight. exactly a year later, these jeans have made it through, and so have i. i've worn them on my old body, and i'll wear them on my new one. there's something about patching them up that feels like making peace with what's happened. or at least bridging the two realities.

most holes can be patched, i think. mended, if not fixed. it just takes a while to gather what you need - including the love and tenacity to put one foot in front of the other until you've found a way to face things and do the work.

there's been lots of emotion leading up to today - even more than you'd think because of all the pain i've been going through lately. i've been taking good care of myself, though, and trying to be patient with the pain and my limitations.

then, today, there was this sudden shift. i woke up feeling rested, and i had no pain. i wasn't even limping. after walking around the house for a few hours without problems, i started to believe i might actually have a whole day with no exhausting pain! i'm sure you can imagine how giddy-making it would be to step up onto a stair, shifting your full weight onto your injured side expecting pain, and nothing happens! over and over! nothing!!! whee! :)

i went for a walk in the beautiful sunshine without a cane, and no problems there either! it was amazing. what a gift - especially on this day, which feels like a big milestone. thank you thank you body for this relief. even if the pain comes around again a million more times, i'm still grateful for this sunny day full of relief and relaxation and joy.

i've been trying to figure out why i stayed up so late tonight. all night, really. it's like i'm holding vigil. last year, it was around this time of the morning when i finally got home from the hospital. just before dawn and getting light out. i really needed to sleep that night, but i couldn't stop thinking about life and death and chance. how fickle and changeable it all is and how little we actually control. i figure you might as well ride the kind of ride you want while you're here, don't you think?

Friday, 30 March 2012

march 30, 2012

a cute little mending project tonight as a pick-me-up before i start the weekend. this underwear is a nice cut and a fun colour, but pretty worn out. i thought i would spruce them up with these cute little homemade heart patches.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

march 29, 2012

okay, so a package came today. eeeeeee!! it's a super-special one that i've been waiting on for a while - the first book i've assigned myself for this blog. call it a mending book club. of one. anyway, it's a book called purity and danger by mary douglas, which is an anthroplogical tome on pollution and taboo, and i'm really excited to dive into it.

here's a synopsis of the book:
"Mary Douglas argues that all modern cultures have concepts of what is pure and impure, clean and taboo. Purity and danger is an anthropological argument about how these concepts are created. Douglas' work in the book is wide-ranging and touches on a number of different cultures and examples. Her basic argument is that a major problem that societies face is that many events are seen as ambiguous and anomalous and this material is hard to interpret cognitively and socially. Additionally, reactions to those might be seen as either valid or invalid in the larger community. Purity and taboo, Douglas argues, emerges as a set of shared values that helps us interpret this and that lets us put things clearly - either in or out."

i'm stoked about reading this book for three reasons:

1. i have a few final frontiers of victorian thinking that i'd like to ponder and undo.

2. i'm a germophobe, and i want to think about why that might be the case.

3. part of my mending project this year is to uncover sources of shame and disentangle myself from them. taboo is probably a rich place to start.

can i just say how much i enjoy that this book came sealed in plastic, then wrapped in bubblewrap and placed in an airtight envelope? seems appropriate somehow, given the topic.

parting caveat: i know i've been doing a lot of conceptual mending, and i will at some point come back down to earth and sew some things up etc etc, but for now, i'm going with it.

march 28, 2012

today's mending post is about starting a new habit.

i've long heard that sleep is the best way to heal and re-balance pretty much everything, so i'm starting a new sleep regime.

i pledge to go to bed before midnight and get up by 8am (in order to get lots of daylight, as well - the other great mender of perspective).

anyone want to join me in this?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

march 27, 2012

i had a big aha moment tonight. i was walking home from an AHHMAZING(!) workshop on erotic memoir writing with the illustrious and illuminating susie bright. while i was waiting on a street corner for the traffic light to change, i reached down and fiddled with one of the buttons on my shirt (seen to the left), which looked a bit loose to me. then, starting from the top, i fiddled with each one in turn and realized that they were all a little bit loose. i took note and decided that would be my mending for tonight.

i chose a light brown for the mending thread. you can see in the photo below that it's made a pretty nice blend between chocolate brown and a sort of mud brown. reminds of chocolate peanut butter ice cream, actually :)

but, to get back to our story: after i fiddled with the buttons was when it happened. THE AHA MOMENT. i've started to pre-mend things - which is to say mending preventatively rather than catching up with the damage after it's already been done. it hit me again as i looked down at the cane in my hand. i realized, "wow, i'm pre-mending." i'm totally doing that thing that, just 10 days ago, i mused about the first time in a mending for others post.

for the past week, i've mostly been using a cane when i venture out. not because i always need to use it, but because i'm being preventative about pain, swelling and overuse. it's like what street dancer and disability activist bill shannon says in his pop tech talk: "throughout the day, i'm sipping at how much i can use my joints[s]." (by the by, this pop tech talk is a super-interesting discussion of degrees of disability and sociological beliefs about visible but less severe disabilities that allow for some assistance-free mobility, such as walking or jumping, etc.)

i see using a cane as a way of preventing the need to mend my body as much or as often. instead of lying in wait for bad days - which tend to come after excessive stress or walking - i accept this physical, tangible, ongoing support. i use this tool that helps me "sip" at my capacity for activity throughout the day. it's been helping with mobility and longevity during this acute phase of healing my ankle, hip and back misalignment. what it comes down to is that i'm preventatively managing damage with my cane. aka i'm pre-mending. i fucking love aha moments - don't you?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

march 23-26, 2012

these last few days have been a whoa la kind of time of integrating a lot of things and intensively taking care of my body.

