story slam

Every Little Victory In Our Lives Leads to a Place of Happiness

Hello Dear readers. I have been breaking with convention a bit and posting things of a slightly different nature as you may know. There have been a couple of things going on, one of them is that I have been experiencing a fair bit of stress lately. The funny thing is that the stress seems to stay in my blankets. Namely, I feel stressed about facing the world but if I can get up and get dressed I stand a much better chance of facing my problems and at the very least leaving the house to try and do them. Last night was kind of a special night for me because I love to participate in 5-minute live story readings for cash prizes, and the theme for the story was ‘disability’. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect theme, I loved the idea of talking about my illness and where it took me. The main problem was that I had to make it as though I were telling a story, even though my story was pretty much completely non-fiction. I won’t go too much further into it, I thought I would try and post a relevant photo first and then paste in the text of the story I wrote in case any of my readers would like it. Once again I strongly encourage any regular readers to write me with any questions, I can even keep the responses anonymous, and I have no problem even doing some heavy research to answer any questions you have. I think the biggest thing I can say is that once you find a good medication and have a stable life, you can then go into things like a life-skills group where they teach you to better communicate with others, then perhaps once done this successfully, a person who has been in a hospital for a long stay for psychiatric reasons can look into part-time education (and I often recommend distance learning, especially if you are a little older), bettering themselves, keeping their lives low-stress, and then when you are ready move to the next step of finding normal employment. I think this is a time when volunteering is really good because a lot of employers like the idea that you will work for nothing (just kidding) and many other advantages like filling in any large gaps of time in your resume. So, here goes, picture below and then at the bottom of today’s message I will paste in my winning story. Take care everyone!

 

Story Slam Winning Story

So much of my life I wanted to be a hero. Fight for your country, catch a criminal, save a life. People who did these things and looked good doing them were heroes or so I thought.

 

Getting older changed the game. Drink the most beer, pick up the best-looking girl, make the most money. Then, one day as I was near to finishing school it happened.

 

I had heard of phthalidomide before but had never seen a victim of it. A young, healthy man, born without arms, changed me forever. He spoke to our school for an hour, and as he went, he played the saxophone, talked about going to College, and what it was like for people to stare at him everywhere he went.

 

This young man was a true hero. Someone who spread hope. I could hardly even imagine what he had been through. I told my mom that I felt bad that this unfortunate, birth-defected person had done so much while I had done nothing despite that there was nothing wrong with me.

 

Soon after, I dove into a self-improvement kick. I quit drinking, smoking, started working out and retreated into my schoolwork every free moment I had. Somewhere in that process something went desperately wrong. As the pressure built, I kept being harder on myself. I began to slip away from reality.

 

I have no idea what set me off. All I know is that I started to have thoughts and ideas that no rational person would. I gave things away, fell into a deep, dark depression. My mind, my senses were filled with confusion. I was slowly going insane and had no clue what to do about it.

 

One day a friend came to pick me up and I just wasn’t myself. I was nothing like myself in any way. My friend had the presence of mind to take me to a hospital and soon I was given a powerful injection and confined to a seclusion room.

 

I just couldn’t seem to understand that despite that this had never happened before, it would happen again, and would never go away. When they released me, I threw out my pills, and just days after, I picked a fight at school and was taken by police back to that horrible place and was kicked out of school.

 

It took years after that for me to find myself. I ran from my illness. Vancouver, California. Trouble was, I brought my brain with me. Each day was a struggle to keep sane. After another relapse, I finally returned to Edmonton, accepted my diagnosis and took my medication.

 

So much happened over those years. A thousand lifetimes lived and lost in dreaming or reading or trying to find some kind of work I could handle. I was in no condition to deal with stress, sleeping 12 hours a day because of medications. I was dirt poor and there seemed no hope, no future. When I was around 25, after a harsh rejection from a young woman I once cared about, I took a near lethal overdose.

 

I laid in bed for days, and while I was under my dad came by and put twenty dollars under my door. That money was enough to get me a cab to the hospital where I spent five more days in intensive care. I wasn’t supposed to have recovered, but miracles happen, and they happen for a reason.

I left the hospital after seeing how much I hurt my family and friends with a new determination. Life from then on wasn’t perfect, but each moment, each sunrise and sunset was precious. They were borrowed moments, time I would never have had if no one had cared about me.

I still became severely ill. Once while in psychosis, I took a tour of the Legislature Grounds and was so abusive and obnoxious that I was escorted off the grounds. It’s a fact that people with mental illnesses are more often victims of violence than perpetrators of it. The misguided attitude that you can do anything, the poor choices you make are the cause. I needed to be in a hospital, and things were so serious this time I wasn’t let out for six whole months.

Some of you may know the rest of the story. A long incarceration, a longer recovery. A new job spreading the word about stigma and mental illness. Other work teaching Wellness, Recovery, and Creative Writing to people who suffer. The years slid past and here I am. How far have I come? From being kicked out of the Legislature to being given a special recognition by Canadians For a Civil Society to Participate in Human Rights Day in the same Legislature I was kicked out of eighteen years ago. Am I a hero? I couldn’t tell you, but in my long journey of growth and recovery I think I may have come to a point where I have done more good than harm. Thank you.

