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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

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 it 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. 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 then 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 you have to wander 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 defense 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 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 and 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 breath 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 amount 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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Love Story

Posted on | March 21, 2018 | No Comments

I think one of the foremost misconceptions about all forms of love is the idea that you’ll feel it all the time if you feel it at all. That if there are moments when it goes away it was never there in the first place.

Or that if it’s real it will be easy. We give alot of credence to the idea of a miraculous love, whether it’s romantic or spiritual. When we should celebrate hard work, rather than a good story. When every marriage has to survive the times when love disappears and staying kind and open is the only way to wait for it to return.

I think our love for ourselves is a lot like this. I think that you don’t get to feel it all the time. That you have to wait for it to return and to make sure it does you have to be kind to yourself. And I think that what makes that possible is the belief that you can learn.

Self hatred performs a similar miracle as fated love. It’s a way of saying that you don’t have a choice in what happens in your life. It’s a way of abdicating responsibility. And there are things you haven’t tried. Discussions you haven’t attempted. In fact most of us have tried very little to sweep ourselves off our feet. Because when the love disappears for a short time we go mad and chase after it in other people, in substances, in art, in whatever a little effort will provide the illusion of easy maintainable joy. Because we refuse to acknowledge our pain. So we don’t comfort ourselves when we feel it. We grow less sensitive to our feelings and less sensitive to the feelings of people we know. And we get a little tougher. Because shouldn’t this be easier? Aren’t we doing it wrong?

You have a duty to be kind to yourself.

So that you don’t use your genuine hurt and sadness as an excuse for cruelty. So that you don’t turn away love when it comes for you with open arms. So that you can take responsibility for the parts of your life that can be better with just a little effort. Because in life everything creates more of itself. Your self hatred becomes others injury in real life. Your love can become more love. Your kindness and cruelty can move like cure and cancer through conversation with everyone you meet.

But it starts inside. When the love goes away. And you’re kind to yourself until it returns.

If you’re waiting for it to return, I want you to know that you deserve it. You’re worthy. You can find it again. You just have to patient,  you have to be kind and you have to keep your eyes open so you can hold onto yourself when you need to.

The idea that love is easy, that it’s fated, that is present in all moments if it’s real is a lie that hurts us all and makes us believe we haven’t truly experienced the only thing that makes life worth living.

It’s a love story.

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The Wheels On The Bus

Posted on | March 16, 2018 | No Comments

This short story was written in a half hour challenge with the last words of the piece provided for me. 

I probably shouldn’t have taken the acid before I got on the bus full of young children.

But I don’t get that many days off. Timmy did seem a little disturbed by how much of the two seater I was taking up with my adult body. He weighed around 50 pounds and his annoyance meant little to me. With his shiny blue electrified eyes and tiny hands. I knew I could do whatever I wanted and the bus driver wouldn’t intervene. After all he was an adult and understood what I was going through. What we were all going through.

“Wheels on the bus go round and round, “ I shouted at my seat neighbour. He winced in terror. “Sing it.”

He did.

“Louder!!!” I shouted.

He did. As loud as he could.

I could feel my voice carrying forward to the front of the bus. Tears slide down the driver’s cheeks but no words emerged from his mouth. Even without two tabs of acid a ride on this bus tended to reduce adults to hysterics. The driver was a trained trauma therapist and had negotiated with many adults driven to the breaking point. He wasn’t trained to deal with the type of laughter emerging from my throat.

“Wheels on the bus go round and round,” I screamed. “Sing it.”

The boy’s lip trembled and he joined me. Because he had no choice.

They called it immersion therapy.

Surrounded yourself with what terrifies you most and you overcome the fear. My grandparent’s generation watched the sky’s and waited for missiles to fall. My parents waited for the oceans to rise and for our way of life to go with it. My generation gets on this bus and is forced to stare into the eyes of children with impossibly blue eyes.

I noticed that his backpack had a Ninja Turtle on it.

I tore it from his hands.

“Where did you get this?”

“I don’t know….”

“WHERE YOU LITTTLE PIECE OF SHIT!!!!”

He shakes his head. He doesn’t understand what is happening inside of my brain. As the synapses do the shimmy and shake, bubbling up laughter and conspiracy theories. My parents gave me this same backpack and this show hasn’t been popular in decades. The doctor said there would be no personalization. We’d work up to that. But someone gave this little shaking piece of shit my backpack. That wasn’t procedure. That wasn’t allowed.

“My mother got it for me,” he says, lip trembling as the words are dragged from him.

“She what?”

“She waited in line….”

Sobs emerge from some secret place inside me. What we think of as pain is actually just radiation from a secret reactor. Where pain exists in its purest form, where heat is only generated through complete and total meltdown. The child’s terror is justifiable. I’m losing my mind.

There used to be a commercial with some Jewish lady, who was eating a sandwich and she’d say eat a sandwich and call your mother. I haven’t called my mother for years. Because the virus that killed the world’s children poisoned my generation. My jealousy of my parent’s lives ate me alive. That they had a chance to give themselves so totally to someone when I had to hold onto al the jagged pieces of myself with no one to give them to. That the only way I could treat this nagging insanity was to take this monthly bus trip.

