Things I’ve Learned Most Since Being An Amputee…

It has been a little over a year since i both got hit by a truck and became an amputee; and while there are things i already knew regarding the ableism of the world many of us live in… there is one thing to know that in theory, and another thing to see it in action.

First, to get some context about my journey, here’s this video (note: i initially posted this on Dailymotion but for some reason this video is set to private, and i can’t seem to find a way to set it back to public).

i have learned a lot more about myself since even producing this video- so consider this post to be the ‘things i didn’t know’:

  • You will have to repeat yourself a lot. For example, even though i am an amputee i still have to ask neighbors to get packages for me. i figured since they are aware i have to scoot up and down the stairs to get mail they would automatically put things by the door, after i requested it.
  • People assume that once you get a prosthetic things will automatically be easier. People assume you can stand all day in a prosthetic, even though you are not yet great at doing so. People don’t understand that sometimes, your joints hurt standing for long periods of time in a prosthetic.
  • People are afraid of talking about you being an amputee. i joke about it a lot. It makes little sense for me to be sad about it. This is my new life. If you say something harmful i will let you know.
  • Even though i have accepted this new life i still hold a lot of doubt. My guess is that it’s because this life is still very new for me.
  • i realize i’ve become much less apt to share my feelings with people, because it’s difficult to explain that the feelings people expect me to have, i don’t have. i get asked how i feel about things in relation to this amputee journey, as well as using the prosthetic; and i honestly don’t have a lot of the emotions around it that it feels like people want me to have. The first time i walked with the prosthetic- it was a thing that happened i didn’t have any emotional revelations when it happened.
  • It actually surprised me that i didn’t have any emotional revelations when i first walked on the prosthetic. i had planned for it. i thought i would cry of joy. However, when i first did it i had massive PTSD (which i have written about). i thought i would be excited and get back to being athletic right away but the new leg traumatized me, and i avoided looking at it for at least one to two months. When i made the decision to put it on it messed up my leg, and i avoided using it again for a while.
  • Even now, as i am gradually getting better at using the prosthetic- feeling good about finally having had that breakthrough where i felt okay with putting it on; and feeling good about being back on my feet (even if one of those feet are fake)- i still don’t have a lot of major feelings about it. To me, at this point, it’s just something i need to do, if i’m going to get better.
  • People will just up and disappear when you are at your most vulnerable. We all experience things. People also respond to stress and trauma differently. That said, it should never be expected that people just drop everything they’re doing to tend to all of your needs. But to just stop ANY level of contact is just curious.
  • Accepting my new body hasn’t been very hard at all. While i am working on returning to at least a modicum of the same athleticism i had prior to being hit by a truck, it has been interesting to see the various levels of my body’s changes, from quickly losing all muscle definition while laying there in the hospital, to getting out and being surprised at still being able to carry 20 pounds after struggling with even opening a jar in the hospital. It’s the small things…
  • This new life is the biggest test i ever had to take. i can’t tell you if i’m passing though…
  • Pre-and post-amputation ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’ are VERY different from each other. (Back to point #5: things like this i can feel, but not necessarily know how to explain them)
  • i’ve learned to get around better than i thought i would. Obviously it’s not easy to navigate a wheelchair in small spaces; it would be easier to carry things as opposed to holding them in your lap (making sure they don’t fall as you roll the chair- and sometimes you have to move bigger boxes with the existing foot); and sometimes, sleeping can be rough. But with all of my limitations i have figured out how to make cooking, doing bathroom things, playing instruments… and getting in and out of the house (when i have to) work for me.
  • Little kids will stare. And stare. And stare. Obviously i knew this was a thing that happened for disabled folks, but being on the other side of it- the receiving end- is interesting. i just wave at them. And for the most part (with the exception of a couple of criers) they wave back. Kids will stare at anyone they are not used to seeing. i don’t get mad.
  • i never thought i would be reunited with old friends i never thought i would see again. While some folks opted to drop out, others have returned.
  • As much as i love cats (and would love more than anything to be in a house full of them) it might be a while before that happens. i want to be better at getting around before i make that type of commitment. This makes me incredibly sad.

There are plenty more things i have learned (and will continue to learn), but i will leave you with these for now.

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i forgot what a crisis felt like… then yesterday happened.

(Warning: This writing has mention of suicide and self-harm)

Not being able to name feelings didn’t make a lot of sense to me until yesterday. i mean, there’s lots of feelings i’ve experienced- joy, sadness, dread… So why would any other feeling not be named?

Now i understand.

i’ve had this dull, throbbing pain in my right leg since last night. i take it that she’s finally given into the long-term (for hours on end) phantom pain amputees experience, as opposed to the quick bursts i usually get. Maybe she’s feeling the wave of anxiety and crisis i’ve been feeling these past few days. i don’t like to be in anyone’s way, but “let me plug you into my world,” as the ‘ol lyrics say to the perfectly-titled song, The Unnamed Feeling:

Been here before couldn’t say I liked it
Do I start writing all this down?

i woke this morning and decided to write it down, because repeating what happened over and over to anyone who has an ear to lend, is traumatic. i decided to write it down because that’s the best way i know how to communicate. i decided to write it all down, so the next time i experience a crisis i remember what happens.

