Saturday, 16 September 2017
I walked everywhere downtown. All through Byward Market, Parliment Hill, parks, streets and by homeless shelters. Ottawa has three homeless shelters in the Byward Market area. Yup, there were panhandlers, but they said please and thank you as you walked by. They did not slur drunkenly in my face or became aggressive as I said no thank you and walked on. They did not call me a bitch, they did not follow me and they did not become aggressive in any way.
I walked in the dark, in the day time and in the twilight. I saw homeless people during all of my walks, but not one followed me or threatened me in any way.
Downtown is a vibrant, moving chrysalis of activity at all hours of night. They have great cafes in hidden areas, outdoor markets, fabulous boutiques you cannot find in the ubiquitous malls and great, personal, fantastically gorgeous one-of-a-kind articles of anything you may wish to purchase.
They have fruit and vegetable markets, streets closed or monitored to traffic, pedestrians walking everywhere, dogs on patios and in stores, and, butchers, bakeries, and open window cafes. Sure, there were business buildings there, but they are not the focus. Peope business is the focus. People are the focus. Cafes open 24 hours are the focus. Foot traffic is the focus.
Having a eco-diverse Hydro building? Not so much.
Green space is everywhere. Dogs are everywhere. In one of the many parks there were tight rope walkers, couples laughing and enjoying the sunshine, people reading, or napping under trees and kids playing. In the middle of downtown.
CANADA 150, which I could not partake in because of stupid Brain Splatter Injury (BSI) had free exhibits, moving art, and wonderful tree sculptures all over the area where I was within a five mile radius and it was all FREE. The parliament buildings had a light show every night. Gatineau, Quebec had the exquisite MOSAICANADA gardens which were outstanding and had rave reviews, Byward Market had light sculptures and moving sculptures you could sit in too peddle as the lights told a storey on the screen. All free.
The people are friendly, even if English is not their first language. The culture is really diverse with many ethnic communities represented and sitting in a French restaurant speaking in English is welcomed. I have never seen more fashionable people, people well-dressed, including the men, than in Ottawa. I saw people riding bikes with Yoga mats, just coming from work. I saw young and old people, children and dogs.....I think I mentioned dogs.....
The community is vibrant, colourful, ethnically diverse and interesting. I spoke to my cab driver who was from Africa and immigrated here 20 years ago. He has been to Winnipeg, Calgary and the US. He has no desire to live anywhere else. When he first moved to Ottawa he was terrified of the police, given his culture in Africa where he came from, but after a year realized the police in Canada are intelligent, polite and want to serve their community. He said he would not live anywhere else. He drives a cab for a living and lives in Ottawa, and has no regrets. He says it is the peace and tranquility that keeps him in Ottawa. He walks in the middle of the night along the canal and feels safe.
Say what you will about politics, bilingualism, and taxes. I would gladly give up my house to move to a place that offers me peace and safety. And where I can fly home to the Netherlands.......
Sunday, 3 September 2017
I've always been curious about communication. My favourite quote is "The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion it has taken place." I use this on my signature block at work because 95% of my job is about communication. All of my jobs or roles: Theurapeutic Healthcare Yoga Instructor, Senior Manager in IT, Peer to Peer Worker, Author, wife, mother, sister, daughter.
Roadblocks One and Two: Cultural and Gender
I was also born and raised in the Netherlands. We have a completely different way of communicating than in North America. It's not better or worse, it is just different. Dutch people are direct. We try not to confuse people by being coy or softening words to maybe tell you that it's time you stopped being a sexist jerk. We state it outright. I know that's weird in North America where women have been told not to say bad things about someone even if they are being ignorant. Bite your tongue, smile, and seethe with rage inside instead. Yes, I am generalizing. And this is where emotion and communication fit in.
In essence, biting your tongue is the typical female reaction to being hit on, patronized, or marginalized. I cannot speak for men because I have not been one in this lifetime, however, I do understand the frustration of asking a person 'What's wrong', and being met with 'Nothing' and end up being in a silent rage hurricane, and not knowing why. For women, this is a defence mechanism or a passive aggressive response in order not to turn a potential harmless situation into a violent one. Violence is a part of our daily lives. You just need to read the paper to know that; the leading cause of death of pregnant women is being murdered by their partner (2001 Isabelle Horon, PhD Maryland Dept of Health and Hygeine, Journal of the American Medical Association); a Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women in Canada report from Statistics Canada states that Aboriginal women are more likely to die violent deaths, and homicide rates were six times higher than non-Aboriginal women; women are four times as likely to be a victim of homicide by partner than their male counterparts (Stats Canada). So get it. I understand the reluctance of some women not to speak up, to appear to 'get' the joke and laugh about misogyny, to walk away rather than say what they want. That is one issue with communication. The silence. The building up of anger over being manipulated or being told we are too emotional or too sensitive, or we can't take a joke. Fortunately, as women age, we lose our filters.