My eyes dilate.  I look in the bus window. I realize…my eyes are blue.

This might have all been a test. This is my child. I hear the sound of tires skidding. I begin screaming. In terror. Knowing I’d do anything to save these children from their horrible fate.

“You have to stop the bus!!!” I scream.

The driver walks down the aisle. The paramedics join him. They drag me off the bus. Saying kind words.  As I leave my son behind. Clutching my backpack. As all energy leaves his body and his head rests against the window. As saline tears slip down his mannequin face. And I understand why the child wouldn’t sing with me.

He knew what I could never grasp in my inebriated state.

There were no wheels on the bus.

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With love from Michael George Kimber

Posted on | March 13, 2018 | 1 Comment

Michael George Kimber 223x300 With love from Michael George Kimber

 

 

Many years ago I went searching through the internet for other versions of myself. I found Michael George Kimber. He was working on a blog, putting up awesome stories and he was 75 and British. Obviously I had to reach out to him. I expect I had a good amount of coffee before I did. I expected a funny story to come of it. I had no idea how cool I would be when I was 75 or how I’d get even better by the age of 83. Or that we’d become Facebook friends and his rare messages to me would become a precious gift.

Here are links to the first two stories I did about our odd time travel friendship.  Words From Myself As a 75 Year Old Man and The Return of Michael George Kimber

His messages vary from urging me to get famous before he dies to deeply personal statements on my Facebook wall. All of which shows his incredible heart.

To give you a quick example, I made a post on Bell Let’s Talk Day:

I think going through mental health problems teaches you hard life is. Not just for yourself but for everyone. And really reinforces how important is to be kind. To yourself and to everyone else because they are carrying around an inner life just as complicated and difficult as your own. We aren’t wired to be happy. The people who help you get through those times have been through them. They let you know you have to be patient because it takes a really time to get up after you’ve spent years falling without realizing it. They’ll tell you something you won’t believe which is that it won’t always feel like this. The most important thing I would tell anyone is not to put pressure on themselves to feel differently. Ironically when you accept your feelings they stop having complete control over you. When you get angry at your feelings you are literally only hurting yourself. You can’t suppress thoughts. But thoughts naturally dissipate on their own. It’s like not taking a shit because you don’t want to fart. It makes zero sense. You also aren’t always going to feel like this. You’re going to kiss people on the mouth. You are going to wildly dance in your empty apartment. You’re going to do things you didn’t think you could do. And even when you’re in the worst places you can be loved. You can be there for the people in your life. The idea that you’re the most fucked up person in the world is wrong. You see the unedited version of yourself inside your head and everyone else seems so composed because you only hear what they say out of their mouths instead of the heads. Everyone is fucked up. Everyone needs someone to listen to them. If there’s something that’s really hurting you, that you haven’t talked about find someone who will listen to you. Because you deserve that. Because you don’t have to carry everything by yourself. Because we need eachother. Because there aren’t enough professionals to look after the need. The people who keep us alive are unqualified, compassionate and just trying their best. Do your best.

This was his response: 

Hi Michael, Thought it was time I took a look at you to what you’re getting up to. Read you’re piece – makes a lot of sense. Wish I’d known you when I was young, when I needed a sympathetic ear. Of course when I was young you were not around so back to square one. I hope the people who read you’re words are spreading the word.
Be nice to each other. Simple!
Best wishes, the other Michael G Kimber

Now you’re probably wondering what got me to make this post. Well, apparently as an 83 year old British man I still write awesome love poetry. He wrote an amazing love poem I was moved to share with you. With his permission I’m posting it for you to enjoy.

We’ve just had Mother’s Day, so here’s one for Lovers Day

Optimism

Am I the only one who cries,
when music soars and stirs the heart;
when a golden voice in euphoric rise;
sings a lover’s song before they part.

Am I the only one who tries,
to dab the tears before they fall.
When love and all emotion dies,
to fuel the heartache in us all.

Do others weep in deep surprise,
when visions tear the soul in two;
by artful beauty framed in sighs,
or wondrous nature, sublime in hue.

When hope is gone it’s in my eyes,
for one who wears his heart on sleeve.
Who’s world is gone with no reprise;
and is left alone to cry and grieve.

And then, will it be at my demise,
at drama’s death for love gone wrong.
With heaving chest one can’t disguise,
and with grieving hope for one last song.

My tears are real, they tell no lies,
I cannot help the ones I shed.
At deep despair of sad goodbye’s,
without relief when love is dead.

But wait -
For without warning up it flies,
when human spirits rise above.
A new day dawns with stunning skies;
and I’m ready once again for love.

I’m ready for the lows and highs
of love’s sweet dance and tête-à-tête.
For all the things that love implies,
I’m ready now; I cannot wait.

Once more I yearn to know those ties,
that bind two lovers, hearts and minds.
A love from which one cannot prize,
until; until the end of time unwinds.

© Michael G Kimber

 

 

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Waking Up

Posted on | March 5, 2018 | No Comments

Death is both like waking up and being trapped in a dream.

It’s dream like surreal to imagine you have no more time with a person you cared about.

