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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

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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Glotka’s wisdom

Posted on | September 27, 2017 | No Comments

Joe Abercrombie is my big recommendation for anyone who enjoyed Game of Thrones and wanted their dark fantasy with a little more funny.

In his First Law trilogy his breakout (Tyrion level character) is named Sand Dan Glotka. In his rosy past Glotka was the foremost duellist in the Union. Until he bravely dashed into an ambush. He was captured and tortured for two years until he was crippled and left with few unshattered teeth. When he was released he promptly joined his country’s torturers and became a legend. The moment I always remember is when he’s asked how could he become a torturer when he knows what it’s like to be tortured. He pauses for a moment. And explains that when you’re tortured you don’t become more merciful or compassionate, you simply long to see someone else suffer in the same way.

The reason I think about this frequently is my immediate response to being shamed. Which is different than being made to feel guilty. Everyone says the wrong thing sometimes. It can be incredibly helpful to be shown your mistakes so that you can avoid repeating them. To be shamed is the difference between doing a bad thing and being a bad person. Currently our social media society is driven by shame. Half of the articles in my feed are about how the people we disagree with must be idiots.

When a person makes me feel shame I don’t think about what drives them to say such hurtful things. I don’t imagine their insecurities or the painful conversation they just had that filled them with this feeling. I immediately think of something I could say that would cut them down to size. Like you want to play this game? I used to battle rap, motherfucker. I can show you yourself in ways you won’t be able to forget. I want to show them how my eyes which can find beauty in anyone, can also measure out the ridiculous and awful in equal measures.

The problem is that shame doesn’t stop when you pass it to another person. Your pain just become someone’s elses. Your behavior just becomes that of your abuser.

In corporate culture there is a very easy way of judging the worth of an employee or coworker.

It’s what they do with stress.

A bad manager is an incredibly scared one. Because as soon as they feel their stress they add their stress to someone else. And since Glotka’s wisdom remains true, this stress is passed down the line until everyone is feeling it. And the strange thing about this type of anxiety is that you can’t get it out of your system by passing it onto someone else. So they multiply what begins in their mindinto the reality that surrounds them. And you can feel it passing from person to person like the flu.

Then there are the Doctors. Who can relax the chain and bring everyone back to sanity.

These are the people who you want as your boss. Who know the difference between guilt and shame.

I don’t believe in the Secret. Where your thoughts dictate the nature of your reality to the extent that if you think positively you can get everything you ever wanted. There is far too much luck and privelege in the universe for this to be possible. I do however believe that what you put into the world in thought and deed will be felt by those around you.

If you’re angry and looking to regain emotional balance, if you use your anger on someone else they will in turn have to use their anger on you or someone else to return to balance. Emotional outbursts tend to contain the very emotions we are trying to escape. Which will make someone else try to escape them as well. Anger stays as anger. Shame stays as shame. They don’t rarely become compassion or understanding.

Intense emotions make us click on articles. They are meant to appeal to our desire to be right. For us to be right, our opponents have to be idiots. We need confirmation.

I’m not saying that there aren’t people who don’t need to be yelled at. I would argue that there is inconvertible historical proof that yelling at someone tends to not change their opinion. It only makes them feel an intense shame. Which becomes anger because it feels better.  And then they will eject their negative emotions back into the world.

Compassion on the other hand seems to work the same way. You treat someone with respect and understanding they are infinitely more likely to respond to your grievances and actually try to redress the wrong they’ve done you. I’m not saying it will work every time. Just that it’s more likely to work than using shame in the hopes of getting a positive response and changing a situation for the better.

I think there’s a moment where you get to choose.

What type of person you are and how strong you can be. It’s that moment when you feel a blade sliding to your heart. The shame feels like it’s piercing you and you can feel it serated edges until you want to scream. Making you wish you could hide from the world for a million years. And instead of ripping from your chest and ramming it into someone else’s you could pause for a second. If you’re feeling particularly brave you can tell the person who wielded the knife that they’ve hurt you. Right then and there. You’re incredible strong. Unlike most people who hide their wounds until they can fester.

I think who you are is what we do when those moments hit us.

Can we decide to be merciful to ourselves and the people who convert their pain to that of other people.

Will we be doctors or torturers?

