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Thunderbolts and Firewires: The Year That Was 2016, #Farewell2016 #Writing #Podcast

I am feeling a little like I am frozen, and I’m warm while I say that. I don’t need to be out in a snow bank to say it. It is January, a new year, and I am frozen by many fears. I am afraid I will accomplish nothing, that this year of 2016 will be empty and a blank void in my life. I feel frozen by indecision and by uncertainty, but I hope I can find a way to thaw from that feeling of being frozen by all of this, that I can find the courage to take risks and keep moving forward.
I am equal parts afraid and optimistic. I am a lot hesitant and somewhat hopeful. The fear that I could go a whole year and not get anywhere at all clings on tight. On the other hand, I see a wide open year ahead as full of unknown possibility and promise of something great.
You never know the experiences you might have, the events in life that you just can’t plan for, and the people you may meet, who may come into your life for all kinds of reasons, for the short term only or for longer.

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Here I am, a year on from the fear and those remarks I made on my blog at the start of 2016, and a good year for me personally and creatively, trying new things, all by deciding to focus on myself is how 2016 actually turned out.

And now, I end 2016 and begin 2017 by looking back, at the year I’ve just had and ahead to the year to come.

I did it at the end of 2015 with:
My Top Spills and Thrills
of which there had been enough of both to go around.

What a ride! Would 2016 be anything else?

And so, I give you – 2016!

JANUARY

As the January 2016 quote from my blog showed,
I began my year afraid and uncertain and on a bit of a lower note,
with a little
Just Jot It January fun.

Then, to kick things up a notch, I thought the best way to focus on my writing was to take a writing workshop with a Canadian writer I’ve admired since I began blogging and seriously writing.
Carrie Snyder – Obscure CanLit Mama
Her style to creative work was just what I needed and it made me open up and here I am, one year later exactly, off to broaden my writing workshop horizons.

In reality, my brother had just come off a close medical call and was becoming himself again. I had lots to be
thankful for.
I just needed a bit of a push,
some creative inspiration,
and a path for a new direction in my life.

The year 2016 would, by many, be labeled “The Year All the Greats Died…the cursed year” even if you look at that with perspective from other years, past or future.

It began with David Bowie, but for me,
it all started with Snape,
as Bowie hadn’t quite meant to me what he’d meant to many others who felt his loss.

A new year maybe, but a new month meant another
#1000Speak,
focusing on the subject of forgiveness.

With the start of 2016 I decided to start a new Friday tradition.

Thanks to Kristi from
Finding Ninee
I decided to participate in a new blogging exercise
for the first time.

Another first included
Dungeons, Dragons, and Sorcerer’s Spells
but, in the end, it wasn’t for me.

Turns out, the magic of this month has been that I could just write, jot really, and I started to see that I didn’t need to have the rest of the year all figured out in the first thirty-one days.

FEBRUARY

This second month of the year is designated for a cause I know well. It ended up to be my chance to speak my mind about my personal cause and became my first published article of 2016:

To the People Who’ve Never Heard of My Rare Disease – The Mighty

February would end up being a month of
mindfulness and music.

Ten days in, I turned thirty-two and decided to check a big one off of my
bucket list,
and so I went out and rented myself a violin.

Happy Birthday To Me!

I turned another year older.

Harper Lee dies

MARCH

This third month of 2016 would bring more music, as I would discover my theme song for the year and forevermore:
Scars – Emmanuel Jal Feat. Nelly Furtado
and I would officially begin to learn how to play the violin, with lessons that would challenge and reward me, in both big and small ways.

Then, in honour of International Day of Happiness, I wrote a piece for
March’s #1000Speak
about how music makes me happy.

By this point in the year, I decided to cut back on blogging and write more of the memoir I’ve always planned for.

This was the best I could do.

I will keep at it.

March brought with it guest blogging spots and more opportunities for publication, other places than my own blog,
with my second attempt at the #BeReal challenge.

Following this, feminism seemed to be the topic of March as a month.

An interview I’d done with
a proud male feminist
and then a piece I’d written on
International Women’s Day
were both picked up by
The Good Man Project.

As for those we lost in the month of march:

Rob Ford (former mayor of Toronto)

and

Patty Duke, at the end of Women’s History Month, March.

APRIL

I got myself a writing mentor and my lyrics were finally heard.

Don’t Look Back

I was trying to focus, to look ahead, and to plan for what I wanted.

Why Oh Why

The writing mentor was a big deal, for that, as great and knowledgeable as she is and as much guidance as she’s been so far, but it was a sign that I could make writing my future – only I could do that.

April’s #1000Speak was all about vulnerability.

Once again, like during the spring of 2015, I was losing my tool for communication and self expression. This makes me feel vulnerable.

So I appreciated
the share from a friend
and another
guest posting opportunity
from a blogger, a young woman I really admire and have interviewed here before.

Spotlight On Single Strides

The end of April brought with it the death of Prince.

It also brought with it
the death of the loner laptop I was using
and a beautiful gift from a stranger, one which would allow me to write another day.

MAY

Back And Better Than Ever

I’d been pondering the idea of doing a podcast for a while, but couldn’t figure out how to make that work. Then, I brought up the idea with my brother and an idea, our idea, was born.

Taking A Chance

Next, it’s the month to celebrate mothers.

