Stretching the Mind

Hey guys! Just finished the second test of the week (General Pathology) and it was a 65/35 test: 65% I was confident on and the answers flowed like sweet honey in the heat and the other 35% of the answers were pried from the mind with a crowbar.

Either way, it’s done! I feel alright about it, and the mock lab exam was handed back with very positive results so I’ll just have to wait and hope.

Today I thought I might talk about stretching. Here’s the thing though, I find it hard to sit still or make my mind stop. I’m like the average child in this department, my level of chill internally is nil, nada, zippo. This creates an internal source of chaos and a constant stream of self talk which is relatively uncontrolled. That’s just how it is though, right?

Not true.

While I’m not that great at sticking to a schedule I have been stretching for half an hour five times a week for the last five weeks. This week I keep putting off stretching in the morning (despite waking up with plenty of time to do it) and end up doing it in the evening. Either way I find there are some serious benefits.

I was pretty flexible to begin with so while my flexibility has increased somewhat and I make sure to challenge myself to do more, I primarily use this time for my mind. Letting my mind clear has always been difficult if I just sit and try to make it happen but using movement to get my head on straight has been really great.

I go through a set of stretches that I know from organized sports, classes, observation, and videos. This set stays pretty similar day to day with some small differences (if you really want to know what I am doing let me know, I can write it down).

I turn on my music (I personally listen to a folksy worship mix) and settle my mind into the present. Basically I follow a sort of step-by-step way of getting my mind ready for the day:

  1. I make a white box- Basically I picture my mind as an open expanse, however that might look on a given day, and I start building a white room. I generally start with a white wall right in front of mind-me, build all the walls, add a white ceiling, and finally a white floor. All the walls are smooth and there are no windows or doors but there is a mail slot. For my first few stretches I stay in the white box and thoughts come at me like paper airplanes. I open them, I consider them, I commit them to memory and I pass the paper out my white mail slot.
  2. I consider where I would like to be today- Hawaii? The rainforest? The prairies? With my pets or livestock? Alone? With someone? By a waterfall? Sitting on a rock? In a beach chair? Looking at the ocean? I decide on something, which may change later, and starting with the floor I move to that place. So I’ll imagine the rock under me, the clear pool of water in front of me and the waterfall in my periphery. I’ll turn my head around and see the rainforest around me (my eyes are still closed though). Then if someone is going to be spending this time with me I invite that someone or something into the space. Throughout this I continue to move through my stretches.
  3. I appreciate my surroundings- At this point this probably sounds ridiculous, I’ll admit I have a particularly vivid imagination. Anyways, I listen to the bird songs, or the rush of water, the wind blowing through the leaves, I smell the flowers. I stretch out in one area of the landscape and appreciate it. I listen to the lyrics of my music and think about the meanings.
  4. I ask- I ask the hard questions that I am going to have to face that day. I leave them hanging until the morph into ideas and actions and changes that need to happen in my life. I let my mind ruminate on things until something important sorts itself out, or until my half hour of stretching is done.
  5. I thank God- I give gratitude for what has or hasn’t been sorted out because I’m alive and things will get sorted out one way or another.

Now, you might be thinking, “Oh my gosh, this girl is a wack job!” I’m not going to argue with you. I have had a vivid imagination since I was a child. My grade one teacher thought I was deaf because I would be so in my own world I would ignore her saying my name multiple times until she was face to face with me and close enough to touch.

However, after five weeks hanging out with God in the morning I can say that I am kinder to myself and others when mistakes are made, I am calmer approaching obstacles or difficulties, and I am more aware of and more confident in the allotment of my time day to day. I spend more time studying pointedly and more time in self care because my studying is purposeful, I stop negative self-talk more often, and I don’t internalize mistakes as frequently.

Altogether, stretching my mind has been freeing. It has decreased my sense of unease in my body and mind, and it has kept life in perspective. Ultimately though, stretching may not be right for everyone. When I think back on high school I did this same thing in a different way: I rode horses and they forced me to clear my mind and usurp negativity because how I felt changed how I rode which changed how the horse acted.

Horses are no longer a part of my life for now but, I have found a new path to the same peace of mind. At times I still go to a hill in the prairies and watch all my horses and visit with them and lean against their solid warmth, but for now it can only be in my mind and it sparks a longing in me that brings tears to my eyes.

 

xx.

Advertisements

Testing Trouble

Staring down the first set of tests of the season this week has me all aflutter my friends!

Good news though: test one was at 0800 this morning and I made it through with a few minutes to review (and revise)! Which is exciting for me not only because I had time to review (my time budgeting during tests sucks) but because often I struggle to review (I just can’t read it again) so actually revising something (anything) is an accomplishment. Also, and I don’t want to jinx anything, I felt very comfortable about my performance!

Another piece of excitement was that I actually accomplished swimming in the morning before the test! The night before I considered not doing Monday and trying for Saturday as my third day for the week but I ended up putting my foot down–I chose to sign up for morning swim to get some of my pent up energy out before classes started and I was going to accomplish that.

