On the other side of struggle is always something better

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It took me four long hours to write this post, but this is what I want to say. Life is not easy. Just when everything feels like it is finally going in the right direction, life is that hologram in your window, shaking its head, saying, “I don’t think so”. Life is ironic and unpredictable, but on the other side of every struggle there is always something better. And that something better is the thing we need to hold on to with every bit of strength we have.

I am no stranger to struggle. I have had my fair share of the boots of life kicking me in the face. But, for as many times as I thought the struggle had gotten the better of my resolve, things would always begin to look up. That something better always hung precariously in the distance but gradually inched its way closer to me every day. I let myself believe in the promise of it and I began to know in my heart it was there. And it always was.

Dealing with struggle is not always about pushing through, it’s about letting people in. It’s not about putting on a brave face, it’s about being strong enough to cry in front of people when you need to cry. And dealing with struggle is about knowing, and really believing in your heart, there is something better on the other side of that battle.

Don’t give up. Don’t let anyone or anything other than you win that battle. The world tries to break everyone but the ones who beat the struggle are the ones who take all of their pieces and rebuild a new world and a new happiness. Struggle is strong. You are stronger.

 

Adventures in Day Camp

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When my family moved out of the city, I was seven years old. We had previously spent every summer at our family cottage on Lake Rosseau and this cottage became our permanent residence until we purchased a four-season home in the same town. We still spent every summer at the cottage, a five-minute drive from our house, and life was great.

A few years after we had moved, leaving many of our family members behind, my parents thought it would be nice if I spent some of my summer holiday with my grandparents…..in the city! We lived in one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in Canada and they wanted me to spend part of the best time of the year in Muskoka in the concrete jungle! I was too young at the time to question the reason behind their decision and, with packed suitcase in hand, I climbed into the back seat of the station wagon to head back to my hometown.

The small silver lining of me spending some of my summer holiday in the city was the fact that I had been signed up to go to a day camp. When I was given the run-down of all the awesome activities I would be doing, I had pushed aside the memories of spending most of my summer days in the lake and was actually excited to go to camp.

On the first day of camp, my Nana made sure I had a good breakfast, helped me to organize my backpack and walked me to the bus stop for 8:00 am. Together we stood and waited and, as the bus came around the corner, I could feel my excitement building. We said goodbye and, from the bus, I waved to her as excitedly as Forrest Gump waved hello to Lieutenant Dan from his shrimp boat.

The day camp was a fifteen-minute drive from my grandparent’s apartment. Even at my young age and not wearing a watch, I knew the bus ride had exceeded fifteen minutes. The outlines of the city buildings had faded into the background and the landscape outside my bus window began to look much more like my scenic cottage-country home. When the bus finally arrived at its final destination about an hour later, we were in the middle of nowhere.

Unsure of what was happening, I was the last kid to exit the bus. The Camp Director was standing at the bottom of the steps with her clipboard in hand and when I gave her my name, she looked at the sheet in front of her and looked back at me. She lifted the page, looked at another sheet and looked back at me. My name was nowhere to be found in the list of children expected to be at this day camp. Unlike all the other kids who seemed enthusiastic about their surroundings, inwardly, I was starting to panic.

I was taken to the Camp Office and I fidgeted in my seat while the staff tried to find my grandparents contact information. Had the internet been invented in the 1970’s, this process would have been far more expedited than it was. I don’t recall all the details of the investigation, but I do know they eventually found my camp information in my backpack and discovered I had boarded the 8:00 am bus when I should have actually boarded the 9:00 am bus in the same location. I spent the day with a group of kids I would never see again and was actually thrilled to get back to the city.

The next day, I boarded the 9:00 am bus for my day camp and loved every minute of it. The added bonus at the camp I was meant to attend in the first place was the fact that we learned to sing all the songs from the musical Annie. Looking back at it now, I think the payback for my Nana putting me on the wrong bus was the fact that I sang Annie songs at the top of my lungs for the two-and-a-half hour drive from Oakville to Muskoka to return me to my parents. I’m sure there were many moments when my Grampa thought of throwing himself out of the moving vehicle onto the highway just for a moment of peace.

To this day, I can’t hear those songs without picturing myself with my arm hanging over the front seat and singing like I was Little Orphan Annie on Broadway.

 

The aptly named distraction called Netflix

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I can weakly defend the recent abandonment of my writing by calling Netflix ‘research’ but I don’t think that defense would hold up in a court of law. While I am gathering some very useful character traits and background ideas for my second book, I have yet to take those ideas and weave them into my characters.

My current book involves a serial killer but he is not fully a product of my imagination. He is loosely based on a child I met two years ago. This child did atrocious things to smaller living creatures and he stared at me with a look that turned my blood cold. He was only eight years old at the time. Perhaps my inability to focus on molding this character comes from my hope I am wrong about this little boy but everything about his mannerisms has been documented by behavior analysts and related to the psyche of a fledgling serial killer. I have had many discussions with professionals in related fields about this child’s actions and they have all expressed great concern about his tendencies toward violence and the path he is potentially going to follow.

This brings me back to my reason for this post. Netflix lives up to their name by casting a wide net of flicks and offering a profusion of shows and documentaries about many topics. If the authorities were to look at a list of the shows I have viewed recently, my name could potentially show up on their watch list. I spent the last couple of nights watching a series of shows about Ted Bundy and I am going to delve into a few more documentaries about real serial killers so my writing has an honesty to it and doesn’t come across as manufactured. I want this character to have deep emotion, to be real and to be frightening, and I want the reader to have an apprehension because they believe this character could be someone they have met before.

