Thursday, December 27, 2012

Feeling Blah!

As wonderful as the Christmas season can be, it presents challenges that can be quite difficult for a few. It is a time of year for family and joy that not all of us have....... but then again, perhaps if we could really sit back and enjoy the value and sense of "family and joy", the holidays may prove a little less stressful. I mean, maybe things would be much easier and we'd all sense a little more happiness if we took the words of Dr. Seuss, "Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store." and really went with it.

But it is not just the onslaught of Christmas songs on the radio, the chaos in the malls, the pressure of present giving, family visits, the parties, the food, the decorations. It is the cold and harsh weather. The cloud cover and lack of sun. The tension of driving, or trying to move anywhere, through snow, wind and sleet. The shoveling. Trying to stay warm. Trying to do things for yourself when you can't help worrying or thinking about others. It is tiring and it is lonely and it can give one a feeling of being lost.

I had the most wonderful three days over Christmas with my family, but is over; and right now, as I write this, I am tired. I look out the window and I get lost; not in thought, in nothingness. I feel alone but not alone.... if that makes sense. As much as I want to be by myself right now I want to be with my loved ones again. I see the flying snow outside and I absolutely dread having to go out and shovel, but part of me knows I'll enjoy doing it and getting the cold fresh air. There are times when I even think that the falling snow is one of the most beautiful things this world offers. That is how my injured brain works......(not that everyone with a brain injury feels these things) and the awkward thoughts and feelings are there all year through, but seem to intensify during the wintery months.

And I write in this blog because it helps me understand me. Writing has become a bit of a coping mechanism to get through. It allows me to be expressive in ways I don't know how to be in any other form. I write in this blog so maybe people might get a chance to understand. I write to maybe help others who feel similar things but feel like they have no means of expressing it.

I think one of the hardest things about feeling these kind of...... blahs, this depression, is expressing it. I don't mean just finding the words, but actually saying or writing it. The feedback from others can a little overwhelming or not needed..

"I thought you were happy? Where you lying?" That's what they might say. And how do you answer that? That day I was happy. Most days I am happy. But sometimes I'm not, and it is not that I'm sad, I'm just..... blah. And the change can be a frequent occurrence.

Blah can mean a few different things, but according to the online Urban dictionary Blah is:
a word commonly used to describe an emotional state in which the person feels a sense of having no hope; usually during a deep depression. 
Those who feel depression and mood swings I'm sure feel them all on different levels. These periods can stretch themselves out over time or can be over within mere hours. And we all have different coping mechanisms. The challenge within us is a struggle, but the challenge that can come from others, the misunderstanding and all that, can be just as hard.... because it brings on guilt. I'm sorry if you cannot understand that I can be happy and function normally and feel Blah at the same time; but I can. Just because I feel lonely on certain days does not mean I think I am alone in life or that meeting new people will solve my problem. Just because I say I feel lost and out of control does not mean I have gone insane.

Let it be. Try to understand that happiness and depression can sometimes come from the same place and it can be okay.  Because the brightest things can come from the darkest places. Life's beauty isn't completely lost in those moments of blurriness.

I absolutely love my family. I cherish my friends. I enjoy my work. Through all of these things I try to be a good person and live an uplifting life and share that with others. But I still get hit with depression, I still get tired, I still get the Blahs. But I am still me, and it is all okay.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Belief

I don't like the fact that time seems to pass as quickly as it does. I mean, I feel like we are missing something. I think I know what it is, but I have a hard time explaining it; though I will try.

The joy of this current wonderful Christmas season should spread itself throughout the year; unfortunately, it does not. And sometimes, for many it may seem, the joy of this season is minimal at best. But celebrating during this festive season is important, not only because of the biblical significance, but because it is a time where we get ready to say goodbye to an old year and welcome in a new one.
It is a time to reflect on accomplishments, family and friends. I think maybe even on hard times and tragedies. Because it is a time to clear the air within ourselves, to set new goals and renew our faith for better times. It is a time for hope.
There is always a time for hope.

Perhaps you may think I am being a bit naive when I say that I truly believe in a universal love. But I do still dream of a day when we will all get along and settle peacefully into this world. A time when we will ALL simply realize that certain things are just wrong and unnecessary, and we will unite our hands.

I know full well that cruelty and evil exist. I see it and I feel it. I certainly don't understand it; and I do not think any explanation will ever change that. I cannot grasp these inhumane acts of terror when life can offer us enough hardship as is where we have no control. It breaks my heart to know of all the sadness and death in the world; that there are people who simply seem chose to live life by way of cheating, lying, stealing and hurting people.

But, there are others. Individuals who lend a helping hand, who promote fairness and share goodwill. I've witnessed strangers exchange kindness and I've seen true beauty. It is here where my faith lies. It may be hard sometimes, granted. But to me, it is a combination of all these things, all the gentle souls and kind little differences, that make the difference.
My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are touched by tragic events; to anyone suffering loss or going through hardships. But I will always, strain if needed, see the glass half full so to speak. To me, there is no other way.

I believe in humanity.
I believe in kindness and love, grace and virtue.
I believe in strength and courage and perseverance.
That is what I think we might be missing. That the light really does outshine the darkness.
I believe it.
Because I believe in you!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Encouraging Enlightenment

The other day I attended a training workshop regarding an OBIA (Ontario Brain Injury Association) mentorship program, a program that is about veteran or knowledgeable brain injury survivors and/or caregivers who offer themselves as friends, guides, advisors or sound boards (or all) to those who have suffered similar injury and are perhaps feeling lost. Mentorship I think, presents a value in any regard, but when referring to brain injury, maybe even more so. I say this because brain injury is an invisible disability; you can’t see it, and therefore I think a lot of people don’t think it is real. But the pain and the suffering and the uphill battles are real.