I was up and at’er at 0530 this morning and, while I tried to set everything up for the smoothest of starts, I forgot my bike helmet and phone and had to go back for them after already getting my bike down to street level from my apartment. I then faced a headwind which made going up the slight hill across the river feel impossible (not to mention how silly it made me feel as cars passed by me). I ended up being ten minutes late, I only did 1300 m of the workout because I needed to be out of there to be at the college with plenty of time to spare before the test (which decreases my anxiety levels re: being late for a test).

After the morning hiccup everything went to schedule. I have to admit though, I really need to rent a locker at the pool because my backpack was uncomfortably cramped with my swim gear in it.

This was my second morning swim and while Friday was alright I have been coming up short as far as finishing the workouts go: I skipped 600m of flipper work on Friday because I was being lazy and ran out of time, and I skipped at least 600 m of work today because I was late. I’ve been in the slow lane thus far too, but today it seemed to be moving at a snails pace and was actually slowing me down significantly. I am considering moving up to the moderate pace lane in order to push myself and complete the workouts but it definitely makes me nervous as I don’t want to slow them down and, as silly as it sounds, the lane is full of guys.

That tangent aside, I thought I might talk to you a bit about my testing strategies to curb my time issues, keep myself on task, and curb my nervousness:

  1. Go to bed and wake up early- instead of stressing the night before and trying to study all night and then waking up early anyways because I’m nervous I’ll be late, I budget my time so that I can go to bed between 2100 and 2230. This way when I wake up nervous at 0500-0530 I’ve at least gotten six to seven hours of sleep. This helps decrease my stress levels and increases my ability to concentrate.
  2. Exercise before the test- you should be all studied up. Throw a set of condensed study notes in your back pack and hit the gym. If you swim, like me, line your times up so you have a half hour or forty-five minutes–after finishing up in the pool and having a shower–before the test starts to review those SHORT notes. Otherwise, do it while on the treadmill or bike or whatever. This seriously helps with my stereotypies in the class room (pen or foot tapping, clicking my nails on the table, playing with my hair).
  3. Have a test kit- this should be set up and in your locker at all times. I have non-clickey pens (multiple), a calculator, a couple of colours of highlighter, white out, two sharpened pencils, a pencil sharpener, and an eraser. I also include a fidget in my kit (today I used a stress ball). This means you’ll never have to worry about not having something you need for a test at school.
  4. Highlight your test- my tests are covered in highlighter marks. In my first few years of university I realized that I was loosing marks because I was reading questions wrong. I read very quickly and in a test because I feel like time is super short I try to read even faster–bad idea–I’ve walked out of tests thinking about a question only to realize two minutes after handing the test in that I read the question in the wrong way. I’ve also received tests back where the question is something like: which of these is NOT… and I’ve answered the on that IS most correct. I highlight at least one aspect of almost every question, whether it is the number of possibilities they want listed, or a key point of information. I also basically write things down on short answer tests in a stream of consciousness fashion and so I often highlight the key points I was trying to make (to help the prof out and to make it easier for me to re-check my answer).
  5. Think, breathe, and move on- If I’m stuck on anything for more than say three squeezes of my stress ball I take a moment to stop, look at how many marks the question is worth, think for a second to see if something pops to mind, jot down anything I think might be right, and then if a complete answer hasn’t come to me I dog ear the page and move on. I come back to the dog eared pages (I often star and highlight the specific question on the page) after going through the whole test once. This really helps with my time allocation because I can get stuck and rather obsessive about a single question otherwise.
  6. Bring a quite snack (or two) and water- a bagel, some cut up pita with peanut butter and honey, anything you want that won’t make noise, stick it beside you and munch away (if your school has a policy against it… well first off that’s stupid, but secondly tell them low blood sugar makes concentrating harder). I also have a 700 ml water bottle filled up and ready to sip.
  7. Treat it as a learning exercise- don’t even look at it as a test, look at it as a survey of knowledge. The question is: what knowledge has actually taken up residence in your head, not are you 70% good enough or 90% good enough or 50% good enough. If you get a bad score that says “the amount of the information in this course that has actually set up residence in your head is too little if you want to be able to have a good discussion about it or use it later”.
  8. Don’t sweat it after the fact- once it’s done the temptation is to join your classmates and discuss specific questions that gave you trouble and see what they thought… DON’T. Let the freshness of the experience fade a bit, maybe even wait for your marks and then go see where you went wrong so you can discuss it with your professor. In the meantime as you wade through people groups only ask your classmates things like, how did you find it? How did you feel about that one? Go find a quiet space, put some headphones on, close your eyes for a few minutes and listen to your favourite mix, or sketch, or write something. Just let it be and enjoy something.

That’s it guys! A bit of a long list and not all of these will work for everyone but those are some of my strategies, they also work for the most part, for presentations and important meetings or speeches.

In the meantime, one more pro-tip–making a pizza on a whole grain pita for supper the evening after your test is a fantastic way to have a treat that isn’t too big. Put some pizza sauce, protein, cheese, and veg on it and you have a great personal sized meal!

