Sunday, June 11, 2017

Depression and Comfort. Why Anne with An E Cannot Compare To Kevin Sullivan's adaptation of Anne of Green Gables and How Anne is a Part Of Who I am.

Context: Usually I do not write reviews, comparisons or critique most media. I could, because I do have opinions and hold my choices of movies, shows, and songs to high standards, but I am also able to enjoy something cheap for the sake of cheese or to respect a piece of art without enjoying it. However, there are a few timeless works of art that are a part of my soul in which nothing can compare. Toping that list is the 1985 adaptation of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables The Sequel. That series is entwined into my soul and fused into the core of my being. Thus, when I heard that yet another adaptation was coming, and it caused more of a stir than the previous other attempts, I dreaded the fact that I would have to watch it and give it a fair chance. I also knew I would be writing about it because Anne, to me, is more than a story. Anne is part of the fabric of who I am.

Anne has always been a heroine of the daily. Her escapades and stories were rooted in the explorational themes of home, comfort, love and belonging. As this critic reviewed HERE, "Anne of Green Gables endures as a cozy story that reveals the resiliency of the human spirit through small-scale, domestic victories and setbacks, as well as the mundane, everyday tragedies of human life." Anne is, and has always been, about the little moments in life that make up the larger aspect. Sure, L.M. Montgomery wrote about tragedy and insinuated hardships from Anne's orphaned past, but she focused more on the little details that make up life, friendship, death and love. In that, it was a story that almost anyone could relate to.

Anne with An E took this and instead created a jarring and gritty version of trauma after trauma. I will not go into detail but you can read all about that HERE in an article titled, "Anne of Green Gables, Netflix's Bleak Adaptation Get's it So Terribly Wrong." I actually respected Anne with an E despite it's tried affiliation with the source material of the more cozy, comforting story. I wish it could have been a story on it's own. I understand a certain amount of PTSD from sensory trauma, though my childhood was NOTHING like Anne's in this story, so I recognized that the Anne in this version had it severely. It could possibly make those who have suffered such ills feel less alone, or maybe trigger their trauma...I don't know. But I DO know that, right now, I have been struggling with depression, and this newer tale DID express feelings that I could relate to. I have been feeling that depressive numbness and have been searching in vein for anything to trigger feeling within. Wonder Woman brought me the closest moment of feeling I have had recently. 'Anne with An E' actually triggered me to cry within the first act, and for that alone, I am grateful however my Anne of Green Gables can do that, even when I am most depressed, simply by encouragement. The acting was well done and the child who played Anne was delightful in expression. However, I could only enjoy it up to a point because while it did have the memorized lines from my childhood show, these phrases would show up jarringly in the context given. Dark and gritty isn't whom Anne IS in the books nor in the amazing 1985 adaptation. Anne is sunny, cheerful, headstrong, stubborn, and imaginative. She is also the platonic love of Mathew's life and the match for Gilbert because she does not slow down for him or give him reasons to be complacent. Anne is born from GENTLE books. There are other stories that should give the grittier aspects of life, but this tale was never supposed to go there.

“Dear old world', she murmured, 'you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.” 

This article HERE titled "Why the 1980's Anne of Green Gables is such a Hard act to follow," highlights all the reasons why women and men everywhere fell in love with Megan Follows version of Anne (Kevin Sullivan's adaptation.) I re-introduced my husband to Anne when we were dating and he still asks to watch the show every year. My sons adore the films just as much as my daughter. The series is timeless and classic, endearing and beautifully ordinary in a romantic, comforting way. I have the entire film committed to memory. When I hear Hagood Hardy's 'Trip to Green Gables' music I STILL tear up. The teariness I feel stems from a deep well of stored inspiration and inspiring lines uttered during walks through sun dappled trees with Ms. Stacey or on grassy fields with Matthew. Wisdom that was installed by the daily deeds of ordinary people who defied gender stereotypes and became a crucial part of Anne's life of love, was what encompassed the entire series. It pulls at my heartstrings in a way no other media has yet to do. Yes, I have cried and been pulled into story lines that run a close second in my heart, but none have yet to move me time and time again and become such a crucial part of me as the 1985- version of Anne of Green Gables.

I used to cry to my mother in Grades School that there would never be a man in the world who would love me like Gilbert Blythe loved Anne for her brains, hot temper, big heart, imagination and quirkiness. I knew I was like Anne and I had no intention of waiting for the man of my dreams because he already had lived and died as Gilbert Blythe. At one point, I amused my mother by pointing out that even Jonathan Crombie, who played Gilbert, was too old to go after. I thought, in my child imaginings, that he would run a close second since he did play Gilbert perfectly. I was around ten years old and he was older than twenty which seemed an insurmountable age gap at the time. I actually grieved over this. Heart wrenching, gulping sobs. 

“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.”  L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Looking back, I think that at it's heart, Anne of Green Gables is about acceptance, love and building a family out of people that one may not have originally belonged to in the first place. I never felt like I belonged. I always lived in my imagination in a different time. Anne's time of the early 1900's mostly. On each holiday we had, I would search out the vintage shops and spend my hard earned money on button down lace tops, musty 1900 paraphernalia, gloves, Judy Garland recordings, or teacups. For Christmas, I had my mother fashion bloomers for me to sleep in.  My playhouse was decorated exactly like a 1900 home and my dress up clothes contained similar pieces. I emulated the women I watched in my shows, but with Anne I didn't feel I needed to emulate because I already WAS. I didn't know my fashion choices were out of style as I had no concept of time. My time was based upon the films I watched. My film choices often stayed in this time period like Little Women, On Moonlight Bay, By The light of the Silvery Moon, My fair Lady or Meet me in St. Louis. My other favourite time period was the 1940's period (which often would go back to early 1900 story telling) of Gene Kelly and Audrey Hepburn with films like Roman Holiday, Singing In the Rain, Philadelphia Story ect. My mother tried her best to keep me somewhat accepted while also acquiescing to my begging for bloomers, plaid long skirts, lace gloves and button downs.

