memento mori. memento vivere.

Five years ago, I was chin deep in arranging a memorial service for my husband.  I was eyeball deep in settling his estate.  I was beginning to crest the lift hill that would eventually drop me into the neck-breaking roller coaster of depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Larry had been dead for almost three weeks and I was beginning to catch glimpses of what my new normal would soon become.  People I know, trusted and loved had begun to circle around me to provide protection and support, my once shattered faith had begun reassemble itself in a new form.

Five years later, I still struggle with my anxiety.  I still am surprised at what my new normal brings to me.  I still, albeit rarely, feel the incredible loss, loneliness, sorrow and rage that only widow(er)s can understand.

What I don’t feel is the crushing apathy and sadness of depression, I no longer feel the overwhelming need to fight, freeze or run reactions of PTSD, nor does my brain shut down and go into “automaton mode” as I am better equipped to endure and mitigate my flashbacks.

In the past month I gave copies of table for one. to a number of people who have been instrumental in reconnecting me with things that I loved, which once were integral to who I am.   They all commented on how dark, painful and scary it is to listen to.  I finally revisited listening to it last week and I agree.  And I am happy with that conclusion.

table for one. is meant to be dark, it’s meant to be painful, it’s meant to be sad, it’s meant to be scary!

It’s as honest a document of my life from 2007 to 2016.  The songs distill what living inside my mind and heart was like during that time period.

It’s a diary.

It’s a confessional.

It’s a farewell to the scared little gay boy who was raped by the man who led his confirmation class.

It’s a solid “fuck you” to the minister who protected that man, not to mention all the Christians who hide behind their cherry-picked scriptures to justify their personal prejudices.

It’s a thank you to Larry and my Dad for helping put me back together.

It’s a road map pointing me to the great unknown that my future has presented to me.

It’s a eulogy to the confused, depressed and angry man that Myke Hutchings once was.

By the way – CD copies of table for one. are running low, I’m unsure if I’ll reprint it ever, so if you want one, please let me know soon!

memento mori.  I’m moving on.

This past year has been both frustrating and affirming to me.

Frustrating in that just about everything that I had set in motion to begin building towards my future pretty much fell flat and fizzled out.

Old Myke would have lost his shit over this, however I know there is little I can do, but roll with the punches, dust myself off and assess the situation, taking the next logical step before me.

What has been affirming is that the next logical steps have taken me in new and delightful ways.  Particularly when it comes to revisiting things that once defined me that I had let go when the excrement hit the ventilation with Larry’s health, Dad’s health and then my mental health.

Santa re-entered my life in a kind and gentle way.  Several of Santa’s helpers have connected with me through Larry’s legacy, through mutual friends and through my openness with who I am.  They have reconnected me with Santa’s service through love and the need to give back (thank you Santa Michael M and Santa Glenn J) and Santa’s magic (thank you Santa Stephen and Santa Leon).  These men re-connected me with the joy and love that the spirit of Santa represents and I hope to continue my work as an elf somehow with the support of these men.

Clowning re-entered my life, once again in a kind and gentle way.  A video of two hospital clowns singing a simple lullaby to an infant in the hospital gently rekindled the flame of using simple humor and childlike wonder to help heal or at least sweeten the bitter medicine of life.  I was then asked by Lee Andrews to be a staff member at American Clown Academy where I met the hospital clowns in question (thanks Tim and Ron) and reconnected with friends and mentors, some of whom I haven’t seen since before cancer forcibly entered my life.  (Santa Leon, Bubba, Kitty and Tom in particular)  Rocky is still in permanent retirement, however I suspect folks will be seeing more of Phineus in the coming years…he has a lot to say and laughter to share.

Music has been a constant, however it’s been focused on excising the negativity and anger out of my life that became table for one. and, to a lesser extent, Foundation.  This past year, after a conversation with Drake Jensen about touring in Canada, a new song – City Motel – was written.  It’s lighter and a little more triumphant than my recent output and seems to be reflective of who I am now, once defeated and lost but coming home.  I’ve gotten good feedback on this song and a few others that I’m workshopping and hope to hit the studio soon.