Solid As A Rock

I couldn’t do this without thinking back twenty years.

Frozen In Time

For May’s edition of #1000Speak I focused on
Loving My Self-ish.

The end of May and onward to June always causes me to pause and reflect.

Born Again and Forever Grateful

This time these thoughts would grow to become my next piece to be featured on The Good Man Project.

JUNE

My first Song Lyric Sunday on more than just any old Sunday day.

Following “the month of the Mother,” –
Her Dad Gave Her New Life and Rebirth–Where’s the Father’s Day Card for That?
June will always be a month for me and my father.

Electric Blue Compassion, #1000Speak

JULY

We started with a Facebook page,
and soon that followed with
Episode 1 – Intro To Us
with Ketchup On Pancakes.

On top of the release of the podcast, I jumped at an amazing offer, an invite, which would require a whole lot of planning and a wait of nearly six months.

Would the moment ever get here?

I bet my sister was thinking that same thing, we all were, but her good news was finally a dream come true.

A chance at independence and a new life for my writing and for me and a second child for her.

And so I applied for a newly updated passport and began to count down the months.

I read and wrote one of my rarer than I’d like book reviews.

Then I was approached and invited to write another
guest post
about my life and my day as a blogger.

What is courage anyway? #1000Speak

AUGUST

More lyrics for a second song written and, in celebration of and motivated by that accomplishment,
I decided to return to the visual art of my childhood and an old, familiar kind of creativity.

Up next, speaking of being reminded of being a child,
I reviewed a movie about motherhood,
that I’d gone to see, with my newly pregnant sister, in our own empty theatre.

Weeks before, at the end of May, the lead singer of Canada’s own Tragically Hip announced his fight with brain cancer and all his fans of Canada were listening, especially all across the country, one night in August.

The World Can Learn a Thing or Two From Canada – The Planet D

One beloved Canadian spoke up about his oncoming struggle and we lost someone in our family. I’m glad I got to meet Gerti, at least once that I’ll always remember.

As August came to an end, I made a few hard choices about my writing and what I wanted done with it.

If I made a mistake somewhere in there, I guess it will be mine to make and to own and to learn from.

The questioning would and will continue, no matter the month or the year I’m in.

SEPTEMBER

The first day of this new month was one I’d been waiting for, with the release of a new publication, focusing on what travel should be, the kind I’d like to see.

Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel

I remembered what it was like, moving into my house that I bought with my sister, ten years ago.

Collecting Furniture, Memories, and Emails

Ten years later, my nephew started school and my niece began the first grade. Another loved one passes away. RIP Erica.

I got to feature an interview I’d done with one of my favourite editors/writers.

The Other Awkward Age: My Interview with Jennifer Niesslein

This felt like a giant win and one of the best things to ever happen to this blog.

OCTOBER

Episode 2 – Ingredients Listed with Ketchup On Pancakes

But we weren’t the only ones with the idea of doing a podcast. Apparently, the idea had spread.

The Brevity Podcast

I took an autumn trip, to say goodbye,
with more than just the fall colours
as backdrop.

NOVEMBER

The U.S. makes a big mistake and it’s time to get writing – all the more reason to write.

Nano Nano Nano

“Regarding the influence from his poet-balladeer father, Cohen has said, “He’s tremendously helpful. Forget that I am his son. I was tutored in lyric-writing by Leonard Cohen and I had his sensibilities to draw upon. And I’m not just talking genetically. I could literally talk to the cat and he could lean over my notebook and point to a couple of phrases and say, ‘These are strong, these are weak.’ How can I consider myself anything but incredibly fortunate.”

Canada loses a great artist and the world all feels it, a distraction, in the form of
RIP Leonard Cohen,
just following the chaos in the United States.

Stalemate, #1000Speak

Could this possibly spell the end of 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion?

DECEMBER

Canada announces the first woman, other than the Queen, to appear on Canadian money.

Black rights activist Viola Desmond to be 1st Canadian woman on $10 bill

One month after November’s U.S. election, we share our Canadian perspective.

Episode 3 – The Great Gong Show of 2016 with Ketchup On Pancakes

I focused on my own personal growth for a greater part of 2016, but managed to fit in a little, last minute dating during the final days. Also, I made new and face-to-face connections with a few local women writers. So, a balance of personal and social, for good measure.

A few of the final famous deaths of 2016 would include daughter/mother pair Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but for me, it was the loss of this guy that brought me back twenty or so years:

I watched Days of Our Lives multiple days a week, while I was sick at home from school or stuck on dialysis. It was my favourite soap opera of the late 90s, as ridiculous as the storylines always were.

Joseph Mascolo, ‘Days of Our Lives’ Villain, Dies at 87 – New York Times

No villain was ever more evil than Stefano DiMera (Joseph Mascolo).

Special Snowflakes and Safe Places – Wham! Bah Humbug! Whoosh! #10Thankful

I featured a George Michael shoutout, in my final 10 Things of Thankful post for 2016 and this was before the Christmas Day announcement of his passing.

I am no fortune teller, but some of my predictions did happen,
as I sit with what did indeed come to pass and look back on what 2016 became.

Ketchup On Pancakes (the podcast) had a final episode for the year, a catch up on all that was 2016, by a cozy fireside.

Episode 4 – Farewell 2016…By The Fireside with Ketchup On Pancakes

And now, here I am, and another January is upon me.

