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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Strangers In A Place

Posted on | October 28, 2014 | No Comments

I don’t know why but no matter how much I like a person I don’t want to bump into them.

If I see all but my closest friends in a restaurant or coffee shop I will go out of my not to be noticed. I will read my book. I will type on my computer. I will go to the bathroom for as long as I possibly can.

I don’t understand this compulsion. I’m not shy. I don’t have any significant social anxiety. Some of the best conversations I have ever had happened in these exact circumstances. But the craving for great conversation doesn’t surface in my conscious mind. Instead I think I have plans and they have plans and I want not to have to change that.

I just hate running into people. At times you aren’t supposed to run into strangers. At a party we could talk because we are supposed to. If I run into you on a date with your girlfriend we may feel compelled to communicate because we both are sharing the same street at the same time. But we don’t want to. And I think of how to escape. For the good of both of us.

I hate running into people.

I know I’m not alone.

You were on your way somewhere. I am preventing you from going to the bathroom, having sex with your significant other or writing the next Great American novel. We weren’t supposed to see eachother right now. I don’t know why you are introducing me to someone I will never meet again. I don’t know why we have to catch up after ten years. We didn’t keep in touch. We don’t have anything in common. We don’t have issues that need to be addressed. You don’t want to tell me about your life. I don’t want to hear about it. Are you thinking how nice it would be to be able to fly? Don’t you wish you could jump into the air, flap your arms like wings and do what you were planning to do?

We both want to run.

I don’t know why.

Shouldn’t we be able to?

Why do I have to ask you about your life and make you confront the utter emptiness of your existence? Why do you have to ask about mine and make me remember the contents of my bank account? Wouldn’t it be if you just pretended my face had changed  since I was a child? Can’t you just take off your glasses and not say hello to the blurry man with the bighead?

And if you aren’t a stranger but a friend can we talk at a time that we had previously planned on?

I’m reading a book. I’ll talk to you at a time that is more convenient for both of us.

And no that isn’t super man.

Michael Kimber is finally living his dreams.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane.

It’s incredibly awkward running into people.

What if

Posted on | September 16, 2014 | No Comments

What if those things you hate about yourself were beautiful?

What if it was perfectly reasonable to want to be safe

What all that pain and worry gave you compassion

What if that war you fight with yourself makes you part of the human race

What if your mistakes saved your friends from following in your footsteps

What if your utter exhaustation lead you to your dreams

What if you had a good heart and you performed a couple shitty surgeries to make sure it wouldn’t hurt like it did and you have to undo the damage by walking through agony and love was your reward

What if the pain you’ve lived with was a measure of the wisdom you’ve experienced

What if you had done things differently, if you’d been smarter, what if you didn’t have the friends you do, if I didn’t get a chance to get to know you, if you’d been more successful and we hadn’t had too many drinks and said inappropriate things

What if you weren’t insane, you were just getting to know yourself

What if sanity isn’t really being anyone, just making yourself a mould of what someone else wanted to make you

What if you couldn’t know anyone else until you stopped seeing yourself as some boat meant to take you somewhere else where you wouldn’t be, whatever the hell you don’t want to be that you are

What if the reason people struggle to connect with you isn’t your imperfection

Your weakness

But your inability to love yourself even if you have some opinions you disagree with

What if they have some opinions they disagree with

If their knee jerks when there’s lightning in the air and their reactions are also fucking stupid sometimes.

How could they expect to be loved for who they are when you can’t love you who are

What if all that unnecessary suffering wasn’t you choosing to hurt yourself

But trying to make your life better

And no one ever having really told you how to do that

What if all those things you want to get rid of were to go and you didn’t have any character left

It’s lonely being perfect

And everybody needs somebody to love them

And Mr. and Mrs. Perfect don’t need anyone at all

Sharing Your Worst Fears

Posted on | September 15, 2014 | No Comments

I remember walking through a Freshco in my pajama pants on the phone with my dad trying not to cry.  Also trying to find yogurt. But not mainly trying not to cry.

His voice was gentle and mine was fighting panic.

I did cry but we haven’t gotten there yet.

My house burned down the previous November and a girl I didn’t know died.  Her name was Alisha.

For the first months after the fire I was trying to finish my movie, find a place to live, enjoying being in love for the first time in years.  I felt like I was okay with it. I felt like I had dealt with at the time.

On my birthday I found out that I had to go back into my old house to get the film equipment we had left behind.  Doing so felt cathartic. But in the back of my mind this terrible anxiety was growing. Each ordinary problem felt magnified. There was this deep sense that there had to be a reason my life felt so out of control.

And I am in the grocery store crying.

A few days earlier I had been telling someone about the movie I made. How my house burned a few days after. And they asked me if my film equipment had lead to an electrical fire.

And I felt this deep sickness building in my stomach. I said nothing for a few days. Just locked in this ironclad sense of shame. This belief that somehow I was responsible for the fire that burned down my home. That I had killed someone.

Inadvertently. By accident. With my dreams of being a writer.

I knew it was unreasonable, I also was scared that I believed it.

I called my dad because when I fall apart I call my dad.

He explained to me step by step how my fears were impossible. If the circuit was going to blow it would have happened during filming, if an electrical fire happened I was no more responsible than if I had simply plugged in my laptop, if the wiring was faulty it was the landlords fault. He was careful, he was thorough and he was convincing.  And he was right.

And I was crying.

Part of trauma is a sense that you could have done something differently. A lingering guilt. A desire to protect yourself from ever feeling like this again.  Telling someone about my fear marginally released the tension. Seeing a therapist gave me the perspective that I needed to be patient with my pain. And the tremendous tension lessened.

A week ago I went to a ceremony where butterflies were released to honour lost loved ones in High Park.

I met Alisha’s mother and father. I met her friends. I made awkward jokes and watched them crying feeling like a space alien watching Earthlings. I never feel things right away.