i had every intention of catching up on my mending posts from the last few days, and then i realized that part of the whole process here - my process - is to learn to accept that sometimes i won't have the energy to complete things. besides...catching up sort of misses the point, doesn't it? it doesn't reflect the reality in which i'm working. my body is already doing so much, day-to-day, to rebalance and heal and adjust to treatments and compensate for injuries and manage misalignment and realignment. so much mending already on the go this last little while.

acute periods of pain and injury management mean less energy for other things. imagine that? i feel so peaceful at having made the decision to let these last few posts go. feels like progress of some kind with that beastly thing called acceptance. historically, it hasn't been a strong suit for my bull-headed self.

when i looked up the word "acceptance" on google images, the picture above was the first image in the list of results. it made me laugh in recognition because of how much it goes against the grain to accept your life situation and try to work with it.

but the image to the right also rang true - this is why change is so exhausting! thanks to fred nickols for this drawing, which he created for this illuminating post on the change acceptance cycle. it was intended for a corporate audience, but it's relevant, in many ways, to anyone experiencing intensive life changes. i found this statement especially helpful: "the negative reactions people have to changes, then, aren’t to the changes but to the losses they create." so true.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

march 22, 2012

today has been one big heart smile. i went to the doctor to check on my ears and my right leg and hip, which have all been giving me trouble. i don't know what kind of blessings were being showered down on me today, but i had a series of incredibly wonderful experiences with the medical staff.


first off, my nurse practitioner listened to every word i said, asked me to repeat myself if she was unclear and responded to exactly what i asked for. no agenda of her own. lots of compassion. no irrelevant questions.

she set me up with everything i needed. she deferred to what my specialists had told me about various things she wasn't well-versed in, and referred me to a muscular-skeletal doc when she didn't have in-depth answers to my questions. there was utter respect and humanity in every moment. she took her time but didn't linger on things unnecessarily. perfect balance.

once she had confirmed that there was a problem with my ankle, she sent me off immediately for x-rays. literally, she pointed to the hospital across the courtyard from the doctor's office where i could get imaged within 20 minutes.

the x-ray tech was sweet, kind and helpful. so human. so open. she was respectful and gentle, not to mention funny. after she was done her work, she lowered the hydraulic table so i wouldn't have to put undue pressure on my ankle by hopping down. she called me by my first name and wished me well in my healing. she smiled sincerely and joked with me. she even gave me a cd of the images to pass along to my chiropractor so everyone was in the loop.

wow. i could go on and on about how amazing it was. to be respected and treated with a kind, calm, trusting, open-hearted humanity! at the hospital! well, i have to say, it mended something deeeeeeeep in my heart. tra la much awesome! thank you manon and stephanie! you renew my faith in the potential of western medicine!!!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

march 21, 2012

i've just come from an equinox ritual. heart softened, balance restored. i'm feeling so connected and alive. what i like to call the happy :)

equinox is all about the perfect balance between light and dark, inner and outer, positive and negative, passive and active, concept and manifest reality, etc. opposites united and combined to make something else altogether. synthesis, if you will. tonight, i want to (a) call something out and (b) apologize for my ongoing participation in it. i want to pay attention to the internal and external expressions of it. equinox balance, right?

all of this got stirred up because of a conversation i had with a friend last night. while we were venting, she quoted some unasked for advice i gave her once before this whole saga of chronic pain began. i was like, "oh shit! whoa! i said that! gah...i'm one of those people!" it left me with a strong need to apologize for all of the other moments i've done that and also take some time to outline what we were talking about so that fewer people make these kinds of mistakes.

my friend and i were venting about how directive, intrusive and unintentionally judgmental people are about chronic health conditions. it doesn't matter what kind - depression, chronic illness, chronic pain, disability. the attitude is the same: "hey, i bet *i* have the magic knowledge you need to fix yourself! i could be a hero! i could be the one to take away your pain and change your life forever - if you would just let me!" the trouble is, it's never that simple. there is no magic answer. you know it, and i know it. also, no one likes unasked for advice. especially at parties.

in case you're not clear what i'm talking about, it sounds like this:

have you tried eating more broccoli? all the vitamin c in it has this soothing effect on the nervous system. you know what? i bet you'd have less pain if you ate fish more often - omega 3 fatty acids are magical. what's your calcium intake like?

or this:
have you seen a chiropractor? a naturopath? an osteopath? a muscular therapist? i know this guy...let me give you his number.

or this:
have you tried cutting out sugar? meat? bread? legumes? dairy? nightshades? blueberries? have you tried the candida diet? have you tried changing your food-combining habits? putting protein and carbs together in meals is *really* hard on your system. do you eat enough garlic? do you know you can take it in odourless tablets? how's your sleep cycle?

or this:
have you tried pilates? colonics? the wild rose detox program? do you do yoga? i have this amazing teacher that talks about controlling pain with the mind...maybe you could come to class with me sometime!

 or this:
have you tried tiger balm? i find, if i twist my ankle or whatever, it really diminishes the pain. helps me heal right up!

