Tag Archives: lifestyle

Insanity Has Invaded My Life

You’d think I was on holidays without posting for a week but with work being overly busy, some extra projects and a party, I just didn’t have time to write.

Last night (now a week ago) I decided to start a bit of the Great Purge. You know, when you have been hanging on to things because of some sentimental reason; you’ll fit those jeans again, you liked that person’s poem, you might get back into that career, you haven’t filed these papers in soooo long, you just had to have that collection, etc. The aspects of life that make up the Great Clutter. For many people we stop at this.

My genes are set toward the pack rat, the clutterer, the collector, the hoarder. My mother is a collector and pack rat; my sister tends more towards the hoarder. The difference is organization and if garbage is involved. Maybe in the long run there isn’t a lot of difference. I have a lot of stuff; ornaments, arts, jewelery, books, papers. The latter two are part of being a writer. I keep these books for reference; I keep copies of stories, poems, articles in hard copy because of the possibility of computer meltdown. I keep all publicity items: reviews, newspaper articles, fliers for readings, photos, newsletters that mention an award or something that was published, rejection and acceptance letters (the last two are partially for income tax purposes).

It adds up after a while. Then there are all those hobbies I do: jewelery making, belly dance, sewing, medievalism, calligraphy, etc. etc. And before I know it, every bookcase is full, carefully arranged, but with books on top of books; my closet is full of costumes and fabric, my shelves are full of beads.

I live in a space big enough to fit two comfortably, or if I lived 200 hundred years ago, or in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, big enough for a family. In North America we do tend to expand to fit the space. Bigger cars, more junk food and higher obesity, more space, more stuff. My stuff isn’t like some people’s stuff. I have had friends where every piece of wall and every surface in their places were completely covered with stuff. This wasn’t junk piled helter skelter. There were ornaments, collectibles, memorabilia, books, records, things, arranged neatly and dusted at least twice a year. Compared to these friends I’m positively zen, and I dust four times a year. Of course there are my zen friends who think my place is a bit…full.

Like many North Americans, I seem to live at a hectic pace of working and then doing other things in my free time, from taking classes to pursuing other hobbies, to of course, writing. Many of these activities would take up significant time, and still allow time for socializing. All of them together means I’m often up late, flitting from project to project with many things in the works for a long time, and usually sleep deprived.

So though my shelves and closest are neatly stacked there are pockets that I haven’t got to in year. The preliminary purge cleaned out a box (the size that paper for photocopiers come in) of books that I sold to a second-hand bookstore, and another box of magazines that will probably go to the garbage. Omni, Scientific American, Wired, some that I kept for reference but there is just so much. And if you look at my shelves there is still no space on them. I have a pile on my floor of other items and clothing to donate to charity and still there is a lot. So the Great Purge will have me go room from room and sift through the last ten years of items that made my life. My den is the smallest room and yet the most densely packed so it will take the longest but I’m determined to whittle. This will be a several month project I think but in the end hopefully I’ll have more space to do what I really want. I have a two-drawer filing cabinet in which I have no idea what papers lurk. I store my rejection and acceptance slips but weed them every five years but I don’t know what’s taking up the other 2/3 of the cabinet.

Perhaps in the weeks to come I’ll write about my expedition into the strata of my life. Like an archeologist/anthropologist I will come across items from my past that will see ludicrous or profound. And maybe just maybe I’ll rediscover some buried treasures.

2 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, history, home, life, memories, people, Writing

Mental Health and a Helping Hand

This will be one of those unpopular posts that probably no one will read but I feel it’s important enough to write about. Having experienced mild to severe clinical depression in the past I have learned several things. Depression isn’t always the same every time, nor the feelings that accompany it. And people don’t truly understand it, nor how to help a person going through it.

For those who have never suffered from a severe depression there can be a lack of sympathy. The person looks healthy but sure he/she is just moping, or grumpy or wallowing in self-pity. This can in fact be true for a few people or those who are emotionally crippled in some way and use it as a crutch. However, even that situation indicates the person is not emotionally healthy or psychologically whole. Depression can hit all types of people in all walks of life, whether rich or poor, unemployed or working, male or female.

