Monday, May 24, 2010


Fear. Dizzy-ness. My heart beating fast. Too hot, or too cool. The cold dawning of a realization--one of my least favourite feelings.
This is what I've been up against the last couple of weeks. A feeling of real, physical discomfort, butterflies in my stomach, as my body mirrors my emotional state.
I don't like it at all. But right now, I have no choice but to get through the feelings.
I am trying hard to stay calm. I'm staying still alot. I'm staying in alot.
Being around people is hard.
It's that feeling of having no control over my life that has been the hardest. That somehow, some way, I have failed again, at this most primal of games, these matters of the heart. That I believed too much, that I risked too much. That when someone looked at me and held me and murmured, almost too low for me to hear, that they loved me, I believed them.
Here is a poem that my sister shared with me years ago, that I have found again, thanks to the miracle of the internet:

After a While
After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn't mean security
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a grown up, not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down, mid-flight
After a while you learn, that even sunshine burns
If you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
And you learn that you really can endure
That you really are strong
And you learn and learn

With every good-bye, you learn.

--Veronica Shoffstall, copyright 1971

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tell me, what will my future be?

I've written before on my myriad of superstitions, my use of numbers and counting to calm a troubled mind, and my brushes with fortune telling, my longing of knowing just what is in store for me (however, as I once read, would this very ability exist, none of us would be able to live our lives due to the terror and dread of upcoming events; we would fixate on them, not the upcoming good things...ah human nature).
I own a set of tarot cards, they can be a fun party trick, but sometimes, once in a while, I use them on myself, at a quiet, reflective moment, when I may be feeling particularly vulnerable or off-kilter.
Such was my state of mind last Saturday night, when, home alone with alot of quiet time to think, I took them out of their little yellow case and let them get used to the room while I ate dinner. I didn't have a burning question for the cards, and I wasn't anticipating the outcome of any particular happening. I just wanted some...reassurance. Like how you feel when you re-read a book you've read about a hundred times and still love--opening the book to the first page, to the first sentence, one you've no doubt memorized, feels so familiar and comforting.

I shuffled the deck, seven times, and a strange thing happened; I dropped the cards and a handful of them scattered onto the floor, with three (I was doing a three card reading) fell together. I took those to be my cards and picked them up, lying them facedown on my coffee table.
Three card reading can read as the cards representing (in order) "Mind, Body, Spirit", meaning Card 1 represents your state of mind; Card 2 your state of body; Card 3 the state of your spirit. The three cards can also represent, in the same order, the Past, Present, and Future.
I focussed on a combination of these 2 reading types. As I had shuffled the cards, I couldn't focus on one particular question, or even a direction of thought to head toward, so I shuffled a bit blankly, just thinking of my life in general, the endless ups-and-down-ness of it all, the downs seeming to outlast the ups by a huge ratio and I sighed internally.
Card 1: Four of Wands. Keyword: Prosperity.
I looked at this card with interest; Wands represent the fire signs of the zodiac, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. I was born on the cusp of a fire sign. I have several fire sign friends, and my mother is a fire sign. It's a suit associated with creativity, work, and enterprise. I found the card odd; prosperous is the last thing I've been feeling in recent weeks. However, it is a card of home (the card in my deck shows a small thatched cottage in the centre of a meadow, framed by the four wands). Home, and its' promise of comfort had been on my mind, I will admit. Puzzled but pleased, I turned over Card 2.
Card 2: The Sun, XIX. Even more mysterious to me. The Sun is a major card. It's a very happy card. It's a card I rarely (if ever) pull when I read for myself. A balance between the conscious and unconscious mind. Summertime. Success. Joy. Sunflowers, buoyancy, gifts.
Card 3: The Wheel of Fortune, X. Another confusing, unlikely card. For this reading, I was expecting doom, gloom, cards of warning and ruin; yet here was another major card, denoting my state of mind (I will admit, life has seemed pretty off-side lately). The description of this card in my tarot book denotes that it represents the workings of destiny, which no one can truly understand. It is also a lucky card.
I sat with my cards after completing my reading for a long time. I concluded that the cards maybe read my question, my state of mind, more than I had realized. And that maybe I HAD been asking a question, that eternal question I ALWAYS ask myself:
Is everything going to be okay?
Maybe the answer that the cards tried to communicate:
It doesn't matter.
As in, it doesn't matter because the wheel keeps spinning, the sun rises every morning, and you lie in bed for those first few minutes, letting everything that is going on in your life rush back into your head; but you get up anyway, ignorant to what the day has in store for you.
And you trust that you'll get through the day, one way or another.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Allowing for artistic perspective when drawing (living?)

