eleventhbeatnik

musings of an aquarian age counterculturist


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Strength in Community

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images

After viewing the film Food Matters, I started reading everything I could find on the subject of Orthomolecular Medicine.  Last week I attended a seminar rooted in that philosophy.  The topic was “Dietary and Supplemental Support for Stress, Anxiety and Depression.” Some of the information presented was new to me; other parts were review of nuggets I had previously stumbled across on my own.

The presentation was really interesting and reinforced many, if not all, of my personal beliefs surrounding the role of nutrition in achieving and maintaining vibrant health.  I attended this talk with certain filters in place, keeping in mind that as an ethical vegan, I often find myself on the sidelines of many discussions involving mainstream nutrition or flavour-of-the-month dietary fads .  As always, I had to remind myself going in that this was a generalized nutrition talk within the realm of “natural medicine”, meaning I would have to do “compassionate replacement therapy” in my head every time I heard the words “meat”, “protein” and/or “fish oil”, etc.  Gah!   Anyway.  By reminding myself that the animal protein bandwagon is firmly not an option for me, and that there are always compassionate alternatives available, I took in the information relevant to my situation and set aside everything else not in line with my personal ethics around food.

In the end, it was not the content of the talk that turned out to be a major revelation for me.  The light-bulb moment that evening occurred as I surveyed my surroundings.  Looking around, I was amazed to realize that the event was not simply well-attended, but brimming to capacity.  It was a full house:  standing room only.

At this realization, one thought dropped down in my mind like a tonne of bricks:  “A sold out seminar directed at those suffering from depression and anxiety.  This is a sign of the times.”

Every person in that room was touched in one way or another by ‘mental illness’ (a term I abhor, but have yet to hear another that everyone understands or accepts).

Every person in that room was someone, knew someone, or had heard of someone suffering with major depressive disorder, general/social anxiety, PTSD, bi-polar disorder or perhaps one of many other stress-related conditions.

Every person in that room was looking for answers, alternatives, ideas.

Every person in that room was hopeful.

Every person in that room was in community.

Perhaps it seems rather Pollyanna-ish to focus on hope in the face of the mind-boggling numbers of people struggling with the symptoms of this far-reaching spectrum of dis-ease.  But I sincerely believe that as long as people are seeking solutions there is hope.  That room was full of people seeking solutions.  Full to capacity.  Full of hope.

I believe depression can be overcome with time, patience and guidance.  And my heart is full.

I believe that suicide is not a foregone conclusion with respect to mental illness.  And my heart is full.

I believe there are antidotes to stress and anxiety available and possible.  And my heart is full.

I believe there is love and healing in community.  No matter what that community looks like.  And my heart is full.

It is my intention to incorporate orthomolecular medicine into my own experience of depression and anxiety in a way that works for me.  I am hopeful.  In community.

My heart is full.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
Marin Luther King, Jr


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Unity

Mom 1968
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman in her early 30’s.  I vividly recall her having the surgery which involved a lumpectomy and removal of the affected lymph nodes.  This was a highly progressive procedure in the day and age where standard operating procedure was complete mastectomy, no questions asked.

I remember my father taking my sister and I to visit her in the hospital afterward.  I remember the subsequent chemotherapy sessions.  I remember hearing that a classmate of my sister’s shared in “show and tell”, that our mom was dying of cancer.  When my father went to work to support us, I remember my mother driving herself back and forth to chemo sessions with kids in tow until the day came that she simply could not physically do it on her own anymore.  I remember witnessing her suffering through terrible nausea and vomiting nearing the end of that course of treatment.   Despite all of that, I remember our mother fighting to get well.  I also remember being completely confused by it all.  I was in Grade 5.

Fast forward 20-odd years from my mother’s initial breast cancer diagnosis and a lengthy period of clear clinical follow-ups.  After a time of feeling vaguely unwell and chronically exhausted, she was sent for a colonoscopy which resulted in a blood transfusion and diagnosis of colon cancer.

The news came as a complete shock.  I had just moved to Toronto a couple of months before.  I asked her if I should consider moving back to Manitoba.  She said, “Absolutely not.  It wouldn’t help anything and would only make me worry more.”

The months of treatment and recovery that followed were very difficult for her.  She endured it all quietly and stoically.  It is a testament to her strength and will to overcome that she lives to share her story.

At one point in her healing journey, my mother discovered her tribe: a group of cancer survivors participating in a dragon boat team to support each other and raise awareness. Since joining the team called “Waves of Hope”, my mother has attended many festivals and events that help to educate others about prevention and early detection.

