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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

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 if I don’t hit them I don’t matter.

And shame can hit you so hard that it makes you want to hide

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

You’re 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

When you tell me 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 yourself 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

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 its mundane beauty

Like death happens but I still got a couch so you can come over and Netflix and chill

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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The Thing To Get To The Thing

Posted on | December 31, 2017 | No Comments

It’s easy to forget that creating art isn’t the most important thing about being alive.

We all have our all consuming obsessions. Compulsions that get us out of our head for a short time and allow us to project majestic images of how we want to be seen.

One of my favorite shows, Halt and Catch Fire, declared the work the “thing to get to the thing”. In the case of the show the actual thing they are trying to get in all of their Silicon valley innovation is connection.  We watch four friends build the future, in the form of personal computers and chatrooms, and even the world wide web. What matters to the viewer is how they grow as people. How they are able to reach through decades and grab a hold of each other in the moments where you fall if someone doesn’t catch you.

For a long time I thought of writing as this all access pass to a better life. If I could write something wonderful I’d be afforded power. I’d be known for what I wrote. I’d change lives. I’d change the world. I’d feel worthy of all the kindnesses that can be accrued to a human being. There is a law in science that is connected to all religious belief. Something cannot come from nothing. However I believe all art begins in a feeling that we might be nothing, that we might be worth nothing. That we have to change ourselves and our indifferent universe by creating something better.

Writing has been the thing that has gotten me to the thing more times than I could count. I lost my virginity because of my skill at freestyle rap. Yes, I just said that and it’s true. Later on my  my first love was a spoken word poet and my intense childish love for her was captured in a million poems and the invention of this blog you’re currently reading. My second love read this blog and loved the way I say the world and chased me down years later because somehow my words lodged in her in a way that couldn’t be deleted. My best jobs have come out of my creativity. Creativity is my USP (unique sales proposition.) It is the source of much of my value as a commodity in the world.

As I get older I’m less interested in controlling how I am viewed in the world and more interested in changing the way I view the world.

I have been watching Friday Night Lights and stumbled upon a commandment from its creator Jason Katims. The concept is called Best Foot Forward. Conceptually it’s the genesis of his compassionate universe. The idea is simple: humans are trying their best, make sure you’re characters are doing the best they can in any given situation.

Ponder this idea and you’ll find a world that’s more enjoyable to live in.

The barista who fucks up your order isn’t incompetent. Their mother is dying, they’re heartbroken over the end of their first love, this job is in not the fulfillment of their childhood dreams and each moments reminds them of how much they have failed. They are doing their very best to get your order right and are embarassed at their failure and their cavalier behavior in light of your outrage is camouflage. The alcoholic who ruins your Christmas party with inane anecdotes and then attention consuming arguments and drama is dealing with something they struggle with. Something they are burying with alcohol and this is the best they can do at this moment.

I use art to train myself to be compassionate. When I write a scene I have to think about why this scene is happening. What pain is fuelling it and I’m reminded that everyone I meet is dealing with a mind as complicated as my own. They all deserve mercy. From the horrors of their own minds. From their expectations. From the cruelties the world does to them without their permission. For the past and the wounds they have that can’t be fully healed. Writing trains my brain to look at people. To search for what’s beautiful, what’s absurd. Not because my point of view is so important that the world needs to share it. But because my point of view is the only way I can see the world.

I can make my eyes more patient and see with greater depth. I can catch moments and keep them for when I need them. I can look at myself in the mirror and imagine what words I would say to myself if I was stranger and I needed to hear something to make life less lonely, less terrifying. I want to use my art to train my heart to be more loving, more forgiving, more present.

It started as a way a thing to prove to the world I mattered. Then it become a way to connect to other people. Now it trains me to enjoy my life more.

Best foot forward.

 

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A Very Special Episode

Posted on | December 31, 2017 | No Comments

This will sound absolutely ridiculous. But I just watched an episode of TV that so profoundly broke my heart that I think it made me realize how much I love everyone in my life and how precious every day is. I cried about as hard as I have cried at anything in my life. So I wanted to follow that strange energy. And say a few things.

There are things about you that no one else has.

There are moments I’ve shared with some of you that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Even people who I don’t call best friends.

For some of us our most important moments are in the past but I still think about them.

About how they made me feel like I was alive just to do nothing but talk with you.

Like all the bullshit and tedium in life faded and cast a spotlight just on you and I discovered parts of myself I didn’t know were there. Love notes are always so specific. Addressed to one person. Trying to make it seem like our lives only matter as much as they fit in a poem or one romantic declaration.