But even in a non-violent situation at work studies have found that when women are in a group with men, they will typically not say anything or, if they do speak, are not heard. I used to call that talking in my girl voice again because it happened so often. Working in a male dominant environment, this will only get you pushed around. I saw that first hand when I had a young woman working for me who was meek and soft spoken. She was placed in more and more situations where work was forced upon her and she took it, even though it stressed her and she felt guilty for taking sick days or vacation time. She would work overtime and not tell me because she was not capable of doing everything she was told she had to do because of changing work structure. When I tried to intervene, she would become upset and claim I wasn't being nice or that I was mean. When I tried to understand her work load I was never given a straight answer.
Roadblock Three: Introversion Verses Extroversion
I am an introvert. Always have been. People suck the life out of me. I prefer the quiet, one-on-one deep discussions over meaningless prater and group events drain me completely. Weird, I know! Looking at my non-conformist standard of dress, hair colour and sense of humour, you would think I was a screaming Extrovert. But nope. I'm not. I am an INTJ for those of you that use Myers Briggs, part of the .08% of the female population. I'm a logical thinker, analyser, like to ponder the ways of the world in solitude while drinking organic tea. You people that know me now can stop laughing. I am also super goofy (check out Facebook pix) and I see the world differently than most. I have studied human nature for almost five decades, up close and personal. And I've seen and dealt with many situations that most of the adult population never encounter.
As my son and I were driving home today we listened to "QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Very cool book if you are an Introvert in an Extravert world. I won't spoil it for you, but being an Introvert is pretty awesome and we make terrific leaders. We had a great discussion about communication. He is an autistic person. Communication is tough for him. I remember him as a child and he would never use the word 'I' because 'eye' sounded the same, but they couldn't have two different meanings. English language problems.....
From studying communication, people can become silent when they feel unheard or they can lash out. I used to stay silent and get angry, then become sarcastic (lashing out). I did not really understand why I was not understood. I would try to be as clear as possible, using as many or as few words as possible, and things would still go sideways. Then I would try and analyze where the train went off the rails.
Now, I read as many books as I can about communication and what can happen when communication doesn't happen. The results are not pretty; health decreases, productivity drops, turnover rates increase, the cost of doing business increases having to re-do jobs or projects, morale drops, people become sensitive and hoard information, gossip, and all sorts of angry beasts show up. It can happen as quick as a backdraft in a fire. One wrong word, phrase or look can turn a conversation from productive to destructive.
Roadblock Four: Being on the Spectrum of Autism.
Being a person with autism is incredibly difficult in terms of communication and emotion. As you can guess, not being able to read social cues, facial expressions, or understand sarcasm, can make someone a little gun shy when dealing with people. I am going to post my son's view on communication, with his permission.
How to Express Emotion and How Others Express Emotion by A.F.
I begin with this statement: I'm not good with emotion; I have extreme difficulty interpreting how I feel and interpreting how others feel. I never really know how my friends feel about me on any given day. I never know, without an outright statement, how others feel. I'm completely clueless, so I use a "best guess" mind set: people don't friend people they hate.
The dominate emotion I have is anger. That's the first emotion I feel when overwhelmed or scared. It's the "natural" mindset when cast into a new situation. Fear is a distant second. When I feel myself getting angry or when I am, I think to myself: "what is the actual emotion that I feel right now?" And "what is the cause of my anger?" And then I stop and think about these two things. I'll follow the strand of thought that makes me so upset and try to figure out the source of it.
Normally I get angry because I'm frustrated. This is usually where following that strand of thought takes me. I get angry because I can't stay long when I'm with a group of friends. I become withdrawn, more analytical and less humorous. This is an introversion thing. I cant change that. This is a classical source of frustration and therefore, anger, for me.
One of the first introspective journeys lead me to this conclusion. I would like to stay longer with groups of friends, to stay open and humorous. I used to, and I suppose, still do, become moody, sad, or depressed towards the end of our activity. But since I started thinking along these likes "what is the actual emotion that I feel right now" I can state outright: "Hey, I think I need to go now, I'm getting pretty tired" and that helps mitigate these feelings of frustration.
Knowing that anger is my dominant emotion and that frustration is a cause of anger, I have taken these steps to decrease the amount I feel in daily life. I feel like I am much happier as a result and have developed an positive outlook over all. I prefer this over being moody all the time.
Other feelings are much harder for me to analyze in this fashion. I never really know how I feel about my friends or if I have more intimate feelings for another person. These feelings never exist in isolation of each other. This makes if difficult for me to talk about these matters with other people or that person I like. I simply just don't know.
I feel: anger, frustration, closeness, kindness, belonging, isolation, confusion, when I sit and think about a person I think I like. This emotional fog is persistent and prevents me from talking about anything, I just label it all as confusion and assume friendship and carry on.
