Damaged Goods

Once upon a time

There lived a young woman who’s heart was growing on the outside

You may have heard similar stories of babies born like this

But this young lady’s story was unique

You see, she was born with her heart perfectly intact and enclosed inside her body

But when she was 7 years old, her dad left her and her mom for good

She cried herself to sleep

Every night for a month

She missed him terribly

One morning she woke up and felt a lump under her pjs

It felt like it was moving!

She ran to her moms room

Her mom jumped out of bed and ran to her side

She saw the lump moving with her own eyes

It looked like it had a heart beat

She tore off the young girls shirt

And there her heart sat

Exposed and thumping away

Doctors and hospitals and so many tests

Nobody knew what was going on

All tests showed that the girl was perfectly healthy

Her heart was strong

Except for the strange occurrence of her heart being on the outside

As the young girl began to grow into a teenager

Her heart grew with her

When she experienced emotional pain

Like when another birthday passed, with no word from her dad

Her heart throbbed and little cracks started to form at the edges

Every time it beat, she felt a searing pain and a small rip would appear

It would go away for awhile

And then something else would happen

Like the time she saw her mom crying in the kitchen

Her heart would scream its pain so loud she couldn’t sleep

And her heart ripped apart a little more

It was really bad when she turned 18 and started having panic attacks

She was so worried that her heart would completely rip apart and she would die

And her mom would be all alone

She would wake up in a sweat

Crying and her raw red heart ripping in all the wrong places

This young woman and her mom decided to try to follow the advice of a new doctor

Who recommended that every time a rip would appear

The girl or her mom should get a sewing needle and some thread made out of twine and simply sew it up

This reminded the girl of a time when her cabbage patch lost her arm and her dad sewed her back up

Good as new but with a little scar that showed someone had loved her enough to fix her

They were shocked that this seemed to help

Every time something bad would happen

Her heart would rip a little more

And she or her mom would rush to get their needle and thread

And sew it a little more

Soon, her heart looked like battered war-torn soldiers clothing

All stitched together with black twine

Crissing and crossing all over her heart and in a hundred different directions

She felt even more fragile than she ever had

The only thing keeping her intact

Were haphazardly sewn together stitches

She felt like these stitches were somehow holding her whole life together

To keep her from falling apart any further

She wondered what would be the ultimate thing that would finally pull the stitches apart and leave her heart in pieces

She knew she was damaged goods

Maybe she always had been

Broken, cracked and irreparable

Too damaged to be helped

Like the cabbage patch doll who, after her dad left, suffered too many rips and tears to be put back together

There just wasn’t enough of her heart left to piece together

So she did the only thing she could

She hid the needle and thread and found her dad’s phone number

She sat on her bed and called him up

He picked up and she felt like maybe everything would be okay

She spoke to him for a minute or two

He sounded rushed and annoyed

Suddenly she heard yelling in the background

It sounded like a young boy

He was calling for his dad, telling him dinner was ready

She felt the familiar twinge of her heart ripping apart

Her father told her he was busy and said he would call her some other time and hung up

She sat back and let her heart fall apart

One last time

Later that day her mom found her laying on her perfectly made bed

Her eyes open and lifeless with her broken and bruised

Damaged heart

The Great In-Between

I hate the period of the ‘in between’

It can be anything

Transitioning from jobs, schools, homes etc

To me it’s a period of unrest

A feeling of general unease takes over me

I feel unsettled

As if my feet are not firmly grounded

And I’m at great risk of just floating away

Never to be heard from again

Or maybe spotted somewhere over the Pacific

Aimless and untethered

The ‘in between’ is the start of the unknown

The anticipatory anxiety of what comes next is excruciating

My frazzled mind jumping from one thought to another

And none of them with happy outcomes

I long for this period to be over so that I may feel the firm ground beneath me once again

So that I’m rooted

In place

And somehow finding comfort in being unmovable

Sturdy

Stable

Like a 100 year old tree with roots spread so far apart and deeply ingrained in the earth

I should like that

Very much

After all a 100 year old tree can’t just up and fly away

Not without a serious fight

Hope and all that could have been

What is hope?

When I read the following definition,

‘The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best’

It sounds far too subjective

A feeling

Wanting

Turn out for the best

If this was a gambling game

Who would take odds

Based on nothing more than feelings

Feelings impacted by beliefs, moods, opinions

And with an outcome that could turn out to be any which way

No guarantees

I don’t know

Maybe I’m too skeptical

Too cynical

Jaded

For hope

Or maybe

Hope is too vague

Too unrealistic

Too wishy-washy

For the likes of me

As hard as defining hope is,

Even harder is picturing it

What does hope look like?