This mentorship program not only shows people that they are not alone in the battle, but helps bring about self awareness; one of the most important things when battling any disability. So the program is great! To understand even more you can go here: Peer Support

The training program was delivered by an OBIA Support Services Specialist very well; it was clear cut and to the point about what a mentor is all about and what is expected of him or her. And the two Coordinators there were brilliant! I love seeing someone in charge that seems to be motivated and passionate about what they do. But the highlight of it all was seven people, (besides me) who presented an encouraging enlightenment and an unwavering sentiment to help.
I was surrounded by these beautiful and knowledgeable people. Survivors and fighters and individuals whom simply wanted do right by others. These seven awesome people that were there in attendance with me wanted to take their experiences and pay it forward.

The world can be scary, and I often find myself, seemingly, sinking in a quagmire of a self-absorbed society. Don’t get me wrong, there are many programs out there that are similar to this one, (offering hope and a form of social assistance) along with quite a few individuals who advocate and lend a hand. But very often it is hard to see through the smoke. I am aware, though, of these places and faces of good intentions and have been blessed to see them in person. This was not the first time that I had been in the company of kind hearts and I certainly hope not the last. But it gets to me every time, that there are people who strive for the benefit of others.

Perhaps because the subject of brain injury is a personal one for me, but on the way home from that workshop I found myself somewhat amazed and a little overwhelmed. While I’m certain to see or be talking with my Coordinator in the future, I don’t know if I’ll ever see my fellow mentor trainees again or not. Regardless, I have to say, well done. Not everyone steps up and puts themselves out there to offer help to others….. to strangers.
I think this says a lot to the fact that no one ever really, truly, has to be alone. Someone is always willing to listen, to lend support, to offer guidance, to open their arms. Because sometimes even the smallest light can chase away overwhelming darkness

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Reason

I find it difficult to get up in the mornings. It is hard work to roll out of bed, regardless of how much sleep I got or the fact that the alarm is going off; I find the task very draining. (I need an alarm to help get my eyes open or I might stay horizontal all day) I do get up though, and once I splash some water on my face and have my morning tea, I'm good to go. But still, that one moment....... Sometimes it is more difficult than others...... but it can be the hardest part of my day.
It is said that someone who has survived a brain injury lives with almost constant fatigue. It makes sense, because I'm not Not wanting to get out of bed because I'm still sleepy per se, and there isn't anything specific I'm dreading...... it just is what it is.

Wikipedia says:

Fatigue (also called exhaustion, tiredness, lethargy, languidness, languor, lassitude, and listlessness) is a state of awareness describing a range of afflictions, usually associated with physical and/or mental weakness.

Sleepy means feeling a need for sleep. Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness, relatively suspended sensory activity, and inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles.

I do get up and I do get on with my day, but the reason isn't because I have to. Well, actually I do have to, but it is not for work or because of any household responsibilities, because I need to walk the dog or run an errand for my mom. The reason is ME. And I know, when the reason isn't for someone or something else it kinda' loses a bit of that honour, that romance. When something is about ME, it sort of becomes selfish....... right? So perhaps I am selfish in the things that I do.

Aside from paying bills, and perhaps a bit more if you want to get nitty-gritty and analyze this to death, I do not feel obligated to work, do household chores, or even sit in traffic. It just is what it is.

None of this means I live a la-d-da life. Things aren't all roses. I get annoyed and frustrated! I struggle with my fair share of things. I get tired and I get sick, I feel loneliness and depression. But the reason to go on and leave these things behind, it is mine. The love and passion, the drive, the laughter. I live for the beauty and inspiration that I see and find everyday; and I consider doing it all and being part of it, a privilege; not an obligation. The reason is ME.

I suppose the ME can become a bit too selfish when people lose track of the beauty and place too much focus on all that darkness and negativity flowing around. It is not always that hard to get lost. I've felt lost before; but the reason I was found was because of me. I had support, and I still do, and I don't deny that. Other things, people, give me drive and offer me inspiration. But I see it and take it because of me.

No one helps me do battle with this fatigue thing that comes back to fight me every morning. No one is helping me get out of bed. I do it because of me. If I do it for any other reason I'm not giving anything or anyone else the true me, including myself.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Touching String

Earlier in the year Fox came out with a new series called "Touch", more-or-less about the links/connections between people. How the littlest of things we do that can effect others. Sort of a six degrees of separation thing. The episodes were great, though I am unsure how long the writers can keep that same "greatness".... only time will tell.
This has made me think about some of the things going on in my life and wondering what they mean, and the thought of maybe something "touching" happening, wherever, being related to something I may have done, makes that clich├ęd saying "everything happens for a reason" sit with me a little better.
I don't really need to know of any touching stories that may result from something I have done, but the idea is a nice one, and that idea alone is sometimes what keeps me going. But I do have a story that relates to this touching ripple effect.

Fall 2011 I put together a short story titled "Sweet Child" that I contributed to a Creative Review anthology, a book called Christmas Lites. You can view and purchase a copy here. Christmas Lites was put together to share stories of Christmas in an ebook format for troops overseas along with all sales going toward the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; a very worthy organization.
Creative Reviews is a group of authors and book readers/reviewers that is part of Good Reads. I became involved with this group though a friend I met on Twitter. I caught a tweet about this anthology one day and said that I'd like to get involved. I began following this person initially because she reviews books and I thought "I have a book", but the anthology became a priority instead.
Twitter was a form of Social Media I thought I would never get involved with, but obviously that changed; and it was a former co-worker that pointed me in that direction. The current organization I work for, One Voice Network, saw this individual doing a good majority of the work on her own before I started, including running the Twitter account. Since that time the organization has grown and I run the Twitter account now. When it was handed to me, this person, who has become a good, also suggested that I start my own personal account. As she was someone who lived, and lives, by social media, she showed me the ropes and how to connect with people of similar interests.