 

 

 

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The Space Between Fingertips

Posted on | September 23, 2017 | 1 Comment

In Michelangelo’s the “Creation of Adam” God reaches down to touch Adam and create mankind.

For my entire life I’ve been fascinated by this picture. I have never researched anything about the original reason this piece of art was made. I only know what I think of the space between God and Adam’s fingers.

In my early 20s I thought of it as an incredible metaphor of the helplessness of the forces of life that are greater than we are to truly reach us. That when we pray to God, even if that creator does exist, the laws of the universe separate us from his aid. That even if the Creator wanted to perform a miracle he couldn’t do it without destroying the very fabric of our reality.  That God was locked away from us by inches. And that all he could do is reach out to us and find his finger so close he could almost touch us but unable to bridge the gap. The idea of his helpless sorrow struck me as beautiful. And it was an idea of God that didn’t make me feel angry at the injustice at the core of the nature of our world. Imagine the idea of a God who prays. Who watches with hope rather than knowledge.

I mostly believe in God at 3 AM when I’m looking out a window at the moon, trying to reconcile why bad things happen to good people.

It isn’t 3 in the morning and my life is going pretty well.

I  also have been thinking of that space between fingertips in a different way.

I see the space as a moving metaphor for how all empathy is destined for failure, if the hope is for perfect understanding.

To me the greatest mark of empathy is your understanding of that failure. Your whole life you try to connect to someone. There are people that you get so close to you you can feel the electricity of their touch from half a room away but you can’t really know what is motivating them or exactly what they need to hear. You can hallucinate the feeling of direct contact and complete immersion. But when you hear a story you have to imagine it. Every image has to travel through your filters of prejudice and experience. You can try to walk in their shoes but you will make that walk using your legs.

Humans aren’t monolithic. Your experience of life isn’t the same as people as even your siblings who have undergone so much of their life in an exact same manner as you have. You aren’t the group you belong to or most closely identify with. Eyewitnesses of the same crime are notoriously unreliable because of the basic prejudices we all face when we use our perception.

Our whole lives are built around making connection. We desire to completely eliminate the space between fingertips. Because we don’t want to have lived our lives alone. Because we began our lives looking in mirrors and imagining our mothers as an extension of our body. Only the truest kindness is in the understanding of that space. That no experience is the same. That all we can do is helplessly reach across the void in hopes of getting close enough to another person to grant them the gift of mercy from their own experience. To give them a safe passage through their mind and yours.

Doing a little research on this article I discovered that this picture is often thought to be Michelangelo’s message about the human mind and how to live with it. The twelve figures surrounding God and Adam when pieced together resemble different parts of the human brain. Bet you didn’t know that. Unless you watched West World.

I use to think all sentences with the words, “I wish” were an embodiment of helpless anxiety.  I developed this belief during a period of particularly intense anxiety when wishing became an addiction. I decided that wishes should be banished from my vocabulary because I saw them as a desire for a reality that couldn’t exist.

Recently I have been practicing loving kindness meditation.

I sit.

I  wish for someone to be kind, to be loved, to accept the world as it is and to not suffer. There are a million variants on this prayer but that’s mine. I do this for strangers, for teachers, for friends, for enemies and for myself.  I like these words because they feel like realistic things to hope for. Accepting life means not blaming ourselves for the moments where life can’t meet our expectations. We should be kind. Everyone should be loved. We should all experience moments where we don’t suffer.

I recently listened to a guided loving kindness meditation that was a little different. In it the speaker went much further than I had ever been wiling to go. He wished for the person to be free. To be happy without reserve. To feel no pain. To feel only joy. To feel blessed by their experiences.

My first instinct was to recoil. That what the speaker was wishing for wasn’t realistic. No one can live their lives without pain. No one gets to feel only joy for much longer than a few minutes at a time. You can’t live your life like that.

The fingers don’t touch. Prayers aren’t answered.

But I decided to go with it. Just for a little bit.

I let myself wish with such ridiculous childish hope for humanity. For everyone to get to experience those same feelings of child like wonder when they first looked at the sky and understand the insane vastness of nature. To feel themselves running through a park screaming so happily and loudly that the clouds could hear their voices. For every wound to heal.