Do you have any special testing strategies? What’s your favourite workout for de-stressing? What’s your go to song to pump yourself up or cool yourself down for a big event?

 

xx.

Overthinking It!

Well guys, I looked back through my ideas for fun this summer and… I totally failed to do maybe eighty percent of them.

C’est la vie though right?

I also increasingly realize that I have so many ideas that a certain percentage of them will always be left undone, which I suppose makes prioritization key.

One idea that I have decided not to leave undone this year is getting fit again and hitting a more ideal weight. As an asthmatic carrying extra weight is always a negative–fat is inflammatory and my lungs like to take any excuse to be inflammatory and run with it.

This is something that has been on my mind for years now. Even in high school, when I was lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons it made me self-conscious to be as heavy as I was (probably about 175-185 lbs depending on the year). Riding horses as well, I always found myself worried about “the jiggle” at clinics with slim, long-legged fellow riders watching me bounce about on my horse.

Honestly, midway through junior high (right when puberty is kicking a person in the butt), I quit almost all the sports I was still participating in except horseback riding. The problem is, I was able to eat however I wanted when I was growing and playing sports but in junior high between hormones, quitting sports, and stalling out in the height department I was out-eating myself. At certain points in my life I even had a strange pride attached to being able to keep up with the boys eating wise and I have always had a self conscious thing about finishing my plate (if I served myself too much that’s my fault and I don’t want to throw out good food, or insult the cook).

Now, my mom is a nurse and when she was young she was in fabulous physical shape herself, meaning I know what eating right looks like and basically always have. The trouble was I had cash in my pocket and friends who hadn’t stopped growing and were always keen to go to the corner store or go out to eat because it was still a novelty at that point (to be independent). That plus the fact that we “never” had treats at home (we did, but not the kinds that came in plastic packaging like gushers and fruit by the foots etc.) meant I packed on a few pounds.

Even my mom, over the years has put on a few more pounds (and has a very similar build to me). That’s not to say she doesn’t eat healthy and exercise but deny thyself has never been a major motto for my family when it comes to food (exercise more is probably more our style but I’m the lazy one in the family on some fronts).

My sister has been on a fitness journey for years now, ever since she started university having come back from Bible college in Australia with the extra pounds she already had plus a few more, and is still working out quite a lot. For Sis, some of the journey was driven by health issues as well (junior rheumatoid arthritis, no longer junior but onset was early and painful). With her health stuff well controlled with medication and the extra pounds being more of a hinderance than ever she used the change of moving to University as a jump-off point for huge changes in her diet and exercise regimen.

Now, my sister is by far the more disciplined of us two but with all that said–I can drop ten pounds in two weeks if I’m not stressed out and nobody else is around to buy food and put it somewhere I can find it. Which only proves that not being at a good weight is shear laziness on my part.

This year I’ve decided to stop being ridiculous. I bought a new bike after my cheap one was stolen last year (plus locking skewers and a freaking amazing lock and cable set), I joined the masters swim club on campus (because I worry the least about being judged in the pool, compared to the gym), I walk to school if I’m not biking, and I am pushing myself to get up to running a non-stop 5km (this is slow going but I’m hopeful cross-training and giving myself until April to get up to that distance will do the trick). I’m also stretching five days a week for half an hour in the morning (good old o’six hundred, how I love…hate…love you).

I’m also cooking all my own food (which is pretty normal for me) and making time for it despite school (I’m squirrelling away leftovers into the freezer so I don’t have to cook when things go too nuts). The big change in my cooking this year is that I am emphasizing making sure I eat meat (protein is really important to my energy levels and concentration) because I have noticed I easily fall back on simple carbs when I’m stressed–or just eat gigantic, cheese and dried fruit happy salads and then carbs and candy when I still don’t feel satisfied–and don’t want to put in the effort (pasta or tortilla chips are just so easy).

Today, four weeks into school for me, I am down 9-10 lbs (sitting at 182). That might seem crazy considering I told you I can do that in two weeks but I’m super happy because it is a sustainable pace, I love what I’m eating, and I’m not hungry or feeling deprived. I also have never stuck to a consistent stretching routine for this long in my life!

Swim club starts on Friday and I am nervous (for all sorts of all-in-my-head reasons) but a little excited too! I’ll see you on the other side of that, but in the meantime here’s my favourite fast, high protein breakfast hack:

Oatmeal:

1/3 Cup Oatmeal

2-3 Tbsp. Hemp hearts (super high protein)

2 Tbsp. Chia seeds (also super high in protein)

1 Tbsp. Honey

Liquid as needed (for cool flavours steep your favourite tea ahead and use it, Chai or Jasmine Black Dragon is my favourite)

Season as you like (I love cinnamon, cardamom, or ground cloves, or make a sugarless gingerbread or pumpkin spice flavour. You can also omit the honey if you want to sweeten your spice mix)

Add frozen fruit (just a bit, raspberries are great and I freeze them from my Mom’s garden)

 

Just by adding the hemp hearts and chia seeds you pack in 15 extra grams of protein!  Many cereals have 5 g protein or less in a serving! I find this keeps me full for my morning classes (from 0830-1230) and often the serving is almost too much (sometimes I cut it back or even in half if I have a morning snack planned).