It is a bit of a contemplative month, with the new year so new and fresh, but I value it for its melancholyish quality. It is a quiet time of reflection and so much possibility ahead.
As a new year begins I search for the motivation I see all around me, the kind that is going to get me to the places I strive to get to. I feel the blueness of January and hope I can find some momentum in the months to come.

My 2016 Resolutions were:
I want to make more connections with writers, creative and smart women, and I want to keep writing. I want to not be afraid to keep putting my words out there, even though the fear of more rejection is a lingering one.
Some make resolutions, others pick one word for their year, but I resist doing both. If I have to choose one word though, I suppose I will go with “Adventure”. I do want more of this, as I believe life is one giant adventure, all the years we get to live it.

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The Year Compassion Rained, #1000Speak #LoIsInDaBl #BlogLove

I wanted to do something to mark the two year anniversary of this blog last week, on the day I turned thirty-two, but I decided to wait.

I knew the anniversary,

We Are The Village (a #1000Speak post),

would be coming soon after. Rather than talking about what I’ve learned about having a blog for two years, I figured that instead I would round up each monthly contribution I made to 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion over the last twelve months, all in one place. This, I’ve decided, is the best way I can think to truly illustrate the importance it has had in my life this past year and I hope to continue with it in the future.

The presence of

#1000Speak

has helped me to focus in on what is at the heart of why I write and at the core of my space, this blog: Her Headache.

FEBRUARY – Compassion

Planting the Seeds of Compassion

I interview two people who make a unique and lasting difference in the world around them.

MARCH – Building From Bullying

Bystander

I speak about bullying, in my own life, for other people, and in literature and how we all see it happening, in front of us at one time or another.

APRIL – Nurture

Nature and Nurture: Bloodroots and Blood Ties

Using a particular afternoon out in nature with family, I speak about the whole nature vs nurture debate and the vital role I think both of these have played in my own life.

MAY – Connection

Connection and Disconnection

I speak about the types of connection I want for myself and how I deal with feeling lonely or alone in the world.

JUNE:

Everybody’s Got A Story

This one speaks for itself really.

JULY – Acceptance

The Trouble With Being Real

I speak about showing compassion to myself in a world where it’s sometimes just easier to hide.

**Here, I took a bit of a summer vacation from compassion for the month of August. Sounds worse than it was.**

🙂

Instead, I’ve included a guest post I was invited to write, a few months later, for the 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion site.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest

I speak about compassion vs pity that I often get from others.

SEPTEMBER – Honesty

Eggshells, Broken Glass, and Scissors

I examine when it’s okay to be honest with other people and how to learn from the sometimes harsh nature of honesty when it is given back to me.

OCTOBER – Compassion

Who Is Malala?

A young girl was shot in cold blood on her way to school and she does not hold onto thoughts of revenge, retribution, or anger.

NOVEMBER – Gratitude

And Then There’s Books

I am thankful for the things in my life that teach me gratitude.

DECEMBER

Compassion For Christmas

I relied on the compassion showed by others during a time when I really needed a lot of it.

JANUARY – Forgiveness

Both Sides of the Forgiveness Story

I speak of looking at forgiveness from several angles.

Thank you,

#1000Speak,

for helping me see the good in people over this last year.

All of these posts listed here are a tribute to you.

Love Is In Da Blog, #BlogLove

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TToT: Making Winter Great Again – Take It Easy, #10Thankful

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

–Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

There was a tragic school shooting, here in Canada, at a high school in Saskatchewan. The snowstorm to rival all storms hit parts of the US. Sounds like a rough week, right?

As for me, I keep letting social media get to me, but if it weren’t for Facebook I still would have heard the news. The other day there was another birth announcement, in the family, and even though I am incredibly happy for the new parents, I found myself having a moment.

Why does it happen for some and not others? How will I be okay if it never happens to me?

paulbrianyousophiaonsled-2016-01-24-09-35.jpg

I need to keep writing it down, reasons why I am grateful, and marking the little things that are infused with beauty and sweetness. That’s why I am here, to find the good in life when sometimes, well sometimes it just sucks.

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

For finally getting to live in such a hip country.

The New York Times Gives Backhanded Compliment, Describes Canada as “Suddenly…HIP?”

Finally!!!

Trudeau praises Waterloo’s brilliant, innovative minds on world stage

Thanks for making us hip Justin.

🙂

Okay, so I’m aloud to begin with a bit of a sarcastic thankful once and a while, aren’t I? Can I still count it?

For snow, even when it’s cold, which it always is.

🙂

(Just a little something for any of the US bloggers who read the TToT, to maybe cheer them up, if the storm didn’t knock out power that is.)

Hashtags: #AwwHellSnow

I don’t know why, but I include snow in this list. Perhaps it’s one of those hip Canadian things.

🙂

littlesnowmanbetweendoves-2016-01-24-09-35.jpg

For perspective, as shown by this photo, and which connects nicely with my next thankful.

Both Sides of the Story – Phil Collins

For forgiveness and the chance to explore my thoughts on the concept.

Both Sides of the Forgiveness Story, #1000Speak

Getting a little perspective on a situation often leads to a better chance for forgiveness.

For rejection.

I can’t believe I am saying this. I sure didn’t feel it in the moment, but I am trying to let each rejection of my writing give me more and more of the determination to keep working at it.

