journalism

Line Up All The Ducks In A Row

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Hello my good readers.  As I write this, it is 5:00am on Sunday.  I am thinking about a lot of different things right now, one of them is the phone conversation I am having with a friend who has to be at work in 3 hours and hasn’t slept at all.  Another big thing on my mind is wondering if I will be disappointed or not if I go try and see Star Wars today.  Then there is the part of my brain that never seems to stop, my critical voice.  In my head there always seems to be a dialogue.  What most often goes through it is distant memories of wrongs I feel have been done to me by random people.  There is the time some ex-friends of mine decided they hated me so much they would set me up to have a young woman we knew go through the motions of seducing me and then out of nowhere punched me in the face and had all her friends come out of hiding near us to laugh at me.  Then there was another time when I went to cross a street and was nearly hit by a guy and I walked in front of his car and he decided to use that as a reason to get out of his car and punch me repeatedly in the face while I was down and never fought back at all.  These things are clearly wrong, but the worst part of them is that I let them anger me now, years after I will never see these people again.  There are some things that help (and there are many more of these thoughts), one of them of course is medications.  I can recall being in the hospital and being off all medications and just being tormented.  Now it is sort of something that just bothers me, but it never seems to really stop.  The one thing I know that can help is meditation.  Simply sitting down, or even walking and counting or even just noticing my breath while I try to focus on clearing my mind of all thoughts is such a liberating experience.  It has actually even been proven to reverse brain damage in certain people.  I only wish I could take the time to practice it enough to really make a difference.

Aside from all that, Christmas is coming closer.  It is going to be a short and somewhat boring time for me I think.  I like it to be boring because it is hard for me to think about my mom being gone, even though it is now 7 years since she died.  I don’t think people really ever get over that kind of a loss.  I feel better about her being gone, but still sad.  I also keep having the urge to pick up the phone and call her, and I really wish she could have lived long enough to see me become a successful and published author.  My mom inspired me to write in so many ways.  At first she only really inspired me to read, but deep in me I knew that writing was what I wanted to do.  Even in elementary school I would write and draw my own comic books and I always entered any writing contests our school put on, not to mention discovering early on that I had a bit of a talent for poetry.

Sometimes when I think of my daily life and the voices/dialogue that runs through my head and how I often have to hide myself away and sleep for long hours at a time to decompress from a stressful week, I think I’m really messed up.  Lately I have been having problems writing short stories but I have been focusing a bit more on poetry.  All I really know is that if I keep writing every day I will start to improve, though I have a lot of improving to do.  It can be so hard to learn anything from reading books about writing.  Lately I tried paying a friend with a PhD to teach me how to edit my work and it got to be so expensive I couldn’t continue.  Fortunately in the New Year we have been talking about a different arrangement.  The main problem right now is just having too much free time on my hands.  I wish I could just write for 8 or 10 hours a day but that takes so much out of a person.  I have often heard from professional writers that the burn out time is about 2 hours a day which means 22 hours of tedium and wasted time, but 2 hours seems to be the most I can sit and write.  I can’t imagine that writers like James A. Michener wrote only 2 hours a day, or a lot of other authors did the same, but 2 hours seems to be the best way to get the most quality and creativity out of myself.  Please let me know if any of my readers have experience with this, I would love to share it on here in future entries.

When it comes down to it, there are some important things I have to remember.  I am a person with a severe mental health issue and I need to make my mental health a priority.  Medications on time, appointments kept, diet, exercise and sleep carefully monitored.  Stress kept to a minimum and work only taken on when it is worthwhile and with reasonable compensation.  Not that I mind volunteering, but I don’t consider a lot of the volunteer work out there to really be work.  I would love to go back to visiting dying patients, I greatly enjoy writing for my community newspaper as a volunteer.  But when I work very difficult jobs like the one I have setting up concerts, it better be worth it!  Until I can meet all those requirements, I don’t need to worry about being some great writer or changing the world, I just need to do what makes me happy.  Anyhow, I wrote a poem about poverty and charity and homelessness, which I am posting below, I hope you enjoy it!

 

Holiday Season

 

Around us children suffer, most are deaf to all their cries

People grow a little tougher, and each day part of their heart dies

 

Will you watch the pain around you getting worse and worse each day

Or will you force your very bone and sinew to try to find another way

 

Let your mind be opened, let your heart grow sensitive

Don’t leave the masses hoping that someone else will give

 

There are refugees with nothing, there are nations needing aid

Let your life mean something more than just working and being paid

 

Don’t just open up your wallet, don’t just pay instead of care

One person’s money will not solve it, we all must give, we all must share

 

Right here it’s dirty, cold and unforgiving on the frozen windy street

No one has any hope to make a living with no place to rest and warm their feet

 

This world needs healers, lovers, helpers, who aren’t afraid to lose it all

It needs food and love and shelters, do you hear that noble call?

