Saturday, 8 August 2015

Suddenly, not kids anymore

A friend from cadets passed away last night of cancer after a nine-year battle. She was in her late 40s. She fought the good fight and lost, sadly, as so many do who have been inflicted with this terrible scourge. But she was too young. She never got the chance to see her children grown into adulthood and see what a difference she made in their lives, she never got to have grand-kids, she never got to retire and enjoy life. Like so many before her, she was taken much too soon from all of us.

That really hits hard. 

Your friends, like your family, are supposed to be immortal. You should never outlive them. Or so we think to ourselves. Over the years I've seen many people pass on from this life, one that stands out is an old friend who died in her sleep at 34 years old. Literally just stopped being alive. It took almost a year to figure out why she died. At 34. Then there was Keith Pierre, a big healthy active fun-loving guy, who dropped dead at 29 in front of his wife in the kitchen. His heart gave out. We all have stories like that, we've all been affected by the sudden loss of not just family, but friends. Old or young, it doesn't matter, everyone's mortal. People die in accidents, illness, suicide, homocide, any number of reasons, and we've all had someone sometime in our lives who have moved on. And we mourn forever. 

Geri-Ann Hurt's passing will be no different in how it affects me, compared to the rest, it will hurt, and it will bring home a terrifying truth, we all have to go sometime, this life is temporary. But her death also brings home memories, good times in cadets at 12 years old, when she was a little older and one of the senior cadets who taught and mentored me. Then later as a fellow officer, a one-time commanding officer, and casually over the years, just a friend.

We've kept in touch since the teenage years, there's a core group of around 60 from that era who have become more brothers and sisters than friends. We've attending each other's weddings, our kid's events, had the chance to mentor each other's children as they joing the cadet movements, and now, like many times before, funerals. It's not the way we want to see each other again, as the older we get the less frequent our gatherings, but it has to be. Ironically last night I posted on the group that we need to get together again soon, at least for beer and wings or something. This morning I heard the news, my first thought was "not like this". 

It sucks getting older. We're all middle age now, some have retired, some have faded away. But we all want to keep the memories of our childhood together alive, and that means sharing with each other in whatever way we can. We have an inate desire to maintain our youth and refuse to ever give into the aging process, that philosophy keeps us young. At our last gathering we all acted like the kids we were, being goofy and immature, we were all just a little grayer and our bodies didn't look like they used to, but the youth in us came through when we met again. That's the last time I saw Geri-Ann. She was sick that day, her doctor gave her six months. She walked slowly, she looked gaunt, and a friend had to help her along, but she came out. Maybe to say hello old friends just one more time. She lasted three years from that point. She fought it with all she had, she held onto her youth with every fibre of her being. Like we all do. 

Now we have to move on, back to the reality of middle-age life. We're not kids anymore, as much as we try, we just aren't. That doesn't mean we should never stop trying, the old adige is you're only as young as you feel, that's true, but given that some days I feel 85. Other days, 12. We must maintain the balance to keep our sanity. That balance involves a heavy dose of old friends. Without them, who's going to remind you of all the stupid things you did!

As we mourn for Geri-Ann we must find hope that our own lives will work out for the better. We must move on and live. All the while remembering our friend, and others, who have passed on. We must remember the good times we had, and try whenever possible to relive them. Only then will we be satisfied that at the end of our lives we will have no regrets. Only then will we feel that we truly lived. 

We're not kids anymore. Every person who has touched us and then passed away reminds us of that. But we should never give into the idea of mortality. If we think about our own time, we stop living and thinking about why we should live - our family and our friends. In many cases, as it was with Geri-Ann, those ideals are interchangable.

Sleep well Geri-Ann, we'll miss you, and we'll celebrate you.

Monday, 3 August 2015

American History Part One, by Donald J. Trump

Part One - The Early Years, 1776-1815ish

In the beginning there was darkness, and then God created America, and he saw that it was good. It was 1776. I wasn't there, but I think it was about then. There were other people around the world, but they weren't American, so they don't matter. The American people were hard working folks, and loved their country. But the British were there, and kept pissing them off. George Washington, a great American, said, "throw the tea in the harbour! That'll teach them to tax us!" The great American people did as he requested, they threw all the tea in the harbour at Boston, and taught the British a lesson they soon wouldn't forget. That was the start of the Tea Party, which stands to this day as a great institution.

A group of men led by Thomas Jefferson sat down one day to make a declaration to keep the British out for good. Men like Ben Franklin, John Hancock, John Adams, Benjamin Harrison and a bunch more. Then they wrote down the greatest of documents, the Constitution, which was almost word for word from Christian teachings. These were great men. except for Hancock, he was a dummy, didn't really do much but somehow has a bank named after him.

