Category Archives: Thoughts

For when my random thoughts and opinions need a safe place to go.

Glitter

Someone asked me why I bother putting on makeup in the morning when I work from home. Who will see you? They wondered. Well. I will. It’s far more important than people might think.
I wasn’t always like this. Less than a decade ago, I was an inspired chef bustling with energy and enthusiasm. I was half the size I am now. Fate had a different life prepared for me.
It began with the headaches. Rather, it was one long headache that lasted two years. Constant crushing discomfort enveloping the whole right side of my head. After so long, it started to feel normal. Did people have days where pain didn’t exist? I endured several trial runs with different medications. They often left me exhausted or in a zombie trance. In time, the headache diminished and we put our confidence in the latest drug. It was an anti-seizure medication, which also ended the grand mal seizures caused by my epilepsy. An MRI revealed a brain hemorrhage. Things made little sense.
Within six months, I found myself admitted to the hospital. At the age of thirty-six, I had a stroke. Doctors scrambled to find a reason for it. As each one stopped by my bedside, they all asked the same questions—are you a smoker? No. I’ve never been. History of stroke? Ah yes—both my grandfathers and my mother had suffered it. I guess that would do.
With some physical therapy and a mobility aid, they sent me home to continue the healing process. I dragged my left leg behind me. I couldn’t work. My life was falling apart around me and I tumbled into a depression. I seldom got off the couch, sometimes going days without showering or even brushing my hair. When I did get up, I struggled to walk. After a year, I could manage short walks to the bathroom but stumbled often on the way. If I had to leave the house, my cane accompanied me. Due to my inactivity, I gained a good deal of weight.
My neurologist said I might never walk properly again. The problem wasn’t muscle tone—my brain had to re-wire itself. I decided things had to change that day. I taught myself to walk once—I could do it again.
And I did.
Almost two years later, I stepped out my door without a cane and walked around the block. I stumbled only once or twice.
Determined to lose the weight I gained, I started low-impact workouts at home. The first few days were difficult, and I didn’t complete the sessions, but it was a start. On day three, I lasted ten minutes.
I recognized indigestion when it happened, and the familiar irritation rested on my stomach like stones. I sat down and took some deep breaths while reaching for an antacid. It got worse. Before long it got so bad I started to vomit. That’s when I realized my distress and an ambulance whisked me away to the hospital. Two handsome pilots met me there and flew me to Sudbury. I felt like royalty. A bed awaited me in the cardiac care unit. The conclusion? I suffered a minor heart attack.
A nurse rolled my bed into the surgery. As I waited my turn to have an angiogram, I noticed the others there. All people at least fifty years old. I know I wasn’t the youngest person to have been in that position, but I was the youngest that day. They judged me with their eyes. I heard the thoughts in their heads. She wouldn’t be in this situation if she wasn’t so fat. They had to be thinking that, because it’s what I was thinking, myself.
I asked the cardiologist for the truth. Did my obesity cause my heart attack? Not exactly, he told me. He did recommend I lose weight. I wanted to yell at him; to make him understand I was trying to do that before I ended up in the hospital. He said it wasn’t the main factor for my heart attack. They didn’t know what caused it. My arteries were clear.
My depression compounded itself when I returned home. My body betrayed me. Afraid to do anything at the risk of bringing on another heart attack, I sat on the couch and more weight piled on. My doctor refused to accept the unknown cause. He ran a few unusual tests of his own. The diagnosis? Fibro-muscular Dysplasia. Usually a condition found in the kidneys, mine presented in the carotid artery—a rare incident. It causes the arteries to bead and become inflamed, cutting off blood flow. We had reason to believe it caused both my heart attack and my earlier stroke.
A year later, to the very month that I had my heart attack, I decided I was safe to try losing weight again. My cardiologist gave me the ‘all clear’, emphasizing that I can work my heart but I shouldn’t stress it. Easy enough. I started taking walks, and I soon ended up in the hospital again. This time it was a pulmonary embolism. According to my tests, I had large clots in both lungs. They told me I was lucky to be alive. For weeks, I slept sitting up. Lying down would cause me to gasp for breath, my lungs burning as I felt like I was drowning. Most of the time, when a pulmonary embolism is present, it traveled from the legs. That wasn’t my case. In fact, doctors were once again puzzled. I saw a hematologist who ran a series of costly medical tests. The results were inconclusive. In a nutshell, he had no idea what the problem was.
By this time I had a new doctor. She resigned my condition to being an anomaly. We would just treat the symptoms. What she was trying not to say is that I’m a walking time bomb. I’m on several medications, but we don’t know if they will be effective for all possibilities. The next heart attack might be my last. When would it happen? In ten years? Ten months? Tomorrow? There’s no way of knowing.
I could regress into depression and wait for death to take me, but instead, I try to enjoy every day like it’s my last. One of these days, it will be. That’s not some bleak outlook on my circumstances—it’s true for us all.
So, every morning, I get up and put some glitter on my cheeks. Because life is uncertain, and every new day is an occasion to sparkle.