And i remembered that i definitely don’t like it.

And if I could I’d turn my eyes
To look inside to see what’s comin’

It comes alive, It comes alive, It comes alive
And I die a little more

i forgot what it was like to be alive in the world, but simultaneously feel dead. It hasn’t happened to me in so long. You do NOT see it coming, even though all the signs are there.

I cannot sleep with a head like this
I wanna cry, I
wanna scream

February 12- When i saw my broken legs after i got hit by that semi truck (while on my bicycle) i screamed and cried, but nothing came out. i remember nothing in between getting hit and being on the ground. This lack of memory was my saving grace. But i’m afraid all of this has caught up with me, nine and a half months later. All of the fear i hadn’t experienced was just gestating, and is now in the throes of giving birth. i thought i had surpassed the PTSD stage (despite everyone’s protest that it was something i was actually experiencing), and now… it comes alive.

November 29- i had gotten plenty of rest but woke up more tired than usual. This is not unusual; it does happen on occasion. i went through the usual tasks: ate some food, cleaned the house up a bit (which is NOT easy in a wheelchair), played some drums… but none of it felt enjoyable. The lack of enjoyment in anything is something i am usually able to handle. i live with depression, so when i see the signs i have a plan in how to deal with it. i cry a bit, and go to bed still feeling worn and not in the best mental state, but not in ‘crisis mode’.

November 30- i wake up with an increase in the tiredness. i don’t exactly force myself to eat or go to the bathroom, but it still seems like a chore as opposed to a necessity. My roommate hands me packages before he leaves, and i just don’t feel like opening them. i make a phone call in relation to arrangements to receive disability (which i have yet to receive), and that took up more energy than it needed to. i couldn’t even find enough joy or energy to even play the drums. i look for other ways to distract myself, but none of it seems to be working.

Around 4pm i wheel myself to the bathroom. i get on the toilet, and i start to cry. My brain snapped. i wiped my tears, and made the decision that i was going to end my life. i got back into the wheelchair and figured it would be one of two ways: exiting the apartment and throwing myself down the stairs, or stabbing myself in the stomach and chest, hoping to bleed out. As i was on the way to the kitchen i realized i was in crisis mode, and i needed to talk to someone.

If i was not able to reach anyone, i definitely would not be around to write this. Later that night, i found it incredibly hard to sleep, and i just curled up and cried hard. i tried to scream and nothing came out.

Been here before
Been here before

i absolutely forgot what that ‘brain snap’ felt like, but it all came back to me. i experienced it when i’d purposefully cross the street into oncoming traffic. The first time i experienced it was at the age of 14, when i put my head in an oven. The last time i experienced it was around 5 years ago, when i came in from my job and decided i was going to jump out of a window. i used to do a lot of self-injury, but much of that was to cope with the feelings of despair i had. The ‘brain snap’ is an entirely different feeling.

i cannot speak for everyone (and i haven’t checked the latest statistics), but i highly doubt that most people who experience this type of crisis actually want to die. It’s just that sometimes, life becomes too much.

Been here before
Been here before

When i was in the hospital- in the ICU, dealing with the pain of the skin grafts (and more), waiting for the amputation, being hooked up to the woundvac, not being able to shower most days, not being able to go to the bathroom some days, not having a solid sleep schedule… i was still (for the most part) able to stay optimistic. i was just grateful to be alive! Despite the immense pain i felt, i made extra care to be considerate to the staff who cared for me. Working in the midst of a pandemic, and being overworked (and not paid enough) i did not take that for granted.

The other thing i realized that kept me afloat was the routine. Even if i never properly got a good night’s rest, and even if i was reluctant to take the countless pills and meds i had to take; the schedule gave me something to look forward to. i knew i would have people to connect with, to laugh with. i ended up building relationships with some of the staff. They all knew that i needed ice cold water to counteract the horrible feeling of having morphine injected into me, without me having to ask for it. They would suggest some vegan restaurants for me to order from (since hospital menus are far from vegan-friendly). i had someone to talk to every day. When i left the hospital (after two months and six days) i entered a rehab facility (for two weeks). After this i stayed at my aunt’s house for two months, where my cousin was my primary caretaker.

As a person who is not opposed to spontaneity and who finds comfort in solitude, i didn’t realize how much i would be grateful for the gift of the routine.

I’ve found safety in this loneliness
But I can not stand it anymore

July 3- i return to the apartment i lived in; the last place i saw before the moment that physically altered me forever. i acknowledged the inevitability of this new life, and did not view it as negative. All of the things i did with two legs: cooking, cleaning, showering, getting groceries… all had to be modified. Anything like doing laundry or moving in and out of the apartment would require assistance.

Months pass… Around September or October, the reality of these limitations begin to set in. i do experience sadness, but for the most part it passes where it doesn’t affect my daily actions. In the month of November, i will have existed on this earth for 45 years. i find joy in growing older, but i also know how my goal of completing a triathlon (or at least a 10K) by the age of 50 has shifted a bit, in terms of how i am going to achieve that. My jujitsu practice, the pull-ups i was getting better at; the joy of bicycle riding… all of these things have now shifted.

