Feels like home

When someone shows their appreciation for you, it’s always heart-warming.

This past weekend amplified that sentiment. The sentiment came from two people, both whom I’ve know for less than a year. Both, with whom I’ve become fast friends. So natural. So frighteningly easy. The only other people with whom I became fast friends and long-time confidantes are my best friend, Ali and another woman, who I affectionately refer to my sister. My ‘sister’ shall remain nameless unless she reads this blog and decides it’s fine to refer to her by her name.

The first person who showered me with appreciation and big love was local birth photographer, Elliana Gilbert. I interviewed her for the Winnipeg Free Press and it appeared in the Saturday print edition and online over the weekend. She was floored by the coverage we gave her and the birthing community noticed what the paper had done in shining a light on her, and therefore the subject of birthing. She is a talented photographer with a huge heart and a strong sense of what is right and what is worth fighting for. You gotta admire that in a person. It was this great big dive into the mutual admiration society.

I’m not one for receiving or accepting compliments in a gracious manner because I’m never quite sure that what I’ve done garners that kind of attention. But, I am one to shower compliments to someone who thoroughly deserves it. I don’t throw compliments around like confetti. I can be a pretty discerning confetti thrower. Yeah, I was throwing confetti at her. Lots of confetti.

She throws it back pretty good, too, I gotta admit. I think I’ve managed to brush most of it out of my hair.

The second person to show their appreciation to me was my technical advisor for the current novel I’m working on. I’m still refusing to name him. And it’s probably going to stay that way. He read the interview I did with Elliana and sent me an email telling me how much he enjoyed reading it. And that led him to confessing how much he loves working with me, tossing out additional compliments I wasn’t expecting and telling me how honoured he was that I would seek him out for his help with some of the finer details in the novel.

Damned fool made me blush. It’s not easy to do to me. But he did it.

To be honest, I’m the one who is honoured that he would be willing to answer the questions I have. I’m honoured that he would share some of his time with me and impart some of his knowledge onto me and into my characters and my storytelling. It’s gracious and generous.

As a result, he is offering me more opportunities to learn from him and expand my knowledge base in his area of expertise. It is beyond cool and awesome. I cannot be more grateful to have this person in my life.

Does it sound kinda like a mutual admiration society thing going on here? Yeah, I thought so. Experiencing this kind of love from other creative folks is weird, but in a good way. Love from non-creatives is just different. It’s something I don’t care to seek out because it doesn’t feel easy or right. It’s sort of intuitive… the choice to be comfortable or not.

Being in the company of other creative minds, who also happen to share similar values and sensibilities, feels like home. It feels safe. It’s safe to be unguarded, honest and raw. It’s safe to be inspired and to grow from those associations and friendships. That’s nourishing for the soul. Well, for my soul, it is. Can’t speak for anyone else.

I have so much love and gratitude for the people who light the fire in me, who keep that fire burning and who inspire me to ask more of myself with whatever I endeavour to take on.

I couldn’t possibly ask for anything more than that.

Trying for something

In life, there are moments where you’re torn between wanting something and being absolutely gun-shy about pursuing it again because you had been there before but, in the end, it came at an emotional cost.

I’m not talking about emotionally intimate relationships between two people. I could talk about that ad nauseum if I wanted to. But that would mean naming names and I’m not in the frame of mind to go and piss off some people… yet. I would have to be at a point in my life where I couldn’t give a fuck anymore, have nothing to lose and have an overwhelming desire to call people out on their shit. I’ve had people defend themselves by verbally going after me. Yeah, I’ve seen that tactic in action. At least, I own my shit. Can’t say the same for anyone else.

I’m talking about following your heart’s simple yearning. I’m talking about wanting a four-legged companion. Sure, it might seem silly or mundane or frivolous. I beg to differ. And I know animal lovers and pet owners would beg to differ. This desire popped up and started nagging me last week.

