Blank Pages.

I don’t even know where to begin, it’s been so long since I’ve done this.

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine contacted me to ask if I would be interested in participating in a writing project he’s setting up. Of course I’m interested, it’s been so long since I had any kind of real deadline and I’ve missed the frantic spurts of writing those deadlines inspire. But I must admit, I am also terrified. Not because I don’t have any faith in my own writing, but because I’m afraid of what will be revealed when I sit down to write again.

Even writing this post is frightening.

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been here because I am depressed. Again. Like I have been a thousand times before. It’s not quite as bad as it has been in the past, I still show up to work on time, I still shower and do most of the things I’m required to do to be considered mentally sound, but I’m slipping. I suppose I should be grateful to be self-aware enough to notice.

I slept in a pile of clean laundry for a few weeks. Piling it around myself made me feel safe and warm. I haven’t been eating anything but cast-off food from work for at least three months. I have no energy to face a grocery store full of people and it’s a struggle just to walk to the corner store for something to drink. Worse than being upset, I’m completely empty.

I don’t care about anything at all. I’d honestly feel a bit better about it if I could have a good cry, but instead I just lay down and stare at the ceiling until sleep finally gives me a break. It’s a bit like being a zombie, and pretending to be OK is simply exhausting. I know all of the wonderful good habits I could form that would make a difference and make me feel better, but I can’t do them. I can’t bring myself to leave the house on days off when I’d rather stay in my pajamas, rooted to my couch, and zone out with TV and Sims 3. I don’t want to face what’s really going on. I don’t want to take the necessary steps to get on with my life. I don’t want to form connections with people or talk about what’s bothering me because it’s not safe. It’s not enough. My suffering does not match the suffering of people worse off than me, so not only do I feel shitty, I feel guilty about it.

I spent last night making a mental list of all the sentimental objects I lost when I ran away from my boyfriend’s house. I envisioned the jewelry box my father painstakingly crafted for me at the bottom of a pile of garbage in a Toronto landfill, unseen and unnoticed. I imagined all my childhood journals covered in grime, all my passionate words and thoughts and prayers reduced to pulp. And mostly, it doesn’t bother me. Mostly, I’m happy to still have the memories if not the objects themselves. But sometimes it creeps up on me and makes me too upset to react.

My coping mechanism is to shut down, and it always has been.

I had a dream last night. I dreamed there was a strange, beautiful bird inside my apartment that wouldn’t leave me alone. Any time I tried to pick up the bird to put it outside, it stuck painful barbs into the palm of my hand. Once I got it outside the door, it would not leave. It stayed on the steps to my apartment and stared at me, trying again and again to get back inside. When things are good for me, I do the same thing. I reject them. I don’t want to be better because to be better is to be different. Different is terrifying. Pain and emptiness are familiar companions to me and I don’t know how I would cope without them.

But this is the first step, right here. I can admit that I’m not feeling OK through writing, and for me writing always comes before talking. I managed to force myself to clean my apartment and actually felt good about it once it was finished. I haven’t slept in a laundry pile in several days. I appreciate the beauty of a good day and I also understand that winter has played a large part in my depression. Spring is coming, warmer and longer days and brilliant sunshine.

So I at least have something to look forward to.

Whiskey & Wagon Wheels.

It’s hard to find time to see my sister. She made it downtown for my birthday last month and we decorated my Christmas tree and ate pie and rocked some classic N SYNC Christmas tunes. It was nice. But I typically only see her once every few months, and that’s a bit sad.

We’re both baristas, and not only that, we’re both managers, so we always have someone to turn to when we need to gripe about work, but I miss those days when we shared an apartment and she was always there. I miss card games and board games and conversation with someone who sees my side but doesn’t always agree with me. We’ve been through our fair share of rough patches and what was a typical childish sibling relationship has blossomed into a true adult friendship — something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

I went to visit her last weekend. I knew full well that she had opening shifts all those days, so I spent a large part of my time just hanging out on her couch watching Criminal Minds reruns. The time we did spend together was nice, and she kicked my ass (and her boyfriend’s ass) at Monopoly. We watched the live-action 101 Dalmations while drinking whiskey and eating Wagon Wheels — it was so much fun. And on those days when no one was home, I would sit in the living room and look around at the life she’s built for herself and be filled with pride. I’m proud of my sister. I’m proud of the challenges she faced early in life and her reaction to them. She’s not one to take things lying down. She’s one of the best people I know, kind and giving and instantly warm to strangers. She’s bad ass at her job (I’ve seen her working and I’m not even HALF as friendly as she is), not afraid to take risks and aim higher every single day.

The point of this post is, I love my little sister. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

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Prime Real Estate.

My mind, in those days, was a slum. The buildings there were crumbling, decrepit, forgotten homes to rats and cockroaches. Broken windows housed broken thoughts as punshiment for crimes I did not commit. The streets were piled high with emotional garbage and baggage, a pothole became an impassable crevasse as my mentality turned toxic and dark.

