"You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses."-Tom Wilson
I stopped writing the blog for a while because frankly, I didn`t have it in me. Things got worse. Way worse. I had to leave Paris suddenly and writing about being back in Canada didn`t seem to make sense. This blog was supposed to be about living in France. Paris may be a moveable feast but I didn`t much feel like writing about anything that was going on here. My vie en rose had grown too many thorns. I am in the eye of the storm now and my Tropic of Cancer has just taken on a different meaning. And maybe it`s time to open up again. Here goes.
Unlucky is a feeling I am oh so familiar with and it’s never really bothered me before now. If nothing else, it’s provided my life with a much needed sense of humour and a light-heartedness that lets me laugh at the cliché moments where life meets cartoon: think Julie slips on a banana peel in an intersection and is swept off her feet or Julie sits on a white wet paint bench in black pants or Julie’s grocery bags split open while wearing white and the only thing to fall and break is the bottle of Heinz Ketchup. There have been too many to count. And yes, when these things happen, they suck. They are frustrating but laughable. I’ve always said that my life was full of these little mishaps because minor mishaps leave us unscathed by the bigger stuff: cancer, accidents, ruination.
I told a friend a couple of months ago that I was feeling cursed. Bad things happen to everybody and I don’t like to be a complainer because I’m usually an optimist. I’ve got a lot of faith and hope and goodwill under my belt but lately, definitely moreso in the past year than ever, God and I are more on the outs than before. It is disproportioned. I am feeling like we’re enemies but not sure why. He has all but shat in my mouth at this point. I’ve still got a smile on my face but you can see in my eyes that I'm full of shit. I’m still getting up every morning and forcing myself out the door with plain ol’ coffee and cigarettes.
YOU: “How are you doing?”
ME: “Fine thank you, and you?”
I have this conversation several times a day. I want to tell the truth and I am biting my tongue to keep it inside.
YOU: “How are you doing?”
ME: “Shitty. I don’t understand why these things are happening. It feels unfair. I’m exhausted and I ask myself every day if I deserve this. Do you think I`m cursed?”
The truth is, these truths are met by a dirty looks, not on purpose, but because people just don’t know what to say when you tell them your life is in shambles and whining & complaining makes everybody uncomfortable. Especially when people can’t quite relate to what it is you’re going through. Everyone should know that it is equally uncomfortable to be the Truth-Teller. I know that nobody wants to hear that my father is slowing dying from the lime-sized tumour in the cavity of his brain. Nobody wants to hear about my post traumatic stress from finding that woman who jumped out of the window this winter. No one wants to know why my ex and his family aren't speaking to me or why I can't set foot in his restaurant or why my SECOND marriage is in shambles or why my neck hurts from the hit and run. No one wants to know because they don’t know what to say to someone with that much bad shit happening to them. Partly because it upsets them but mostly because complaining about it just makes everybody uncomfortable.
YOU: “I’m so sorry to hear about all these things that are happening to you. I’m really sorry to hear about your Dad. I am worried about you. It`s all just so bad, I don`t even know what to say.”
ME: “It’s okay. Thanks, though.”
It’s not really okay. Shit maybe I shouldn’t have said that it was okay. I can already see that worry in your eyes is taking over. Now you think I’m in denial and I’m some kind of time bomb who might just have a nervous breakdown any moment. I can see the look. There is as much pity as sympathy. My phone has stopped ringing because no one knows quite what to say to me and also because there`s no good time to hang out with a grieving downer. My outfit is the same every night: unwashed hair, a sad look on my face and an inability to concentrate or listen to others’ problems. That’s not usually me but it’s me right now and I’m losing friends fast because of it. And you don`t know what to say because there is nothing to say. And I don`t know what to say because no matter what answer I come up with, the response is the same.
Here is the answer I`d like to give:
ME: “I believe I am cursed. Can you believe I didn’t win the lottery?!”
YOU: “What do you mean? Millions of people didn’t win the lottery. That doesn’t make you cursed.”
