What not to wear this Halloween

I loved Halloween as a kid. Running around in the dark, half spooked, breath ghosting the air, feeling my pillowcase get heavier and heavier with wonderful things like chips and chocolate bars. There were stories of older kids stealing candy from younger ones. I  thought how unspeakably cruel that was, but I never knew anyone that had that happen to them. Then when I was 14 living in Boulder, Colorado,  there was a scare of some kind–someone tampering with Halloween treats. I wondered how twisted did a person have to be to do something like that.  Everyone was a little worried.

Now there are teal pumpkins to protect kids with food allergies by signifying homes giving out allergy safe treats.  Seems like a great idea…  sad that it has to be done but for whatever reason food allergies seem to be a lot more prevalent and teal pumpkins  help Halloween to be inclusive of everyone, including the kid with a deathly tree nut allergy.  There is also a conversation about Halloween costumes, the ones that are offensive to some because they are seen to be culturally insensitive and inappropriate. To others, the conversation itself is offensive. But to a big majority is seems to be a conversation that bewilders. From the comments made  on cross Country Check-up tonight, people don’t seem to know what the fuss is about. The vast majority agree that “black face” is offensive  but don’t seem to know what to do with other cultural and religious depictions in costume.

Most people don’t have the intention of hurting anyone with a costume, and yet nevertheless, costumes apparently have the ability to hurt people.  I think this is indisputable because people have said , “That costume hurts and offends me.”  It doesn’t matter that someone doesn’t mean to hurt a person, it still hurts.  People may say another person has no reason to hurt. It’s just an innocent costume, they say. Some people will be  concerned enough to change their costume because they don’t want to hurt the people who  expressed their feelings.  It’s when people get angry to be told that a costume is insensitive, hurtful and offensive, that I begin to think that they feel threatened to be told they have even inadvertently done something that hurt another person. It’s weird because  if someone stepped on another person’s foot without meaning to, and were told that it hurt, they wouldn’t get red in the face and tell the person they’d hurt that they have no reason to hurt, that they are infringing on their rights by telling them they’ve been hurt.  They’d get off the person’s foot, apologize,and try not to do it again.

I think the problem is really that people like me, raised in a society which has oppressed and violated and destroyed whole cultures, don’t see it or don’t want to see it. Both are problems for  the people at the other end of that oppression.

There’s a big and interesting conversation to be had about how to address this problem. I see it as a problem, when the stated feelings of people are not acknowledged. Some think that legislating bans against certain types of costumes is the way to go. I don’t really know. Rules can be a helpful tool to creating social change and changing minds, but it seems like there should be better ways. It always does seem like there should be better ways, and there are, if only we would use them.

Listening to the people who say they are hurt would be a start.  Not brushing them off, not talking over them, and not dismissing their feelings as nonsense. I have learned the hard way that I should shut up sometimes and not talk, but listen. I recommend it as a starting point to a meaningful conversation with hurting people.
















i need to let go

but i don’t want to

it’s only a reflex


it’s only a reflection

of a need long ago


like when you were waiting

that time

at the airport with the sign

with their name on it

but they never came.

That fear of abandoning

the thing your heart


in case it forgets

how to want something else.










Gastroliths and goodbyes

saying goodbye to people places and things. it’s like eating pebbles, it’s that hard– but apparently some birds do that because it helps them digest. I am just a featherless chicken… and clearly balking at the need for gastroliths… that’s what the swallowed pebbles are called. whoever invented goodbyes probably never had to use one. just like it was probably a man who invented the corset. it was probably someone with no heart and eyes in the back of their head who invented goodbyes.

seeking writing pad

I’m planning to go live somewhere else for three months in the fall, and I’m scared. Scared I’ll be lonely and unproductive, scared I will feel miserable and question why I decided to do it. I love Halifax and Dartmouth and I love my friends and I’ll  miss them like crazy. I’ll miss my family and swimming at the pool at my friend’s apartment building and being able to hop on a bus and just go somewhere and the CMHA and the coffee shops.   I’ll miss  having a familiar routine of sorts. My new routine will incorporate several hours of writing a day, walks, reading and a good deal of solitude I imagine. Most of all it will involve getting caught up in my novel again, and hopefully finishing a rough draft.

That sounds a little like heaven,hell and purgatory all mixed up together. It isn’t going to be easy clearly. But is it the right decision to go away to write? People do it all the time. But for three months?

I will need music. I will need to cook and eat well, exercise enough and sleep enough. I will need appropriate clothing for the weather which will be edging toward winter at the end. Honestly I am not sure I am entirely cut out for this adventure but I’ve done something like it before and managed alright. This time I am sticking closer to home for a lot of reasons, some of which I don’t have words for.

I’m looking for a place to do this thing. I’ve decided it needs to be near water.  Does anyone know such a place? I can pay rent or cat sit. I can do  my own dishes and keep to myself. I need laundry facilities and wifi, and  it needs to be non-smoking. I’m going to see a place this weekend, but it might not be the right place. It needs to be.






trying to think about what’s happening out there


So it comes down to this. Someone takes a life, and someone takes another life as retribution, and someone responds by taking another life, and so on and so forth. It’s not really difficult to see why that doesn’t work out well, doesn’t lead to lasting change, and doesn’t end. In fact, to think otherwise is a little mind-boggling and more than a little unscientific. People in favour of violent response to violence and war might think they are the realists, but they are in fact the polyannas of the world.”I will just apply this little bit of violence and destruction to this particular issue and everything will be better.”