 

Have you ever fallen off the fitness wagon? How did you get back to it? Or if you didn’t do you feel that was a choice that made you happier?

 

xx.

Faith

More poetry is on order, because it is quick, simple and lovely, and because I am exhausted and don’t have the energy to write more than what comes to mind! This one is inspired by an Underarmour ad and is rather rough, regardless I hope you enjoy it! It is meant to be spoken with a clapping and slapping beat or djembe or timpani drum beat starting with a simple beat at the end of each stanza and increasing in complexity and frequency towards the end.

 

Faith

I, firebrand; I, explorer; I, healer.

I have found love, calling.

While confidence and doubt dance,

conflicting and confounding

pride, and worth.

 

Love, my firebrand, not lit by myself

But, burning. Bright with undiminished strength

through the wind of my dance

though feet may be exhausted,

not wavering, but teetering

 

out of my grasp, my firebrand!

So everything burns with it but,

exploration is extinguished by panic.

I, healer though broken

tools cannot aid the broken.

 

Dance on still!

Soul replacing mind:

dance between faith, belief,

and forgiveness

with re-energized feet.

 

With many feet–not your own–

to pound the rhythm beside yours.

Raise embers from the ground

with your earth cry.

 

Summer embers will light

a new firebrand.

Where one raises only

a dried, dead stick.

 

Love, my firebrand, lit once more.

So I, explorer, will dance upon my hill,

until the animals gather to watch,

because I have become

 

so serene in motion,

that nature believes me safe.

Healer, unbroken.

Human kintsukuroi.

 

 

xx.

Feminist

Hey guys, I’m back in school and back at it with some poetry. I thought I’d share this one, on a bit of a controversial topic. Honestly, it doesn’t cover all the complexity of this issue but is more meant to talk about the vilianization of classical feminism (with the focus on equal rights and not on over the top compensation) as it is lumped in with more militant views. The poem was inspired by a book title I read in passing at a second hand book store: Enemy Woman.

 

Feminist

 

When did I become an enemy woman?

A small architecture, developed

in the dust that falls from dreams?

A something that is less,

that is laughable, or impractical?

 

a Custodian of Paradise relegated to

the meridians, because soul craft

is no longer sustaining.

Art class in public school–

Necessarily unnecessary.

 

Disordered by happenstance

but intrinsically sensible,

despite historical subjugation.

We enemy women, have been given

footing that makes our thoughts seem unstable.

 

Life givers by birthright,

kitchen dwellers by weak light,

now restoring queen-hood

to independent power,

but still desiring love by independent choice.

 

Right seeking but not always right,

we push too hard now,

because we have been pushed too far,

to the side before,

and hindsight is twenty-twenty

 

but judgement

is zero to sixty

in three seconds.

Man,

Haters.

 

Disordered social roles second guessed,

while the guessers are guessed

to be disordered.

Enemies are disordered because they disagree.

I am an enemy woman.

 

 

xx.

The Tramp Theory

If you have read my previous post Nearly Nomad you will know I have a concept of community involvement I call “The Tramp Theory”. In short this theory states that people who live particularly independently/transiently experience a unique form of what I would call “fear of missing out”.

In my mind I remember this scene from Lady and the Tramp (which I haven’t seen for years), maybe at this point it is a scene in my mind alone, I couldn’t tell you whether it is actually in the movie. Essentially, the scene I’m thinking of is Tramp looking through a bay window at a happy family with their kids and their dog and there’s a certain wistfulness in his expression, though up until this point he has been preaching the benefits of being able to live your own life on the streets.

For people who move around (personally, I spend eight months of the year at university and four months wherever I can find a job while interspersing that time with trips home and the occasional holiday) I think this feeling may not be uncommon. You see a community and they’re dynamic and involved with each other and a part of you wishes you had those long-term connections.

I often look at the few friends I have, many of whom have spent most of their lives very close to their hometowns and maintained friendships from elementary school and high school, and feel a pang of jealousy. Honestly, I have had good and bad experiences hopping about the way I do (before entering university I varied my location considerably more), but for the most part I don’t regret them as they have taught me a lot. What I do regret is never building a really natural skill for developing friends.

I would consider myself an introvert but in person I come across very outgoing and bubbly–maybe even a little domineering or over-confident– this exterior appearance of assurance though, has not aided me in developing the depth of friendships I desire. I have very few phone numbers in my phone and the vast majority of the good friends I have are spread out across the country (and a few across the world). I honestly can count the number of people I would consider “friends” on two hands.