And it’s like waking up from all the time you spend on meaningless grievances and suddenly achingly feel the importance of every moment when you aren’t guaranteed to have a next one.

You wish you could wake up from this realization and you know that you have been woken to a deeper truth of what life is.

Life is chaotically, comically tragic, ruled not by order or meaning but by a ridiculousness capriciousness that mocks us for belief that we die as a result of our choices. You are lucky to be alive. Because you can’t control the most important things that happen to you.

For a huge part of my life when someone asked me how I was doing I would respond with, “Living the Dream.”  It was such a positive statement it would discourage people from asking any further questions.

The truth is the natural state of being alive isn’t that different from being asleep.

Invisible factors like brain chemistry, our genetic heritage, what we worry about, what we hope for, dance over the music our brain plays and create a light show we have to intrepret. That we have to pretend we truly understand.

When you wake up from a dream you try to come up with an explanation. Your friends at work offer theories. The internet offers definitive answers. They thin all the facts down to a simple you want this or you need to do this.

You have no choice but to narrow your focus in search of a simple answer.

I once talked to a neuroscientist about how he believed dreams work.

In life we imagine reality as man gets stabbed with a sword so he bleeds. Cause=effect.

In dreams it works the opposite way. Man bleeds so he’s stabbed by a sword. Our brain is a reason machine. First we have a chemical flash. Then we find pictures that makes sense of that feeling. Your thoughts follow your feelings. The feeling of being stabbed creates the blade and the person stabbing you.

When you think of the senseless conflict you enact to create emotional safety, think of that blade and how much time we spend forging it after the fact. How much life is like a dream. Creating stories to narrativize our pain, because if we understand it at least we can do something about. In our next life we can be an expert fencer. The next time we’ll stab first.

Now that’s dreams. Where we believe we have send ourselves deep truths. Everything that happens is related to your mind and what you are aware of concsciously or unconsciously. In actual life the dream is spun from things you cannot even be unconsciously aware of. So life is even more chaotic than dreams.

We imagine our brains are trying to tell us something simple. That there is a clarity within us that we need only listen to and all will make sense. That our truth looks like certainty.

I don’t think this is true.

I think we are all living in a dream.

Think about the nature of the person reading these words. What you imagine yourself to be as you turn my thoughts into chemical sensations in your own brain.

The idea of one voice, one soul, is an illusion created by consciousness. In fact different parts of our brain are all communicating to us at once. But to prevent madness we synthesize the information in a way we can understand it. So the voice in our heads is not the way we imagine it to be. But what about the words the voice says?

Language works as our bodies operating system.

A survival mechanism.

Which means they aren’t expressly meant to convey truth but rather to keep us alive. Thinking of how many times you’ve lied to yourself because you needed to. Because the truth doesn’t always help.

We translate words into thoughts. Which become emotions. Which due to confirmation bias recursively twist our thoughts. The way we interpret words comes from where we heard them spoken. “We need to talk” doesn’t mean I miss you. It means you did something wrong.

Now we operate under the idea that we are all using words the same. That we have to be or our connecting with each other through conversation is actually just two actors giving speeches from different plays, hoping the other person connects with the performance.

It’s obvious that we don’t know what words mean to other people.

But what about our intuitions?

There are a multiplicity of things that affect every response and you aren’t aware of them all as you are making decisions. Because your intuition is also formed by these chaotic factors. By random chemicals pumping through your brain creating pictures and emotions and recursive thoughts that feel more and more like your identity because you keep having them.

I know this sounds like a little like a philosophy lecture from someone who came stoned to every class and argued with the teachers as they gazed at his 20 year old majesty and wonder if they too would ever be this young again. I should probably make my point.

People who believe they understand the world, who believe they understand other people, who believe they understand themselves are performing alchemy. To turn anxiety into calm. To turn chaos into control. Righteous anger has been scientifically proven to reduce brain function and to feel amazing.

But it also creates a sense of responsibility that isn’t related to reality.

Capitalism operates under the concept of a meritocracy. If you are failing it is because you aren’t trying hard enough. Ideas of luck, privilege and coincidence don’t factor into arguments. Think positively and you won’t have cancer. Think positively as life beats you black and blue you aren’t deluded you are strong and tomorrow will be different. Even romance operates under this idea. If you are lonely it’s because you haven’t done the right things, rather than the idea of finding love is lucky and doesn’t happen for everyone.

Every time you fight your thoughts and lose it’s because you are weak rather than as humans being we are tiny, insignificant creatures locked in delusion as we struggle to reach out and hold each other’s hands.

If you accept that you don’t understand all the factors that motivate you, all the factors that affect you, you can be loving to yourself. Because you aren’t fully in control.

You can only try.

When you realize this is true of everybody you know, you can see all the effort they are putting in just to get close to you. In the hopes that for just a few moments you can understand each other.

Nothing to me is more beautiful than the effort people make to get close to eachother. When someone dies and your heart is broken people reach out and they offer whatever they can. In the full knowledge that they can’t beat death, they can’t beat pain, but they can bridge distance, by standing so perilously close as to feel the fire that consumes you.

To me the idea that we spend our lives dreaming feels so wonderfully true and merciful.