Precious Few Moments

The Tower Bridge, London, England (Last Spring)

Hello Dear Readers! Last night was one of my favourite events, “The Edmonton Story Slam” where up to ten writers read their stories (all without censorship) for a shot at a cash prize. I didn’t win like I did twice in 2016, but I had a lot of fun, enough to make the $10 I spent worthwhile. I thought I would share my entry here with you. It is sort of a story, sort of a poem.

Precious Few Moments, Precious Little Time

I once knew a young man who had hope and happiness, to look at this guy you could say he was blessed. But something happened to him left his life in a mess. He was beaten up for declaring his rights, left a bleeding mess, and there were other fights. Now he lives in the streets and begs change to eat, he no longer gets the medicine that once helped him stay on his feet. All of this happened because of racism and hate, and I know there are many more destined for a similar fate.

         I want to tell you a story about what’s going on in this place, about something that not everyone thinks we have to face. It’s about how the world is divided race against race and how these crazy ideas make us look at money and fame and just try to chase posessions and sex and not forgiveness or grace.

         You see we all started out with the same shot at having it all, all of our mothers loved us since we were small. But something went on not long after just being able to crawl, we started to think it was funny when others would stumble and fall.

         This whole idea of laughing at each other’s pain seemed to be wired right into our subconscious brains, but there were a  few who grew and saw that other people’s unhappiness gave us no personal gain.

         So this world that once could have been the perfect place has been overrun in case after case with hate’s prideful, evil, and blood-sucking face. We go to war with our brothers and instead of love it’s the dollar we chase, meanwhile the whole planet could soon be a cold rock lost in space

         I don’t want to tell you there is no more hope, but I do want to say we are nearing the end of our rope. The climate is changing, and the solution isn’t legalizing our dope. It’s in making some changes before we slide down a long slippery slope.

         If we could just join together and do a few things, you would be surprised by the joy and fellowship that it could bring. Not to mention the healing of our planet that would make our hearts sing.

         There has been great people who are already there, people who look at the state of our planet and care. I heard word our oceans are being cleaned up and repaired, that these people are doing so much more than their share. We need to all do just a little, or life will become more than any could bare

         Look now on your neighbors, your co-workers and friends, and realize that on your lead all of this desperately depends. It’s all about sharing and caring and knowing the rewards of kindness will never end.

         A few little things can start mountains to move. Reach out to those who have no more to lose. Let them know they can depend on you, and of course help them understand that they have nothing to prove. There are so many ways to help others and there is no way to lose. When my Dad was a newcomer not so long ago, he wasn’t sure of what all that he could do, good friends and kind people helped him get through.

         So I really have two things I wish we all could each see our way to do. One is to return this planet to what it was like when it was new. Clean fresh air and blue skies, it isn’t impossible for a unified few. We just have to focus on the policies we need to put through.

         Now the next thing really has to do with the first, when I talk about this subject I understand that is is mankind’s curse. It’s war and how there is nothing worse, how it divides people and destroys life, limb, and nature in massive bursts. If we all loved our neighbors and if our leaders spoke with our so-called enemies first, we wouldn’t have to send out men and women to die and destroy huge chunks of our Earth.

         It’s all about love, for those we share this big blue rock in space, it’s all about finding peace in our lifetimes so we can save this beautiful place.

         We may have to sacrifice some money and a few of our toys, but the things we will have instead will be much greater joys. So join me in these dreams to love our planet and our fellow man, and let’s get together to find a way to do what we can. This may be a story, but it’s one laced with words that call us to action. Let’s each do our part, give up the rat race and follow our passion.

         And my friend, the young man who I see on the street? I don’t know what I can do but lay change at his feet. It hurts sometimes that he doesn’t know me after all of this time, to watch a young man throw his life away seems like such a crime.

Story Slam and New Camera Day

DSC_0146Photo taken near my house with my brand new Nikon Camera

Today’s Blog:

     Well, I wonder what my growing list of regular readers would like to hear about today.  Last night I went to a ‘story slam’ competition and got up in front of a large crowd of people and recited a five minute story I wrote about my mom’s passing.  It was something that affected me greatly, I think I will post the story here for anyone to have a look at:

A TRIBUTE:

Mother. Mama. Mommy. Mom. So many names for the same thing, that one special person in all of our lives, in the lives of everyone here, everyone that ever lived has had a mother. Mine is no more.

 

The Catholics consider Mary Mother of Jesus to be the first Saint. She was the first one close enough to our Lord to appeal to him when wine ran out at a wedding. When the time came for me to perform a miracle for my Mom, I was unable.

 

It was six or seven years ago. My Dad was far away in Toronto at my sister’s wedding and I was taking care of my mom. At 63 she had just about everything go wrong with her that could. In her day, my Mother had been a bank manager, she had been an expeditor for a rail company. She had been her first family’s sole support at 16 and nearly earned herself a full scholarship to University. All she had wanted in life was to become a teacher, but she had to satisfy herself with teaching three kids.

