It’s possible that this is all just noise, the static in between the frequencies in the transmission of life. That there really isn’t anything particular or special about this day, or any other day, for that matter. The earth has traveled around the sun twenty eight times since I was born, in a building that doesn’t exist anymore, in a city I no longer recognise. But that can’t be true. Truth, if there is such a thing, won’t allow that. I have the warmth of love from my family and friends to prove that to me.
Yes, I am loved. It’s an appreciated, though sometimes forgotten, thought. I’ve battled demons, interior and exterior, for years, trying to establish and understand who I am, what I am meant to be. Throughout it all, there has been the steady and calm, unwavering support of those most closest to me. Even when I seem the most lost, when I can’t really place myself on the map, I have my advocates. I struggle to understand why they might be so supportive. What have I done to deserve this? I can’t fathom it, sometimes, but I accept and welcome it, always.
Time and space continue to unravel. I’ve heard it said that when we look out into the cosmos, we are really looking back in time. Space exploration, then, is a history lesson. As I move forward, as the earth circles the sun again, I try to learn something more about myself, about others, about all of this. I get impatient. I get unsettled and restless. I can’t wait to discover what is over the horizon. But the steady rotation of the earth won’t shift with my wants.
With age and experience, I’m starting to suss out what really matters. What I value. What I respect. What I admire. What I need. This hasn’t always been clear. It’s not entirely clear now, but I feel like I can articulate the gist of where I want to go, if not in actual words, then in the silent words of my soul. If I can’t make the horizon come to me any faster than it is going, the least I can do is face the right direction. I will struggle with patience, I always do.
I will also struggle with other people. I recognise that this is largely due to my own wiring, and not usually due to any particular fault in others (though they may occasionally challenge this thesis through their words and behaviour). I want to be understood. That is the most primary want and need that I have as it relates to other people. I get frustrated when I’m not understood. I get frustrated when the words others hear me say don’t line up with the words my mind and heart feel they’ve said. Sometimes it feels like we’re not speaking the same language.
I write to express myself. I want that to be a way for me to say things. I want that to be a way for others to understand me. When given enough time to put words to my thoughts and feelings, I would hope that it would move us closer, even in inches. Sometimes these words are revealing about my very nature, and sometimes they are just about random things that have caught my attention in the human experience. Whatever they may be about, I’ve chosen to express them freely and openly, to expose myself, with the hope that I might be understood.
It pains me when I am not understood, or worse, when I am misunderstood. Sometimes a novel about a small group of mediocre individuals in Ireland isn’t meant to be read as an authentic depiction of contemporary Irish life, to be pit-nicked and nit-picked away over details of accuracy. Sometimes, behaviour and actions, words and thoughts, are there to serve a larger purpose. They’re meant to be used to describe the abstract, which has no description. How do you describe a feeling?
Sometimes I’m too sensitive. Sometimes I take criticism too harshly. I shouldn’t. There is a part of me that acknowledges and welcomes critiques. I need that part of me to keep moving forward, to keep striving. I need to be challenged. I have to transform the potential into the kinetic. Those that know me best, those that understand me, are amazingly capable of providing small prodding words that put me back on track. It’s never hurtful, but it is firm.
I respect those that challenge me. I appreciate that they see some untapped resource in me. It’s not that they want to change me, that I need to be a different person, but that there is something in my essence that is struggling to come to the forefront without attention. They raise the stakes and provide me with the encouragement and motivation to go for it. I am not an island, and I need these people to help me grow. They choose to invest in me because they get me, and for that I am most thankful.
I have no time for people who underestimate me, or worse, those that don’t bother to consider me at all. Whether it is out of their own inflated egos or just a complete blindness to others, they demonstrate a complete lack of respect, and accordingly deserve none in return. I said before that my struggles with other people are largely out of wanting to be understood. Those that show that they have a disregard for me, or make it impossible for me to attempt to be understood pose the greatest challenge.
That being said, I have my flaws, too. I’ve treated many people poorly throughout my life and don’t deserve anything from them in return. It would be hypocritical to try and hold others to a higher standard than I hold myself. Those that have been willing to show patience and forgiveness with me, despite my words and actions, are the people that I admire the most. I can’t undo the past, but I am trying to not make the same mistakes.
It’s at this point, perhaps, that I should admit that I am my own worst critic. I have high expectations of myself and I am completely deflated when I stumble (which is often). I’ve let myself become eaten up inside, time and time again, when I fail. It’s from this that those interior demons start to gnaw away at the soul and body. There is nothing you can say to me that will be harsher than a truth I’ve only whispered to myself.
But I’m learning to let go. I’m learning to make peace with myself. This is just the start. I’ve only just turned twenty-eight. For all my bon mots and aphorisms that I’ve written, I’ve never had it figured out. I still don’t. This is a very long iterative process. Each round requires new corrections, substitutions and redrafts. This piece of writing here, whatever you want to call it, is just how I’m feeling today. I really don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
I don’t have a clue what the future has in store for me. I’ve wanted so many things for so very long that I’ve become impatient. It’s a humbling experience when I’ve actually received what I wished for, only to realise, with much dismay, that it wasn’t what I needed after all. That hasn’t happened often, but it has happened enough for me to be wary of wanting something too much. Much better to start to understand what my needs are and be open to the possibilities that might come.