`You’re right. Millions of people didn’t win the lottery. And millions of people are suffering and going through ridiculously painful shit too. Cancer is rampant. People are dying. We are aging. Everyone has their own share of misery at their doorsteps. No one needs a precise description of mine, nor is it any worse or better than any others’, I just happen to be raking up extra points for quantity of stress. But, on the other hand, if I say: ‘I’m fine thank you’, I’m a liar and will more than likely be mistook for a rude bitch when I fade out during someone’s story about how their boyfriend means well or the topic of their thesis. Sometimes, it’s better that people know that you’re going through things. That you’re not able to take their call right now but if they leave their name and number, you’ll get back to them (and hopefully yourself) as soon as you can.
When my friend died back in 2002, I remember the odd shock of the first couple of months that followed his funeral. You’re not really there but you are. I remember feeling, possibly even being high for most of it. I couldn’t concentrate anyway. School was a joke. Sex was pointless. I couldn`t talk to friends about it because they didn`t understand. Food didn’t taste like much and I didn’t even have an appetite. I suppose this is what they call depression but I’ve always considered depression to be a sadness that emerges from nowhere and not so much a sadness that comes from true horror. I tried to keep to myself as much as possible and shut down to friends and family because I couldn’t handle the thought of telling the truth.
And that’s the other thing. I’m not a big fan of secret depression. It’s the scariest beast of all because it`s usually one that leads to suicide. Suffering in silence is polite and all but it only makes you feel that much more isolated than the rest of the planet; something anyone going through too much pain is already more than familiar with. So I took the right steps this time right off the bat in hopes of not losing too big a hunk of time this time since the first time around, it was these things that helped me pry my way out of the Bell Jar and back to something that ressembled a hopeful reality. I sought counselling immediately. I did massage, reflexology, physio, yoga, meditation. I tried to eat healthy and drink plenty of water. I was open with the people around me about my limitations. I stayed away from drugs and alcohol. I talked to my doctor about stress. He told me the hard truth: if you want to try antidepressants, go for it but otherwise, there is nothing I can do for you – you just have to live this out. The reality is, sometimes life just sucks and there isn’t a pill that’s going to stop these things from happening. He said I could give it a shot. I opted for riding it out. Circumstance doesn’t justify medication and my grieving is garden variety. This time around I am trying to be vocal about these depressive feelings (which probably isn`t helping my social life but an essential element to my mental state at this point). I asked some coworkers the other day if they ever felt like living was just too much. They laughed. It made me laugh because I knew how absurd it must have sounded but I meant it. I feel overwhelmed and exhausted and every time someone questions my mental state my answer is the same – It`s either continuing with one foot in front of the other or putting a bullet in my head. That`s the truth and my options, though both equally terrifying seem as plain as that.
There has been a little too much tragedy in my own life these days and I only say too much because I’m finding myself at wit’s end and I’m not laughing anymore. It doesn’t feel like dark comedy the way it once did it just feels dark. I was crying at a friend’s house about all the bad things that were happening to me the night we got the phone call that my dad’s depression wasn’t depression at all but a stage four inoperable terminal brain tumour that had imploded and that required emergency surgery to drain the fluid in his brain to stop the horrible pain my father was having for weeks. I fell over when I got the news. My body literally lost its ability to stand up straight. Once that simmered down, there were more deaths, more cancer, more bad news. It seems we couldn’t make it through a day without something adding to the bucket of misery.
And yet, no matter how bad it gets, the moment I think to myself, it can’t get any worse, it does. The other night, after some advice from my counsellor to try to relax a bit more (apparently the massage, meditation and mantras just aren’t enough), to indulge and to do something nice for myself, I decided to buy some music on iTunes and make myself a killer cd. I was in a great mood. My dad had a good night on Monday, he thought he was in Germany but other than that we were able to have a nice chat and what almost seemed like a normal evening with no vomiting and minimal complaints of pain. I had a great day at work. A nice visit with my university roommate and friends I haven’t seen in a while were coming from France for a visit the next morning. I was feeling hungry and actually excited about the day and some of the new projects I’m delving into (writing, catering, etc…). Happy to be moving to the lake next week and ready for red wine and raw meat. I sent a message to a friend about what a good day I was having and how everything would be okay.