Growing up I had a group of friends I fell into simply by vicinity (and parental interference): until the age of eight or so I lived on a block with lots of kids on it and we all got along (I mean block-wide water fights type got along), when we moved from there to a new school I again developed a decent sized group of friends (the popular group for want of another generalization). It was a falling out at the age of ten that really started me towards Tramp-hood. I decided I didn’t like how the other popular girls behaved and distanced myself somewhat, and they took offence as only little girls can. From that period on I don’t think I’ve ever had more than two friends in one place at once, and certainly never had a community of people in one place.

Don’t get me wrong, I have some really amazing friends, but one tends to be two hundred kilometre in that direction, another five hundred in that direction, and so on. I just don’t have one central community of people I can text and say, “Lets get together and play board games!” and actually get enough people to play something that requires more than three players.

The idea behind what I call the Tramp Effect is a degree of envy towards more stable people I suppose. The Tramp Effect is when you feel like your pressing your nose against the glass watching a community of people interact in a beautiful way but feel an invisible barrier between you and those people. You might be standing in the room, you may even be involved in the interaction somehow, but you are still at a distance from the intimacy of the community.

I often experience this when I visit my sister’s community. During university my sister developed amazing connections with people both at university and outside university via young adult groups, church activities, studying together, and mutual acquaintances that never fails to leave me awestruck. She generally spends at least two meals a week with large groups of friends and even more of them with smaller groups, she has had fabulous roommates and is an extremely gracious host, she can organize birthday parties and going away parties with ease and there is always a good turnout, and she participates in a myriad of evening activities as a volunteer or as an observer or participant.

I have been privy to these meetings when I visit her and her friends are universally accepting however I find every interaction feels as though it has a caveat–Oh, that’s ______’s sister, of course we’ll be welcoming, of course we’ll humour her. Now, I know this is a bad perspective to operate from but it has been my default all my life. My mind always niggles me with thoughts; Oh, they’re just talking to me to be nice; Oh, I don’t want to text them and suggest doing something if they might feel obligated to do something with me even though they don’t really like me that much.

I’ve mentioned this theory to a number of people and explained it and I generally get one of three responses:

  1. “You just need to put yourself out there! Commit to an activity–that’s why your sister has such a great community, she gets out there and does stuff!” To this I say, easier said than done. As I told you earlier I think I come across almost overly transparent and outgoing, but I have found it seems to put people off more often than not. Further, I spend so much time trying not to have a resting bitch-face or attempting not to speak as bluntly as I would without a filter that I tire out. Past that, I just hate imposing on people or putting them in an awkward spot–I don’t want to invite myself to something someone else doesn’t explicitly want me at, or what if they don’t want to come but feel obligated when I invite them, plus my preferred activities often don’t align with others (think reading, knitting and watching a movie, going for a long walk, or going to a pet store to pet kittens). I also hate being blown off when I do make a plan with someone (because I spend so much time hyping myself up to actually participate in something) that people being flaky makes me nervous to make any plan to begin with.
  2. “I totally get that! I feel like that all the time!” Coming from the person with five friends waiting a few steps away because they want to hang out. I have nothing against this person, they may actually feel exactly that way, but it is sort of hard to believe. Regardless, they at least have enough people they text regularly to have a group chat or a games night, or go fishing with (can you tell I really want to go fishing?).
  3. “I know, but really having tonnes of friends isn’t important–its about quality.” I get the whole quality over quantity argument but it doesn’t help the no-one is available to hang out blues. Also, the Tramp Effect isn’t really about having more friends but about having a good community. It’s about that base group of people some of whom may be only acquaintances, but most of whom you are comfortable texting to hang out.

I think part of the difficulty is that making finding friend groups as an adult is nothing like as a kid or teenager. When you are younger they sort of fall into your life.

What do you think? Do you feel the Tramp Effect at times? How do you find a community as an adult? (Any other closet introverts out there?)

Back to School

Gah! Oh my gosh guys! It’s August! The month that I go back to school.

While I can’t say I love school 100% of the time (see my first two posts ever), I understand that it is necessary to be in the profession I love. However, last year I was diagnosed (as an adult) with ADD. Here’s the thing, I had always found school boring and I was moderately disruptive (that depended a lot on the teacher) but, I’ve always had… how to say this tactfully… a level of scholastic ability that allowed me to get by and do quite well. Alright, very well.

In high school I was on attendance parol from grade 10 to grade 12 and even before that I did distance education for a few years (which I thoroughly slacked on, but somehow managed to survive). I didn’t know I was on attendance parol until nearly a year after I graduated though. How on earth does that happen, you ask? Well, the school called my parents and told them, my parents asked what my grades were, and then proceeded to not bother telling me because it seemed unimportant given said grades.

With that in mind you might anticipate that I rarely had to put much effort into any class. The first class that actually challenged me (calculus) left me in a puddle of tears the night before the midterm, which I eventually kicked in the butt by getting a really great tutor.

