Two.

by Alicia on August 12, 2015

Blake’s been gone two years. Two years ago on Sunday.

Sometimes the thoughts of him pass with no thought following at all, sometimes they even pass with a smile. Sometimes they make me wish I could reach in & take my heart physically out of my body because it beats so hard the tears feel like fire behind my eyes and there’s an ocean in my ears.

blake gravesite, raincloud tattooThe grass has all but grown over his gravesite now. I hate it. Not that I preferred the dirt, looking like freshly laid pain on the ground in front of me. My girls never fail to note that Blake’s is the most decorated of all the headstones across the flat land of the cemetery. Good. Terrible. Inspiring. Gutting.

He was a force while he was here and he is a force all the same now that he’s gone. He blows wind and sends storms and I literally sometimes feel the weight of his presence though I’m 99.9% sure it’s all in my head. But the night I drove home alone in a storm so wicked that I questioned my sanity…he sat above my moon roof and rode the waves of high puddles and crashing rain drops and made sure I didn’t turn the music down even once. He’s silent when you ask for him sometimes. Like you don’t get to do that.

These days surrounding two years ago felt like a blur at the time and I was sad later that I was too numb to take them in. It’s only two years out that I realize some quieter part of my memory was logging the moments I wasn’t brave enough then to face. And that’s all at once a comfort and a paralyzing rush of new old heartbreak. I listen to my Uncle choke through another toast and I wonder how they all keep just…going. Because in that moment I want the floor to open up and take me down. I want to feel nothing but the rush of the plummet, because my head spins and I choke on tears that end up in my throat because I try to pretend like I’m strong enough to hold them back and everyone else up.

We laugh. We play. We make new memories and I oddly don’t feel like he’s not in them. It’s harder now, though, that I feel like I’ll never see a new picture of him ever again.

I have never felt him at the gravesite. Not once. I read to him once and it felt like empty space and it creeped me out so I never did it again. I don’t talk. I just stare. And then it gets uncomfortable and the air feels heavy and I feel awkward just staring at my maiden name carved in stone so I kiss my thumb, and I put it over his face and I tell him “see ya buddy” and I turn and don’t look back.

It’s two years later and he surrounds us still. I guess that’s by choice, we each have a different story to tell. His was too short. But I find it has kept going all the same, just like a second book in a series.

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I’m starting a political blog. Not here, don’t worry, I’m starting it on another site altogether. Let’s not get too excited, some of us are Canadian in here. For now, though, I’m going to keep my personal, editorial analysis of the Canadian Leaders Debate right here on my own blog. I got rid of cable earlier this year (best decision ever: saving us like $100/mo and we don’t miss it at all.) so thankfully the internet exists and I was able to tune in to the live Canadian Leaders Debate put on by Maclean’s magazine Thursday night. Then I live tweeted about it. From two accounts. Because I know what fun is.

I’ll break down what was two hours of political speak into a few words that we can all understand: I don’t even think they were talking to us.

I’m politically entranced, I love this stuff. I’m educated specifically in political discourse. And even I was staring blankly at the screen wondering when it would start to make sense again. There were moments of clarity from one leader or another, but mostly it was jargon piled with statistics, laid on a bed of accusations. And that is frustrating.

But more than that, it’s insulting. I AM YOUR VOTER. I am your boss and your hiring committee. Don’t talk above me. When the line up for the debate topics reads: economy, environment, democracy and foreign policy; I should not be made to feel like I was duped out of any real action items that made sense. I know at least something about all of those things. I wanted new ideas on at least some of them. Mulcair wants a $15 minimum wage, but wait no Trudeau says he’s a liar. Trudeau is on a first date with the middle class, until Harper interrupts saying Liberals want to raise CPP and EI. Elizabeth May was the only one saying anything that seemed to reach your general Canadian, and most of the time she was playing auditory catch up to a discussion based in argument. They were nervous and so very clearly coached. It was awkward and hard to relate to. Which is a damn shame because I feel like this is the time that Canadians are wanting to feel engaged in the process. Social media puts politics in our faces in many ways and while not all press is good press, having your Facebook friend talking about who they’ll be voting for makes you at least perk up a little. This debate was meant to sway, and I think they all failed at that, with the exception of Elizabeth May, who didn’t quite hit the Prime Minister Material mark, but I think the Green Party’s website will get a lot of hits today.

Nobody bombed it. Mulcair came across condescending and slightly terrifying (who told that guy to talk so damn slow? and stop boring into my soul through your eyes, ya creep). He seemed to take his major points (minimum wage, recognizing the recession we’re in under Harper, attack Harper, attack Harper, attack Harper, oh yeah and bill C-51 is a goner) and repeat them. He did nothing for me, I didn’t even really pay much attention to his words because I was too off-put by his body language and stilted speech pattern. I read an article which pointed out that his new handlers were tasked with taking his aggression down a few notches and I think they’ve taken it too far because he seemed like an arrogant Grandpa who always thinks he knows more than you.