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A Note on Relationship Compatibility

Time and again, I overhear people talking about finding their perfect relationship. Almost always, the word “compatibility” comes to the forefront of the conversation. Let me just throw this out here…

You see, people seem to keep mistaking “compatibility” for “similarity”, and that’s simply not the case.
Don’t get me wrong—compatibility is absolutely important in a relationship, but two people don’t have to be the same to be suitable for each other.

It’s no wonder some of us have so much trouble trying to find the perfect mate. We keep searching for that rare specimen who likes all the same things we like, who fits into what we consider our “type”, but the hard truth is that the people we think are perfect for us usually don’t exist, or—if we do happen to find them—they turn out to be completely wrong.

So, what is “compatibility”, exactly?
In a nutshell—it’s acceptance.

To be compatible with another person doesn’t mean you need to enjoy all the same music, or have the same hobbies—it means that you both recognize your differences and allow your contrasting interests to help you grow as individuals. It’s feeling comfortable enough in your relationship to admit that you don’t want to go see a basketball game, but it’s perfectly fine for your partner to go without you…and mean it. You really like Chinese food, but your partner prefers Italian—be willing to take turns choosing what to order in on movie night.

We appear to have reached a state of self-gratification in our society, where everyone else needs to bend to our will, to do what we want them to do, but it’s a perspective that is detrimental to those still searching for their soul mates. Alternatively, we shouldn’t have to pretend to be something other than what we naturally are to gain attraction. The key is to be yourself, but remain open-minded and accommodating to the idea of introducing new possibilities into your life. Stop looking for the person who is just like you—your perfect mate might just be the one you overlooked.

How I’ve Learned to Manage Emotional Reaction

Reaction. This word carries more weight than its placid eight letters demonstrate. It is the last straw that turns a tranquil mother into a raging lunatic. It is the crossed line which surges forth the amicable pup, now frothing and growling his well-placed warning. Since I was old enough to know what it meant, it was the word that I feared most of all.

Emotional reaction, I figured early on, was a loss of control. It suggested I no longer decided how things would happen around me. I simply couldn’t live with that, so I invented a method not to react at all. I still engaged in conversations and laughed at jokes, but I learned not to allow my vulnerability to present itself.

The first time I remember this show of force happening was at the tender age of ten years, upon hearing that my father had just passed away. It would be a lie to say it didn’t affect me. After thirty-two years, I still remember the moment playing in my head like a well-watched film. There exists the familiar sensation of seizing in my gut, like someone had dropped rocks down my throat. When I saw my mother and sister embracing as they shared their despair, I turned away. In my young mind was only one thought: I have to be the strong one. So, I didn’t cry, even though I felt the sting of tears trapped behind determined eyelids. I heard the adults talking, the words they said—that I was too young to understand. A false presumption. At ten years old, I understood far more than any child should. I think their view may have saved me from a far bigger struggle in a silver-lining kind of way. People didn’t try to comfort me through my grief—a grief they didn’t know I had. I felt this was good. I didn’t think I had the strength to hold my chin up if people showed concern. Better that they simply ignored the little girl with no tears.