I was worthless. As depression, my friend and constant lover, moved itself into every rotten high-rise apartment and drove me closer to the ground, I conjured my own demons and invited them to take up space, move in and get comfortable. No one could hurt me as much as I hurt myself, no one could destroy what I had built as completely as I could. In a thick red book, I recorded every imagined transgression I committed. I starved myself because to nourish my body was to acknowledge the good still left inside. I would not give my body what it needed to keep going when the only thing I wanted was to stop breathing, stop living, stop taking up space.

My mental forest was hastily paved over so nothing could grow there. Hot asphalt burned every living thing and the fertile grass could no longer reach the sun and so expired and languished underneath the pavement. A voice once used for singing and laughing was reserved only for screams. A heart once used for kindness and love grew hard and small until it became nothing more than a useless tumor inside my chest. My hands, once used to stroke and comfort and form chords along the neck of my beloved guitar wielded razors and thumbtacks and steak knives and scissors and learned to use them against the bad blood inside my disgusting veins. Eyes that once sought beauty in nature looked no further than my naked form in the mirror, judging and hating and welling up with tears.

In those days, I was never good enough.

But sometimes, if the conditions are just right, a flower will grow on the sidewalk. Resistant to the barrier between earth and light, it will fight its way through the tiniest cracks in its quest to bloom. In a place where nothing should grow, where every precaution has been laid down and every chance destroyed, you will suddenly find a bright blossom raising a floral middle finger to your challenges. In that place, in the rubble of my mental city, I began to bloom again.

My bitter eyes fixated on that small glimmer of hope and I began to water it. As I tore away the cement with my vicious fingers, I was distracted from self-harm. I was busy, I had a spark of life to save. To my surprise, under all the roads and sidewalks I had built to smother myself, the forest of creativity within remained green and fertile.

I evicted depression from its towers, forced the demons to leave. I tore down every monument to self-hatred I had built within my mind and discovered the beautiful world inside. No matter how hard I had tried to ruin everything, burn it down and leave nothing but ash, it had lived on in secret, in spite of my attacks and made stronger because of them.

My mind, these days, is prime real estate. Forest and city entwined, built with monuments to inner strength and self-love. Golden towers house my happiest memories and the only resident is positivity. Instead of rats and cockroaches, there are butterflies. Each pane of glass painstakingly restored and clean streets I can wander. And the forest, where my well of creativity makes its home, is green and alive and wonderful.

No one can destroy what I’ve built.
Not even me.

Occasionally, I Poem.

Back in my late teens, I was a fairly prolific poet. Not a particularly good one, mind you, but I sure did love staying up late into the night and mashing words together until they turned into something not-quite-beautiful. About a year ago, I wrote a poem centered on what it might be like to age.

I have an obsession with aging. After all, barring unforeseen circumstances, it’s something we’re all going to have to deal with sooner or later. I’m not afraid of it, I’m not afraid of getting wrinkles and grey hair and all that. It’s just a part of life. Society’s obsession with staying young and beautiful forever strikes me as not only foolish, but also damaging. So I say, bring it on, Father Time!

Anyway, the poem I wrote has been sitting between the covers of an old journal for the past year. I dug it out a few months ago and submitted it to a poetry blog, and much to my surprise and delight, it was accepted to be featured! On December 10, “Grandmother” went live on We Poets Show It and I’d love it if you’d check it out. Let me know what you think! How do you feel about the process of age and our culture of youthful preservation?

Saying Goodbye To 2013.

2013 is drawing its last breaths and I’m sitting in my kitchen marveling at everything that’s happened. It’s been a wild ride and I’ve learned a lot of things to take with me into the new year.

December 2012 saw me leave the safety net of my mother’s house and head back to the city for a fresh new start. To say 2011/12 were difficult would be a gross understatement. In fact, looking back, I would say they were the hardest two years of my life. A difficult relationship had broken my spirit and I had moved to Keswick to heal and try to find myself again. In early December I started working at a new cafe and ended up meeting some of the people who would become the best friends I’ve ever had (although it pained me to leave behind so many amazing people in Newmarket).

I moved into my very first solo apartment in January 2013. I’ve lived with roommates since I was about 18, but I’ve never had a space for which I am completely responsible. At 25, it was a fantastic way to build myself a sanctuary and reassert myself as an independent person. Considering my penchant for being financially irresponsible, I’m proud to say I’ve been here for a year and my rent checks have never bounced! I just resigned my lease because I love this place (and my landlords) so much. In that respect, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Apparently I very much enjoy living alone.

2013 was probably my most social year. I’m not going to lie, I’m a loner-homebody-hermit kind of person, but I resolved to make an effort to go out more with people and try not to be alone so much. It actually worked, and I find that while I REALLY love staying inside with Netflix and a bottle of cheap chardonnay, it’s also really satisfying to go out and see something besides my own four walls.

I started writing for Wait(er) magazine in July. Because of my regular service-industry-related blogging, I was asked to contribute. To my surprise, it was a paid gig! I put a lot of effort into my articles and told everyone I knew about it. It was exciting for me and reignited my passion for writing. I learned earlier this month that Wait(er) had to go on hiatus until further notice, but I’m still incredibly proud of my involvement in it and I intend to take that experience and move forward with seeking out writing gigs in 2014. In fact, earlier this month my poem “Grandmother” was featured on We Poets Show it. I plan to get back to writing poetry in 2014.