(If i am gonna go out, at least i was doing what i loved when it happened)

December 1- i now have to figure out how to deal with this other shift. To start, i decided to write it all (or much of it) down.

let me plug you into my world

The world where nothing makes sense anymore. i have to acknowledge that i am lonely, here where i am separated from most everything and everyone i love, by either geographical or scheduling differences. i don’t have a community where i am. The world where i spend most days alone, communicating with most no one, due to those differences. The world where i’m pretty enthusiastic about some things, but the enthusiasm isn’t necessarily returned. The world where sometimes, all i have is the thoughts in my head. The world where i feel like i’m in people’s way most of the time. The world where i feel like i’m a burden just asking for help (which i struggled with asking for in the first place). The world where i sit here (and move around and exercise for a bit) but i can’t do any of the things i love to do right now. Because i physically can’t.

It is a world where i am not ungrateful and resentful for my limitations, but at the same time i feel beaten down by them. It is a world where i held on to the hope that those i knew who did not necessarily have the capacity to love or support me in the way i needed or wanted, and that hope was shot down. It is a world where i have yet to process the loss of a leg, despite seeing it every day. It is a world where i have yet to process and grieve in the ten years since a dear friend (who was my rock) passed. i still am not able to listen to him or look at him. It was this friend who was loved by, and popular to so many. i wasn’t even a huge factor in the crowd he hung out with, but he found value in our friendship, and he consistently took the time out of his busy schedule to call me up, and i knew i could depend on to comfort me into the late hours.

Ten years have passed.

i am still looking for Barry. i am still looking for that person who is able to sincerely check in with me every day, and i am able to check in with them. i am not stating this in order to guilt trip anyone into doing this. i have no desire for anyone to read this and check in with me under this ‘state of emergency’, only for the same cycle to happen again. Because i know it will. The reality is, people are being pulled in many places at once. Many people don’t necessarily feel the need to check in with someone every day. i don’t think that’s a bad thing. i am just writing about the things i need. i am writing this because again, i don’t want to continually repeat how i am.

i am simply writing this to remind myself of what happens when the brain snaps. i am writing this as an attempt at survival. i am writing this because these words describe the unnamed, and the unknown.

the final stages of inevitability: kittylumbia’s last moments on earth

i woke up today, feeling extremely heavy; this weight of doubt, guilt, acceptance have all combined. i sprung right up, wondering if i’m doing the right thing. i sat up wondering if she is okay with all of this- how much pain is she in? i look over and see her, and a wave of sadness takes over. the muppet song ‘saying goodbye’ plays repeatedly in my head, and i begin to cry.

right before the alarm goes off i have a dream. i was in what appeared to be a basement/laundry room environment, with ants running near me, performing their colony duties. they were moving back and forth near a tree (which was the connection between the room and the outside). suddenly i see a drop of what is clearly cat poop by my feet. it looked like it came from a kitten though. before i could look down again, the ants have pulled it away, over by this tree. i look over to the tree, and there are very tiny kittens and cats, resting. they were all the same tiny size (of a cat paw), no matter their age. the mama cats were protecting the kittens, who were in a state of rest. one of the kittens was getting ready to fall into the ‘present’ the ants brought over, and i lightly screamed, ‘NO!’, when the mother ran to move the kittens. the ants started going crazy, and a fight was getting ready to break out, right as the alarm went off.

the day has been filled with procrastination… i know in my heart this is the best thing to do, but my head keeps asking if it is. it’s very clear lumbia’s health has deteriorated, to the point where she’d regularly stopped eating much. at 12 years old, she weighed five pounds. she stops to eat for a few moments, then goes back in her space to curl up. she had stopped grooming herself essentially, and her energy’s just extremely low. her eyes no longer have the same life in them. i would look over to see if she was still breathing.

the closer we got to that moment of inevitability, i began to waver between nausea, butterflies, weakness and tears. that ride/walk to the veterinarian’s was one of the longest we ever had. i wanted to prolong those last moments with her. when we got there i didn’t even announce myself; i just sat down, took her out of the carrier and comforted her. there was a dog who came in around the same time, and his loud bark scared her. i have never seen her so calm at the vet before. she usually darts out of the carrier and out of my arms. like many other cats she disliked the fact that vet experience was out of her ‘comfort zone’. this was a huge sign to me, that she was telling me this was the end. she was just tired.

the receptionist finally asked if i had an appointment; i told her i did, and my name. she just walked towards me, grabbed the carrier and we walked to a part of the clinic i had never been to before, while i carried lumbia. her silence implied that she felt sorry for the both of us. it was very clear to lumbia that something big was going to happen, because the room we entered looked entirely different than the ones we normally go to when she’s gotten a check-up.  the room, despite being slightly bigger than the majority of the rooms, looked and felt ominous, fort obvious reasons.  i sit down, and lumbia proceeds to give me a big, long hug; with lots of nose kisses.  i can only figure this is her way of saying goodbye.  the nurse/assistant comes in and we deal with all the finances/logistics/signatures so i won’t have to do it before i leave.  after a few more minutes with her, the assistant takes lumbia to get an IV attached to her front right leg.