Where in the face of every disaster in life, somehow something in us forces us to reach out for each other. Where we don’t act because we know but because we hope.

We don’t know what we are doing.

But the world moves us.

And when we’re lucky it moves us closer together.

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Only Bathroom Stall Kept In The Smithsonian

Posted on | March 4, 2018 | No Comments

Life can feel so conditional

Like if you make this mistake it’s all over

Like I have these high standards and I don’t hit them I don’t matter.

And shame can hit you so hard

But my love for you has no connection to your self esteem or what happened to you yesterday

Where you are today and where you are tomorrow will change but that won’t affect the way I feel about you

I can see every ounce of effort you put into being a good person.

And how much you think that means putting yourself in a tiny box

Where your every thought is sweet and kind and you’re trying to be a Saint

And I want to assure you that this has nothing to do with the way I love you

I love you big

And you’re fucking huge. So many more people than you give yourself credit for

I love you when you want to hide what you’re thinking because it scares you and when you tell me what you’re thinking because I think that way too sometimes and your honesty is such a precious gift and I know how much it’s worth

I love your depression because isn’t it earthshaking to see how passionate you are now when sometimes you don’t feel anything at all.

I love your anxiety because I know it’s just a sincere desire to keep everyone you care about safe and you didn’t create your own nervous system.

I love you even when I’m sick of you

When you know me well enough to know the parts I can’t get rid of even if I have tried.  And encourage me to stop trying to erase parts of myself that feel inconvenient. That I need to spend time giving love to the parts of myself that don’t love me back.

I don’t love you because you succeed. I love you because you try.

I know that there are parts of you that you have no control over.

And I don’t think you’re a coward because you’re scared. I think your brave because you spend the majority of your life being kind.

I don’t think that your scars make you ugly

When I look at you, I’ve never been as merciless as your eyes when you look into a mirror. Your beauty is so obvious to me. As it is to everyone who really gets to know you

I’ve been standing beside people I love for decades

And my heart is the bathroom stall you carved your names into,  the only one kept in the Smithsonian.  Once your name is there, it will not be removed. Even if I spent hours with bleach on my hands trying to scrub it out. Yup It’s still there. Right next to call this number for a blow job and philosophical arguments in sharpie.

I’ve seen death try to get between us and get its ass kicked.

I’ve seen time try to make us into different people and our voices cracked and we were children again.

I’ve seen lovers cheat on eachother and not break up, because the idea of living without each other made all the pain feel necessary. I’ve seen true love survive the end of a relationship and become the closest friendship.

I’ve seen cancer try to eat every inch of a person and heard the strength in a voice over the phone that said even though I’m almost gone I want to give you something to remember me by.

I’ve seen people scream love poetry using their broken hearts as a microphone to say I will suffer every sleepless night as long as I get a chance to meet people like this. Take this shard.

I got more heart left

I’ve watched tragedy drain the color from the world and watched it come back in all it’s mundane beauty

Where the only thing I’m thinking about is where I am and what the air tastes like in my mouth

As far as you feel like you can fall

There are hundreds of hands who are dying to catch you

And give you roses while you can smell them

Because life wouldn’t be the same without you

I love you so much and I’m far from the only one

Whatever is happening to you now

It’s not too big

We can lift it together or I’ll crawl under those bricks with you and wait for time to come and rescue us

Because I know how scary it can be in the dark without someone to talk to

You aren’t alone

You just forgot to pick up the phone and call me

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Call And Response

Posted on | February 27, 2018 | No Comments

Note:  I was asked to do a speaker’s series where you tell a story with no notes for the awesome Spoke Series by Outside the March for their February event themed “Secret Admirers I met Under A Tree”. This is the story that came out.

I originally thought I should do a story about how I hate Valentine’s Day and would prefer to celebrate love on a Tuesday. But I figured it would mean more if I told the reason why I don’t like Valentine’s Day.  It all begins with  girl taking my hand on the campus of the University of King’s College.

I think the trees were covered in snow. Sagging beneath the weight of winter. I think I wanted to punch someone in the face because I was sick of hearing about the meaning of life and the categorical imperative. King’s College looks like Hogwarts. Huge buildings filled with extraordinarily smart, creative weirdos who wanted to know the meaning of life.

The girl takes my hand. I’m about to become a man.

Sounds funny. Like the beginning of an adolescent fantasy.

Her fingers feel constricting. She guides me towards the residence where I used to live. She simply says, “Come with me. ” As we walk my footsteps feel heavy. The air feels like it has weight inside my lungs. Like I can feel each breath entering my mouth, traveling down my throat and the oxygen seeping into my blood.

We enter Middle Bay. My old residence building.

I can hear the echo of the laughter we used to share. My friends were rappers, philsophers and weirdos who smoked weed at a parking lot we called Plato’s Cave. There was a Hurricane a month after Frosh week. And the power went out. And we rapped in the staircase. We went to the DJ Olympics and my friend Jason battled the foremost freestyle MC in the city and won the audiences heart and lost the decision. He grabbed a suitcase and walked down these hallways prepared to argue for a rap show in the pit. A black box we used as a theater space. It was in these walls that he plotted total victory in a water fight that would become legend.  I can still hear the panicked screams of our enemies as water balloons burst and they ran throughout the quad.