because i was one of these (un)helpful fixers before living with chronic pain, i know you all mean well. you're trying to relate to us, to what we're going through. and you really want to *help*. i acknowledge that you are trying your damnedest to improve our quality of life with whatever random knowledge you have. because you are a good person, and you care. but, SERIOUSLY??!?? you don't know the first thing about this! because this is not a twisted ankle!!!!

i really want you to listen to what i'm about to say and try your hardest to believe me: you're not helping. at allllllllllllll. not even a little. you're just making us angry and, for some of us, strong emotion causes flare-ups in body tension and pain. see how that's not helpful?

why the anger, you ask? oh, lots of reasons. first of all, it's none of your business how we approach our health. second of all, it sounds like you think we're not trying hard enough. third, it sounds like you think that our information is incomplete and that our attempts at healing, so far - which are most likely varied and multitude - don't hold a candle to your singularly magic info. isn't that sort of what you're saying? that you think you might know better or have more or better information about the thing we're living with all the time? every day? thanks but no thanks, fixer.

i'm not trying to mean about all this, but a few things need to be said:

1. chances are, we are trying our damn hardest to either resolve or manage whatever is going on.
2. chances are, we already know lots about this condition. we've probably tried what you're suggesting. eight or ten or twenty times. last year. and it didn't work. but we don't want to embarrass you by saying so because you're sure it's what we need.
3. more often than not, we are just being polite by listening to you and will gossip to our friends about it later to relieve the feelings of frustration and resentment.
4. your ignorance is showing, and you're underlining a power imbalance between us.
5. initiating a conversation that includes asking details about someone's health, in public, is generally bad form.
6. i read that magazine article, too. why don't you ask me first before describing it?
7. all of this sounds suspiciously like a rescue mission. don't try so hard, ok? we can just relate as people and sip our drinks rather than sliding into these victim and expert roles. which: ewww.

i can almost guarantee that we've had the test you're suggesting or at least considered that particular cleanse. we've seen a psychic *and* an energy worker. sometimes at the same time! we've done that kind of therapy. like, four years ago for a year. or we can't afford it. either that, or we don't want to do it. and you need to accept that this is not your business.

chances are, we have researched every possible facet or cause or purported treatment or solution - however mainstream or out there. chances are, we've gone to specialist after specialist that knows way more about our circumstances than you. chances are, despite our efforts, we have not found that magical thing that resolves it for us. you need to go into conversations like this, knowing...that someone living with this has way more information than you. that would be the awesomest paradigm shift evarrrr! you may be desperate to fix us, but we're most likely just trying to work with and accept what's happening day-to-day. your shiny, liberating advice won't change that.

here is a little chant you may want to use in these situations:
step back, saviour! that's bad behaviour!

instead of advising, repeat it to yourself silently as you listen fully and attentively to whatever the person wants to say about what they're living. oh, and please don't drill us for details about our health, mr. acquaintance at a party. it's embarrassing and weird. imagine someone trying to puzzle out how to fix you in front of your friends. i actually had a stranger come up to me once and say, "i noticed onstage that you seem to have a shoulder injury." i replied, "uh, yep." he replied, "so, what happened?" as if he was settling in for a long counseling session in which he would resolve everything for me. i didn't even know this guy's name yet, and he was taken aback that i didn't want to discuss the details of my health with him. that's weird, people. this may come as a surprise, but it doesn't feel awesome to endure random concern and advice from your upbeat, well-meaning, pain-free face.

the other thing i want to say is this: you're probably trying to fix me because you're uncomfortable. think about it. for some of us, there may be hope of finding the root cause of whatever it is we're experiencing and possibly even becoming asymptomatic as a result...but, in the meantime, we have to accept and manage the reality of this. acceptance of what's going on with our bodies and minds is really important because denial tends to make chronic stuff harder emotionally. when i'm in denial about these injuries being long-term if not permanent, the bad days are so much rockier. it's a rollercoaster with unexpected twists and turns, and the oversimplification of this "fixing" advice is, therefore, profoundly alienating.

if i tell you that i'm working on accepting that this is something i'm going to have to manage ongoingly - possibly for the rest of my life - don't give me a fucking pep talk about not giving up on getting back to 100%. you're obviously not listening because what i've been saying is that i have a new 100%, and it's this. this is it. you're making it harder for me to accept something that's already hard because you're insisting i focus on a mindset of going back to the way i was before. you want me to not be broken anymore, right? because it's uncomfortable. for you. i get it: who wants to face the possibility that a formerly normative body can experience life-changing injury and pain and then have to adjust to a new, not ideal reality? it could happen to you. in these moments of unasked for advice, you're telling me: try harder to fix yourself. there are still some things you haven't tried to get back to normal. why? so you can be at peace? whatever dude.


now that i've given lots of context, i am going to apologize for my part in this dynamic...and offer a(m)mend(s):

to everyone who i have ever given misguided, well-meaning, unasked for advice - including the friend i was venting to last night: i am so sorry. i know now how much i've pissed you off and misunderstood your circumstances and judged you and frustrated you. i misjudged (so profoundly) the effect of what i was saying and doing to you. my intentions were good, but my behaviour was bad. mea culpa.

i believe that all my actions leave an energetic residue in this life, and that's not always easy or possible to undo. i also believe in making up for my mistakes. for every moment that i caused anger, frustration and alienation due to saviour behaviour, i pledge, from this moment on, to step up and express solidarity and support instead. i know now that trying to medicalize or inform you about your body or your options is not helpful or comforting, and i promise i will not do it anymore. furthermore, if i'm out and i overhear someone putting you through the "have you tried...?" line, i will offer to intervene. i will speak up about this weirdness that is far, far too common. if you want my help, i will help in getting that saviour to leave you alone.