It felt good. Really good.

See the human heart isn’t realistic. And its beauty isn’t in the way it conforms to expectation. But how it exceeds it. How we can imagine better worlds than ours and create them.

It’s the primal helplessness of a heart that wishes for more power than it can possibly possess. A wish so strong that it could break the very laws of reality.  It’s the parent who wishes they could protect their child from any harm. Humans can wish to take someone’s pain. Are willing to take it on themselves just to relieve that pain.

It’s crazy to me that people can love like that. That there are people in your life who love you so much that they wish that life wasn’t the way it is so that you could feel better.

Miracles aren’t possible. You can’t fully take away someone else’s pain. But you can get close.

And sometimes, if you love hard enough, you can get close enough to feel the space between fingertips.

 

 

 

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Because there was no muffins

Posted on | September 5, 2017 | No Comments

The stories we tell fight against our fear that life is meaningless.

Our characters have tragic flaws that destroy them or they overcome on their way to triumph. Because there is something appealing in this concept. If horribly things happen to and because these people they are because of immoveable flaws in characters. Bad things happen to good people because these bad things are an expression of their character. They are a lesson we can learn from. As you get older you notice how often your scars perform puppetry.

What few people mention are how often these scars that motivate us our made completely unintentionally.

Moments that manipulate people for their own lives can have next to no real meaning behind them. Our actions aren’t simply dictated by character but by how little sleep we have had, how drunk we are and a lingering cold that makes us sharper than we’d normally ever be. The horrible thing we say can be motivated by little more than impatience. We don’t even have to mean it. And that comment can register like a dog whistle. At a frequency that only the person who will be most heartbroken will hear. We can do something we would never do under any other condition and a connection formed over a life time can end.

It’s astonishing to realize how often we are injured without proper intent. This why we tell stories to ourselves. Of what these people meant. Of why they said it. Stories that have no use for chaos but play to the legends we build for ourselves. We can’t grapple with the idea that we lost control over much of our lives because someone forgot to eat a muffin. How does that equation look? Romeo doesn’t simply die because of his romantic nature or his encounter with Juliet. We are trained to think it is that inevitable. But what if Romeo never went to the party and met her?

Could he have fallen in love with someone else?

Could a simple invitation to a party actually be what killed Romeo?

Or the goddamn inferior system for posting mail?

It’s hard to realize how much of our lives are formed by coincidence. That ultimately we create meaning for ourselves. And our scars aren’t simply the horrible things that have happened to us, or the words that have been said that shouldn’t have been. They are the stories we tell ourselves. To make what happens to us part of a story.

So that we’d feel safer and more in control of our destiny.

When ultimately the truth is someone forgot to bring the muffins. And for the rest of your life you’ll dance to music that someone else played without any intent.

It’s not because you’re a bad person.

It’s not because you were destined to fall in love with that person and you unfortunately missed the elevator.

God doesn’t hate you, or love you or even exist.

You didn’t deserve it.

It’s much simpler than that.

Because a snowflake hit another snowflake.

And we are born helpless.

And live with much less control than we ever could have imagined.

It’s because there was no muffins.

 

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Do The Right Thing

Posted on | September 5, 2017 | No Comments

I feel a noticeable wave of nausea when I see them.

I look down.

Because I have to fight myself. Not to take their signs and break them over my knee. Or shout in their face like an insane person.

Because they want someone to do that. It’s part of the reason they’re out here.

In the middle of a sidewalk on Bloor Street. Determined to do what they imagine to be the right thing.

It’s those assholes with the signs that have a picture of a Fetus at 12 weeks and make a habit of talking to women as they walk by. One of the women has a baby strapped to her shoulder. Most likely her own as kidnapping a child to make this point would seem a little far even for her. She has a determined look. Cocky. Like she has proof that she understands all the complexity of pregnancy. And she has no problem using her child as a prop in her argument.

She dares you to say something.

“Look at my baby! Would you kill my baby?”

She’s the most annoying member of the group.

Now let’s tilt our focus to the right. Militant Christian organizations in Toronto seem to almost uniformly decided to get new immigrants who don’t really speak English as their principal advocates.

