• This post is Part 1 in a 4-part series on my quest for a calmer mind.

    I've lived with anxiety problems since I was a teenager. It took me years to figure out that's what was going on finally seek help for it, and even longer to fully understand why it was happening. It's only in the last two years, particularly the past year, that I've finally gotten a real handle on it and learned what it feels like not to be spinning around inside my head at a dizzying speed, day in and day out. This means approximately half of my life was spent in a haze of uncontrollable thoughts and anxiety. In my quest for a calmer mind, I've discovered several changes that have helped, and one of them is modifying how I use social media.

    Train ride from Vancouver to Seattle

    This spring, I took a month off from Facebook. Now for those who might not know, I use Facebook a LOT. I've got family and friends I want to keep in touch with spread around the world, and because of my health problems I rarely even see local friends in person. I'm a recluse, and these days Facebook is my main connection to the world. I also use a multitude of other social media, read blogs and news online, write online, etc. but Facebook is the BIG one. I can spend a lot of time on there, and it's not all well-used time. Much of it is what a friend of mine recently termed "scrolly-scroll", ie. where you find yourself zoned out and endlessly scrolling down the page.

    In the spring, I did a Facebook fast. But as much as my Twitter usage has declined since back when I was working in tech, it easily substitutes my usual scrolly-scroll of choice. Nothing else sucks me in like those two platforms. YES, they are an effective way to connect and engage. YES, they are a convenient way to keep up to date on things. There are tons of positive things about them! But they change the way we live our lives, and not always in a good way. I know they change me. And over the last year or so, I've developed the distinct sense that they change how my brain functions when I use them too much.

  • Apparently my post about the accessibility of "car-free" and transit for people with chronic illness has now become part one of a series of posts on chronic illness and urban life. I caught something interesting on the CBC the other day. Shane Foxman did a small segment covering a protest held by the Raging Grannies calling for public washrooms in the transit system. You can watch the short video segment here. At the end, he asked for feedback, so here it is.

    Public Theater
    Photo by Susan Sermoneta

    Dear Shane,

    The thing that struck me most about the segment was how you seemed to think this issue was funny, or not so much funny, but a bit of a joke. Several of the people interviewed on the issue brushed it off, saying "just hold it" or "be more prepared" or some variation of that response. That indifference was the main sentiment of the bit was baffling, and something I could only chalk up to either complete ignorance, or less offensively, lazy reporting.

    Fact of the matter is that the lack of public washrooms in Vancouver, and specifically in the transit hubs and skytrain stations, is an enormous barriers to a large variety of people. The elderly, people with bowel and bladder problems, and of course children, all have varying abilities to "just hold it". It's not a joke, it's not funny - it has a severe impact on peoples' lives.

  • The Punk Singer - documentary cover imageHave you seen the documentary "The Punk Singer" yet?? It's on Netflix right now, and I loved it. A lot.

    Some of you, particularly music lovers, will know who Kathleen Hanna is - she was lead singer of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, and currently fronts (The) Julie Ruin. She was also one of the founders of the Riot Grrrl movement, which teenaged me growing up in Saskatchewan miraculously had some tiny window into, thanks to lots of MuchMusic, Sassy, and zines.

    I was familiar enough with a lot of the bands and history covered in this documentary, but I also learned so much more about everything and how it all ties together. I was enthralled watching through the first two thirds of the movie that detailed the movement and music history, and Kathleen's role in it.

    But then the film takes a major turn - one I had no idea was coming, when it reveals that Kathleen Hanna has been struggling for several years with severe chronic illness, eventually to be diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. She speaks so candidly about how the illness has changed her life - it was actually hard for me to watch parts of it, because I related all too much... I found myself tearing up as she said many things that I've been feeling, and that despite my best efforts, I've continued to habitually minimize and hide behind a brave face.

  • A funny thing happened yesterday. After I wrote the post about how much I was struggling with answering the call, I posted it to a Facebook group of people who've come together around an online workshop we all took recently - Lisa Congdon's "Become a Working Artist". The first person to respond recommended I read The Artist's Way - the proverbial bible of how to be an artist, as they had been working through it and finding it useful.

    Funny thing is I've owned a copy for at least a few years, and though I think I've cracked it open a couple times, I never made it past the intro. Alas, I've often found that when the time is right, the book finally resonates, so I went and pulled it off of my shelf upstairs. Then I sat down, and pressed on through the preamble, and both Introductions (I have the 10th Anniversary edition, so there's an intro before the intro) in full. All the way into the first chapter. 