he brings her back, and makes a lighthearted joke.  he’s been making them consistently since the day before, when i brought her in to get weighed, and to make the final appointment.  i don’t envy his position, where one needs to keep it light in order to not go crazy… surrounded by sickness and transition.  he asks me if, in her final moments, i would like her on my lap, or on the table.  i opted for her to be on my lap.

the doctor comes in after what seems like forever, with two needles.  she walks in as i have tears streaming down my face.  she has a sorrowful look on hers.  i don’t envy her job either.  she comments on how lumby looks tired.  the first needle goes into the IV that is bandaged to her arm; she moves slightly as a natural reaction, but barely.  she became so weak that she wasn’t even responding to needles.  i could tell that she stopped breathing before the full contents of the needle entered her body.  the doctor then put a needle with saline solution in the IV.  it happened extremely quickly, and she left quietly.  she did not have a seizure; no fluids or solids left her body.

it was approximately 4:35 pm.

the doctor moved her right front leg and her tail, so that her whole body ended up facing my right side.  it looked as if she was just taking a nap.  the leg that was still bandaged was covering her right eye; both of which were still slightly open, glossed over.  i cried throughout this experience, but when she placed the stethoscope over lumby’s heart and declared that she was gone, i wailed.  it does not matter how much you’re aware of the inevitable; when reality sets in, you’re still affected.  i spent about 15 more minutes with her after she left, just crying and trying to make sense of how unreal this experience is, despite having experienced it before (back in 2004 with holly, who had pulmonary carcinoma).  as she lay there lifeless, it was a lot easier to see how much lumby wasted away.  lumby’s looks were deceptive, because she was a burmese kitty.  her build was really stocky, even when she was wasting away.  you could feel her ribs, you could feel her breastbone.  i ended up feeling what felt like a lump in her belly, which led me to think even more that she was suffering from cancer.  nine months ago, it was discovered she had kidney failure; however, one is able to usually stabilize (if not cure) said kidney failure.  her health deteriorated to a point where she lost half her body weight.  she stopped eating at regular rates.  she began to vomit regularly.

my friend.

my companion.

my love face…  is gone.
i keep replaying these moments in my life, to make some sort of sense of it all.
david was so kind to dig a hole.  we surrounded the box lumby was placed in, said our kind words, and thanked lumbia.  i took the shovel and was the first to put dirt over her.  it felt like i was burying my child, or best friend.
i am at the point where i cannot slow down, or i will break down.  i am really tired, but i don’t want to go to bed.  for hours, i have still seen her silhouette, brushing past the chair i am sitting in.  when taking a shower, i heard her voice.  her transition is still fresh, so connecting with something or someone close to earth makes sense.
my hope is that she knows she was loved.

a self-diagnosis of love…

the winter months are approaching; as it gets darker out earlier, i do my best to prepare myself mentally.  it could be anything from taking extra vitamin d, to intentionally eating healthier.  one thing that makes me warm-hearted is spending time with my dear cat friend, lumbia.  when i curl up to rest she’s right there to curl up as well.  she’s an older cat (10, soon to be 11) and though she’s still quite active she loves to live a basic life- eating/drinking, resting and going to the ‘bathroom’.  it’s a lot like when we humans get older.

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lumbia and i met when she was 2 years old; she came into my life after i ended a very toxic relationship.  the more we spent time together over the years i recognized that she is extremely sensitive to the energy around her.  she’s really friendly to most humans; however there have been a couple of people she avoided.  she is very talkative with specific tones when she is in need of something.  she’s also sensitive or allergic to certain things (like fleas), and will throw up when she has an allergic reaction.

she is extremely sensitive to the energy i carry.  whenever i’ve been depressed she takes that on.  it actually makes me sadder, because i didn’t want to make her sad.  whenever i am happy she’s receptive to that as well.  whenever i leave she gives this look of ‘you’re leaving AGAIN??!!’ and goes back in a little ball to rest; when i come home she gives me a very vocal greeting, and walks up to me.

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a lot of humans just look at cats or dogs (or birds, snakes, mice, etc.) as a ‘pet’ and may not necessarily consider their emotions to match our own, especially if they have been around for a long time.  and of course, they choose us.  if we treat them with love and respect, they will be dedicated to us.

it’s a lot like us humans.

as a human i am constantly learning about myself and the world around me daily.  the older i get, the more i find myself sensitive to energy in general.  there have been these feelings though, these sensations i’ve had ever since i was a child; and i had no idea how to articulate these feelings.  i though i had always been alone in these feelings, and it was not until recently where i learned it had a name.

ASMR.

autonomous sensory meridian response.  anyone who experiences ASMR would know exactly what i mean when i speak about it- it’s that pleasurable tingling in the head (and sometimes shoulders/ arms/ears, fingers/etc.), when you see someone in the midst of a task, or speaking, or writing.  there’s not a lot of research on it (as it’s a more recent phenomenon (in terms of its name)), but people have been experiencing this for years.  it’s nice to know i’m not alone in this feeling- there are others i personally know who experience this as well.  it’s also interesting to know that not everyone experiences this.

i wonder if it’s a defence mechanism which developed for people who were under stress as children- such as abusive households- and these specific things which trigger the ASMR are reminders of a ‘safe space’.  is it directly related to the chakras?  is it related at all to a mild OCD?  do people who have this have a high sensitivity to the energy around them? is it genetic?

i found out today that my sister also experiences this; however i know that not all siblings share this same quality.

in many ways it feels like this special club; these codes which have yet to be discovered are known only by those who experience them.  percentages are not known, and there continues to be surveys and films around the subject, to know more about why and how people feel what they do.

http://www.asmr-research.org/

it’s also one of the first ever ‘diagnosable’ episodes not shrouded in negativity; since it is related to the pleasure center being triggered, there is a curiosity without ridicule or malice about it.