So,when I woke up, I decided not to bother making myself a cup of coffee in the morning, decided not to smoke a cigarette with that ‘first day of the rest of your life’ feeling bubbling in my belly, I put the new cd in the player – a CD which I titled ‘MY GOOD LUCK’ after a Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson song, put the car into first and headed to Starbucks to treat myself to a far too expensive cappuccino and maybe I’d even buy a cake and eat it too.
I’m not even two minutes away from the house, driving in the right lane, when I notice two cars stopped in the left lane in front of me. There is a truck and a silver car. The truck is turning left and the silver car is waiting behind him. I proceed through the intersection and BAM! The guy decides just at the moment I am passing to not check his blind spot and sideswipe me head-on on the driver’s side, hard. So hard that my car was slammed, my neck was fucked and I was pushed right off the road and way up onto the curb. I watched the car slow down for a second after the shock of the impact, figuring he would pull over just ahead and come exchange info but instead, sped up and drove off as fast as he could, leaving me with a busted car with a door that won’t open, a brutal headache and unable to turn my neck to the left. This is not happening.
I’m going to be late for work. I’m going to miss my friends from France. I need the car to get to the lakehouse or I haven’t got a way to get there. My dad just paid this car off, he’s going to be so upset. Insurance? Fuck. I don’t even know what to do. I don’t move. I just sit there. I can’t believe this is happening. I wasn’t even able to see if it was a man or a woman, a license plate, nothing. Nothing! Do people really do this? Just leave? What if I were dead or an old woman? They didn’t see me either.
This morning I’ve got whiplash, my neck is aching and my back hurts a lot and I’ve still got a bad headache. We’ve got a personal support worker at the house for a couple of hours this morning so that we have time to buy groceries and go to the pharmacy and all that stuff but instead, we need to take the car into the shop to be repaired and assessed and after spending the day with the police and at the hospital in x-rays yesterday, I’m scheduled for a bunch of physio for the rest of my free time this week. It’s good, I want to get better but a bit annoying to have yet another challenge to overcome.
I’m not feeling suicidal. I don’t want to die but I don’t really want to live either. It’s fucking annoying and without the F-ing incentives: Family, Fun & Friends, it doesn’t really feel worth it. Nothing good happens. Literally, NOTHING. I don’t remember the last time I had ‘fun’. I don’t remember laughing or smiling. I don’t remember that excited feeling in my belly. Food doesn’t taste good. I’ve got no love. No resources. No hopes. No money. I don’t care about anything and I am out of faith. Out of faith in many of the people I really counted on, cared about and cared for. I’m out of hope because it seems just too dangerous and I am out of resources because literally all of these issues have cost a shitload of money, time and energy. I’m tapped.
What I’ve concluded is that survival does not justify faith. If there is a God and he is responsible for all of this, I’m not a fan. I don’t see the lessons here and I don’t think it’s just my impatience kicking in. I feel that things are seriously unfair. I feel that people are not good. I feel that life is pointless. I regret buying into optimistic bullshit as a child. I regret believing in love. I regret having hope and I certainly regret trying to live as a good person. Where has it gotten me? Absolutely nowhere. No one's around. No one calls. And if I died tomorrow, I doubt a soul would take notice.
My close friends are around when they can be but of course every one of them has their own bag of shit to deal with as well. Emotional turmoil, troubled relationships, money problems, cancer. I need people around but people need time to themselves - c'est drole. I keep trying the ones who promised they would be there but they’re either busy with work or just can’t do it. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just another unfortunate truth.
