When Life Shoves Lemons Down Your Throat…

The other day while I was browsing the morning blog posts, I came across this one. In this post the author (whose actual name I cannot find on his blog) talks about the book The Artist’s Way. Specifically, he talks about the first step of the book which asks the reader to examine negative people/feelings/occurrences/etc in their life that have prevented them from reaching their full potential. The author of the blog post gave the example of being ashamed of his poor penmanship as a child.

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That got me thinking about little things that affected me, growing up as a kid who wanted to be a writer. I was quickly able to think of two examples of things that were said to me, and one example of a choice I made that I believe have negatively affected my forward motion as a writer.

– When I was quite young and just really getting into writing, I used to spend a lot of time laying on my grandparent’s floor, scribbling in a notebook. Practically every time I did this someone (my grandmother, an aunt, an older cousin) would make a comment about how I was always writing and maybe I’d become a journalist when I grew up. It was meant as a compliment, I’m sure, but as a kid it boiled my blood because I had absolutely no interest in journalism. All I wanted was to write fiction, and I felt that by suggesting I become anything but a fiction writer, they were doubting my ability. As a (perhaps overly-) sensitive kid, that perceived doubt really bothered me and set the precedent for me to doubt myself. Kids are stupid that way.

– In the eighth grade I had this awesome English teacher I loved, and once I gave him one of my stories to look at. I couldn’t tell you what the story was about, but I can tell you that when he returned it he gave me a stern talk about the use of brackets. He told me that putting sub-thoughts into brackets patronized the reader by implying that they were too stupid to think of this additional information on they’re own. I’m still not sure I agree with that concept, but at the time I couldn’t help but hear an insult. This was my English teacher, telling me that I’d patronized him with my story. As a (definitely overly-) sensitive teenager, this incident helped me to further slide down the slippery slope of self-doubt.

– As high school graduation was nearing, all graduating students had to see a guidance councillor to discuss plans for the future. This basically involved telling the councillor what kid of career path you wanted to take, and he would explain what steps you needed to go through to make that happen. When faced with that meeting I made a choice. Instead of telling the councillor that I wanted to be a writer (and had, in fact, wanted to be one since I was about 8 years old), I told him that I wanted to do something with technology. I made this choice because, while I loved writing with all my heart, the image of myself as a “starving artist” was always at the forefront of my mind. I desperately wanted to write, but I also wanted a house, a car, a family…in other words, financial independence. I was scared. I’d come I seriously doubt my ability to ever make enough money with writing to survive, much less have the other things I wanted in life. I thought that if I pursued writing I would end up penniless and living in my parent’s basement at forty. So I chose to go where I thought the money was. I can’t say whether that choice was ultimately good or bad (though I’m leaning toward good since things have worked out pretty well for me), but I can definitely say that it has directly stifled my literary potential in a major way.

Life is full of these little setbacks, discouraging moments, and crossroads. The trick seems to be pushing past them. Kids take things out of context, pre-teens take criticism to heart, and teenagers have no way of knowing what is the best path for them. These things have negatively affected my growth and potential as a writer, but they’re also in the past now. I can’t go back and make myself feel or react differently; I can only accept how things happened and keeping a forward motion.

I may have had setbacks, and my life may have taken some different turns from what I expected, but nothing that was ever said or done has made me want to be a writer any less.

Goodbye, Poppy…Love You Forever

This weekend, surrounded by his wife and children and some of his grandchildren, my grandfather passed away. He’d been in the hospital for a while, though I wasn’t aware until recently that it was as serious as it was. Luckily, as I recently returned home from my shift out West, I was able to visit him in the hospital before the end. He wasn’t awake, but I got to see him and talk to him, and that’s what’s important.

My grandfather had a stroke many years ago, and since then he’d been a very different man. I prefer to remember him as he was when I was younger, and with that in mind, as a form of memorial (and because I express my feelings best in writing), I’d like to share a few memories I have…

Poppy used to make my cousins and I the best root beer floats, most of the time with vanilla ice cream, but sometimes with butter ripple, which was just heavenly. I can recall more than a couple of occasions when he made us the floats after being told not to by parties who would have preferred us to have something healthy.

He also used to have “egg parties” with us, during which he would make us egg salad sandwiches with Cheese Whiz on the bread. As a child I absolutely hated eggs, so I personally think that this was just his way of forcing me to eat them, because everything tastes better when drowned in mayonnaise and Cheese Whiz.

Poppy made the best bonfires…I use the word “best” as a subjective term. Looking back, a lot of people probably would have looked at his fires and thought he was either looney or a terrible camper, but my cousins and I thought he was awesome. He would load everything imaginable into the fire, including (but not limited to) planks of wood that he snapped clean off run-down parts of the cabin, old tires, and giant piles of leaves collected by my cousins and I. The fires were an enormous monument to the gods of smoke and ash, and they were absolutely amazing.

He used to let my cousins and I ride in the back of his truck whenever possible. At first we could do it pretty much any time, but the laws must have changed at some point while I was young, because after a while we could only do it when we were on the dirt road that lead to the cabin. Regardless, this is a joy I think modern-day kids really miss out on. There was nothing quite like leaning back in the back of a truck with the wind beating the hair around your head.

When I was small and we would all go to the beach together, Poppy seemed ridiculously tough. It didn’t matter how cold the water was, he plowed right in and acted as though it was lukewarm tub water. Additionally, if any jellyfish or bloodsuckers washed up on the beach, he’d pick them up with his bare hands and toss them back in the water. Back then I thought he was incredibly brave because I could barely stand to touch a jellyfish with a stick.