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watching people create things gives me the sensation; it is not necessarily something i can conjure up myself by will or force.  for instance, the earrings you see in the above photos…  as much as i focus on (and love) making jewelry, cooking, writing, etc., it has to be others doing it in order for me to be triggered.  this is definitely a journey i enjoy being a part of.  and yes, i do wonder if cats experience something similar.

as lumbia curls up and rests, i wonder what dreams she has, as her ears twitch; are they good or bad?  does she know she is loved, and does she love others, in the way cats somehow do, in their own language?  rest away little one, for it’s always a new day for you to explore.

just like for us humans.

my mistake was to think i made a mistake

i’ve become so much more accepting of the fact that certain pieces of music speak to me at a certain time for a reason.  i have so-called ‘songs of the week’ which stay with me for anytime from a week to a month.

this is what they are- for now:

i recall the days growing up as a child, where music was used at times to counteract the violence in the home.  due to this i always looked at music as a way of diversion, with healing potential.  i don’t recall a time when music was NOT played in the house; however it wasn’t until i was about 19 years old when i began to truly appreciate and love music for the gift that it is.  as a teenager i used to hang out at a (sadly, now-closed) record shop on 6th street in the east village, new york city; just wide-eyed and taking in lessons from knowledgeable men 10 to 50 years my senior.  my mother was my first musical teacher, pat. longo the second.  i will forever be thankful for their lessons.

ironically the greatest musical teacher for me, at 19 years old, was the radio.  within weeks of each other, both ‘maiden voyage’ and ‘giant steps’ exited the speakers, and without knowing what those two songs were, i overstood true beauty.  i had to find out immediately what those songs were.   love is indeed stronger than any compartmentalized notions of these waves of sound.  modelled after a tone poem, ‘maiden voyage’ flowed as effortlessly as gwendolyn brooks’ or nikki giovanni’s prose; i listen to george coleman and freddie hubbard’s saxophone and trumpet-respectfully- and i imagine those warm sunny saturdays, strolling over the brooklyn bridge.  i imagine those meditative moments as i listen to tony williams’ drums merge with ron carter and herbie hancock’s bass and piano call-and response where we had opportunities to watch the sun set on top of a tenement roof.

‘giant steps’- i heard coltrane’s scatting tenor saxophone, and to me it rivalled ella in grace.  never had i heard an instrument sing in that way before.  i began to memorize the quick notes in my head.  there’s something about this that makes my spirit soar.  both the albums those songs derive from have been two of my favourite albums of all time for years.

music can indeed be (and IS) a healing force of the universe, as albert ayler and mary maria parks so aptly put it.  just as music should be an ever-flowing mode of communication spanning generations, so should our lives.  however, just like far too many of us do to music; we hold on to these aspects of our lives to the point where it holds us back.  it is one thing to honor our ancestors and the art they created; but it’s imperative we honor the spirit of what they do as opposed to the physical body itself, so we as artists, activists, and individuals could positively progress and engage with the generations proceeding our own.

this current overstanding allows me to make sense of my own histories. the journey i’ve taken has been one of no regrets.  i feel as if i’m here to learn and experience as much as possible in my short time here on earth.  i’ve met and spent time with so many people with different levels of fame and success (some of those moments also changing my life), i’ve travelled a few places around the world, i’ve been without a place to stay, i’ve been between living in comfort and living in poverty; i’ve been assaulted, robbed, stalked, abused; i’ve attempted suicide several times; i’ve been depressed, i’ve been loved and disliked (and perhaps hated)…

i think so many of these struggles stem from the fact that i have never really fit in anywhere.  i didn’t necessarily fit in with the family dynamic growing up; i  didn’t always fit amongst my peers growing up due to my views and experiences, and i don’t necessarily fit now for the same reasons.  the difference is that now, i don’t see my differences as a hindrance.

i was the one who kept my head in the books when everyone else wanted to play; i was the one who became a vegetarian (then vegan) when i was told it would kill me; i was the one who played in punk rock bands…  i was the one who studied anarchism and various spiritual practises; i was the one who regularly stopped watching television at the age of 18; i was the one who thrift shopped and shaved all my hair off.  i was the one who majored in photography and made super 8 films…  i did all of these things i wasn’t supposed to do as a young black person.

i never thought of my life in this way as all of these things were happening; however, i realize ultimately that i was the one who lived according to the way i wanted to live.  i followed my heart/intuition and let the universe guide me.  we all have several paths presented to us when we enter this earth; it is up to us to choose which path we are going to take.