She holds my hand. We walk past where Dan and Dennis used to play Blackbird. Up the stairs past where my friend Jay Gillette opened an illegal liquor spot and we learned how to get drunk every day.  Past the toilets where we all get sick at least once.

Up to a room at the top floor.

Where a door opened and everyone was waiting.

With tears in their eyes.

I know what was going on before I was told. Jason was dead. He had taken his own life.

Everything had changed.

I want to take back to the night before. But to do so I have to go back a little further than that. Months earlier an ex-girlfriend needed weed for a funeral. Her close friend had taken his own life by jumping off the bridge in Halifax. He had been a drug dealer and he had given his best friend heroin instead of cocaine. He hadn’t been able to live with it. I always wanted to be a writer and I wanted to understand how someone could make that sort of decision. So I imagined myself in that place. Where I couldn’t live with the guilt. And I put myself on that bridge in my mind and jumped. Not surprisingly this insane attempt at empathy left me unable to breath in my first panic attack.

I wrote a poem about that mental space. I was attempting to record it that night with my friend David. When we found out that Jason had gone missing and we tried to find him. The poem was so disturbing that we left Dave’s house. And Jason called. We missed it.

See we all missed a lot. Because his breakdown looked like a philosophical revelation. He thought he understood the world. We all did. Because we were kids.

And we studied philosophy and things were so incredibly beautiful because we didn’t understand the world. So we thought we could hold it in our hands.

Suicide is a really difficult thing to deal with because you always feel like you could have done something.

My friend Dave and I talked about the phone call and he said we could never understand what would have happened. And I let it go.

See being a kid involves a belief that the world is simple. It’s like my belief that I could understand the most horrible situation by creating a fantasy. Compassion isn’t really about empathy. It’s about understanding that we can’t really understand what anyone else goes through.  We couldn’t have kept him alive. Because he didn’t know that anything was wrong.  He didn’t understand what we were going to go through. We looked for a sensible explanation. Something that could protect us.

Only life isn’t like that. It’s so much more complicated than we are able to understand.

Life’s beauty doesn’t become clear through simplifying it. Making it something we can hold. We see life’s beauty most clearly by realizing that we are lucky, that each moment isn’t guaranteed but a gift. Somehow when our parents were fucking and we were good swimmers and we got to live for a little while. Everything we thing we got to experience from that point on was luck. Even getting to know Jason for that brief moment in our lives.

See it was adulthood because we understood how fragile everything really is. All the bullshit, all the self important trips we lay on ourselves, is unimportant. Just the connections we make. After Jason died we were all dominoes. Ready to fall. But we held eachother up in desperate freestyle sessions we held as funeral at the Public Library. In drinking so much we cried in eachother’s arms. Because every single moment was precious.

Here is something I learned. That relates to the idea of secret admirers and the theme of this gathering. You have no idea how much you are loved. The place you hold in people’s hearts. What it would mean if you were gone.

Jason had two funerals. One in his hometown and one at our school. In the King’s College Chapel we cried together row on row of boys who usually only expressed their feelings in their music. Holding each other as we were shaken by loss. The President of King’s College William Barker spoke. And told us he had experienced a similar loss when he was our age. And that he never forgot his friend. That for the rest of our lives we’d remember him and as we got older we’d remember the good more than the heartbreak.

It’s been 13 years since Jason died. Every February is hard. Imagining what it would be like if only we could have seen him grow up. But we still play hip hop shows. Where the heroes of our youth are praised. Where Jason’s name is always spoken.

Jason Lionel Walsh rapped under the name Litterbug. In the Middle Bay Crew.

We were boys, we were mighty and we still miss him with all of our hearts.

We loved him so much there is a piece of our heart that will always be broken. Because we refuse to forget his smile. We refuse to forget his jokes. His music.

I bought my first suit for his funeral.

I wore it to hip shows I thought he’d like to go. Where I wanted him with me.

At those shows my friend Dave did a song about him. Which he practiced for weeks so that he could get through it without crying. The front row of the show was filled with his friends. Who were there with him. Who fixed all of their attention on him to help him lift that terrible and awesome feeling of grief and honour our friend.  Who felt something indescriable as he spoke words that had been carved into our young hearts. He did a call and a response.

This was what he said.

When I say LB. You say  Rest in peace.

We were going to do that now.

Because we were rappers. Because we loved him. Because I’m going to make you.

When I say LB, y’all say rest in peace.

LB.

Rest in Peace.

LB.

Rest in Peace.

LB.

Rest in Peace.

 

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The Polish Movers

Posted on | February 21, 2018 | No Comments

The other night I went home. Pretty tired.

Ordered ubereats. Like a lot of uber eats.

The expensive kind.

And I was just sitting there and my door opened.

Well really the lock broke and then the door opened.

And you know in moments like that you sort of think of what you’d do.

You’d probably have done better with it.

Like I bet you’d probably pick up something and hit them with it.

But I just sort of stared at the men as they came inside my apartment.

They looked at me and smiled politely.

And I noticed they were carrying moving boxes.

