Moving along

Just breathe.

My last post was all about family issues. And for me, there are a lot of them. They have played a huge role in shaping me as a person – for better or worse. And while I can now talk about some of them with reflective curiosity, many of them still continue to haunt me.

To this end, while I’ve never shared any of my writing with family members, mentioned them by name, connected with them on social media, it turns out that they’ve started reading along. Maybe they’re even reading this post right now. After my last post, I received no less than 3 messages from my mother telling me that I was selfish, a liar, and mentally ill; they were hate-filled and venomous. And while I can understand feeling hurt and sad after reading that one of your children looks back on their childhood as a minefield, I cannot understand how a parent would think that this was an appropriate response. I stopped engaging with my family members a long time ago, because over the years I learned that there is no healthy way to engage with people who think that an appropriate way to communicate with another human is to call them for the sole purpose of yelling and swearing at them.

So what do I do? Do I stop writing? Do I pick up and start over elsewhere as an anonymous blogger, even though this doesn’t align with my values in terms of transparency? I don’t know the answer yet.

What I do know is that my intention in writing here was not to turn this blog into an ongoing saga of familial issues, so the next few posts will steer away from pain, and look towards the more strengthening, inspiring and elevating relationships and activities in my life. Onwards and upwards, as they say. One step at a time.

 

 

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Sleep Out

OMGGGGG, it’s ANOTHER SELF REFLECTIVE BLOG POST. This will be a recurring theme very heavily this year, but also probably for my entire life.

This post will be a bit about my youth, my family’s youth, and my participation in Covenant House’s Sleep Out program taking place on April 7th. (Find my donation page here)

To give a little more context on the Sleep Out program, here’s a short blurb from the Covenant House website:

As Canada’s largest homeless youth agency, Covenant House Toronto changes lives by providing the widest range of services and support under one roof. A national leader, we educate and advocate for change to help at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth by influencing public policy and delivering prevention and awareness programs. By participating in this event I am doing my small part to make sure the doors stay open for all who need them. 

I think that this is a really amazing cause, and I could really REALLY use your support.  Even if it’s just a two dollar donation. Every bit helps.

While this is a great cause just out there in the world, it also holds meaning for me personally, and here’s why.

I am the very youngest in a family with two children. My older brother is 7 years older than me. I don’t know much about the specifics of early family life for my parents, or how and why they got married. But I do know that my mother was an extremely broken woman who I recently realized has very serious Borderline Personality Disorder, and my father was a seriously troubled, ragey alcoholic. MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN.

My father was less violent by the time we were old enough to walk and talk, but that being said, my earliest memory is still him pulling a full pot of hot chilli off the stove, and pouring it directly on my mom’s head. I was probably 4. I jumped up on my chair and screamed at him – “don’t you hurt my mommy”. And thank the lord for my being female, because I’m sure that only his weird sense of misogyny kept him hitting a tiny girl. This was our family dynamic.

Though early on my parents made a lot of money, the brokenness of themselves, and their marriage precluded them from using said funds to help create any sort of stable home. We lived in a god damn trailer, and my brother actually slept in a camper van beside the trailer.

So when he reached teenage-hood, it’s not hard to see why he would also turn to growing and selling weed, why he would fail at school, why he would have a warped sense of manhood, and why he would often get in trouble with the police in our small town.

I’m not sure if my brother ever actually ran away, but he did spend much of his time staying with friends. He never finished high school. And in a lot of ways just never gained any sense of footing in the world.

For my own part, I joined every curricular activity imaginable, and finished school graduating as the top science student in my class; my way of coping was over-achieving. But this didn’t mean that I hadn’t come close to going the other way. In 10th grade, I missed something like 200 classes – my guidance counsellor and basketball coach, who I’d known since 3rd grade pulled me into the hall one day, and said that he was worried because this was a pivotal time for struggling youth and the decisions they made at this age determined whether they finished school or not. I brushed him off at the time, but I also stopped cutting class.

I never ran away from home, but not for lack of wanting. While my parents had finally split up, I was now the only one for my mother to take out her obsessive BPD behaviour on. She would regularly start fights with me before breakfast, telling me what a horrible selfish daughter I was until I began to cry, and then refusing to drive me to school. Once, she tried to hit me in the head with a marble lamp base. The summer after grade 12, she kicked me out of the house, and told me that I should go on welfare to support myself. I doubt she even remembers this. I went to live at my high school boyfriend’s parents’ house until university in the fall.

The point of all of this is to say, that while I didn’t use services like the ones offered by Covenant House, it’s only the concern of high school science teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents that kept this from being so. I truly believe that without this outside support I could have easily ended up on the street. And maybe if our social supports for youth from broken homes were stronger, then their lives might have taken very different paths.