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the path i’ve taken has again, been challenging to the people or society around me at one time or another.  i remember being the ‘odd one out’ because i wasn’t really interested in dating boys at the age of 11 or 12.  some of my classmates already were in romantic relationships, and while i didn’t say anything i always thought that was too early to be in a relationship with anyone.  i remember thinking people were ‘cute’, but it was nothing too big.  at 11 i wanted to play; i wanted to still be a kid, and dating seemed like a big responsibility no kid should really be experiencing, with emotional baggage peering around the corner.

of course, even at that age i was accused of being gay- ‘what- you don’t like boys?  well you CLEARLY like girls!!!’.  even at that age, to me sexuality and intense romantic feelings were private.  i wasn’t even processing sexual orientation at that age, and yet people decided to label me long before i felt ready to have romantic relationships.  and of course (because they felt sorry for me), people decided to set me up with a young man who went to the same school, who was more ready than i ever was.  i remember thinking that i was not into him, but i quietly/reluctantly obliged, noting one of the few times i recall actually caving into peer or societal pressure.  another girl was into him…  and he treated her quite mean.  i thought to myself, ‘is this what it’s like?’ and i knew this was not the life i wanted.

despite not being into romantic relationships at that time, i’ve always been a romantic in some way, even as a child.  i’ve always been an idealist to varying degrees, wanting to see others happy, even if i wasn’t.  i remember a couple of my classmates being romantically linked; one of them knew that i wrote poetry, so they wanted me to write a piece, declaring love to the other.  i was always interested in why people saw certain things in each other, and i  was also interested in how i could write about something at that age that i’ve never really felt or experienced.

i remember all throughout older childhood and preadolescence i would do things for people- cleaning their desks, patting their heads, writing things for them; and i wonder if it was a way for me to get the attention from my peers in the way i wasn’t getting at home.  it wasn’t until i was in my 20s that i was aware of how much boundaries existed for people.  i didn’t realize that people in my world generally weren’t as starved for affection as i was.

it wasn’t until i was 15- a late bloomer to some- before i actually ‘officially’ liked anyone, thinking i could just declare my feelings.  after this period came a series of mishandled relationships and mass rejections.  throughout this time i spent time with a lot of guys significantly older than me, and was usually the ‘little sister’.  very rarely did any of these men declare feelings for me.  the men i hung out with usually were in committed relationships, and did not stray from that.  in fact, i became friendly with their wives and partners; thus dispelling the myth that women and men can’t be ‘just friends’.

i was always the ‘bridesmaid’, the ‘friend’…  i’ve always been convinced that this was how i was going to live out the rest of my days.  admittedly it was something i found comfort in, due to this extreme fear of rejection.  for a while i was actually sad about it, since the older i got i saw a lot of my friends and acquaintances getting married and becoming parents.  relationships gradually change once you have other commitments to tend to.  there’s not much in the way of rationalizing the ‘cat lady’ future (as mentioned in the inaugural post); it just appears to be something that is.  i’ve just learned to accept it, and cherish the relationships i’ve had when i had them.  i know that i’ve learned something from everyone, even if it seems minute.

my fear of rejection has lessened tremendously over the years, and i’ve learned to take each case of it as a lesson.

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and here is where we return to music.  for many artists, depression or devastating events fuel what one does with their art.  at some points it’s a reflection, and others, a diversion.

there are two artists i have in mind when i think of this:  michael jackson (who i consider my teacher (and have a different blog dedicated to him)) and isaac hayes.  both artists were phenomenal performers and composers in their own right, as well as generous outside of their profession.  both helped to build/fund schools in the continent of africa; both were crowned honorary kings (in ghana and côte d’ivoire, respectfully), both were concerned about injustice…  their painful experiences also fuelled their art.

recently watching films documenting their lives (either personal or through performance) put things in perspective for me.  mr. hayes was said by friends and family members to have suffered from a low-self esteem.  and of course michael has publicly stated that he did what he did in terms of his looks, in order to please his father.  both men in my view were incredibly handsome; and even though both took advantage of their looks to get mileage out of their performances, somehow there was something in their minds which stated the opposite.

having experienced strong issues with self-esteem, i empathize with these two men.  no matter how beautiful people think or say you are, there’s something different in the brain wiring which either makes you think they’re actually calling you ugly, or that they want something from you.  and if you don’t strive towards self-rewiring, the places you can go can lend to a potentiality of danger.

both michael and isaac hayes seemingly overcompensated in their performances to make up for whatever peace of mind they lacked.  they needed audiences to fuel them; they needed to keep working to feel relatively whole.  it’s also interesting that both were constant seekers of a spiritual resolve or peace.

there is something about art that leads people who have struggled to it.  for some it’s escapism, and others it’s for the purpose of healing/community/storytelling.  i began writing songs and poetry when i was 8 years old.  there’s always been a lot on my mind, and creative expression was the one thing i identified with.  as a child i used to write about things such as my imaginary friends, and i graduated to the teenage years with writing about morbid subjects, to reflect whatever depression i was going through.  at times i’d even sneak in actual events. i look at some of this stuff now, and i don’t regret anything i’ve written; for it’s proof that i’ve come a long way in not only my creative journey, but emotional as well.

in this journey i’m also learning to say ‘no’.  i do advocate for pushing the limit (or even ‘going the extra mile’) when it comes to some things; however, i’ve realized that capacity is everything.  if you tap out your resources for personal, creative and spiritual growth there becomes a point where you may run out of things to contribute or produce, and you end up repeating yourself out of habit.  if you don’t openly state where your capacity lies, you may run the risk of people taking advantage of you.

people who have not grown up in a place of love may not be aware of where the capacity lies, so they may be unusually nice to people, in comparison to their peers.  the need for love is so great that boundaries appear to be nowhere in sight.  this seems to be what happened with mr. hayes and michael- i definitely know this is what happened to me growing up.