May proved she knows her background stuff (she’s a lawyer by trade, that’s kinda their thing), and I completely loved how she spoke in plain language and tried to reach the average unsure Canadian, but she’s nowhere near ready to lead a country. The biggest gaffe of the night belonged to her when she stated that overhauling the Senate wasn’t high on her PM priority list because “it’s too hard” which…wut? She did some Chinese fear mongering and brought up pipelines a lot, the latter was to be expected. While we’re counting tickets, I think she won this debate. She was relaxed and confident, not arrogant. She proved Green is more than a single-issue party and I think she was very successful at speaking to Canadians.

[insert here lots of the word “jobs” but nothing of real substance about how to create them other than raising or lowering taxes, depending on the party talking]

Harper was…arrogant and defensive, though not shaken. He didn’t have much to offer in the way of new policy, and he spent a lot of time talking about how Canada’s economy is one of the strongest of the G7. Which sounds great and all, but means nothing to the folks trying to find a job or make ends meet. He predictably took a large portion of the hits from the other candidates, they seemed to spend as much time talking about why they should be Prime Minister as they spent trying to point out the list of reasons Harper should no longer be Prime Minister. In my opinion, this is a poor strategy, it lets Harper talk about himself a lot (which is not a mistype, when he refers to Canada, he refers to himself) and he’s confident in the talking points he’s meant to hit. The man’s been PM for a decade, he’s cool under pressure. I don’t trust him, he’s shady as hell and he skirts around a lot of issues (his dismal environmental strategies, our recession, Senate scandals) by just shutting up and that’s weakness and cowardice and arrogance and GTFO, Harper.

Trudeau…man, I wanted this debate to become a solid reason to vote for him. I really did. But he did not deliver. He was on the attack most of the time, he spent the first half interrupting and I think it showed his nervousness. The second half he settled down a bit, but I really don’t think he said anything. He tried to make a case for a Liberal government being more friendly with the Americans (we spent quite a bit of time talking about the U.S, it was…uncomfortable) but offered no concrete ways to get that done. He had a couple slam dunks when he got some fiery passion under him- one about veteran’s benefits which unfortunately fell flat, and one in a quite frankly confusing exchange between himself and Mulcair about the Quebec separatist vote (which: is that really a thing we’re still talking about? I ask honestly, is that still on the table?) Trudeau leaned forward and dropped a “Nine. My number is nine. Nine Supreme Court Justices said one vote is not enough to break up this country…” and I thought that was a knockout punch. He ended with an impassioned, if ill received, closing remark positioned well outside the debate and more at Canadians themselves, speaking of pride, his dad, and his will to better our country.

 

Basically, the debate sold me on no one. I’m not a party line voter, I’m an issues voter. I care about taxes, but frankly they intimidate me. I don’t want to pay more, but if you can tell me precisely where they’re going to go and show me what you’re going to build for me with them? I’m inclined to listen. No one talked about healthcare, which is a real concern for me right now. It’s free here, but the waits are abhorrent and dangerous and that needs to change. I’m concerned about the economy but again, I don’t feel like I can touch it or affect any actual change from my lowly position as a citizen, which is really kind of terrible when you think about it. I am the economy…and yet, I’m alienated from it by way of the language used and the way it’s presented- which is: bad news slid in under the rug and covered up with a compliment sandwich of “what have we done for you lately”. I’m still on the hunt for my candidate, and “luckily” I’ve got lots of time cause this damn election is 72 days away. (Yes, I have a countdown timer on my phone. That nerd life, tho.)

When I got rid of cable, my only concern was that I would be missing The Daily Show. In a fitting line of ultimate political destiny, Thursday night was not only the Canadian Leaders Debate, but also the first U.S. Republican debate and Jon Stewart’s final Daily Show. I leave you now with his words of incredibly simple wisdom (with swears):

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Hi. I’m 33.

by Alicia on July 22, 2015

It’s my birthday. I’m 33 today. That sounds old but doesn’t feel old. I never feel old, actually. Like, I have moments where I notice how much older I’m getting, but I never feel like I’m old in a permanent way. I don’t have any theories on that, I just think it’s how my mind works and I like me, so all of those are facts.