How I think others feel about me: annoyance, clingyness, friendly, kind, selfish, controlling, intelligent, dim witted; again, another patch of emotional fog.
I like knowing what's going on before I take action. I don't like being caught off guard by an unknown variable, I like clear and concise planning for everything. I know this is where I get labeled as controlling. But you can always tell me exactly what to do when to do it and why, and I'll be fine too. Basically, I like either being in control of what's going on or being controlled by someone else with respect to what's going on.
I am not selfish, I'm oblivious and absentminded. A selfish person knows the thoughts, feelings and expectations of others but chooses to ignore them. An oblivious person doesn't know the thoughts, feelings and expectations of others to begin with, and there for they act in their own interests or will act with what they think are the interests of others
I don't think people are bad and I don't hold grudges. But there are people who I will avoid because they make me feel angry or they are negative to be around. Other people's emotional state will influence mine, so if someone is negative it will effect me.
In social situations and out in public I look to others for how to feel. I take my emotional queues from the people I'm with. This way I don't need to constantly think about what the heck is going on, who all these people are or if I should feel threatened. If you're relaxed I'm relaxed. This is pretty much how I've gone out my entire life, always with a friend or loved one by my side. I think I've gone out alone maybe 10 times in 20 years. Most of that is buying me food that I need (which I can do because its getting food from the local Extra Foods place)
Overall, I have made the decision to be happy in daily life, which I say literally. Happiness does not come to me, its something that I choose to be. I choose to be around people that make me happy over all. I choose to make these people happy, I choose happy media; songs, TV shows, YouTube series, books etc. Being happy is the way in which I will live my life.
The only way this is possible is to identify how my own emotions work, figuring out what the cause of my frustrating and anger are. Then addressing these root causes and resolving them and finally choosing to be happy once that's satisfied.
This was based from a conversation I had with Malina at the lake.
It's no wonder we are in a state of constant stress and are exhausted at the end of a work day. The emotional toll of miscommunication makes it hard to enjoy your job, or your life, not to mention the cost of business and productivity.
How well do you communicate? Do you think you are effective? Do you understand the impact of your communication skills and how it sets the tone for your marriage? What about in the workplace? Do you know how to listen? Interpret? Are you getting all of the information you need in order to make a decision? Are you interpreting the information in the way it was intended, or are you filling in the gaps with guesses and judgement?
Wherever you are, we all need to understand and be understood.
Sunday, 11 June 2017
Robin Williams was another devastating loss. He had fame, a family that loved him, wealth, friends, and yet, he too ended his life.
They say that money does not buy happiness. I think that should read money does not defeat depression and pain. There are many stages and versions of depression.
There's the blues, the Yorkie (4 pounds) of depression, something you can kick off in a day or too where you feel, meh.
Then there is the Miniature Poodle (15 pounds) of depression; lasts a few days longer but still something you can exercise away when you increase your dopamine levels naturally. This is usually situationally based; loss of a job promotion, breakup of a relationship, different expectations of outcome.
Next is the Bulldog (32 pounds) of depression. This is when you are depressed for more than two weeks and you cannot pull yourself out of it. Nothing matters. You don't clean yourself, you don't get out of bed and you don't go to work. At this point, you need help. Sometimes you cycle a few weeks of the year and the rest is fine. Sometimes this happens once and you are good.
Then comes the Irish Setter (70 pounds) of depression. You are longer in the depressed state than out of it, but you can still come out of it. This is serious depression where nothing matters. Nothing good lives in this state, but you have no control over how long it lasts or if it goes away. You hurt, physically, emotionally and in your soul.
Last is the English Mastiff (150 pounds) of depression. This is the end state of depression where no matter how good life is, nothing can pull you out. Medication is usually tried, upwards of 50 or more, to find the correct one to balance your mood. If you are lucky, you find the right one and you coast. Life is good, you are content, balanced, but you need the medication to live. Then, something catastrophic happens. You lose a child or a partner. You have now bypassed all stages of depression and come to the Dire Wolf of grief and depression.
The pain is so overwhelming that you want to tear your skin off just to feel something else. Anything else. You vacillate between pain and numbness. Basic human needs fall to the wayside. You might remember to eat, or bathe, or brush your teeth. You might still work and grow comfortably numb for 9 hours a day, shutting off the emotions, tramping those suckers down so hard and so deep that you can effectively bury them without losing momentum on projects at work.
But you go home and you think. You watch a movie and you see a face that resembles the person you lost. And you sob, lying on the floor wanting it to end. Not necessarily wanting your life to end, but the pain. The gouging, tearing, ripping pain the clutches at your soul piece by piece. After a few days, you grow numb again. Until the next reminder, or worse, the next catastrophic event like being diagnosed with a chronic illness that will render you a vegetable in a few years time. Then, that is the point when some people say, enough.