The head of the British was George III, he was a nazi, his name was George Saxe-Coburg Gotha for Christ's sakes! He was also insane, he was a dummy. He did a lot of dumb things like tax the good American people, and constantly sent his army here looking for a fight. So we gave them one. They started the war by killing a couple of our guys, who were only defending their second ammendment rights. That wasn't fair, so we kicked all the British out. Many men became heros in that struggle, but some didn't, as they got captured. George Washington led the army, and after continued as president, retiring to Mount Vernon, where he lives today in quiet retirement. A great American.

The British fled to Canada and invaded them. The Canadians took them in because they're weak. The British under George III easily took control of the country and used it as a staging ground for attacks on the USA for the next 30 years. They kept coming and taking our trade goods, they made friends with the savages in the west country (I think that was around Indiana or something, I don't know, I wasn't there). The indians, under control of the British kept attacking hard working Americans and killing them. They even killed African-Americans, who were just simply trying to keep to themselves and be the hard-working people they are. The indians had to be stopped or they would threaten the USA. So we dealt with them. Eventually we bought land from them and we learned to live in peace, the indians decided to create their own little communes where they were most happy.

Around 1812 the British invaded the USA again. This time they used Canada as a staging point and attacked Detroit (I'm sure that's why Detroit is a mess today), they attacked Buffalo and finally Washington itself. President Madison decided to do something about it, and sent our great army into Canada to stop them. When the British attacked Washington, they tried to burn the White House, but Madison's wife Dolly - another great American; stopped them, and put out the fire, saving the famous picture of Washington. The British kept a' coming. They attacked New Orleans, and New York. They attacked northen Michigan, and some other places, I'm not sure.

The American army under Madison fought them back at every turn. They forced the Brits back to Niagara, where they saw the mighty falls there, and decided it was a good place (after the Brits were slaughtered of course), to set up some nice hotels, golf courses and restaurants so people could visit and see the great American sight for itself.

Eventually, the American army cornered the British at New Orleans in 1815 and wiped them out, sending a clear message to the rest of the world that this was our country and nobody was going to try to be a dummy and take over. We kicked out the foreigners, we kicked out the immigrants that were doing us harm by raping and killing Americans. We taught everyone a lesson that the USA was the best!

So an era of peace emerged after the British were taught a valuable lesson not to mess with us. We entered an era of prosperity where all God-fearing American men (white, male, between the ages of 18-65) could live in peace, vote for the best people, create great things, and make lots of money. Everyone was rich, just like me. Nobody wanted for anything because there was nobody there to take it from them.

Those ideals set down in these early days laid the groundwork for our great nation. A nation of wealthy industrialists and other hard-working people who just wanted to live in peace by themselves. In the following years the USA was tested over and over again by others in the world who were jealous and wanted a piece of us. In my next edition I'll cover more of what makes America great.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Falling onto the bandwagon

The past couple of years have been tedious. And stupid.

I stopped treatment a while back, stopped going to my psychiatrist (didn't help that he was arrested for sexual assault), stopped taking my meds, stopped going to therapy, stopped everything. I guess for a time I thought I didn't need it, I guess I thought I was as normal as anyone on the street, that however, isn't saying much.

I was wrong. So very, stupidly insanely wrong.

I never stopped having episodes of panic and anxiety, I never stopped fearing opening the mail for fears of what lay within. Everyday was a constant battle just to get through the day, and in most cases I won the battle. Most days were mundane and routine in that I'd get up, kill the internet, do some chores, go for a walk, talk to people, the everyday ordinary crap we all do. But every so often the little evil voice in my head told me I needed to be curled up in a ball on the couch, cowering and shivering like a scared child. That evil voice dictated terms to my life about every second week. A painful reminder of the illness that consumes me.

Most times I dealt with the issues the ways I'd learned from therapy. I'd self-talk, engage in breathing exercises, focal point exercises, and the rest. These techniques work well, but invarariably I end up asleep on the couch, usually for at least an hour, as the physical toll from these attacks took hold. They're exhausting to say the least, fucking annoying to say the most.

But no meds. Last October I stopped taking them. This decision, whether good or not, was made for several reasons, the primary of which is that I felt like a drugged zombie. I took at least 12 pills a day to handle everything from anxiety and depression, to mood stabilizing, which is essentially a pill to keep me from doing something stupid, like running down the street naked yelling I'm the President! Vote for me!