And I watched frozen butterflies try to fly into the warm heat of the sunlight running rampant through High Park.

It took a few days for it to hit me. To realize how close I came to my own loved ones being hurt like that.  To see how one of the worst experiences of my life was infinitely worse for her mother and father and her friends. And that type of pain makes you crack a bit inside. The safe walls crumble. The feelings go places you don’t want them to go.

I wanted somehow to be able to make them ok.

I remember that walk through the grocery store. The panic and the relief. How my desire for a simple explanation as to why bad things happen to good people forced me to my knees.

I wanted my dad to somehow be able to explain it to them like he explained it to me. It’s not your fault. Bad things happen. I know it feels horrible but this isn’t your fault. There was nothing you could have done.

The tears that fell down my cheeks were from relief and release. That maybe I could let go. I hope that the tears that fell down their cheeks as butterflies left their palms were the same type of tears.

And I still want an easy answer.

I don’t want to have to make peace with a hundred times. I want to be able to control it. I want to be able to control how I feel.

Only I can’t.

Human life is fragile. People love you and would be shattered by your absence. Each moment we live is lucky. It hurts that we can’t control our feelings anymore than we can prevent tragedy from taking what is irreplaceable.

There is nothing wrong with feeling pain when the world is incredibly unfair. There is nothing wrong with losing a little patience with yourself when you suffer more than you’d like.

From my own experience I’d recommend picking up the phone and sharing the thoughts you’d like to keep hidden with someone who loves you. They might be able to carry it a little bit better. They might be able to lighten the load.

You might feel better. Even if you’re weeping in a grocery store in your pajamas. Even if they are out of the yogurt you were looking for.

The Bravest Facebook Status I’ve ever seen

Posted on | September 4, 2014 | No Comments

 
Brief Intro: Sorry for the Upworthy  style title. I just feel like people should read this. Because my friend said some important things and he said them well.   I’m not super close to Ken Thomson. We went to school together. We may have talked about a few geeky things because like me he is a geek. He had a great beard and that was about all I really knew about him. Besides he could write. And we graduated the same year from university and apparently we’ve had similar feelings when we went through Facebook feeds and saw what seemed to be a legion of our friends finding success as we were a little embarrassed by our own lives. We also both live with depression.  His story is about wanting to kill himself and seeking out a friend who could help when he most needed it. It brought tears to my eyes.  Because he talks about a lot of things many of us go through that we can’t put into words. I was blown away by his bravery. I expect you will be too.
Michael Kimber
 
Kenneth Thomson
September 2nd, 2014
 
A month ago I was ready to kill myself, and had Kylee not opened her door when I showed up unannounced that Saturday, I very well might have.

This is a hard thing to admit, to having been suicidal, especially so recently. I have been worried about saying anything for fear that now everyone will think of me as some delicate flower, or some object of pity, or an attention seeking drama queen, or that people will just walk away, because why invest in something that might be gone soon? And when you’re surrounded by people who are achieving things in their lives and careers its embarrassing to say “I can’t even get out of bed some mornings,” let alone “I just want to not be alive” when they’re buying homes and starting families. So I’ve been a bit distant lately, but a weekend with some friends changed that, I think.

I’ve been depressed for years. Probably longer than some of you have known me. And I think I’ve been anxious for probably longer. Since June I’ve been on medication, seeking counselling, and I’ve been given a handful of self-help books (thanks Su, Robyn & Chuck).

It was really easy to ignore it all for so long. Not that the signs weren’t there. I’ve spent years seeking out shit jobs because I simply don’t think I deserve a job that could make me happy, especially when everyone else is simply better. I started smoking because it’s the only socially accepted way to kill yourself. I have a selfish attitude towards relationships. I find a flaw in everything. I’ve been avoiding social situations because I just figured I’m a miserable bastard and who would want that around? I’ve had an e-mail drafted to a friend for over two years. I kept saying “once I have something good to say, I’ll finish it off and send it.” Two years. Getting a good night’s sleep has been hard for a year now, at least.

Recently, and probably much longer than that, it all started really affecting my relationships with others. I was getting short with people, so many little things would just piss me off. The performance anxiety in the bedroom did me very few favours with the ladies or my confidence. I watched myself systematically destroy a dear friend’s trust in me, because how dare they be happy when I’m not. To top it all off I had a day where I physically could not leave my house. I just couldn’t face the world.

I went to the doctor, got some medication and an appointment with mental health. I quit my job, which just felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. But as “happy” as i seemed, i still couldn’t sleep well, and my thoughts when I had a few seconds alone turned instantly negative. And then I ended up back at, essentially, the same job. My one little victory that I was clinging to was taken away from me.

After a few days of feeling absolutely miserable, as in the only feeling I could feel was misery, I gave up. I can’t think of a better way to describe it than I just gave up. I started to resent my connections to other people, because it would make me such a selfish bastard to do myself in. If there was no one it would be so easy. When I was at the Buskers, surrounded by happy people and I just couldn’t relate to the world. Smiling seemed like a foreign concept. While walking home I knew when I got there I was going to hurt myself, I knew how I was going to hurt myself (it involved the mirror, which probably says a lot about how I regarded myself at the time), and I knew I like to finish what I start. This is the hardest thing to say: this felt good. It felt so good to finally feel like I had total control of my life.

I don’t know what happened, but walking across the Commons some sort of survival instinct kicked in and I turned towards Kylee’s apartment. I knew she was around that weekend, I knew no one else could get to me in time, and I knew I trusted her. I did not have her phone number so I just buzzed her and hoped to fuck she would answer. She did. Thank god. Just having someone there, at that moment, was the most important thing. She brought me along for the night and I actually enjoyed myself a little.