Allowing for the appearance of objects (situations?) at a distance from myself.
That's what I've been focussing on lately.
As in, Looking. At things. In my life, in my world, in my thoughts, in my orbit.
Really looking at them.

Before the Dutch painters 'discovered' perspective, everything in a painting was flat and on the same plane. But some things come ahead of others, some things stand out. They are closer, they are impossible to be objective about.

It's been a rough week; very psychologically unforgiving, very emotionally challenging, alot of activity (strife?).
Cold and dark, outside and sometimes inside. I haven't been nearly as positive as I'd like to be, or nearly as grateful as I should be.

Thinking about others in my life and their struggles reminds me to use perspective.
Listening to what they are saying, and especially to what they are not saying reminds me to use perspective.

I need to keep things in measured assessment, because I've realized that when I look back I only see how lucky/loved I've always been. I don't remember all the bad things and the times that pushed me to my limit.

Life goes in cycles, short ones, sometimes in just a few weeks things turn right around, other times-interminable ones.
I'm going day-by-day as to what this cycle has in store for me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Music...Makes the People...

I know I'm not alone in this conundrum of life, and I know I'm not alone, even among the most non-plussed, in saying that a song, an album, a piece of music, can define a time in your life. It can define an event, an era, a period, and it will continue to reflect that period, no matter how many times you refresh it, in my case, pretty much for life. The memories it invokes may be the happiest of ones, or they may be the darkest, but nonetheless, as time passes, all these memories of the time the music evokes are bittersweet.

I think back over the years of my life to when I was first aware of music tinting a memory, or being associated with one, was listening to my father on the piano. My lifelong love of the Beatles is because of him--interpreting the songs through the piano keys, the early years of the Beatles, the period my father most associated his music memories (he never loved their later stuff). So it was on a piano bench, not through the radio, that I first heard those simple little songs, played and sang, by my father. Favourite performances of his included "And I Love Her" which he would sing to his three girls, my mom, me, and my little sister. I still can't really hear that song without turning back into that little four-year-old girl, in my parents rec room, all of us around the piano on a Saturday night. The day my parents sold the piano and the new owners came to pick it up was like a family member being carried away. See--all the memories. And that's just one little song. When my little niece was born and my boyfriend and I made her a "welcome" cd, that song was on there. I wanted to pass it along to her for her to grow to love the Beatles, too.

Another Beatles memory exists, with another man at a piano, at a dinner party I attended at the house of the parents of a very good friend who was dating the man whose parents' home it was. That night, at the end of the dinner party, our talented, musical friend G. entertained us with a Beatles song, too, "For No One" and I couldn't believe that despite how far I was from my parent's rec room, I was instantly transported back there. The performance was so special to me, and now even it has a bittersweet flavour, after G.'s premature death late last year.

Despite my absolute love and devotion to my ipod, I still cannot bring myself to get rid of my cd collection. I guess it's because of the artwork on the albums, the lyrics sometimes folded in the
liner notes, the year printed surreptitiously on the label, reminding you exactly when you were listening to that cd, and what you were doing at the time.

I can name my most treasured cd's quickly, off-handedly, because they are so few and far between. I have hundreds of favourite songs, evidenced by previous posts here, and my musical tastes are varied and some would say, bizarre, but I hold certain collections of songs close.

Everyone loves U2, I'm no exception, but for me, their best work (opinion only based on what I was doing--everything--at the time) was Achtung Baby. I remember piercing love, piercing heartbreak, then the breakthrough of 'taking back the album' and claiming it as a piece of MY history, not OURS.