I obtained my job at One Voice Network in August of 2010; the first portion of that year I was unemployed after the hotel that I had worked at for seven years had closed down. I'm sure a lot of you can imagine or relate to the fact that being unemployed is a hard stint in life. With some work and the assistance of an Employment Service Provider I ended up getting an interview with the organization I'm at now.... I'm guessing you can all tell that the interview went well.
Being a quiet guy, someone who doesn't always manage to say the right things, and a person who is not considered to be spontaneous with the spoken word, it was in fact surprising that the interview went well. Not because I cannot handle interviews, but because (this is the funny/strange part) I was walking into a room in regards to an entirely different job. I can't tell you exactly what I was thinking before I walked in but I did not think I was going for a full time contracted position for an Administrative Coordinator. And I sure as hell did not know what or who One Voice Network was.

I got a great job, (which I love and want to continue doing) but it is a job I got through a mistake. miscommunication, a resume sent to the wrong place? I don't know, I don't much care. This mistake lead to gainful employment, which lead me to a good friend, which lead me to a great connection, which lead me to a worthy cause. And aside from a profit going toward that cause, who knows what, or who, those stories, or perhaps my story, may have influenced.
There are other things I've done because of this ?????  that I'm proud of, but I think this one is a pretty good illustration of "A Touching String".

Whether the string goes on would be somewhat interesting to learn about, but it doesn't really matter. Part of it went somewhere good. It makes me think that I'm where I belong........ but than again, I suppose if one is confident enough in themselves and happy, you are always where you belong.
I don't think too much about these "connections" or degrees of separation, but the thought of "A Touching String" or ripple effect like this (a blurry misstep leading to something of benefit) is an endearing one...... and we could all use more of those.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blurred Lines

The other day I was reading a story about some kid who got bullied right before he was to give an interview on being the victim of bullying.
At first I thought "what the hell?" During and after reading the story I felt a mix of emotions run through me; of course this was not the first, nor sadly will it most likely be the last, I read or hear of this kind of news. As I mulled things over I became more perplexed and concerned at the way this unfolded, the after effects, and the sad state in which things like this at large seem to be going.

Before I go on, you can read the story and see a video of that which I am referring to. Kid Gets Bullied Prior to TV Interview

So initially I was saddened to hear of yet another story pertaining to bullying. I was also dumbfounded yet again as to how stupid some kids are; doing this in front of a camera. (I'm sure we remember the not-so-bright teens who recorded verbally abusing a school bus monitor and then posting it to You Tube) It is also crazy, I thought, the real lack of caring or concern over the fact that an adult witness was right there.
Questions arose like, how are these kids being raised? and why are the school officials there saying that they will start investing this matter when the victim has been bullied before? or why is the school official smiling and saying casually how this happens at every school?

I know that kids can get out of hand because they are simply being kids, but this attitude of "kids will be kids" is getting out of hand as well I think. I then started wondering if bullying was not just a juvenile label for criminal assault; whether physical or verbal? I mean this reporter was a witness. Why is she not speaking with the Police? Oh that's right, it is a news story. Letting this thing play out in the school system makes for much better coverage. (sorry for being somewhat snarky.... but seriously)

Bullying I think will become worse as time goes on because others will see that there are no real consequences..... I mean, this kid, this victim, got suspended for defending himself. And unless some idiot decides to post his or her actions on You Tube, or a camera woman happens to be around, the problem can remain silent, hidden, disguised.

And this problem of these kinds of incidents being kept in the dark or ignored  or casually dismissed as "kids will be kids" only presents a bigger issue.

As someone with what is referred to as "an invisible disability" I can tell you from personal experience, and from listening to or reading about others, (people with acquired brain injury, bipolar, mental health issues, etc....) that there are quiet a few people who would rather these dark and "invisible" problems or secrets be kept under the carpet. Most often this is because these things are not understood and I think some people would rather them remain unseen or unheard when not understood.

These bullies may in fact have their own issues that need to be dealt with or helped along. Perhaps they have some form of illness or disability. Perhaps there are problems at home that make it hard for them to deal with everyday life. But than again, they could just be uncaring and evil. The point though is that these, or any, "investigations" into bad or odd behavior need to be taken more seriously and handled more efficiently. I am sure that they are sometimes, just not enough.

The days of black and white hats, or good and evil, are gone. The lines have become blurry. There are too many people in positions of power that are fine with the blurriness and that are leading others to not worry about, or focus on, correcting them. And the reason this bothers me so much, is because I have come into contact with and met individuals who are  EXTRA caring! Organizations, a lot of them, that exist with GREAT services! There are people who REALLY do want to make a difference! Yet so many of these dark stories still seem to surface.

Surfacing is great, but they need to properly be looked at and dealt with; not allowed to crawl back into the shadows. There is no reason for anyone, or anything, to be kept in the shadows.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Character in Me & You

A few times now I have discussed with a few others (not on this blog) the subject of Disability versus Personality. So, I thought I'd share my feelings on the subject; a combination on the discussions I've had.

First, according to Wikipedia:

A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person's lifetime.
Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.

Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.