“There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting.”  L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I knew, even in my younger years, that I was quirky, headstrong, imaginative and sensitive. I had a huge heart but could cause a lot of harm with my words quickly. I understood Anne deeply. The Anne of Sullivan's adaptation was a girl that most viewers understood at some level. She was for the outcasts, the different, the strong, the ordinary, and those longing for a place to call home. She was the perfect feminist hero surrounded by progressive women AND men. Her story held nuances of hardship but these were wrapped in a warm blanket of cozy familiarity. Each character in the 1980's version had a principled morality yet progressive growth of attitude.

My 'family' has some blood relatives, but mostly, it has always been built out of characters similar to Avonlea. Some of us travelled through the school years and beyond together while others have flitted in and out of life or travelled beyond, but yet each shaped me. When I was a teen I would often express that my friends WERE my family. Especially the few I allowed in my inner circles. Because I took off more of my coping masks when I was with them. I mostly kept my thoughts to myself like little treasures that could not be picked apart or laughed at. With very few, I could be a bit more true to my progressive nature. It was a nature that I had no words for at the time, but didn't fit in with most of the conservative views around me. Not only did I feel at my core that I was not in tune with the majority religiously, politically or socially but I also felt deep inside, that generationally and emotionally I was a little bit 'defective' because my stances or expression were often only portrayed in the media I consumed (songs, film, art, books) or the brief pieces I wrote. I did not yet have the agency to fully BE who I knew I was. It was pre internet, because our corner of the world was always a decade or two behind, thus I did not know that there WERE other people like me. As the years went on I found them, the kindred spirits, some authors, which are listed on my library page HERE (funny enough Anne is the only video link in my books) as well as musicians, lyricists, actors, screenwriters, artists and ordinary people. But Megan Follows' Anne was the first to enter my world and sing into my soul the epiphany that I DID belong. Even if it was another place and time. I had a family of kindreds, some to still discover and others hiding in the past. She had me look at mundane moment's and see the beauty in them. I learned how to cope with hardship and heartache alongside her. I realized that I would never settle for less than what I wanted out of life.

“Anne always remembered the silvery, peaceful beauty and fragrant calm of that night. It was the last night before sorrow touched her life; and no life is ever quite the same again when once that cold, sanctifying touch has been laid upon it.”  L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Anne gave me the courage and spunk to be able to announce over and over in teenage hood that I wasn't going to get married NOR have children. Ironic I know. I lived in a religious community where marriage was often toted as the ultimate goal for a woman. I wasn't interested. However, I was interested in romance and epic tales. I wanted a heart pounding romantic epic that was not a tragedy but everlasting. At that time, I just didn't want the institutional commitment of marriage attached, which was basically proclaiming I was a harlot in the circles I ran in. It was audacious. I seemed traditional to most because I liked to belong, but on the inside, I was anything but conservative. I had principles which is another reason why the stories from Avonlea struck such a chord in my heart, but these principles were based on individual context instead of a one size fits all.

“It's delightful when your imaginations come true, isn't it?”
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

It would shock my childhood self to know that I was married at 18 and had three children by 25 and that I love that this was my choice. I stand by the beauty of a young marriage which grows together, however, it came with costs. PTSD from the early child rearing years which I admit-tingly mostly hated. (Stories for another time.) I can honestly say, that for the most part, my spouse is my Gilbert. He is amused at my quirks, admires my brains, respects my choices, and is completely in love with me. I don't even have to question his love, though this year, I DID question mine. It was a tough year and marriage has moments or years of loving without being IN love. We have made it through two of these years before, taking turns being the spouse whom loved but was not IN LOVE, and we will make it through again. Overall though, he is the one who will stand in a crowd and applaud me when no one else will. He gets my weaker aspects of sensory overload but he does not think that these diminish my strengths. In fact, he often calls me his super hero BECAUSE he knows what I hide and suffer and yet what I choose to live through. I never dreamed of the possibility that real life would give me a Gilbert, but indeed, I have had some hot, romantic and dreamy moments. Which is another reason why I love the 1980's version of Anne so much. It captures these feelings in a gentle, yet realistic, yet rosy sort of way. 

Most of all, Anne taught me that it's not what the world holds for you- it is what you bring to it. A lesson that has enriched my life in so many ways. I have exactly what I want. I echo Anne's statement, "I don't want diamond sunsets or marble halls...I just want you." That is how I feel about my life. I have always wanted a rooted home. A place that I could create any way I chose. A place where I belonged and was allowed to read anything I wanted without sanction or listen to without disapproval. I could not relate to Belle when she expressed having "adventures in the great wide somewhere...I want it more than I can bear." I understood her love of reading, feeling different and wishing to be understood, but I did not want that type of freedom. I wanted the freedom of the mind. To engage with atheist material if I wished and not have it judged, listen to language because the material within the language was thought provoking, or pick up an Astrology book simply because I think it's fun and it has NOTHING to do with what I believe. I wished for a place to tuck away from the world and control every aspect of the sensory with my own soap smells, cleaners, materials, clutter, or any other matter. And I wished for ONE person who would get me or at least be willing to hear my perspectives continually enough to understand.