to all of you out there who are trying hard to keep a sense of dignity and balance about something you're living with: i get it way more now, and i will do my damnedest to confront saviour behaviour when i see it happening in my midst. whether it's about race or class or ability or health or whatever. it has the same root: assumption of expertise and power over.

it's hard to have hope when you face the ups and downs of these chronic scenarios. the uncertainty is killer...not knowing what's around the bend, or what kind of day you're going to have tomorrow. not knowing if your back pain is going to make you cry on a first date, or if stupid people saying stupid things will make you regret going to a party and then cause you to stay home the whole rest of the month because you don't want to deal with that crap. we live enough isolation because of bed rest or unemployment or hospitalization or social anxiety or pain. let's stick up for each other and try to head off isolation at the pass, shall we? a quick intervention, like: "hey man, no more advice. she's on top of her own health." would do wonders for a lot of us. let's try it!

in the meantime, i promise not to be one more person who thinks she knows better than you about what you need. i promise to see your strength and your flaws and work at seeing *you* in a fair, even-handed way. no victims. no heroes. how does that sound?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

march 20, 2012

oooh, it's spring! happy equinox everyone! i love this time of year because you can smell the dirt and see a bit of green. reminds me of all the richness and life under our feet.

i'm going to hand the blog over to my friend k.w. for today because she submitted a guest post that's really relevant and eloquent - i hope you enjoy it!


This post is about mending our relationship with the skin of the earth. And when I say earth, I don't mean Gaia, or Eairth, or any abstract concept of the vastness that is this planet. I mean dirt. The actual living, breathing surface. The blackness your mother told you to wash out from under your fingernails before dinner. A handful of which - if healthy - contains more of a diversity of living organisms than any other ecosystem.

In the documentary Dirt! The Movie, the filmmaker visits vineyards in different parts of the world where the same varieties of grapes are grown, yet result in astoundingly different wines. He kneels to the ground as if in prayer, running a handful of dry Argentinian soil - which is little more than ochre dust - through his fingers. He brings it up to his nose and inhales. If you watch closely, very closely, you can see that he tastes just a little of it with his tongue. He says that he can detect a hint of the flavour of the soil in the finish of the wine.

In the last 100 years, we have lost a 1/3 of our topsoil due to the carelessness of industrial agriculture and a lack of attention to the land that sustains us. What does this mean? It means we are losing the skin of our planet. But how do we mend it? With awareness. Compassion. Rehabilitation. Restoration. Remediation. The way that I choose to mend my relationship with dirt is MULCH!

MULCH! makes me happy. It is like making a layer cake for earthworms, mycelium (the underground network where mushrooms do their real work) and other decomposers to eat and turn back into soil - thus adding organic matter, keeping weeds from growing and helping to retain moisture. It's like a thick, nurturing, protective blanket, and it can be made out of any natural substance that will readily decompose. I've been known to pull U-turns after sighting bags of leaves at the curb. I plead guilty to liberating bales of straw from construction sites and abandoned Halloween displays. I've hauled days' worth of wheelbarrows of old manure out of barns. And I have, on multiple occasions, hauled entire pickup truck-loads of cardboard boxes to their final destination: the ground. The ultimate recycling plant: Here, bike box. I will help you turn back into a tree.

MULCH! is magic. I met a Dutch farmer years ago who covered his garden in 6 inches of straw, once the plants were up, and never had to water or weed or fertilize. Ever.

Just this winter I moved into a new house in Squamish, BC, and spent a few days in December weeding the gardens in the rain (impossible in Ontario, I know...sorry), then borrowed a friend's van and got two Rubbermaid bins of aged horse manure from a farm. (SOIL FOOD! SOIL FOOD!) Then I snuck into the woods at night with a pitchfork and more Rubbermaid bins to claim a huge pile of leaves that someone had dumped there after raking their lawn. I liked the poetic justice of that: someone carted them in as waste, and I carted them out as a precious resource. They've already started to decompose and are inoculated with all kinds of amazing invisible foresty organisms, on their way to becoming soil already. You can't buy anything this good.

Back home, I spread the leaves over the garden in a thick blanket. But I need more. So back out in the dark I go, forking leaves into Rubbermaid bins by the light of a headlamp. I'm not sure why it needs to be pitch black outside in order for me to steal leaves from the forest. It just does. It adds to the drama of the whole situation. (MUST. COVER. SOIL. NOW!)

"Have you lost something?" a woman asks, looking at me in concern, holding onto the leash of her dog tightly, heading home. She must think I'm burying the dead instead of recyling it.
"No." I tell her, and explain. It is December. I am feeding gardens. She gives me a strange look, and walks quickly to where the light of a streetlamp marks the edge of the road.

There is something about a thickly MULCH!ed garden that makes me feel complete. Like something wrong has been made right; something broken has been mended. Nature never leaves bare soil just lying around unprotected. It's only humans who carelessly turn over entire fields and leave them to the gulls; only humans who upend hectares of rainforest in a single day. Then the rain comes, and the wind comes and, in a year, the soil is gone. It seems only fair that, if I expect my little backyard plot to feed me in the summer, I should toil in the winter rain, by the thin light of a battery lantern, to bring it a gift of soft leaves in exchange.