I made a few, tentative, attempts to reach out to other people that night. Not that Stephanie on the West Coast could do much, but Robyn invited me out the next night for Shane’s birthday. It was nice to see Shane, someone who always seems happy to see me because, I don’t why actually, but it’s nice. And dear Joel has been an absolute peach through all this.. There were one or two bad days the following week and a phone call to the Mental Health Crisis Line, but since then it’s been better.

I’ve told a few people now, and they’ve all been supportive. My medication has been doubled. I’m getting more sleep, like almost the recommended amount. I think my overall mood has been improving bit by bit. Not that I would say I’m “happy” but I certainly want to keep living. I really do. Maybe that’s the hardest thing to say: I want to live.

This is such a weird place to put this, but writing tends to help me organize my thoughts, and why write if no one is going to read it? I’m certainly not writing it for my own amusement. (That’s what my notebooks full of poetry and plays are for). And I guess I just want people to know that maybe this is why sometimes I don’t respond to messages or don’t show up to parties, because it’s just been so hard to face existing some days.

So this is where I’m at right now; bad but getting better. I hope everyone’s summer was better than mine, haha.

Grief Contests

Posted on | August 11, 2014 | No Comments

A Huffington post article described Evan Rachel Wood’s tweet “Genie, you’re free.” as the most heartbeaking tweet about Robin William’s death.

I don’t know if I find it poignant. I saw a very similar message from a friend earlier. I think it’s sort of cliche that when a celebrity dies we attach a quote from a movie they made as an expression of their personality and our knowledge of them. Yet we don’t actually know what he was going through. A lot of suicidal thought is a chemical sensation and it passes. That many of us experience and feel pass us by. Where much of our life remains beautiful and worth living. To say having bipolar disorder and drug addiction makes life no longer beautiful or worth having is to minimize the beauty of the lives of people who live with those pains as we all live with pain. So to say he is free, is to say he is in a better place, is to say that a terrifically bad and conceivably long mood is not worth suffering through to live isn’t poignant to me. It’s a minimization of the pain his family goes through, and ultimately it is clever because he was in that movie and that is a line in that movie and because it is a line in a Disney movie it must somehow be a truth worth clutching to in a time where death needs an instant response rather than a moment of silence. When someone dies we have an automatic response. When Mike Meyers has a child we say, “Yeah baby.” When an actor dies we quote a movie they were in. When a musician dies we quote a song lyric. Automatic responses are the actions of robots. When I told a few people at a cofee shop that Robyn Williams had died they responded automatically, “I never liked his movies” and “he probably killed himself because he wasn’t famous anymore”. This is obviously different but just as automatic of a response. This Huffington post article displays our societies desire to respond instantly, and declares Evan Rachel Wood the winner of the grief contest. It’s pretty fucked that we do this everytime a celebrity dies.

Love is Helpless

Posted on | April 30, 2014 | No Comments

To be in love is to be helpless.You can’t feel it without being vulnerable. And it’s going to hurt. A lot.

Our ego is meant to protect us.  It tells you whatever you need to hear to be safe from pain. It’s interesting to note the delusional hatred that spews from your mind in the name of this sense of security. It’s a little like your heart is America and your ego is the Patriot Act.

You’re willing to destroy a lot of things in the name of world peace and the pursuit of a happiness without pain. Since you want something impossible you ask for something impossible from yourself to deserve it.

You ask yourself why you can’t be loved. You create detailed portraits of the things that lack in you. If you’re meticulous you create pie charts and venn diagrams. You dream of ways to fill in those perceived holes. You diet, you drink to pretend to lose your inhibitions, you self-destruct because it’s seems like you won’t have to take the test if you’re in pieces.

To love you have to embrace a wider world that you can’t control. The more people you love the more you have to willingly surrender your imagined power over chaos. The more you love the more life can hurt you.

Many of us search out people we define as more broken in an attempt to heal them to heal ourselves. So that we can imagine the love we receive to be similar to the love we give. That love can be help and as such achieved by the correct actions.

Yet condescension can always be sensed in these attempts to help, and also a fear. That love is deserved and can be lost at any moment. If we don’t follow the advice. If we aren’t what we are expected to be. And this love is a brittle love, founded out a barter system of checks and balances and the King James bible. Did you know that only 144,000 people were supposed to go to heaven and they were all celibate Jews?  Unless you are a celibate Jew  you should pretty much give up on being perfect. And you wonder if they got to heaven because they refused to fall in love. But you aren’t so lucky.

You’re like me.

You love more than you’d like to.

You know enough hell to hold hands.

I ask you to remember those moments you felt most loved.

Were you at your strongest?

When you loved with the most intensity had the person just composed a poem? Had they just thrown you a surprise party? Did they give you a valued internal organ? Or were there tears in their eyes and you held them and didn’t have anything to say. But you held them anyway. Even though you were helpless, even though it made you hurt.

Who hasn’t killed love by trying to control it?

I can’t be the only one of us who went mad with jealousy. Who let my thoughts become bogged down with how I would hold down to this marvelous feeling, who became so submerged inside of the maelstrom that I wanted to control the feelings of the person I loved most in the world.

I can’t be the only one who tried to make people love me and was astounded when the effort failed.

And haven’t we all watch love die in the very same clutch of grasping fingers doing our very own imitation of Mice and Men.

I also can’t be the only one who lost my love for myself in an attempt to control my mind. Who wanted to only think happy thoughts and hated myself for feeling badly. I can’t be the only who tried to heal myself when I only had to love myself.

I repeat love is helpless.

It can’t be the answer to your problems because your problems will continue even if you find true love.  You can’t hold love like it’s the reason you’re happy because it doesn’t always make you happy.  I can’t always make anyone happy and I wouldn’t want to if I could.

You have problems and I won’t always know how to solve them. I will look at them with you and express my desire for you to be safe. I will not lie to you when you ask me to. Most of the important questions we ask ourselves don’t have easy answers or we would have already found them. We’ve been looking for them long enough.