They weren’t really speaking any language I understood. But when I shouted at them they spoke what I think is Polish. So the movers were Polish I think.

I told them I think they have the wrong apartment. I mean I knew it was the wrong apartment but I was trying to be polite.

They didn’t say anything.

I checked my phone. Looked up Google Translate and tried it in Polish.

Maybe they weren’t polish.

Anyways the leader shook his head and his crew started picking up my stuff. And they put the stuff in boxes. And like stepped on the stuff.

I told them I wasn’t going anywhere. I paid my rent.  Like dude, I bought a couch. It has a Swedish name and  my bookshelves are like nailed to the wall. The bookshelves are also Swedish. Like I’m working a job I fucking hate and I’m overweight and I have money in my bank account and I have Ubereats on the way. Like put down my fucking stuff. Because everything I own belongs here.  I’m going to stay in this place a long time. As long as I can if you’ll just fucking leave me alone.

And I notice that they are drunk. Like all of them. Stinking fucking loaded.

They are all different sizes and smells but they have something wrong with their eyes. This frozen terror. Of people stuck in a routine that will only hurt people. Like Dentists. But more working class. There’s this little bit of sympathy in them too. Like their eyes are wet. Like they understand how hard this is for me but this is their 9 to 5 gig. And at least this time they don’t have to step on any kid’s neck this time.

And it occurs to me that this company isn’t really that professional. Like wrong door, okay, but they’re loaded. And I can see into their assholes. Their pants are that low and their posture is that stooped.

And they’re breaking things now.

And I don’t really feel anything. Besides a little sick to my stomach. And you know like an oddly unemotional clarity in my mind. Of like this is crazy. I should really do something about this.

So I’m like acting in my own body. Like pretending to be Michael Kimber. Just sitting on my fucking couch. Like I have been doing for a long time.

I know that this could be a lot worse. That maybe when they’re done with the stuff they’ll pick me up and break my back like Bane.

And I notice that the apartment is getting smaller and smaller. And they have moved like everything out of it. And managed to rip all of my furniture apart.

And they’re gone. With one last tear filled look back. And a shrug of the shoulders.

And I am just in this tiny, tiny room full of garbage that was once full of my prized possessions. Only the room is getting smaller and smaller.

I said that before but I don’t think you got it.

I know.

I haven’t seen that happen before either.

And suddenly it’s so small I can’t fit in it.

It’s like pushing me out. Into the hallway.

So I’m trying to call my landlord. Like this is probably something he did.

And I’m like yelling into the phone in the hallway. But the hallway doesn’t have any width anymore. Like the two walls are trying to kiss. And my landlord…he’s like you signed a document when you moved in. This could happen at anytime.

I told him I didn’t sign anything.

He said he got my parents to sign it. He found them in a hotel room and he made them sign it.

Anyways I’m just fighting through this tiny space to get my pictures and poetry and I’m scrapping my nails through all that fucking garbage and I can’t get ahold of it. But my like fingernails hit something. I can feel blood running down my hand.

And then I’m out the door. Then out of the hallway. Outside.

As I watch the door I just came from close up, I look at my hands. My bloody fucking hands.

And it’s pretty cold and I now only have one pair of pants, and a shirt that says, “Kiss the Cook” and these like love notes I sent someone once embedded in my fingernails, just like madlib sentences of, “There’s no one like you in the world, signed Charlie” and, “I thought before I met you, that love wasn’t for me.”A train ticket to Ottawa. And like a drawing of a unicorn. And a picture me and my buddy took on a cellphone, which I know is the first picture we actually took together. A record contract from Grade 11 from when I began my rap career. The Words IMF. 20 bucks Jennica lent me and I never spent. The word brat. A fake moustache from when I used to dress up as Inigo Montoya.

And on the ground there this picture of my family when I grew up. We are such kids. Such cocky little bastards. With huge picture ruining smiles. I look absolutely insane. Children of the Corn times ten.

And I feel this swell in my heart. For all the people I’ve gotten to love. With just a piece of the love my parents gave me.

And in my thumb there’s this little bit of a photo. There’s a little glass in there too. So I must have framed it. I think.

And yeah I’m bleeding pretty bad.

But it’s this little fragment of a picture that really gets my attention.

I know you’d be like chasing the Polish movers. But it’s really something else.

The photo is me smiling.

It’s this wide eyed incredibly stupid smile. And I have like a cave man brow going. I’m looking down at someone. And my eyes are like dancing with joy. Like whatever I’m thinking it’s exciting to be alive.

I just know that I was happier than I can even remember being when this was taken.

And I’m totally shaken by it.

I don’t remember when it was taken or who was in the picture.

I think it might have actually been ripped up when it was in the frame.

And I remember that I have met those men before.

And I was standing outside like this.

Just wearing the clothes I was in.

Without anything else to my name.

And I felt the same odd clarity.

That I have to go and had to go find everything again.

Besides these little fragments that had embedded themselves in my bleeding hand. And I had to get a picture frame. To keep these in. For next time.

And I feel so strangely alive as I walk away.

This unbelievable intense and beautiful feeling of fragility hits me.

Like I know in my gut.

That everything can be taken away.

