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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Human Kindness

Posted on | September 15, 2018 | No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I think about how much love there is.

And that’s what gets me.

Every single time.

So I type as fast I can.

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

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This beautiful evening

Posted on | August 11, 2018 | No Comments

Life is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are breaks from the story you are telling yourself.

They happen  all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

To help them break out.

So we can all enjoy this beautiful evening.

 

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Time Travel

Posted on | August 5, 2018 | No Comments

You know why you love Back To The Future?

Do you? Fucking do you?

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

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

What is this glitch?

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

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

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

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

 

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Stories

Posted on | August 4, 2018 | No Comments

The Turing Test misses an essential point.

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

And back to it….

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

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

My point is this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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It’s not your fault

Posted on | June 12, 2018 | No Comments

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

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

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

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

I think friendship is possible in most cases.

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

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

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

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

 

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Waves

Posted on | April 11, 2018 | No Comments

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

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

Then you hear the crash of the waves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s gone and everyone is dancing to Macarena on New Years. Holy shit…..you have another home. A place that’s as amazing as Middle Bay. People come into your life and 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 someone dies in that 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 with and obsess about Kanye with and will be part of every creative endeavour you work on if the Gods are kind. And you meet Charlotte who will be an extra in the second season of Just Cuddle and become a main character in your actual life. And working a corporate job will bring Zamaan Sunderji and Stephanie Wu and a dozen others and it will end as well. As suddenly as a wave crashing.

The terror is that everything ends.

The blessing is that everything ends.

And you learn you can 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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  • 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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