This is an aerial overview of the recent Dragon Boat Festival in Sarasota, Florida.

At the end, you will see a cluster of boats joined together.  Every person seated in the boats are cancer survivors.  And every single rose you see dropped into the water represents someone.  Someone who didn’t make it.

My mother was there, in Boat #5.

Blessed be the survivors in their unity above and beyond adversity.  May hope and healing continue to expand in their wake.


Cognitive Dissonance

A thoughtful piece on a subject very close to my heart. My own feelings and observations are echoed here, word for word.

planetaryvegan

tumblr_lpivn0WlYU1r12q7fo1_400
Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort that arises from holding two conflicting beliefs.

As described in one of my earlier posts, I had always considered myself an animal lover, and thought I was largely kind to animals, yet I continued to eat them when I had no need to. This conflicting worldview manifested itself in bizarre behaviours such as moving snails from the path so they wouldn’t be trodden on en route to KFC, or throwing distasteful looks at people wearing fur whilst wearing a leather jacket.

Finally, I became a vegan, and abstained from eating, using or wearing animal products as much as one can when their presence has become so ubiquitous.

When speaking to non-vegans about why we shouldn’t eat animals, I often face quite a hostile reaction. Some people are clearly very offended, and I can understand why; no one wants to be told they are…

View original post 1,233 more words


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Unconscious Uncoupling

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.
You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
– C. S. Lewis

So I have a Divorce Order in hand.

Shit sounds heavy.  But basically what a Divorce Order means in the Province of Ontario is that the marriage is dissolved 31 days following the date of the order.

The magic date, you wonder?  Let’s just say the wedding anniversary and divorce date shall forevermore converge.  Ironic, much?

The entire situation at this moment feels inexplicably odd.  A conclusion to the events comprising the train wreck that was 2013 is swiftly approaching in a thankfully undramatic fashion and with an unexpected neutrality of emotion.  The torrential rain of tears and grief that overtook me at the beginning of that story have pretty much dried up. Aside from a smidgen of PTSD, all that remains is a sense of relief.  I marvel at the thought of where I was, and where I am now, with a beautiful future flowering before me.

Lately I’ve given some consideration to the currently popular term “conscious uncoupling” with varying degrees of nausea.  For the few of us who actually had the opportunity to consciously choose to untangle ourselves from unhealthy relationships, I say: congrats on your decision!  For the rest of us, who were tossed into a toxic soup of misery and forced to sink or swim in the dark cold waters of grief, I say:  congrats on not drowning!

Perhaps it is more p.c. to refer to this divorce as “unconscious uncoupling” rather than “blindsided and tossed into a cesspool of shit”, but the song remains the same. That is to say:  Given the circumstances of said “uncoupling”, there really was no “conscious choice” involved here, at least not on my part.   That said, onward ho.  Yes, I’ll spare you from the myriad of jokes that particular phrase invokes in this situation.  You’re welcome 🙂

In any case.  The result of a door closing on that painful time is that another door has cracked open to a gorgeous new beginning filled with hope, love, support, peace and understanding.

I’ve come full circle and I’m so very grateful for the lovely path opening before me.

To those who rushed in with super-sized band-aids for my heart when I couldn’t find a way to stop the bleeding:  thank you.

To those who stood with me in the flames when I felt I was the last tree standing in a forest fire: you are my heroes.

To those who held me tight when I felt I could no longer stand on my own:  I love you.

To those going through similar turmoil and upset right now:  hold on.  Please hold on.  It gets better.  Truly, it does.

xo

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images


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Seeking the ‘Good’ in Goodbye: Part 3

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

Twenty years ago today, my father departed this world.

On August 2, 1994 I learned that my father had died in a car accident.

Sometimes it feels as though it all happened centuries ago.  Other times, like today, it seems like only moments have passed.

On August 3, 1994, I boarded a plane for Winnipeg to attend his funeral.  It was as though time had stopped.  My body was doing what it needed to do, getting me from point A to B.  My brain was in a spin.  I knew I had been informed that Dad had died but I was still reeling from the shock.  Nothing and no one around me made sense.  My heart had exploded with pain and no number of band-aids, well-meaning words or deeds, could plug up the wounds fast enough for me to process any of it.

Arriving at the airport in Winnipeg I was met by family.  I was in a daze as I descended the escalator to meet them.  The first two faces I saw were those of my mother and my aunt.  I dissolved into a shaking mess of tears before I ever reached them at the bottom.