I tried conjuring images of different things

Nothing exemplified what hope stands for

It all seemed too cheesy

Blue skies

Green pastures

None of which inspire

Feelings of hope

I guess if I try hard enough

I would say hope looks something like…

Eyes closed

Jaw slack

Relaxed posture

No tension in her body or features

Like she’s found peace

Or at least

Knows it’s coming to her

Calm

Serene

Confident

In knowing

That hope is tangible

And what she has hoped for more anything

Is hers for the taking

Maybe

One day

I will be able to close my eyes

And in a moment

Feel the tension leave my body

My breaths full

And Effortless

The racing thoughts fading away

The dull heaviness of depression being lifted

I wonder who that woman will be?

When everything weighing her down

Is finally gone

And it’s just her

The her that might have been

If life hadn’t turned her into someone else….

It’s never too late

A year and a half ago I only had an appreciation for Art other people created.

I always had creative urges within me.

To do something with hair, make up, my room, my body…To just see art around me.

And then when I needed it most

The ability to create art came to me

I was 37 years old

This wasn’t the way I thought my life would turn out.

I thought I’d be an old cool social worker working with disadvantaged youth…

then life happened…

Maybe through art I’ll find a way to become okay with that.

Maybe this is all part of the story of my life…

Me, the virus and a whole lot of free time…

It’s been awhile since I last wrote

There’s been a lot to process and adjust to

I was advised pretty early on to stay home

Which I’ve done

I’ve been home for 43 days

Every day I’ve struggled with anxiety and/or depression

It’s been one thing or another

As someone with mild agoraphobia I find it pretty ironic that being cooped up has me feeling anxious

Now all I want to do is go out and see people

I’ve had a few meltdowns

I feel afraid that if I do catch this virus, I’ll be one of the people that doesn’t make it through

I’m afraid that if it comes down to it

And we’ve run out of ventilators

I’ll be cast aside for a healthy persons survival

I’ve often thought and regretted having done my Lemtrada treatment

Which has made me extra vulnerable at this time

I keep thinking that if I hadn’t done it

Then maybe I wouldn’t have to be so cautious

I wouldn’t have the added worry of the blood disorder that I got as a side effect

There’s a whole lot of what ifs and coulda beens

It’s the lack of control that is particularly anxiety provoking

Which I’m sure is the case for many people

Who are not anxiety sufferers

I’ve been thinking a lot about the kids and youth who aren’t in school

I feel sorry that they’re stuck at home and I worry about the impact this will have on their mental health even when this is over

I keep thinking that the repercussions of this will be felt for many years to come

Economically, socially, emotionally…

And well

We’ve been pretty lucky thus far

We’ve been spoiled

Living in a society and part of the world where we don’t have to worry as much as others

So I’m not really sure I have a handle on how to adapt to this weird new ‘normal’

I’m not sure anyone does

I know that I can only take it day by day

Minute by minute

I can only focus on the right now

I can’t worry about tomorrow because it’s not here yet

I am grateful for being able to make art

I am grateful to have my partner being my contact with the outside world (for groceries and meds and etc)

I am happy that my family is still healthy and safe

And more than anything

I am so fucking grateful that Covid-19 didn’t happen last year amidst losing my mind and all that 😬

Stay safe everyone

For now…

I participated in my first art show

How wild is that?

Two years ago, I would never have thought this would have been in my future

Leaving my job was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done

There will always be an empty part of my heart because of that

The loss of it felt so strong

No one prepares you for the grief that comes with that

And as hard as that was

I was lucky to have found something that gives me peace

Back to the art show

I was so anxious in the days leading up to it

The day of was a nightmare

I felt physically sick

I told Joey I couldn’t do it

That I wouldn’t go

I felt like a fraud

Everyone would know that I’m not an artist

I’m not ‘one of them’

Somehow I made it there

We set up

My hands were like ice

My skin felt like it didn’t fit right

I looked around

In awe of the sheer talent of the artists around me

Real artists

What am I doing here?

This is going to be horrid

And then somehow

It wasn’t…

People perused the artwork I’d made

The artwork that has saved my life

The first few customers

Terrified me

I was so nervous I even made something up when someone asked about my process

How embarrassing

More people came

They bought stuff

They gushed over the artwork

My artwork

My face grew hot

I said thank you

But I wanted to say I’m not a real artist!