I’m not sure who adopted this strategy or what the reason is. But the new to Canada Chinese immigrants stare at their feet. A little anxious but determined not to leave. Even if someone violently disagrees with them. Holding the sign but not really understanding the repulsion they inspire.

I wonder how someone talked them into this.

Most likely under the guise of this will really help you fit in. Canadians like being bothered on the street.

Besides the point…..

I look at the woman triumphantly holding her child. The defiant look on her face. Ready to scrunch up as she explained to the women passing by that they were in fact a murderer. As she passionately explains why  women shouldn’t have a choice. How she can’t possibly understand every person who had to make that choice. And how pretty much no one in the history of time has cackled manically and had an abortion. How no one actually is pro abortion. They just believe that difficult decision shouldn’t ever be forced on anyone.

And I want to yell in her face.

For all the people I know who had to make that difficult choice.

And then I say nothing. I just meet her eyes. And try to memorize what these expression looks like.

How compassion can drain out of your features when you think you’re doing the right thing. How easily anger goes together with that rush of righteousness. I’ve felt that blindness before. I haven’t stood on street corners and lectured women on their right to choose. But I’ve hurt people’s feelings. Because I was certain.

The stop light changes.

I walk across the street.

Revulsion spinning nervous circles through my stomach.

Remembering the expression she made.

Thinking how much of a dick a person can be when they’re sure they are right.

 

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Creed

Posted on | August 27, 2017 | No Comments

For my life Christie Pitts is an Axis Mundi.

A place where all my lives come together.

It’s where I mourned the loss of my first love when I moved to Toronto and discovered Adele three weeks before the world made being her fan a mainstream thing. It’s where Katherine died in Just Cuddle. It’s where I laid on the grass and looked at the sky in my last relationship. It’s where I’ve celebrated successes and mourned failures. It’s a place I go to remember I’m aging and have lived a lot.

This is a post about boxing and Rocky and .

You might be surprised to learn I wanted to be a boxer when I was five years old. That for a year I’d ask my dad to read me stories from a massive book about boxing in the belief that someday a kid my age would be reading stories about me in a similar book. I forced my brother to fight me in our backyard. He was seven years older and enjoyed kicking my ass. Until he’d let me hit one lucky blow in the 12th round and fall to the ground. Bleeding and bruised I would raise my hands in the hair and run around the block. Proclaiming myself the world champion of Beech Street.

I didn’t pursue this dream.

But the Rocky movies meant something to me. As I am sure they meant something to a lot of people. I was five so I think it pretty much came down to the idea that if you try hard enough at something you can win. As an adult I look at those movies and see different things. Rocky 1 is about how you can do your best, train as hard as you want and you can lose and you can still be magnificent. The second is about how sequels are great and should always happen because box offices want Rocky to be champion. And the third is a great movie if you don’t look at it too closely.

It’s 9 o’clock.

Christie Pitts.

Just dark enough to show a movie.

And I’m watching Creed.

I think about how when I watched Rocky Stallone was still young. It felt representative of my dreams of what life might be like when I grow up.

And now he’s an old man. Getting sick. He has already lost those things he was fighting for in those climactic fights. Watching him I felt echoes of that five year old child who’s insane hopefulness still drives me to this day. And I think a little about what we are fighting for.

There are five hundred people gathered around this hill. On blankets. Next to their families and partners. Watching the huge screen and cheering.

The basic plot of the movie is Apollo Creed’s son wants to become a professional boxer. Rocky helps him do it. It pretty much copies the beats of the first Rocky exactly. I shouldn’t love this movie as much as I do.

The thing is this movie feels like one of those moments where humanity went in the right direction.

Creed is played by Michael Jordan aka Wallace from the Wire.

And Christie Pitts is filled with black families.

Who want their kids to look up at the screen and see what I saw as a child. In a message that wasn’t given to them in movies like this.

They can try as hard as they can and success or failure doesn’t matter. They can be magnificent. If they follow their passion.

At the end of the movie the fight ends.

And people are screaming and cheering.

And there’s tears in my eyes and in the eyes of the people next to me. There is something incredibly moving in the idea that there has been this tiny change.   Where the news tells a lot of people want to go back into the past, this movie is about a future. One we can fight for. One we aren’t guaranteed to win. But one we have to fight for.

 

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    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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