Life itself is romantic. Even in years you can’t really remember, you find people and you get great days. You leave places and people but they don’t leave you. They’ll slip out in a joke. In a slightly smarter response to a ridiculous situation because they taught you something you needed to know. Life is crazy beautiful and each and everyone of you is irreplaceable and I’m glad to have met you.

PS the show was Halt and Catch Fire. Watch it.

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20th Century Women

Posted on | December 18, 2017 | 2 Comments

I’m 15 minutes into rewatching Mike Mills movie 20th Century Women.

And there is a part where the son plays a game where he hyperventilates as another kid pushes on his chest.

He passes out and can’t come to. His friend runs as fast as she can. Until she reaches his mother.

His mother sits in the back seat of a car holding him.

And Annette Benings face is lit with terror. And she looks like my mom.

And I remember how much my mother loves me. And how tightly she’s held onto me in the worst situations.  And I think of my sister and my mother and my wonderful friend Jennica and my mind explodes a little at the strength of the women I know. Starting with the first woman I ever knew.

Jeanie Steinbock Kimber.

And the power of my love for my mother hits me viscerally. Where it feels like there isn’t enough time in my life to express it properly.

I’m in that odd emotional zone that for some reason we spend a lot of our time avoiding. The sadness that comes when you realize what everything is stuck in time and will become unstuck. That everyone you love will die one day. And that day could come at any time. I understand the hysteria that this understanding  can inspire.

It’s easy to forget the beauty it holds. That when you let sadness into your heart you open yourself up to truly seeing the intense preciousness of the people we love.

You rarely get to say all the nice things. So you have to choose a random Monday and pour it all out. Because you shouldn’t keep the beautiful things in your heart to yourself. Those truths belong to the people who need to hear them.

20th Century Women is a movie made by Mike Mills to remember the unique and utterly eccentric human his mother was before she died. The movie was made after she died. She never got to see it. To fully understand how magical she was.

I think about all the nice things that are never said. How much of our childhoods we spend dreaming of futures when we should be watching as carefully as we can, studying our parents so we can learn to love them with the same depth they love us. It’s really easy to forget that each moment is precious until we lose our ability to have them.

I think about my mother who is in good health and has this sweetness about her and these strange ways of doing things that make me laugh.

We used to pass her salad dressing while she was speaking and she’d hold it in her hand without noticing and continue talking. She planned our family vacations like an assassin plots Presidential assassination. Whenever I am home no matter how much time I spend with her she wants a little more. When my dad comes to Toronto for vacation she sends clothes and demands pictures. When I am a lunatic on social media she calls me on it with a knowing smirk or an annoying public statement. She has a temper that lasts for five minutes and disappears completely after that. When I was a kid I told my principal to go fuck themselves when they backed off on a promise to our student council. My mother told them they really should have kept their promise and didn’t make me apologize. She used to wear jewelry that was shaped like the moon. She took me and my first love for Halloween costumes. She preached Dim Sum until I became a die hard convert. She introduced hugging to the Kimber family. She told my dad to write about subjects outside of Canada and began the journey to my parents become Cuban revolutionaries. She gives excellent advice and will remind you of it at every opportunity. She loves her friends and talk about them like they’re celebrities. She hangs out at an abbey with them. She sporadically breaks into dance.

She is…full of things only she does that she does perfectly.

My mom was a costume designer and spent a good portion of my childhood calling me from other parts of Canada.

Letting me know she loved me and experiencing a little boys bitterness over the phone masked by his best intentions and attempts to be more of an adult than a child can be.

Growing up it was an open secret I was more my dad’s kid than hers. Because he was so much like me and I thought he was perfect and exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.  And I didn’t think about whether this hurt her because children don’t think about that. I wasn’t particularly precocious in seeing my parents as people. Like most kids I idealized them, believed they had all the answers and held their small flaws against them. Because I thought when you grew up you knew everything and all of your choices were actually choices.

But as I aged we have only gotten closer. This started when she stopped taking work outside of the city when I was in 12th grade. Where she saw that distance and wanted to step into that awkward space until it disappeared.  She sacrificed opportunities to be close to me. She saw all of my resentment and she walked right into it and stayed until I actually started to see who she was.

When I was 25 I developed an anxiety disorder.

My mom walked me through it. Giving me advice on how to accept that I hadn’t caused this through some gross negligence. That the pain I was experiencing wasn’t my fault because no one would ever ask to feel this way. And that I should stop blaming the earlier version of myself who had only intended to be happy and had no idea what would happen as a result. By this time I knew how much she cared about me. How anything I suffered she suffered too and multiplied by ten. But she was good at hiding it. So when I stopped sleeping she didn’t show that she was worried about me. She just enjoyed my company a little more. She called me a little more often. Whenever things get bad I always call a little more.  She came with me to the doctors when I was prescribed anti-depressants. She called me the morning after to see how I slept.

