Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

A Hard Pass

Posted on | May 8, 2019 | No Comments

One of the strangest awkward and daily experiences I have is with a homeless guy who lives on Bloor Street near Bathurst.

We used to have a really good thing going. I’d make eye contact and say hello and he would smile and say hello back. I’d pat myself on the back for being an okay dude. He would tolerate that.

Recently I got two super tasty eclairs and ate one and realized I only needed one. So I asked if he wanted one. He looked at me for a long time then said, “I’m going to have to take a hard pass on that.” I realized in the silence he was debating whether I might be attempting to poison him.

He is totally within his rights to refuse the eclair. And even to think I may have been attempting to poison him. It just took the shine of our hellos and it’s hard to be overly friendly with someone who debated whether you might be in the process of poisoning him.

We see each other, open our mouths to say something and then shut them. This is why I only buy one eclair now.

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Enjoying the view

Posted on | May 5, 2019 | No Comments

It’s easy to search for yourself in other people’s attention. To define yourself by what they see. It’s a stranger and more interesting thought experiment to see yourself in others. I often do this when I’m sad and I gaze at people in the subway in the mornings and warm myself on how tired and depressed they all look. Like we are in this together guys. It sucks for everyone.

I found myself doing this in a different way today at the park. There was a young couple who was also a new couple because there were grossly making out in the park and I judged them. Forgetting how hilariously childish I am whenever I fall in love and realize that person is right there beside me and can be touched.

I turned my head and saw someone staring at their laptop screen with insane fascination even though the sun was reflecting off his screen. I saw two best friends smoking a joint and laughing and telling the stupidest stories I’ve ever heard. And it occurred to me that I’ve been these people and will be them again.

The human experience is a continuum not one moment stretched one forever.

I’ve been the new couple and the stoner and the cartoonist working on his laptop in the glare of sunlight. I’ve been the broken-hearted young dude experiencing his first break up unable to feel the warmth of the sun on his skin because I was trapped in my mind.

If you walk down the street and look you can see people all experiencing the same palette of feelings. Everything you feel is felt by millions of people.

The couple will one day experience the broken-heartedness of the young man and that young man will one day skip down the street humming Leon Bridges.

If you walk down the street and seriously look you can see how much more you are going to feel as long as you continue moving through all the versions of yourself you get to be. You can see their pain and know it as your own and open your heart to it. Because you’re never going to figure it all out. You have been full of success and had a guaranteed future and that disappeared. You have been broke and spending money hurt you. You’ve been careless and bought things you didn’t need and that disappeared too.

You can smile at their first kisses. You can laugh at their stoned out puns. Remembering when those moments were yours.

You aren’t special. You get heartbreak and you get laughter and you get to be kissed. I’m not speaking of solipsism or to imagine we are living exactly the same experience. But when you walk down a street in summer you can see how much bigger you are than the space you currently inhabit.

And it feels nice to be a part of something so ridiculous and vast.

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There is a rock

Posted on | April 14, 2019 | No Comments

All I can hear is the distracting cacophony of a coffee shop. Orders being placed. Semi-lame music being played. Fingers attacking laptops working on shitty screenplays. The espresso machine whistle. A tapping of feet from someone who drank too much coffee.

That’s me. I’m tapping. In the midst of euphoria that could become anxiety if I don’t get up and move soon. I notice my leg shaking and choose to stop the movement.

Ok. I should go now. Right now.

And then the song stops, and the coffee finishes pouring and there is a second of almost perfect silence.

He yawns. And I’m a sucker for a good yawn.

He is a friendly man sitting next to me in a coffee shop.

He is extremely good looking and muscular with an infectious smile he gives freely to anyone who happens to make eye contact with him. He looks like a person without a problem in the world.

I give him a big smile and then yawn back. He sees my grin and laughs.

“What?”

“Just yawning to show our shared humanity…”

I explain how sociopaths don’t yawn because they don’t have empathy.

“Nice to know you aren’t a sociopath!”

Sometimes I yawn purposefully because I read that article.

“True!”

This time the yawn is accidental.

“High five for humanity,” he says.

He gives me a high five and the barrier between strangers temporarily collapses.

I ask him what he’s doing. He tells me he’s working on a training routine for a client.

So he’s a personal trainer. Which explains why he sort of looks like an action hero.