However, people who feel themselves to be under threat will defend themselves and their families. They will fight to survive, and this seems like a reasonable thing to do. Black and brown people are under threat on many fronts in North America. It is not an opinion but a fact. The stats on who dies more often at the hands of police, who is incarcerated at higher rates, whose health and homes and livelihoods are most jeopardized by poverty and insecurity, you will find it is not Caucasians. And if you point the finger at the people who are most at risk of death and misery because of this situation– dark-skinned people– then that too seems like a rather ludricous and irrational conclusion to jump to.

Would people who truly have an equal opportunity at happiness and success for themselves and their children turn it down in favour of lives where they struggle to survive, or are threatened by violence? I don’t think so. Not by choice. It doesn’t make sense. In fact the whole picture seems weirdly surreal and inexplicable until you factor in systemic racism. Then a coherent picture begins to emerge.

These are really broad strokes. I guess i’m painting them that way because I am beginning to see things that way. If you get up close to the picture you will see a lot of bewildering details, some of which seem relevant and some of which seem arbitrary; but when you stand back you can see the swaths of colour. whole communities, whole ethnicities, that have been painted with the same brush.

I am as racist, as biased and  as dumb as the next person. I say that while believing in the essential goodness of humanity, because although I think of myself as an individual with a free mind and free will, I am only free within certain limitations and parameters. I am a part of  this painting after all.  But I have been squinting at this picture for awhile now. That’s me, the little pale yellow dot trying to float free– like a balloon, hoping to get a bird’s eye view of this place.

As I get older my mind becomes less sharp it seems, less acute, less able to find the key, but I do see things differently. Even if I am not able to envision a different world, I can at least I can see this one from a distance better than I could before when my vision seemed so dazzlingly clear. It helps to keep telling myself the truth about myself and about the world as I see it, to start with that small step. I can do that in the shelter of my own mind, with my heart churning away in the background, the engine that drives the whole thing.

In the end I think we will only survive as a species if we stop doing stupid things. And the stupidest thing we can do is to think that things like love  and justice and truth are just pretty ideas that don’t have any power. If we ignore them, out hunger for them will grow;  if we do not satisfy our hunger for them they will consume us;  and if we continue to deny them they will destroy us.





Coming clean

I just read an article on someone coming clean about their first suicide attempt. If I count the times I’ve taken overdoses or tried something else, I realize it’s about 5. I can’t really remember. My last was a little more violent on the surface, but probably less dangerous in reality. My suicidal fantasies are  a little more violent too, but given my track record I think I’m fairly safe.

Still when I think about the fact that I have actually really wanted not to be here so much that I have tried five times to go down that road (before aborting my mission each and every time) I realize that that is not what most people would think of as a “normal” way to proceed. But it has been my normal.  I have just been following my brain down a certain path before intense fear drives me back.

I’ve been really afraid of pain and of dying for much of my life.  So much so that fear has overcome the worst of my misery and psychosis and kept me alive. I guess I should thank it but I don’t. I am not a fan of fear as a motivation for living.  However it has protected me, the way fear is supposed to, and gave me the opportunity to live and find there was much to enjoy, to hope for, to dream about and make a reality.

I had a friend (one of several) for whom fear was no protection. Nothing was. I was so hurt when he died. Mostly I thought, what a waste of a potentially beautiful life. He was so smart and funny and well-loved but he was also an utter mess. My part in his life was strange and I didn’t understand it because I didn’t think we were that close, but I blamed myself  when he died, as people do. And I wondered if, after I found him the first time ( the first of our acquaintance anyway) , whether I could have done more to prevent the second, and  last, time. I had thought of asking him to be my roommate, but I didn’t know how I could keep myself healthy with him in the other room. So I chose self-protection, and in the end, he chose something else.

I am tired right now and trying to figure out how to be happy.  Not suicidal but the possibility is there lurking in the background.  I have a headache, which feels like a huge weight. And I realize some of my patterns are playing out again. But what does it mean to be so public about it? In the past I’ve written about feeling lousy from the vantage point of feeling well. Right now. I’m feeling lousy and it is possible I will feel ok tomorrow, like did not long ago today and then lousy again because that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Eventually though, if the past is any indicator, things get better for me.

I can’t think my way out of this, or talk my way out or even feel my way out. I have to breathe and wait and accept something. And I need to get rid of this damn headache.  Wish me luck.

In honour of World Poetry Day

This is my latest poem, still in progress…


And what is it?
What is this?
The glow of a cigarette
falling to ash
in the dark?


It’s a fire fly before
a thunderstorm

the cat’s eyes
before a fight

it’s the lit fuse
on a stick of dynamite

a solar flare, uncurling its baby
fist in the dark

It’s what we’re mesmerized by
before some sweet disaster,
and the horror and the sweetness
of what comes after.