All the words you want

My website is changing… evolving… transforming!  from a little, hairy, yellow and black caterpillar into, um, a little yellow and black butterfly.  Soon, I hope, it will be unrecognizable. But it will still have my face. Yes, my face with antennae and 36 eyes or whatever. It will still be mine, and I hope you’ll stick around to witness the rebirth, and that you won’t stomp on me with your big human feet.

Never swim alone

Well, yesterday I went for my first swim in months.  It didn’t feel like it used to. Where I was strong, I am weak.  All the muscles that used to work together are out of tune and awkward sounding. All the movements that used to blend together jar and jangle.  And today I ached all over and slept too much.  But I am still happier than I was the day before yesterday, because yesterday, I went for my first swim in months.

Even before injury and illness and the seasons of body and earth kept me from the pool, I was not a good swimmer. When I am at my best, strongest and most consistent, I am neither fast nor powerful, my  form is bad, I don’t know how to whip kick, I can’t front crawl anymore because I can’t seem to coordinate my breathing– it makes me gag, like going to the dentist does.  So I slowly make my way from one end of the pool to another– breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke without the arms. I just kick, not even using a flutter board. I swim for 40 minutes, if you can call it swimming.

People who don’t know what a good swimmer really can do, think I am a good swimmer. But compared to almost anyone who swims regularly, I am almost ridiculous. I swallow water, end up stopping and coughing and gagging almost every occasion I am in the water, at least once.

One day I was in the lane next to the very slowest lane. A tall young guy got in the slow lane and started swimming. it wasn’t swimming really… it was like he was a living submarine. He kicked once or twice,  and travelled  the length of the pool without coming up for air. I was in awe, because I had never seen anyone swim that way. I imagined he might be an Olympic athlete visiting from some other country because I never saw him there again.

If I compared myself to people who are good swimmers, never mind giants of towering greatness like that guy was, I couldn’t set foot in the pool.  But I don’t, anymore. No matter how uninspired and unaccomplished a swimmer I am, I love the water. I feel at home there, as much as I feel at home anywhere.  Swimming gives order to my body and my mind and my life.  Weirdly, it gives me hope. I think that’s because it strengthens me, and when I feel strong and capable, I feel like  other things don’t matter, because I know I can survive on my own strength if i have to.

I am not sure where desire to feel I can survive came from, because I have been incredibly lucky not to have suffered lack of money or family support or to have been hurt by anyone in a way that would make me preoccupied with survival.  The only person I have had to fight for survival against is my self.

I grew up like so many perfectionistic kids, anxious about a lot of things and tortured, like so many women, by hatred of my own body. But at the same time as I wanted to be a twig and a waif, I wanted to be able to outrun or if necessary outkick, punch and bite  anyone who wanted to do me harm.  It may be because I did a lot of walking by myself, but more likely it was because I had hermetically sealed myself off from almost everyone, psychologically.

I still find it hard to be a human being. When I am ill, I am very, very ill and it always comes down to whether or not I am too afraid to die or not. No question about wanting to live, just fear of the pain of dying and what comes after.  I argue  with myself. I try to think my way out of hopelessness. Nothing works. I make a plan.  I clean up my place, wear the clothes I want to be found in, and go somewhere, but I don’t go through with it. Last time I made it to the hotel desk to rent  a room, so no one would find me for a while. But in the end, I think I have too much fear  in me, at bottom, even at my darkest, to go through with it.

I guess this fear has saved me, and  drives me to do a lot of things, including swimming. But so does love. I love swimming. I am afraid of people but I love them too. I am afraid of writing, but I love it. I am afraid of having nothing but myself to depend on, but I am still aiming for that.

I love the idea of owning nothing but what I can carry on my back, like a turtle and being strong and healthy and capable enough to survive anywhere. But I know somehow I am just trying to get free of myself and the way to do that is not by swimming or writing or any of the other things I do. I know what I have to do. It’s not a secret. And it doesn’t involve running away or kicking and biting.

It doesn’t exclude swimming and writing though. It encompasses them. It smiles when I do things I love in the service of my own health and happiness. It likes joy, it is abundant and forgiving and helpful. It is what I’m swimming in and for and toward.

Where are they?

I wrote this poem a couple years ago, and added an addendum yesterday. Sadly, I imagine there will be more in years to come. Wanted to post it before International Women’s Day on Saturday… since I am sick and not able to read it in person– missing, myself– anyone who would like to share it at a Women’s Day event has my blessing.

 

Missing Women

There are women missing
From this page.
Their names have been erased.