He asks me what I’m doing today. I tell him I want to write about an idea I had about a rock.

“What about a rock?”

I hesitate because I don’t want to sound pretentious.

“So have you ever heard of the Myth of Sisyphus?”

He shakes his head.

“So the Greek Gods punished a Greek king by making him push a rock up a mountain every day. Dude was named Sisyphus,” I say. “When he reached the top the rock would roll down to the bottom of the mountain and he’d have to push it up again the next day.”

Camus used this parable to talk about how hilarious it is that all humans don’t just kill themselves and skip the absurdity of being alive. I will not allow this conversation to include this information.

“Whoa,” he says. “So you want to talk about that rock?”

“Yeah, sort of. People sort of talk about the myth of Sisyphus to prove different things. Like some people say that the story is everyone’s life. Sort of pointless striving and never really accomplishing much. Some people say that striving gives us purpose. I want to talk about the rock.”

“But what about it?”

“Well, I was thinking that the rock is sort of like a burden that you hold. That you didn’t choose. Like traumatic events leave this wound in you. Breakups, deaths, depression, sickness, whatever. Like there are things that will always hurt. It gets better, it doesn’t kill you but it stays a part of you and you have to carry it. And your experience of life is coloured by those wounds. Like the pain you experience isn’t just what’s happening but what’s happened to you. And I think about that when I have been struggling and it’s sort of amazing. That everyone is holding onto something, that they have to carry it too, and I don’t know it like makes it easier. Knowing that we share that. I know it’s insane but I often forget that everyone is alive as I am.”

“I’ve been through some fucked up things in the last while,” he says. “Makes it hard to see that other people are going through stuff too. You just get stuck in your head.”

“Totally,” I say. “And I think the problem with the Myth of Sisyphus is that it externalizes the rock. Makes the burden something you should be able to let go of. It’s chained to you or it’s something you hold in your hands.”

I wring my hands in his direction and he laughs. I made my face get over-animated. Because I know this could sound pretentious and when I twist my face it makes it seem like I don’t take myself too seriously. But he is more interested in my point than in me pretending not to be pretentious.

“Go on.”

“And being in pain makes you angry and it’s like angry at yourself. Because you should just fucking let it go,” I say. “As if it could be cured forever.  I think the reason we are hard on ourselves is that we can’t see the weight that we carry. In the same way, you can’t see the weight someone else carries. And you think that everyone else knows how to let it go. But they don’t. They just don’t want you to see it. Because they think they are the only one who’s holding something.”

He thinks about this for a second and he no longers looks carefree. I hope I haven’t put him off the conversation. In no way do I want to ruin this stranger’s day.

“There are some things I have really been trying to let go of,” he says, struggling with it, quickly changing the tenor of the conversation we are having. Now it’s straining, trying to fight against showing something he hasn’t shown anyone.  ”I went to counselling last year. And it’s been hard to just let it go. My burden I mean. I really want to let it go.”

“What I was thinking is that the really intense pain we feel is something we live with,” I say. “That we can’t let go of fully.”

He takes in a deep breath.

“And maybe the burden we can let go of is the guilt that we have something we have to carry. Because everybody does,” I say. “That there is nothing wrong about carrying something with you.”

There is a long silence.

“I think what’s important isn’t knowing how to let go of it. It’s just being aware that there is a rock and being kind to ourselves. Because we are carrying something that is hard and hurts and we didn’t choose to carry it. And there’s nothing wrong with us because we do. But it’s a lot harder when you forget there is a rock. ”

His eyes fill with emotion. Like he’s back in those spaces he wants to escape. Looking at them with a fear that dissipates as he refuses to look anywhere else.

And then he laughs. It’s a good laugh. Full of high giggles and deep throaty sounds. Like for just a moment we helped each other lift the weight by refusing to pretend it doesn’t exist.

“Thanks,” he says.

I smile back.

The moment is intimate and kind and altogether too much to experience a second more of.

I grab my computer, pay my bill and go to a bookstore.

My leg no longer shakes as I walk into the rain.

Feeling completely free for just a moment.

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They shouldn’t be happening to anyone

Posted on | October 9, 2018 | No Comments

A problem with saying that you want to protect women’s rights because you love your mother, sister, best friend, wife is that essentially you are saying that you’re passionate about what happens with the people you love and you don’t really care that much about what happens to strangers. That ultimately you want justice for people you know, who you most closely identify with. Which is a particular problem with justice. And why men stand with men against women, and why racism is such a powerful force.