The definitions are fairly different, especially in length.
While it may be difficult to see how a physical disability can affect or be compared to personality, let me reassure you, (in my humble opinion) it can. All disabilities, whether physical or not, (visible or invisible) can have an effect on a person's psyche...... the degree of that effect can of course vary.
A person who acquires a disability may not be as jovial or outgoing as he or she once was. Or, in fact, they may become more comical in some things because they feel the need to cover up other insecurities. There is a fine line between disability and personality and hopefully each individual can see that for themselves, it only helps in knowing true self awareness.

For example: I have a difficulty in participating in group settings; getting my thoughts straight and just understanding everything being said is what I concentrate on. I'll admit that in certain social settings as opposed to business ones this can be a little easier. But still, it is a difficulty I have and this is because of my disability...... I just can't keep up with certain things. Now, on the occasion, I have been called out on this, with someone poking fun at my non-yammering.
When I don't pull that individual aside to stand up for myself and explain my difficulties, that's my personality..... my shy and quiet personality that tends to persuade me to not to stand up for myself and allow the traffic to run me over. (not literally!)

I once heard this story about a mom questioning whether her child's outburst at the age of three was due to that child's personality of a three year old having a typical temper tantrum or if it was because of the ADHD the doctor diagnosed that kid of having. My first question is how does a kid at three get diagnosed ADHD? I'll admit, I don't know a whole lot about ADHD, but I don't think I've ever met a kid (or rarely) under the age of five (and I've met quite a few kids) that hasn't had a problem with attention or has never been hyper.
This also raises the question, what if this kid never acquired ADHD and was born with it? Is there even a difference between personality and disability if someone is born with a disability?

But my real question, and this one relates to all disabilities, is, does it matter?
Does it matter where the disability ends and the personality begins?

Disability may offer explanations to certain challenges and/or barriers, but ones disability should not be an excuse for bad behavior or missed opportunities or a reason for not living life. Just as I would hope someone's personality does not become the "cry me a river" saga or worse, self denial that may lead to misery and/or unhealthy living.
Like I said, it is a fine line. But I don't like to think in terms of personality versus disability. I mean, there may be quite a few people out there that would like to get to know my personality, but not many who would have the patience or understanding for my disability. So instead I like to think of them both as parts that make up what really counts: Character.

Character, or character structure, is a system of relatively permanent traits that are manifested in the specific ways that an individual relates and reacts to others, to various kinds of stimuli, and to the environment..... how the individual meets the psychosocial challenges of the life cycle.

That "life cycle", that "stimuli", includes disability, personality, experiences, (past & present) relationships,...... the list can go on and on. But what it comes down to is, we are who we are. All that I just mentioned, and more, is our make-up of life. There is no reason to shy away from them or be ashamed; and as long as we know that there are different traits that make up us, there is no need to worry about and separate them.

Character is what matters.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Third Sunrise Review

“Pain has a curious way of pushing you to understand life on a different level.” ~ Natalie Jeanne Champagne

It was in January of 2011 that I decided to start a blog and it took me a few tries to come up with and settle on the title, Challenging Barriers. The blog was inspired from a dissertation I wrote about my disability and the challenges it has presented in life. I wanted to create something similar but different at the same time. I didn’t want it to be just about me, about my specific challenges and barriers, but about those we all face in life.

I met Natalie through a Social Media outlet sometime around mid 2011. I cannot recall the exact date and I don’t know for certain which Social Media format it was, but I think it was Twitter. (We are connected on Facebook and LinkedIn as well) I think Natalie’s profile was suggested to me because we are both writers. We are also both Canadian, and in our own ways have dealt with disability and illness; though I don’t think those last two were behind the suggested connection…… I could be wrong. 

The fact that Natalie writes various articles, including having a permanent position with, where she advocates for the recovery and awareness of mental illness, makes her book (for me anyway) that much more inspiring.

“The Third Sunrise….. A Memoir of Madness” is the name of the book. Unlike my book, this was and is her life’s story. Natalie tells the tale of a young girl who is diagnosed with bipolar at the age of twelve and also the later-in-life struggles with alcohol and drug addiction.

I once read Natalie having said that she hoped her book would maybe help someone going through similar battles. I would have bought the book based on that sincerity alone if I had not already decided to purchase a copy. But I can tell you this, even though I do not have bipolar and I do not ,nor have not, struggled with addiction, the book helped me. It opened my eyes to things I knew little about. It lead me to discover yet another appreciation for life and the ultimate strength people can have. It helped me remember that no matter how hard things may feel to us, we are never truly alone in our desire for something better.
I enjoyed reading Natalie’s book for quite a few reasons, but I’ll focus on two. The bravery behind her words; because I can only imagine that they were hard to write and re-live. As tragic as this story may be at times, at the core root of it, that kind of honesty is a beautiful thing to share. The second is the way in which it read. The read, to me, was easy. Because it seemed like, even though I was reading the words, Natalie was there, telling me her story…… often joining me with a cup of tea. (I usually have tea when I read.)