The ability to prevent reaction grew stronger with the years. It helped me laugh off hurt feelings caused by fair-weather friends and dismiss cheating boyfriends with little more than a shrug. It gave me the tenacity to bear three children without screaming once because, even then, my control was indispensable. I would die before anyone heard me scream.

Little did I realize that it was nothing more than a coping mechanism. Eventually, I discovered I was highly sensitive and, as my empathy grew more potent, my resolve began to waver. Being in a crowd of people was torture. Every emotion felt by every person oozed from their core and stuck to me like tar. I felt it all at once—the joy, the anger, the sorrow. It was unbearable. The grief became the worst emotion of all—perhaps because I had been denied my own as a child. The death of a friend or family member still sends me into a state of terror, as I know what to expect; sitting in a room with dozens of people wrapped up in their own lament…each one compounding my own raw feelings. I often avoid funerals, expecting that people will wonder why I wasn’t there. Wishing I could make them see.

I built a protective wall around me, withdrawing from a once vivacious and outgoing girl to someone shy and pensive—an introvert through and through. Despite all, I still fight to keep my control—to avoid a reaction. I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly not a soldier…some days I lose the battle and serenity gives way to madness, but I recover and repair my wall, brick by brick.

I created a harmonious refuge with green grass and gardens in bloom, but people keep knocking down my walls and stepping on my flowers. They haven’t learned to control their reactions, so I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am still in command of my own.

My Love Affair With the Oxford Comma

The Oxford comma; a great debate. It’s something you either love or hate.

If I come off as waxing poetic about such a trivial thing, it’s only because I am passionate about it. You see, I’m an avid user of the Oxford comma. Many editing programs offer their suggestions to remove the tiny character when it is deemed unnecessary, but I won’t allow the red squiggly line to dictate for me what is fundamental punctuation.

Is it really such a big deal? Oh, my goodness! Yes!

I love my cats, chocolate, and ice cream.

Now you know that I love my cats as well as chocolate and ice cream. If I remove my Oxford comma, it changes the phrase and the reader now thinks that my cats are named ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Ice Cream’ (we won’t get into the intricacies of capitalising proper nouns—let’s pretend I’m not a grammar nazi).

I love my cats, chocolate and ice cream.

Of course, the sentence can be rearranged to make better sense, but a simple comma strategically placed makes the phrase perfectly coherent.

It’s safe to say that I often mentally insert Oxford commas into sentences I read. It gives me pause, as is its intention. It forces a reader to slow down and enunciate words with clarity, rather than skimming along, uttering sounds that vaguely resemble the English language.

Our society has become lazy. Our desire to expedite tasks has resulted in a slew of conversational acronyms like BRB and IDK (granted, I use some of them myself from time to time, LOL). Understanding that, when I take the time to write a piece that I feel deserves a reader’s full attention, I want to make sure that they slow down, take a pause, and see each beautiful word in its entirety.

After all, I would rather people understand that I like bacon, eggs, and juice, not bacon, eggs and juice (juicy eggs? Yech!). But, it’s totally fine—you eat all the juicy eggs you like!

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When Women Lie About Sexual Assault