I wanted a gentle legacy of ordinary moments. I never wanted fame or riches or even a job that spoke of some great title. I only wished to engage in things I enjoyed like writing or watching, working on my little corner, and loving whom I loved. I wanted a Gilbert. I wanted an epic love story in the sense that it would be ordinary, everyday and long lasting through the normal trials of life. I was determined to stay true to my self and write about whatever I chose to a small group of people who would appreciate these musings. I wanted to be a woman who could inspire the following lyrics in at least one person. Just one:"... She will still torment me, Calm me, hurt me. Move me, come what may...Now I know she'll never leave me, Even as she fades from view, She will still inspire me...Be a part of everything I do"- Lyrics by Alan Menken (Evermore) 

I already struggle with darker themes in life, thus 'Anne with An E', did not give me the needed balance I require. 'Anne with an E' on Netfllix, did actually help me process a bit more of my PTSD and depressive episodes in a sense, but I stopped watching because I realized that my heart felt heavier and heavier. Anne of Green Gables does the opposite. I watch and I feel lighter or encouraged or at least hopeful. I catch the beautiful phrases she says, hear the uplifting music, watch the grass sway in the sun dappled trees of Green Gables, and witness the love of Kindred Spirits and I feel beauty and comfort. Even if I am depressed, there is some level of ordinary coziness that sweeps towards me and encompasses me in a virtual hug. I cry and cry and cry when I feel depressed while watching Anne of Green Gables because it seems a bit unattainable yet also hopefully just around the corner. If I numb, usually one tear will still leak. When I am not depressed, I still cry with inspiration and happiness that I have had some of these moments in life. Anne should be, above all, about hopeful belonging and comforts of the everyday in hardship. 

It's the moment when Anne runs to Marilla after her time at school. I weep every time at the blatant love and homecoming involved, as the music swells. (image below)

Or when Anne is in the 'depths of despair after dying' her hair green or when Anne heartbreakingly loses Matthew and he says to her in the scene below found at 3:36 " I worked hard all my life. I'd rather drop in the harness. I got old. I never noticed..." And Anne responds, "If I would have been the boy you sent for I could have spared you in so many ways." Matthew then says, "I never wanted a boy. I only wanted you from the first day. Don't ever change. I love my little girl. I'm so proud of my little girl." Hearts break. And I bawl every time. Even watching the clip and typing it out, I am a mess. This is what Anne of Green Gables should be...the ordinary love in hardship. The contrasts of beauty and pain. I suppose I am partial because of how this show formed me in every facet of my life. My father played Matthew in a local play and while I went to support him and the play was well done, I had to force myself to sit through it because it was not my beloved 1985 version. Sullivan's Green Gables is the ultimate series to portray L.M. Montgomery's heroine.

If you have not watched the four part series of 1985- Sullivan's version of Anne of Green Gables I highly recommend it. Especially before you watch the new 'Anne with an E' series if you must. I would try to disassociate it with the true L.M. Montgomery's Anne if possible. You can find the classic, official Anne of Green Gables site HERE. The dreams dearest to my heart are right here. Even in grief, self criticism, depression, and hard moments, I know that still I bring to the world what I can. That has to be enough. In that there is great comfort. When I can, try to boldly live the mundane with appreciation and imagination...just like Anne.

Song Choices: Hagood Hardy - Theme form Anne of Green Gables and the Trip to Green Gables:

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Theatre Paranoia, Affecting others by being Different, A Personal Sensory Story, The Struggle to Show Up as An Autistic Woman, Sensory PTSD

I struggle with being in theatres and large public places. Especially with the current culture and news of the world in the last decade. Long before, in the time of my childhood, sensory overload would happen anytime I was in these circumstances, but we didn't understand what was happening. My parents and I would mistake the sensory assault for the flu, behavioural problems, IBS or any other number of conditions.

Large crowds equal numerous uncontrolled aspects including strange, pungent odours, loud unexpected noises, expected social norms, bright florescent lights, confined spaces, inability for quick escape ect. I was born with an old soul. I was born intuitive with my sensory aspect already a weak link. Couple this fact with autism wiring and most "normal" experiences have always been brutal on my system.

I have always believed something bad could happen in a theatre, and then it did, and my paranoia was tripled. I fight panic from the moment I step into the loud, dark, contained space. My therapist told me years ago that I did not need to attend theatres as part of my lifestyle and I could find ways to avoid the place, but our extended and core family are very media orientated, which makes this a little bit tougher. I already avoid so many circumstances and activities. Luckily, in today's age, there is more access online to media which makes it easier. Generally, I do avoid but sometimes I choose to go.

Wonder Woman was my recent choice. I felt the strength to go last minute and decided to make it work. Unfortunately, my experience was doomed from the beginning because as we were sitting down, a man walked in with a backpack. Every visual scenario I had seen in life and movies of bad situations with backpacks flashed through my mind. Every time I am in a theatre, I watch every single person that walks in and out. It did not help that there were also a few large, burly men who became increasingly drunk the entire time, were loud, and kept running in and out of the room. This put my high alert system on advanced alert.

I try not to let my conscious awareness of everything around me show outwardly. My husband didn't even know I was in my borderline panic mode. It did not help that the theatre was colder than usual, even though I brought a sweater. I honestly would pay a double theatre price to watch an opening movie inside my home. I don't understand why this is not an option for those with higher needs.

had about four full fledged panic attacks from the time we sat down to when we exited the building. Two were almost bad enough that I was picturing myself getting up and going out to...where? That is when I often stop myself. Where would I go? I would feel just as paranoid in the closed off bathroom. I would feel vulnerable outside the theatre and most places are closed nearby. Being alone is worse. I also do not relish forcing someone out of a movie they enjoy. I do not want the attention from my fellow movie goers or to cost them a ticket. I have only done this twice in my life when I was SO desperate I could not contain my emotion. So I forced my husband to walk out with me and cried for an hour after. The other time I was with my best friend from childhood and luckily she hated the film too (it was an unknown to us psyche thriller) and it took no convincing to get her to walk out. 

I KNOW in these moments that this is an internal struggle I have to battle on my own. Which is both isolating and empowering in contradictory ways. Once a panic attack starts it usually subsides within the 10- 20 minute mark but that ten minutes is a hell full of symptoms. I have little tricks to do to minimize the escalation of emotions. I engage in repetitive "normal" behaviours that remind me I am in my body and doing fine. I put on my hand sanitizer and smell the familiar scent as I gently rub my hands together, I rub my arms or legs quietly pretending I am cold or if I am cold to bring the feeling back in, I chew gum or drink some water to stop any choking feelings and to do something with my mouth instead of scream or say something dumb. I repetitively check the time and count backwards until the time we can get out of the theatre (even if I am enjoying it.) I picture being safe in my vehicle or home in my bed. I visualize, visualize, visualize. My eyes are wide open, taking in both the film and every ounce of my surroundings covertly, but I am also somewhere else in the back of my mind. I tuck myself in to a safe, visual place I have been before and tell myself, this too shall pass, I will be there soon again.