It worked for a while. The cobwebs cleared a little, and I had days of wonderful monotenous civility. Other days, not so much. I know I need to be back on something, being unmedicated and unsupervised for so long are dangerous. Three days ago it happened. I got stupid. And I seriously regret it. After the incident I immediately realized my folly, and lay crying on the kitchen floor, almost hyperventalating. Extreme thoughts went through my mind, every emotion possible, from anger (at myself) to despair. I was cooked. I'd done it, I'd hit bottom.

I immediately decided to put an end to this. I need to get back on the bandwagon and get back to where I was. I made calls, visited a crisis councillor, and made appointments. I also stepped up the efforts to get a new psychiatrist. I need to fix the damage I caused before it gets any worse.

One problem with a mentally unstable person is situational. If a person is not comfortable with the situation they're in, things will get worse. For that reason I must exercise, get out, talk to people, engage in activities, just simply do stuff. Stuff is good. Stuff keeps me grounded. Over the past couple years I have tried different stuff, I taught myself web design, I volunteered my services to different places, did some home repairs, just stuff. But I don't see it working as I'm still having powerful and painful episodes. Yes, ok, I'm not on meds, I know that will help, but so will stuff. I think the problem lies in the fact that I'm not doing stuff I want to do, productive, thought provoking, inspiring stuff, stuff I want to do, not have to do.

I'm opening my horizons to this idea now, I feel the need to look outside my self-imposed comfort zone and grab onto new opportunities. Opportunities are not coming to me, so I will chase them. I have no idea where that chase will lead, and frankly the whole idea kinda scares me because these walls have become a sanctuary as much as a prison. Stepping out the door and doing something I'm not familiar with or uncomfortable with scares the crap out of me, but I feel I must take that challenge on. I won't kick this issue, ever. It's with me for life, but I have to change the way in which I manage my own condition. Only with a new outlook and new challenges will I completely round out my treatment.

There are three important elements to any mental health treatment regimen; 1, Medication 2, Therapy (group or solo) and 3, Self-help. Number three is the most difficult and most important. Any person suffering from this must take ownership and do things for themselves, in whatever capacity is possible. Whether it be community centre oriented activities, exercise, work, coping strategies, hobbies, it doesn't matter. Whatever works. There's the problem with me, (on top of the fact that I started ignoring 1 and 2); I haven't found what works for me. I need to explore possibilities, I need to try and if need be, fail. But I won't know what works until I try. That very idea, scares the hell out of me. I started this morning. I started by pouring a coffee, and staring out the window imagining the big beautiful world outside. I imagined what's there, and put myself into a mindset of "Just find it".

I need to fall back onto the bandwagon, for I will not let this beat me. I will beat it.

Let's see where I end up.

Cheers.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Family

I met dad's family, finally.

For the first time in my life, I've met an entire side of the family I only knew over brief conversations covering vast distances and now, I've finally met them. Not surprisingly, they're really nice people!

The reasons I never met them before are personal, so I won't go into it. Nothing nefarious or out of the ordinary, I'd just like to keep the reasons to myself. But I've always wanted to, and obviously they felt the same way. My cousin and her daughter flew here from Scotland a couple weeks ago, taking a huge leap of faith in the process. They didn't know what to expect from us, and vice-versa. However they came here, and we had a wonderful time. Never having been to Canada before it was an adventure for them both. We showed them around our little piece of the planet, they took the opportunity to experience Toronto, had dinner in the CN tower, saw the Falls, all the stuff that's on the mandatory tourist brochures. While here, we took them into the county, a couple festivals, the casino, and of course, Canada Day festivities. What I enjoyed most of all though was much simpler - sitting on the porch getting to know them.

When you become disconnected from anyone it tends to hurt. Losing a family member or a friend pains the heart, and if you have the chance to see someone after a long period of time it warms it. True friends never really leave you, they simply take a sabbatical. Over the years I've lost friends and family to death, moving away, or simply drift. In every case there ends up being a whole in my heart. When I do get the chance to see them again I get giddy as a kid. We catch up on old times and plan new ones. The ones that have passed on I remember with fond affection and keep them close.

But how about the ones you've never met?

How do you react? How do you proceed? Does it start with a hug? A handshake? It was actually awkward when they pulled up. Yes, I had talked to them, but I hadn't met them. When the time came, it was a hug. However, it was still awkward. They're family, but in essence, strangers.

We started talking. And talking, and yet more talking. Funny thing is though, that conversation I had expected about the family roots didn't really materialize. For one reason or another it didn't seem as important as simply getting to know them. It's not like I had any intention of attacking her and having her spout off about everyone else over there, and likewise we didn't go into those that were here all that much, it simply wasn't the reason they came here. It was for us, as well as themselves. The adventure of it all, the breaking bread with a line of family neither of us knew existed a short few years ago. It could have been awkward moving on, but it wasn't. It seemed just right. It seemed like they'd always been there, and actually, they have!