This is a story of struggles and illness, and ups and downs. It is dark and it is sad. (Though I found some of Natalie’s sarcasm a bit humorous; perhaps the sarcasm was needed to help her write the book and for us to read it) It is also gritty and honest, and I applaud her for that. Honesty, even if for the better, is not always easy. But the book is also hopeful; in the end, it is hopeful. That is why it is such a great book.
Tragic tales with a glimmer of moving forward are important, not only for those going through a similar battle, but for anyone in today’s world that can come to face darkness and despair. We all need to know that even some of the worst stories can find light. People can find strength even when they think it is lost. This book definitely proved that to me and it is well worth the journey through the pages of The Third Sunrise.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Life's Stage

Every time that I hear the saying "life is like a stage" I can't help but think, one, how true it is, and two, how I used to devote part of my life to the stage.
After graduating College and realizing I really was still a bit lost career wise, I decided to spend the summer up north under the roof of our family home. I took up volunteering at the Red Barn theatre in Jackson's Point, it was Canada's oldest summer professional theatre. (Sadly this theatre was destroyed by a fire in 2008 and is no more) My volunteering quickly turned to a paid job and lead me to spend the next eight years working in backstage production. The organization of props, the dealing with actors, the laughter and excitement of the crowds coming to see the show, the lights, the settings for different performances, the chaos that ensued backstage...... these were all things that I grew (quickly) to love.
For a variety of reasons I felt comfortable in the confines of that old barn; sometimes more so than I did anywhere else, including our family home. I will never forget my days at the Red Barn. I had shed blood, sweat and tears there. All of the frustration and disappointment I felt, there, in my life, in me, was washed away when I got to work on stage.

In 2001 my mother had an accident, and I was, funnily enough, at the theatre. I had taken off the majority of that August to be by my mom's side in the hospital and to take care of things at home, but by mid-September I returned to help with the last performance of the season and close things down for the winter. As I did this I realized I would not be returning the next spring. I needed to find something a little more permanent, something that would give me a regular forty hour work week with regular eight hour shifts so that I could spend time with my mom, helping her deal with this acquired brain injury and begin the road to recovery.
As hard as it was to see things this way, it is what I needed to do, it is what I wanted to do. Like being on stage, my role was changing, the setting was changing, I was moving into the next Act.

I obtained a job at a local hotel where I remained for the next several years. I moved my way up in ranks to Front Desk and Accommodations Supervisor. I saw a lot of people come and go over that time period as well as the hotel being sold and placed under new ownership. Ownership difficulties is why it closed in November 2009.
Being in a small town you deal with the same shit you deal with anywhere else really, only because it is a small town with less population, you feel it more. The rumors, the gossip, the played out drama. (I recall at this point when I was younger, in high school, when my sister's friend would come over, plunk down on the couch and state "let me tell you about the latest drama.") Drama can be sad, but also quite foolish. Drama does not just occur on stage in the theatre or back in school where we were younger and maybe a bit naive, drama is part of life...... and there isn't just three Acts, there are dozens of them; and sometimes intermission is skipped over entirely.

I may not have a whole lot of close friends in my life, but I have met quite a few people in my life's journey. Schools, jobs, places I've lived, places I've visited, even online, and I've come to find that there are a lot of people who seem to like drama......... the foolish kind. Rumors and gossip seem to be everywhere. Our world seems to be more concerned with Kristen Stewart cheating on the love of her life or the latest between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and the kid that they share.I sometimes find myself weighed down by this drama; by manipulation and insensitivity and the fact that some people seem to simply want to stayed wallowed in misery.

The other week tragedy struck our small town when a sixteen year old girl was hit by a car and died. Even though I did not know this girl or her family, I felt bad. SIXTEEN! This story breaks my heart, and the really sad part about it is, sad stories like this are happening all over the world. But like the stage, "the show must go on". Roles will change, settings will change, and people will move into the next Act.

But then, I'm finding that there are multiple stages with different Acts being played out. Acts worth seeing, Acts worth taking part in. The title of this post is the same of a website I highly recommend checking out: Life's a Stage ~ Weblog ~ by Estrella Azul to me it is just full of happiness and fun with ton's of creativeness to be shared. There is also The World Needs More Love Letters; a scripted story definitely worth noticing, sharing and taking part in. There are stages that have been set or are in motion of being set by Non-Profit organizations to help others with struggles and challenges they face in our earthly society. Even though not always seen or heard (unfortunately) there are a lot of these well-to-do, with good intention, scripts being played out all around.

For myself, even though some Acts have been tough, I cherish the roles I've always had or have graduated into: Brother, Son, Care Giver, Uncle, Volunteer. If you haven't got it yet, the right role is out there for you, and there are some great ones still to come I'm sure. Don't give up and let the foolish drama get to you. There is always another Act, the show is never over.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Like Sands Through The Hour Glass

Like Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones say "Time is on my side, yes it is", so I guess it must be true. But quite often I am not so sure. Sometimes, on the rare occasion when I feel I'm spinning out of control, I would swear that time is against me and it is my enemy. I am sure that I am not alone in feeling this.
In fact, I just bumped into a friend at the grocery who asked "how's your summer going?" Only to quickly add, before I could say anything, "or at least what's left of summer." Which to some can seem like it blew by in a twenty-four hour period.

The fact that I turned forty years of age this past May does not bother me much; except that it means I've been around now for forty years and I feel like that in that time frame I haven't accomplished a lot.
I haven't become a famous writer. In fact, career wise, I haven't been a huge success at much.
I haven't found love; not that long lasting kind that develops into a future partnership. There has been no great story book romance in my life. (Do those exist?) And how am I supposed to find time for that anyway when I can't even get done all of the things that need to get done around the house!

Time does not heal all wounds. I was sick at the age of six, and here we are, thirty-four years later and I still face challenges that are a direct result from that. Here is one of those examples where I think time is against me, because I think others may be thinking in their heads, thirty-four years? Get over it! Maybe that part is only in my head.
And I get so tired sometimes.
Eleven years have passed since my mom's accident, how come she isn't better?
My dad passed away when I was thirteen and I still miss him today, maybe even more than I did then.

Time, I am sure, has affected us all in some way.
Time is a precious, VERY precious, thing; and I think we waste it! I waste it. I'm guilty of losing my own time. Someone once told me "don't worry, we have plenty of time." Ha! This is my rant on time.

But wait a minute. Wait just a minute!