More people came by

More people bought stuff

The compliments I received were mind blowing

Some of the vendors bought MY artwork

Loved MY artwork

🤯

Mind blown

I sold over 25 pieces of art that day

I left there with a goofy grin on my face

I was exhausted

And so amazed

Things like this don’t happen to ME

I’m the one who gets MS

Who gets a rare blood disorder because of a treatment I had to undergo for MS

I don’t get the happy endings

Maybe the art show was a one off

Maybe I won’t sell anymore

Maybe it was all a fluke

Those are still the thoughts on a loop in my mind

And in spite of that

I still paint

I still decoupage

I find poems that resonate with me

I create art

And I’m kind of an artist now

Maybe one day I’ll say that without madly blushing

For now

I’ll just use the heated cheeks as a reminder of how far I’ve come

And that’s good enough

For now…

Kid, I hope you’ve finally found some peace

I started working with youth in 2008

Up until that point

I sort of dabbled in working with different populations

At a youth shelter, I found my place

It just felt right

Since then

I had worked exclusively with youth

Mostly homeless and/or at risk youth

Eventually I worked out of Mississauga as an outreach worker

Anyway

I have this thing that I do

I read the paper in the mornings or at night

If a headline catches my eye

That something happened in one of the areas that I worked in

I read it

Sometimes it’s about a young person who was a victim of crime

Or a perpetrator

Sometimes it’s about no one I know

Today

It was about someone I think I may have known

His name immediately caught my eye

And while it was spelled incorrectly

His age adds up to who I remembered

He was killed in a violet crime

He was of no fixed address

It all adds up

But all I keep thinking about

Are his vivid blue eyes

And the protective way he took care of his little brother

Sure I remember other things

Like taking him to court and working through his anger with him

Being upset that he got arrested again

Or something else

But I remember more about the long stretches his mother would leave him and his little brother home alone to fend for themselves

While she went to Florida with her boyfriend

With no food in the house

Under the guise that his grandma was watching them

I remember his dysfunctional mother calling me

Alternating between crying and yelling at me

That she couldn’t handle him

Wanted him to move out

I remember when I had two clients scheduled for court on the same day and time

So I figured I’d just drive them both home

No biggie

Until they told me to drop them off at the same location and went off together

If it’s you that was in the paper

If it’s you whose life was snuffed out far too early and much too violently

I’m sorry I couldn’t have done more to help you

I’m sorry that I couldn’t prepare you better for what was coming next

I’m sorry that life treated you unfairly from the beginning

I’m just sorry

And I promise to remember you

With your vivid blue eyes

And the way you wanted to protect your little brother

Rest In Peace, kid

You deserve to finally have some peace

‘To be calm is the highest achievement of self’

Today is my anniversary

Notice I didn’t write ‘ours’?

Because this one

Well it’s entirely mine

Today marks exactly one year since I would rather have died than continue to live in the state of panic I was in

It might seem dramatic

I don’t know if I can explain the pain I was in

I remember my mom talking about how I was then

And she winced recollecting the sound of my crying

It was without a doubt the worst time of my life

That’s saying something

Since I’ve been through so much

Its strange to some people

That I would pick Multiple Sclerosis and the unknown

I would pick ITP and the biweekly bloodwork

I would choose those things in a heartbeat

I would choose those things if it meant never having to go through a mental health breakdown

Today

As I write this I’m in a much better place

Both literally and figuratively

I’m not freaking out at Humber’s unequipped emergency department

Pleading

No

Begging for someone to help me

Today

I will not focus on what I couldn’t do then

No

Today,

I’m at my home

That I share with my husband of 12 years

My two dogs

Vinnie and Benny.

I woke up this morning

I brushed my teeth and washed my face

I had coffee and breakfast

I rearranged some furniture

I did some art

Now I’m writing this blog

It’s all so unexceptional

And I am so fucking grateful

The time the internet turned against me..

So I nonchalantly commented on a Vice Canada article about whether or not Don Cherry should be fired for his xenophobic comments.

My comment was solely on the story and agreed that Don Cherry has gotten away with this behaviour for too long and should be fired.

The amount of hate I got was a little startling.

I’m a lot older than the typical person who gets cyber bullied so I’m a little removed from this sort of thing.

People immediately went after me

They went after my appearance firstly.

They stereotyped me for my hair colour.

They called me fat.

Said I was dumb, stupid and so much more.

Instantly, I wanted to hit back.

After all, that’s what you do when you’ve been attacked.

But I quickly learned it was getting me nowhere other than infuriated.

I deleted my comment.

Not because I don’t stand by it (because I do)

Not because I can’t handle the criticism (because I can)

But because this war behind a computer or a phone or whatever

Is not one I can win.

That anyone can win.

People become so brave they will literally say anything or do anything.

Frankly, it makes me afraid of the world we live in.

How scary is it when you can’t even risk speaking your opinion for fear of retribution?

This speaks to something so much bigger than internet trolls out for blood.

This is a not a liberated society.

This is totalitarian.

If you dare to step out of line you risk facing the wrath of the legions of people willing to do and say whatever it takes to make their mark.

While I can handle the criticisms, I can’t handle the anger and anxiety that explodes inside of me as a result of such an encounter.

I was so angry at the words they were tossing around.

Not because I’m hurt by them but because someone else might be.

Some teenager might be reading along in agreement and see the inflamed ego it caused and the hurled insults and bullying that ensued.

They might not have the self security to hold strong to their own beliefs.

And that is the biggest tragedy of all.