Now that they've gone home and life returns to normal I have a melancholy feeling. It seems anticlimactic really, all the hype leading up to the visit seems so long ago now. All the plans and preparations seemed to fade when they arrived into a pool of simple possibilities, the more important outcome was family, not destinations. Family we've always actually had, I just didn't have the opportunity to pour them a wine, and share a laugh together. To talk, to meet. That's the memory I'll cherish; not the parades, the fireworks, the party, or anything else. It was the talk.

So Pandora's Box is open.

We now know what we've always suspected - there's more to this little unit than we knew, and now they are a truly tangible piece of us. I hope they feel likewise. Now onward and upward. I plan on being in Scotland in a couple years to meet more Wilsons. I told my son in a couple years he's climbing Ben Nevis with me, and my daughter wants to hunt for Dragons in Wales. We'll get there.

There's one more challenge before that though, I have cousins in New Brunswick I've never met. I've always known of them, unlike my recent guests, but we've never met. I need to rectify that for the same reasons. Family, whether near or far is much too valuable a commodity to overlook. It's our glue, it's our reason for being. Nobody should ever not know their roots, or those who share it.

We take our immediate family for granted, and in many cases turn our backs on them. The old saying goes that you can pick your friends but... In any case, it doesn't matter how close you are emotionally, family will be there for you when you need them. You really can't count on politicians and metre maids. Or garbagemen. Family is who will be at your side when you need them, family is where your comfort lies.

Family is for life.

Cheers.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The closing stretch

This spring has been a whirlwind of activity for me. Trying to accomplish everything that needs to be done before my cousin comes in from Scotland for a visit, a cousin I've never met no less. I had almost three months notice of her impending visit to our fair land, and today marks one week til she and her daughter land in Toronto. One week. Oh crap.

I've used their visit as a motivator to get something done around here, and as they're both staying with us for a couple weeks, the house should at least be livable! Setting up two bedrooms is easy enough, as was fixing various items around the house that needed attention for a while, but kept going unnoticed. The back yard has been rebuilt, and the patio awaits a good party. This week's load will be 10 bags of yard waste, it's amazing how fast that crap pile up. Last night we had a dry run for the backyard's entertainment potential, hosting a bunch of my wife's friends for a summer kick-off BBQ. It was nice. However, I had to prompt them to sit on the patio, they began the night quite comfortably perched on the porch.

Other things have not been going as well. Certain plans have been waylaid by fate, or karma, depending on how you think about it. The intention was to pick them up in Toronto, then head for the Falls for a day or two before driving back home. But, no car. My car, after finally going back on the road after eight months, has messed up front bearings, and is not driving 1,000 kms. The other potential ride is now the subject of a GM recall. So, the train it is. Hopefully we'll be able to take them to Niagara on the way home instead.

Getting people's schedules in tune with each other has also proved fun. We all work different schedules and it's a foregone conclusion that while our guests are here someone will be at work. Vacation days are booked for a few, and we are planning outings that fit everyone's lives, but that comes at a cost. Someone's going to lose, we can't please everyone, and nor should we. Two weeks is lots of time to get involved. So we keep changing things. We keep adjusting dates, and just when we think we've got our shit together, something creeps up and forces our hand again. C'est la vie. We take it as it comes, regardless of when things happen, it's our intent that our visitors are given the run of the place and made to feel at home, regardless of plans. Plans, like rules, are meant to be flexible.

My fear is that we don't show them a good time. I fear our hospitality won't be up to the challenge. Canada is a wonderful place, it's huge, it's historical, it's friendly, somewhat entertaining, and so much more. It also can be boring. Really mind-numbingly boring. The train ride down here will put them to sleep before they even see Windsor. Four hours of flat farmland moderately interspersed with the occasional town or city, which will feature short buildings, flat roads, and round people. Windsor has a lot going on in the next few weeks with Canada Day, Summerfest, Carousel of Nations, and more, but nothing world class. Nothing mind-bending. Sorry, no running of the bull here. I may be taking this stuff for granted as It's always been here with my, so maybe they'll find this stuff interesting. I bloody well hope so.

My fear is that they don't enjoy themselves. My fear is that we fail as hosts. I'm new at this, I've never introduced someone to my country!

It won't fail. We'll make sure a good memorable time is had by all, including those of us providing the hospitality. I look forward to meeting my cousins, seeing family photos, hearing stories about dad's kin. It's an exciting thing. For better or worse we will make them feel like Canada is a great place to visit.

Only a few more tidbits to take care of before next week. Only a few more one-time only tasks. But they're not small, and I'm wasting time writing this instead of doing them!

Cheers.