pensivity

People have commented on how quiet I’ve been as of late and some have indicated that they are finding this concerning

I haven’t written or posted much, because I’ve been processing a lot of thoughts and emotions as of late.  I have found life to be increasingly noisy and I’m not interested in further contributing to the noise and chaos around me so I’m focusing on listening to discern some semblance of order.

My personal chaos includes:
  • the loss of a musical friend and mentor due to cancer.
  • the loss of a musical friend and collaborator due to cancer.
  • a relative being diagnosed with a terminal form of leukemia.
  • a relative being diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer.
  • family members being physically hurt and injured and dealing with the frustrations of rehabilitation and recovery.
  • co-workers with 18-35 years’ experience losing their current positions and being let go or demoted.
  • friends whose parents are severely ill and not expected to see the new year.
  • friends and mentors experiencing financial hardship as their city government is tying a project up in red tape and affecting their ability to proceed forward.
  • an individual from Larry’s past making an unexpected return to the scene.
  • many friends are leaving the city for greener pastures and forcing me to re-evaluate what “home” means to me.
  • at the same time, under the tutelage of Lori Yates, I’ve written two good songs and have the bones for a third potential song underway.
  • I’ve also achieved a goal in my spiritual studies which allows me to continue onward towards ordination.

There is a lot of “noise” in my life and it’s taking its toll on me, so I’m having to take time to withdraw, regroup and sort through.It’s especially difficult when there’s little I can do about any of these issues beyond mitigating my reactions to the situation and offering what support I can to those directly affected.  For someone who tends to be a care giver and likes to have some control over any situation, this is a difficult thing to accept and I’m trying hard not to beat myself up over being ineffectual and feeling impotent.

These surprises are also forcing me to re-evaluate where things are in my life.  To take a step back and consider what is important to me and why this is the case.  As I do so, it’s clear that simplifying my life must continue and I need to stop trying to be all things to everyone and just be who I am to be.

And right now I am tired and kinda lonely – but this too, shall pass.

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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

table for one. a finale.

Thanks to my friends for attending the table for one. CD release “event” on February 20, 2017. It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad to share the music that I have created with everyone. Special thanks to Shannon Munn for opening Cannon Coffee Co. especially for the event and also to Douglas Steckle for shepherding me to and from the event and helping out. Both of you are amazing!

Thanks also to Cindy Schnaithmann for making the Cannon work as a venue and making the arranging of it so easy, despite the construction the cafe is undergoing this week!

As I came down from last night’s performance, I reflected on the journey that has been the table for one. experience.

Life is a constant evolution. table for one. documents a 7 year period in life where I dealt with my husband’s cancer, his transplant surgery, and then his death, followed by my father’s death one year later and the ensuing nervous break down…the past three years have been of reflection, healing and moving forward…and the songs in the table for one. cycle reflect that.

I realized after performing certain songs that I can no longer go back into the particular headspace and “heartspace” that they represent any further. While they are my creations and I’m proud of them in their own right, sometimes they need to be set free and exist on their own…as a marker of a particular moment in time.

being human. is one such song as is patient. Both have had their chance to be shared and the emotions therein expressed but my heart, mind and spirit are just not in them any more.

I’m happy that these songs can still resonate with people and that they will listen to them and gain strength and whatever joy they from them, however they are not for me any further. These compositions and recording belong to the world at this point. I will protect and guard them, however I will not revisit them as a performer.

I’ve also been able to use the table for one. experience to reflect on the writing for a CD, recording it and releasing it as a single project/object and realized that at this point in my career, it is not a sound artistic and financial prospect.

You may have noticed my Patreon page being mentioned earlier last week. This represents the next step in my career and musician and will focus on the release of musical items as they are created. We shall chat about this at a later date.

That being said, I still have a small stock of CDs left, so if you’d like one, please let me know and we’ll work it out!

Thanks for your continued support and patience!

table for one. in conclusion

As the final chapter of the birth table for one. draws to a conclusion, I’m reflecting on how different my life is from the first attempts at writing sitting in The Brain on that fateful Art Crawl night after Larry’s diagnosis.

Seven years.  Seven.  Fucking.  Years.  Four surgeries.  Three deaths.  One nervous breakdown.  Five days of recording.  One album.  One life.

I’m far less angry.  I’m far less scared.  I’m far less impatient.  I’m far less tolerant of negativity.