She is like me and sometimes blames herself for things that have nothing to do with her. She once apologized to me for passing on a genetic predisposition to anxiety and depression.When I got older I started realizing how many of the best parts of me came from her.

She’s attracted to strange people. The unique freaks of the world, she finds them and she brings them close. She’s fiercely loyal and I have taken this from her and made it into my religion.

And I remembered her voice reading me the Chronicles of Narnia when I was a kid. The joy in her eyes because she recognized she was good at this and had me hypnotized and reveled in the power.  I remember her making fancy dinners for her friends. Usually the same recipes because she likes food but was never a passionate cook. She isn’t a big drinker but when she drinks she dances like a mad woman and books vacations to Cuba. She can be smartly manipulative and passes her advice through proxies because she knows that often I don’t listen when she gives advice. I’ll get an email from my sister Emily out of the blue and know she was sent like a carrier pigeon with my mother’s well meaning advice and tender care.

I learned things over the years that changed the way I saw her.

My mom quit on her first dream of being a fashion designer because her boss tried to sleep with her and she said no and he fired her as a result. My mother like many women accomplished everything she did against a tidal wave of misogyny that tried to limit who she was. She taught the world you can’t fuck with Jeanie Kimber because she’s strong as hell and will not back down. She’s sacrificed opportunities because she wasn’t willing to lie when the world wanted her to to.

She became a costume designer on the movies. She worked on the movie Titanic and watched Bill Paxton hallucinate on PCP. She dealt with a variety of sociopaths and got into argument with James Cameron. She has a magnificent eye for detail that she now captures in painting. She started a business at sixty and made it a success.

There is no circumstance where she wouldn’t be my side and that includes if I killed someone. I get my manic sense of loyalty from her. And a rage that threatens anyone who hurts the people I love.

She once told me she thought I could sometimes be an angry person. I told her that she was one of the only people who made me angry. Because she’d try to improve me and give me advice and I was too old for that. And when someone tries to make you better, it makes you feel like you aren’t enough.

I said it once and she really listened to me. And thought about it. And apologized to me for doing it. How many people in the world can hear something that’s hurtful and make something better out of it?

So much of the reason we are close is because she’s brave. Which doesn’t mean things don’t scare her because they do. She just knows that everything great thing we ever accomplished happens when you’re scared. She’s done more than most people could ever dream, and if she’s as much like me as I think she is,  she was scared the whole time.

She’s in her 60s and she’s still capable of such massive and impressive amounts of growth and change. Because she doesn’t let the world limit her. She doesn’t just this is me and stop there. Not for the people she loves.

Very few people I know have been gifted a relationship with their parent that has consistently gotten better and better. At 33 I love my mother more than I ever have and we have become closer than we ever were even if we are separated by a thousand miles.

I don’t know if I’ll ever write a movie about my mother.

But she’s a 20th Century Woman. Who definitely looks like Annette Bening.

Who lost a dream because men are stupid and for most of time could be as dumb as they liked and evil as they liked and nothing would happen. So she found another one. She chased it even though it hurt to do so because she wanted to provide for her family and she wanted to know that she was good at something.

She once grabbed a baseball bat and headed with me  to Tantallon to defend my 16 year old brother from some thuggish guy who was annoyed that Matt was with his ex-girlfriend. Prepared to cause all kinds of havoc. Who answers the phone whenever I call with, “Are you okay.” and only relaxes when she knows I am. She adopts people and makes them members of our family on a regular basis. She loves being a Grandma. She lights up when she talks about Hannah and Avery. She takes every chance she can to love people.

She’s my mother and there aren’t enough words to describe how much I adore her.

There’s no reason to say this on this particular Monday. But there’s every reason to feel lucky to have her as my mom.

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I’m Here For This

Posted on | December 9, 2017 | No Comments

As I was meditating in a crowded room I started thinking about the difference between thinking and eating.

If you had a moldy sandwich you wouldn’t take a second bite. But we’re fascinated by our worst thoughts and dedicate endless time to explore them. Not because we enjoy the feeling but because we are looking for some way to avoiding having those thoughts. It’s like we decide we aren’t supposed to have these thoughts. We aren’t here for this.

And we get trapped, where we push away our own experience in the insane craving to only have good feelings. Thus a good amount of time we spend alive we miss out on everything that happens to us. That craving doesn’t pull us closer to the good moments. We are simply training ourselves in the art of cowardice.  Pursuing an escape that is impossible. Where all we accomplish is removing ourselves from moments where we are needed.