There is a saying that "Time is ours to waste." And perhaps time is ours, to do anything with.
Perhaps time goes by so quickly because we focus on it so much. Maybe not on the surface, but sub-consciously, I think so.
Everybody seems so rushed, and for what, where are we going? I'm not saying that we shouldn't have schedules and keep our appointments, but getting everything done at once is not life altering important. (I need to remind myself of this as well; in fact, I think I'll write that down and post it somewhere) 
Time is time, it goes by the same way everyday. Only we make it fly by, and sometimes that can't be helped, and that's okay.
The two biggest challenges faced when it comes to dealing with time going by is Wasting It and Making Mistakes; and those two can kind of go together on occasion.
#1 I think we scrutinize over wasting time more so than is actually wasted..... and I say this because, maybe, just maybe, nothing that you do in life is really a waste. It affects you. It affects others. No matter how little, no matter how minor, it is significant.
#2 I think this is summed up best in a saying I found. "A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." Author unknown.

As for me, when I put my ranting aside, I have had a pretty remarkable forty years with great experiences. Accomplishments and non-accomplishments combined, (maybe we need to start looking at everything (right minded) that we do as an accomplishment) I believe I just may be where I am supposed to be. Further successes will come; I just got to be open to all types of success. Perhaps my storybook romance will come as well; but if not, that's okay. "Time is on my side." Not only did Mick say so, I do.
And maybe time isn't supposed to entirely heal wounds.... at least not emotional ones. I have learned so much from my experiences and still continue on a path because of them. And my parents, regardless of where they are in life, still teach me new things.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Avril, Wonderland, Inspiration & Me

"You don't have to be a creative soul to want inspiration;
all souls should have it." 
Okay, so I'll admit to the fact that I think Avril Lavigne is a cutie, and her being Canadian and me a big supporter of Canadian talent, she had two things going for her right from the get go. But it was during the summer of 2004, listening to her second album "Under My Skin", that she really made her impact.
It was a gloomy day; mildly warm and drizzling on and off. I had decided to clean house, starting with the book self in our family room that held precious photo albums. I had loaded the CD player with discs, including Avril's that I had yet to listen to.
To make a long story short, I ended up sitting on the couch looking at pictures, taking a trip down memory lane. Certain photos lead me to other memorable objects that I dragged out into the family room, one of which was a scrap book of all the "Get Well" cards and other things that I had obtained when I had been hospitalized. Inside of that scrap book I also kept the diagnosis report that I had obtained just a few years earlier; a report regarding my brain injury. It still blows my mind a little that I never got "officially" diagnosed until my thirties from an illness and brain injury I sustained when I was six.
Anyway, reading all of these cards along with my somewhat dismal diagnosis, depression started to set in. But then it happened, a new CD clicked on and song track number one began. "Take Me Away" by Avril Lavigne.

I cannot find a way to describe it; It's there inside; all I do is hide; I wish that it would just go away; What would you do, you do, if you knew? What would you do?

Chorus: All the pain I thought I knew; All the thoughts lead back to you; Back to what was never said; Back and forth inside my head; I can't handle this confusion; I'm unable; come and take me away.

I feel like I am all alone; All by myself, I need to get around this; My words are cold, I don't want them to hurt you; If I show you, I don't think you'd understand; Cause no one understands

All the pain I thought I knew
........(Repeat Chorus)......... come and take me away.

I'm going nowhere (on and on and on); I'm getting nowhere (on and on and on); Take me away; I'm going nowhere (on and off and off and on); (and off and on)

All the pain I thought I knew........(Repeat Chorus)......... come and take me away.

Take me away; Break me away; Take me away 

I hit repeat a few times and I knew that this was my song. I am sure the song was probably written about some relationship break-up or something, but the lyrics were my feelings toward my illness and all the crappy things it brought into my life. So.... maybe not the most uplifting song, but for me it was.
The way she sings, the way I sing it with her, (sometimes at the top of my lungs) empowers me! It helps erase all of those things every time I feel them sneaking up on me. It helps kick my fear in the butt and takes it away.

My heartfelt thanks to Avril.

Years later I find Avril doing it again with another song, "Alice." A song to lift your head high and march forward to.
I've often felt lost in life, in a different world to others; in a wonderland. I'm sure that, for different reasons, or perhaps similar ones to mine, others have felt lost as well. My interpretation of this song: No matter how lost WE may feel, WE can always get back to life, to wherever we feel most comfortable

Trippin out, Spinning around. I'm underground, I fell down. Yeah I fell down

I'm freaking out, where am I now? Upside down and I can't stop it now. Can't stop me now, oh oh

Chorus: I, I'll get by. I, I'll survive. When the world's crashing down. When I fall and hit the ground. I will turn myself around. Don't you try to stop me. I, I won't cry

I found myself in Wonderland. Get back on my feet, on ground again. Is this real? Is this pretend? I'll take a stand until the end

I, I'll get by. ....... (Repeat Chorus) ............ I, I won't cry

I, I'll get by. ....... (Repeat Chorus) ............ I, I won't cry

Avril has also set up her own Foundation, The Avril Lavigne Foundation. R.O.C.K.S = Respect, Opportunity, Choices, Knowledge, Strength. It has been created in support of children and youth living with serious illnesses and disabilities.

So, if you're reading this, you may be wondering at this time, why is Mark sharing this inspirational crush? Well, it is because my life has been, and still is to this day, (though much improved) full of ups and downs. I'm not the smartest guy in the world, I have a handful of barriers and challenges to face. But there is one thing I have come to learn and I can see clearly. Having "Inspiration" in life is so important.
You don't have to try that hard to find it, just open your eyes and open your mind. In some cases, it will come to you. When it does, hold on to it. And if it feels right, don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
Even without the challenges of a disability, life can be difficult. There are so many awful things in this world; and there are, sadly, people who seem to live to bring others down. And bringing someone down is unfortunately so much easier than building them up; or even keeping them level sometimes.