When I got into university I also enjoyed a relatively chill study schedule (although to me, in comparison to my previous education, my work load was enormous). I coped reasonably well still though, and merely balanced classes I struggled in with classes I was strong in. I asked tonnes of stupid questions (yes, they exist), annoyed the heck out of my classmates, attended work sessions with profs, and yes, even hired a couple tutors. I didn’t think twice about the elevated difficulty, other than having the occasional moment of the usual: questioning my existence, asking myself whether I was cut out for higher education, crying puddles to wallow in, and calling my parents long distance (lucky I had a great phone plan) to sniffle.

Fast forward, apply for vet school, and get in after taking the minimum requirements: I suddenly am in a professional college. Each regular (two semester) school year now I take almost an extra semester worth of credits compared to what a full load of courses in undergrad was. By the end of first semester I was drowning, I got my first fifty ever, I was personally miserable, I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything, was struggling to really listen to more than twenty minutes of any lecture (especially since I had jumped from a couple of hours of lecture on any given day and a lab to eight hours of school per day), and then I swore at a professor… during a final… in front of the class.

I apologized after the incident and the prof gave the best possible response (being more concerned for me and my classmates perception of me than about the incident itself) however, this moment marked a turning point for me. I began to ask myself: Why am I so miserable at school? I’ve never liked school, although I love reading and learning, but in lower grades I never had to put in more than minimal effort which made school tolerable to some degree. Plus, I spent every other moment of my time with a horse, a dog, working, or on a computer.

At different times it had been suggested to me that I should get tested for ADD/ADHD but, although I knew my mind often ran along the same lines as people I knew with ADD/ADHD, even as a child I had found the idea of being diagnosed to be distasteful. Not because I looked down on those kids that had it but because I couldn’t see how being identified as weird could be helpful in any way. My parents never pushed me to be tested because of my high academic achievement, and out of respect for my wishes.

I saw a diagnoses of ADD/ADHD as something I could use as an excuse not to achieve not as a possible removal of a hinderance to my achievement.

So, I continued to put it off before finally making an appointment in February of last year. I jumped through a bunch of hoops (which were mainly questionnaires asking me to rank how often I feel certain ways or think certain things on a numerical scale) and in late February or early March was told I was indeed within the ADD spectrum. What next?

I got a prescription, which my doctor carefully explained to me may or may not work for me in particular because much like many drugs used to help alter peoples mental states, it doesn’t affect everyone the same and requires a lot of fiddling around to get the dose right even if the drug is the right choice for me. I went to the pharmacist and was told how it might make me feel when I first started taking it (yeah, nausea was a thing for me). Finally I sat at home with the lowest dose of my new daily routine, which I was to double if it worked but didn’t work enough (have fun trying to make that distinction).

I ended up staying on the first prescription I was given and found a middling dose that worked for me–where the nausea died down and my sleep was least disturbed. I also realized that the toys I regularly brought to class and exams were actually fiddle toys and bought myself a few more that were more fun (but also discreet).

When I try to explain the difference the medication makes to my mind I have found a few metaphors that work for me, my go to though is: Imagine you lived in an one bedroom apartment and all your life you thought everyone lived in a one bedroom apartment. Then one day someone called you up and told you you had finally qualified for your adult house. You went to the address they gave you and found out that all your life everyone else had been living in two story, three bedroom, two bath houses and that that was normal.

I felt like a stranger in my newly focused mind: my peripheral vision had narrowed, but suddenly my binocular vision was eagle eye strong.

And I felt like I was cheating. I had gotten through life without this for over twenty years and suddenly, I get into a more difficult program and I get a new toy to make my brain work better? I mean sure, I can still use my new laser focus to watch cat videos but what if by taking this thing I was not just equaling other people but surpassing them? How is that fair to them?

I would express this to those close to me and they would ask me things like: do you think people who take anti-depressants are cheating?

The trouble is, to me, those people are truly sick. I never thought of myself as sick. I never thought of myself as disabled (which is why I didn’t sign up for DSS–Disability Services for Students). I felt like such a fraud when I woke up in the morning feeling more lively and popped my pill which allowed me to pay attention to forty out of fifty minutes of each lecture instead of twenty. I felt like a fraud when I picked up my prescription. I felt like a fraud each time I studied four days ahead of time instead of cramming for the usual two.

I felt like a cheater when I looked forward to the next school year, when I could stay on top of things a bit better from the start.

Applying for government student loans this year, I still feel sick checking off the “Disabled” box, followed by the “ADD” box, and having to get a doctors note to prove to the government that I am “permanently disabled”.

I can’t say I have a solution for this. I think over the summer I have come to terms with it a little more, but like I mentioned above, my student loan application sort of set me off. I really considered not checking the box. I considered being unidentified. I realize though, that as long as I stigmatize mental health for myself and refuse to accept an invisible and unquantifiable issue as real, I can’t extend the understanding I should have towards others.

So I checked the box because I’m ADD, I don’t view myself as disabled (although I am by the governments definition), but my brain chemicals balance in an abnormal way and that is okay, but also treatable. And treating it is fair to me, and doesn’t hurt other people.

The Calm

Hey guys! Thought I’d hit you with a short story (the poem is still in the works) that was inspired by some locations I visited on holiday.

