Thursday, June 30, 2011

Labeling labels

What is it with labels? Sometimes, having a label seems like a good thing, sometimes, not so good.

Labeling a can of food is probably a good thing..... it helps when trying to decide what to eat. And being able to see a price tag is helpful...... I find it so annoying when a product is left blank, I mean at least label the self it sits upon. A label on a pair of pants? We all know the brand name may drive up the price on similar jeans without the name, but when the label refers to whether you are getting a size 38 or size 36 in waist can help. Although I've bought one fitting size in store A only to buy another exact same fitting size from store B and found them to really NOT be the same fit at all.  I swear the labels read the same thing! But it is only clothes and I accept that different manufacturers are in fact different and don't necessarily run with a universal scale.

So labels on inanimate objects or products seem ok......or so it seems. But when it comes to labeling people and what we do, that is when things become a challenge.

We all have labels at work.... we just call them titles. I think these titles are needed, sort of. These titles help identify what we do, though sometimes I find titles of someones job to be just a little too fanciful. Labeling like this can feed an ego but can also be a bit misleading to others. I don't mind the title I have in my current job, but my last job I had the word "Manager" added onto my title and that led people to think I was in charge of things I wasn't; I've never had a managerial position. It drove me crazy that people kept going on and asking me about things I had no control over!
On the side of my workplace career, I write, and as a writer that is the only label I want to have..... well maybe a "good" writer, but that's it. I don't write horror or science fiction or comedy, but I want to be able to whenever I choose. I have no genre, no label.

I so do not agree with labels that distinguish race or religion; to me, a person is a person. I have had a learning disability since I was hospitalized as a child, I've faced many barriers and challenges in life because of it. But I would never want to be labeled as someone with a disability. I'm Mark, that's it! However, and here is where it gets tricky, I am thankful for knowing that I have a learning disability; because this knowledge allows me to understand why I have certain limitations or why I need help with things that confuse me.
This entire thing came about the other day when I was talking with someone who was telling me that their (very young) grand child was diagnosed with ADHD; a small indication of relief was heard. This person was not celebrating or saying "I'm happy", but knowing now that this child could be given assistance, that explanations and understanding and maybe some peace of mind could be had, that was the relief. On the opposite side of the scale I heard a story from a mother about how it was kind of sad that we, society, had all of these acronyms to label our kids with; ADHD, ADD, OCD, or words like Bipolar, Asperger, Dyslexia, the list goes on.

I think knowing is what's all important here; the being labeled isn't really all that bad until people abuse or misunderstand and start assuming things because of those labels. The fact that some people choose to discriminate or jump to a conclusion over getting educated about something is beyond anyone's control. Regardless of what others say we can all be alright as long as we live by the saying, "sticks and stones may break my bones but labels will never hurt me"; and besides, educating ourselves is where the real power lies.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tiny Feet

I stood in the hallway of my home the other week beside the front double door entrance. We have large glass windows set inside the centre of each door which gave me a great view to see out across the lawn, the road, and to the lakeside hilltop. I was in a great position, sheltered by the comfort of being inside, to watch the oncoming storm. It came on quickly, flying across the lake in the form of a white wall of gusting wind. In an instant the waves rose, white caps formed, and then it turned to a big blur of grey. A tree on our property came crashing down; no warning, no gentle fall, just a fraction of a second plunge to the ground. A window shutter was forcefully pulled from the brick exterior of my home. The wind was brutal! Everything was twisting and turning and I was surprised that only one tree fell. I literally felt the wind pushing against the house. The rain came quick and hard and soon turned to pelting hail and even though I was inside, I could feel the sting of those small cubes hitting my skin..
My dog was freaking! My mom was freaking!

15 minutes and the entire thing was over.

Later that night I thought about that fallen tree and how I'd have to clear it away and clean up any other mess from the storm. I thought about all of the other reports that I had heard about, fallen debris, toppled telephone wires and fires that began as a result. I thought about those poor people from Joplin Missouri and all that they had suffered from that devastating tornado. I thought about all the natural disasters around the word and all of the chaos and damage and deaths. It is sad. Life can be so depressing and unfair and challenging.
Here I was cursing over my own lawn tractor needing a new battery and my grass being overgrown. But seriously, aside from natural disasters, we've all had it tough and we've all lost. From the everyday barriers I face due to my disability, family struggles, heart ache and employment woes, no one (I think) would blame me for getting down on myself and saying, from time to time, "my life sucks!" 
Time is an uncontrollable thing and I feel, much more lately, that I have not enough to get done the things I need accomplished. I forgot about a couple of things, responsibilities, that I would normally be on top of. Even this blog, something I thought I'd be able to at least do once a week, has been slipping with lack of spare time. I don't have the time I used to to sit down and write.
Things change, I get that, I am comfortable with that, but I thought as I got older and wiser things would become less hectic and frustrating and not be so rushed. That onslaught of a storm reflected my life and I questioned if I was having some sort of crisis or meltdown in my head.