Those girls— gazelle-like
Plodding, fiery—
Who married men and vanished
Into kitchens, laundries, nurseries,
We’ve lost their sisters too,
Either chaste or fallen,
To the convents of oblivion.

Those other girls who spoke too loudly,
Dressed too brightly, thought too boldly
burned like comets in the night
Writers, thinkers, artists, mystics
We called them by some other names
“witches , bitches, too big for their britches”.

There were those who sold themselves
But whose lives were stolen
On the Highway of Tears,
Their names obscured
In a rising dust
their bodies hidden somewhere
from the headlights of our fears.

Some disappeared before they were born
absent from the human swell
That floods the River Ganges,
And the rice paddies of China-
All those nameless ones.

Others hide in plain sight,
Burka –bound,
Anonymous.
Only their eyes
Alert, alive
Not hidden from the gaze of men.

The missing women
Whose names have fled this page,
I write this for you
In your absence
And imagine you
Shiny-haired in moonlight
Closing the books that contain
The stories of your disappearance,
Standing in the shadows
Among us, the silent sisters,
The missing ones.

ADDENDUM- March 5, 2014

There are women missing from this poem
Anna Mae, Loretta
dumped from your bodies
like so much earth

the women who were men once,
or who live as men
behind the fragile curtain of their sex
the same curtain
that hides us from ourselves

the girls who
brief as lightning
shared their flesh with enemies
behind a screen,
who hounded them to death.

Those who strangled
when we looked the other way

Retaeh Parsons
Ashley Smith
Amanda Todd

They took your hands
Anna Mae Aquash
graceful warrior

we miss you

Loretta Saunders,
little laurel, pure
your name inscribed now
in the book of earth
among
so many
wild and
flint-eyed readers,
unseen
sisters
missing
ones.

by Anna Quon

Stinking tired

Well there’s a few things I’m kind of interested in writing about but it’s probably not going to happen because i am so lacking in energy today I might be compared unfavourably to a seaslug in a hammock. But I feel like writing and have been neglecting this space so long that I’m afraid the SPCB might come after me, and it’s time… before I do a lot of other things… to pay some attention to this poor bloggamine.

There’s a lot worth dis-Putin’ about the Olympics in Sochi, but I am going to keep my reMarx to myself. There’s a few things Rob Ford needs to kick and have kicked, but I have already let the stink blow off that one, and no matter how often the stink blows back, well… you eventually learn to wear a gas mask.

I am actually too tired to write anything except that one fo the reasons I am tired is I am loving my job, which at the moment involves working with a bunch of wonderful people on a pilot episode of a tv show celebrating mental wellness. It’s pretty damned exciting, annd i hope to learn huge gobs of stuff…as well as getting to write scripts, draw pictures, etc.

I am hugely tired just thinking about it but also so glad to be spending my Fridays on that stuff… if I have more energy I’d let you know what else i’m doing but rest assured… did someone say rest? I will do so when the stink of the Olympics has dissipated.

fat is the new…um…

I want to write about being fat but I’m not sure yet what I’m going to say. Except that I am more comfortable in this fat-plumped skin of mine today than I have been at pretty much any other time of my life, fat or thin. I like and appreciate and treat my body with more affection and respect than I have in a long time. And for those who say actions speak louder than words, the fact that I spend time and money feeding it properly and exercising it and dressing it in clothes that it feels good in, seems like evidence to me.

That said, I would like to be thinner. I would also like to be taller, longer-legged, with with more hair. And smarter, wittier, deeper, better-read and more financially secure, less awkward in groups, more assertive, less self-centred, cooler, less conservative, more joyful, less apt to believe people don’t like me before I give them a chance, more brave at all kinds of thing.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, we probably all have things we’d like to change about ourselves, and the physical things are in there with the intellectual, emotional, spiritual things. I do not think it is necessarily unhealthy or ill-headed to have physical aspirations, any more than it is to have the other kinds. It’s when a person or society or culture makes an extremist or fundamentalist religion out of them that I see as a problem.

In our time and place in the world, we talk about valuing diversity, and inclusion. These too are aspirations, and we cannot be expected to shed our prejudices, stereotypes, misconceptions, and limitations right away in order to embrace diversity and inclusion perfectly. But if we really value those things, we can ask ourselves at every turn to question our desire for them, and whether they are really in the service of our happiness and that of humanity.

If i want to be smarter, is there something wrong with being less smart? People have different brands and sizes of smartness, and when i say i want to be smarter, what do i mean exactly? It might be nice to have more mechanical or business smarts, and some people strive for those… good thing they do or we’d all be sitting around with broken typewriters. But What I mean, I think, is to be better able to think deeply about a subject, make distinctions and formulate an argument. These are not things that are a matter of increasing intellectual capacity necessarily, but they are a matter of practice, interest and care. I think it is praiseworthy to want to apply myself to things I am interested in and care about. I don’t think it would be worthy of me, or realistic or productive, to wish I had a different brain.