The condition has different degrees of severity. In the past, I have had to fill out questionnaires for my doctor that ask a range of questions and how you feel about them (on a scale), from feeling unloved or unwanted to feeling unmotivated or suicidal. Yes, a person can lie on these but it doesn’t serve a purpose to get drugs if you’re mentally healthy, or to let yourself sink into a black mire if you’re not.

A lower level of depression could be a general malaise and lack of energy. Symptoms can range and can include oversleeping, not being able to sleep, lack of appetite, overeating, anxiety, fear, sadness, boredom, lack of sexual interest, and various body pains. One way that my doctor discovered that I was clinically depressed was that I went to her about an elbow pain that wouldn’t go away and no amount of physiotherapy was helping it. It turned  out that it was caused specifically through my depression and with anti-depressants the physical pain went away too.

Sometimes I just start to feel bored or like I don’t really care much about things that other people are getting fired up over. It can be a sign of the first stages of depression. It can, also, just be a sign of boredom, but it’s a trigger I have to watch for. Sometimes it’s a lack of energy and motivation. This can look like many other illnesses such as thyroid disease, anemia, stress, so it’s important that a doctor diagnoses it and does so correctly. And sometimes depression comes out in the inability to cope. That can be in something as simple as answering the phone, making an appointment, dealing with a last-minute change, not able to make a decision, etc.

It varies in intensity and ability. When I was clinically depressed I managed to go to work every day, barely. I’m quite a good chameleon so I could hide what I was going through, but it built up by the end of the day and I was dragging myself home and crawling into bed. I couldn’t answer the phone, I barely ate, making myself have a bowl of soup a day, and that was it. I didn’t go out and I didn’t cry because I was beyond most emotion except a bottomless pit of loneliness and despair. It was not fun, and I was resistant at first to anti-depressants, thinking they wouldn’t help. I was wrong. I did not enjoy feeling like the world was overwhelming me.

And it was. I was broke, even partially unemployed. A relationship had ended, and I was having health issues partly caused by the depression. I couldn’t find anyone to date and 9/11 happened putting the final nail in that coffin. When I said to my doctor that I had reasons to be depressed she agreed, but said it wasn’t that bad things didn’t happen but how we cope with them. It’s a good gauge to use, seeing if I can’t cope with everyday things that I could handle at other times.

But…depression hasn’t always been this bad, nor has it felt the same. Other times I’ve overeaten. I’ve felt lonely. Or I was lethargic. There are many things that can make a difference in depression, including environment, life situations and healthy lifestyle. Irregular sleep habits and lack of physical activity can exacerbate the condition of depression. Diet plays an extremely important role and a diet high in carbohydrates and sugars and low in vegetables is bound to toss many people towards big highs and big lows, leading to unstable emotional conditions. And of course drugs and alcohol (a depressant) play a big factor; drinking while on anti-depressants can lessen their efficacy.

The other part of depression is that those around you are likely not to understand or comprehend the severity. People look at someone who is sad, depressed, grieving, morose, etc. and think, why don’t they just suck it up and get over it? Getting over depression is sometimes the same as getting over cancer or a broken leg. It takes time. It takes medical care and it takes the support of one’s community.

Mental illnesses tend to fool us. We think if a person looks whole, they are whole. And if there is something wrong with their mind, then they’re crazy and they get stigmatized. I have known people who killed themselves because of their depression. I have had friends tell me that I’ve been through this before and dismiss me, even when I was trying to communicate my feelings.

If a depressed person manages to communicate to anyone what they’re feeling (and remember, in our society we are afraid to ask for help or look frail and weak) it might be no more than saying, “I’ve been depressed,” or “I’m on anti-depressants.” If someone you know says that to you, it means they are reaching out to you and want your help. They might be afraid to say more unless you open up to them. If you don’t know how, ask them how you can support them. They may very well say, “I don’t know,” because the depressed mind cannot always see solutions. It’s like being at the bottom of a giant glass tube with no way to get out. Seeking information, or talking to your own health practitioner will help you support friends or family. One of the best things to do is to just call the person or talk with them and ask them how they’re doing. Get them to go for a walk, some way of using their bodies, which will help regulate the mind. Depression often has a component of feeling isolated, unwanted and unloved. Loneliness can be debilitating and deadly.