It was painful, just like one of those first rejections I received, almost exactly this time, on another cold January day a few years back.

I don’t know yet if I believe all that stuff about not giving up, letting rejections fuel you, but I know it’s true deep down, somewhere. Even the biggest writers have been rejected at one time. Not every place is going to love or want your writing. I am just thankful I have found the nerve necessary to share, to try, and to get back up and try again.

For an unexpected reminder of what colours look like, something I miss everyday, and from the beautiful mind of a child.

If I Were a Crayon

I apologize for all the pingbacks Lisa.

🙂

For a successful vidchat with blogger friends.

It took a couple weeks to get back to it, but I’m glad it worked out for so many.

There they all were, and there I was, communicating through my phone.

That technology really is pretty cool. Speaking of technology…

For past, present, and future.

As I wrote out some homework of sorts for the writing workshop I was attending in the morning, I thought about days of homework past.

I needed to be able to just read out loud in class, so I pulled out my old, heavy duty Perkins machine. I had forgotten how hard on the arms it can be to jam away at those keys.

The next morning, at the workshop, I brought my Braille Sense, instead of my laptop this time. A Braille Sense is an electronic typewriter of sorts. I could write braille, like with an old broiler. There are three advantages: not so heavy a machine to carry, easier on my arms, and much quieter in class. My old schoolmates know what I mean and only wish I had today’s technology back then.

😉

Technology is always improving, bigtime since I was growing up, and a full tactile/braille tablet is up next. I can’t wait to get me one of these.

For the second of three Saturday morning writing workshops I’ve been attending with a wonderful instructor and for the one who made sure I didn’t miss out. Thanks for the ride. Thank you both for giving me the chance to do what I love.

In the creative writing workshop I am doing at the moment the writer/instructor is helping us appreciate moments, as we write, small things in life.

This is kind of what Lizzi is speaking of here:

In Small Moments

It’s what Carrie was speaking of, to one of the mothers in the group, that the special things and the funny things and the wise things come and go and come again, but some things are over and gone. Small moments. Then Lisa found a way to capture one of them, a snapshot of what her own child is thinking and how she sees the world at a young age. The world will never get something quite like that again. Now it’s caught in writing.

For some new friends showing me a new experience.

I don’t know how many of you know anything at all about Dungeons & Dragons, but I knew only what The Big Bang Theory showed of the game.

I didn’t want to go in with too many preconceived notions. I did not want to judge until I saw for myself.

I guess what I was thankful for about it was the chance to not be myself, not really, but instead to become whatever else I wanted, for a few hours. I was a neutral sorcerer. I wasn’t Kerry for a while and that break from the harsh realities of life was the welcomed part, that and laughing with some interesting people.

The Eagles – Take It Easy

“Take it easy. Take it easy. Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. We may loose and we may win, but we may never be here again.”

We say goodbye to Glenn Frey, another rock musician, but these words calmed me down this week when I needed to hear them.

“Life is terribly deficient in form. Its catastrophes happen in the wrong way and to the wrong people. There is a grotesque horror about its comedies, and its tragedies seem to culminate in farce. One is always wounded when one approaches it. Things either last too long or not long enough.”

–Oscar Wilde

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Both Sides of the Forgiveness Story, #1000Speak

Some people who say they’re sorry aren’t and don’t feel genuinely sorry and some who feel truly sorry never say it, or get the chance to even try.

There may be a quote like this somewhere out there already, but, if there is, I don’t recall and, I swear, these words are my own. Chances are it isn’t stated nearly as poetically as how I’ve written it here anyway.

🙂

If it already exists, I am sorry and I really do mean that, but in this case I came up with it in my own words and from my own heart.

I am speaking of being sorry. I apologize a lot more than some people, perhaps a lot of people, but I know I am not the only one. It is said that women are forever apologizing for things, (big things or little things) whether warranted or not, and there is such a thing as too much being sorry, overkill.

This will all make sense, by the end of this post, I nearly certainly promise you that.

January’s #1000Speak topic is “Forgiveness”. Oh, the things I had to say about that, I told myself, upon hearing of the subject matter.

Spoiler alert (full disclosure, before I continue): I don’t have many answers and I don’t even have much of a handle on the monster that is holding a grudge or laying blame.

I know what you’re thinking, what so many self-help experts would shout out loud – anger, grudges, and blame only hurt the one doing the holding and the laying, that it is a much healthier thing to just let it all go and that getting on with life, being happy, these are the best forms of revenge. I don’t even like that way of putting it though, to be honest. Using the word “revenge” is still holding onto negative thought process and talk.

I don’t want to take out my anger on people or to take revenge on anyone, especially those who I have loved, at one time or another. Those are the ones you usually blame for things or can’t forgive for something.

Well, to begin with, I am working on forgiveness toward those who ever decided to title it “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” here in North America.

I do not love those people, never did, because I have never met them. I do love those books though.

Forgiveness is necessary for so many things, as this first example shows.

😉

My real list of those I have had to work to forgive is as follows:

–To a world of ignorant people, unwilling to look past disability and my blindness, to give me a chance and to get to know who I really am.

–To the doctor(s) who didn’t take me seriously enough when I told them I was feeling unwell, (when I was in renal failure or in chronic pain).