A few days ago, one of my colleagues was working on sports page carrying a story about a local jockey and a race horse who loves to run a good distance — anything over a mile. It spurred her to ask me if I missed horseback riding, missed being around horses. My answer was ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ After putting down my horse as a result of a hoof disease called founder, back in February 2009, I lost my desire to get back into the saddle. Didn’t think I would, but I did.

Chaplin and I had been together for almost ten years. He was sixteen years old when he died. Just past prime and entering old age. I had retired him from competition the year before. We were the horse/rider version of the Bickersons. We had our ‘discussions’ but I was committed to him and he needed me. He was never a mean horse. His good looks made young female equestrians stare at him in awe. However he was stubborn, smart and quite cheeky — ergo the numerous ‘discussions’ we would have during our practice rides, lessons, riding clinics and dressage competitions. But once he was in the mood to work and realized he had to work, we did some pretty cool things together.

I was a hands-on owner when it came to Chappy. For example, if he needed his legs treated with clay or heat-inducing ointment and wrapped overnight, I would do it every afternoon before I headed to work. The barn staff could have easily done the work for me but it gave me the opportunity to hang with Chappy.

I’ll admit he stole my heart the first time I ever laid eyes on him almost a year before we became partners. Even though it’s been four years since he died, I still miss him. Sometimes, the pain and ache comes barreling at me full force or it sneaks up behind me and wraps itself around my heart and gives it a firm, but gentle, squeeze.

A part of me would like to see how I would do if I got back in the saddle after all this time. I’ve watched some dressage clinics post-Chaplin. I’ve watched my clinician coach work with a horse and rider and vividly remember doing the same things with Chappy. The memories were and are quite powerful and visceral.

I know my dressage coach would love to see me back in the saddle, back with my barn family. I’ll have to wait until I’ve paid off my mortgage before I would consider a serious return to riding. I’m an all-in kind of person. If I decide to do something, I’m committed to it 100%. I loved being a horse owner. It kept me grounded.

The conversation I had with my colleague moved from horses to house pets. More specifically, my lack of a house pet.

Four months before Chaplin died, my cat, Otis, had to be put down. His health was failing and I couldn’t let him suffer anymore. He was the gentlest feline soul I had ever met. He was thirteen when he died. He came into my life as a one-year-old in need of a home. He took to me instantly. Snuggling with me in bed, the first night he stayed with me, it was clear both him and Chappy were very good at stealing my heart. It was also clear the three of us were meant to be together.

Aside from my blood relatives, I considered Chappy and Otis my family. Still do. Hell, I even had a family ring created two years after their deaths. Aquamarine, diamond and peridot make up the trio on my ring. It’s my small way of remembering them and honouring the impact they had on my life.

They came into my life at a time I needed them. I came into their lives at a time they needed me.They kept me sane. They always entertained me and I’m pretty sure I entertained them, too. I didn’t realize how we needed each other until much later.

The decisions to put them down were made fairly quickly. I always knew that if their quality of life would be greatly diminished no matter what kind of medical intervention was used, I would let them go. I always knew the moment I agreed to watch over them, to love them and be their human guardian, that was the course of action I would take in the end.

My colleague said despite the eventual heartbreak having a four-legged companion die, everything before that final moment was worth the experience and would always overshadow their death. The unconditional love and acceptance animals offer their human companions was, and is always something to cherish and appreciate. I know she’s right. For me, it’s about getting past the sorrow and resolving the self-created issues surrounding having an animal in my life. When I can deal with that, I can let a fluff ball or two run around the homestead.

The idea of a couple of fluff balls in my life is very attractive and comforting. But I need to be in the frame of mind to want that and to see it as a no-brainer thing to do. Right now, it’s not so no-brainer. I believe the time will come. When? Haven’t got a bloody clue.

Maybe the time will come when I’m okay with having my heart broken again. Without a doubt, losing Chaplin and Otis in a span of four months broke my heart, and the reverberations are still being felt.

To quote Elizabeth Gilbert, “This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”

I know I tried for something and found something with Chaplin and Otis. Now that they’re gone, I hope one day, I will do more than simply want to try for something again.

