What a damned ridiculous year – thank god for it

depression, Health and Wellness Travel, Life Lessons, mental health, mindfulness, Toronto

2019 started rough. Really rough. My Scottish partner had to move back home for visa reasons. We didn’t know when or even if he’d be back. I had to hold down the fort, our apartment, on my own, without any idea of how to even function all alone.

Surprisingly, after a couple weeks, I was completely fine. In fact, I thought I felt more like myself than I had in ages. That’s because I was doing what I had done best up until that point – run away from sad feelings, escaping through work and parties and drinking and smoking, and anything I could pack into my calendar to be out and about ignoring everything that was painful.

I stopped writing for myself, using my job as an excuse: “I write so much for work, I can’t be fucked to write anymore when I get home.” But I didn’t realize that neglecting my way of reflecting was causing all my negative feelings to swell up and accumulate into a tumbleweed of unresolved trauma that I chalked up to my depression. “My brain is broken.” Is all I could think. “Why can’t I be happy?”

My relationship eventually ended, and when it did, I went through the motions. I cried. I resented and eventually relented. But I never deeply evaluated why it happened. In the end, we were both shitty to each other. We couldn’t make long distance work because we were both too selfish to properly keep in touch. My addictions (there are a few, less substance, more emotional), got the better of me and he withdrew. I’ve thought about it now, and I know what we both did wrong.

That said, I pushed all those negative feelings away too, hopping on dating apps and immediately jumping into something I forced seriousness on far too quickly. It’s all a cycle of habit that I’ve finally started to work on, with the real tough self-reflection shit beginning on my solo travel adventure in Arizona.

At the beginning of every year, I write a list of all the great things that happened to me in the year previous. On January 1, 2020, I did it differently. First, I wrote down everything I went through in 2019, all the hardships. I faced a lot, more than I could’ve imagined. Relationship issues. Apartment issues. Family issues. Mental health issues (big one).

Really, we all faced intense hardships last year. And every year gets harder. But I’m finding, as I age, I’ve been getting stronger and better at dealing with the shit that’s thrown at me. I think that’s true for everyone too. The key is in being mindful of and grateful for the good things, no matter how big or small. That was what was beautiful about starting with the negatives of last year. In comparison, I noticed that the fun times, the healthy times, the times of self-discovery and self-improvement and times of pure joy, those far outnumbered the painful ones.

So, I implore you to do the same. Write down what’s been hard for you the last little while. Yeah, it fucking sucks, and some of these hardships will sting you for a damned long time, maybe even forever. But never forget, that list of the great shit you’ll write, the one with the beautiful moments and powerful learnings, no matter how big or small it is, should forever be your reason for pushing forward. Beauty lies in the endless opportunities for happiness ahead of us, and that’s a perfect reason to smile and work on getting yourself to a good place.

How I’m really feeling right now

Life Lessons, Living Abroad, Poetry, Toronto

When I left Edinburgh, I cried tears not only for what I had to leave behind but also for everything I came to experience, to love. For all that I gained. But where is that woman I became so proud of overseas? Only remnants of her are left. I feel broken into hundreds of little pieces that I’ve been trying to force fit into a shape which no longer exists.

If a flower isn’t growing how it should, you move it to more favourable conditions for it to flourish. That’s a big lesson I’ve learned, one that seems to cross my mind regularly now, especially after travelling to Halifax and feeling real air, ocean air, salt spitting against my skin. Being so far away from it for so long has left me with a hole in my heart, the depth of which I can’t begin to describe. I know in my soul that there is more adventure and happiness ahead, but oftentimes the big city wares me down to believe I’ve reached my maximum potential and all that’s left is utter stagnancy.

Lately I’ve been afraid of being honest on my blog about how hard it’s been for me in the big city. I’ve tried to maintain an air of positivity about my personal purgatory but sadly, the happiness I feel here appears in small waves stifled by the overwhelming loneliness that comes from living in a place where people are often so disconnected from each other.

I realize it’s all about perspectives. Maybe I just feel this way now because I had a lovely weekend away in a place that has always felt more like home than Toronto. Maybe tomorrow everything will be easier. Depression has a way of doing that to you – suddenly tricking you to believe you’re much less happy than you are in a specific moment.

But the bottom line is, my soul is aching for more than what I think I can find where I’m waiting now, and I reckon it’s only a matter of time before the hundreds of pieces I’ve broken into fly too far away for me to bring back. The pieces that believe in the power of nature, loving everyone and smiling from dusk ‘til dawn every day.