–To the schoolboard/administration who didn’t think I was smart enough. Or who used my blindness as the reason why I wasn’t keeping up, when I was really very ill from an entirely separate medical condition.

–To my high school boyfriend who used me to figure out the problems with his own life.

–To a friend who did not care.

–To an ex boyfriend who hurt me when he left.

If I was affected by these things in the past, I cant say for sure if I have forgiven completely. If I am still angry, I don’t want to be. Is it as simple as letting that anger go? Really? If it were, why wouldn’t I have done it by now?

What’s the real answer to that question?

Must mean I don’t want to let it go, right? I don’t know about that.

Certain times in my life have affected me, so profoundly, that even years later I think back on them and cringe a little. They often feel like a tiny little wound, one where when I brush up against them (when I let my mind go there) I feel just a little sting of regret or sadness or disappointment.

How do I ever completely heal these wounds?

I move on. I move forward. I get on with life. I have survived it all and I am still here. That offers endless comfort to me, but it doesn’t erase the experiences and the memories.

Forgive and forget. I often wonder about this line from the self-help field as well.

Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out which one I am left with at the end of the day.

I know the person I have the hardest time forgiving is myself. I try, once more, I really do try. I know blaming myself for things I couldn’t have known better of back then or ways in which I may still be punishing myself now is not helping me.

I don’t know how much, if at all, anybody from my past thinks about me now. How wrapped up in myself must I be to even think they think of it at all, when so much of life is a one-sided argument happening inside our own heads.

If someone had nothing but the best intentions, I know they didn’t set out to hurt me, hurt me bad enough where I am still talking about it now. I acknowledge what good and decent people I have known. I am glad I’ve had certain people in my life, as a part of my history. I don’t wish them any ill will.

I gave my five-year-old niece a necklace for Christmas. It was a snowflake with the words “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” on it.

This I liked right away, on finding it in the store. I wanted her to have it, just as I want her to have the skill, the ability to forgive and to let go of anger and hurt, whenever and wherever possible. I don’t think it brings much else but suffering and I want her to know less of that than I’ve known. I want her to have a life with less regret and disappointments.

I hope I am not an angry person, but sometimes I’m not really sure deep down. I don’t ever want the level of anger (a perfectly common human emotion) to balance out the love and the kindness I feel and show to the world, but I try to remind myself that I must start with me first.

Give yourself a break, I remind myself, when the bad feelings surface. Life is much too short.

That is true.

I am always sorry for things and I don’t know if this is something I need to work on or not. I need to learn to forgive a world where disability and blindness is still not understood as well as it should be. I need to learn to realize that other people are fighting their own battles within themselves and that, if they’ve hurt me in some way, it’s not normally an intentional act. They were doing the best they could too, just like I am.

The hardest part is imagining what could have been or what will never be. Doesn’t mean there’s no hope that it could have all been worth it in the end.

With the death of a “Harry Potter” film star last week I have been watching a marathon of the movies and there was the scene about “The Unforgivable Curses).

They are “so named because they are unforgivable” and it got me thinking.

If you think that there are those things that shouldn’t be forgiven, I am just lucky that I can’t say that about my own life.

And whether you believe even the worst and most unforgivable deeds and actions towards others can still be forgiven, if only for the sake of the one who was wronged, so that person can find peace – well, I guess we’ll all just have to agree to disagree on that.

The only way I can look at it is that we can only know what this life and its most painful parts are like for ourselves, no one else. We can try to see things from another’s point-of-view. Maybe that will help and maybe it won’t, but we can at least try, right?

Around the 20th of every month

1000 Voices

explores topics like forgiveness and compassion, when a group of bloggers and writers do their part to spread all manner of good things, as a breath of fresh air with all the negativity and bad vibes in the world.

This month’s group and their thoughtful stories have given me a lot to think about, as usual.

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In The News and On My Mind: Sticks and Stones

“Watching the news in the evening is a bit like being on an emotional Tilt-aWhirl. “Isis now sets people on fire.” “Harper Lee has a new book out!” “Some oddballs are bringing measles back because they’re scared of autism, which is a bit like saying I’m worried about birthday candles, so let’s start a forest fire.” “It’s going to be gorgeous this weekend!” “Look, a politician being deliberately rude.” “And also, look at these adorable puppies!” My limbic system does not work that fast!”
–JEG

Here we are again, going in circles.

Again, President Obama, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver are compelled to speak about gun violence.

And, I guess, so am i…

President Obama Speaks At Press Conference For Oregon Mass Shooting

There are more causes with days or weeks or month recognition in October than I could shake a stick at.

😉

This week I focus on mental illness, because it is the week to recognize that people are suffering and, once more, we are forced to talk about it because havoc has been caused in its name.

In my Facebook newsfeed, I can’t keep track of the causes and their turns to be highlighted, but most of it hits me hard, has touched my own life in some way.

I’ve been rereading some Harry Potter lately and I began to think about weapons in that magical world. They have their wands, which are like our guns, and then there’s Hagrid’s trusty bow and arrow.

Okay, so just this week, in Toronto, a man was found dead after being shot with an arrow. It happens, in all sorts of ways. We kill each other and we can’t seem to stop.

I think about the way it was, hundreds of years ago, when there were arrows and swords.

Now we have guns.