 

Once I myself was sick and all alone, I had nowhere to go

I had lost my love, my mind, my home, I was hurting so

 

It ended with me living among the homeless, day by day hiding my pain

I felt so completely worthless, I don’t think I could do that all again

 

Will you push yourself to help the poor, give what you can as there is a need

Can you open your heart and open your door, set aside all selfishness and greed

 

I’ve had to fight addictions, I had to fight for my new home

I fought through more than one eviction, and I mostly fought alone

 

But taking the blessings I was given, I’ve made a brand new life

I’ve worked as though one driven, to put behind me all that strife

 

Remember that we all received a present, perfect peace, eternal life and bliss

Christmas day is when God sent it, he wants us to share that and our other gifts

 

December 20, 2015

Leif Gregersen

This Is a Strange Planet We Live On and Often Neglect

IMG_5475                      Canada Goose, from a park in Edmonton in the summer

For me, being a writer has been a long journey.  Sometimes I think I was interested in being a writer from way back.  I could read before I started school.  I devoured books and make regular trips to the library after school from grade two onwards.  My whole life seemed to revolve around the library.  When I was six, my parents bought me a plastic typewriter and I saved my allowance to buy a dictionary and thesaurus as my junior reporter book told me I needed to.  Soon after I took printer ribbon from my Dad’s business calculator stash to make scrolls that I turned into comic books.  When I went to the mall, the one thing my parents could buy me that would make me happy was a blank notebook, even before I could write.

Later on in life, I was still a voracious reader, but I had little opportunity to write.  I lived in a traveler’s hostel in Vancouver but I told people I wanted to write one day.  I will never forget an old hippy in that place who never seemed to do anything but drink beer and smoke cigarettes tell me about Jack Keroac, how he would travel and travel and then come home and write and write and then start over again.  It wasn’t until I left flight school and my home in Vancouver to return to Edmonton that I really started to write.  I bought some books about writing and brought an old typewriter from my parent’s house to my apartment.  I started to keep a journal, trying to commit to a full page each day.  I also wrote poems, and got sucked into vanity press ‘contests’ where I was told my poetry was top notch and could be published in their upcoming anthology for a fee.  I didn’t fall for it-couldn’t fall for it, I had no money anyways.  I lived on a tiny disability stipend and had credit collectors calling me at all hours.

My first book, titled “Through The Withering Storm” took some 20 years to write.  It began as ideas, then short stories, then was abandoned and taken up again and then lost.  When I was living in the place I am at now, a friend gave me a copy of the manuscript I had given her years before to keep for me and my whole life changed (thanks Caroline!)  Now, after the book was finished, edited and printed/published, I wonder what drove me to write it.  I like to tell people I wrote it to help people with mental illnesses, and help reduce stigma of the illness, but I don’t really know.  I’m sure more than once the idea of making money came to mind, and the book has given me some rewards of that nature though not the millions I hoped it would.  I think there were two huge factors that made me want to write it:  one, I wanted to write and thought it would be easiest to start with myself, a topic few people can tire of, and two, I had been treated like garbage for most of my life and wanted something to throw in the face of my doubters.

As for number two, I grew out of that aspect of it but still it was a factor in writing it.  It did feel really good to go to a craft fair at the mental hospital I spent so many long months in and have a book printed with my name on it and not only that, it sold really well that day, some 20 copies.  I have to say that if anyone had told me during my last hospital visit that I would be in the position I am in now, doing public speaking, book signings, radio interviews and even soon to be working in the mental health field, I would have thought they were playing with my mind to torture me.  But things have gotten good, really good.  I think I have accomplished something just in the last week that every male my age wanted to do one day, to make their Dad proud of them.  The other day I completed a draft of a Young Adult Novel I am working on and showed it to my Dad and he actually liked it.  Years ago when I told him I wanted to write he told me there is only 2 or 3 people in the country who actually make a living at it.  I have to admit I still don’t make a living at it, but I get closer each day and writing is so hugely rewarding.  One thing that keeps going through my head is that now that there are hundreds of copies of my two memoir books out there, in a way I am immortal.  500 years from now when I’m gone, perhaps someone will pick up a copy of my book in an antique store and read it and understand who I am, what I went through in my life, my dreams and hopes and defeats.

Just so everyone who follows this blog understands, I wanted to state that I am going to get away from a poetry/random blog theme from now on and focus on a writing skills and mental health theme.  I will still post photos but the blogs I write will be a bit different.  I was thinking today of talking a little about what it’s like to be in the hospital, but I think I will save that for tomorrow and suggest anyone interested who is planning to read my next blog can go and watch my Youtube video, “Alberta Mental Hospital Experience” which is a short film I made and narrated about my time in Alberta Hospital, AKA AHE, AKA Oliver.  All the best to everyone, and once again I want to extend my hand and freely give out my personal email to anyone who wants to ask questions, rant, talk, chat, gab or whatever they desire.  My email is:  viking3082000@yahoo.com    and the video link is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU53Mr5UVUI

DSCF3186                      Lush, green summertime in Edmonton, Hermitage Park