Fear

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I live in a constant state of fear. That’s what it means to live with anxiety. Fight or flight kicks in at strange moments and suddenly your life is a terror-filled ride. So I know what it means to live with heart-stopping fear. No, I don’t have guns pointed at me nor am I in danger of being stoned to death if I don’t wear a cloth cage constantly. However, I will say this; at its core, fear is the same everywhere no matter the cause.

People believe that the opposite of fear is security. That if they just surround themselves with enough things or have everyone living lives they can understand or if they have enough guns, bombs or whatever, then life will be safe and the fear will go away. It doesn’t work that way.

The problem with terrorists is they simply don’t feel the fear they use everyday. They’re so steeped in the fear that they become immune to it. They’re surrounded by people who are also immune to fear. This lack of feeling is so ingrained in them that not even death holds anything over them. Unlike most people, terrorists welcome death, believing that if they die they go to heaven a hero.

It’s beyond silly to argue to a terrorist this won’t happen. That’s the power of faith. There are people in the United States who believe if they dance with venomous snakes it will prove what good Christians they are. Faith makes people believe the impossible is real and no amount of arguing will change it.

So what happens when a bullet kills a terrorist? The terrorist dies and five more stand in line to take his place. Meanwhile, the innocents they hold hostage see the violence and blood and have to live with it. Children grow up thinking death is normal and killing is a way of life. They see their world destroyed and know nothing else. Another terrorist is born from the ashes of the old one.

Speaking from experience, security is not the way to banish fear. I know it sounds silly but it’s true. There is only one way to really combat fear and it doesn’t involve things or a way of thinking or bullets. Logic. Fear cannot stand in the light of logic. Fear feeds on emotions and the inability to think. I know. Logic, though, sheds light in the dark places. It gives power to those who are powerless in the face of fear.

Malala Yousafzai knew this instinctively before the bullet left the terrorist’s gun. Further, she knew that violence would never end the cycle. If anyone in this world has a reason to hate terrorists and want revenge it is her. Yet, she has maintained that the only way to stop terrorism is through education. Education gives citizens the ability to fight terrorism at its heart.

I find it amusing that governments would spend so much money on bullets and bombs when one teenage girl is able to do more to stop terrorism than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong. Soldiers do a very difficult job in very difficult circumstances and need our support. However, let’s give them real support and not just salute a flag whenever they walk by. Support the citizens of these war torn countries to enable them to end terrorism. Give them the tools to make their lives better and repair their countries. Perhaps when we do this we can bring our soldiers home.

Broken

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Having anxiety is like having spiders infest your brain.

My regular readers won’t be surprised to hear me say I have anxiety. New readers may be a bit shocked to hear me say it. However, it is a fact of my life and one I deal with daily. Sometimes it’s bad enough to stop me in my tracks and other times it’s like a dull throb in the back of my mind. Either way, I have a life to live and need to keep moving forward.

There are supposed to be aids to help people like me but the rules are so narrow that it’s ineffectual. You can’t merely be broken, you have to be shattered. The rule is that you have to have medical evidence proving that you’re unable to provide for yourself. Great. Except there’s one problem; what’s said on paper and what happens in reality is often two very different things.

Part of the problem is I have Non-Verbal Learning disorder. Because of how it manifests, it can often be mistaken for Asperger’s or Autism. It’s a different disorder and has different problems associated with it. They’re in the same spectrum but have very different outcomes.

Now put the NLD together with the anxiety, stir well and put me in an office.

Let me explain NLD a bit. First, NLD people love words. In my case it means I became a writer. However, in face to face contact my love of words causes some ostracizing. I tend to use large, $5 words and I talk a lot. I’m aware of it, I just can’t do a thing about it. I’m the person that will give you a paragraph answer to the question, “how are you?”

That leads to problem number two. NLD people tend to have problems with spatial recognition which means that we don’t have the same sense of space as “normal” people do. This may seem like a small thing. However, it is this skill which helps children gain a sense of non-verbal communication. NLD people simply don’t see non-verbal body cues. However, we hear everything.

NLD means there is a gap between what we hear and what we see. Therefore, our interaction with the physical world, especially as kids, tends to be minimal. We’re loners and we like being loners. Inside our own heads we can construct entire worlds and, in my case, put it down on paper. We can think through a problem in our heads and come up with a solution that is so far outside the box that it’s on another plane of existence. That’s our strength. It’s also our weakness because no one else lives in our head. When we come up with a solution, we’ve already thought ten steps ahead and left others behind. However, when others see our solutions, what they see is something nearly unrelated to the problem. Since we have problems with communication, we can’t explain the solution. Big gap.

Imagine you’re a manager and you’ve hired me. You ask me to do a task you think is pretty simple. An hour later I come back and the task is done but in a way you never imagined possible. Okay. Once it’s funny. Twice is cute. By the third, fourth and fifth times, you’re getting pretty angry because you want it done a particular way.