It's pretty intense. Fighting to normalize and not disturb the people yet trying to also enjoy the experience (because yes, I want to enjoy normal experiences too and some of it IS fun.) It is a battle most do not understand. I realize people see me and see a slightly quirky person but if they witnessed the internal struggle firsthand they would probably label me many unflattering things. This emotional struggle of sensory onslaught effects the physical body. By the time we finished the film (which I loved the acting and directing of) I had been holding my pee for an hour because I did not want to walk by the rowdy, burly drunks. My body was rebelling. I was in pain. My insides were trembling. On the way home I clawed my stomach a few times to distract from the immense pain (I had red streaks all over by the time we arrived home), but I think I came across normal (ish) because my husband did not even know what was happening until I wrote about my struggle the next morning. In these moments I can not often have the words to even form what I am feeling. I know what is happening but I do not have the reserves to EXPLAIN what is happening to someone else. It's a great game of pretend. I was often told I should be an actress. Isn't that what most people do in life? Play and pretend? I genuinely show up as I am to almost everything BUT the sensory, that is when my natural armour of acting becomes an automatic pilot response to survive. It's also important to me to try to make these excursions work occasionally. I want to be able to show up to a few moments in life in a way most of humanity can understand. Sometimes it ends up fine...but I don't engage in stretching circumstances as much as I did in my childhood.

Growing up I was always sensory sick. (See HERE and HERE for more.) With sensory sickness a low grade fever develops (a phenomenon that I have literally proven but still is not recognized by most doctors), I fluctuate between hot and cold because my body can not regulate, I tremble and won't stop shaking, everything hurts, my bowel goes ballistic which is the most painful part of the attack, my ears ring and I feel floaty, I get a migraine and feel so thirsty but can't drink because drinking hurts my stomach and causes me to want to violently puke. I want to escape into sleep. Yet, I can not because ironically, even though I am feeling so many bodily ills, I feel strangely disengaged from my body. My mind can not get in sync with my body so I don't sleep until I am basically snuggled into my husband so tight that I am almost suffocating him and then I focus on his breathing instead of mine because mine is too confusing.

My body betrays me because I previously betrayed it. That is the basic issue. My body is past the point of understanding what signals are "right" or "accurate" and what are "misfires." My mind convinces my body that I am in danger. It is an equivalent to actual shock. My body thinks I am in shock and that I had a traumatic experience. Technically I DID have a traumatic experience (sensory wise) because the autistic brain cannot separate that from true trauma. Thus, the body does the exact thing it would do in a traumatic experience.

This is severe sensory panic. All humans experience sensory onslaught or overload to some extent at least a few days out of the year, but Autistics get the joy of regularly having "ordinary" experiences turn into purgatory. The next day is like a hangover...and a whole heck of a lot of trying to not feel guilt or shame or 'less then those normal people' and make decisions that work for everyone without paying too heavily for what was beyond control. As a child I was often put in highly emotional circumstances, showing up where basically zero of my extended family understood what was happening to me. This part of me was not understood well because there were not supports to help. This was also partially my fault for "normalizing" and pretending so well. Even my husband, who is well versed in this aspect of me, is still blindsided when he hears what really happened from my perspective, in a situation he thought I was doing just fine in. So I can not blame others, who knew me even less intimately to actually get it. Plus, most of one side of the family were S types. (Click HERE) As I have mentioned, S types like to show up, be there, and stay in sensory experiences as bonding. Thus, I was thought of as unusual, cold or selfish. There are always numerous factors to misunderstanding and I can not put the full blame on anyone or anything.

I truly believe that with enough of these forced circumstances and sensory overload, a person can end up with any number of permanent chronic conditions or diseases. Dis- ease causes disease. Autistics who are not understood, are not given agency or choice and who do not implement boundaries WILL pay for their expected conformity into society, even with 'simple' expectations like attending a birthday party. "Oh you can just stay for ten minutes...just give the person a hug and show them you care. It will be fine. You will be fine. It's important for you to be there." Such statements are damaging long term. Because they are untrue. It IS a big deal. Ten minutes is the same as an hour if the experience carries the same sensory elements. The body responds to trauma in the same PTSD fashion it has in the past. There are ingrained triggers in each unique autistic person. We all have them differently but they are there. To ignore them is basically to devalue US. Statements such as these are saying, "Your experience is not legitimate. You do not know who you are or what bothers you. We know better. We expect you to show up in this way and if you don't you will not be loved nor be able to convey your love to us." If someone actually said that point blank it would be considered verbal abuse, yet these messages are given over and over to people who are wired differently in the world.

"I never said you had to offer me a second chance, I never said I was a victim of circumstance. I still belong. Don't get me wrong. And You can speak your mind but not on my time."- Billy Joel. "I don't need you to worry for me cuz I'm alright. I don't need you to tell me it's time to come home....This is my life. Go ahead with your own life. Leave mine alone...."- Billy Joel.

The lyrics above are powerful to me because of my history. When I explain situations like this or moments where I am vulnerable I am not asking for people who have misunderstood me to give me a second chance. I am actually writing for those who have not discovered this aspect about themselves or who need validation in their being. I am not just a victim of circumstance, even though these circumstances HAVE contributed to my life, but I have found ways to cope and I will honour those ways. I always feel for the people I see in specialized homes who are forced to do jobs to "make" something of their life and have someone babysit them all the time. I know, in some circumstances, I AM that person, but I feel so lucky that I have my own freedom. I believe people can speak their minds whenever they wish, just as I can, but that they no longer need to waste my time with their opinions if I am not in a relationship with them. I can chose to walk away, close the browser, ignore ect. I feel for those with special needs who have to live their caregiver's versions of LIFE. I often will yell out the lyrics of this song when I have recently been disempowered.