This same approach is being used by conservatives when they say we need to protect our sons, our husbands, our fathers. Essentially saying you need to protect the people you love and people outside of that protective sphere can be allowed to suffer because they are less real because you don’t know them.

The thing is that the people you love are strangers to the vast majority of the world. Laws aren’t for protecting people you love. They’re for protecting everyone, including people you don’t know well enough to care about. If strangers aren’t protected the people you love are also in danger. That we need to say these things are wrong one hundred percent of the time. The things aren’t wrong because they might happen to someone you love.

They’re wrong because they shouldn’t be happening to anyone.

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Human Kindness

Posted on | September 15, 2018 | No Comments

I very rarely can find tears in pity for myself or for others. It’s not the pain we all suffer that makes me cry. It’s the idea of how much we all care about one another that immediately pushes me over the edge.

Today is a regular Saturday night in my thirties. I feel no obligation to have a plan. My body is drowned in endorphins from exercise. I might read or watch a movie. Tonight I watched BoJack “Free Churros” an episode where Bojack tries to find the perfect words to eulogize his mother.

As I watch him hilariously struggle to find something nice to say I think about how many nice things I have to say about the people in my life. How truly lucky I have been to meet them. And what’s happening today. In this insanely huge world of ours.

As I sit typing this someone is falling in love for the first time, heart beating rapidly on a swing set as they fly into the air, trying as hard as they can not to look over at her because they’re sure she’ll see it. There are kids jumping into pools with fearlessness, unfamiliar with summer and the knowledge that it ends. There are missiles on the way to family dinners. There are secrets being told. Some of them are devastating and end relationships. Others getting rid of a nervous feeling in your stomach you’ve been carrying for years. People are promising their lives to one another. Two people who loved each other are politely ending their acquaintance. Imagined later lives are being created and dying. This is the moment we’re living in. It isn’t a good day. It’s the best and worst day of someone’s lives. It’s easily forgotten. It’s the memory that stays with you that you should have asked someone to explain to you. So you knew what they meant. So you could have been free.

And all that love I’ve gotten in my life hits me in the chest. And I’m disconnected in time.

I’m at one of my brother Matthew’s rap shows. At the show, he’s known as Josh Martinez. Someone bumps into me, and then act like they have a problem. Matthew jumps into the situation making it very clear that he will fucking murder the person if they have a problem. He’s on the phone with me when I’m 25 in the midst of depression and he’s explaining the world is mine, that the things I don’t know can be learned and that this is just a moment. And it is. And he’s performing again. And my house burned down and I’m crazy on the edge of PTSD and someone bumps me and I think about how I’d break their kneecaps and kick them in the chest and I noticed my shoes. My cousin Graham bought them for me. He got me ribs after.

And Zamaan and Stephanie pat me on the shoulder after I’ve heard a fire alarm go off at work too long and my body jumped back in time and took me with it. I remember watching Zamaan get married. And how nervous he was when he was asked me to be a part of his groom’s party and the sure knowledge I would do anything for him. Because he was one of my people.

Each day I go home from elementary school and my sister makes me lunch. I watch her carefully. I want to figure out how to be funny like she is. How to be strong like she is. I watch carefully as a child. I even watch soap operas just to hang out with her.  I watch even more closely as an adult. She calls me brat for years. She stops when I get depression. She checks in on me with Facebook messages that don’t seem like she’s trying to look out for me. She’s smart enough to mask her concern and make jokes. That’s what I learn from her. To be available to say the scary things but to be funny. To make people laugh. To make things easier. I see that love can work out from seeing her with Greg. He loves her like air. I pretend to use pictures of her children as sales pitches for women I’m trying to date. But Hannah and Avery make me feel hopeful. That there are things about the future I really want to know.

I’m arriving in Toronto. I sleep on Dave’s couch. We haven’t been in touch that much since he moved to Toronto. For seven years we get closer and closer. I’m there when he gets a divorce. He’s there when my last relationship ends. I call him when I have heavy things lodged in my chest and he removes them. By showing me that he has the same faith in me that I have in him. We became friends without talking making rap records in his basement.