I found it incredibly sad and tragic that the one person I knew thought his only recourse was to kill himself. He probably saw it as the best solution for everyone he knew. No one should have to choose that. I could write more and probably will at some point but we all need to be better educated about depression: what it means if we have it, how to prevent it and how to help those we know who are going through it. It is definitely not as easy as just “sucking it up.”

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, drugs, family, health, life, people

Homophobia and the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf

The school district of Abbotsford is at it again. A high school course is being offered called Social Justice. It deals with issues and rights for animals, gay people, races, gender, etc. This is a Ministry of Education approved course and outlines what Canadian law covers in terms of rights. It was approved to be offered this fall.

Typical of Abbotsford, where the school district has in the past banned various books because of their content, some of it being about gay people, they yet again stuck their noses in, in an effort to slow down the inevitable offering of this course.

Now Abbotsford is an interesting place. It’s nearly an hour from Vancouver and now that housing has become unaffordable for the average human in Vancouver or even Maple Ridge, people are buying out there. I have several friends who bought in Abbotsford but it’s history is more right wing. I was a book rep at one point and drove all over BC. Abbotsford was one place where religious fundamentalism raised its hoary head. I had to be very careful what I wore (taking off my extra rings) and what books I showed the bookstores. In one, even a pictorial depiction of Jesus was frowned upon. An interesting note is that this city contains many bikers as well as the bible thumpers. I’m sure it’s changing with more people moving out from Vancouver.

However, you still have that religious right screaming out about unsuitable materials in the school any time a true education is offered, especially if it involves homosexual content. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were trying to wheedle out content based on different races too. So Abbotsford school district pretending yet again that they’re just doing a “normal” (for them, maybe) review process smacks too much of the same ole prejudices. They’re the little boy crying wolf.

Yet again we have people who purport to be Christians, those who should “love thy neighbor” and to “turn the other cheek” should something offend them. Yet they get all riled up when “those people” don’t live by their values. I just can’t figure out what it matters to anyone else. Hold your religion and beliefs in your heart and don’t push them onto others. Compassion? Puhleeze. It’s only given to those who tow the line the way the fundamentalists want. How hypocritical. Really, who a person has sex with (as long as it’s not your spouse or someone under age) is no one else’s business. I could decide that in my religion the color blue was “eeeevil” and then start running around and trying to get it banned or not allowing books that mentioned blue in the schools .

Everyone might think me a kook but should my religion get more followers we could then form a cadre and start ostracizing people based on their blueness. If I don’t want blue around me, fine, but realize that other people live by other beliefs and it’s none of your business. They don’t need “saving” and they don’t want it. I really wish fundamentalists of every religion would take a reality pill and chill out. Let everyone live their lives and if they aren’t hurting someone else, let it be.

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, life, news, relationships, religion, security, sex, spirituality

An Appetizer by Any Other Name

A month ago my brother was visiting from Edmonton. He wanted to hear blues music (jazz, if not blues) and I tried to find a restaurant with said music. We found one in Yaletown (and spent a half hour finding parking) and finally went into the restaurant called Capone’s. As you can guess, it’s an Italian theme, with some pasta dishes on the menu. Not particularly memorable food either.

But there on the first page was “Tapas.” My brother raised an eyebrow and said, “We call these appetizers in Edmonton.” And you would think in an Italian restaurant these dishes would be called “antipasti,” not the Spanish “tapas.”

Well, I explained to my brother the new wave of tapas bars or restaurants in Vancouver. If you’re a restaurant you have a tapas menu and on it you list all sorts of sumptuous morsels. You bring them out on simple plates, but elegantly and artistically arranged. Then no one seems to mind that they’re paying $12 for three scallops. Tapas menus tend to range from $10-$14 with $12 being the average.