To that end, better still to enjoy the small things. Part of learning to take life a bit easier and appreciating what I’ve been given is important to being able to move forward. It might not be everybody’s dream, but this week I took time off work, not to go anywhere or do anything in particular. Sure, I had a few errands to take care of, but mostly I wanted to give myself the opportunity to wake up this morning, on my birthday, walk down the street to the local baker, purchase some fresh croissants (and a chocolate brioche), put on a pot of coffee and read.
I’ve chosen to take on a bit of a challenge in what I am reading. It’s no secret to many who know me (or who might have read my books), but one goal is to read James Joyce’s complete works. It’s a love-hate thing, and not something to really be justified to others about why I want to subject myself to it, but the time had come to read Ulysses, easily one of the most challenging reads in the English language. I don’t pretend to be finding it a light read, but sometimes something heavy is what the mind needs.
I’ve also been indulging in some amazing music lately. I find it fascinating that there is so much out there, old and new, that I am continually playing catch-up. When I recently heard David Bowie’s latest album, The Next Day, I was overwhelmed with his genius. It’s a very clever and enjoyable piece of music. It also drew attention to the fact that I was only somewhat familiar with his discography. Through the magic of legal music streaming sites, I’ve been able to slowly work my way through. It’s left me further impressed with Bowie and what he’s accomplished.
There is a part of me, as a writer, beyond wanting to be understood, that longs to create a collection of works that will outlast me. I am not sure if that is due to me being filled with egotism or whether it is just the very basic human drive to want to leave behind a legacy. No one wants to be forgotten. We build monuments, write histories, have children, just to avoid slipping into the obscurity of time. All this while not really being sure whether anything I have to say is deserving of being heard now or in the future.
Maybe I ought to just focus on the trivial and fleeting, the irrational and exuberant joys of life. If I set my sights on those, just for this next year, I can pull out some easy thoughts. I want Aston Villa Football Club to avoid relegation in the Premier League. I would love to see my hometown sports teams (Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver Whitecaps) have some measure of success in their respective playoffs. I would be thrilled if the new Franz Ferdinand album rocks my socks off.
To the things that I can have some amount of agency over, I need to take responsibility and ownership. I need to be better at setting aside time to write, even when it pains me. I need to get to the gym a bit more, even when it pains me. I need to avoid consuming crap food and drink, even when it pains me. I need to be more positive in my work life, even when it pains me. I need to continue throwing myself out into the universe looking for love, even when it pains me.
Pain is healthy. That is something I can understand. It’s something that I have experienced over time, as I’ve given and received. It is a way of the body indicating that it functions. Letting me know that it has a threshold. That it can be abused. That it can take more. That it can take no more. That it is. The heart, mind, and soul react the same. Their pain can’t be fixed the same way. And yet, if given proper rehabilitation, rest, and restoration, they can return, in full strength, bruises and all.
I forgive. It is in the active present tense. I am constantly trying to make sure that I am not too critical of others or myself. I fail at that. Then I forgive again. Lather, rinse, repeat. The biggest disappointments I could have, the biggest grudges I could hold, they all seem to lead back to me. It helps when others express regret, but often I can only assume those feelings exist in them. I struggle to maintain ties and connections, even as I burn bridges down. You’ll find me by the ruins, trying to put bricks back in place.
As I write this, I recognise it comes across far too serious. To that I will attempt to make amends, to myself, for not always expressing my nature. I find life hilarious. People are ridiculous. Their actions sometimes make no sense. Somehow we as a society seem to try and regulate the appropriate times, contexts and places for humour to exist. That’s dumb. It’s simple. They are as follows: science, religion, politics, sports, work, and/or any situation in which we are present. We’re the universe’s punchline.
If I had something to say to myself the day I was born, I would say, “Courage, little one. Take courage. You will not always be small. You will not always be frail. You will not always be silent. You will not always be powerless. You will not always be weak. Take courage.” I would then try and figure out why my hair was so light blond and has now gone brown (with the occasional speck of grey). I’d probably also mention something about not having to worry about having others change my diapers forever.
If I had something to say to myself on my thirteenth birthday, I would say, “Don’t worry big guy, that mustache will eventually come in, and once a year, for like a month, everyone is going to be super supportive of it. Until then, you probably should use this razor. Also, don’t feel so bad about what those jerks at school have to say. They’ll one day grow up to be successful business owners, community leaders, and, oh, wait, where was I going with this?”
If I had something to say to myself on my twenty-first birthday, I would say, “You idiot! That girl was really into you! What the hell is wrong with you?!” I’d then probably tie my twenty-one year old self up in a closet, put on a wig that hides my receded hair line, and, well, okay the rest is not really important to share in this venue. I think the main point here is to tell myself not to waste opportunities, carpe diem, and know that the twenty-eight year old version of yourself is a little disappointed.
If I had something to say to myself on my twenty-seventh birthday, I would say, “Get in the car. Leave them all there. It’s Cleveland. Nobody is meant to spend time in Cleveland.” Actually, I don’t think I’d say that. I had a pretty great time last year. #goodtimz
If I had something to say to myself on my twenty-ninth birthday, which I totally do, because, you know, it’s next year, I would say, “Get out, enjoy yourself. Try not to take things too seriously when they don’t need to be. Try to show respect for those deserving of it. Indulge in the things that make you happy. Avoid the stuff that only brings disappointment. Take chances. Tell people how happy they make you, when they make you happy. Bite your tongue when they don’t. Live. Smile. Love.”