I’m with Jennica. Taking 20 dollars from her hands when I have no money and she tells me that I can spend it on whatever I want and she doesn’t want it back…ever. We live together twice. It works out poorly both times. I’m at her wedding and I’m so happy for her and I’m in a suit for a good job and she doesn’t want to talk about the wedding just the job. We were such kids together and we were getting older and we’ll always be friends. Every year we come up with a new routine to see each other more regularly. We succeed for a while and then begin to fall into our own busy lives. We come back. Because there is no way that we can live without seeing each other. Somethings are too precious.

I stay on Tim’s couch. On New Years. When I don’t have a house. We hang out at his place when he can’t move because he has a back injury. He contributes money to the Walk In The Park fundraiser. He hits me up every few months in case I forget to get in touch. We talk about our biggest dreams. Those moments that having big dreams hurt us. We cheer wildly during the moments the other one gets close. We’ve given each other advice. We’ve gone up and done in fortune. We’ve stayed friends, after a strange summer of living together and eating fries and company like champions.

Phil helps me edit my first novel. Charlotte says she’ll travel 1 and a half by train to be with me when I hear bad news. Steph Wu tells me to believe in my dream. OG Steph sleeps next to an insomniac until he stops waking through the night. I watch Hermit’s life break and cheer as he puts it back together again. We survive seachange year by laughing at how insane life can be and smoking huge joints while the world breaks around us. We only knew each other for two years in person but never fall out of touch. Pat Campbell tries to teach me to ride a bike and doesn’t laugh at me when I fall and scrape my knees. I fall in love with Christie over a phone after a chance meeting at a party when we were kids that compelled to assert that one day she’d break up with her boyfriend and we’d be together. She makes me happy when the sky is falling. We start dating after a second date at a bus station and the last time I see her is exiting an airplane. The last thing I say to her face is I love you.

I think about these people. And more people than I have named. And my heart is so full. Knowing that they’re alive which means they are in pain, which means they are struggling with what could be the best and worst day of their lives.

And I think about how much love there is.

And that’s what gets me.

Every single time.

So I type as fast I can.

Hoping I can say as many nice things as I can think of so that people can read them and know how I feel.

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This beautiful evening

Posted on | August 11, 2018 | No Comments

Life is hard.

I used to look at strangers on the street to see the strain under their eyes and the tension in their shoulders to remind myself I wasn’t failing at being alive, I was just being alive. Subways are excellent places to understand the cages we live in. People looking at advertisements like they were the face of God all to avoid meeting the eyes of their neighbour. To see how much of our journey through life we take alone and the pain we hide from everyone besides people rude enough to stare at strangers.

Recently I have been trying to catch people smiling. Because everyone seems to do it. Even people you can’t imagine smiling or laughing.

I walk down Bloor Street, listening to music but I can hear their laughter through my headphones and I find myself smiling in response. Grateful to take in this wonderful alien frequency.

These same people can be seen with strain under their eyes and tension in their shoulders. But for brief moments they are laughing loud enough I can hear them through my headphones blasting Julien Baker.  And it reassures me. Because even in the worst times of your life there were moments where suddenly you’re just alive. You’re just a person listening to a joke and you magically step outside of whatever narrative you’re trapped and you’re just there in a space in time.

Those moments feel so vivid because they are true. Your anxious circular thoughts are full of hope and fear and the past and the future and the substance of thoughts can collapse when a new feeling arrives and you chase it and the equations you formulated no longer feel scientific but the ravings of a person gone mad.  It isn’t real and it can be depressing or terrifying. The worst feelings are fiction.

The best is true. Laughing is always real, as undeniable as the air you expel from your chest and the muscles you use that somehow push you back into life as an actual participant. As real as it feels to have music in your headphones pumping out sadness that says this is a part of the world, that Julien Baker’s feelings is as natural as the couple walking past you holding hands. Or the ladies standing outside of the halfway house passing a cigarette around and making jokes.

There are some nights in Toronto where you can go for a walk and you can feel everything.