Time spent with David Bartlett and the Pick-Fil-A Wednesday night jammers at Northgate Mall in Durham, NC reconnected me with the guitar as my voice.  Talking to Santa Stephen, reconnected me with the guitar as a tool with which to communicate.

I suspect it will be a good long time before I record a full album or EP, however I foresee songs being recorded and released as they are written.  With fun little covers in between.

I’m still visited by my old demon, anxiety.  I’m still visited by the unwanted house guest loneliness.  However I’m not so desperate to find someone to fill my life.  I understand now that if it is meant to be, the person will make themselves known to me and things will happen in due course.

I haven’t stopped making plans.  I just set goals and give myself a framework in which they can happen and a rough time period in which I’d like them to occur.  I’m flexible if life throws me a roadblock or wrench into the works and things aren’t so structured that a slight change or variation would do harm.  Life is random.

memento vivere.

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five years later.

Dear Larry,

Five years after your passing and I’ve been approaching this year with cautious optimism.

Optimistic because things aren’t so “acutely painful” feeling.  Cautious because I know my heart and mind can be rat bastards when it comes to surprising me with unanticipated overwhelming levels of emotions.

This year marks my 5th year of being a widower and things aren’t much different than the past four years, other than I’m a little more grounded and in a better frame of mind and heart.

While I have a lot to feel accomplished and proud about, I still often feel I’m no further ahead than before.  I suspect this feeling of “Yeah but…what’s next?” will be continually present in my life for quite some time…but who knows?

I still remain quite resolutely single.  There are special people in my life, however none of them have become someone to share my life with at this moment.  I know and feel love, but nothing even remotely close to what we had.  I’m content with that for the moment – despite the occasional pangs of loneliness, Chloe and I are doing okay, facing the world together.

Chloe is doing well, she continues to take good care of me and continues to know instinctively when I need a little extra cuddle or quiet time.  Her seizures have diminished and only happen when things are really hot and she’s stressed out.

Mom’s doing okay, she’s coping with some knee issues, however she’s otherwise doing all right…despite the odd crowbar being thrown into plans.  Stephen, Dana and the girls are doing well – you’d be so proud of Hannah, she started at York University in September.  Lauren is finishing high school and is often busy working at the store in Grand Valley.

I finally gifted the last “Jimmy” suit to Michael Morin as he was definitely ready to take the next step as a Santa.  I suspect that Santa will be in my life in some form or another for quite some time.

David is still my mentor, psychologist and “second dad” – I got to see him in person in March, as well as in regular contact to keep each other sane and laughing.  I’m going to be visiting with him, Santa Stephen, Santa Leon and a few others next week and am looking forward to that.  Doug, Dana and Mara are still amazing friends who keep me grounded and remind me that there will ALWAYS someone there “in case of emergency.”

Rev. Doug has become a great friend since you died.  His no-nonsense demeanour and solid grounding in faith is an anchor for me…you’d be so happy that Rev. Beyerl has continued with me under his wing to ensure my studies that started with you have continued…I am blessed to be able to walk the fine line between Pagan and Christian.

I still sing at St. Paul’s and my voice has grown stronger over the years.  It has helped me find my voice and strength in other areas of singing and I forever am thankful for Blair to have taken the chance on me as a singer.

I recorded and released the follow up to table for one. and continue to write more songs.  I doubt I’ll release a whole “album” ever again and will be focusing on songs as I write them.

That being said, I’m still a basket case and unsure of what the future brings.  Work, despite continuing along at a steady and pleasant pace, continues to be up in the air and after almost 2 decades there, I am not sure of what I would desire for my future.  It’s very interesting as I know my future path is veering away from that direction but at the moment, I am unsure of where it will lead me.

I’m in a better place this year.  I still miss you and continue to strive to honour your memory.  However for the first time in a very long while, I know I’m ready to move on.  I love you with all my heart and soul, however it’s time for me to take the next step.

With love.

m.

 

five years on.

Five years ago, Larry and I got the news that would mark the beginning of the end for him and the beginning of a massive change for me.

Five years ago, I was an angry and confused person who had a lot of learning and growing to do.

Five years ago, I realized that I would forever change and it was up to me to choose if it was going to be for the better or for the worse.

I hope that history agrees that it was for the better.