The grief counsellor told me that in his experience, the hardest thing to come to terms with is that the people you expected to be there for you in a crisis were actually the ones who shut down completely or just left you high and dry. That afternoon, I contradicted him saying that I had an especially good group of friends and a support network and that I didn’t think that would be the case with me but he was right, within a matter of days, the phone stopped ringing. Offers for help disappeared and suddenly it wasn't all just hard, I was lonely on top of the rest. Every plan I’ve made, even the unimportant social ones is cancelled, usually only minutes before it’s supposed to happen. People tried their best to be helpful for the first couple of weeks: offering food and the occasional couch to sleep on but I don’t need helpful, I just needed company: friends, family, people around me smiling and talking about nothing. Even if I can’t really listen or participate, I need to not feel more alone. I’m worried that I’m already surpassed the point where that’s possible as I’ve mostly abandoned even the attempt of making plans with people because it’s only another thing to fall through and I’m entirely done with feeling disappointed. There just isn’t time for that on top of the rest. THIS is why I’m moving by myself in the middle of nowhere. There is no point to be in the city, surrounded bymillions of people if all that does is make you feel more lonely. I’ve always been a big believer that solitude and loneliness are two very different entitites. Solitude is wonderful because it’s a choice. Loneliness is standing alone in the middle of masses (a quote from a poem I wrote about depression a few years back which I am attaching to the bottom of this post). I truly believe this. There's no worse feeling than being around a group of people and feeling like you don't belong. Think back to Grade Nine dances. It's that but times a thousand. It's got nothing to do with self esteem, either. It's just life. It's why love is so important. Because THIS feels too bad to describe. I'm sure it's only amplified because of everything that's going on and that if things were easier, none of this would be so un-nerving but right now, it's weighing on my mind and my shoulders and my patience a lot.
Anyway, my good luck...not so good. Obviously. But I’m going to stop caring about it and maybe that will change. But I’m not counting on anything (I say to cover my ass).
I’m not going to say I hope tomorrow will be better; I'll assume it won’t be.
I’m not going to say I know my friends will call me tomorrow; I'll assume they won't and that if they do, it’s only to say they’re sorry but they’re tired or busy or working or can`t make it tonight after all.
I’m not going to say anything else that I hope might happen because Hell, that seems to be my jinx in the first place.
In a sincere attempt to comfort me, another friend this week told me that:
“I believe that like attracks like. Of course right now it's hard for you NOT to see the negative in everything. No fault of your own, but please take care of yourself.”
If I were giving myself advice, I’d most likely come up with one of these too. Bad things happen to good people. It’s not your fault, positivism breeds positivism etc…I already know all – I believe, though I`ve never actually read it, that this is the mantra of The Secret. See the good things happening and they will happen. I tried to go there for the first few tragedies. I genuinely tried not to let life get me down but it doesn’t change the fact that bad things are happening and if like attracks like, I’m a bit fucked. I’m not trying to see the negative in everything at all. At this point, I’m not trying to see anything but tomorrow in front of me. Hell, even that’s an overstatement. I’m looking as far as the next ten minutes only. If I can make it through those, I can make it through everything. I’m trying to keep a smile on my face and do good when I`ve got the strength. I’m trying to say thank you and to be as grateful as can be for the good things I`ve got. I’m trying to keep up with my own creative and work projects and being vocal about my limitations. I`m learning to say `no` and I’m trying to be supportive to friends in need. I’m trying a lot of things so if like attracks like, I`m screwed. I’m absolutely fucked. I`d much rather go with the rock bottom philosophy. That the good thing about everything going wrong is that things can only go more right from here on; I just won`t make the mistake of saying it aloud again.