And it reminds me of the times when it feels like there is only space for one event: a breakup, some disaster and little holes are stabbed in that illusion and the rest of the world slips back into your life. When I was depressed it was the euphoria I’d feel after exercising. After the fire, it was the sound of a loved one’s voice on the phone and the magic of knowing how to make someone laugh until you found yourself caught up in the joke. But it’s something to notice if you’re having hard times and you think things will never be normal again. You’re ignoring those moments in your day when things are the very best of what normal has to offer. There is laughter at funerals. They are kisses in depression. There are genius ideas in anxiety. They are moments of connections with strangers in times of loneliness that don’t carry over and become anything other than a great moment. There are so many cracks in this brick wall. And so much light is getting in. Because you forget where you are. So often you forget those places you decide you are all the time and you are as innocent and alive as you were the first time you fell in love.

There are breaks from the story you are telling yourself.

They happen all the time.

I’m not saying that when you notice them suddenly all the difficult stuff disappears.  Just that paying attention to those moments lets the air into your chest and lets some of that tension escape. We have this amazing capability to redesign the entire universe into that tiny broken feeling in our chest.

It is bigger than that. You are life is bigger than the life story you let yourself have.

Our experience is vast enough that we laugh with friends on the day we say goodbye to a person we love. That we giggle until our faces hurt on days when depression would have kept us in bed if we let it. That disaster can’t hide all the millions of reasons its great that we are alive. That the best times of your life can happen during the worst. You just have to train yourself to look at the world around you.  Because the trick works both ways. You can trick yourself into believing the world is simply an echo of the confined space of your story that is spinning infinitely inside your heart as it breaks, comes back together again and is ripped apart again by poetry. Or you can really look at the world and alter your view of what life is actually like.

I try to notice happy you make me. How often I forget. How many dark places I have been that have shattered and how much of my life I spend laughing because you are all such funny people.

And I walk down Bloor Street, listening to sad music, my heart incredibly full and I smile at strangers.

To help them break out.

So we can all enjoy this beautiful evening.

 

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Time Travel

Posted on | August 5, 2018 | No Comments

You know why you love Back To The Future?

Do you? Fucking do you?

Because intuitively you believe that you can travel back to the past and fix your mistakes and that’s because you’re as deluded as the rest of us. And there’s a very specific reason you believe it.

You spend your life attempting it. You go through your past conversations and you attempt to change them. And because of a very specific glitch in your brain you feel very deeply that it must be possible to achieve.

What is this glitch?

The brain is constructed in two layers. One is the lizard brain that early humans had for hunting, emotional management and survival. This part of the brain occupies the top layer of the brain stem and is not dissimilar to other forms of animal in nature. As we evolved newer parts of the brain grew up around our lizard cores. The newer parts of the brains deal with reasoning and reflection. But the older parts of the brain exist in isolation, so when we are reading fiction, they react as they are genuinely experiencing the events of the story. They don’t know they are being lied to. So when we go back in our minds deep in rumination part of us truly believes that we are able to go back into the past and change it. We can’t feel the difference deep in our brains between rumination and lived experience.

Time travel stories aren’t actually about time travel. But the quest to move past rumination and create the changes we wished to see in the past in our present. Every time travel story points to the necessity of acceptance, which is also the only psychological way to escape endless rumination. By accepting our past we stop telling stories of how it can be changed and free ourselves to make change.  Because if we were really talking about time travel and fixing our mistakes, well of course we make choices we should have made differently and not every time traveller is going to fuck up the past and bring about the apocaylpse. But acceptance is about forgiving ourselves and there is literally no practical lesson to be learned from successful time travel that makes the world a better place until the technology is created and you learn to hold in your fart on your true loves birthday that started that forest fire.

I guess what I am trying to say is forgive yourself for your past.

Because it’ll stop you reaching for something that can’t by definition reach back. Marty McFly can’t change the life of his father. He just needs to learn to accept his weak father and alcoholic mom. Because nothing he does is going to help him get back to the clock tower. He needs to practice his music and figure out a way to use his pain to create something beautiful. Because the only place we can fix the past is by our actions in the present.

 

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Stories

Posted on | August 4, 2018 | No Comments

The Turing Test misses an essential point.

It’s not just robots who are trying to pass themselves off as humans. It’s every single one of us. Even you. Yes, you Dick Warshimer. You in particular Warshimer! Fuck you, Warshimer!

And back to it….

We are not striving to be excellent. But to be accepted for what we already are.  Shame is a universal and powerful sensation known to everyone who isn’t a sociopath. Shame is fundamentally about a desire to fit in. As our rules of interaction get more complicated our sense of shame grows proportionally. We post pictures to prove that we belong. Alongside these pictures we write colourful captions to explain our experience. This desire to explain our experience is impossible to turn off and can be incredibly toxic to our well being.