So what if someone wishes to spend most of their life in their home? So what if the autistic child just wishes to watch Disney over and over again in their basement. That is THEIR life. If they have the means to support that life, or someone else is willing, and they are LEGITIMATELY happy, their life IS a success. Yes, we need to be taught basic skills of survival and it IS empowering to be able to learn whatever we wish to learn, but in the end, if we still wish to not feel sick, and find ways of living that avoid being sensory sick, it does not mean we fail at life. What it means is that we are honouring our lives and if we can make it work, even if we barely scrape by, and we feel pretty good about it, THAT matters. The people who can't love us like that, never loved us authentically anyway. "Too long I've been afraid of losing love I guess I lost, well, if that's love it came at much too high a cost."- Elphaba from Broadway's Wicked.

I love the people in my world. I WILL make sacrifices for them if they have also made sacrifices for me. But my choices have to be sacrifices that I CAN handle without too much PTSD. I will show up, but often I will show up the ways that are truly ME. That means writing something, sending money of my own if I can, making a fun playlist, sending a video, or engaging in deep conversations or sending links of thought out advice. I may not show to their gathering or even their funeral. Most likely I will not and if I do it causes me weeks of therapy and sickness...and in turn makes my family pay. But I will be there, when I can, how I can, if possible...but this means there will be less and less people in my world. Because even if I gave fully to ten people, that is still a lot to give. Maybe people who are sensory strong CAN spread themselves thin and show up in more physical ways. I admire that but not enough to become what I am not. I am a woman who has both strength and weakness. I can be confident enough to claim to "drown oceans (CLICK)" and walk away from situations that I no longer feel the need for. I am also wired differently and have moments of intense self scrutiny and immense PTSD. I can be both. I can still be worthy as both. I can love the very few who understand and whom I will give most of my life for.

I understand judgment because I have been judged. Too often found lacking even with the best of intentions from people who truly DO love me. Such is life. Such is the culture we find ourselves in. Which is why, even though I intensely observe and notice most nuances, I am not a judger. I find most stances and ways of being in life legitimate, and those that are truly wrong, I also see how they came to BE. I understand without encouraging the behaviour. (Spoiler alert for Wonder Woman ahead) At one moment in the otherwise disappointing third act of Wonder Woman - the first and second acts were incredible!!( spoiler ahead) she stated, "Goodbye brother" firmly yet compassionately with respect while ending a life. I understood that moment in it's complex contradictions. It is what women ARE at their core. A mix of strength and vulnerability. More so, it is what I feel I am being wired differently in a world full of sensors and people who believe that showing up physically is the most important aspect of being human.

The day after my theatre experience was a complex mixture of pain, introspection, happiness, fears, insufficiency, being enough, and struggling to the beauty. This happens time after time when I am put in these situations. A constant questioning of who I am and where I belong. But in the end, I always come home to myself. I celebrate the worth that I am because I exist. And when I don't exist anymore, there will be others who embody this. They are worthy because they exist. You are worthy because you exist. That is the conclusion I get after each theatre experience, so in the end, while it may cost, I also find something worth taking away.

Song Choice; To Learn Her- Miranda Lambert, My life- Billy Joel ( Glee version) "I never said you had to offer me a second chance, I never said I was a victim of circumstance. I still belong. Don't get me wrong.  And You can speak your mind but not on my time."  Hey Jude- The Beatles

Friday, June 2, 2017

About Living.Quality Versus Quantity- Sleep Hacks and Hope For The Deviant Evening People of the World. Parenting. The Rat Race. Building A Life that Doesn't Need A Vacation.

I used to worry when I slept in that I was missing out on my life. I felt guilty when I saw early morning risers getting things accomplished or talking about their precious mornings. I have no doubt that their mornings were and are them. My husband is a morning man. He feels awful and deals with headaches, backaches, and stomach issues if he sleeps in past eight. Luckily, he lives in North America, where early rising is a general requirement to life. The majority are early morning people. Yet even in the minority, there are many who suffer because of the typical 9-5 schedule.

Without a certain amount of sleep I wake to nausea, feeling punched in the gut and sore. It's the joy of chronic genetic insomnia (confirmed by a sleep test), having a busy and differently wired brain, and chronic illness. But sometimes I get the ten or eleven hours of sleep that give me an optimal night. The other day, for the first time in weeks, I slept from 11-11. Of course my body didn't allow that twice and the next night it was four hours. I have always been a ten hour girl. My mother said she could tell the difference if I had less.

Technically, if I don't count my lovely evenings, I end up with less time in the day when I actually sleep in. But even if my "aware" time is cut shorter by the amount I sleep in, it's worth it because I feel better and don't drag through the hours awake if I sleep most of the morning away. So then I ask myself the age old question of personal preference - quality or quantity? For some things in life I pick quality, but for sleep I benefit more from quantity in my day to day existence. Which means sleeping an entire morning away, if I am able, is definitely worth the missing hours of the day to "get things accomplished." I'm working on allowing myself to just be ME, without justification or without having to excuse my "deviant" sleep patterns to people who "catch" me. My grandpa has worked since he was twelve years old. It breaks my heart if I think about it too much. But I take this into account when he stops by horrified I just woke up and it's past 8 am. The little teasing lecture about hard workers versus lazy people and stories of people in "his day" fill my ears and I smile. I can see that part of him IS actually concerned for my well being. However, this concern is a one size fits all concern, coming from a certain generational perspective, a personal lack of autonomy and a different life.

Most institutions try to schedule morning appointments. Most days are 8-5 work days and school also follows a similar schedule. I used to feel an obligation to rise and drag myself to these moments. Then I had an epiphany-  It's my life. Why am I giving it to the masses? Yes, I realize the need to work. But did you know that when I did this, and showed up in my way, I made twice my husband's normal wage for my family in one year. I won't be able to repeat that amount again, but it saved us from losing our home and from severe poverty. It took months of hard work to attain this, but yet it happened when I showed up the way I COULD and thought outside the box. 