People are going to die, be it from an arrow, a bullet, a blade, or a drug.

Those who feel alone or have no support will lose the battle sometimes. It’s up to those who have had the support, to give that support right back to others.

Stephen Colbert said, “Insanity is changing nothing and pretending something will change”.

I hope we never lose the humour, his type of humour and honesty, in the face of these hard and harsh realities.

The LAte Show, Stephen Colbert – Some Thoughts On Pretending

Rowling’s wizards could and did horrible damage and caused horrific cruelty with their wands, but this was mostly due to evil groups such as Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters.

Law abiding wizards used their wands, more than we use guns, specifically speaking in Canada, but still I say you could compare it to the world a lot of people want to live in, most often in the US. They want a gun accessible, for a feeling of security and a way to protect themselves and their loved ones, in the case of a dangerous intruder threatening them.

Whether it’s a bow and arrow or a shot gun, hunting was and is a way of life for people, for need or for sport, in Canada and elsewhere.

I don’t know a lot about guns and I don’t know the laws and the loopholes. I do know that the battle is between us and them, one side against another and I don’t like it. It’s about one side saying “they” want to take “our” guns away from us.

Then the other side says they want less mass shootings.

I can’t help but think of a time when settlers came to this continent, us against them, and guns were introduced.

Us and them. Us and them. Us and them. It never ends.

It never ends and I’m sick of it.

I know which side I am on, but then I realize just how futile being on any side is. Where has it gotten us? Why can’t any sort of compromise be reached? Why are humans so stubborn, immovable, and unwilling to bend at all?

And then the two sides fight over mental illness.

Mental illness or guns?

Where does that put the people with those illnesses, the vulnerable? How do they feel?

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week and my next post will be one I’ve wanted to write for over a year, but I couldn’t resist including John’s clip here because it is part of this conversation.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver – Worst Time To Talk About Mental Health

His idea is a radical one, a drastic one, and one the one side would totally discount, but again his honesty in the humour he dishes out is worth listening to.

I’ve enjoyed John Oliver since I first saw him with a role in the show Community, but take a look at John’s segment because I want to do more for mental health, as my next post will continue to demonstrate.

I think we need to not focus on one over the other. We need to focus on both. Why oh why are we always so quick to pick one side, divide, separate? Why do we go to extremes?

Don’t we use the term “extremist” for violent and evil terrorists?

Someone who would storm into a classroom, movie theatre, shopping mall with a gun or guns able to take down many people is committing an act of terrorism, aren’t they? They are terrorizing people.

Are they mentally unstable, ill, sick, disturbed? Call it anything you like. It’s an extreme and it is terrorizing.

Oh, but those people are going to the extreme of an extreme, right? We all like our extremes, our sides, but we aren’t like them, oh no.

Most people with mental illness aren’t ever going to shoot up a place. Some could commit an act of violence, but mostly it ends up being on themselves, as with conditions like self harm, cutting, or suicidal ideation.

When a mother drowns her three children and then herself, that makes the news. When the mother kills her children and not herself, we see her face as she stands before the judge and jury to accept the verdict.

We condemn her for hurting the innocent, but how do we prevent that from ever taking shape to begin with?

As with the latest mass shooting, we hear about it for a long time and the ripples can be felt spreading out, in every direction. People do use these occasions to back up whatever facts or points they want to get across, for their own reasons. It becomes political instead of social or humanitarian. Then we do move on, or most of us do.

We don’t hear about the every day struggles of mental illness in someone’s life. We don’t want to, we choose not to, would prefer to avoid hearing about that part of the story, the ugly, that part that comes before the possible tragedy. I read a lot of these stories on the blogs I come across. The ones I read about are the stories that will hopefully have a happy ending.

Like this one, for instance.

When suicide can be and is avoided, it’s a wonderful thing, but it is an ongoing struggle for most people. We need to be aware of it, be honest about it, find humour in the good parts of life to help combat it.

I don’t know why we listen to the news or a press conference really. Can what’s being said really mean anything lasting or practical? I must, like everyone else, try not to let the negative futility take over my thoughts.

Like John says, we owe people more than just words. We owe them a plan.

For me, here, words are the plan, but I don’t know the answer for a plan to prevent tragedy like we see again and again and again.

I am not afraid. I don’t live in a dangerous part of town. I have support and love in my life. I don’t live in poverty.

I do not fear for my life. I do not carry a gun. I think you would probably agree that not being able to see and guns don’t mix and I would agree too.

🙂

I wish they weren’t in the hands of anyone who couldn’t be sure of being proper and safe, but are any of us truly guaranteed safety with a gun in the picture?

Some would say yes. They would feel powerful and in control. Us against them. Me against them.

😦

Then another shooting makes my television’s news program and the insanity continues.

An eleven-year-old boy shoots an eight-year-old girl.

And I curse guns all the more. They didn’t keep that little girl safe. They didn’t keep her alive. They won’t permit her to grow up and have a future.

I can’t find a smidge of humour in that, honestly.

Dear Congress – Sincerely, A Mass Shooting Survivor

Not only has this particular, firsthand account received a huge amount of attention, but even my comment I left, from my perspective as a Canadian has received several likes, more than I would normally get.

We need different perspectives and we need to pay a little more attention and learn a little something from all of them.

I see a climate of fear and one that perpetuates violence. I see that being so deeply ingrained in US culture specifically.