Today, after the realization of the anniversary of my last dinner with Larry (at the Cannon Coffee Co – he had the American Sandwich, I had the power bowl), I allowed myself time to grieve openly, in public, on the GO Train.  I gave myself leave to grieve publicly on Facebook and remember the better times and share my love for two incredible people who gave us one last time to have as close to normal an evening out, despite the fact he was wheelchair bound, was six-foot-four and weighed 115 lbs, prone to falling asleep midstream and, despite the July heat, constantly cold.

Today after meeting up with someone who, honestly, made my life at that time a lot more difficult than necessary because of someone else who had a personal vendetta against me, I realized that I forgave that person as they were “just doing their job.”

Today I’m processing a lot of complex emotions and reflecting on the changes in my life over the past five years.  It’s a lot to do and I still have so much more to go.

another journey around the sun

This past year has been a somewhat interesting one.  I am both satisfied, yet have a sense of disappointment, often for the very same reasons…

I completed the touring cycle for table for one. and in the process recorded Foundation.  Foundation was released with some fanfare, but very little response.  I’m happy to have the “next step” clearly taken, however am honestly disappointed in the poor response to the music.  In my honest opinion, the songwriting is stronger and more concise than the predecessor, but yes, it’s far less personal.

Oh well.  Sophomore jinx, etc. etc. I guess.  I’m rethinking the whole paradigm of gathering songs and releasing them as an item.  So the next step will be a single release with one song that I’ve written and, perhaps, another b-side to be determined at a later date.

I’ve progressed with my studies in spiritual matters and expect to take my next step towards that in the fall.  I am content with where my studies are leading me and am enjoying the personal and spiritual growth that these studies are providing me.  Things are far less “urgent” feeling and I’m finding more peace in my daily living.

Throughout all of this, I’ve continued to downsize my musical needs and hone the arsenal of instruments in my collection.  I believe I have found my musical main squeeze guitar-wise and have begun paring back the collection to the bare essentials.  My main acoustic brings me joy when I play it and it does everything I ask of it and often surprises me with what it allows me to do.

My relationship with my Mom continues to progress as we both process our widowhood and grief.  Traveling to Arizona with her over the Christmas holidays brought me closure with certain episodes in my life and continued to refine what is important to me.  I found  a new peace in the desert and any angst from past visits has disappeared.

My family continues to bring me joy in new ways.  It’s refreshing to watch the remarkable young women that my nieces have grown up to be.  I am lucky to have them in my life.

I continue to explore what it means to be single at this point in my life.  While I still feel the loneliness of widowhood to be rather difficult at times, I am not as frantic to find the next life partner as once was.  What I do know is that potential friends and companions never cease to find new ways to disappoint me and that my tolerance for such shenanigans continues to disappoint.

I have much love in my heart, however I realize now that I should be more selective in who I choose to share it with.

The house continues to feel more and more like my home as I refine what I have in it and pare back what is in it.  I continue to reduce the clutter and decide what furniture will stick.  I will be downsizing in the future, but downsizing on my own terms.

Chloe continues to be a joyous, loving companion.  Every morning that I awaken to her happy face and wagging tail – is a good morning.   I am blessed.

Work is a means to an end.  I have incredible team mates and a supportive and patient manager.  They are what makes my vocation endurable, that and the fact that it funds my avocations.

I continue to heal from my PTSD, depression and my struggles with anxiety are ongoing. I am getting better at knowing when my triggers are being pushed and able to intervene before the excrement hits the ventilation – so to speak.

So this year has been a year of consolidating the changes, evaluating and then making appropriate steps towards my next goals.  It has been a year of slow, steady progress and continuing to build my foundation.

Hopefully next year will be more productive for growth.

Peace to all.

m.

 

yes. let’s talk.

Once again, it’s a telecommunications giant’s day of hashtagging to promote themselves and an open discussion of mental illness…

But for one day only.

That being said, mental illness is a 24/7 365 kinda thing for those who live with it. My struggle with mental illness, particularly depression, PTSD and anxiety disorder has been ongoing since 2014. I still go for treatment and I am often told that I should:
– be grateful that a large corporation runs this campaign.
– REALLY should try to get over things.

And one person asked “what are YOU bringing to the table?”