The human spirit is strong and can accomplish great things. Things sometimes we don't even think to ourselves that we can accomplish. But a little Inspiration to help guide us and fill our souls, can make the accomplishment of life so much more rewarding.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Sweetest Thing

"I don't quite know; How to say, How I feel. Those three words; Are said too much; They're not enough."

These are lyrics from Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. This is a beautiful song, beautifully sung, with great lyrics. Everyone has their own interpretations of things and what they might mean. I like to think of it this way: the song is about romance and couples being together, and this line says that those words I Love You sometimes need to be expressed in other ways when in this situation. Because I Love You can, and maybe should, apply to any relationship that makes people feel good.

Love is a universal thing and should be shared and passed on.

Definition: Love is an emotion of a strong affection. Love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion and affection —"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another". Love may describe actions towards others or oneself based on compassion or affection. 

Yet for some reason when strung together with the words I and You, it takes on different meanings. You hear I Love You and people tend to think perhaps "commitment" or "forever" or the idea that someone wants something. (For example: sex) It can also bring about feelings of obligation or fear. Someone may feel compelled to say I Love You in return of hearing it.

A few months ago now my friend Estrella referred me to a website called "The World Needs More Love Letters" and I just had to become involved with this organization and their movement. It is all about writing (which if you know me or have read some of my past posts, I have a hugely strong passion for) and more importantly, spreading and sharing the Love. This is a great thing!! More people should be doing it!! Once a month I send off a specific Love Letter to a recipient that the organization has found in need. But I also write and spread these Love Letters wherever I can get to. Because Love Letters don't have to be about romance, they are about human kindness, compassion and affection —"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another"

But even before getting involved with The World Needs More Love Letters I often questioned why Love is not often easily shared.  Why is it that we tend to have no problems exclaiming out Love for a meal, a movie or television show, an actor or author,(whom we've never met) but have difficulties expressing it to those closest? I'll admit that I don't often use the word Love when talking to people, but I have my challenges with verbal communication that go way deeper than the word Love. (again, if you know me or have read some of my past posts you know what I'm referring to)

I dated a girl who once told me that she Loved me and then a few days later I was dumped. I could have been pissed and confused, (I'll admit that I was, but it was more out of a sadness and disappointment) because those words are supposed to mean "commitment" or "forever", right? I knew that this wasn't the case. I have no regrets and hold no grudges. Coupled relationships don't work out for many reasons, the simplicity of Love isn't it; not really. Differences, goals, personalities, lies, abuse, misunderstandings; these are what break people up. Couples, friends, acquaintances. People don't like other people because of characteristics. Not because of Love; Love is really always there when you're dealing with human goodness; the heart and the soul. And Love can still be there after break ups or divorce.... we've all heard people who have split from one another say "I still Love him". Well, I have.

Romantic couples can whisper the phrase I Love You, (though it can get mixed in with other emotions) family members can exchange it, I've even heard girlfriends say it to one another. But beyond this, using the L-O-V-E word becomes a problem. It shouldn't. Because Love is the sweetest thing! 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Seesaw

Halfway in between the public school that I attended as a kid and the town home that I lived in with my family, was a park with a pretty cool little playground. Swings, monkey bars, a slide, a small fort to climb with a ladder, (my memory isn't that great, so I might be missing something) and a couple of seesaws. I never really liked being on the seesaw, I just usually sat on one of the benches and watched the other kids use them. I felt at times like I was missing out on being "normal". I did try it out, but it was too dizzying for me. Because of the illness that I went through, life itself was too dizzying for me; I didn't need anything to add to it. I had no problems with everything else, I felt a little more in control with those things. But the seesaw was different.

As I grew older and became more aware of myself and the crazy world that surrounded me I began to understand that a little bit of the seesaw was in everything. Sometimes I'm able to control the dizziness, sometimes not. What makes it more bearable than when I was that kid sitting in the playground, is that I don't fear it much anymore. I don't try to run away from the things I don't understand; which actually only ended up making things worse.

One of the things I find having the seesaw effect on me, driving me crazy at times because part of me thinks I may have become addicted, is this entire Social Media thing. I mean, two hundred and five friends on Facebook, one thousand sixty three followers on Twitter, one hundred and twenty eight connections on LinkedIn. It's not that I want any of this to change, and the more the merry really. I like the idea of all those people out there that I can communicate to and share with if I wish, and on my schedule, from the confines of my own room/office. But it can be overwhelming to a guy who has difficulties and easily gets confused with too much going on.

I start to feel a little guilty when I don't post things for days at a time, and I worry over whether or not I will lose anyone from my cyber time life, the way I have in my real time life, because of my inactivity. I know that by nature I am an introvert, but because of something I went through and really had no control over, I find myself having an inability to keep up with this fast paced world, and it is so much faster online. So I sometimes wonder if it is too much for me? Is this thing just like the seesaw and out of my control? Then I start to think, is it silly to be even worrying over something like this?

The reality of it is, I will always have questions like this plaguing my mind. Worry and guilt and questioning whether something is too much for me is part of my world, it's in my brain and it won't stop. But if I sit back and take some breaths I remember that there is a flow to life and you can't (and maybe shouldn't) control, or try to control, everything. Just go with it and make your choices. Trying to fight this current is pointless, at least for me. Instead I try to understand it, or maybe just let some things float by, knowing that they are not for me.