The car ride from the airport to my parents’ home was endless.  Small talk was out of the question.  I asked straight out: “What happened?”.  Although I already had heard the basics, I needed to hear it again.  Perhaps in hearing more details I would get an answer to the unanswerable “why” or allow me to uncover a huge misunderstanding.  I still hoped to hear the words:  “mistaken identity”; to know that my father in fact was safe and well.  In reality, those words were never uttered.  Although from time to time I still hear them in my dreams.

Everything that transpired after my arrival was a cascading swirl of activity:  organizing funeral arrangements, answering phone calls, accepting sympathy visits, reading messages. All of which was deeply appreciated, but infinitely exhausting.

Through all the almost business-like making of arrangements, I held it together.  It was not until the day before the funeral that I absolutely lost it.  The emotional tide swept in and overtook every part of me, fast and furious.

The minister presiding over the funeral service paid a visit to our home.  He was genuinely kind and compassionate, but I was in no way ready to face the clergy.  Or a burial.  Or the finality of the death of my father.

My father never expressed the desire to be cremated so a traditional funeral and burial had been organized.  A “viewing” had been arranged for immediate family.  I adamantly refused to go.  There was no way in hell I was going to allow the final memory of my father’s face to be from a casket.

The minister was amazing with me and I’ll never forget it.  He said, “I understand your reasons for not wanting to go.  All I ask is that you remember that you have not had a chance to say your good-byes.  If nothing else, attending the viewing will help you accept your father’s passing and give you the opportunity to express yourself as you see fit in your farewell.”  It was enough to convince me.  Begrudgingly, I attended.  And to this day I’m grateful that I did.

Before the viewing, I wrote my father a letter and a poem.  I rolled it up scroll-style in my favourite photo of him and put it in the casket near his heart.  I recited words flowing from deep inside that I knew intellectually he could not hear.  And yet.  I felt he did.

The funeral service was held the following day.  I remember nothing about it except watching his coffin being lowered in the ground and my knees buckling at the sight.  When the funeral was over, I subsequently stayed with my mother and sister for a couple of weeks before I returned to Edmonton to start school.

It was a dark and painful time.  But I look back on it now with a certain degree of gratitude and some semblance of peace.  If nothing else, what that devastating experience did was revealed to me a strength I never knew I had.  More than that, a supportive and beautiful relationship with my sister was forged.  Because we went through something so difficult and transformative together, an amazing friendship was built between us that remains to this day.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I withstood unimaginable pain.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I truly understood what “forever” meant.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I learned strength in adversity.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And a loving friendship with my sister was born.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I came to understand that grief is fluid, not finite.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I still miss him.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.

And I remember him with love.


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Seeking the ‘Good’ in Good-Bye: Part 2

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

A decision had been made.  Accompanying my parents on their road trip to Ontario in summer of 1994 was out of the question.  I was starting a new job that was financing my upcoming return to school and which prevented me from taking time off in time to go with them.

That in mind, I explained to my father in a telephone conversation that I wouldn’t be able to take vacation before August.  Agreeing that I would instead come to visit in Manitoba in early August before school started, my Dad said, “Sounds good.  See ya then.”  And we hung up the phone.

That moment in time replays in my mind, in my dreams, and in my heart to this day.  It was the last time I ever heard my father’s voice.

In the midst of all of that I booked my flight to Manitoba.  I was to arrive the day after my parents returned from their road trip to Ontario, intending to stay for a week.

The date of my arrival?  August 3, 1994.

On August 1, I moved into the Edmonton apartment that I would be staying in for the duration of school.  My husband was to commute from his work to the city, until I graduated.

August 2, the day before I was to leave for Manitoba, was filled with the usual pre-travel errands and arrangements.   A bit of shopping, un-packing from the move, cleaning, and packing for the trip.  I was exhausted from everything going on but excited about the impending visit.

In the early evening, I decided to have a bath and wash my hair so I could save some time in the morning and sleep a little later.  I took my time, turned on some music, lit a candle and relaxed.

Coming out of the bathroom, hair tied in a turban, I gasped in surprise as my husband walked into the apartment.  He wasn’t expected to arrive from work until the following morning, in time to take me to the airport.

I started to say “Hi, what are you doing here…?”  But I didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence.

His hands gripping my shoulders, eyes awash with tears and boring into mine, he said almost harshly, “Jill. Your Dad was killed in an accident today.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell you.”

My heart stopped.  The room started contracting.  My surroundings began to look like those old fun house mirrors where everything is real but grotesquely distorted in every imaginable way.

I slowly shook my head, incapable of acknowledging the life-altering words just spoken.

“There’s been a mistake”, I said firmly.  “It couldn’t be my Dad”.