IMG_2186I do, like me. I think I’m great. Yep, I have pesky flaws and things I keep hidden, and things I’d like to change. But mostly I don’t think about those. Mostly I just think I’m fun, and a good listener, and an all around good person to choose to be around. I’ve changed my perception so so much in the past year and a half. I’ve been in therapy and it’s changed my life. I’ve always been an optimistic person, but therapy has made me more sure of myself. It’s given me more confidence in trusting myself, which is something I didn’t realize I was lacking, actually. I see it most plainly when my TimeHop app shows me Facebook posts from like 4 or 5 years ago, when I was desperate to prove that I loved everything so fiercely when really I was getting lost in not really liking anything enough to like myself. I didn’t, like myself. I was trying to be so many things, trying to copy so many pieces of different lifestyles around me, taking on the perceived joy of others and trying to make anything stick. At the time I wouldn’t have admitted I was mimicking, I would’ve insisted that everything was great and I was leading exactly the life I’d imagined. That’s what all my Facebook posts actually say. And ya know, maybe at the time I was leading a life I’d imagined, but it was the short version of happiness. So like, happiness in the short term vision of things I wanted to get done.

I wanted kids: check, times three. I wanted to be married: check. I wanted to own a home: check.

All before I was 30. Wow, Alicia, killer pace dude. No literally, killer pace cause it killed the voice I should’ve been listening to. Everything is slower now. I do less. From the outside you can probably count more hobbies, more things I’m involved in, more ways my life says ‘busy’. But inside my body, I take more time for me. I listen to me. I say no when it feels like I should, even with the emotional pressure to say yes for others. I take my time- with decisions, with discussions, with traffic, with my bank account, with the weeds in my garden and the dust in my house. I’m calmer, I take less personally. I try hard not to dwell. I drop a lot more when I can’t make sense of it. Not to say I don’t pick it up later, but I don’t circle around the hard stuff too many times, or for too long. I put it down and walk away. The answer will come to me. Not by forcing it. I say when I’m wrong. I try really hard to listen and not have an answer or something to contribute at the end of a sentence. I take time alone, unapologetically and I do not ask permission. I do not trade off my time for chores or expectations in return. When I get my time, when I’m feeling rebuilt, I’m happily extending myself to help others. No resentment, no tabs, no guilt.

I’m selfish. Because I’m the only person who has to spend all day every day with me. I have to like me, or this life is going to be very hard. I have to like me, or I won’t like you. I have to like me so I feel like my something to give is worth it to you. I have to like me enough to care that anyone I interact with, leaves with something worthwhile. I put me first. And that was hard, so unspeakably hard. I lost a lot. It’s hard to put things down and not know if that’s the last time you’ll hold it- figuratively or literally. It’s hard to face the emotional shrapnel of change, because it hits unexpected places, and leaves lasting impressions. The first time I really sat in the hard stuff and just…sat there, with it? Felt like I was burying myself so slowly in a dark, deep hole. I couldn’t see out, I thought ‘this is what it’s like now, awful and alone and dismal and without hope.’ And it was. It really was just like that: awful, alone and dismal and without hope. And it sucked. And I broke right down and was a shell of a human being. I felt nothing deeply, everything was too hard. And one day one thing wasn’t. And then the next week another thing was ok. Small shift backward into the void, and then one thing would go well and I’d hold it. And with therapy where I got to talk in plain language about what pissed me off and made me sad and what I was afraid of and what I really and honestly and truly wanted even when it was not what I had always said I wanted? Oh dude, power. I got some power back. I got some confidence back. I got my voice back, and a better version, like Alicia 2.0. And I like her. I really, actually do.

So in the year between my 32nd and 33rd birthdays- I changed. Slowly and deliberately changed. And I am awesome. And I don’t care if 33 is “my year”, or if this will be the year I do X, or Y, or Z or maybe nothing. I have so much on my to do list and absolutely none of it is urgent at all. Go celebrate my birthday. Take in a yoga class (if you’re local, there’s a free one at the river!). Go sit on your back porch alone with a drink of your choice. Go for a walk. Book your first therapy appointment. Write. Colour. Buy yourself dessert. Talk to yourself. Do something for you. You’ll like you, I think.

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Slowly, and then all at once. The Tweens.

June 30, 2015

It’s kind of how John Green describes falling in love in The Fault In Our Stars: “slowly, and then all at once.” That’s how Isabella became a tween. I hate that term- tween. It’s so precious. So juvenile, and yet it sounds so sassy. Almost like it’s expected that there will be drama, which I […]

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Being assertive, and being wrong.

May 11, 2015

The translation from Finnish is: ‘assertive’. I’ve finally been asked a few times about my tattoo in public, from strangers, and I still brace myself for their reaction. Even though the very reason for its permanent placement on my body is both an affirmation and a reminder. One day my daughters may mother. If I could […]

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