The first location that this story blossomed from is the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax very near the water front. This gallery was composed of two buildings with three floors that were connected by the shared lower floor. I didn’t get to go through this gallery as thoroughly as I would have liked because I got there near closing however I was particularly struck by a small exhibit they had tucked out of the way on war art and propaganda (mostly from World War Two I believe). I have talked previously about my draw towards the military and this exhibit resonated very deeply for me, both as an amateur artist and a hero lover.

The William deGarthe Gallery in Peggy’s Cove was the second place that was in the back of my mind in writing this, as well as his artwork in the Peggy’s Cove church. Two large paintings in the church depict a ship in a storm with sailors looking out, with a second picture of Jesus that they are looking towards. The gallery that exists in deGarthe’s former home displays many oil paintings depicting the life of the local area and the ships that traversed the seas in those days, in both beautiful and terrifying conditions.

Also, if you ever go to Peggy’s Cove, there is an seemingly ancient old man with a little shack of reclaimed fishing supplies, glass objects burnished by the sea, whale jaw bones, and everything else you could possibly imagine to be in the cutest and least touristy shop ever. And the least touristy bit is important because everything else in Peggy’s Cove is designed with tourists in mind, I imagine in the down season almost all of it closes up.

Anyways, if I’ve intrigued you read on for the story of a shy girl struggling with self-consciousness, and her own oddness.

 

 

She stared. The waves roared like lions, but towered like mountains. Somehow these solid, immovable beasts tore about the ship, moving too fast for anticipation, rolling it about. The corner of the foremasts middle sheet was torn away and flapping in the wind while a sailor tried desperately to cling to the mizzenmast. Each moment was an eternity as the thunder cannoned on. How it could be so dark in mid-afternoon was mystifying.

“Excuse me, miss?”

Ella-May shook herself from her revere and looked away from the oil painting. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry but you’ve been standing in front of this painting for almost an hour, and my colleagues were wondering if you were all right?” The young african-american man inquired.

Ella glanced over at the others he had shifted his hand towards when he had mentioned colleagues. A white button up shirt barely covered the bust of the red lipsticked whisperer Ella had noticed on her way in, while the raven haired girl beside her sported deep purple lips and a slight smirk.

“I’m fine thank you…” she glanced down at his name tag, “Timothy.”

He glanced back towards the girls and then to Ella. She wondered if it was compassion flickering in his eyes in that moment, maybe he knew she felt judged and a little embarassed. She held his eye a moment before snapping her own eyes back to the five meter by three meter painting. Now Timothy turned to it as well, his back shifted towards his colleagues.

Almost whispering Ella asked, “Do you ever imagine being there?”

“I can’t. What do you imagine it would be like?” Timothy asked, it seemed genuine.

“I can feel the salt blasted wood of the rail under my palms and see the storm coming in the distance even while the sun beats down on me. The wind begins to whip my hair about before the waves even near. There’s no getting around it…” Ella petered off.

You sound silly Ella, her mother Samantha’s voice snipped in her head. Nobody wants to hear your flights of fancy, and your notebooks taking up all this space. Notebooks, sketchbooks, jabbering on, what does all this…

“I think I’m below decks,” Timothy said in a low whisper, stopping the voice in Ella’s head.

“What?”

“You were talking and I found myself on board.”

Ella’s brow puckered with a frown. “I hope you’re not there for any sinister reasons.”

“No, I’m securing the cargo. We have spices and silks to protect.”

“The storm picked up speed though, the other sailors and I are preparing, battening down as best we can. I’m climbing the rigging. The wind keeps pushing me about!”

“I’ve come on deck now and the storm is on us,” Timothy whispered more emphatically.

Ella’s eyes stayed fixed on the picture. “We’ll try our hardest, but we may go down. The captain has experience though, and we all know our jobs.”

“That’s all the luck anyone can hope for,” Timothy replied.

Ella fell silent and nodded, her breath coming a little bit faster. Timothy turned toward her.

“I’m off work in half an hour,” Timothy began. He stopped though and seemed to be waiting. Ella turned her cool blue eyes back to his hopeful brown eyes. “Are you going to be staring at another painting this afternoon?”

Ella nodded slowly. “I was going to go to the war and propaganda exhibit and remember how dear Jake, the soldier in The Trench Lament, got all that dirt on his face and why he looks so sad.”

“He does seem like a Jake, doesn’t he?”

“I think so.”

“When I get off work, could I join you and Jake?” Timothy asked tentatively.

“I think I would like that,” Ella smiled.

“Maybe we could grab a coffee afterwards,” Timothy continued casually.

Ella’s chin fell slightly and she blushed. She looked off to her other side, away from Timothy. He’s clearly some artsy-fartsy hooligan. Can’t he get a real job? Samantha’s voice echoed in her mind about the eighteen year old boy she’d liked at sixteen. I mean really, selling drawings at the harbour front? What does he make, ten cents. He’s not even planning to go to university…

“Miss?”