 

Life and medications had taken so much out of her. My mom had turned from an intelligent and active adult to a child in a 63 year-old body. I had to answer to her every call, be it for her meals, for help to go to the bathroom, or even just to bring cold water. As I did these things, I thought of all she did for me and tried so hard to keep having patience.

 

One day, she called my name. The name only she could get away using. “Leify!” she said. Leify. Me, her little boy, the one she had carried and loved and spoiled.   And now she needed me.

 

I went in to see what was wrong. Her arms were flailing but she wasn’t speaking. I felt cruel and cold as I looked at her, tried to explain I didn’t know what she wanted. I put my hand to her chest and somehow I realized she wasn’t breathing. I don’t know how much time went by, but in what seemed like hours and at the same time like split seconds I had dialed 911. “Do you know CPR?” the operator asked. Yes, I have taken it many times, in boy scouts, in air cadets, I had read about it, even watched it performed once on a heart attack victim.

 

“No.” I had to reply. It had been too long, and this was my mom who wasn’t breathing. They told me to lay her flat on the floor. This I did, wondering how much damage I was doing to the back that suffered from crushed vertebrae and osteoporosis. I made a seal on her lips and blew, still being able to taste her last dose of medicine on her lips. I pushed on her chest a few times then tried to breathe life into her again. Nothing was happening.

 

In no time the paramedics were there. There was a lot of them, they crowded into my parent’s small apartment, pounded her chest and put a breathing bag over her mouth. They tried so desperately hard but nothing was helping. One of the paramedics told me she could still hear me, to not be embarrassed, to say what I wanted to her. “We all love you mom.” Is all I can remember saying. “We all love you mom.”

 

I was given a ride to the hospital and the paramedic explained that there was no hope to be had. At the hospital this was confirmed. I had to make a decision. She was brain dead and breathing through artificial methods. Her pain, her joy, her suffering, her crying fits and bedsores were all over now. I told them they could take her off life support.

 

It really was a beautiful thing, to be with someone when your end comes. Her breathing slowed, then stopped. I looked in her eyes and they seemed so alive, so real, I wanted to cry out that she wasn’t gone, that there was still a spark in her, but she was gone no matter how alive she seemed. I went into a waiting room, was given access to a phone and called my Dad to tell him my mom had died-on my watch.

 

It was discovered she had died of choking. Complications of acid reflux. Her and I shared a malady, the one that makes us take medications, we both had Bipolar Disorder. It gave us a special bond but it was also eating away at our souls and some of our vital body systems. My last true friend was gone, my mom. Three more days and she had an appointment to fix her throat. She didn’t have to die. She was a victim of waiting lists. I was a victim of guilt for many months.

 

My family goes on. My sister married and she has a child, a wonderful little child who had loved her grandmother. I look in her eyes and it warms my heart when she tells me she wants to grow up to be a teacher. Sometimes she cries because she misses her gramma. Now, I still reach for the phone when I want to talk to her, then I remember and pray to her instead. She can’t respond, but I know she can hear me. I know because when we visit her resting place I can feel her tears in the rain and her whispers in the wind. She will be in my heart forever.

CONTINUATION OF BLOG:

The story I read was just slightly different from how it appears here.  It must have been pretty powerful because when I got off the stage I noticed that three women were in tears.  One of them was one of the contest judges and she gave me the only 10 our of 10 of the night, though I didn’t win the competition.  Grieving a loss is a funny experience.  There have been times in my life when I was greatly worried that I was some kind of Psychopath or Sociopath, but after experiencing my mom’s death I realized that I do have a lot of compassion and feeling in me, I think I just register it differently.  The whole experience hit me from a blind side.  On the day my mom died I only cried one tear, as I held her hand after life support was taken off.  I was comforted that I was there with her, comforted that my name was the last thing she said.  I felt horrible for my Dad, worse for my brother and worse still for my sister who will always be reminded of her loss on her wedding anniversary.  I found myself doing odd things after my mom passed, I would lay in bed and say “mom” over and over again, I was in a bit of a fog of depression.  Now, seven years later, I feel a lot better about the whole thing.  My mom was the kind of person who made you feel very wanted, very needed.  I found my life somewhat lacking in purpose after she was gone.  I will never forget a friend of hers and an old teacher of mine who came to one of my book signings and said, “Your mom would be so proud.”  That meant a lot, but of course there was still the hurt that she never saw me publish a book and my mom dearly loved books.  I think though I will have to leave off there for now, it is early morning in Edmonton and I am extremely tired from lack of sleep.  Thanks so much for all those who have been liking my page and joining up, I hope you are getting your money’s worth out of reading my blog and that it moves you enough that you check out my eBooks and paperbacks.  All the best Dear Readers!

DSC_0038                    Downtown Edmonton’s Hustle and Bustle at Lunch Time Midwinter