The same goes for bodies. I think it is fine to want to be physically healthier and more attractive. “Healthy” seems to be universally accepted as something that contributes to increased happiness, and, it could be argued, we have a biological as well as a cultural drive to be attractive as it presumably leads to more sexual, social and professional “success”. Those things, a well as “feeling better about ourselves”, may well contribute to greater personal happiness.

However, if we equate extreme forms of physical characteristics with physical perfection we are missing the boat. They are mostly arbitrary fashions, and impossible for the vast majority of people to achieve without cosmetic surgery, which is an extreme measure.

I can’t help but think that when we are accepting and appreciative of our own bodies, their own peculiar loveliness and individuality, we can begin to appreciate the diversity of other bodies around us. It is a cliche to say, wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same, but it is as true of human bodies as well as of garden flowers. It is easier to befriend your body when it feels good and works the way you want and looks the way you want, but when your idea of how you want it to work and look is rigidly prescribed by someone else and impossible to achieve, it becomes a problem- for you, and for everyone you are in contact with. and for society at large.

I don’t always like my body, when I compare it to other bodies and to the Photoshopped, barbie-fetishized images of models and movie stars. But the spiritual advice that I subscribe to says not to compare ourselves to others. It is a hard lesson to learn and practice but a worthwhile one, I have come to believe, if i want to be happy… and it means i need to feed myself less visual junk, just as i need to feed myself less junk food, if i want a body that i feel good and attractive in. In our way we are all working toward happiness, and having tried other ways that don’t work well for long, I am now trying this one.

It is not possible to be attractive to everyone, just as it is not possible to like everyone. But a person can work on seeing the positive in themselves and their bodies and resisting the urge to compare themselves to others, and hopefully that will lead to wider acceptance of a wider variety of individual styles and shapes and sizes, body-wise and mental, emotional and spirit-wise. And vice versa. Personal happiness and the good of humanity flow from one to the other. So do us all a favour and accept yourself. And do me a favour and accept me and help me accept myself. But no pressure. we’re all just working on it together.

unafFordability

I have been wondering what it is about Rob Ford that’s been making me so angry. Maybe it’s obvious, to other people who are angry about Rob Ford, but I suspected I might just be hungry and tired. In the end, it turns out that wasn`t the the only reason for my sputtering rage. And it`s not just Ford I`m angry at.

I watched CBC`s Fifth Estate on the Ford fiasco and read a Globe and Mail story that described the bad behaviour of Toronto’s mayor, which has been not only bad but criminal and threatening and possibly murderous.I haven’t seen the video of him smoking crack. I don’t really need to… he has admitted to it; and that’s not what I am angry about. What angers me is his lying about his drug use to the people of his city, repeatedly, only to admit and say he was sorry for it when he was backed into a corner by the video evidence.

You might ask, what more do I expect? Nothing, from him. Least of all do i expect sincere contrition. But from the people he supposedly serves, I expect better. I would expect more outrage that Ford has lied to, hoodwinked, and treated them like inconsequential fools, instead of hearing they’re shaking their heads in dismay or even erecting billboards in his support reading “Ford = fiscal responsibility”. So if a Hitler-loving child pornographer balances his books, I guess he might be an acceptable future mayor?

Several people I know have a softer approach to Ford, pointing to his addiction as an illness. Denial, lies and cover-ups are apparently hallmarks of the brain disorder characterized by addictive behaviour, according to one expert interviewed about Ford’s psychological profile. That might be so, but I doubt that dishonesty is physiologically-based. Still, I could be wrong about that– what I am quite sure I am right about is that Ford knew he was lying and that he knew lying was wrong. If he was psychotic and thought by smoking crack and lying about it, that he would save the universe, I would grant that he was not responsible for his actions, but I don’t think that’s the case. If people are not outraged by the lies then maybe they could find it in themselves to be outraged by the second video to hit the news, showing Ford ranting about wanting to kill someone.

There is evidence that threats were made by people connected to organized crime as well as to Ford, against those in possession of the video of the mayor smoking crack; one young man who appeared in a photo with Ford outside an alleged crack house, Anthony Smith, was gunned down in a battle between a gangs that may have had connections to Ford; and known violent criminal and friend of Ford , Alexander Lisi is on trial for extortion, having tried to obtain the video from a friend of Smith’s who was wounded in the same gun battle that killed him. Records show that Lisi had many phone conversations with Ford on the day he tried to gain possession of that video.

