• This post is part 3 in a 4-part series on my quest for a calmer mind. Part 1 on social media is here, and part 2 on healing and boundaries is here.

    droplets on lily leaves

    Before I dive into the next part of my quest for a calmer mind series, two other things to report from November. First, an update on how the month-long social media fast went! In short, it was glorious. It was far, far easier than the first time I did this back in the spring, but it also felt a lot more positive all around. The impact of the fast was more significant, I had hardly any withdrawal pangs (especially compared to the fast I did in the spring), and I found I adapted easily to not having it in my life.

    Bruno decided to join me, and it led to a pretty interesting month for both of us - we both did a bit more reading than usual, worked on our personal projects more, and spent more "quality time" together, just hanging out, cooking, and yes...I'll admit we may have watched a little extra Netflix. I certainly lost my compulsion to pick up and check my phone all the time, and it didn't actually lead to much sense of increased social isolation. Between the increased connection with Bruno, and actually spending more time either writing (mostly via email or text message) back and forth with friends, and occasionally socializing in person, I actually felt very connected. Though the number of people I interacted with may have dropped, the actual quality of the interactions was stronger.

    Finally, a quick note on one of the things Bruno and I did during the last month. He built me a virtual bookshelf here on my site, and I filled it with my favourite books on life, health, and creativity! I'll be adding more as I come across books that I fall in love with and want to recommend, but if you're looking for something to read, go have a look!

  • Ah, late November. The first thing that comes to many peoples' minds is this: Christmas shopping. Over the years, I've become extremely disillusioned with consumerism, materialism, capitalism, and the economy. And some of you might remember my old blog, SpendLocally.ca that was borne of my love of supporting local small businesses. It's hard not to become disillusioned with this side of the holiday season if you care about the environment, manufacturing ethics, your community, and let's not forget your own financial stability. But there are ways to make positive choices and impacts, even at this most consumerist time of the year!

    LED christmas lights

    Down with "stuff"

    My approach to gift-giving has very much aligned with my approach to shopping in general. It comes down to some basic tenets:

  • This post is Part 2 in a 4-part series on my quest for a calmer mind. Part 1 on social media is here, and part 3 on meditation and mindfulness is here.

    Before I get to the topic of today, I'm happy to report the first half of my Facebook and Twitter fast has gone well! I've certainly had a few little pangs of withdrawal, but overall, it's been having the desired effect: fewer racing thoughts, less compulsive social media checking, less time lost to the scrolly-scroll.

    bee in purple flowers

    What have I been doing with my extra time? I've been spending it on writing, reading, catching up on backing up photos from the summer, drawing, mending clothes and sewing, and of course, there may have been some Netflix watching too. (I broke down and started watching Gilmore Girls last week - uh oh!) And of course, hanging out with my sweetie!

    I've also been feeling generally awful since mid-summer, and have been having a very hard time healthwise lately, so all that stuff that sounds like "doing" is really very much in the slow lane and making up a small part of my days. I've been mostly resting and trying to listen to what my body needs right now, as well as continuing to work through medical appointments and research, and following up on referrals and tests I need to schedule, etc. Life in the sick lane.

  • This post is Part 1 in a 4-part series on my quest for a calmer mind. Part 2 on healing and boundaries is here, and part 3 on meditation and mindfulness is here.

    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...

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