The measure of closeness to a lover and a best friend is whether they have seen you at your most vulnerable. Did they try to fix you or love you without asking you to change? We ask if people were there when you needed them. We don’t ask if your friends saved your life. Merely if they were there.

It’s human to want to help.  It’s only necessary that you were there.

The more you fall in love the more aware you become of your vulnerability.

They could break your heart. You have given them permission to.

They see you naked and they could laugh at you! They know your secrets and they could tell them! You’ve given them your love and they didn’t provide you with a receipt! They know what your bodily fluids look like and the weird noises you make when you are really happy.

You forget that you’re more like everyone else than you’re special. More carbon copy than a signature in distinctive cursive. Everyone looks at their body and wonders if they’re ugly. We don’t have a lot of experience in seeing ordinary naked bodies. We see porn and movie stars, the people we have sex with and maybe some old men at the gym. We don’t live at a nude beach so we don’t realize the wide varieties of naked there are. We also don’t get to see too many people nakedly vulnerable because we live in a world where it is appropriate to dress up your feelings. It’s why it always feel like you’re dating a crazy person because eventually they can’t pretend they are sane because you’re watching them for too long.

Everyone farts when they shouldn’t and feels the tickle of an awkward laugh at a funeral and wants to shout bomb in an airport.

It’s okay.

Get comfy. Sometimes you will have great sex, sometimes you will have shitty sex. Sometimes you will be loving and sometimes you will be an asshole. If you let someone see your flaws they start really loving you because they can share their own flaws. They can stop performing.

You will break their heart and they will break yours.

I don’t mean to say that everyone that loves you will leave you. I mean they will hurt you. Because they’ll suffer and you’ll watch. They will make you suffer and they will watch. The world will make them suffer and you won’t be able to stop it. To love someone is to want to take their pain and be unable to. To love someone means you get to feel their pain and you’re willing to do so.

To be willing to feel pain on behalf of someone you love is a magic trick that somehow bridges the space between us.

It’s what people mean when they say they can feel you in their heart. And you can feel them in yours.

The times in my life that were least painful also had the least pleasure. Connection means magnifying your ability to feel multiplied by the number of people you truly love.

It means that you will go to funerals and you’ll cry your eyes out. If you’re really lucky you’ll get to go to a lot of funerals of people you care about. Yes, that is the definition of winning the lottery.

It means that your heart will sometimes sit in your stomach when you listen to their voice over the phone. You’ll sit next to their hospital bed and you won’t be a Doctor and there won’t be a cure for everything and you’ll be there even if it hurts.

You won’t be able to protect that feeling and keep it locked in a safe. Even one you bury in your chest. Sometimes your pain won’t fit in the neat compartments that we call civilized behavior and you’ll cry over commercials and when you talk to the people you love on the phone you won’t be able to make jokes.

And it’s okay.

You don’t have to solve their problems. You don’t even have to solve your own. You just have to be with there for them without  making the prequisite of your love their ability to change to become whatever you think they should be.

When you are inside your head you don’t have to solve all of your problems before you are willing to feel your own pain and want yourself to be happy. You don’t have to help.

Love is helpless.

All you have to do is be there.

Hockey Fans

Posted on | April 29, 2014 | No Comments

The sandwich had fried chicken and onions. The side order was fries. There was some type of mayo based spicy sauce.  I may or may not go back. I was not strongly affected one way or the other.

What I might remember, if only because I’m currently writing it down, was the face of the counter man as he watched the hockey game. It was as if he was suddenly not at work at all.

I wondered where he was. Should I ask him? Would that be considered intrusive? Should I just overthink it? Yeah. That’s exactly what I should do.

Was he standing on the ice, pretending he was one of those highly paid players? I didn’t think so.

What I saw in his face wasn’t fantasy but the reality of being a fan.  There is something both nostalgic and child like pure in that face, something much more than fantasy fulfillment.  Maybe he was in the stands yelling like crazy when a goal happened at the last minute, his voice one in twenty thousand shouting the same thing, heart beating like crazy in happiness that what he wanted actually happened. Maybe he can feel his pulse on the sticks as they slap into the puck and races past the goalie glove. Maybe he was exactly where he stood but with all of the other people watching the same thing from different places.

It’s been a long time since I was a sports fan.

I remember hockey wars against the neighbours on Beech Street back in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There was no clock counting down from one period to the next. The games were to ten and you had to stop when a car came racing down the street. Grabbing the net in your hands and bringing it back when they turned a corner and left you to play for another few minutes. We didn’t have a referee because none of the kids wanted to sit out a whole game. We usually played at least three games because we didn’t have anything else to do and what could be better than playing hockey? Rivalries were fierce but rarely become fist fights. We resolved our tension by expressing a few words we had recently learned.

I remember when those games ended and we’d won that I felt like an Olympian. With no one to tell besides your parents. With no one to know what miracles you had accomplished by pushing one leg in front of the other and somehow managing to avoid a tennis ball to your testicles. Fantasyizing about the top right corner of the net and your razor like precision that ended the game and the curse words you shouted into the summer sky because you were untouchable. You could say whatever you wanted. Because you were good and you didn’t need anyone else to tell you.

Maybe he is thinking of when his dad used to take him to local hockey games and that strange feeling that he had been accepted into the adult company of heroes. Finding their seats. That sense of disbelief that you were actually here. That strange surety as you looked at the bench that one day you’d sit there. And you’d race onto the ice when the coach gave you the signal.

I collected the cards. I watched Sports Desk at eight in the morning. I was part of hockey pools and I may have even won one. At some point I stopped caring about hockey and sports in general. I still went to the games. Because they were something I did with my father and my childhood best friend Jordi. Jordi and I played hockey in all those heroic games on Beech. We knew what it was like to be champions together.  I remember in Grade 7 yammering on about a girl I liked. Jordi nodding his head as I high speed rambled, trying to make as many jokes as possible because I liked the sound of his laugh. He told me I didn’t have to make him laugh to be his friend. This was a profound moment for me.