Throughout all of this change, I have been re-evaluating my life and what it means to be me.  An old acquaintance used to say “Simplify and do everything.” as a joke, however this saying has summed up the past three years of my life.  As I jettison the trappings and detritus I have had surrounding me, the resulting physical, mental and emotional space is allowing me to focus more on things that are important to me.

As my life becomes simpler, I’m able to focus on more.  I’m also making important choices that have impacted on my happiness and health in a positive manner.

Seven years ago, I was close to four hundred pounds, having replaced my chemical addictions with food to medicate my unhappiness.  Seven years ago, I was so focused on my career that both my health and chosen form of expression (music) languished and suffered.  I was in my thirties with sleep apnea, high blood pressure, failing knees and ankles and pre-diabetic.

I thought I was happy, but truly the one light in my life was diagnosed with cancer and we focused on fighting the battle for his life.  Fast forward to now and I’ve survived the loss of my husband, my father, a beloved animal companion, been through a year of treatment for PTSD and anxiety, continue to battle my weight, keeping it down to a healthy level.

I am now hovering around two hundred pounds, eating a clean diet, drug and alcohol free almost thirteen years, breathing easily and most of my other health issues have resolved.

I am also writing further music that reflects a need to carry on, to learn and grow, as well as collaborating with other songwriters and music makers…my catharsis is complete – time to remove my life from suspended animation and continue moving forward.

Simplify and do everything indeed.

 

on passing me by.

passing me by. was written November 2009 on Art Crawl night, while sitting at The Brain on James St. N. in Hamilton, Ontario.

the air grows chill and the days grow short,
the twilight hours are beckoning.
the animals have departed, nature’s slumber begins;
winter is the time of our reckoning.

As it was early November, the nights were growing longer and the days were growing cooler.  I was quietly watching the Art Crawl crowd, drinking my pot of coffee (The Brain serves their coffee in a 4 cup Bodum).

another year is gone –
life keeps moving on.
this year has come to an end;
time no more is a friend.

At this time, Larry’s liver cancer had progressed to the point where he was barely functioning due to the hepatic encephalopathies – essentially his liver was no longer functioning and the ammonia building up in his body was poisoning his brain.

The medication to treat hepatic encephalopathy in end stage liver failure is lactulose – a strong laxative that forces the body to purge.

I was trying to balance his ability to function cognitively with his ability to go about activities without shitting himself.

daylight fades, the sun grows wan;
the night becomes increasingly longer.
the land grows barren, fading out to white;
winter’s grasp grows stronger.

It’s pretty clear that I was beginning to feel the effects of 22 years of denial and anguish and my struggles with faith, my sexuality and my distaste for organized religion.  At the time a good friend had resurfaced in my life, now a Presbyterian Minister, and in the pulpit at the church around the corner from my house.

I’ve written about this person in the past and won’t rehash his betrayals in my life.  I love this person dearly and wish him the best but don’t have room for people who cannot set their egos aside and act in accordance with their faith.

another year is gone –
life keeps moving on.
this year has come to an end;
time no more is a friend.

my hair’s grown grey, my eyesight blurred;
my life spent setting the stage.
my body weakens, my soul grown weary
as i struggle into middle age.

Between drama in the workplace, Larry’s failing health and yes my failing health (I was topping 350 lbs by this time), I was feeling run down and tired pretty near all the time.  I was physically and emotionally spent.  The greying of my hair was progressing quicker and I was eating my stress and feelings by this time, having exchanged my alcohol and drug dependence for Doritos and diet cola.

another year is gone –
my life keeps moving on.
my year has come to an end;
time no more is my friend.

This song was the last thing I had written before Larry had his liver transplant.  It sums up my state of mind and the bleakness I felt at the time.  It’s also a good general “dull grey day” kind of song too…

spring cleaning

My last blog posting has stirred a lot of conversation.  The cauldron is bubbling and it’s time we examine how we behave in the Hamilton Community.

It isn’t just a single group of people -there have been some other people targeted in the Hamilton community – and YES I’ve confronted the perpetrators when it was My husband and I with the targets on our backs.

As for the local groups – unfortunately the actions of a vocal few can reflect poorly on the silent majority…and too many people – particularly those in the LGBTQ community – have been burned.