Now that it's the first day of spring, my perfect winter mulch is looking a little ragged. There are bare patches of soil where the dog has catapulted after who knows what. There are scatterings of wood ashes everywhere that I brought back from Maine Island in the trunk of a friend's car and scraps of seaweed that I gathered on walks around Howe Sound. All of this is skin-of-the-earth food. The original leaves are almost gone; turned into soil by worms and other crawlers that have done their work unseen. I have to quell the urge to rush out and GET! MORE! MULCH! because soon I will clear patches of it away to plant fresh seeds and, once they make the location of their sproutings known, then it will be time for EVEN MORE MULCH!; maybe grass clippings this time, to keep the soil happy and nurtured and covered and fed.

I like MULCH! as a metaphor too. There are times when areas of my life need to be protected - when things are left unsaid, when the answers don't come easily and must percolate, slowly, rising up out of the ground. There are times when the coverings need to be stripped away to allow the planting and growth of new seeds, when my thoughts sing to 24-hour daylight. Lives grow wings of their own accord, given time and enough held space.

Though you may not feel ready to start your own MULCH! adventure this spring, I would like to invite you to say hello to the dirt that is all around you. The soil holding the roots of the grass that pokes up between the cracks in the sidewalk. Better yet, sink your bare feet into the bottom of a mud puddle, and don't let anyone tell you to clean the dirt off your toes. If you see a particularly fertile garden, take a a moment to bring a handful of its soil up to your face and inhale. What does it smell like? Does it feel alive? And then, in the final sacred exchange, taste it. I dare you. Just a little. On the tip of your tongue. What does the skin of the planet taste like where you live?

In my backyard, the dirt tastes a little of rotten leaves, seaweed and Chistmas bonfires. If I go further out, past the highway and into the estuary where the land meets the Pacific, it tastes of salt. This is as far as I have come to know my new home.

Monday, 19 March 2012

march 19, 2012

tonight, i went to see a show that's part of a local series called the ottawa youth poetry slam. anyone 12 to 19 years old can get up on the stage and read or perform something there.

no rules, no judgments. just getting up and doing what they want to do; saying what they want or need to say. it's amazing. they give so much, and we give tons of love right back to them.

i've only been to this event a couple of times, but when i need a pick-me-up and to feel like there are earnest, open, vulnerable people left in this world, i go and watch these amazing adults-to-be stand up and say it like it is for them. i don't know why i find it all so reassuring because, really, most of the poems they perform are not light or joyous or even particularly hopeful. they discuss suicide and mental illness and bullying and the devastation of feeling left out or judged or used by people or alienated by our government. i guess i feel inspired by it because they aren't being silent. they're eloquent and outspoken, and they see that their social and political context is really fucked up.

after the show tonight, my friend a.n. and i went back to my place and had dinner and talked for hours. we talked about art, creating, love, intimacy, the recent women of the world international poetry slam in colorado and how different the culture and experience there was compared to more mainstream, male-oriented slam.

then we started talking about stigma and struggle; how there are these things that you habitually keep to yourself rather than risking naming them - like anxiety, insecurity, depression, diagnoses of mental illness, fears about being or seeming crazy - all for fear of being placed into a category that you won't be able to escape afterward. usually, disclosing these things means being painted as either a passive victim of a condition or a failure for not trying hard enough to get out from under it.

we talked about how heavy those things are to carry around. how managing chronic conditions - mental, emotional or physical - is more of a burden than it needs to be because we spend so much time pretending or minimizing or justifying ourselves. like all things, chronic conditions oscillate between good and bad, and the bad isn't always visible or recognizable to the outside eye.

it was tremendously freeing to have such a frank talk about all this tonight. i hope everyone out there gets a chance, at one point or another, to mend the notion that these things shouldn't exist out in the open.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

march 18, 2012

this is a picture of swami sivananda radha - the most insightful yoga teacher i've encountered in my life so far. she would have been 101 years old this week and, tonight, i got together with a bunch of people from my yoga centre to celebrate her. before i go any further, i should tell you that, when i say yoga teacher, i don't mean a svelte, soft-spoken teacher of drop-in classes at a studio down the street. i mean the leader and founder of the lineage that i follow.

some people call her their guru, but i don't use that term. it's partly because the meaning of the word has been tainted by dabblers looking for salvation without having to do any work, and partly because she never taught me directly before she died in 1995. don't get me wrong: i've benefited tremendously from her wisdom, but that's been in the form of her books, videos, recorded lectures and also being taught by teachers who were taught by her. maybe it's a matter of semantics, though, because, directly or indirectly, she has changed me. she's changed my thinking, my assumptions and my mental and emotional habits. she has also really inspired me.

simple things can be so healing: breath, silence, space, openness, compassion. i think, when it comes down to it, healing is about gaining the ability to change perspective; using tools that help you to change something. one of the most amazing tools that my teacher has given me over the years is something called the divine light invocation. it's a standing meditation on light that takes about five minutes, and it's pretty much the best mood reset button i've ever encountered. i've found that it helps me the most when i need a shift in perspective, but i don't know where to start. it's like i can feel it mending the tiny cuts and tears in my heart. i relax into the light, which helps me breathe and think. magic!

i'm going to share a video of it with you tonight, in honour of my teacher, and in the hopes it might give you some relief from whatever you might be struggling with. the meditation starts at 3:17. the woman leading the divine light invocation in the video is swami lalitananda. she was a disciple of swami radha's and was her personal caregiver in the months leading up to her death. they were very close.