As for the educational system for my children, regular readers know how I feel about that institution in most regards. While I know it is necessary for many and important for some, stepping out of it was probably one of the top ten best choices of my entire life. (Read Dumbing Us Down*) That decision came at a cost. I hated home schooling at first and felt helpless... Until I found my groove, unschoolery and a fantastic facilitator. I had a tough time when parents who believed so firmly in the system challenged me in this area. But now? Live and let live. Their decisions to enroll their children are great if they are happy. Mine works for me and my children are happier and healthier than they ever were in the school system. One of my children was especially gifted and instead of honing in on that, I wanted them to just be a child. I made sure that they were fed enough information to keep them challenged, but to also have ample time to enjoy childhood. More schoolwork was not the answer for them nor was it the answer for my severely learning disabled child. Why do we put pressure on our children in the rat race to compete? Why are certain gifts seen as weakness? Why is our answer to put more work or install more memorization into our children? The simple answer is fear for their future but the more complex answer involves our own personal stories and goals of our own souls, our personal mishaps we don't want repeated in our children, and our general genuine care that our children be all they can be or be happy in their life. But regardless, life will give them both joy and pain. What they need to learn most is simply to LIVE each moment and to be content with themselves in any circumstance. More joy, free time, learning about emotions, learning about each other, co-operation, individuality, and magical BEING was the answer I was searching for. It paid off in most ways.

Due to my recent eleven hour night, I had a day of clarity. When my kids were younger, the comments usually responded to a statement like that with,"Well I have babies or young kids so it's impossible to have the luxury to sleep in." That was partially true when my babies were screaming all hours of the night. I understand sleep issues and even with the best of hacks, some sleep issues can not be resolved. But when it happens- sleep should be held in high regard. My eldest two were NOT good sleepers but we snatched sleep together whenever we could. As they became older, I began dropping events that required me to get up. I switched my kids schedules to match mine because I realized I am far better with sleep and my largest block of REM sleep happens in the early morning. Thus, they also enjoy a enhanced quality of life due to their dependence on me. I taught them from age two how to get their own food in the morning if they woke before me. The two eldest were highly verbal at age two. My youngest couldn't do this but my daughter took care of him when he reached this age. I left out cereal that couldn't be choked on like cheerios or Go Go Applesauce, the needed materials and water, taught them how to put the DVD on, and how to come lay by mommy if they felt lonely. I locked all doors and made use of gates. My door was open. I woke up at the slightest unusual sound but could sleep through if I heard their sounds in the background. They knew what was safe and I safety proofed our home so that I could sleep.  I made sure to make the most of my time once I woke to focus on them and they stayed up nights with me. That's how I survived the early years and probably why my daughter is so responsible- which is both good and bad. Everything comes with some good and some bad in this world and we choose the choice that balances us the most and hopefully helps us show up in a way we can manage. I might have died if I hadn't have done those sleeping hacks. I had severe post partum depression and who knows what would have happened if I had less sleep.

I'm glad I gave up preschool or any school for my children because getting up alone would have made me the crankier mom. I might not be the best friend to my children that I am today if these circumstances would have changed. I probably would have been like Frankie on the Middle, continually stressed and yelling for my kids to get out the door on time. I know this from the two years my children went to school. Luckily, this didn't turn out for my life because of many counter cultural decisions. 

Our bodies and minds are NOT all the same so our schedules shouldn't be either. I think those that are in high thinking drive also require more down time of the brain to dream. My therapist has said I think more thoughts in a span of a few minutes than most do in hours thus it makes sense that perhaps my mind needs more downtime and dream time to sort through? When I'm sleep deprived I sound like the dumbest person. I have a tough time expressing my thoughts normally anyway, even with sleep, unless I am writing or in a very safe comfortable place. 

It's odd how we praise people for sleeping early in the evening and getting up early. Yet, we do not praise someone for being in their PJ's at eleven in the morning or staying up late getting things done. It's cultural conditioning. Because really, there is not much difference. One is not better than the other. One is just more conducive to our institutional 8-5 work horse mentality.

To illustrate this point, my children are conditioned by me. My world has built theirs. After my recent sleep in I heard my eldest son meet my husband at the door at lunch break with, "Mommy slept in and had eleven hours. She is the best she has been in weeks. She is even going to write a blogpost! Isn't that great?" My youngest son would not stop hugging me, chatting with me, smiling at me and saying, "You just seem so great today. I love you any day but I just like that you look so cozy and happy after sleeping so long." My daughter was jealous and asked how I managed to sleep as long as I did. If I had answers to that I would not have been labelled with genetic insomnia. But, this was their reaction to me "oversleeping" in our world. Applause, gratitude, joy and celebration. Even with that, I have to fight my own mentality of conditioning that comes with guilt, should haves, accomplishments, time for the sake of getting things done, and ableism. These feelings have subsided heavily as the years have passed, plus when I get the sleep I need, I feel FABULOUS so it's easy to wave off the old conditioning with a happy middle finger. Yet, I know for many, this isn't the case. Well in North America anyway. Unfortunately, a lot of the world, due to business, has begun to follow the same damaging model. I admire the culture's that have incorporated siesta's, later hours, shorter work days, optimal downtime...some culture's have more of a balance in this regard than others.