I wish I could say my past experiences with the local community were positive, but I don’t attend the moots for a reason and it takes something big to get me out to Pagan Pride Day.  It took years for me to heal enough to want to come back out to PPD last year.  It also took a HELL of a lot of convincing by several people whom I trust and said that things have changed – it’s gotten better.

My work in the Lothloriën tradition has helped me gain some strength and focus to deal with the shenanigans, so I felt somewhat prepared.

Yet at the same time the same people are pulling the same tricks and getting away with it – those who stand up to these people are often ostracized or shunned by the community.  I get that it’s a small community and somewhat close knit…however bullies are bullies.

My husband and I got tired of the infighting, gossip and petty turf wars; disbanded the coven and practiced solitary for years before he passed – he got accredited as a chaplain and focused on Hospital and Prison work during this time.

Sorry folks but it happens – I’ve seen it time and time again in the 20 years I’ve been active in the Hamilton pagan community.

And since my last posting, I’ve found out I’m not the only one.  I’m hoping my blog stirs conversation in the community and forces everyone to take a good hard look at what’s been going on.

None of us are served when we simply sweep history under the carpet.  In order to move forward properly we must admit to past wrongs and embrace a future dedicated to undoing the damage of this past.  This is done by actively working together as a community.

While some seem to prefer the “leave the past in the past” approach, this clearly has not worked.

Time to clean out from under the rug.

the phone call and aftermath

On the evening of August 9, 2013 I didn’t sleep at all. Sunny had completely collapsed onto the bed, exhausted and Chloe fussed about between him and I, not knowing who needed more comfort.

I lay awake in bed and read until 11:30 pm. Then I lay awake in the dark.

At 12:09 am, the radio on Larry’s side of the bed came on, loudly.

At 12:14 am, the phone on my side of the bed rang. I answered the phone call that permanently changed my life forever.

“Hi, it’s the nurse. I just checked on Larry and he is gone. I’ve called the doctor and figured you want to spend time with him.”

I hung up the phone and got out of bed, called the taxi company and got dressed. I let the dogs out for a bio break and grabbed a duffel bag. From my cell phone I called Larry’s ex wife and my parents.

I sat in the cab, numb, and wept quietly, wondering about my future. Thankfully the driver seemed to understand why I was in a rush to get to the hospital at that time of night and kept the chatter to a minimum. I suppose my eyes were red and puffy by that time and it was obvious that I was upset and not willing to speak.

Larry’s room was empty, the light over his bed was on. I went in and his body looked so peaceful and quiet. Not in any pain.

Sadly my pain was continuing.

I sat quietly for a while until the nurse came in to check on me and confirm that the doctor was coming to pronounce him dead. I began to gather his personal effects:
– slippers
– glasses
– pentacle
– the final Sookie Stackhouse book, which I read to him while he convalesced so he knew how the saga ended (because of this, I can’t watch True Blood any more – the ending was a disappointment and I have too many unhappy memories now)
– the flowers that Bekah and her boys gave Larry
– the gift that Larry gave his daughter on his deathbed, but she left (still super pissed about this – I finally gave up on trying to give it to her in April and donated it to someone who would use it)

As I finished up, I took the final picture of our hands together one last time. And then the doctor came, I introduced myself, thanked the doctor for doing this task and called Leslie and Jeff to pick me up. I needed folks who could help my spirit and they have and remain there as I work things out.

I came home to an empty house with an empty heart and sat on the couch with Sunny and Chloe for a few hours, finally posting the announcement. I went to bed out of exhaustion, unable to cry any more.

That morning, I got up at my normal time. Did my morning ritual and went out to the farmer’s market to have my morning coffee at “Cafe Gay.” Ironically, I had a funeral to sing at that morning.

Chris Godwaldt, having read the news hugged me and asked me “What are you doing here today?”

My reply was I had no where else to be. This was the truth, I no longer had to be at the hospital daily and quite honestly, home felt really empty at this point.

I sat quietly, having coffee with friends, until it was time for the funeral. I sang dutifully at the funeral, no one in the choir having suspected what I was going through, and found a great amount of satisfaction in allowing myself to grieve while helping others grieve.

I had arranged to meet my parents at Cannon Coffee Co after church, where I sat in the window seat and just was there, quiet and peaceful. My parents joined me for lunch and remembrance while various folks who saw me sitting there popped their heads in to offer their condolences.

I went home and walked the dogs and fell into a fitful and restful sleep for the first time in about a month, despite the uncertainty of my future.