Poppy always seemed to be encouraging my cousins and I to do things that everyone else would tell us not to do. He would let us sleep on the top bunk in the cabin, even though Nanny said it was too high. He seemed to get the biggest kick out of my cousin fishing snakes out of the woodpile outside, even (and probably more-so) after one of the snakes took a bite out of his finger once. He took us out to shoot a BB gun at targets in the woods even though we may have been a little too young for such a thing. I don’t know if he enjoyed defying everyone else, or if he just honestly had more faith in us than the other adults. Either way, it made him the cool one.

But if I’m honest, above all these other things, there is one memory that sticks out in my head, clear as day. It’s a simple thing, really, but for me it’s a memory to cherish. I remember being quite young, maybe six or so, being at the cabin with a ton of family, and bouncing on Poppy’s knee. I can picture him sitting on the couch, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt and a baseball cap, and there I am on his knee, laughing as he bounces me until I fall off and land on the floor in a pile of giggles. Above all else, I can picture this as clear as day, as though it happened just yesterday.

This is how I choose to remember my grandfather, as a wonderful, playful man who loved his family.

I love you, Poppy. Rest well.

Taking Lucid Dreams to a New Level

As long as I can remember, I’ve had very vivid dreams. Where some people can tell me the general plot of their dream and who was present, I could tell you what the characters were wearing, the layout of the room we were in, the exact emotions I was feeling, and any other number of finite details. I kept a dream journal once, out of a curiosity of whether I might be able to interpret some of them, but it was ridiculously time consuming. I could wake up from a dream and start scribbling in a notebook, and my arm would get sore before I’d finished. I have dreams in that journal that take up more than ten letter-sized pages, front and back. I don’t have dreams, you see, so much as subconscious full-length motion pictures.

But last night’s dream took the cake in a way that compels me to write about it. I’m going to give you a basic outline of how the dream panned out, and at the end I’ll explain why this one in particular freaked me out a bit.

So the dream took place in the area of the Kearl Lake plant where I used to work. There’s an area set aside from the actual plant where that area’s workers have trailers set up for lunch rooms, changing rooms, offices, and so on. That’s where I was. I was wearing all my outdoor work gear; boots, coveralls, outerwear, toque, etc, and I was wearing a backpack. As near as I could figure, I’d just arrived for my shift, but I couldn’t seem to recall how I’d gotten there. Additionally, it was nighttime, even though I work day shifts.

So I’m wandering around the trailers, and there seems to be some kind of party going on. For a while I was just wandering around confused and couldn’t figure out what was happening, but after a while I realized that PCL (one of the construction companies that works on the site) was throwing some kind of festival or something. I could go into great detail, but suffice it to say that there were parades going up and down the streets, carnival rides in between the site equipment, and food stands around the trailers.

Aside from the crazy carnival stuff occurring, there were a few things that differentiated this dream from reality. For one thing, one of my cousins was there, even though he works at a Sobeys store in Nova Scotia. I remember him trying to tell me something about the woods outside the site, and he began sinking into some kind of quicksand. It turned out to be a joke he was playing on me. Ha ha, very funny. Then my husband’s cousin, who is working on becoming a continuing care assistant (also in Nova Scotia) appeared, and she started dragging me in and out of the trailers, snagging treats and things for me, which I stuffed in my backpack. At one point we were guarding some kind of large signature board, which, evidently, everyone who visited the carnival was supposed to sign. Sometime after this I went looking for my coworkers, but every trailer I went into looked the same, that is, a lunch trailer with no appliances and three people I didn’t know sitting there looking at me like I was nuts. I kept leaving and moving to another trailer, and it kept being the same trailer with those same three people. Eventually, at some point, I realized that people were lining up for the bus to take us back to camp, and I wanted to go join the line but my boots had disappeared and I couldn’t find them.

I really could go into a lot more detail, but for the purposes of this story, this is all you need to know: the dream made very little sense. It wasn’t an outrageously insane dream with purple elephants and giant plants trying to eat people, but it was definitely removed from reality. There were people there who shouldn’t have been, things happening that shouldn’t have been happening, and all in all nothing made any sense.

So here’s the weird thing…I was absolutely convinced it was real. Remember at the beginning when I said that I couldn’t remember how I’d gotten there? I was genuinely freaking out throughout the entire dream because of that fact. I could remember falling asleep in my own bed at home after spending the day with my husband and daughter, and then all of a sudden I was at the work site, wearing my work clothes. Throughout the dream I kept trying to find my supervisor to tell him that I thought I was losing my mind because I couldn’t remember anything from the past 6 days and I had no idea how I’d managed to get on a plane and show up at site without recalling any of it. And yes, I’ve had dreams before that I would have sworn were real while I was dreaming them, but this one was truly intense. I can actually remember thinking, “The only way this would make sense is if its a dream, which I know it isn’t!” I can vividly recall paying particular attention to the way my legs felt when I walked, the way the wind cut at my face, the way my fingertips burned from the cold, and thinking, “I can feel everything, so I have to be awake!”

Needless to say, by the time I woke up I was pretty freaked out. I’ve never had a dream quite that vivid before, one in which I was actually desperate to prove that it was a dream, but every instinct and physical sense I have was telling me otherwise. It was a new level of weird, that’s for sure, which is why I felt the need to share it.

So how about it? Have you ever had a dream like this, that was so unbelievably vivid you were actually starting to think you were losing your mind? Please share, so I don’t feel like the only lunatic here!