My husband then squeezed me so tight I wondered if another breath would come.  He said urgently,”Please call your mother.”

With leaden feet I walked into the hallway, leaned my back on the wall and slid to the floor as my husband handed me the phone.

With shaking hands I dialed and as the ringing tone began, everything around me retreated into a tunnel I could not name.

Abruptly, my mother answered the phone.

I couldn’t think or breathe.  In a voice that to me sounded loud and crazed, these words rushed out of my mouth:  “WHAT HAPPENED???”

Answering me in a soft, shaky voice, my mother unleashed a litany that would alter my world on every level.  “The police came to the door when I came home from work today.  Your father bought a truck and he was going to pick it up and insure it in Brandon.  On his way home, just as he left the city, he was hit head on by an oncoming car swerving erratically into his lane.  Emergency crews were called to the scene but it was too late.  Dad died instantly.  So did the couple in the other car.  They were from New Jersey and it is suspected that the man who was driving had a heart attack.  I couldn’t bring myself to call you, so I asked your husband to drive in and tell you in person so you wouldn’t be alone when you heard the news.”

We talked a little while longer.  Shocked and in disbelief, and even in the face of confirmation from my mother, I still could not take it in.  We ended the call with hushed tones and tears, nonsensical ramblings in a nonsensical time.

That night I did not sleep.  I cried and tossed and turned and cried some more.  Arriving at the airport the next morning, I was completely unprepared for what lay ahead.

As I checked in at the airport, the absurdity of what was happening suddenly and furiously hit me:  I had turned down my father’s request to join his final road trip, thinking there would be lots of time to visit later in the summer.  To add insult to injury, I had pre-purchased an airline ticket to arrive the day after my father died.

I missed him by a day.  ONE. FUCKING. DAY.

As this realization came over me, in front of a ticket agent in a major airport and all in sundry, I began to sob uncontrollably.  My knees buckled.  I could not see.  Not knowing what else to do with my sorry ass, the agent (bless her) came around the counter and gave me a huge hug, essentially holding me upright.  She whispered:  okay sweetie, let’s get this done quickly.  Hold on to me and I’ll get you where you need to go.

And so she did.  I don’t think I could have taken a step further without her.  In hindsight, I wish I had asked for her name.  Because her kindness will live with me forever.  So wherever you are compassionate airline ticket agent:  thank you.

On August 3, 1994, I boarded a plane to Winnipeg.

Not to visit my family as originally planned.

No.  I was about to attend my father’s funeral.

 

Dad

Writing 101:
Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t anymore.

PART 2 f 3 – PART SERIES.

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2


Seeking the ‘Good’ in Good-Bye: Part 1

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

1994 was a turbulent and confusing time in my life.

I was a young married woman, in the throes of discontent, trying to understand and figure out my place in the world.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that not much has changed from that time to this, but I digress.

During that time, I had recently moved from Edmonton to a small Alberta town with my then husband.  Out of my element and out of sorts, I found myself bored and unfulfilled professionally and I started looking for an escape route.  Ultimately, I decided returning to school was the better way.

Social justice was important to me and somehow that led me to the conclusion that becoming a paralegal would align my beliefs with my career.  Yeah …. I know.  In my defence, youthful idealism was running the show.  I had not yet figured out that the concepts of law and justice were not exactly one and the same.

My classes were to commence in the fall of that year.  I called my mother to say I would have some time later in the summer to come home to Manitoba for a visit before classes started.  She thought it was a good idea.  After we finished chatting, my mom passed the phone to my father.  I repeated my thoughts to him about coming for a visit in August.  He replied, “Well your mother and I are going to Ontario to visit your grandparents the last two weeks of July, so why don’t you come with us?”  I was a little taken aback by the question.  Firstly, because I hadn’t expected the invitation.  Mostly, because my father had always been a man of few words and for him, this was A LOT of words.

Immediately, I felt the urge to say, “Yes!  I’ll come with you.”  For a moment I imagined how much fun it would be to do a road trip to Ontario with my parents, something I hadn’t done since I was a kid.

And then reality intervened.  I had just started a job that was financing school and I had been told I wouldn’t be allowed any vacation days until August.

With that in mind I said, “Thanks for asking Dad, but I have to work so I can’t get away in July.  So how about if I come to Manitoba after you get back from Ontario?   I’ll come to visit the first week of August”.

“Sounds good.  See ya then, ” he said, before hanging up.

Little did I know, that was the last time I would ever hear his voice.

Dad

Writing 101:  Day 4
Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t anymore.

PART 1 of 3-PART SERIES.

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2