Eventually I stopped watching the game.  I would plot what I would eat during the intermissions between periods. Work on the plot of a new book I was thinking about. Drinking in the energy of the crowd. And then there would be that moment. When the game was close and the Halifax Citadels were on a power play and you could feel everyone’s breath stuck in their throats. Like maybe it would be our time. Maybe we’d actually win one. If we missed the adults would swear like children. If we scored we’d scream like we’d just walked into our own surprise party. People would hug in the stands. Either way hypothetically rational people would paint their faces and chests to sport our colors.

It was the insanity we shared.  That yearning to be a part of Halifax. To hug a stranger. To ride the energy of 20,000 people all hoping for the best. To be part of something.

Like how I was part of Beech Street and my friends were from around the corner. Like I was part of Grade 4 at Sir Charles Tupper when we would play tag football and Willie Fyles would throw it into the end zone and I would catch it and celebrate for much longer than would be considered polite. I remember when my fascination with hockey became about NHL 94. When we had our own league in first year university and I was the master of left rights. When I would battle Matt Stasyna for Super Nintendo supremacy and he became my best friend in best of seven series I would rarely win.

There is this inherent desire to come together and be a part of the place you live. This happens more sporadically as you get older. People, like myself, jump on the bandwagon when the Stanley Cup is in sight for a Canadian team. We come together when tragedy hits our city and we can’t bear to be alone. We spend a lot of time pretending we are nowhere on Subways leading us away from work back to our small enclave of friends. Where we work and we drink and we talk about TV shows. The world gets smaller as you get older. Doors open and we figure out how to close them. We aren’t as brave as adults as we were as children. We stop seeing the people on our block as extended family. We stop talking to strangers.

There is something about a sports fan that feels different from any other type of fan. They want their team to do well, they pray for it, they live a part of every day for it. When a TV show sucks we stop watching it. When the Toronto Maple Leafs suck they hope they’ll do better. We curse the screens and luck and life and we watch the next game with our hearts in our throats like children.

Who remember what it was like to play on the street and grab the net when the cars were coming . To scream in stadiums with adults and children celebrating something as meaningful and meaningless as a goal for the home team.

So I wait for my unmemorable chicken sandwich, while reading my copy of the Master and the Margarita. I fold over a page where they talk about love jumping out at a couple like a murderer with a knife and remind myself to read it to my girlfriend over the phone. To pass the time I talk about sports with the counter man. About that feeling that lets him leave work. And I feel like I’m a part of something. As small as waiting for a sandwich and large as being in Toronto.

Just talking to a stranger. Like I used to do obsessively as a child. Like an explorer. Finding all friendship that could be had on the horizon.

I don’t need to be funny or make the counter man laugh.

I only need to remember I’m a part of something.

 

 

They Play Music While They Work

Posted on | April 27, 2014 | No Comments

One of the most difficult things to admit yourself is that reality is a consensual hallucination.

Mainly because I’m not entirely certain what that means and the phrase has been buzzing through my brain for the last few days and I wanted to write it down and see if it made sense to you. I think it’s about how we all secretly believe in an objective reality and try to confirm this when we pretend our taste is a moral arbiter.  If we don’t get along with someone they are a bad person. If we don’t like enjoy our meal the food was bad. We forget that all of our experience passes through a filter colored by memory, fear and preconception. Not even naked is naked as we all have our own ideas of what is a good body and a bad body, what is a good object and a bad object and are somewhat aware of the possibility that the physical world is a test preparing us for a Paradise that is schools out for summer or the realization that all is an illusion and we reject it and climb in consciousness.

This tastes bad. This tastes good.

Yeah.

Reality is a consensual hallucination. That tastes good in my mind. I’m smart. They’ll know it.  Heady rush of ego. Slight erection. Speak more. Tell them about the music they play while they work. No. Tell them about this whole consensual hallucination thing because it feels neat to talk about.

Day to day life is a head trip without an instruction manual on how you get out of the vehicle while it’s moving so damn quickly. Your mood is chemicals falling through your brain like ink blots out your eyes and into the world. Your experience informs every speck of color that passes in front of those eyes that forget they’re tripping on chemical highs and lows and you pretend you are seeing what is not what you think it is.  People lost their virginity on September 11th. A terrorist was tortured to death on someone’s wedding day, let loose their last scream as the happy couple said I do and realized for the first time how much love they had allowed into their life. Your trip is your trip and sometimes it feels like you’re David after the dentist and you are always going to be this high or low. And then you see the insurance salesman do a little head shake to James Brown and you notice he’s typing to the time signature of the song.

There is a set of spinning cylinders, hypnotically turning, making it difficult to count the amount of circles which are actually turning. You can close your eyes and feel the spinning with your ears, because that’s what all those circles spinning do, they create music.  The words, “Baby take my hand,” plays as I watch the hand of the record player stab deeply into the first circle, as the needle rides grooves and sounds are created.  You can feel it in your chest. Sometimes in the space beneath your eyelids when you are feeling emotional and music hits your brain like an acid trip transforming where you are into what you’re listening to. And it feels like the song was put on just for you.

At the coffee shop I like going to they play music most of the time. One of the cooks will put on a song with a little smile and say something like,” I want to introduce you to a friend of mine.”  As I type this someone dances at a cook preparing a sandwich. A customer does a little shuffle back and forth, the type you feel in your feet and unreasonably make its way to your hips. A man enjoying his first beer of the day taps his thumb into his index finger.  “Just relax and watch me work,” plays.

You could see what they are doing as working in a coffee shop. Or you could see it as hanging out with friends listening to records. Some of the friends are strangers but that is easy to fix.  If someone dances even a little bit in your presence they are your friend. “It’s called the Boogaloo. I may not do the dance but what are you.”