Four weeks ago today my sister had a very beautiful baby girl. Her first. I became a proud Uncle; proud of this little girl simply blessing us for coming into our lives, into my life.

So in the midst of my snowballing frustration, when I was mumbling profanities and made up words under my breath, (my dog looking at me as if I were a disturbed puzzle that needed to be figured out) when I felt tears forming in my eyes from confusion and lost hope, an image popped into my mind and stopped me short. I cleared my pupils and rubbed my head. I laid in my bed and stared at the ceiling; though it wasn't the ceiling I was looking at. I was staring at those cute, adorable, soft, often moving about, tiny feet. There was no physical picture on my ceiling, just in my head, and it subdued, unraveled and pushed aside everything.
I don't want to say that this image will forever keep me from getting fed up in life or from screaming out (in my head anyway) @*!#$&^^ explicit narratives.  But for the first time, I REALLY saw how easy it is to see just how peacefully beautiful life can be.

I'm sure everyone, or at least I hope, has their own thing, their good luck charm, their reprieve, their outlet. I have often turned to my writing, or maybe even taken time out to go for a walk with my dog, or waited to talk to a friend.... something to work towards getting. I did not think it was quite as simple as letting go, for it, for that serenity, to come in. I found the peace I needed to find in the image of those tiny little feet. An instantaneous gratification! And I know that these feet will grow, but that is part of what makes it so beautiful.
Simple beauty can outshine all that terrible darkness, I think we just need to look past our frustrations to see it. I always thought I knew how to beat back the pain, but I'm learning more all of the time about just how easy it can be. Because that calm, powerful beauty, is always there; even in the toughest of times. I just have to learn how to see it properly. The tiniest thing can overshadow the biggest horror.

Life poses us a challenge; for me, my answer to it is "tiny feet." What's yours?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Literary Confusion

So as a writer I often wonder if I'm supposed to have a fascination with words. I guess if that were posed to me as a question my answer would have to be "maybe" or perhaps "most of them".
I believe that words can be very powerful, some are fascinating, some are funny sounding, some create images in ones head, but some, I find, are just confusing. Words like Book (he wrote a book or let's book the hotel room) or Present (this is the present, that was the past or here is your birthday present from me to you) that have different meanings are fairly simple to understand; but only to some people and only with certain words. What about a word like Constitution? The most common meaning is: the principles on which a state is governed; but it can also refer to a persons health. Formula isn't too bad, but the meanings can be far and distant to each other from the baby's food to a set of math equations to the plan to negotiate peace between countries at war. Operation can refer a life saving surgery or a precise and potentially deadly military attack. An operation took place to save the officers life, as he got shot during the operation to take over the enemies territory?

The word Bugger to me would be used in that little bugger. In the UK it refers to someone who engages in anal sex; who would have thought?

I don't get how the word Stupid has come to mean something good. Disgusting? Sick? The word that probably gets to me the most is Viral. (Justin Bieber's hit went Viral) I get; it spread over the internet or airwaves at a phenomenal rate. But every time that I hear or read the word Viral I just can't help but think of a spreading infection or disease. When I was hospitalized as a young child, I had a viral brain infection......... so perhaps it affects me more and not everyone see's it that way. Well, obviously not every one, or the word wouldn't be used that way.
I tend to get confused quite often about things and I can get words swimming around, or stuck in my head at times. I can't always get the words out that I mean to say..... sometimes leading me to not saying anything at all. Sometimes when I do say something my words aren't made that clear and my confusion ends up confusing others. But then there are also times I don't think people really listen to words as opposed to just hearing the entire dialogue spoken. It is why I try to be impeccable with my words so that my point is short and sweet. It is also why I prefer to write, whether it be a letter, an essay, a report or a story.
I always enjoyed being creative and making up stories but I began really paying attention to words when I was in my mid twenties and went through my Creative Writing program. Because of some of my barriers in life due to a learning disability this understanding of all these words and meanings proved a daunting task at times. But it was when my mom had her accident, a brain injury that resulted in her having Aphasia, (an impairment of language ability; ranging from having difficulty remembering words to being completely unable to speak, read, or write.) that I really began to comprehend the true difficulty and power that words could have. It is not the big, fantastical, imagery words that matter, it is the small, short, simple direct ones that get us places. Whether it be her life, my life, reading a personal letter or a good novel, literary simplicity is what moves us forward and allows to enjoy.
Like in my previous blog, Hollowing Passion, I love words because of their power; but I think we should keep it simple.