I may be blind, but I am not blind to what things might be like here in Canada. I know it’s not my experience, but my somewhat sheltered life has put me at a greater position of hopefully having a better understanding, somehow and somewhere among all the chaos.

Nothing will change, as fatalistic as that might sound, as long as this deeply ingrained fear persists, if the “them against us” view of the world continues, no matter what country is in the headlines.

As the well-known rhyme says, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.

Sticks. Stones. Words. Lies.

Then there was the story that just broke about a comedian/actor who told an awful lie. He’s been busted and a lot of Americans would like to see him hung out to dry for it.

Words. A few little words and a story of exaggeration, told in a small group of people, and nothing more might have come of that, if it weren’t concerning the sensitive subject of September 11th.

Steve Rannazzisi Comes Clean About 9/11 Lie

He speaks about this to Howard Stern and Howard listens, gives the guy the chance to explain and to begin to apologize, but does not take calls. Probably a good idea. There’s always Twitter and the rest of the Internet for that.

I wasn’t involved in 9/11 and so I’m not quite so raw over the matter I guess.

That September 11th, it seemed bigger than I could possibly comprehend on that day, but these things happen in the world.

I am a fan of The League, ever since I was introduced to it by someone a few years ago. Who would have thought that a show about fantasy football would be my kind of show, but when I actually sat down and gave it a chance, I liked the humour and the guys and the characters they played.

Steve didn’t directly hurt me. I can give the guy a break. Others can’t. Outrage and anger for some. Forgiveness for others. Compassion from me because I am able.

Listening to the interview was interesting. With my interest in psychology, it is fascinating to hear someone explain, justify, rationalize something so irrational as pretending they were involved in something so horrible. What kind of a person would or could do that? A lonely one. An insecure one. A misguided, attention seeking, weak guy in a weak moment.

I just recently saw a program about a woman who insinuated herself into online grief chat rooms with 9/11 survivors and the families of those who lost their lives.

She did it for money or for a hole inside. How is Steve all that different?

People’s intentions matter. Their actions, for some, matter more.

Compassion is the way we should be leaning. Anger is the tempting route to take. Violence and weapons go hand in hand. Hatred and anger feed off of each other.

Guns kill. The line, guns don’t kill people, people kill people has been bandied about so much. It’s becoming a cliche. People kill other people with guns. I am not for banning things altogether because I know, like with drugs, that doesn’t solve the problem. I am for compromises, understanding, and care..

Terrorism kills.

I firmly believe we can not bend under the pressure, snap, and let the hate win. Words can be used for good, for positivity, for kindness. I use my words for that.

Next week, for In The News and On My Mind I will talk more about immigration, refugees, and the federal election here in Canada.

Do I vote? Will I vote? Will it make any difference whatsoever if I do or don’t?

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Spotlight Saturday

Spotlight Saturday, 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion: Sisters Think Alike

It started with:

We All Need The Village

and it was followed by:

http://yvonnespence.com/all/1000-voices-for-compassion/

With this the train had left the station. Compassion has been spreading rapidly through the blogosphere ever since.

It is a movement which hopes to spread compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, and non-judgment and there is nobody I think embodies all these things more than my very own sister.

She is an extremely kind and caring daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, and aunt. Not to mention one of the most caring human beings around.

Okay, so I may be a tad biased here, but just read on and you’ll see what I mean.

All this is why I’m pleased she took some time to write about her thoughts on these important qualities and I am thrilled to shine this week’s spotlight on her and her thoughts now.

***

Compassion is a complicated thing. It should be more simple, but it is often more than just caring about the people that deserve it. The hard part is caring for those who do not deserve it, it is those people who somehow need it more.

The problem with that is that it is the other people, who we believe to be innocent, who usually are – that would then suffer. There are also many situations where lines – between those who are considered innocent our not, whether to consider someone a victim or not, or if they are worthy of compassion – are blurred.

Those who do the most horrendous things are usually the most scarred, the ones with the most tragic past.
The hardest line to walk is not excusing their current behaviour; the fact that their father beat them everyday of their childhood – that they had to witness the same atrocities to their mother or siblings, should this give them a pass for their current actions? Does this excuse what they have become?

Of course not. There comes a point in time when any victims they are creating are now more important than the tragic up bringing that turned them into the reprehensible person they have become. Personal accountability has to be taken into consideration, there is a certain point where it trumps even the most tragic upbringing, but even then there is all always room for compassion, though that is often easier said than done.

Does that mean we should not also feel compassion for what inspired this person’s spiral into what they have become?

Herein lies the problem. How do we try to understand the bad part, without excusing it?! There is, unfortunately, no simple solution but it does require to sometimes just take a step back and try and look at the situation from all sides – especially when it seems like the hardest thing to do.

Recent events; terrorist actions, racial injustices, victim shaming in sexual assaults – all things that could use a little, or even a lot, more compassion.

Does free speech excuse being callous with someone’s beliefs? Regulations on free speech, whether legally enforced or from social pressure, are in no way the answer but just because you can do something does not mean you should!

There is, again, no excuse for any reaction that involves a blatant disregard for human life, and it is never easy to balance being able to express ones personal beliefs that are often something we as humans feel very passionate about. No one wins when public discussion and free speech is suppressed – but there is also always room for a little more compassion.