If you are looking for me, I will be caught in the net again, hoping these tortured human beings can help me understand how their minds work so the fiction of Lark will be as frightening as the reality of the heinous crimes they committed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The things that go quiet in the night

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The time on the clock read 2:29 am. The waning moon shared its luminescence with the corner of my bedroom and my eyes blinked repeatedly at the harsh difference between the blackness behind my eyelids and the moonlight permeating my bedroom.

love the moon

The sound that woke me was shrill and I tried to convince myself it had followed me from a nightmare. The uneasiness of my dog confirmed the polar opposite of my theory and together we looked out the bedroom window to discern where the awful noise was coming from.

My initial thought was that a baby raccoon was lost and crying out for its mother but it is the dead of winter and they are most likely sound asleep in their dens. As the cry continued, it became much more visceral and intense. My tension escalated and I could not drown out the suffering sounds of nature. There was nowhere I could protect myself from the wretched sound of terror.

The cry eventually lost its intensity and that sound of terror became more and more staggered until it was replaced by the silence of the night.  It took me a long time to get back to sleep.  Between my over-active imagination and my staunch passion for the television show Criminal Mind’s, I’m sure I had created over 200 plausible crime scenes by the time I finally nodded off.

I can only hope whatever predator was outside has moved on to a new hunting ground. And I sincerely wish we will not have to, ever again, listen to the unfortunate nocturnal requiem of the untimely death of wildlife that once felt safe to roam through our woods.

Walking in a winter WTF?

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Dear Mother Nature and Old Man Winter,

While I can appreciate your exuberant spirit this time of year, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my lack of sharing your enthusiasm to the extent at which you seem so willing to share with the rest of us.

Although I too enjoy a white Christmas, your overwhelming desire to coat the world in an abundant layer of winter frosting has become exaggerated to the point of becoming meddlesome.  The charming Northern snow globe in which we reside has been clamped into a paint shaker and set to convulse at an alarming rate, leaving us armed with nothing but shovels and good intentions.

Similar to Anthony Michael Hall’s geeky character in The Breakfast Club, I have been assigned the task of writing a letter on behalf of the disgruntled local residents who share my sentiments.

I could write an essay telling you how much this ridiculous amount of snow is defining our lives, but it wouldn’t matter.  You would still see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. Through this barrage of lake effect snow and churning vortexes of flakes, you found out that each one of us is a brain for surviving the storm, a princess for not wanting to drive in it, a criminal for stealing a few extra minutes hiding under the covers, an athlete for shoveling for three days straight and a basket case for forgetting all those other things and thinking it is still beautiful outside.

morning

Does this answer my question?  No.  But I certainly feel a little better having rested between the previous and the next battle with the effing shovel.

Sincerely yours,

The Winter Club

PS: I had to cancel my appointment to get my snow tires on because of you two!

The things I wouldn’t change about myself

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After reading a post by Little Steps to Somewhere, the concept of having the ability to change your appearance was passed between the two of us.  It made me think about what I would change about my appearance if I were the artist wielding the tools that would carve my body into existence.

Initially my mind began to compose a list of the physical attributes I would alter but then my reasoning got in the way. Due to a sense of logic beyond my grasp, I firmly believe I was meant to plod through my existence in this body, blemishes and all.  Sure my ankles and wrists are more suited to someone who plays football, but this body is me and the embodiment of many lessons I have learned along the way, good and bad.  I gained my strength through my imperfections.

Raggedy_Ann

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This body has taught me acceptance and empathy, understanding and insight.  I am a Raggedy Ann in a Barbie Doll world and that suits me just fine.  I am comfortable in my skin because that thick layer of protection has guarded me and served me well.  I have earned each and every scar.  I have learned what ugliness truly is and it does not have anything to do with not having a perfect body.  Ugliness has everything to do with never learning acceptance of those who are different and never showing compassion where compassion is due.

My arms jiggle but nobody notices that when they feel comfort in my embrace.  My cheeks are chubby but that shortcoming is shrouded by my genuine smile.  My mid-section carries extra weight but that casing does its best to guard the heart that always finds its way to my sleeve.  And my eyes tend to leak on a regular basis but I would rather err on the side of human, having cause to buy an extra box of tissues, than to never show any emotion.

So the chisel can stay hidden in the tool chest.  No one part of me is perfect but when I look at the sum of all of my parts, I am pretty happy with the total.

It’s okay to say “no”

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“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” ~ Steve Jobs

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“NO” is the most common word to ever come out of a child’s mouth.  It’s an instinctual response to any question or suggestion for anyone under the age of three and that response is never second-guessed.  So why now, when we have the ability to reason and make an informed decision, based on what is best for us, do we find it so hard to utter that simple word and mean it?

“No” is a complete sentence.  It does not require any justification, nor does it need an explanation.  It is a succinct and pithy response that needs no further words to make its meaning understood.

For us to procure as much happiness as we can from each day we are afforded in this lifetime, we must learn to make our decisions by putting our happiness first.  We must set boundaries for ourselves and embrace and listen to the most important voice we will ever hear – our own.  It’s human instinct to want to please other people by saying yes, but how much of ourselves are we giving up by agreeing so quickly and not allowing that inner voice to offer its opinion.

If the answer in your heart is ‘no’, find a gentle way of not accepting the offer or challenge and let that three-year old voice in your head speak for both of you. That voice is giving you some sage advice. You should take it.