if you end up trying this exercise, let me know what your experience is like :)

Saturday, 17 March 2012

march 17, 2012

tonight, i did mending for others...times three! i'm hanging out at my friend f.d.'s house tonight, and he had a few things laying around that needed mending. buttons that had popped off two of his button-down shirts and a pair of pants. i decided to do all of them because they were relatively quick jobs, and i figured i was probably more motivated than he was to finish them up.

we were talking as i worked - about experiencing and appreciating life while we've got it, about life events that irrevocably change you, about how to come to terms with and understand death. this was not light fare...but what do you expect when you get a couple poets together? :P

there was this thing i noticed while i was stitching the buttons: the ones that were missing were the ones that were put under the most stress during daily life. they had popped off under strain and overuse.

obvious, perhaps, but it's an observation that i think can be applied more broadly. most of us don't put much energy into noticing which places in our lives are getting threadbare.

we often wait until things either get worse or better. usually, when something emergent is being ignored, it'll break open or tear at some point. then we either do our best to mend it, or we walk away. but what if we didn't wait? what if we focused, instead, on preventative measure? seems to me we have more options before things come to a head. fewer lost buttons, in a manner of speaking.

march 16, 2012

today, i was eyeing my chive plant with great concern and noticing it was looking pretty rough. all kinds of dead things hanging off it, and these dried out, curled up ends.

when i first got the plant, it was really healthy and strong. (greenhouses will do that for a plant, i suppose!) but, while transporting the plant in freezing mid-february temperatures, it, well, froze. all the exposed chives died. gah, i felt so bad. i never did clear the detritus from the plant - even when a whole new set of chives grew in, and the plant got strong again. there were these stiff, dry, straw-like dead things choking the roots and, i'm sure, taking nutrients from the healthy parts of the plant.

today was the day to give it some attention. granted, this is more of a tending than a mending project...but there is something in this gesture that feels important and mendful in its own way. when i think of death and change, i often think of compost. of taking what's not needed and using that to enrich the soil of what's to come. in human life, it's metaphorical. we take our lessons learned, and let those settle into our minds as valuable things that help us grow. for plants, it's much more concrete and direct, but it's the same idea. i guess tending this plant is reminding me about lessons learned and to rely on the wisdom i've earned.

there's something important about clearing away what's old and dead, so that doesn't choke out the possibility of new life. that's why we spring clean, it's why we get haircuts and desire new clothes once we lived in them for a certain amount of time. there's this primal urge to get rid of what's stale or old or dead and embrace the potential of the space we've created for something new to grow. i took all the old dead stuff, crunched it up and spread it like a blanket in the spaces between the plants. it'll break down and gift the soil with whatever it's got left. it'll also leave space in the right places - for the plant to grow up and out unfettered by the old, dead stuff. here's to all of us doing that!

i sometimes go to a writing group on tuesday nights, and we always open the writing session with the same excerpt of a poem by rumi as a reminder to embrace the empty page as a place of possibility:

"i've said before that every crafts[person] searches for what's not there to practice [a] craft.
a builder looks for the rotten hole where the roof caved in
a water-carrier picks the empty pot.
a carpenter stops at the house with no door.
workers rush toward some hint of emptiness, which they then start to fill.
their hope, though, is for emptiness, so don't think you must avoid it.
it contains what you need!"

march 15, 2012

hello chipmunks. sorry that my post for today was so long delayed. thursday was a...complicated day.

i didn't sleep at all wednesday night. for some reason, all kinds of thinking and feeling was flooding through me. i finally gave up on the idea of sleep when, at 6:30am, i still hadn't had a minute of rest. i wasn't coherent enough to work on anything, so i fiddled around on facebook, checked my email and looked through old pictures. there's this one picture from pride in ottawa a couple years ago of me and my ex and our dog. i guess now her dog? he was her dog, then our dog and now he's back to being her dog. she's living with him and taking care of him now, so i guess i have to get used to the idea that he's hers alone. anyway, that picture made me want to look at other pictures of the dog and, soon, i was totally mooning over him and teary.

then i got a call. it was the vet, telling me that the dog had run away that morning and was injured and waiting at a nearby neighbour's house. i was so shocked and delirious and confused...there was a part of my brain that wondered if he had felt me thinking about him and despairing about the distance and that made him want to run away that day. but i think that was the sleeplessness talking. anyway, the vet had tried to call my ex, but she wasn't answering her phone. they said he was bleeding and hurt, so i wanted to get to him as quickly as possible. i ran through options in my mind and knew none of them would work. luckily, while i was trying to sort something out, my ex had returned the vet's call and told them she was on her way to pick up the dog. thank god.

i cabbed over to the vet from the place where i was housesitting and waited for the two of them to arrive. i second-guessed my decision to just show up without warning, but i decided that the dog was more important than whatever petty human concerns were going on around him. while she and i were waiting for him to get care, i got to visit with him - that sweet boy. i've been thinking about him every day and missing him like crazy. when i got the call, i was so worried about him. i'm so glad he's alright.

all this business with the dog was reminding me of my grandmother on my dad's side. that side of the family is some kinda fucked up, and i had distanced myself from all of them several years before her death. i loved my grandma though. she was a rebellious, fun, funny charmer who knew her mind. i loved her something fierce, but i knew that i couldn't have a relationship with her *and* cut them out. i had to choose. they were toxic enough that it felt like a worthwhile sacrifice - until she died unexpectedly quickly, and i didn't get a chance to say goodbye. that broke my heart.