On September 11th, 2001, nineteen men were responsible for the death of thousands. Thousands of people who were living, breathing human beings, with feelings and families. How many children grew up with out a parent – how many parents had to bury their children? Others buried their wives, or husbands – uncles, aunts, cousins, friends.

Now just imagine what went wrong in those nineteen men’s lives for them to feel these actions were justified? It’s not an excuse for what they did, only something to take into consideration. Did one or two of these men – or all of them, experience loss on their own scale? I am not suggesting we excuse their actions, only that we strive to understand them.

To look beyond and consider these feelings, this terrible event brought up, in an attack so close to home, it is hard to look past our own pain and see the pain in others.

That this feeling of vulnerability, that not feeling safe and secure in our every day life, it is the reality in those attackers lives, as well as so many others in their communities. Also that they do not all turn out to be extremists. It’s not always easy to understand for us but like in all parts of the world we are often byproducts in our upbringing and what we are subjected to in our everyday lives. Now imagine this it’s your everyday life but on a much more extreme level.

There is little one can do to make war less horrific than the hard truth of it but a little compassion can go a long way. You may argue that the, us against them, mentality is what gives a soldier their ability to do what it is they need to do, but compassion might just be what is needed.

Most of the people they are fighting are also just people with families, fighting for their country. You may feel they are fighting for a country with unconscionable practices, but we also must remember looking in on another country’s policies (as with an individual’s beliefs) is not as simple as it sounds. Morality is sometimes much less black and white than we would like to think.

Just as, despite what side you may fall on with the out come in the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, a little more compassion for what is a never ending struggle to feel safe as a minority in North America.

I can not say what the police force, nor the individual officer’s, feelings were behind the shooting but Michael Brown’s subsequent innocence or guilt does not remove what it represents to a community that feels unheard and unimportant.

Michael Brown’s guilt or innocence in any crime in the moments before, is not really what makes the situation so hard to just move on from. The feeling that it may not always matter if he was coming from volunteering at a soup kitchen or from robbing a convenience store, that his death is representative of what it means, to not, be a white man in America.

There are many examples that being guilty of something, is not always requirement for a death sentence – this is not the first or the last time. Compassion is required to understand that, it requires taking yourself out of your own shoes and imagine how different some peoples realities really are.

Victims of sexual assault also feel a similar marginalization – with the burden of the victim to prove their innocence, in favor of not violating the rights of the perpetrator. In that regard, people usually just site innocent until proven guilty for standing up for the accused, but with sexual assault, unlike most other crimes, assuming the accused is innocent often requires implying the victim is guilty until proven otherwise.

This doesn’t happen in murder cases or most other crimes, it just means they’ve got the wrong person. With sexual assaults, the assailant is most often known to the victim.

The innocent until proven guilty defense also does not apply outside a court of law, and definitely does not remove your ability to show compassion towards someone who is a victim of such a personal and horrendous crime.

Ensuring there are never false accusations may not be possible but there is a much larger number of women who remain silent, due to the reality of what the victim exposing themselves will do to their everyday lives.

It is when we fail the victims on such a large scale that we need to look at how we deal with such a sensitive subject. Compassion when dealing with a woman (or a man) who has been sexually assaulted should be an easy choice but like many things in life – any hostile or judgmental reaction, often tells more of the other person than the victim themselves.

Understanding a person’s motivation can go a long way with dealing with your own suffering. This applies to personal pain, on an individual level, as well as on a larger scale with the pain of a whole community, or a nation. Compassion can also be applied in all areas of our lives.

Instead of throwing away a relationships – regardless of the degree of the betrayal, maybe try and understand what caused them to be so careless with your feelings. Forgiveness is not always an option but understanding it can give way to some compassion for both parties. It can also be just as beneficial to you as it is to whoever hurt you. By your ability to show that understanding, in a situation that is not necessarily your fault (though most things in a relationship do require some fault on both ends) – this compassion will help to strengthen your other relationships, in both the present and the future.

We also see it as a divide between generations. We could all better ourselves if we could try and have a little more compassion for the things we see as insignificant in the lives of others. The idea of a teenager being in love can seem foreign to those who have long been passed this stage in their life, making it easy to pass it off as puppy love. Although it may not be the same, as the love of a couple who has enough experience in love and life, the loss of either relationship is painful to the respective person, both just as valid, even if they are not what some see as equal.

Everyone’s pain is valid, and this is where compassion is ultimately needed. You do not need to excuse behavior to show compassion. We could all benefit from putting ourselves into others shoes. Does this solve all the problems of our world, maybe not. Does it erase the many wrongdoings, of course not – but the only way to change the world is through these small steps.

There will always be bigger events that are credited with shaping our humanity but it is just as important to make these small gestures to continue to push all of us to create a world where we have the best chance to get along, to give all its inhabitants the dignities we ourselves deserve. And it extends to all inhabitants of this earth, from our fellow humans, to the many animals we share it with, as well as the environment and natural resources surrounding us.

Compassion is the answer.

***

I agree. That is why I am participating in #1000Speak and why I wanted to share this topic of compassion, from wise women like my sister.

Thank you Kim, for these deepest of thoughts.

For more information, check out:

1000 Voices Speak For compassion on Facebook

I will be posting a few more times on these topics, leading up to February 20th.

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