From hate to love

We must love one another or die
— from the poem, September 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden

I won’t deny that for some, it is easier to hate than to love. But hate inevitably consumes and leaves nothing behind. Nobody wins. At one time or another, either as the receivers or the givers, we have all experienced hate. I’m not sure what is more unsettling or frightening — to hate someone or to be hated by someone.

But I think it’s more frightening to hate.

I have a mental list of people I intensely dislike, a couple of them probably borders on hate. Who doesn’t have a list? Seriously, folks.

But I don’t look at the list. Why would I? If you semi-regularly look at your list, it will just make your blood boil and fantasies of bloodshed and mayhem pop into your head. What? You don’t think that way? Okay. Just warning ya. I think that way. Just be glad I only daydream about it but don’t do it. Consider it a play on the phrase ‘you can look but don’t touch.’

Over the course of a lifetime, you meet people you end up liking, people you end up loving and people who just rub you the wrong way. No matter how neutral and open-minded you try be around them, they just fucking rub you the wrong way. Yep, I’ve met plenty of those fuckers. We all have. Most of the time, we just wish the buggers would go away. Personally, I just want the buggers to fuck off and die.

But that never happens. So, we have to learn to deal with the people and things that annoy us. Let’s face it, life is about challenges. It’s about facing them and figuring out how to navigate them with the least amount of negative consequences for yourself and the people in your life.

I’ve had my fair share of challenges and I know the challenges won’t stop until I stop breathing. Some of those challenges should have sent me in spiralling into some form of depression. There were other challenges that could have easily landed me behind bars. It would have been so easy to let go of all reason and do unthinkable and unimaginable things to someone. We all have the ability to do that. It’s part of human nature. I have no problem embracing the dark side of my personality. It’s easy to explore without actually feeling compelled to act on it. It’s one of the numerous things that keeps me from being lumped in with the murderous malcontents, psychopaths and sociopaths of the world.

I’ve been lucky enough to never have experienced depression in its most debilitating manifestations. Yeah, I’ve been down about a lot of things. I’ve been deeply disappointed by people and circumstances. And I’ve been angry about a number of things, too. But I’ve never been angry enough to lose all common sense and pick up a crowbar and swing it into someone’s skull. To be honest, I’ve never been pushed to the point where I would lose control. Let’s just hope I never meet the person who has the ability to push that button because I know I will pick up that crowbar. Like it or not, we all have that button.

Thankfully, a part of my psyche won’t allow me to descend into the true depths of despair and hate. It is, literally, physically uncomfortable to live in negativity.

The instinct to fight my way out of negativity is strong. But at the same time, I don’t suppress the negative feelings either. I have to work through them in order to get past them. They have to exist in order for me to deal with them. Ignoring them doesn’t work. Those feelings will only come back later with a vengeance when you least expect it. The threat of it being all-consuming will be even greater.

I’ve had friends and acquaintances advise me to not waste my time and energy steaming over a situation I know I can’t fix. They tell me it will only bring me down. Of course, I fucking know that. The thing is, steaming over something or someone is part of the process of getting on with my life. It has to run its course. The length of the process always depends on the intensity of emotion at the time. It can take a matter of minutes, months or years.

There is truth to time healing all wounds even though some seemingly healed wounds still have the ability to crack open and bleed quite easily. I have one semi-fresh emotional wound that will take a long time to heal. I have my good days. I have my bad days. Thankfully, there are more good days than bad. The frustration and confusion linger but I know there isn’t much I can do. So what do I do? Move on. I need to move on. Being stuck emotionally in place where there is nowhere to go sucks. Given half the chance, it will kill the spirit.

My spirit isn’t dead. Nor will it ever be dead. Even with the battle scars I’ve earned in this lifetime, the spirit shines brightly because love makes it shine brightly. When I have my moments where I ask myself ‘Will I ever find love? Will I ever know love?’, I just look at my friends and family and I know deep down I am loved.