I have to go outside when I receive a phone call about work. My job involves getting into the nitty gritty of Tax Applications for films and when I have to discuss numbers with an accountant I can’t do it inside. The music is simply too loud. My boss thinks I live at a dance party. But when I’m taking line item numbers and final cost reports the sun is on my face and the music quickly fades into the background. Sometimes when I hang up I sit down, close my eyes and focus on the feeling of heat on my eyelids. How I can feel my breath escaping my lips. And for a few minutes I let go of all the chunky clatter of the thoughts in my head.

And when I go back inside the music is playing. Like emotions blasted through a speaker, and I can feel myself falling into the experience of another person. Not just the artists blasting their soul into our ear drums, but the counter person who decided to introduce us to someone new or an old friend they’ve been missing. Sometimes the music is sad, about loss, about the desire to hit your head into a wall and bust out of your 9-5 existence, how family ties you down, how you can’t remember the last time you lived. There is something special about listening to Jeff Buckley’s Hallejuah in a restaurant full of strangers in the knowledge that everyone is remembering the last time they felt gratitude in grief or wept without shame at a funeral.

Sometimes you laugh because the music that is playing is saying I’m black and I’m proud say it loud even though no one in this restaurant is black.

Life is a consensual hallucination.

Until the music plays.

And you take someone else’s trip.

 

 

Down the Up Escalator

Posted on | April 27, 2014 | No Comments

So there he was.

At the end of a difficult journey pointing at the monster he conquered in the greatest confusion, drunk, stuttering, trying to explain what he had just been through. He was on the Eastbound platform, I was on the Westbound side. The people next to me were discussing a documentary they had recently seen. I was trying to determine why he was pointing at the escalator demanding an explanation.

Who was this modern Don Quixote?

The explanation is simple. He was drunk, not paying attention and had tried to walk down an up escalator.

Let’s rewind the evening just a little bit.

He had a few drinks. Maybe a few more than a few drinks.  Taxis are expensive and he had spent his money on fine local beer, maybe scotch maybe secret Portugese whisky stolen from a pirate ship, something to kill the thirst and make a Saturday evening feel alive. So he was going to take the subway home. Probably he wanted a Sandwich or a slice of pizza or a bucket of water he could drop down his gullet and magically transport himself to asleep. All he had to was get home. Maybe he licked his lips because he bought a whole pizza from Greco and would feast in his underwear while watching Sports Highlights, wiping pizza sauce on his thighs in the full knowledge that he could shower and become presentable before he once more fell under the eyes of the world. Yes, feasting on pizza while ingesting sports statistics can feel like a blurry eyed heaven when you have properly celebrated a Saturday.

He deserved it. He deserved it very much.

Now he remembers to get himself a transfer. Because you have to pick that up at the station where you pay your fare. He doesn’t exactly know why that is besides that the TTC have a policy and they sometimes reinforce it despite the fact that you can only get a transfer from inside a station and it makes no difference to anybody whether you get it at the same station where you leave provided you leave the station and don’t use it for re-entry.  But he has it in his sweaty palms like a golden ticket.

Home! Home to a whole pizza! To the news of whether his beloved raptors have dribbled the ball to their full potential. To hockey scores! To the most adorable errors anyone has ever made while being paid for hitting a ball with a stick or throwing it through a hoop!  If only he had gone to the bathroom at the bar. Or did he? How many times must a man use the bathroom after he has had a few drinks? And why is he thirsty? A glass of water would make him feel like a king. As he contemplates sleeping he notices that there is a west and an eastbound platform. He always takes the Eastbound to get home. But what if this time he is already East and must go West? Why does he wonder about this everytime he gets on the Subway? Why can’t he just trust himself?

So this time he debates the question with unexpected thoroughness.I am here, and home is there and how may I bridge the gap? I must go East.

And he picks the correct platform. He is on his way. And then he notices that the stairs have decided to fight him. What is he to do but fight back?  For each step he takes he is forced back another. It’s like standing still but more nauseauting. If his stomach surrenders he may cover a stranger in vomit.

What has his beloved Rob Ford made of this city of his youth?  What gravy must needs be taken off the train?  Only forty steps and he can relax. He just needs to take them. In this life nothing is given to you. You have to take it for yourself. What’s more he is a good person, who drank good local beer and has supported Toronto’s economy!  He is a patriot and he will not take this lying down. He will run at the stairs and accept the hell that may come.

At no point does it occur to him that if he stops struggling he will be taken up to the top of the escalator and he can change his mind and make a different decision. He fights because he is a fighter and you can’t lay down and take it when the bastards try to do you in!  So he is bounding the stairs. Jumping them two at a time. Feeling his feet slide off the stairs, balanced ever so precariously. He bangs his aged hips into the escalator’s side. Between grit teeth he mutters the same word three times, “FORD! FORD! FORD!” The hipsters walking past him aren’t laughing. They are listening to their music packets and bobbing their heads like he is a monkey in a zoo. I will have fuck your mothers, he thinks. Yes I will fuck them in a way they like but not as much as I like it!  I will pleasure them if I can get off this infernal contraption! I will try that method where I growl like a lion as we tussle in the sheets! They will see the beast in me, hipsters!  I will send them E cards and eventually break their hearts and you will no longer have a stepfather!  I will abandon my responsibilities to you!  Your mothers will be so heartbroken they will only eat cereal because they have no energy left to anything else. They will not be able to drive you to Thrift Shops!  I will make them listen to Macklemore until you no longer like it! Help  me! Avoid your fate!

Will our hero die on this cursed escalator to hell?

No.

He is a human. We made it to the fucking moon. We dodge bullets on battlefields. We invented cars that can deliver whole pizzas to your home in less than an hour or your money back and we also had something to do with satellites that convey sports statistics.