The mantra, “I’m here for this.” occurred to me.

Like what if when we were jealous we didn’t decide that these feelings were unworthy. If we just sat without it and deciding that getting familiar with this feeling was part of life’s work. That it would help us understand people who find themselves in these traps and we could help them stay with those feelings until the feelings left of their own accord. I’ve been muttering this to myself lately everytime I’m in an experience that doesn’t hit my incredibly high standards for what life should be.

The trap is disassociation. Because you aren’t constructed in manageable interlocking segments and no IT professional in the world has the talent to make a person into an Iphone. And you’ll never be the person you want to be. Who only has thoughts approved by society, who speaks exclusively from the heart, who isn’t sometimes the worst human being in the world. Follow back the string to the beginning. At some point way way back in the day the Dalai Lama and Donald Trump came from the same family tree. In your heart the blood of dicatators and dancers fight to hold the machinery that makes the Wizard of Oz moves. Accepting yourself in a way means accepting everything.

And so much of what makes our world a horrible place is the ever desired presence of an exit door. We are all looking for one. Thinking that somehow this door will lead to a party where we don’t have to try anymore. Where being human isn’t about navigating all of our sharp contours, where are smooth as rocks that will skip infinitely through a calm sea.

I’m not a particularly smart guy. More idiot than Einstein. I know this because I see the unedited version of my thoughts. Made up of impulse that make me sneak an occassional selfie onto Instagram just to see if pretty girls like them. I’m as lonely as a person can be sometimes. And I’m a smooth ass motherfucker with dance moves and the perfect words. I’m a muggle and I’m magic. If I’m just here for the best parts my life becomes moments instead of hours.

I hate the idea that when I’m having a good conversation I’m often only half listening. Puzzling on how I can solve myself. How I can stop myself from feeling moments of annoyance. I want to listen to every word you say. I want to save nothing for the next conversation. I want to try my hardest at every job I’m given. I want to be there. Because worrying has never solved my problems. Because I have never needed to have a conversation before I’m actually having it. I want back all the hours I’ve spent wondering through Toronto with my head lost in a story. Because leaves fell to the ground all in an hour when the weather got cold they had to fall from brunches. And the leaves littered the ground like snow. Until the branches were clean and vulnerable and looked like life admitting that death didn’t come at the end.

I want to have great moments with people I’ll never talk to again.  I want to give people the chance to say everything they want to.

There isn’t a better place than this.

I’m here for this.

And then they ring a gong.

I go out to eat cookies and drink tea.

I speak to people I may never talk to again.

We laugh and don’t think about anything other than what’s happening.

I’m here for this. For every bit of it.

 

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Your Heart Is A Genius

Posted on | November 24, 2017 | No Comments

For some reason this phrase keeps repeating in my brain.

Your heart is a genius.

It goes along with other butchered buddhist phrases I mutter to myself as I wake up in the morning.

What I take this sentence to mean is the difference between head and heart and it’s really, really simple. Your head is about you. Full of survival instinct and pride and self. Your heart is about finding some way to connect what’s going inside of you directly to the world. Your heart is your way out of your head. A secret door waiting to be opened.

Yes, all of this might sound like a cliche or a bunch of pretty Hallmark phrases put next to eachother begging for exclamation marks and gifs of Unicorns with diamond eyes. But the point of this post is actually about leveraging and optimizing the difference between the head and heart. No need for mass layoffs and restructuring.

Just listen. Beat. Beat. Beat.

When something bad happens you have two options. One is to go with the head. This will involve seeing your misfortune as a confirmation of your fears and hopes. You can decide what happened is unfair and you can feel special and specifically isolated. As your head is dedicating to confirming your identity and can provide beautiful reasonable explanations to any horror you need to justify.

Or you can go to the heart. You can lean into your pain. What is threatening and something you desperately need to escape can be transformed. You can see how it connects you to everyone else who is alive. That overwhelming feeling can feel like authentic connection with the fragile nature of existence. And instead of confining pain, you can feel the weight of it as sympathy. For everyone else who lives and has to deal with how little control they have over their own fate. Same chemical sensation. But a fundamentally different feeling and a different set of reactions.

Excitement and nervousness stimulate the exact same sensations. It’s just what you decide to feel. You can be excited for a date or you can be trembling in fear. Your heart beats the same speed. But everything else is changed.

Your head is motivated by fear, identity and safety. Your heart by love.

Open the door, bro.

 

 

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  • Introduction to the Cure



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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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