These are people who have used the branded frame on their profile picture and reposted the hashtag many times. They’re all pretty aware folks however repeated the VERY SAME stigmatizing talk that the day is supposed to be avoiding IN THE NAME OF the day!

Let’s talk is a good first step towards ongoing conversations regarding mental health issues. It was a good first step taken in 2011 and seven years later we’re STILL ON that “good first step.”

Let’s talk raised $100 million and counting for mental health organizations, yet a 50 minute session with a counsellor still costs $160 for those without comprehensive health insurance plans.

I won’t comment that one of the organizations who benefits from this is notoriously “top heavy” with executives and has a reputation of a focus on “white collar” mental health issues while trying avoid the “messier” diagnoses.

THIS is why I seem ungrateful:
– If they truly cared the hashtag would read #letstalk without the advertising. I’m all for talking about destigmatizing mental health, however, even as a customer, I am NOT going to extend social media reach.
– This campaign treats dealing with mental health issues as a “holiday” instead of removing the stigma by forcing people to deal with Mental Health issues as I do – 365 days a year. This is why I post about my struggles – often triggering the “get over it/yourself” comment.

And it wasn’t just me – I know of other people struggling who were targeted for being critical of the campaign while sharing their experiences. These three other people have been up front and open regarding their struggles and LIVE “mental health awareness” 24/7 365.

I guess by talking and writing publicly of our struggles, we are whining and not contributing. Because we currently don’t have a bright and shiny story that ends with a “happily ever after” to suit a corporate video campaign, our struggles don’t fit the “let’s talk” paradigm.

I guess my having an inexplicably bad day where things are just “meh” or worse for absolutely no reason whatsoever doesn’t fit the “let’s talk” paradigm.

I guess by repeatedly advertising services who support mental health treatment and provide crisis intervention, working as both a social worker and lay minister doesn’t fit the “let’s talk” paradigm.

I’m not doing this to complain or to be an “inspiration,” I’m trying to get people to understand that mental illness treatment is an ongoing process that may not have a tidy ending with all loose ends neatly tied in a bow.

Dear friends, if you were truly invested in ending stigma around mental health beyond feeling good for posting/tweeting a hashtag to raise 5 cents, you would engage your friends who haven’t had their happily ever after and still struggle.

You WOULDN’T tell them to get over it. You’d be there to listen, you’d ask them if there is anything they can do and if not you’d JUST BE THERE.

Fuck. The residents in the Hundred Acre Wood accepted Eeyore, despite his chronic depression!

To instead of a hashtag, let’s share information regarding the resources.

#letstalkhamilton #nomorestigma

If you are depressed, in distress, or in crisis, call the Distress Centre.

Coast Hamilton Hamilton Crisis Line 24 hours – 905-972-8338

Barrett Centre for crisis support 905-529-7878 (24 hour crisis support phone line, 10 residential beds for 3-5 day crisis stay, DBT skills group, CAMS therapy)

Salvation Army army HOPE LINE…1-855-294-HOPE

Sacha Hamilton 24 hour support line 905-525-4162

moving on?

A number of my friends have/are coming up on anniversaries where they’ve lost a loved one – be it their spouse, partner, parent, pet.

They all have posted on how they “move on” and rediscover who they are. My answer is simple:

You don’t.

You don’t “move on” – you just keep on moving along your path. Don’t remain mired in the past and ruminating on what life “could have been like” if the loved one still lived. Stop ruminating on what they are doing now and focus on YOU.

Stop counting the number of years, months, days, hours, minutes since your life changed. Your life has changed and what was in the past is in the past. It is the foundation on what you base your future life and growth upon – it’s part of you but it’s time to build upon what was started, instead of contemplating the work already done.

You don’t rediscover who you are. Because you are no longer a “we” or “they” you are a “me” and a “you.”

You are still the same person as you once were. You were not defined strictly by the loved one whom you shared your life with. You still have the same fears, the same cares, the same spirit and heart, albeit a little more tattered and torn due to recent losses. But it’s up to you to mend what you can and continue to add to the quilt that your life is.

The pain of those old wounds will remain. Stop trying to ignore it and forget that it happened, but at the same time – stop picking at them and trying to get them to bleed. Let them heal and wear your scars proudly as they show your character and that you have fought battles and come out (hopefully) victorious, or at least a survivor.