My husband's trade can't get away from "normal hours" completely but we made it work for us. He takes off early every day and has three day weekends unless it's during a catching up on debt time, when for a month he works over hours. But we only allow him to work like that two months fully out of the year MAX. Even if we need the money we find ways to live simply and cut back. In construction this was not exactly embraced. It makes it hard for the times he works with others and it changes a lot of factors. However, once he clearly outlined his needs for those he worked for, most chose to keep him on. Some may not choose him for their job in the future, but we have yet to run out of work, because when my husband shows up, he works harder than anyone on his team. His hours almost double the labour output of those of most normal workers (minus this hard year he had) and most of this is because he has ample downtime and enjoyment of life at home. It took boundaries, negotiations, walking away, being diplomatic, showing up, working hard, and making the most of both work and home, to have this be an optimal arrangement for most involved in the equation. Sometimes we still run into obstacles. Occasionally he stays later if it's crucial. He also had to have a pep talk with his co workers about choices and how he chose this but if they choose to take off at the same time he does, they have to be willing to work harder during the active hours and be upfront about this in their contracts as well. Generally though we make it work. I realize this isn't a possibility for all, but for the majority it's closer than it feels. It require diplomacy, trade, thinking outside the box, proving it can work, and ASKING. Also a lot of confidence and tenacity and bosses or co workers who are not small minded people.

I heard a quote once that said, "My goal is to build a life I don't need a vacation from." I was already feeling this way, and the quote inspired me in my day to day. My husband and I do not take vacations. Because our life has them built in. I'm not anti vacation. I firmly believe if you work a regular job you NEED to take a vacation with your family from time to time. Yet, why do we take vacations? To experience new places is one reason. Another is to have forced downtime without the daily distractions. We hope that another place will give us new perspective, joy or life. Sometimes it does, though truthfully most people I know come home more stressed about their day to day after a vacation. I also remember most vacations of my life being unsuccessful besides a few key moments. But what if I can build moments with the same type of feeling INTO my daily existence? What if our family can find new ways to experience unique feelings, downtime and experiences without travelling far to attain them? We do take day trips to experience different landscapes or towns, but in the the end, these trips are not vacations but educational experiences. We mostly have built a life we do not need a vacation from. We have ample downtime to finish projects or start a whimsical creative project. We enjoy family walks, reading time, game time, watching shows, making meals and listening to podcasts on a regular basis.

On tough years like the one we are currently finishing (hopefully), we still don't need a vacation. We instead use the time to heal, be depressed, and recover. This year has been particularly hard, from death of a mom, to terminal cancer diagnosis within our extended family to a few other non terminal cancer cases, to my husband having mono for months followed by my daughter and I. We have had strep and financial woes, losing a family pet, our truck stolen, our safety threatened, extended family issues, and multiple health scares on top of the crazy current situations of the world at large. Of course mental health has been compromised due to the external and we all look like we have been through a battle. We gained weight even though we were still eating healthy because all we wanted to do was lie in bed some days. But that is ok too, because it is what we needed to do. Having a softer body is also a way of setting an example for our children that worth does not come from a certain body nor a certain way of being. Beauty does not come in a size.

Some years just suck in general, even with the little moments of beauty in between being savoured. Some moments are not meant to warrior through but to slowly find a way out of with a soul in tact. Some lessons are learned while others are unlearned. If happiness and worth or well being were all about working hard, North America would have a lot less illness, suicide rates, and other consequences that come with our current mentality. I don't think most people regret sleeping in on their death beds. Especially if the sleep enabled their life choices to be inspirational in their waking hours. Nor do I think most would only think of their vacations. The day to day makes up life. Little moments. These moments require a certain balance of mentality, perspective, choice, and circumstance to be a life that we do not need a vacation from. I do not view this without gratitude that some of these factors are luck of the draw or being Canadian. I love my country and I love that we are a little bit more laid back in most regards but the mentalities of our surrounding cultures bleed through with the constant influence of social media.

Why do we work so hard? To build the world? To make it a better place for our children? To survive? To grow? To thrive? If it is for all these things, which in the end, simply equal beauty, love, joy, stability, growth, and fulfillment, then why are we not taking the time to also SAVOUR that now? Some are not so lucky and basic survival is all they can try to achieve, but for those of us who have choices...Why are we not taking a life that optimizes joy along with hard work? Who are we working for and why do we make the choices we do? Are we looking at our lives through another lens? Are we asking ourselves the tougher questions that may not fit in with the majority mentality? Some people may take the Stoic approach while others may take the Epicurean or the many paths in between. But both movements and all paths somehow GAVE to the world, enhanced and people became. So why can we not do the same?

*By former educator John Taylor Gatto. Link under Unschoolery on newly arranged Library! I finally organized the books somewhat by theme on my Library page found  HERE.

Song Choice: Good to Be Alive- Meghan Trainor: LINK HERE

I always feel a little conflicted posting this song. We were first introduced to it when we knew our children's Grammy was dying. And we were fully aware that sometimes it DOES NOT feel good to be alive. Seeing pain, struggle, fighting to live... We were careful for a year not to play this around my husband due to his own situation plus the line about telling a mother one loves her...not such a happy song if it's a painful loss of not being able to tell her ever again...but for my daughter who still has her mother- it is something she loves and comes to hug me each time the song is on. So, it really is circumstantial. In another perspective, honouring life means also taking those moments when it DOES feel good. Hopefully, anyone who has ever died had a few of those moments. I have to remind myself that one day I will have my dying moments and I have had my pain moments- it comes to us all- so it is okay for me to feel good the times when I do in MY moments. When my babies are first held in my arms... waking up for the first time with my husband beside me...realizing I had the best friend I always dreamed of...looking at my little starter home and realizing it was the home I could dream of and IN... Date picnic with my husband when I technically dated my food more than him because it was the BEST...Witnessing each birthday that is decorated with care by my extended family and sister for each of my children (Once Upon A Time theme was the most recent) the little daily moments when I look at my life with satisfaction (sometimes in pain and sometimes not) and think, "Yes it does. Sometimes it feels good to be alive...and that is okay too because I have many times when it does not. Understanding that makes those moments even better..."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

'Bring On Tomorrow - I've Got Today'/ Memory Lack and Importance of Photographs/ And Inspirational Landscapes of Home

The temperature was perfect, not too hot nor too cold. There was a warm breeze that moved the clouds quickly across the cerulean sky. The white fluffy puffs looked like they were steaming off wisps of milky white sugar to spin into another formation. If I looked long enough, it felt like an ocean in the air, with the bloated billows becoming waves of motion. The endless prairie sky contrasted with a few grey clouds on the horizon, became a stunning 3D picture. My husband replied at my musings with a laugh that it was because 'real life IS 3D' but I am used to comparing real life with movies. Artistic films often capture the romanticism of what I see in my mind, compared to what most people view from their eyes, in real time.