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capacity lends to the weight of something.  again, whatever capacity you have, this most likely will determine how much energy you give to something.  the more energy you have makes less room for negation or lapses in discernment- you are better able to clearly see the types of energy in people you encounter.  the more energy you have makes less room for mistakes.

do mistakes carry weight?  indeed they do, and paraphrasing mr. samuel, they do depend on how you feel- about yourself, and the world around you.  yes, there are genuine mistakes people make at their jobs, there are mistakes that happen with equipment or electronics, there are financial errors, etc.  right now though i’m speaking to the types of mistakes specifically to human relationships.  since this is the case i am wondering if bob ross was right when he stated there were no such thing as mistakes- “only happy accidents.”  did mr. ross’ statement even apply to humans, or just art?

depending on how one feels, those ‘mistakes’ can be used as life lessons, devoid of the negative connotations mistakes carry on their shoulders.  these ‘mistakes’ can really be gifts at times.  i find that encountering the same (negative) patterns in relationships leads to a time for me to reevaluate where i am at in life, and to examine myself.  i have worked hard at making the capacity for self-doubt smaller, so i can make room for allowing these lessons to come in.

and once you’ve opened yourself to that capacity; once you’ve tapped into that energy you’ll be able to fit anywhere in this world.  it doesn’t matter if others don’t say you fit.  whatever love or compassion you have for yourself is going to reflect your interactions with those individuals, whether or not you openly have love for them.  you may not love (or even like) a person; because of where you are in your life, addressing that person with the same respect you demand for yourself is going to be a higher priority than addressing them with the same negativity they deliver towards you.  when this happens- in my experience anyway- the person usually responds in kind, without the negative tone, or…  they tend to just go away.

self-love, self-respect and self-appreciation really do carry weight- and it’s much stronger than pride, which can be unsteady if rooted in negativity.  as the saying goes, ‘there’s only one way to go but down’; so a sense of humility is important- not just to formulate better relationships with others, but to also be open to learning more from your ‘mistakes’.

peace…

every day alive…

i do my best to listen to the universe’s lessons; i do admit there are times i fall into the trap of reverting to a sense of finality based on my feelings of the current state of what’s presented to me.

knowing that i’m here for a journey (with the attempt at little to no expectations- thus contradicting my first statement) i decided to create a new blog page.  the name of this site is inspired by my favourite song ever in the whole world, ‘home’ (written by charlie smalls).  we’ve become so conditioned to disconnect from the roots which prompt our growth- the community, the skills, the song inside of us- those things we’ve known all along, and have every opportunity to continue knowing about.

suddenly my world’s gone and changed its face
but I still know where i’m going
i have had my mind spun around in space
yet i’ve watched it growing

every day alive…  is a good day.  every tear that falls, every laugh, every drop of rain on your glasses.  every day, there’s a moment to learn from life’s errors, to rebuild bridges.  no moment is insignificant.  no moment is final, yet every moment is impermanent.  welcoming that change is a part of that journey.  it took me many years to accept this aspect of my journey, and to ask for assistance when i am lost.

accepting my gifts?  admittedly it’s been a struggle, in the context of the society i live in.  much of the time i feel like an anomaly, and my way of coping is just spending time alone- but never am i lonely.  i always imagined myself to be one of those old cat ladies, living out the rest of my life in a cabin and working in some capacity as a caregiver.

indeed, i’ve come to the point where i actually appreciate the life i live.  it has been an intensely long journey after a series of relationships which negatively impacted my life.  i decided to take the time out for myself and assure those negative individuals no longer had control over me. growing up in an abusive environment, i began to see my adult life play out in the same way, and i had to step back and spend time alone until i was successful in sincerely valuing myself.

it took eight long years for me to openly even say i LIKE myself.  the mantra of “you’re stupid/ugly/worthless” played out in my mind as a child like a bad pop hit on the radio… it only seemed a natural progression to initiate a relationship with a man who was possessive and abusive, out of fear that i would never know what it was like to be in one.  thinking there would be an emotional growth, the focus for him was more physical.  while certainly i obliged that, and while we also had moments which were truly intimate; i knew that both of us were with each other to fill a void.

i made a decision that i would not do things out of fear, or the feeling of loss.  the void would never be filled in healthy ways if i didn’t do this.  i have also accepted my desire to not play the game, and the consequences that come with that.  because of this, again, i feel like an anomaly.  i do not take part in the rituals of finding a mate- the bars, the clubs, the websites.  i do not drink alcohol, i don’t do drugs (not even pharmaceuticals), i don’t do the small talk which helps to identify if someone is available at the moment.  i don’t dress ‘sexy’, i don’t wear high heels.  i don’t wear makeup.  i don’t utilize the signifiers that would make me remotely attractive to someone trying to find a ‘girlfriend’.