No more pain. No more suffering. No more Dire Wolf tearing at my throat.
Robin Williams said "I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone."
A lot of people with chronic pain or illness, or serious illnesses end up alone. Friends and family cut you off, and when you need them the most, these people scatter. I have heard story after story of kids abandoning parents, siblings cutting other siblings out, friends, best friends leaving the wounded and the weak, like somehow what's happened is catching.
And it is a Catch-22. Depressed and grieving people want to be alone. They want to disappear in a time and space of nothingness. They need to grieve, sometimes for years. It is difficult being around a person like that. Believe me, if I had a choice I wouldn't be near me either. But the burden that is placed on the partner or the children of the grieving is so incredibly difficult and stressful, and usually these people, these loved ones are collateral damage, because family and friends don't just cut off the victim of the Dire Wolf, but everyone else that stays and supports the severely depressed.
I wrote this in terms so that people might understand what depression can be, for people who have had the fortunate alignment of the right stars at the right time and have never been depressed.
I wrote on FB one day, "If you think you know what depression is, you don't. If you think you know what suicidal depression is, you still don't".
Reach out if someone is hurting. Your words, your sitting in silence, your presence might make a difference.
And if you are the one with the Dire Wolf at your heels, please reach out until someone listens.
And, last, if you know your brother, sister, mother, father, uncle or friend is a caregiver, reach out to them too. You can make a difference.
Suicide Hotline USA: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Hotline MB: 1-877-435-7170....seems like all the provinces have their own.
Saturday, 8 April 2017
I watched the Neflix series in two days while I was at home convalescing after a somewhat serious heart condition. I cocoon and nest when I am ill because I have learned through life the only person I can truly rely on is myself. So I hide. I don't want anyone to see me and I become paralyzed until the sympathetic nervous system finally lets go a week or two later. So, for a week or so I binge watch TV, sleep and read. Is it healthy? I don't know. Does it work? Yup.
So during this time I watched 13 Reasons Why. It was profound, sad, frustrating, and so many other things that I do not have words for it. Someone mentioned on my FB post that his daughter watched it and was angry about it. I wondered why. Why would this story of a young girl being bullied, sexually assaulted, lied about and abused make someone angry.
Sadly, this is high school. It was like this when I went. It was like this when my children went, and I bet it's the same now. There was nothing this girl experienced that a million other girls didn't experience. The difference being, however, now we get photographic proof, or video proof and this abuse follows you home. It's on your laptop, your phone, on every phone in the high school. The proof stays there forever. Thirty years later, you can google and find that video of you being sexually assaulted.
And the whispers never stop. You walk into a room and the room goes silent. You know they were just talking about how you gave John a blowjob in the playground last night. Even though that didn't happen. You haven't even been kissed yet, but John decides he wants to save his reputation from you turning him down, by telling everyone what a slut you are. And remember. You are not one of them. You are the new kid in school, because your family moves every two years. So you are always the new kid.
Then the jocks think you are easy, so they start hitting on you, trapping you in the hallway, the classroom, outside, anywhere they can. And they touch you. You cannot stop it. Then when you cry, they call you a whore, a bitch, a slut and laugh. This goes to all of their friends and their girlfriends, and suddenly you are walking down the hall and everyone is making rude gestures, leaving nasty photos an notes in your locker, and tweeting it to all of their friends.
You are shopping with your family and one of the jocks mimics a blow job in front of your mother while looking at you. You wince and want to die.
You're at the corner store and someone else walks in, rubs himself on you while grabbing you. You can't move because you are trapped by the counter. He smiles and says something funny.
The next time an older guy you like invites you in for a coke. He's friendly and persuasive , and then gets nasty because you won't touch him. He rips your clothes off an rapes you. Then as you leave he says, "Please don't tell anyone about this." You walk off in a daze, blood running down your leg and you feel like your head is in the clouds. What just happened?
A few days later, a friend of your parents is visiting and he is leaving the bathroom as you open your bedroom door. He goes on his knees in front of you and mimics oral sex. You are 14 and have no clue what that means, but it makes you feel dirty and ugly and you feel like it's your fault.
This happens every single day in North America. And now with President Trump saying he can't stop himself from grabbing beautiful women by the crotch I realize what a different world we live in, men and women.
I read the book after the watching the series (the series was better) and I felt so bad for Hannah thinking she was all alone. Hannah, you are not alone. There are millions of you out there fighting off teachers, parents, uncles, step-fathers, cousins, brothers, landlords, and bosses.
Reading and watching this just reinforced how ugly it can be, to be a teenage girl in this predatory world. It makes me angry that we raise boys to think this is okay and we tell the girls "to get over it."
And then we wonder why depression is so high.