So this is the personal connection to this program for me, and why I am asking for your support.

Everyone deserves a safe place to live, where they’re encouraged to thrive and grow. But children most especially.

THE END.

 

 

 

Bravery takes time

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about the lessons that I’ve learned from my negative relationship experiences. It took me a while to share this post on social media, partly because I was worried about coming across as damaged and bitter in some way, and partly because I was worried about how the people who I was friends with at the time of said relationships would judge me for sharing the information that I shared publicly. Then with a push from my friend, and fellow writer, Naben Ruthnum, I stopped worrying.

I tried to write a really honest account of some of my most painful mishaps and pitfalls, and how they helped me to learn and grow as a human. I was not prepared for the response that it elicited.  It didn’t GO VIRAL or anything, but it did receive over 500 more page views than any other thing that I had ever written, and I also received so many kind messages, or distressed messages, or thoughtful messages from different friends and acquaintances thanking me for writing it and telling me how much some of the things that I wrote had resonated with them.

One of the other things that people said to me was that I was brave for having written and shared this, which is such a nice thing to hear. Who doesn’t want to hear that they are brave and courageous? While I agree that it was a little bit brave – just like sharing anything personal and creative is brave – what I want to say about this is that all of the bravery in the world would not have mattered, if I hadn’t also done an incredible amount of work on myself over the past few years. This has involved therapy, yoga, meditation, forcing myself to do things that challenge me even if they are terrifying, and taking a really serious look at the behaviours and habits that have manifested unhealthy relationships in my life. And I’m still putting in more work all the time.

I grew up in an extremely unhealthy environment (which I’ll leave for a whole other series of blog posts, and likely one day a book), and it took so many years to even admit to myself how deeply this had impacted my ability to have real healthy intimate relationships with other humans. But more importantly, it has taken me even longer to recognize my own value in relationships with other humans. All of these steps and lessons learned from my marriage, and other relationships that followed, were actually steps along the path to believing that I was worth it. I sought out emotionally draining relationships with people who weren’t present or available, because I just did no believe that I deserved anything better. I threw myself into one-sided relationships in which my feelings were regularly undermined, because deep down I believed that if I could win the affections of someone who was largely uncaring, that this meant that I was finally enough. I didn’t have “daddy issues”, but I did (do…) have “family issues”. And these issues meant that the more I had to work to win over and woo someone who was emotionally distant, the more inherent value I had. I simply did not believe that an already whole, healthy, kind, creative, smart, attractive, ambitious person who I was really impressed by and swoony over would ever be able to show even a tiny glimmer of interest in me. So in order to find love, I would have to go through the back door; I’d have to wade through drama and damaging behaviour; I’d have to put in my time as non-girlfriend therapist. Only then, when I had paid my dues in some wreck of a relationship, would I finally have earned my keep. Because if I proved myself to that person at their worst, then I would have earned the value to be with them when they became their best. Only what if that person never became their best? Or what if they never would have been the best for you in the first place? Of what if they DID become their best, only I’d taught them for so long that I was not worth the time and respect to treat well, so that the closer they were to their best, the more likely they were to leave me behind?

Anyways… I guess what I am trying to say is thank-you, but also that bravery takes time to build. There were a million sappy sad sac blog posts before this one, and a million journal entries exploring my feelings, and a million lonely moments where I wished that there was someone out there who could tell me what was wrong with me. And so as a writer, I can’t not share. And if the response to my original blog post made one thing clear, it’s that we need more sharing like this happening all the time. Because it is too easy to feel so alone. And there’s no reason why we can’t feel and work through that aloneness together.

tiny and emooooooooo

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Life is hard sometimes, guys. I have reached the part of my first year of moving that is HARD. I miss my Vancouver friends, I’m still in Toronto social limbo (meaning I have friends, but not yet CLOSE FRIENDS), I still have no more furniture than a couch and a bed, winter is lingering, my job doesn’t pay enough, and I’m wondering if I’ve made a huge mistake. Have I made a huge mistake?

I had a dream last night that I went home for the summer and no one had any time to see me, so I spent most of my three weeks in Vancouver hanging out alone in parks. The zombie nightmares have also returned. Along with the panic attacks. I find myself resisting the urge to go out and buy a pack of cigarettes every single day. Uggggggggggh.

I’m lonely. But not. Isn’t that always the case? But seriously, this is the first time in my entire life that I feel like I am missing my family. Not my biological one. But my friend one. My heart hurts so. There are exciting things happening, and I’m meeting new people all the time, but do I really care? At the end of the day, don’t I just want to cook and share a wonderful meal with people who I love?

I just don’t know.