let me be clear: i have absolutely no desire to have my ex in my life in any way. i would be happiest if she were very far away for the rest of time. but my absolute distance from her is an absolute distance from the dog. i went down that absolutist road before with my grandma, and it caused me a lot of pain and shame and regret. that's something i can't change or take back, but i can make a better decision about this time. i miss the dog terribly. i talk about him almost every day - ask anyone. i tell stories and moon over cute pictures and mourn losing him and tell more stories. it was hard to hear how much he's been missing me, too.

i decided that i was going to bridge the distance and start taking care of him during the day on weekdays so he's not home alone so much. he's such a social dog, and we love each other. we bonded hardcore while i was with my ex. the truth is he needs me, and i need him. and i think that's a good enough reason not to be so absolute. i don't want to let the bad relationships cut out the good ones, by association. not anymore. i guess you could say i learned that lesson the hard way.

man, was it ever nice to look into his eyes and pet him and whisper sweet things to him and have him swivel his ears in that cute way in response. at one point, i was petting his back, and he tipped over and showed me his belly. a peace offering, maybe? his eyes still looked hurt or guarded or something, but he was still willing to receive love. dogs are so much better at this stuff than we are. i feel like we have a lot to learn from them about loyalty and unconditional love. after all, unconditional love means no matter what. i do love him no matter what, but i haven't been so good at showing him and acting on it.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

march 14, 2012

today has been a doozy. there's this publication i write for that is in the habit of making changes to important aspects of my articles without consulting me. sometimes, these changes lead to minor factual errors that result from the editing process and don't amount to much personal or professional strife because they can be easily corrected but, today, a real betrayal of trust resulted between me and one of my sources.

i'm not going to get into the details here. the point is, it made me think about right action. how to make something right after i've been involved in a wrong. how to be properly accountable to people whether the wrong was directly because of me or not. there are questions of right action (and steps required to mend a wrong) whether i was fully at fault, partially at fault or simply a passive bystander in a bad situation.

the situation reminded me of the 5 steps for fixing a fuck-up that i learned in a workshop with the fabulous andrea zanin. i hope she doesn't mind me summarizing it here:

Step 1: Be a grown-up and own up to it.
Step 2: Apologize. And mean it.
Step 3: Listen.
Step 4: Repair things.
Step 5: Follow through.  

i've used this process before, and it really works. though, given that most of us never make it past step one, it's no wonder we walk around with so many grudges and bad feelings about our day-to-day experiences. today, i had this formula in mind when i was apologizing to my source and, i hope, mending our relationship. it didn't really matter that the offensive wording wasn't mine. i had assured her during the interview that i understood her need for things to be worded a very particular way. we had negotiated something that i should have taken every precaution to ensure would happen. i gave my editor the benefit of the doubt about something i shouldn't have left to chance. while the wording wasn't my choice, i definitely take responsibility for not communicating my source's needs and wants to my editor. i guess i figured he wouldn't have made such a major change without consulting me. but, live and learn, i guess.

if you'd like to learn more about the 5 steps for fixing a fuck-up - and i highly recommend it! - read andrea's full post on the topic here. note that the context of the o.p. was about fucking up in a kink context, but it applies to most other contexts.

if we all apologized this way, there would be a shit-ton less anger and resentment in the world.

march 13, 2012

lately, i've been losing lots of little things in my new femme-me-down handbag. chapstick, pens, my little travel tube of advil, etc.

it's been confounding me, but i have at last found the culprit! a 2 to 3-inch hole in one of the inside pockets that's allowing things to slip between the lining and the leather:

i've been totally loving my new bag, so i'm going to mend it tonight so that we can continue in our otherwise positive femme/accessory relationship. :P

now that i've recovered all the treasures that had slipped into bag purgatory, i'm going to get stitching...

i decided to do a fancy little vertical stitch between each horizontal stitch, just to make it prettier. task = done. femme = happy.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

march 12, 2012

today was my three-month checkup post nose surgery - though it's closer to four months now because of a rescheduled appointment.

my breathing has been a lot better since the surgery and, while it's not like it was before the accident, my nose pain is only very occasional now, and i have my sense of smell back (hallelujah!!! that is cause for serious celebration! do you know how weird it is to live with a severely impaired sense of smell? eating is so totally different - disorienting to say the least!)

in short, my nose has officially been mended :)

the doctor asked me how i was healing since the surgery, and i filled him in on the details. i told him there was a lot of scar tissue, though, and i wondered if that was normal? he replied in this really sage, yet off-handed way, "oh, we heal by scarring." we heal by scarring. i know he meant this in a medical sense and probably wasn't aware of any poetical layers in what he said, but it's been cycling through my mind all day.

over and over, this theme of visible history has been coming up for me in doing this project. whether it's about choice of thread colour when mending a sweater, or earrings that don't set perfectly when glued back together, or making peace with my own body's weaknesses and scars and changes. we are marked by our histories, and it doesn't make any sense to try to hide them.

this evening was a perfect dovetail to all my thinking on the topic. i performed in a sex-positive cabaret about consent called "oh ya consensuality!" man, was it ever beautiful. discussions and definitions of what sex positivity looks like, of what consent can be and mean, of its importance in combatting rape culture. i performed an excerpt of falling open (my play about a family's experience of sexual abuse), which felt particularly poignant in the context of that space.

about halfway through the evening, a young guy who was performing for the first time did a rip-roaringly hilarious poem on masturbation and, as he wrapped up, i thought, "what the hell? i might as well go up and do my poem on masturbation, too." i forgot how good this poem felt to say. how good it feels in my body.

it's called homecoming, and i wanted to share it with you here tonight so you can celebrate and remember the reclaiming of body that can happen after sexual trauma. to remember that we scar to heal. that the scar isn't the ending place, it's just the beginning.