He finally makes it.  No one has noticed his two minute long struggle. His legs are tired. He is panting. Pointing. Wanting an explanation as to how his beloved Ford could have allowed this moment to happen.

And I understand.

Or I understand in the way I understand things.

Which is I make them about my emotional development and that rotten little smile we get when we learn that we aren’t alone in making fools of ourselves. I understand what it feels like to get on the wrong escalator. For me it is more metaphorical.

I require myself to be happy. Or at the very least well balanced and sane. For me that means knowing what I need to do to get to a place where my worries become background noise, where I’m not fighting myself for every step forward and being pushed back by the relentless tide of my thoughts. Usually I can accomplish this. Due to circumstances beyond my control I’m finding this a little more difficult lately.

It’s nothing by prewar standards. I sleep. I feel intense connection to people I love. I don’t hate myself.

It’s just that it’s quite a lot of pain and I’d prefer to get the fuck off the escalator because I’d be much more happy consuming a pizza and reading about TV shows. Ask the clay how it feels being on the lathe.  The clay has no idea its being made into art. Instead it simply asks why are you hurting me? Why are you running your sweaty palms down my flesh, breaking me, moulding me into what you want!

I have to stop with this metaphor.

I know little about clay working.

I think there might be a heat source. But that might have nothing to do with the lathe. That might involve a kiln. In Grade 9 I got the flu and puked during this particular class of Home Ec.

So back to the escalator and my desire to return home to consume cheesy poofs, pizza and the American dream.

With pain, you have to let it carry you for a while. Until the waves have finished crashing against your heart and your stomach. Because you can’t go down an up escalator. You look like a fool as you question Rob Ford and his latest decisions and why people make fun of him for being fat rather than for being stupid and who are you to comment on Ford when you are attempting to make your way down an up escalator while cursing all those that fail to understand the nobility of your decision to run away from being in pain to lessen the imagined burden you have on onlookers.

There is a difference between bravery and stupidity. And it’s hard to give credit to the poor man and his never give up attitude when if he had given up he wouldn’t have injured himself and he would have been able to eat pizza in his underwear to his heart’s content, if he had only let the stairs carry him up to the top and used his legs for the tough journey down.

In our modern era we expect life to make itself convenient to our immediate desires.

Mine is to be over this shit already.

Part of it is a guilt that comes with grief. You can’t really figure out how you are responsible. But you know that you can’t control the world. And you have some idea that you can control yourself. That you should at least be able to grasp onto the workable mechanisms in your brain and feel as you would like to. You don’t think it will be easy but there has to be a certain set of steps that will get you passed this in a reasonable time frame. If I exercise, or if I make amends for things I believe I might have done wrong, or if I give to charity, pray to God, I can cut this pain into pieces, put these ashes in my hand, take a deep inward breath and push them into the ocean where I’ll never see them again.

Unfortunately you have to go up before you can go down. I apologize for the strange mixing of metaphors, trains of thoughts and subway stations but you have to understand that the weight of your pain can pull you down into your stomach but also be the very height of your experience, the magic upon which the mundane pivots.And you have to feel it in all of it’s hurt before you can make a plan to get past it.

Your ups and downs don’t exist on an absolute scale and our two category system of good and bad involves a lot of making a fool of yourself in the hopes of heroism.

There’s always time to eat pizza in your underwear. You can do it in victory and defeat.

I will do it tonight.

 

 

 

 

The Art of Crying

Posted on | April 25, 2014 | No Comments

I’ve recently developed an emotional muscle called crying. It used to take me years to watch the right someone is dying romantic comedy to feel that spicy itchy tingle in my brain and ejaculate all over my face. Recently it’s been happening more often.  I don’t talk myself out of it. I just let it hit me and come out of me and I feel like my head isn’t so crowded. It feels strangely like taking myself into my own arms and holding myself without saying anything. Just letting the shaking happen, knowing I am there, that somehow I managed to open my heart to myself.

I remember about a year ago a friend of mine was going through a particularly tough time in his life. His idea of the future was gone and his life had changed in a few days in ways he couldn’t ignore. He was  breaking up after a long relationships and breaking up involves becoming involved in the stories you’ve told yourself and the various lies and truths that encompass a love past honeymoon.  I remember the feeling in my heart when he told me the story of the end the first time. I wanted him not to be in pain. I wanted his misery to end. Which is a beautiful feeling even when it hurts in your stomach. It’s the first futile impulse of love. To take all the hurt. To take the person in your arms and do whatever you can to make them feel better. Which ultimately is just showing that impulse. To show that they aren’t alone in their pain. And you know you can’t take it all away. That next person they become needs the rocket fuel of revelation that comes from all this pain. If you took it away they’d be empty and every stretch of good we get comes from our own walks through hell and you know this and it doesn’t matter to you like it doesn’t matter to them. And it’s next to impossible to give someone a solution to their problems. All you can really say is I’ve been lost too and I found my way back and I’m fucked up, and I have ups and downs and do things I regret and have less control over my life than I want but I know you. There is no reason to feel shame. This walk is part of the human condition and we all take it at different times in our life.

He did this thing I admire. He cried in front of me without embarrassment or explanation. I somehow managed to not say anything, to just watch, to let him feel it without trying to make him feel better. The end of a relationship is a time when we idealize what we use to have, when we live in what once was, riding feelings that no longer breath or blink. It’s a time of delusion.He looked head on into that storm and he cried. Like a man I wished I could be. He was so honest with everything that he felt. And it passed through him to become beautiful things. Like the friendship we had during that time. Like the new healthier relationship he entered afterwards. And we’d talk on the phone for hours a day until he didn’t need that anymore. And I got to be there for him in the realest way possible.