So when something bad happens we immediately try to uncover the story behind it. Because we have taught ourselves this is what life is. An experience unfolding to teach us something about ourselves. We tell ourselves two incredibly contradictory things when something awful happens: 1) we are awful and worth nothing 2) this particular nothing that we are is at the centre of the universe. Shame is a desire to control our experience by claiming total responsibility for it. It’s also the pearl inside the seashell of the lie of meritocracy of capitalism. We get what we deserve. Because otherwise we would probably be joyously murdering the rich right now.

My point is this.

If you think the world and everything that happens in it is a moral lesson for you, you’re crazier than I am when I think that exact same thing. People love you. If bad things happening to other people is to teach you a lesson then you also think for some reason God became obsessed with you. It’s like I didn’t like your train of thought so I made this plane fall out of the sky. Your sins are rarely in proportion to the worst things that happened to you. Fiction isn’t an actual depiction of life. It’s about our intense human desire for meaning.

Life doesn’t hit you because you deserve it. Life hits you just because life is a fuckwad who got too drunk.

In no way is the world fair. If you think you get what you deserve you’re wrong. You don’t. If things are going well you are lucky. If things are terribly you are the victim of bad luck and probability. If you disagree with this concept consider the child walking down the street who gets by the drone. What positive thinking mantra did you read that made you better than him? What thing did you do in a past life that made you white and born in Canada with a devilishly handsome Macaulay Culkin like face?

The story of your life is not terribly different from that of a leaf that is torn from a tree by a gust of wind. You don’t have control over your health, the weather, your bank balance. But we have to pretend. Because people believing that makes life feel wonderfully insecure. Our ability to story tell is a trick we play to make our lives feel important and to imagine there is a meaning behind every time the world raises its hand and slaps us in the face. But the world isn’t even a thing. Anymore than God is a thing. It’s a collection of billions of individual elements that are unaware of your existence.

The problem is that this storytelling delusion while comforting makes us feel like absolute shit when something bad happens. Because it implies that this part of a story that you are supposed to learn from. And you have to find that rainbow as fast as you possibly can. So that you can skip process the pain you are experiencing. Thinking about how quickly you go from feeling terrible to wondering what you did to deserve this and what you can do to solve it to prove that you get the point. Because we are inundated with narrative. Think of how many feel good stories have headlines like this, “Blind man proves you can deal with anything..and start a business.” or “Man without hands plays the guitar proves anything is possible..”

Since you are also pressured to be positive about life, you are subconsciously encouraged to blame your mind state for the things you can’t control. Which is another hilarious insanity perpretrated by capitalism. It’s the equivalent of he hits you because you don’t show him you love him enough. No, once again, I remind you that life is a fuckwad.

To me the meaning in life is something we invent. It’s a love song the people closest to you write every time they think about you. When the world hits you, know that there are people who are thinking about every great thing about you and they are raging, wishing the world was a person so they could strangle it for its sheer stupidity in fucking with you. We walk around trying to pretend we don’t love each other as much as we do. Because it’s crippling how much we love each other, how much I love you. And it takes moments like this to remind us.  Because it fucking sucks that the most important pieces of our heart live outside of our bodies.

This isn’t some sort of math equation that makes everything fine. Sure, you appreciate life. But this didn’t happen to make you do that. That’s another story, that tries to transmute horror into beauty in one easy step. It’s just a reality. You are loved so much more than you could ever understand.

When something bad happens you have to notice what you’re feeling.

In all of the intense pain it represents. Because unless you feel it, it gets stuck inside you. Like a child waiting for a hug. And you deserve that hug. Because you, this nothing that controls nothing, is so exceptionally deserving of all the love that the indifferent and cold world has gifted you with. That kid doesn’t need an inspirational story about how this is going to get you a book deal, and an eventual trip to Florida. Or a screaming lesson about how you should have not eaten pie that one time. It needs a hug. Give it a fucking hug.

I get when you don’t know what to say.

Because when the worst happens I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know what to do with the fear or the love and my tongue gets tied. Because I wish I could take it away. Like you’ve wished you could take it away when I was in a bad place. Because love is like that. Stronger than any force in the world in sensation and also completely powerless.