But I’m alive. Even if my hands bleeding.

And I remember how long I spent on that couch. How many days I would have gotten up, struggled from that bed and went to work at a job I hated.

But that life packed up and left with the Polish Movers.

And I hated the Polish Movers so much. And they caused me such heartbreak. But they were just doing their job. Picking up and breaking all the pieces of my life.

Because I needed to start a new one.

 

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Butterflies

Posted on | February 21, 2018 | No Comments

Fucking butterflies

Am I right?

Like stay inside your cocoons you sophisticated flying magnificent piece of shit

I’ve spent a lot of time hating butterflies for causing all those forest fires

Like they were doing anything other than trying to enjoy their brief time

Where they were able to fly

Like their actions were a reflection on our connection

Like they had so much clarity about what their choice would mean

Like they have this birds eye view and know where they are going

Rather than just want to travel for a little while longer in the sun

While I’ve been ducking and squeezing to fit inside basement hallways designed

To hold other people’s happiest moments

While it only gives me concussions and bloody knuckles from trying to be a contortionist

You don’t always fit in the places that feel like you should

I’m sorry but you don’t

I get that you’ were trying to give someone your life like a present

But you didn’t leave any air holes in the box you shoved yourself in

And drove everyone into exhaustion

Because the feelings were a maze you had no choice but to be lost in

Caution

Too many rhyming sentences with vague phrases will annoy your audience

This isn’t a poem isn’t about a person

It’s about the fact that you don’t get to chose the places you belong in

Like what you think will make you happy probably won’t

And one reckless night of being exactly who you want to be

Might start everything

Unexpectedly

Until the story stops

Magic words only work once

And you’re back at the beginning again

But older and less courageous

Trying to be normal so hard

And you need to stop having conversations with people who aren’t there anymore with the people that are

And it’s ridiculous how much time you spending talking to yourself while arguing with a shitty version of someone who can’t hear you when if you picked up the phone they could and they’d say something nice like

I didn’t mean it that way

I didn’t know I hurt it you

I love you so much that I think about you all the time and what you gave me

I wanted to give you something like that

I wish you’d let me give you something like that

Because I thought I had

I bet you have a moment you’d like to time travel to

Where you’d tell yourself something

Like listen to me

Be deaf to everything you hear

Pay attention to the way they look

All frustrated, confused, fearful

It’s not about you

They’re just trying to be happy and have as little perspective as you do

You have a right to choose

What you listen to

From the people that love you

Even though they hurt you with their attempts to be happy and hurt themselves too

They said it once and in your head you said it a thousand

You can’t stop people from hurting you

But you can stop fantasizing about it in the back of your mind, and cutting yourself, pretending it’s them who do it each time

Forgiveness is the act of giving up the belief that you can change your past

And I know you aren’t going to believe this

But time travel doesn’t exist

And for the most part we are all helpless

You aren’t the only one

Who doesn’t have control over your own life

For just this moment you are one of the only people who isn’t going to lie

And pretend you do

You are a totally shit psychic

Everything you were scared of didn’t happen

Unless you let your fear infect it

Until you turned water into gasoline

To make the world burn to match your nightmare’s worst dreams

Because it felt safe

Because it felt like home

Let me tell you a secret

Butterflies carry new lives on their wings

And no matter what you do, every path has beautiful things

And the only way it gets to you

Is if you let chaos destroy things that don’t belong to you

Butterflies fly in the form of car crashes, forest fires traveling at breakneck speed

Through the places that break your heart so badly that the door fly open and windows shatter

Letting some fucking air into the room

So that you can scream at the top of your lungs

I will take everything you have to give me

Love parts of me

That didn’t get love before

The weak heartbeats that didn’t speak beside in murmurs

The pain in my gut that says always and never

The ache

That has such a horrible memory

That it can pretend that time doesn’t exist inside darkness

I will let myself feel so fragile

That when the sun hits my face I’ll smile at the kindness

Because I didn’t ask for this, feelings came and ran through me like a hurricane

And my voice is really just the wind

And my nightmare is fingertips holding onto wings

Like I’m responsible for everything

And the butterflies get trapped in your stomach

The anxiety the flutter of attempted fight or flight

And when you get on stage

Under those lights

You open your mouth

Excited to disturb things

Fingertips slide off wings

A surge of movement through my throat

As laughter comes out

When life tells me a joke

As fire catches smoke

And I realize that life isn’t about me

 

 

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Eyes closed searching for miracles

Posted on | February 15, 2018 | No Comments

We are a society of people looking for a miracle with our eyes closed.

We are armed with a million tools to make sure we’re comfortable.

Ensconced in our narrative and with the knowledge we know ourselves like actors typecast after their first performance. With headphones over our ears. Our eyes on things that haven’t happened or rehearsing moments that are already past. Eyes securely locked on our cellphone screen.

It’s so true it is a cliche.

You watch people on the street.

Even though it’s not polite to do so. You watch them on the subway. And you see the weight they carry. That they don’t share with anyone. And you know how they pose when they know you’re looking. How they make sure you’re looking. Even when they should be alone.