All this may mean nothing, and it might mean something. Ford hasn’t been charged, tried or convicted yet, but the evidence for his criminality and reckless disregard for the welfare of other people seems to be mounting. What gets me more is that people might be willing to excuse the behaviour of a public figure and “leader” on the basis of his possible addiction and mental health issues. He may well have them, and he should get help for them, once he is willing to admit to them, and to take responsibility for the things he’s done under their influence and in order to cover them up, which I see as two distinct things.

But the fact is someone can be a bad ass, a psychopath and/or an entitled jerk, and have an addiction too– they are not mutually exclusive. According to the Fifth Estate, Ford was well-known for dealing drugs in high school, long before he became Mayor or before his sister came out as a heroin addict, which may have precipitated the decline in his behaviour. In other words, his criminality and bad-assery seems to have preceded his political career and likely his mental health issues.

A drug-addicted prostitute or a homeless crack addict doesn’t get the kind of “pass” that some people are dealing Ford. Ford would never have given them a pass either, although he may well have smoked up with them. And the hypocrisy in that is one thing that irks me, but the most important thing perhaps is that Ford must see himself as somehow entitled to the kind of indulgence he would not himself afford others who are less well- placed and powerful than he is. Which leads me to wonder what else in his personal and political life has been a sham and when will he be ready to acknowledge the harm he’s done and take responsibility for it? Because before he “moves on” as he hopes, he better make sure the crack house of his past is in order, that his misdeeds are bought and paid for, and that he acknowledges the price of addiction to himself, his family, his city and the tax payers he professes to care so much about. Otherwise, who can afford to give Rob Ford another chance?

hotter than habaneros

It’s very hot here in Nova Scotia today. If a person has a thick skin or a hot head, i pity them today, because it’s too hot for that. It’s too hot for the news of Trayvon and other outrageous stories from Florida and Texas circulating on the internet. Too hot for anger and tears although there must be plenty a-brewing down there in the hotlands of America.

Something about summer just makes me want to give up. Lie back in a tub of ice and forget about tomorrow. It’s really the news that goes along with summer, the dumbfounding, head-numbing, unfathomable heat of these stories, the outsized, outlandish outerspaciness of the solar flares and super novas of feeling that accompany them.

Some people’s heads are like baked Alaskas. Hot as hell outside, ruthlessly, toothachingly cold inside. I don’t know. Some poeple are crazier than a sack of bats. The hotter it gets the less I understand.

Antipodal Antigonish

when it finally cooled down...

when it finally cooled down…

I had a chat with my mum in New Zealand today. It was a beautiful morning she said, a little windy. It’s hot as hell here I told her. I could almost feel her gratitude beaming at me through the computer (like the sun… as though we needed more of that), for being somewhere wintery.

Damn it. When I am my mother’s age I won’t have the money to take off to NZ. I’ll be heading north I guess, along with some of my other heat-intoleraant, poorer friends. North meaning, Cape Breton maybe, because North North is expensive too. Though maybe when the ice caps melt and the polar bears disappear, North North might just turn into another suburb of Toronto.

Antigonish is hot. Well everywhere in NS is hot this weekend, but in Antigonish there’s a long, almost treeless stretch of street between me and the air conditioned library. There are also a couple funeral homes on the way and i’m afraid of vultures. It’s too hot to linger on the sidewalk, or a person could be mistaken for carrion and either devoured by a hunchbacked bird or given a decent burial.

It’s too hot to do much except sit still, sleep and mindlessly eat icecream and facebook people who have better, cooler things to do. Like going swimming, or spelunking in ice caves.

I don’t know what a person does to keep cool in Antigonish. I guess if you have a car, you go to the beach. Where I come from the lake is the poor man’s ocean, but in Antigonish there are rivers. I haven’t seen anyone swimming in them. Is it just not done? I so wanted to just go sit in the river this morning on my way to buy a fan at Canadian Tire but i womdered how polluted it might be; and since i am not a kid but a middle aged personage, what would people’s reaction be if I went and sat in the river?

still in Antigonish there is no water shortage that i have heard of. We are not being warned to use less water although of course we should use less, not just now but all the time. still it was nice to run a cool bath and not worry that I’m depriving some young mum of diaper-washing water or worse, Kool-aid making water for her kids, like they might be in Halifax.

The way to keep cool is, I guess, to avoid getting hot. Don’t move around much. Stay out of the sun. Drink lots of water. Same here in Antiognish as everywhere else… I just wish the town would start charging admission to the river so i’d know it was ok to plonk myself down in it.