Bad things don’t happen for a reason. You didn’t do anything to deserve the worst things that happen to you. Take a breath and realize how fragile this world is and how weak we are against the forces that push down on us and try to be as kind as you can. And know that there are people who smile when they think of you. Who have fallen deep and you’ve caught them and they remember that. Who laugh when they think of the way you tell jokes. Who know that you are in pain and would do anything to take it away. That’s the shit you deserve. Because you earned that. Every single day of being a great person you earned that love. By being you.

All of the good things. Those came with intense effort and thought and consideration. And that’s what your responsible for. How much we all fucking love you.

Everything else is just shit we are going to deal with together.

 

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It’s not your fault

Posted on | June 12, 2018 | No Comments

In my brief experience with intense trauma after a housefire, I learned that you can accept death as long as you realize that there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. That guilt is in some way a desire for control. And that this desire for control can manufacture very excellent cases against you as a person.

Now what I want to talk about is another form of death. Break ups. People use this analogy all the time. Because you have to grieve. Because things will never go back to the way they use to be. Because you can collect evidence that will tell you that you were solely at fault. That the problem wasn’t in the relationship but in you. Because this idea again is oddly comforting. It gives you control over the feelings of other people. It offers you a solution to these problems if you just get over your bullshit. After all in many ways it’s like the person you knew has died. So something has to have killed them. It’s natural to believe yourself to be a murderer.

The problem is that sense of control is an illusion. The other person in the relationship isn’t a controlled variable. There is no mathematical equation that will explain why two people stay together and two people break apart. Even if they are faced with the same problems, the same backgrounds. Not because they aren’t a million factors but because there are too many to count.

One of the saddest parts of the end of a relationship is going a person going from everything to nothing in almost an instant. The reason for this I think partially this artificially created but torturously comforting idea of blame. Because when you talk to them you are no longer talking to a person who confirms your greatest hopes for yourself but someone who affirms your greatest fears. The distance between you is the end of hope and the insecurities that protect us from believing that pain is an inevitable consequence of being alive.

I think friendship is possible in most cases.

Once you recognize it isn’t your fault. That the end of love isn’t proof of your inability to be loved.

PTSD is about a belief that you could have changed things if you’d only tried a little harder. You refuse to let the past become the past because you think you should have changed it and can’t accept it. As a result the memories don’t integrate and you constantly relive your terror.

The end of love is the same. You don’t relive the love. Only the failure. Because you think if you hurt enough you can change it.

In many ways it’s like the person you loved died. The only way you can get over it is to realize you didn’t kill them.

 

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Waves

Posted on | April 11, 2018 | No Comments

Sometimes you think you know what the rest of your life is going to be like.

Days become predictable. And you relax into the repetition. With familiarity comes contempt. Because if someone is always going to be around you stop really watching them. You stop listening. Because you don’t need to. You think this is forever and you know them well enough that you can mad lib reality. Fill in the blanks. Hear what they’d usually say.

Then you hear the crash of the waves.

And you go for a ride. And you never get to go back to that place you loved until it atrophied. That amazed you until you stopped paying attention. And there’s this longing for it. Because it’s gone. Because it only happened once. Like everything else in your life.

As I get older I try to remember that a wave is always on the way.

That these little places of rest and seclusion you’ve found are temporary and sacred, poised as they are about to fall off the edge of the world. I try to keep my eyes sharp to disappearing details and once in a lifetime moments that come and go so fast you can’t always remember to treasure them.

The waves aren’t good or bad. They just rise and fall without giving thought to what you want.

A love is born and a love dies. A friend comes into your life and they move away. A job goes from a dream to a quiet nightmare of a life you don’t want to live. The present becomes a time and a place you can’t go back to.

Your childhood is forever and sacred and visits to Milford House, sleepovers with Jordi, musicals with Andrew and writer’s circles at the local chapters and rap sessions at Dave Plowman’s house and then it starts to move more quickly. You’re imagining what life will be like when you aren’t fat. Then you aren’t fat and life still isn’t solved.

You’re in university. You’re wearing a heart monitor at a rap show in the basement of your university. Blown away by how much pot you can smoke and how many bongs have names and freestyling in front of the library and dancing at Tribeca and your hands are in the air because the person on the stage told you to raise them if you care. And you really do. You’re at the public library with a group of crying rappers freestyling as hard as you can to make sure that life keeps going on.  Suddenly you have a diploma.