Ditto for Madonna, Ray of Light, from 1998. The title single released from this album remains fairly vanilla to me, and it is the track I skip through most often. But the other songs...Drowned
World, Substitute for Love...I thought my neighbours would form a coalition to stop me from listening to that song, over and over, as I dealt with another heartbreak in my Bathurst St. apartment. Lead on from that song to uptempo Nothing Really Matters, to Sky Fits Heaven, to the slow power of The Power of Goodbye and To Have and Not to Hold. I'm not sure my copy of the cd will still play. I still have it, the broken plastic cover, Madonna on the cover, pale water-blue dress, peeking out from a veil of hair. No matter how many more spectacularly successful albums Madonna comes up with, and I know there will be many (Confessions and Hard Candy are amazing); Ray of Light will always speak to my twenty-something, broken-hearted soul, one who needed to listen to Drowned World a minimum of 6 times a day for about 6 months, just to get through the night.

There will be more music in the future, for sad times, for happier times, and I will cherish every memory they will evoke, now and then.

Never forget who you are...little star....Little Star Madonna Ray of Light

Monday, May 3, 2010

The C-Word

"When I was very young...nothing really mattered to me,
but making myself happy. I was the only one. Now that I have grown, everything's changed.
I'll never be the same. Because of you..."
"Nothing Really Matters, Madonna, Ray of Light"
I read about it everyday, or see it everyday, somewhere, someone, someone other than me or a person I love--having cancer. Having cancer, living with cancer, dying from cancer, dealing with cancer.

Just today I noticed, online, that Lynn Redgrave, after a 7-year battle with breast cancer, lost her life. In the Globe, on the back page where Facts and Arguments is located in the weekday edition, there is usually an obituary, one that is written by somoene who was close to the person being written about, and today it was a twenty-six-year-old woman, again; who lost her young life to cancer.
My own grandmother died of cancer, many years ago, a memory that still hurts and haunts my mother.

So when my father got his diagnosis today, I didn't know how to react. I didn't have any resources, or facts, to try and deal with what I was hearing, along the phone line, while I lay in bed recovering from your standard run-of-the-mill flu.

The dance started about two months ago, when my father first noticed he was having trouble swallowing. It progressed to a lump on the side of his throat, which I somewhat noticed at Easter time, and then, and only then, did he deign to go and have it checked out. His own brand of denial, I suppose, one that he is, especially in light of the circumstances, completely entitled to.
The surgery and tests that followed were unremarkable, my father bore them somewhat off-handedly, while I kept my rising panic in check in a curious denial of my own.

The news today did not surprise me the way I thought it might. On Thursday or Friday of last week, the doctor set up a Monday afternoon appointment to meet with my parents, and, logically, I reasoned that if it wasn't difficult news, he would have told them something over the phone, something re-assuring to get them through the weekend. I hate Mondays at the best of times, but yesterday I took a good look at my perception of a 'bad' Monday. I would go into work, deal with numerous stresses and deadlines, I would make decisions to fix things, I would help to find solutions to alleviate situations being created. None of it would change anyone's life, none of it would truly be life or death. I'm a designer, not a doctor. I didn't have a 4 o'clock appointment with a frightened patient and his wife to give them life-altering news. In retrospect, my Monday seemed, for lack of a better word, and I know I've used it before--benign.

So the page turns over. All the cancer articles no longer seem remote and happening somewhere out of this world. They no longer seem like something that can't possibly happen to me, or someone close to me.
They seem real, the struggle magnified; the whole process of dealing with cancer looms.
And I have absolutely no idea how I am to respond.

My aunt is already coming down, to go with my parents to the hospital this week. I know she is skilled at talking to doctors, and in ferreting out information when she needs to. I now look to her to begin this first chapter for me, as I am at a loss to how to begin it myself, quite frankly.

There are writers and artists who have dealt with a prognosis such as this one with incredible eloquence and bravery, the way I think my father will deal with things. I look now to them to guide me in this process. I'll be mining the poetry books and the song lists over the next few days, my own form of hard-won comfort in times of difficulty, and I'll definitely be sharing some of my finds.