Sometimes we are terrified of letting the people in our lives suffer along with us. That we will do anything to keep them from feeling our pain. Yet some of the most precious moments in my life was the privelege of being there when I was needed. Of showing what my love meant.

I have never been good at being emotionally vulnerable. I often forget the privelege you offer someone when you’re in pain, when you rely on them when you need something you can’t give yourself yet.

Because being emotionally vulnerable involves admitting that you have flaws, that you make mistakes and you ask to be loved in spite of that. And my mental highs and lows have always been tied into an essential narcissism. This belief that through achievement I would find happiness. That for some reason love for me would be extremely conditional. That if I didn’t reach a certain standard I would be beneath love. So I strove to be perfect. And if you work hard enough you can make sure no one really knows you, and if they don’t know you they can’t love you and you are alone because you didn’t show was behind all that charm. When I was sick I was forced to understand that love wasn’t actually like that.

That sometimes you need your parents. Sometimes you need your friends to tell you that you’re a good person. You can’t do it all yourself. That being vulnerable isn’t being weak. It’s opening your heart to other people. It’s opening your heart to yourself. After the fire I thought I was fine. Shock can last a long time and you can focus on the things you can control so hard that you get hard on yourself and hard on the other people in your life who are going through their own problems.

I realized that the love I had towards myself needed to be much more similar to the love I have for other people. I don’t love them because they’re perfect, it’s because you know what it’s like to be weighed down and no one can lift all the weight themselves and there is something about them that connects to something in you. In someway knowing this person makes you better.  And when they let you see their pain, you realize that  life is hard for them and you love them and you want to make it easier. Think of how beautiful it is that there are people in the world who want you to not suffer.Who want you to be happy to the extent that they will take the part of your weight that they are allowed to carry.

I can remember moments in my own life when I saw how much I was loved.

There was my first panic attack that we thought was a heart problem. My dad was going 150 miles an hour through the streets of Halifax to get me to a hospital and I couldn’t breath in the backseat as my mother ran her hands through my hair. I knew they were scared. That my dad would act unreasonably to make sure I was okay because real love can make you go crazy. There was my girlfriend offering to come up to Toronto to help me clear out the house last Friday. There have been a lot of moments like that. Most of the real moments involve a time and place where I felt weak and needed to be reminded that the human condition isn’t a comic book.

That time with my friend is one of the most important times in my life. I was called onto be a friend and I was. I did what I could to ease his pain. This involved sleeping over at his house, talking to him on the phone ever day for months until he was able to carry the weight himself. I learned something about being a man and letting yourself have your feelings and not try to dull them with rationalizations or self help speeches. I wonder what could make a man cry like that. What would it be like to let it all go.

I know what it is. It’s the kindest you rarely allow yourself.

This morning I felt tears coming into my eyes when a different friend talked to me about his work with the Coast Guard and how long it took for him to get over losing someone on the job. This is a guy who makes his living doing cool guy shit. Who has a million and one stories about  places he has been and things he has seen. I love the stories he tells and I love when he stops telling those stories and shows his strength by admitting his feelings of weakness.

He talked about how he poured his guilt into his relationships and defined himself by what he viewed as his own failure. And he said that the most important thing had been to learn to love yourself. To treat yourself with the same compassion you give to other people. I can’t really describe why this felt so powerful to me.  He was telling me something I already knew. It wasn’t the words themselves. It was the feeling. That it was okay to be myself. That he loved me more when I needed him too.

He told me he loved me and a lot of people did and I just felt this well of gratitude in my chest. He said in life there isn’t closure. Each day you open your heart and you feel the damage and you go on anyway. You have to give up on the idea of things being the same. Of this feeling magically disappearing. The truth is that eventually you’ll feel it less and less but you’ll always feel it. And I know it’s true. Having anxiety no longer feels crippling. The things I did when I was sick don’t bother me. Some of them were embarrassing like being unable to get out of my bed and uncontrollably crying at a Chinese restaurant or struggling to sleep and needing my ex girlfriend to calm me down. Others were mistakes that made me a better person like when I learned that you can’t stop being jealous by telling yourself the feeling is beneath you or getting angry at yourself for having shitty thoughts. Like you can’t yell yourself into being calm and you aren’t alone in suffering. Everyone feels it.

It’s your admission ticket into the world’s circus.

And I sit in my favorite cafe and I watch. A cook apologize for fucking up an order. Two strangers sharing their names and telling a little bit of their story. I feel the weight of feet as they hit the ground and struggle to support a whole life’s history filled with good moments and bad. I remember what it was like when I was fat and didn’t like to look in the mirror. When I had to begin my story by telling people I had been sick because I felt like they deserved to know exactly what they were getting into. I ride the subway and see people reading advertisements because they are so exhausted they don’t want to be bothered with trying to connect. Staring into their phones waiting to hear good news.

And I remember how lucky I have been. I can feel my heart as it reached out to my friends and felt their pain and called it human, called it beautiful, called it a piece of myself that I would protect.

I rarely read these entries after I write them.

It isn’t really for the reader. It’s for myself. To remember how amazing it can be to live through hurt. To know that the time I fall down I have a record of picking myself up. Of opening my heart to myself when I needed to. Each day it gets a little easier. And the measurement needs to be written down. So I remember. That I have been in pain and I have been so incredibly happy that all of the pain added up to that pleasure I was luckily enough to feel.  Even the relationship with friends and lovers that ended gave me something and gave them something.  We aren’t alone even if we aren’t always together. We always love more than we remember.Things are always better than we imagine.

The tragedy isn’t that we die alone. It’s that sometimes we chose to live that way.

This a thank you to the people I love for letting me out of my head and into the world.

It’s a beautiful place even if the rain is falling onto concrete streets and I don’t know what path I’ll travel as my feet continue to move out of my bed and into the world.

For now the rain is falling.

It’s almost summer.

Soon I’ll get to see the things that grew in the wake of disaster.

 

 

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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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