Monday, 12 March 2012

march 11, 2012

today was the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in japan. because of it, 15,800 people are dead and 3,300 others are still missing. such an immense's hard to even conceptualize that level of loss and suffering.

i was at my yoga centre tonight for our weekly sunday night gathering, and my friend r.m. suggested we chant not only for the prayer list but also for all the people in japan who are still working to put their lives back together and mourn their dead. as we started, i focused all my effort and concentration on the beings who are mending over there. i visualized my heart full of love, beaming it at them care bear styles.

we were chanting hari om, a healing mantra that's used by many people to focus the energy of the body toward healing the self and others.

if you're interested, here's some background info on the mantra from sri swami satchidananda. his lineage and practices are rooted in the same teachings that i follow (those of swami sivananda of rishikesh, of the saraswati order):
harih (or hari) is another name for cosmic consciousness, in the form of krishna. it literally means "the one that removes all the obstacles and purifies". each syllable of this mantra has its own significance. the first syllable "ha" requires a gentle contraction of the abdomen. "ri" brings the sound up to the throat. then, as the "o" sound is made, the energy flows upward, vibrating into the head. the "m" sound is prolonged to give a beautiful, string-humming vibration that flows up to the crown of the head, and then higher still. om is the universal seed sound, from which all things began. it creates a powerful, uplifting vibration that awakens the natural energy in the body.

i like the idea of supporting someone else's mending. i think that, in itself, is mending. like a little extra wind in their sails in the midst of unimaginable struggle. may we all receive that every now and then. i hope it helped.

after the gathering ended and we were packing up, i went into the kitchen to wash my mug. i looked at the message on the little tea bag, and this is what it said:

interesting, no? i didn't take this to mean heroism and rescue, though i suppose it could be interpreted that way. i read it more as: doing for someone else makes the impossible possible. sacrifice and focus makes the impossible possible. collective effort and collective love. hell yeah, that's fulfilling!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

march 10, 2012

i was at an indoor, everything-for-$2 garage sale that a couple of my friends were having today, and i stumbled across this framed photo of a bridge that was up for grabs. i didn't know why at first, but i kept gravitating toward it. after picking it up for the third or fourth time, i realized it was because the bridge looked familiar. then it hit me: it looks *exactly* like the bridge where n.h. and i had a picnic the night we got back together.

when i realized that, i knew i had to snatch it up. a photographic reminder of the place where we started to mend our relationship? uhh, yeah! gold!

i propped it up on the kitchen table, and it's been giving me warm fuzzies in my heart all day. it made me realize that, sometimes, the mending has already been done, and it's alright to sit back and enjoy the legacy of that.

thanks c.p. and a.t.!

Friday, 9 March 2012

march 9, 2012

a couple weeks back, i was in toronto, and i stumbled across this vintage sale on the campus of the art school where n.h. goes to school. there were some amazing treasures, including the pair of the big gold-sparkled plastic hoop earrings that you see in the picture to the left. they reminded me of those plastic bracelets i used to have when i was a kid - you know the ones with the sparkly gel inside? the earrings were only a couple dollars, and they gave me the i figured why not?

but, sadly, the first time i opened up the clasps, one of them snapped. such a bummer! a femme with a new pair of earrings, and they're broken before the first wear? (sidenote: you should have seen the outfit i built around said earrings. it was glorious!)

a few nights ago, i attempted the mend with crazy glue but plastic on plastic is a total no-go with that stuff. tonight, i remembered that i still had my friend c.m.'s 5-minute epoxy. my research told me that it would work if i could hold the two pieces together for a full five minutes. interesting metaphor there - i suppose all bonds take time to stick? anyway, i held it and held it and held it until it took. and tada! my earrings are back to a wearable state. a little the worse for wear, mind you - as you can see in this closeup, but i like them better that way. it's like we have a bit of history together now. i guess you could say we've bonded? heh heh. :P

march 8, 2012

today was international women's day! yay to that!

i spent most of today working away on freelance articles, but i gave a lot of thought to how i wanted to spend the evening - specifically, what my mending was going to be.

i had a volunteer gig lined up to hang out with young women, perform some of my poems (about gender & violence & claiming your body), and talk as a group about writing. perfect, right? but it turned out really different than i thought. better, in fact.

the rain kept a lot of people away, so there were only a few participants in the room. only one girl was really in the mood to do anything, so i asked her what she was up for. she said she used to write a lot of poetry but hadn't done it in a while. i asked her, "do you want to take the next half-hour to write some poetry?" she said sure. i said i would, too - to give her some support in the process. we wrote a bit and talked a bit and wrote a bit more. it was really nice.

by the end, we were talking about starting up a monthly writing group there for young women to have a creative outlet, express themselves and be listened to. i'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

march 7, 2012

self-care times tonight! don't we both look fierce in mud masks? *grin*