I don't need to ride and understand all the seesaws, because that can definitely be too much. I just need to keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with sitting on the bench and watching, and participating only when I feel I can.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

And so,..... I Write.

I really enjoy writing and I have for quite some time, but my reason is perhaps maybe a little different than you may think.

I wrote a story sometime ago about a young girl named Chloe Anderson, and her tale, Chronicles of a Girl,  turned into one novel, then two, and now I am working on the third. It is a creative fiction and the first two have been published. I've sold a few books and I have received some favorable feedback. I've been featured with my book in the local paper and on a local television show. I had a book launch and I've attended a few book fairs.
Like most published Authors out there, I'm sure, I think it would be totally awesome to see my book as a best seller and for it to be in demand. I'd love to be successful enough to become a professional full time writer and for that to be my job that pays the bills.
But, I write for so much more than that.

I love creating characters and developing them, creating plot twists and even interesting, or different, worlds. I like the idea of writing something that may make little sense but than later presents that Wow or Aha moment!
But, I write for so much more than that.

I started writing this blog a few years back after I wrote a dissertation piece on myself titled "Breaking Down Barriers & Walking the Path of Accessibility". A former colleague and friend whom I respect and admire convinced me that this writing style of mine was motivational and inspirational and she told me to keep it going. She got me hooked on creating a blog (not that it took much to get me hooked on writing) and I enjoy keeping up and sharing my work.
But, I write for so much more than that.

Short stories and articles have been published. I haven't made a whole lot of money off of any of it, but it is great to be recognized and see my name in print.
But, I write for so much more than that.

My last blog post I wrote about my monumental event in turning the big Four-Oh. I started out the post with a definition from wikipedia of my horoscope sign, Taurus. One of the lines said: Taureans are most happy when being creative. I highly conquer. (At least for me)
But, I write for so much more than that.

I even write for more than the knowledge that I'm accomplishing things that will be left behind for other generations to see.... perhaps a legacy. (snicker)

I write because it allows me to do something I find very difficult; communicate. I wouldn't say it is something "I can't do" without writing, that wouldn't be true; but I would be somewhat lost in life. One of the ways people get through life is by communicating. I think it is probably one of, if not the, main ingredients.

I have a few personal challenges that I have to deal with while trying to get through life, including a learning disability. But any challenge I face stems from my ABI; acquired brain injury. There are basically four categories of brain injury: mild, moderate, severe, very serve. Mild would be something like a concussion that one tends to recover from after a period of months, to very severe where an individual can no longer function properly in everyday life and would require 24 hour support. Me, I am somewhere in between moderate to severe; able to function from day to day, but faced with some challenges. My biggest challenge, communication.

According to the OBIA, (Ontario Brain Injury Association) 80 - 100% of individuals living will ABI are inflicted with some sort of communication disorder. 

Like brain injuries itself, the disorder ranges from mild to very severe. My mom, for example, struggles with the disorder known as Aphasia; this can be an extreme speech disorder. I'm not that bad, but I do have difficulties at times. Words can get lost in my head as I'm speaking. I struggle on occasion to make a point, if I get there at all. I lose track of conversations, most often if I'm in a group of two or more people. For this reason I usually remain quiet so I can focus on keeping up. I also tend to shy away from social settings where I have to deal with a crowd. I need time to think about what has been said, and then how I'm going to respond.
Because this disability of mine is none visible and I don't really let on to people that I'm struggling, I tend to get labelled as awkward. In fact, I've been told that my silence can make people feel awkward. I can see people becoming impatient when I can't make a point. I've been at the butt end of sarcasm or jokes, where someone will say, "Gee Mark, thanks for your contribution and all that you had to say", when I never said anything. And this has, on occasion, come from sources that know I have difficulties; which is the main problem, because people tend to forget about what they cannot see or completely understand.
On the rare occasion I can also speak and say too much. I become narrow focused on a subject and start rambling. And on these rare occasions, I've been told I'm saying too much or interrupting others (which I don't mean to do) and to stop. And I'm pretty certain my inadequate speech has been the cause to some lost relationships.

I'm not trying to come across angry or in search of people to feel sorry for me. I'm just trying to point out why it is I like writing for so much more than those reasons listed above. Writing allows me to be expressive, to offer my opinion, to feel like I'm part of something. Whether it is writing a fictional story to eventually share with others or typing out an email to my co-workers to deliver news, I feel like I get to be part of everyday life. I write letters to friends and family to express my emotions, to say things and come up with the words my tongue cannot find.
When writing stories I can create dialogue and conversation and actions that I can keep up with. Knowing that I was capable of writing a novel of over 100,000 words was a true accomplishment! Writing helps me find a piece of my soul that I often feel is missing.
I have even found the ability to volunteer myself (which I love doing) by writing "love letters" through an organization called "The World Needs More Love Letters". To be able to combine my craft of writing with the pleasure of giving back is an amazing feeling!
I know that writing is a form of communication, but verbal speech will always be the more bigger, more accepted brother because it is more instantaneous; as well as being heard and seen. But that's okay. In fact, writing has given me the confidence to speak a little more. I still struggle through and stumble on occasion, and I don't always manage to say what I probably would if given the time to think and write into a document. But, like I said, it's okay. Writing has given me pride and a sense of belonging. It helps me get through life; it is my tool of hope. I'm sure we all have something that helps us get through..

I'll leave you with a few quotes that really touch me.
“I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God” ~ Helen Keller
"Writing is the act of reaching across the abyss of isolation to share and reflect." ~ Natalie Goldberg
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  ~ Ernest Hemingway