I don’t know where to go for some peace but I’m hoping that this house on the lake, a little isolation, a little water, a little writing, a little coffee with baileys, no television, phone or internet and nothing but time to read, write and reflect – I`m hoping this brings about a change in me that is positive. It probably won’t (I believe it will but I’m saying that as a ‘just in case’) but who knows, right? For now, I`m trying to take Corrie`s advice and focusing on the fact that my Dad is sleeping through his pain somewhat peacefully today, that the deductible for the insurance is only $200 not to mention the accident could have been far worse, that I`ve got free physio and massage for a few weeks, that I`m lucky I`ve got such understanding bosses, that the friends who aren`t around aren`t worth having around anyhow and the ones who are in my life are truly great people and finally, that the food poisoning I got for my birthday last week helped me forget that no one remembered the sixteenth of August and better still, the vomiting and diherrea has allowed me to fit into my way-too-tight-for-years blue jeans. Like attracts like but with my good luck…Nah, I`m not even going to say it.
I wrote this poem years ago when I was going through a lot of emotions over a troubled relationship. Oddly enough, it's more fitting than ever. Poor Eve. Please don`t let me eat myself to death. And to both Tom Wilson and Corrie and the rest of you, I will do my best to stop complaining about the thorns in my roses and try my best to remember the roses that grow from my prickly thorns and eventually will widen my scope from ten minutes to ten days to ten years again. I'll get there. I will. But I'm not going to lie to you and pretend I'm just fine. Those thorns, they do cut and I'm bleeding and it fucking hurts like Hell.
Winter had gotten her pregnant with possibility
But she lost the baby in the springtime and this,
This third miscarriage would be the end of her.
Eve never liked roses; she preferred daisies.
Roses brought sacred promises and sacred hearts
That were easily broken to bits.
So, Eve plucked them when she found them growing.
She brought them home,
Turned the heat on high and dried them out while
She filled her bath with hot water, then drained it
And filled it again a second time,
Because it wasn’t wasting water
If it made her feel something.
Lately, she'd noticed the birds were talking to her,
Black cats were looking white.
She’d started seeing Hemmingway in the jasper again,
And worried if someone didn’t save her soon
She’d go back to Henry Miller again.
Tortured by the lovers she’d had
And those that had her,
Eve stood alone in the middle of masses
Wondering how she got here and
Who gave her the bad directions?
So Eve went to Paris
Because it was closer to Paradise.
Her suitcase, full of rocks, and Being and Nothingness and
It proved heavy, even for Eve.
Heavy enough without the books she carried in her handbag
But she’d sworn she’d make it through this story,
This time, without skipping
Straight to the end, without cheating, the way she did sometimes
With all the anticipation and good intentions of Christmas morning
And the dénouement that comes on the twenty-sixth of December
With its empty boxes and spoiled magic,
Learning patience was not worth the wait.
Instead, she’s woken up with hope to find her stocking’s full of clementines but
She wanted chocolate.
Still, He didn't listen.
And even if they were cheaper and better for her,
Clementines would never do for Eve.
Clementines were devoured too quickly
By morning, they were gone and forgotten.
But not before she’d peeled them,
Skinned them to their naked core.
Not before she’d sucked out the juice
Mashed up the guts, chewed their intestines and swallowed
Everything but the seed.
Eve always spat out the seed.
Or two, or three or four or more, depending on the fruit
Because the seed always killed those juicy moments
With a bitterness she never anticipated and
The disappointment that came with fruit being substituted for chocolate
And Boxing Day falling on a Monday.
In Paris she learned that morsels of bread could always be summoned up,
To soak up whatever pleasantries were left on the porcelain.
Stale could be brought to life with soft salted butter and somehow
Just crumbs, yesterday’s spoiled loaves, were enough to nourish her.
Enough to fill her up.
But even when she was full, Eve always needed more
So she could clean her plate clean.
It wasn’t politeness that drove her but gluttony.
She would still be hungry even if she were full.
And when the man at the Boulangerie would ask her
If she wanted three croissants for two euros
Or two for one euro eighty, she had no doubt
That twenty centimes could not only buy her happiness
But temporary satiety and also, that she would finish
The whole bag herself before her crème was done.
Still, she had time this time
So, she invited Beaudelaire for a second,
And he said he was dying for a drink and would she like to meet him
In an Artificial Paradise?
They brunched in the park and had wine before noon
And she noticed their noses
Ran at the same time as
They dragged themselves along the same sorry path.