Women across our great nation are facing a dilemma. We have spent generations trying to develop our credibility, to show men that we are worthy of equality…that we are people. As a result, women have more power now than we’ve had at any point in history, but what some of us seem to lack is the responsibility that comes with our newly found freedoms.
Sexual assault is a sticky subject. It damages a woman’s security and her ability to trust. This degree of violation can leave her feeling powerless, vulnerable, and polluted. For many, it can take years to recover from…some never do. To make matters worse, victims are often not believed because some cases are difficult to provide evidence for.
A perfect justice system would see that sexual assault victims are listened to and their words are accepted at face value, but this system has a flaw—women who lie about their attacks are believed, while those who really endured it are having their cases thrown out. There’s no proper balance.
Within our ranks are groups of our sisters who use lies and falsify statements to their own end. Embittered, perhaps disregarded by their particular love interest, they take to the judicial system to plot out revenge for their battered hearts. Without a statute of limitations on sexual assault, “survivors” of a non-existent crime can come forward with their fabricated ordeals after months, or even years from any interaction with the accused. After so much time, evidence is not expected and the victim’s words are all there is to admit as proof of the incident. A manipulative woman (let’s call her Jane) can alter facts rather seamlessly and, too often, compassionate people who simply want to see justice done fall for the deception.
But what happens when the victim is the accused?
What defence does a man (let’s call him John) have against such a smear to his character when he is, in fact, innocent? Fighting the accusation in court can take years. This depletes his life savings, affects his health and mental state, and hurts the reputations of John’s family and friends. It takes a once vital and life-loving man and turns him into an introverted recluse, afraid to show his face in public where the judgmental stares and whispered accusations follow him everywhere.
At the end of it all, John is found innocent. People are outraged that the court system could allow this monster to go free, despite solid information proving he could not have done the things he was blamed for. They continue to slander his name, every minor blemish in his personality is blown up by the media in an effort to demonize him. Women won’t go near him. Being acquitted doesn’t change anything for him—John’s life is devastated.
And what if he decides, instead, to forgo the years battling the accusations in court and accept a plea bargain? Accepting a lesser charge instead of fighting for his innocence means John won’t have to sell his house to try and bear the cost of defending his name. This is not, by any means, a guilty admission to the charges he was initially given. This is nothing more than a man deciding to make the best of a bad situation. Still, an admission of any charge seems to be enough of a discredit for close-minded individuals to continue deprecating him.
And what of Jane—the woman who lied?
Absolutely nothing.
After completely crushing the man’s honour and defaming his family name, Jane walks away like it was just a minor inconvenience.
This woman is the reason we can’t be taken seriously. She is the cause of women’s rights to be set back fifty years. She is the reason why real victims are losing their voices. She tied up the judicial system, caused another person irreparable harm, and vilified our gender. Jane needs to be held accountable for these actions…she needs to be the example to other women who try to act like a victim when there is no just cause to do so.
We have to take responsibility for our own conduct to ensure that innocent people don’t suffer needlessly. It’s time to disprove the regrettable notion that bitches be crazy. But, thanks to women like Jane, we’ll never be taken seriously.

Image source: Kstudio / Freepik

The Lost Art of Tuning Out

As a child, I was mesmerized with the extraordinary ability my mother had to simply “tune things out”. As she sat, nose in book, with the telephone resonating it’s urgent message, demanding to be picked up, and the dog barking through the window at the cat across the street, I often wondered if her quiet mastery was somehow related to a hearing problem. It wasn’t.

I spent my years in quiet frustration as a student, trying to study with the distraction of my two sisters arguing, and the washing machine spinning, secretly envious of my mother’s special power and wishing I had inherited it. I would eventually learn that the art of tuning out was a skill, long years in development with the requirement of specialized equipment – namely, children.

I have three children. Noisy, argumentative distractions that have a keen sense of the perfect moment to hit me up for some money or ask for a privilege that would have normally been denied. As I sit, typing away at my latest epiphany of a novel, I hear them asking me…something. Eager to finish my thoughts on the screen, I’m all too happy to give them whatever their heart desires, often to my own demise.

My mother had balance. That is what I was missing. She knew when to ignore, and when to really listen – an adroitness I failed to pick up. I spent hours in silent meditation, looking for the difference between perfect solitude and a general lack of reasonable thought process. Meditation worked wonders for my inner sanctity and is still an important part of my every day life, but I still failed to find harmony in my chaotic life. I recently spent some time studying my cat – the master of oblivion – only to realize that his little ear-jerks meant that he heard everything.

It came to me then. I called my cat’s name and it went unheeded, until I shook the little pouch containing his favourite treat and he was at my feet within seconds. The art of tuning out doesn’t mean that you hear nothing – you hear everything, and allow your mind to subconsciously decide what is important. All this time, I’ve been practicing the act of ignorance – the desire to be alone forces one to react in a negative way.

I have since detached myself of my desire for quiet (nearly), and have found that some things are better heard. My children are happier with a mother who takes the time to listen, no matter what daunting tasks build up before her, and I find myself a more patient person. Accepting that life has it’s distracting moments has made me less agitated as I feel the gentle tap on my shoulder, accompanied by my husband’s voice in my ear, “Honey? Didn’t you hear the children fighting?”.