Samantha was cut off yet again, Ella couldn’t remember a time that happened in real life. She looked through her lashes back at Timothy.

“I don’t know your name, I’m sorry,” Timothy said with a smile.

“It’s Ella.”

“Ella, I didn’t mean to get your guard up. I can just come hang out with you in war and propaganda if you don’t want to do coffee.”

“No, I…I…” Ella was at a loss.

“Maybe, today we can look at The Trench Lament and maybe next time you’re in we could look at something else?”

“Next time?”

“I’ve worked here awhile. I noticed your in at least twice a week, please don’t think that’s weird! You just have something striking about you, your icy eyes and your confidence… I’m sorry, I’m being super weird,” Timothy stammered. “I’m just going to leave now.”

“No!” Ella exclaimed. For the first time their conversation rose above a friendly murmur.

Timothy stopped and Ella locked eyes with him. “I would really enjoy some company to look at the art with.”

“Okay. I’m here every day except Sunday and Monday, and I always get off at 4:30 if you want to look at art together.”

“Thank you,” Ella whispered.

Timothy reached towards her, briefly, but then his hand fell back as though he had only been about to punctuate a word with it. He opened his mouth and closed it before finally finding a reply.

“My pleasure.”

 

xx.

Red Dirt and Potatoes

Ah, back in the land of the living. It’s been awhile. I chose to leave my laptop home while I was on holiday for a few weeks and had a busy period before that meaning I haven’t posted in a while. Honestly, I just wanted to say hi… I’m still existing.

I spent my holiday in Canada in Nova Scotia and PEI. I was in Halifax and Charlottetown for longer periods and travelling around in between. I really enjoyed PEI, where some of the most notable features are its red dirt, potatoes, and beaches (plus it’s the setting of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s famous Anne of Green Gables series). Plus I won an iPad, so there’s that.

I have a poem in my mind from the trip that still hasn’t worked itself out, so until it does I am just going to give you beach recommendation: On PEI go to Greenwich beach. It’s in a national park and there is an interpretive centre but as a swimmer I only really cared about the beach. It has wonderful, fine sand that extends far out into the water with no seaweed that I saw and no debris in the water. It was also free of jellyfish when we were there (which can’t be said of any of the other beaches). It has a designated swimming area and lifeguards (which I generally don’t worry about but for the family it might be good). We went there in the late afternoon and it was pretty quiet, a few families and the lifeguards were around.

Anyway, would definitely recommend!

I know this is not anything like what I normally post but I’ll be back with my more typical fare shortly.

 

xx.

A War of Dust

“War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.” –Thomas Mann

I once considered joining my country’s airforce very seriously and also had a great affinity for the Navy Seals and the Coast Guard, both of which I looked into. None of these were spurred by seriously nationalistic feelings (some of these divisions don’t even exist in my country), although I do love my country. Of my many reasons I often put my affinity for the armed forces down to two main things: I am drawn to heroism very strongly and I feel very at peace with the idea of my own death (at some point, which by the grace of God isn’t today and most likely isn’t in the near future).

In the end I found that I most likely lack a few required qualities. I can’t follow orders that I find lacking in sense, vision, compassion, and/or thought; I am characteristically cynical of others motives (including those of military groups and countries); I dislike bureaucracy and bullshit; and and I am strictly guided by my morals (which really haven’t come to a firm place on killing groups classified as “enemies”, I mean is killing a killer really justice?). I also seriously struggle with discipline and scheduling. Cumulatively, I felt these character “flaws” most likely restricted me from service.

Ultimately, I will fight for myself personally but often the moments when others would like to challenge me are my moments of miraculous level headedness. The result is a tendency to fight verbal battles on fronts most people don’t care about.

Recently a watched a movie called The Water Diviner, and while I can’t say the reviews for it were stellar (to each their own) it struck a chord in me that runs deep. My love of heroism has always run contrary to my cynicism and my position on the futility of violence, and this film played to both sides of my heart. It showed the action, the noble sacrifices, and the alpha-personality role to a T but spliced it with the pain of losing children, and the devastation left behind after wars (both human and environmental).

I am still drawn towards the military. I have a deep and abiding love for soldiers/warriors and a heart for hurting people, but now when I consider military roles I look towards the support of veterans and opportunities that allow autonomy.

I digress though, I wrote this all to preface a poem I wrote today:

 

A War of Dust

This is where we truly dwell,
among the lime and dust.
With filigree and quietude,
lacking only trust.

Metal stacked upon our chests
and cross our shoulders strong.
Our beliefs upon our hearts
Not guiding us for long.

Heartbeats only marching on
until they meet the threat.
Then though strong, we faint upon
conviction just as set.

Pride and honour batter ’bout
high upon the bastion,
until ideals bend to know
truth will not ride death in.

So search among the rubble,
the chaos and the ruin,
there you’ll find the end results
are surely no reunion.

And filigree and quietude
will under feet remain,
For filigree upon the chest
Without trust raises Cain.

 

xx.