If you’re reading this, I’m okay. Don’t ache for me or anyone else struggling a bit to cope. We’ve made it this far and we’ll continue on. Ache for the experiences you never had because you were too afraid to try. Ache for the people you never got to know because you were too proud to ask for their friendship. Ache for the love you never let yourself feel because anger is easier to bare than the possibility of being hurt. Ache for your life and strive to take the steps you never took before to move forward. That’s all I can do right now. Ache for the life I know would make me happy and strive to make it there as soon as I can.

My partner in crime is about to leave. And while we anticipate this next big step, it’s hard to accept the fact that someone who loves more parts of me than I do won’t be around for a long time. Before we even really got to know each other, he taught me more about myself than anyone ever has – about my propensity to dwell on my imperfections and about the depression that lurks within dark forgotten corners of my mind.

As we struggle to make something work, the romanticism of falling in love with someone from somewhere else has completely faded. The magic from our love has been beaten out of us by arbitrary borders that, from historical evidence, have done nothing but divide us and promote hatred and fear of others. Every time we take a step forward, we fall back several feet into the unforgiving concrete that is thousands of pages of paperwork, all written to keep families apart and force so many to suffer.

This may be the most poetic piece I’ll ever allow anyone to read. I don’t normally write like this, but to be honest, it’s the only way I can really describe what I’ve been feeling. Poetry is overindulgent. It allows writers to brood and extend their verses to anyone willing to listen and feel sympathy. I’ve never been much for producing it, let alone presenting it. But after hearing the pleas of others suffering as I do, as so many do, I’ve granted myself clemency to write freely and put forth the following poem. It’s a snapshot of a hard time from a couple years back. Reading it now and knowing I overcame one of my most prominent roadblocks, gives me hope that I’ll make it through this episode and be fine. It gives me hope that if I overcame my worst, my friends can too. My family can too. My love can too. You can too.

 

Low point

My brain currently thinks and feels in snippets.

Little moments that flash through my mind like lightning.

Quickly bursting and dissipating

leaving me feeling anxious and uncomfortable in my own skin.

I don’t trust myself anymore.

I don’t know myself anymore.

I don’t laugh anymore.

I just feel.

Desperately feel my insides eroding

and my happiness evaporating

and everything I love slipping through my fingers.

My eyes are open but sometimes I can’t focus on anything.

It’s like there’s a glass wall between reality and me

and I’m floating out into nothingness.

Put a Big Bird in a Small Cage

Life Lessons, Prose, Toronto

Since moving back to the hustle and bustle of the big city, I’ve not been doing much blogging. But that’s not to say I haven’t been doing much writing. I’ve successfully made a career out of something I both am good at and like to do. And I’m happy about that, for the most part.

You see, that whole annoying belief people have about doing what you love for work seemingly holds some validity. Once you turn something you love into a job, it becomes just that – a job. I’ve not been finding solace in writing for myself anymore, simply because I do it far too often for other people.

I am sad about all this. I miss seeing beautiful things and pouring my heart out in to a notebook. How am I to write poetry and prose about the beauty of nature from behind the walls of a concrete jungle?

Okay, yeah I know, I’m being overdramatic. Really, Toronto’s been good to me. And even though the big city can sometimes be overwhelming and cold, I’ve also met incredible people I’m lucky to call friends and have found a comfort in knowing there’s always something going on.

I’ve just moved to a new area steeped in colours, curious architecture and best of all, interesting and “interesting” people. There’s never a dull moment or dull wall this side of town (see graffiti photos below) and I’m feeling incredibly fortunate to have found such a great wee home.

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Sadly, besides all this greatness, I’m still having trouble coming up with innovative ways to inspire myself creatively. I’ve spent so long drawing inspiration from mountains and oceans and wildlife and inactive volcanoes, finding it in city streets spattered with litter, vomit and all matter of atrocious things has proven difficult.

But I recently felt a spurt of hope after listening to an old favourite tune. It’s called Big Bird in a Small Cage by Patrick Watson (shout out to Mel Lyon for introducing me all those years ago).

The song has always been one that I sing along to but never fully understand.

A line in the chorus goes: “you put a big bird in a small cage and he’ll sing you a song.”

In my mind, the whole song is about the birth of art and how perhaps the most beautiful creations come from a place of perceived suffocation. For the last couple years, my creative periods have occurred during a significant transition or when I have immersed myself in nature. Though big changes and wide-open spaces have played a large role in my soul-searching, I’m realising that being in a place I find small and uncomfortable may in fact lead me to produce more beautiful work than any amount of running space has granted me in the past. Perhaps it’s where we find ourselves least comfortable that we will learn the most.

So friends, I’ve turned a new leaf since deciding that my small cage (Toronto) won’t stop this big bird from writing and singing and blabbering on about things I’m sure you’ve all already figured out. But, you know me. It takes me a long time to come to simple conclusions.

Tori, signing off for now but not for good.

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