Didn’t mean anything. You need another degree. In journalism school where you used to go to see your dad. Meeting all kinds of strange people. Discovering how to write newspaper stories as the industry collapses. On weekends you’re drunk as fuck at Freestyle Friday. Your best friend is also named Mike but you never call him that. Only Hermit. You can’t stand still. You have to go forward.

It’s your birthday and your dancing with your friends as graduation approaches. It’s five days later. You’re at Karaoke in Bearly’s. You’re doing it because you want to go over someone. You do. Instantly. And suddenly you meet someone you’ll never forget.

You thought you were in love a dozen times and then you actually are and you realize why everyone was so crazy and you’re crazy and you’re in a nightmare you can’t seem to escape because you can’t sleep and a dream that you don’t want to wake up from of finding what everyone looks for their entire lives. You’re drowning. But just for a little while. You learn you can swim. And you’re stronger than you thought possible.

And then a wave comes and you’re in a different city.

And you’re okay and you’re swimming again. And suddenly you’re working on a documentary for Al Jazeera and drinking too much karaoke tequila with Jennica who somehow lived with you twice and still wanted to be your friend and you’re in a house with people from countries all around the world. Cuz is a Torontonian.

Holy fuck! You have a writing agent.  You get great rejection letters from people at the top of book publishing. Everyone says you’re going to be something special just not now. You say you’ll learn to be patient. You don’t. Not really. You never will.

You have a crush on a girl from Denmark, you dance and throw water on her at four in the morning, and you drink shots of tequila until you almost get alcohol poisoning raising a cheer to every single country represented in the room.

She’s gone and everyone is dancing to Macarena on New Years. Holy shit…..you have another home. A place that’s as amazing as Middle Bay. People come into your life and they are deported out of it.

You decide fuck it and you’re going to make a short film. You spend three months doing it. Until it’s done and then everything goes incredibly wrong and that house doesn’t exist anymore because of a fire and someone dies in that fire. And you have to wonder again and cry again and fall in love and you wonder if you’re broken.

And you sit on a mat in a house full of shitheads and do loving-kindness meditation until you grab hold of the broken pieces of your heart and you put them back together with the love of a woman from your past. You get on a train and go to Ottawa and fall in love for the second time. Wondering through parks with a dog named Sadie and you decide this is what life should be like.

Until you realize you can’t make a home together and you never see her again.

And you start making films with a guy named Elias. Who will become a best friend and partner in crime. You’ll start the relationship trying to convince him that he should work with you when you have absolutely no faith in yourself. And you’ll find that faith and you’ll make project after project together. For some reason, every conversation you’ll have with a stranger for the next two years will include a short segment about professional cuddling and your defence of it.

And the cuddler. Winter Tekenos Levy.

A girl you pitch at a producing conference thinking she’s a development executive will become someone you drink with and obsess about Kanye with and will be part of every creative endeavour you work on if the Gods are kind. And you meet Charlotte who will be an extra in the second season of Just Cuddle and become a main character in your actual life. And working a corporate job will bring Zamaan Sunderji and Stephanie Wu and a dozen others and it will end as well. As suddenly as a wave crashing.

The terror is that everything ends.

The blessing is that everything ends.

And you learn you can breathe underwater.

Long enough for the waves to crash and for your body to burst through.

The problem is that you can’t ride a wave forever.

The amazing thing is that another wave is always coming.

I can’t count the number of people I’ve gotten the chance to love. The places I’ve been that I’ve hated and somehow escaped. The feelings I wished would end and the ones I wished wouldn’t.

I can hear the waves crashing.

Building in intensity in the distance.

For greater loves and bigger heartbreaks. For hello and goodbye. For insane dreams and the work it takes to accomplishes them.

For being brought to my knees and standing up again.

For the people I love when they need me when the water drags them under. For the moments when they grab my hand when the swimming makes me so tired I can’t move another muscle.

I’ve lived so many lives in these 34 years.

I was born because I was a good swimmer. The best of 110 million options. Now I keep swimming. Because there’s so much more I want to see.

And I love where I am.

And the waves are coming.

And I’m going to find more and more and more and more lives.

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  • About

    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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