    What do you know - the time was right. From page 5:

    Working with this process, I see a certain amount of defiance and giddiness in the first few weeks. This entry stage is followed closely by explosive anger in the course's midsection. The anger is followed by grief, then alternating waves of resistance and hope...

    This choppy growth phase is followed by a strong urge to abandon the process and return to life as we know it.

  • "He who would be what he ought to be must stop being what he is." - Meister Eckhart

    I unabashedly love Liz Gilbert. She just did a two part interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday, and the first part aired last weekend and is now online for all to see. I highly recommend you watch it. (The second part is coming up this weekend.) This first half is focused around the topic of figuring out what your "quest" in life is, why you're here and how to make it happen.

    This part really resonated with me:

    Oprah:
    Isn't it true though, I knew this for myself, when there came a time for me to leave Baltimore, and everybody around me was saying, "No, there's no way you're gonna succeed." I didn't hear it as much as I felt it - I felt that if I didn't move, from where I was, for whatever I was being called to, here obviously, in Chicago... I felt that if I didn't do it, a part of me would die. I felt that I would just sort of like, not physically die, but that parts of me would sort of shrivel up in some way, and that I would not be emotionally, spiritually, myself. Did you feel that?

  • This morning I read this article on xoJane about apologizing. The part that stuck out at me wasn't the main point of it, though:

    Our reluctance to say sorry when we’ve been wrong often causes more harm than our original offense. We argue, we gaslight. We force the person we’ve harmed to justify, over and over again, their right to feel hurt by our actions, and then we still deny them that. We make them the enemy, we become the injured party. We demand apologies for having to think of ourselves as less than good people. And we don’t learn. - Ijeoma Oluo 

    I only learned the term gaslighting more recently, but the phenomenon is familiar. It's something I've lived through over and over. From when I was somewhere around five years old, my feelings were not only invalidated, but I was made to feel like I was crazy, overreacting, too sensitive, too emotional... When I got picked on, harassed, and bullied, I'd get upset - I'd try and stand up for myself, but beneath the surface I was internalizing all of it. Eventually I would crumple emotionally, and run away to cry my face off.

  • I just came across this video of model Melanie Gaydos from the What's Underneath Project.

    What an amazing, humanizing, project and video. Usually stuff like this rubs me the wrong way, but this felt different and lacked that exploitative quality (maybe because it's not a project specifically about disabled/chronically ill people?)

    I love the way she talks about her body and her life so much - I can relate to her story even though her personal and health experiences are magnified by the severity and visibility of her illness, and the intensity of the history with her family...

  • I've been pondering recently...

    Social media makes life - even personal life - oddly impersonal. We click "like" and feel like we've REALLY supported someone (emotionally, or in their work), instead of actually giving real tangible support. For example, someone is fundraising for a project or a charity, or showing their artwork, and we click "like" and feel like we did something good to support them, when really we did nothing. We no longer feel any obligation to actually put our energy or money where our mouth (or mouse?) is. We don't really show up for people.
    We post our thoughts and feel like we're actually talking to people, but when we read people's posts, we feel like they weren't really trying to communicate with us. So few people will actually respond to a meaningful or heartfelt post in any earnest or genuine way. We'd rather assume it wasn't for us, or maybe we feel uncomfortable, and we decide it's best to do nothing.

  • Happy fall equinox folks! I'm so happy to be finally feeling the hints of fall arriving... Back to school has arrived a little late where I live (thanks to a long teacher's strike here), so I guess this still counts as back to school time! Even if you (or a little one in your life) isn't actually going back to school, it's easy to still get wrapped up in that feeling of possibility and wondering what the next many months will bring...

    My latest Heartgirl's message feels so very appropriate for this time of year, as it can be one that brings up those feelings of wondering if you'll be accepted by your peers, if your teacher will like you, if life is going to be a struggle or if it's going to feel easy as delicious pie... Sometimes we need a little reminder of just how wonderful we really are.

    lovable
    ~ You are so loveable! Heartgirl by Ariane K ~

  • I discovered this video by Hank Green (of Vlog Brothers fame) last night, and had to share it here. I used to watch Hank and John Green's videos religiously, back in the Brotherhood 2.0 days (this will all be gibberish to the non-Nerdfighters out there). But then there was just so much stuff on the internet that it became impossible to keep up on everything I wanted to read and watch, so I just catch the odd video here and there... All this to say, somehow I missed this video. 

    Last night I was feeling super duper down on myself and life because of how shitty and sick I've been feeling lately, and was reading some internets, and down the internet vortex I went, and I ended up at this video, and sometimes the internet is just wise and leads you to exactly what you need in that very moment. I hope you'll watch it, because I relate a ton to what he says.

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