Five minutes after an engagement photo is taken you see the picture of a perfect private moment boiled down to “I said yes……”  I love you more than anything in the world, and we are taught to give that feeling away. As soon as we can. So that other people can praise our happiness.

We perform.

We perform being genuine. We perform by participating in every conversation. We hope that our condolences get likes. We hope that our love gets approval.

The personal is political. You know how to respond. Society trains you to be a laugh track. When you can laugh. When you can’t. An emoticon of a heart breaking for a dead parent of a friend. A sad face for a bad day. A little song lyric for when a famous person dies. A pithy angry cry of indignation for a school shooting. We know how to do this. We have life completely under control.

You are running for office. You are running for your right to be a good person. You are running, running all the time.

It’s not simply that I watch TV.  I am TV.

My story is here for you to be a part of. And that’s all there is. Just stories spinning to their inevitable high gloss conclusion.

And you puke all over your computer screen. All the horrible things you want to tell people. That you want to tell yourself.

There’s a meme that really hits upon much of what irritates me in life. It says something along the lines of, “Some people aren’t worth loving. Some people are just lessons that teach you what love is….”

Yes…..some people just live as examples to teach you things. They don’t have their own agency. The reason they are alive is to teach you what you deserve. Their parents raised them. Their hearts were broken. They loved. They failed at love. To teach you to look harder for better people. The majority of people don’t matter. They exist as a plot device to help you achieve self revelation.

The way we express our love as a culture is through hate and shared preferences. If you love social progress and diversity you hate conservatives. If you are a conservative you hate liberals. If you believe in natural medicine you share literature about how stupid big Pharma is. If you are on antidepressant that’s saving your life maybe you share an article about the lack of scientific proof for homeopathic medicine. If you love Star Trek you hate Star Wars.

Secure your narrative.

I recently was in a discussion about what starts love.

Was it the way the couple met? The interests they shared. The sex. How funny they were.

For me it’s always been something different. Something unquantifiable.

Weren’t there a million people who looked like the same, liked the same things, even had the same experiences. Can you realize what it is besides for some reason you noticed it and you didn’t put up a million barriers before you let yourself feel it?

Is it maybe for just a little bit you let life be something you lived, then a story you read or a play you performed?

Did you put down the camera? Just for a second. And stopped watching yourself. And actually looked at someone else.

In polar bears we find love in scent. In something unconscious as pheromones. In humans I think it happens when the right person comes along and we are paying attention. To what is right in front of our eyes. Rather than dreaming of what life could be.

I think we miss people who could love of us. There’s a lot of love that no one ever claims.

Because it didn’t fit with what we were supposed to want.

And I get it.

You don’t want to place trust in something you can’t understand.

In a lot of ways that’s the hardest part about being alive. Placing trust that life will take care of you when there is every bit of evidence that it won’t.  So in our insecurity we turn to the tangible.

When we are depressed we create stories to justify our worst feelings. Because we think if we can just understand it, we can control it. When in fact by creating these narratives we tuck ourselves into our worst behaviours so that we can comfortably toss and turn. Just like we always do.

It’s scary.

Because if we don’t know what we are looking for, how in the world will we able to find it?

There is a famous picture of Ophelia my friend Charlotte  showed me. Where the painter had the artist submerge herself in water. In the hopes of capturing the desperate innocence of Ophelia and her tragic death. The painting is undeniably beautiful.

The model  died because she stayed under the water too long and caught hypothermia.

The question is was it worth it? For a moment we both tried to be deep and wondered.

And then the truth become obvious as we started laughing.

It certainly wasn’t worth while for the model.

She died before her picture was immortalized. And it was a picture that lasts forever. That robbed her of decades.

She defied unbelievable odds to be born and was lucky enough to get to live this life. And she died for something as a stupid as a picture. Because if she’d lived, she could have seen sunsets and sunrises, drank wine, screamed as she jumped off a cliff into water, danced in a field, fell in love,  had children, cried until her eyes hurt, been heartbroken and felt better, and experienced moment so intangible and specific they cannot even be described.

We try to pretend that being alive isn’t the greatest miracle because it hurts too much to admit it. How lucky we are. How quickly we’ll be dead. How much pressure we place on ourselves because if life is sacred, how can we possibly profane it with our stupid egoistic bullshit.

So we have attached a belief that what survives is more important than what will die. We are willing to slave over the images we collect rather than truly be alive. Because that feels safer. Because maybe it robs our life of meaning. But at least we don’t have to think about how our lives end for no reason at all.

What I feel when I think like this is anger.

And a simple truth hits me. So fully it chokes me up.

Love is for the dying.

It’s the gift we get because things end. Not because they live forever.

Love is only for the dying. For those who need that mercy.

For the flowers that bloom and lose their leaves, wither and disappear. For the high school dance that becomes a senior citizen home in the blink of an eye. For the unfiltered beauty of music as it enters your ears in the knowledge that one day you’ll be deaf. For the lovers who will one day be strangers. Love is for those that dance when one day they’ll be in the ground.

For the moments that don’t come again. For the people that are precious that we inevitably lose. For the moments that dance on the head of a pin before disappearing forever.

Things we can only see if we are paying attention.

How are we going to find each other when our eyes are closed?

 

 

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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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