i have been told by some that i have maintained an innocence very rare in this society today.  i’m sure their views are partially guided by the actions named above.

for me, relationships (no matter what capacity they’re in) are very important.  i value the time i spend with someone, and the idea of meeting someone to ‘date’ does not appeal to me.

for me, the word ‘date’ has far too many associations with limited relationships.  just as a date on a calendar lasts for 24 hours per year (for instance we only get one january 1st per year),  a date in my mind implies there’s no interest in building something deeper or more consistent.  a date seems to imply (again in my mind) that the attraction to a person was primarily physical, and the purpose for getting together is to have brief encounters of physical intimacy.

this also applies to the word ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’.  as a woman nearing 40, i want to formulate a stimulating, beneficial, mature relationship with an adult, not a child; someone who is not fearful of displaying his vulnerabilities alongside his strengths.  ‘girlfriend’ and ‘boyfriend’ again, seem limited in scope.

it may seem like semantics to some, a crazy theory to others; however, to contrast a date with a ‘boyfriend’ with an actual companionship lends to different imagery.  as long as i can remember i’ve never actually been interested in dating, and i always desired a companionship based on a deep spiritual/emotional bond between myself and my partner.  this companionship is based on compromise, on declaring needs, honoring independence and on sharing ideas.  when this is established, a physical relationship would be a positive addition to an already positive relationship.

as much as i say this, i am going to be honest and say i don’t know if this is something that will happen for me.  i think my ‘innocence’ (as others see it) gets in the way.  it’s seemingly not a particularly desirable trait, in accordance with societal norms.  i am definitely a lot less closed off to the idea of a partnership than i used to be- i used to say i would never let anyone know how i felt about them, since whenever i did it always ended in pain or rejection.  still, while i have come to welcome the idea of a partner in my life (and even the rejection that comes my way), it’s still an idea.  again, i don’t play the game, nor do i have a desire to.  people tend to see my naivete pertaining to the game and are either turned off, or take advantage of it.

so yes, i have come to accept the potentiality of the ‘crazy cat lady’ future.  i don’t necessarily see this as bad; i mean, i love cats!  i don’t even see the notion of spinsterdom (if that’s even a word at all) being a bad thing, if that’s how one chooses to live.  so many of us are dependent on the idea that we get our life from these so-called dream relationships, without taking into account that (a. the focus on romantic relationships negates the fact that EVERY person we encounter in our daily lives is forming a relationship with us, no matter how minute, and (b. the first and greatest relationship we can form with someone is with the self.  when you have those two things figured out, i can guarantee (from experience) that the relationships you have with others will vastly improve.

if a person were to come into my life and end up as my companion/partner, that would be wonderful; but it’s not the end of my world if it doesn’t happen.

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i find it intriguing that i’m even writing about this subject.  first, it’s something very private and second, i tend to focus on things like sociopolitical analysis (some of which you will get from this blog).  there’s this need for me to welcome a general capacity of love in my life right now.  just like with sociopolitical theory i’ve always looked at love as this abstract thing.  it was always something others could attain, but not me.   love was always that flower that was so wonderful to observe, but you were afraid to be cut by the thorns.  this “sweet yet painful” sensation was written about so eloquently by the great teena marie:

i am the bird that cannot be caged completely
even though I long to spread my wings so bittersweetly

the action of being in love should allow room for flight; for to fall in love symbolizes engine trouble.  that engine is the heart, and the fuel, blood.  the blood pumps back and forth to the heart in order to maintain compassion through the turbulence.  when you ‘fall for’ someone there may be a tendency to lose sense of self. the heart drives one’s nurturing and compassion for the self.  this is all so very new for me, this realization that i have to nurture myself to move on.

i’ve always felt this drive to be nurturing in some way, to care for those who are vulnerable.  i connect all of this with letting go- of a personal item of mine, of time…  to make food for a friend; to create a song for them, to give them something which has been yours for years, they’re all wonderful things.  perhaps this is the role i am to play, as destined by the universe.

i am learning how to make more time for myself, as opposed to usually making time for others.  part of living compassionately for others is accepting that you have needs, and that there’s nothing wrong with vocalizing them.  you must care for yourself first.

this month has been busy to the point where i haven’t had time to sit with myself; however, i decided to stay up the other night and begin making some earrings.  i haven’t done crafts in a serious manner for a while,  and it felt good to do so.  weaving fabric around and  together is quite meditative.  there is something to be said for ancestral memory here.

first earrings.JPG
think.JPG
second earrings.JPG

when i think now, i begin to think of home.  i think of creativity (and returning to it), of listening to my heart.  of finding that surety amongst the insecurity (to once again take inspiration from ms. brockert).

i had a lovely flight and hope that you’ve enjoyed
the change you brought upon my mind

country or city, it makes no difference…  to me

as long as i am breathing in your wisdom songs

forever i’m in love and free

this writing here is about letting go…  it’s about the ultimate knowledge of even the perception of my ‘innocence’ being a reaction to a society which no longer encourages self-reflection.  admittedly i may be running towards finality in some respects, not yet able to see what others see in me; but i do know what i see in myself for now, and  i can say i am finally beginning to like what i see.

and it’s starting to feel like home.

peace…