In August, I was transferred yet again to my current location. Same job, different people. I was absolutely terrified, and instantly regretted agreeing to the transfer. The first couple months there were incredibly stressful and it took me awhile to find my stride as a supervisor. Luckily for me, once again I ended up with another crop of fabulous coworkers who became some of my best friends. Those people are the only reason I manage to show up every day. My work issues will probably take up an entire separate post, so I’ll digress for now.

November 2013 saw me fail at NaNoWriMo. My day job was insane, my stress levels skyrocketed, and in the end I had committed myself to something I wouldn’t be able to accomplish. On the bright side, I did write 1000 words for my novel and since the story’s not half bad, I plan to continue at my own pace. I’m hoping to participate in NaNo next year — maybe I’ll save my vacation hours for the first two weeks of November!

I just turned 26. I’m finally getting my apartment organized the way I want it (although I still have so many plans for it). I’m in a good place mentally. Some of my goals for 2014 include learning how to better manage my stress, manage my money in a way that actually allows me to plump up my savings account, get back to regular weekly blogging, make healthier choices (living off expired work sandwiches is incredibly bad for your waistline, FYI), and take more time for myself. Work has been very very stressful lately and I’ve been letting it get to me, so I’m resolving to remember why I became a barista in the first place: to make drinks and make people smile. I’ve always enjoyed an easy rapport with customers and in the last year I’ve let it slip. That’s disappointing (and results in fewer tips). I’m also resolving to set aside time to work on music. In the last two months I’ve written eight new songs that are just begging to be fleshed out and recorded (not to mention, performed live) so I’d like to make ’14 the year I get back to doing what makes me truly happy.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and my wish for everyone reading this is that you have a wonderful, warm, bright, satisfying, happy new year.

I’ll see you next week.

P.S. As a parting gift, here’s my 2013 Christmas photo. It got 30+ likes on Facebook, so I know I’m in the big time now. (Ha!)

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Wait(er) Issue No. 5: The Wild Bunch.

*From Beyond Hiatus*

As you are well aware, I’m currently in the passionate throes of vomiting my gestated novel all over my computer, so I have prepared a few goodies for those of you who happen to stop by my blog even though I’m on hiatus for the month so you can feel special and updated and in-the-loop and all that. Beginning with the FIFTH ISSUE OF WAIT(ER)!!!

I cannot tell you how proud I am to be a part of this magazine (although I certainly do mention it every time a new issue comes out)! Keith R. Higgons & Co. are an amazing bunch and I love reading the articles written by my fellow service industry flunkies. Speaking of which, that’s the subject of my November article.

I’ve worked in a lot of cafes during my time as a barista, and I’ve noticed a trend in the types of people who typically hold down coffee jobs. Yes, this article is a very tongue-in-cheek look at the kinds of people I work with every day, and have worked with over the past six years. A little excerpt to whet your appetite, perhaps? (And also because I love you.)

THE TANK:
When there’s a line-up, or a spill, or a shipment to be put away, The Tank always comes in handy. Multitasking is no challenge for this barista and when you spot them on the floor, you know EVERYTHING is going to be done right and on time. The best thing to do is stand back and stare as they whip around the cafe, stocking and cleaning as they go. You’ll immediately get in their good graces if you let them know how amazed you are at their speed of service — they might even stop vaulting around the shop long enough to smile.

As always, you can get your issues on iTunes, Periodical, or BigCartel. Just go HERE!

30 Days Of Radio Silence.

If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, allow me to shed a little light. It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it takes place every November. Writers from around the world challenge themselves to crank out at least 50,000 words over the course of thirty days (no editing allowed!) and in the process, drive themselves just a little bit closer to madness. In order to meet the bare minimum, one must write approximately 2000 words/day. When you take into consideration the plethora of other life-related things that are also going on during that time (like work), it can present a challenge for sure.

This will be my first year participating, although I’ve been a member for about a year. I’ve got a solid idea, and a working title, so I’m ready to go come November 1st. In order to accomplish at least 50,000 words, I am taking a thirty day break from blogging, tweeting, tumbling, etc. My intention is to fortify myself with coffee and tea, some Elliott Smith records and possibly a fuck-ton of sushi, buckle down and let the story that’s been gestating inside my brain for the last few months come vaulting out onto the page. Everything will be put on hold so I can devote my time solely to the written word. In essence, I plan to disappear from social media for a month.

That’s pretty difficult for me in and of itself.

If you would like to keep track of me during the journey (and maybe participate yourself so we can go insane together), hit me up HERE. I live in Toronto and will be popping up at the various events and write-ins around the city, so maybe I’ll see you out there, laptop or notebook in hand, looking frazzled and somehow magical. If you’re planning to participate and live in the city, you can find all the goods on the Toronto NaNo website. It’s going to be amazing.

I’ve prepared a couple posts that will come out a few times throughout the month, so keep an eye out for anything marked *From Beyond Hiatus* — those are my loving gifts to you beautiful people who keep coming back to read my blog.

I hope everyone had a fun Halloween and I’ll see you all in December!