If you switch out the word tapas and pop in “appetizer” suddenly it’s not as appetizing and people would protest paying the higher price for just an appetizer. Granted we don’t need as much food as our hunter-gather ancestors did but the tapas drapery does seem to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Sure some restaurants do have appetizers reaching that range but the prices are not comparable always to the style of restaurant. Stella’s in East Van is a Belgium beer and tapas bar. A little cultural mixing there. Their dishes are pretty tasty.

Last night I was at Habit on Main St. They have a small menu with items ranging from $9-$18. There is no true differentiation between an appetizer and the main meal and the small menu says right at the top, Best to be shared. Some of these items that we had–the beet salad and the crispy tofu with eggplant–could have been considered tapas, but they were much larger portions and though two of us shared, these dishes could have been tapassed out to four people easily. If they had been listed as tapas, they would have been half the size for the same price.

So next time you’re sitting down to an artistic repast of bite-size tapas, presume you’re paying for the art and the name, and enjoy. Oh, and chew slowly to get your money’s worth.

Leave a comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, entertainment, food, humor, life

Bad Dog

In Vancouver, a man and his dog were recently attacked by three full grown Pit Bulls and a pup. It seems that the person who owned the dogs was living in his van and is now being questioned about similar attacks around BC. Of course, the media has latched onto this story (should I say, like a Pit Bull that won’t let go?) and is doing talk shows, etc. asking whether Pit Bulls should be banned. Ontario passed such a law against Pit Bulls.

When I was a kid, the breed that everyone feared and called “vicious, uncontrollable, unpredictable” were Dobermans. German Shepherds were also in there too at one time. The breed changes with the decade and people’s out of proportion fears raised to such levels by the media. Yes there are dog attacks, and yes a few end in death but it’s pretty hard to say it’s one breed. Statistics (which are sketchy at best) do not seem to show how many of one breed bite compared to the total number of that breed in an area but it seems to be less than 1 %. Banning a breed will just transfer the eyes of the media and the fear to another breed.

The only time I was ever bitten by a dog, I was walking up an alley and a Dachshund ran out and bit my ankle. I was so shocked I just stood there. It didn’t break the skin and it couldn’t reach higher, but I had done nothing to provoke it, nor had seen it before it bit.

I grew up with German Shepherds. They were fine and loyal. We did have one that showed more aggression, even as a pup. It was overly protective of my brother and might have been a problem but it was killed before it was full grown when it escaped the yard and was hit by a truck. That was only one dog.

I’ve been around a lot of Rottweilers, and terriers and dogs of all sorts. I’ve never been bitten except by that one crazed wiener dog. The “disposition” for a dog to bite is more likely to be linked to how it’s raised. People sometimes (not all the time) will buy a particular dog because they think it will protect them or make the person look more macho. Often what goes hand in hand with a vicious dog is a combination of poor or no training, lack of proper socialization and lack of proper control or attitude by the owner.

Instances of dog attacks should probably be counterbalanced with instance of dogs saving people, and good dog behaviour. There is far more of the latter or people would not have dogs as pets. I’m sure that if studies were done of many owners that owned vicious dogs, it would show the above (they didn’t train their dog) or a problem with socialization of the owner as well as the dog.

It wouldn’t be a bad thing for every person who buys a dog of any size or breed from anyplace (pet store, breeder, SPCA) to have a certificate that shows that they have had training on how to handle and socialize a dog and that they will then take that particular dog for training. The dog will then have its own certificate and should it be sold/given away, there is proof of its training too.

Such percautions would lessen the incidences of unruly dogs or dog attacks. It will never get rid of them. Sometimes dogs are provoked. Sometimes there is one that is just “off.” It’s best to never forget that a dog has the mentality of a 2-3-year-old. But with training the incidences would definitely go down. Some interesting facts: more bites happen from dogs that are leashed/chain than by those that aren’t. More intact dogs bite than those that are neutered/spayed.

When teenagers are out of control or in trouble it’s often related to what their parents are like and how they act (Just ask anyone who has ever had to teach problem children.) Likewise, if there is a bad dog, look at the owners and ask if they know what they’re doing.They may claim they do but were they trained to handle another species?

This site has some good information. http://www.goodpooch.com/MediaBriefs/GPcanineprimer.htm

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, life, pets