Treat your past like looking in a photo album. Remember the happy times, the funny stories, the painful moments and yes the heart-wrenching tragedies and loss. Revisit them from time to time but try not to wallow, put the album back on the shelf for you to revisit again further down your path.

Your loved one would want you happy. They would want you to remember the better times and what joy or happiness they brought to your life. They would want you to find a similar joy so you can have that sensation regularly in your life.

They would NOT want you sad. Angry. Depressed.

You are not replacing them. You are not forgetting them. You are honouring their memory and the love you shared together.

Try to remember that myke!

Edit:

I wrote the above in my personal journal last night, because this Valentines Day would have been the 20th anniversary of my first date with Larry and will be the 5th anniversary of his death in August. I had noticed my beginning to psych myself up and tear myself apart and finally stopped to ask myself why I was setting myself up for a meltdown.

I, too, have had at least one other devastating life changing event but I managed to come to terms with it and didn’t set myself up for anniversaries and rehash “what could have been” because I accepted it as a fact and tried my best to build upon the outcome. I still bear the scars but I don’t let them control me…

spinning my wheels

Despite my best efforts, 2017 was a year of being on pause.  Nothing I set out to do transpired as external forces precluded me from following through on plans and dreams.  2018, so far, has been a series of unfortunate surprises and disappointment.

It’s hard not to get discouraged in life these days.  Despite all the goodness that is happening in my world, it seems like I’m mired in the mud, spinning my tires, doing little more than getting frustrated and dirty.

Getting back in the saddle and “putting myself” out there has resulted in a whole lot of frustration and one pretty darkly funny thing – I now have the ultimate “icebreaker” for functions – “Hi, my name is Myke and I’ve dated a potential serial killer!”

Fuck.  If that’s the highlight of my past year…things are looking pretty bleak for me relationship-wise.

By the way – it was a coffee at the Second Cup on Church St., little more – he told me I really wasn’t his “type” before I sat down to drink.  I guess I’m lucky?

I met another great guy who was charming, intelligent, spiritual, EMPLOYED (!) in good health and had dashingly good looks.  All was well until I found out that he is 78 years old and will turn 80 in 2019.  I’m okay with an age difference, however when he has a grandchild who is older than me – it’s an issue as statistically speaking, he won’t live long enough to share my retirement years with me in a meaningful way.

I’ve already buried and mourned one husband…I don’t want to be worrying about going through that again in the near future.

Musically, it seems I’m stuck in a rut.  The Foundation EP was disappointing.  Despite it having 2-3 of my best songs so far, it hasn’t sold and I’m hard pressed to pull the trigger on CD copies when I only have three pre-orders – I’ll have to do it soon because I owe those folks their CDs – maybe I’ll turn the rest into a VERY expensive art project.  I have two bags of custom guitar picks from my “pre-Hamilton” days with my name misspelled on them, despite my being a D’Addario/Planet Waves artist at the time…the story of “Myk’s” life I suppose…

I’ve put myself “out there” for gigs, which has fallen on deaf ears so I’m wondering at this point…why bother?  People tell me I need to play more and get out, however the very same people always have an excuse for not attending, even if the shows are free or pay what you can.  The next gig will be small, local and likely live streamed…we shall see…

At the same time, people whom I’ve given support, chances and opportunity to have failed to engage me in their projects, despite assurances in the past they’d do so.  It’s quite clear that support and opportunity flow in one direction away from me…

I’m beginning to get mercenary in my decluttering and cleaning house.  I’m also getting mercenary in NOT bringing in any new clutter or unnecessary objects, having to justify moving them in the near future.  I’m beginning to see less reason to keep the house at this juncture in my life – we shall see what transpires as I continue to determine what the future will or will not bring for me.  At the moment, I just want less shit weighing me down!

So if you see me and wonder why I look so pensive and dark – please don’t tell me to smile because there’s a high likelihood you WILL get a VERY honest reply from me.  By the way did I tell you I want on a coffee date with a person who’s suspected of murdering two people, perhaps more?

There’s a song in there, I’m sure, but at this point it seems that nobody’s listening.

<sigh>