I felt lost in the beauty. For a few hours I just became part of the landscape. It was one of those moments in life where everything was in absolute harmony. The light cast a hazy glow of sunshine with a soft blush of romance. The scents of dandelion blooming, fresh cut grass, cedar wood shakes from our fence, and someone's BBQ off in the distance, mixed into the sumptuous sensory moment of perfection. My husband's power tools switched between the buzz of the circular saw, the bite of a screw finding it's home in the wood fence, and the 'shick shick' of the compressed nail gun placing the cedar shakes firmly in place.

The sounds of my husband's trade brought feelings of possibility, beauty, growth, stability and the awareness that he was with me building our dreams. When his tools became an aura of background noise, I became conscious of the birds singing to one another from the tops of our blooming trees. My daughter's colouring added satisfying scratches and scrawling etches of colour creating design on sun dappled white. Our music blasted, because music deserves to be blasted when one feels the moment, and the newest Brad Paisley song, "Today "captured the moment in lyrics:

🎶 "I don't know about tomorrow, but right now the whole world feels right, and the memory like a day like today, can get you through the rest of your life...🎶 I know it won't always be like this, life can change as quick as a kiss, it's not over yet but I already miss today .🎶" - Brad Paisley  "And as the seasons change and time goes by and your hair is grey and so is mine - I know for sure, that you’re gonna be just as beautiful, as you are to me, today. Bring on tomorrow I've got today🎶" "... When I’m sitting in traffic some afternoon, or bored to death in some waiting room, I’m gonna close my eyes and picture you... Today."- Brad Paisley

Some of my favourite moments are the hour long drives our family takes every month, and the continual changes of the seasons that are evident in the surrounding landscapes of my life. Just a few weeks ago the scenery painted muted browns and soft greys into it's palette of a late Spring. Now the greens are becoming the main event. The same excursion is always diverse with our weather. A few weeks ago the land was covered in white snow and the new buds hovered under the cold waiting for their time. This I understand. This landscape always seems to echo my state of mind, or more aptly, I echo the landscape. The harmony of myself integrated with nature is something crucially important to my inner mind. Sometimes I beg for blue skies and sunshine and other times I hope that moody clouds and rough winds blow a bit of violence into the atmosphere. I'm both devoted and enchanted by wide open spaces of sprawling prairies and tree lined rolling hills. I feel a cherished tenderness and devoted delight to the fertile ground of my home.

When we are on drives, we will listen to podcasts or blast our music or simply talk or sit in silence, but I ALWAYS am savouring the view from my window. There's a road that has witnessed all the milestones of my life. It has been a place of love, lust, innocence, depth, communication, understanding, awe, birth, death, growth and vision. There isn't another place on earth like it for me. There is no peace of mind that I have anywhere else other than my home. Because of this, I will alternate between snapping pictures and simply gazing and becoming what I witness.

I will often quickly grab my iphone to snap a picture because my memory borderlines on dementia. My camera is often handy for the simple moments. I will make sure I savour the BEING in real time before I capture the moment on film, but a few pictures are important to me because of this disability in my life. With mono, I actually can not even remember song lyrics. I tend to know most of the lyrics to every song on the radio (whatever station is played.) That is my super power but in all else my recollection fails. Since Mono in February I can't even recapture most song lyrics. This is frustrating, thus I take captive the feeling through a photograph. In this digital age, many argue that there are too many photos or too many moments we spend behind our phones, and while I agree for the most part, and make sure I temper my use with raw eyed moments, for me, there is a balance to be struck.

It's that moment when my husband goes in for a kiss to my daughter and I hastily reach for the phone, swipe to my camera App and click. Or I make him re do it so I can experience it twice. Both times are beautiful. One I get to savour without worry and the next one I get to capture for remembrance. Because a memory like that does get me through tough moments. I am a visual person and a photograph will stick inside my brain more then a memory, especially if the pictures are put to music, which is why I have a vast collection of an average of about four Imovies a year set to song... of my life. I pull these out in medical waiting rooms or when I am depressed, and I watch them over and over again and feel deep, abiding gratitude. Because they capture the feeling of the everyday.

The heightened beauty I often experience from simple moments and ordinary love are suddenly evident. Northern skies bring rich beauty that run through my soul. "Free as a breeze, not to mention the trees, that whistle tunes that you know and love so."- Glen Campbell. Melodies and soundtracks that run through my head synchronizing, depending on the experience, with a specific tune, are pulled out of the abstract of myself and into the concrete of a tangible definite. I can open my eyes and picture them, the loves of my life, sensory BEING, and bliss scenery, at times when I am in crisis. Because I HAD that moment, I can get through the next. Bring on tomorrow, because I had today.

"Your trails would be downhill, a soft breeze at your back. A sky full of diamonds and your nights would not be black. Yes, you would really love it. And if your ever down, I'd give you rows of roses and gold all over the ground. I'd pick you up and carry you cross every stream I see, and I'd bundle you in kindness until you cling to me. We'd sit beneath strong branches, my arms would twine around, I'd turn your green to emerald and give you gold all over the ground."- Brad Paisley

Don't those lyrics paint a picture you wish to be in? The words lift my soul and remind me of many lucky moments I have had. 'Bundle you in kindness' particularly tugs at my heartstrings and the images of life flash by of the youthful beauty I experienced, and the moments of maturity I am growing into. May your trails be downhill with a soft breeze at your back, and when the winds rise, may you have a few today's to deal with tomorrow's pain.

Song Choices (HIGHLY recommend to complete the feeling of this post): Today- Brad Paisley  and Gold All Over the Ground- Brad Paisley