Eve was sure it was love.
Two full stomachs that were
Still empty and manual flashlights
So they wouldn’t get lost together
In the dark.
They were two strangers needing exactly the same thing:
For Milton to be wrong.
She wasn't sure what it meant,
When he hesitated to make love to her for the first time
In French or in English
Huxley had left too many door open
And perception was hard to narrow down.
Eve was afraid of heights because she had fallen twice before,
And she knew bloodied knees
Were more painful than they appeared and that
Praying had gotten her nowhere in the past.
As always, before too long, she caved.
She let him climb her to the top of the catholic church
And when she was able to stand fearless on the steeple
He took her through tunnels and caverns and catacombs
And the park.
If she asked, he always came with her.
She wanted him to come always
Because he brought her chocolate bars in the morning
And taught her to ride a bicycle when she didn’t think
She knew how.
Eve lost her fear and he lost his way
And red was looking blue to him and the blue was turning grey
And there were broken promises and broken condoms and somewhere
Between the Eiffel Tower and Tokyo
In a little hotel near Trocadero,
He gave Eve the child she always wanted.
And when her belly was finally full
He left her and
She lost it.
Eve continued to suck the marrow from life alone,
Only, through a thin straw,
Careful not to let too much happiness through the plastic.
Where she once saw swing sets, she began to see hanging ropes and
The watery tombs of the Seine were calling her vertigo to attention
And attention was called to the sky.
It had laid itself
On the river and she wanted to throw something
Over and up but
All Eve had ever thrown in were towels
And her home beckoned for her with baskets of laundry
Already brimming with broken dreams and dirty sheets
But she knew she would never be in the mood to deal with the wash.
By May Day, Eve started edging herself
Closer and closer towards the grey line of the metro,
Watching the 01 flash to 00 and the people get on and off,
Only remotely surprised that no one else today
Had thrown themselves into the tracks of the Line Three
Between République and Havre Caumartin.
They’d be better off, she felt,
Ending their pain now instead of later
Before all of Paris,
With rush hour as their audience.
Eve knew she should have opted for the Eight.
But she’d never had much luck finding Bonne Nouvelle.
So Eve consoled herself.
She drank demis by the dozen
And laced her tobacco with cocaine
So she could continue drinking
Until the whisky went sour.
Until she was drunk enough to forget
That her eyes had gotten so busy watching watches,
She'd always miss the way day and night made love at six o’clock.
Beaudelaire had broken her heart
So, when a stranger offered Eve a rose in the street;
A red one,
She took it with jaded thanks and instead of keeping it,
Instead of caring for it and helping it grow full of life,
She ate it.
Petal by petal,
Thorn by thorn,
Leafless to lifeless.
That rose disappeared into the six foot hole in her stomach
That she had dug herself to grow potatoes someday.
But potatoes would never grow here.
“He loves me nots” lined the lining of her insides and she didn’t believe
In Princes or Knights or Magic or a Miracle Man anymore.
The rose had made her barren and
She couldn’t eat a damn thing.
And when the man at the Boulangerie offered her four croissants for free
She didn’t even take one and twenty centimes,
It bought her absolutely nothing.
And that afternoon, she knew she’d lost her daisies for good.
Eve couldn't bare another Fall so
She left Paris,
And her rocks,
And her past behind her.
She left the wash to the river,
And the chocolates to the Clementines,
And she emptied her handbag so she could
They found Eve in the park on a Thursday morning
Bleeding on a rosebush.
She had cut out her own heart and eaten it whole.
She had found Paradise in night,
And filled herself pleine,
And her story was finally done.
"Et la vie simplement la vie", they said
When they buried her in the park
Leaving flowers on her tomb.
All the flowers,
They too died before morning came.
Before Beaudelaire came back
With daisies at dawn.
It was too late.
Impatience had already gotten the best of her.
Before she’d given winter the chance to come again
A rose was just a rose and
Eve was as cold as Springtime.