A kitten curled up in a ball and frightened

Now let’s add to that problem with the other staff. I am a social platypus. I will happily give you the entire history of an event or tell you the entire psychology behind your favorite show. I don’t know the difference between sarcasm and a simple joke so the two are pretty interchangeable. Socializing for me is on a skill level with constructing a warp engine. At best I’m seen as weird and at worst I’m pushy or even rude. As the manager you start getting complaints from your workers about me.

So, as the manager you have a worker who can’t seem to follow the simplest instructions, needs to take regular time off for therapy (which won’t do a damn bit of good) and has coworkers complaining about them. Add into that the fact that this worker has regular anxiety attacks. Solution: fire that person and hire someone who causes you less grief.

So who wants to hire me?

Yet, to access help, none of that matters. On paper I can get therapy and do little “tricks” to minimize problems. I don’t do tricks. Dogs do tricks. I live my life and try to move forward. My brain works in a certain way and I can either decide that I’m broken and try to fix it or I can decide that this is who I am and learn to live with it. Apparently option two isn’t acceptable to the Government of Alberta.

According to Government of Alberta rules, I’m broken but not all the way broken. More like bent. All the trees in the forest must be straight and grow a certain way. No room for bent. Bent doesn’t get any help at all. Only broken and I’m not broken enough on paper.

It’s frustrating knowing I’ll have to go and try and explain all this to people who don’t care. When they leave the office at 4:30pm I cease to exist. They read paper. They don’t hear my words. Words that are nearly impossible for me to verbalize. They see me as a platypus with no place in their world. Not as the wonderful, beautiful, intelligent raven I am and I can’t explain it to them because they won’t hear me.

This Week’s Adventure

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This last week has been an interesting one and I’ve been trying to see the common thread in all of it. There’s no one event that sticks out in my mind but what has been circling around in my head is the thought that other people somehow believe they have a right to tell you how to live your life. My dad always said the person who pays the bills makes the rules and I don’t see anyone paying my bills. So let’s take a look at this past week, shall we?

On Twitter the big news has been AUPE suing Kathleen Smith for her role in admonishing their actions during their strike against Artspace. Kikki, as she’s known on Twitter, put up links to videos showing union people doing disgusting and horrible things to disrupt the lives of those living in Artspace. I supported Kikki, knowing she never tweets any information she hasn’t thoroughly researched beforehand. It seems to me that AUPE, who has never admitted to their members performing these acts despite evidence saying otherwise, wants to tell Kikki how to behave on Twitter. Um. Yeah. Good luck with that. I’ll stand over here outside the blast zone. Let me know how it works out for you.

Another item to come across my field of interest was a column offering business advice. Usually these are pretty good and I enjoy reading them. This one, though, had a bit that irritated me. The advice was to get rid of emails ending in @gmail.com. I don’t know why it irritated me at the time just that it did. This is another well-meaning person hiding behind the guise of “I know better than you” and doesn’t bother to stop to think what they’re actually saying.

I asked about this particular statement and protested, saying that many businesses are bootstrapping and can’t afford their own domain. The response I got was that no Fortune 500 used gmail. This seemed incredibly funny to me. I’m not a Fortune 500 nor do I plan on being. There are lots of businesses who don’t even have email (a friend’s carpentry company comes to mind) that do just fine without having their own domain on their email. I don’t plan on behaving like a Fortune 500 company because it would be silly to do so.

It’s no surprise to any of my readers that I suffer from anxiety. I had someone ask me some questions about anxiety which I don’t mind answering at all. I know how to deal with my anxiety and sometimes people are curious. This particular person, though, had other ideas. According to this person, I was not only faking it but if I just “grew a set” and “sucked it up” I could “be a real person” (the quotes are from their correspondence). This person then went on to tell me that because I’d never been in battle I couldn’t have anxiety.

I’d love to respond to the stupidity of that but I just give a little giggle and move on.

So that’s been my week. A little insanity, a little pompousness and a lot of playing the fool. I don’t know if there’s a lesson in all of this but it’s been an adventure. I support Kikki, as I always have, and continue doing business despite being straddled with anxiety. Another week starts and another new adventure begins.

This is My Home

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Religion is like A Penis, It's fine to have one, it's fine to be proud of it. Please don't whip it out in public and wave it around and please don't shove it down my children's throats

Religion

I would like to talk about the whole thing in Israel and Gaza but I’m afraid I’m not that smart. See, there’s a whole history going back a few thousand years I’d have to catch up on that I just don’t have time for. So let me simplify it for everyone; once upon a time some people lived in a place and they believed one thing while their neighbours believed another. Each of them felt the other was wrong so they tried to kill each other and blamed their god. The end.

Now a lot of people are going to yell at me for oversimplifying. Too bad. This nonsense has gone on long enough. Yes, nonsense. I know people on both sides are screaming the same thing, “BUT THEY’RE WRONG!” My mom always said two wrongs don’t make a right. So let’s stop this right now.

Let me tell you what I see; three teenagers murdered by an extremist group. Then Israel bombed everyone in Gaza, regardless of who they were; civilian, extremist, other. Right.

I heard a saying once that went, “justice without mercy is vengeance.” So is this justice or vengeance? Children being killed on both sides all for the sake of some god. The irony being that it’s the same god! So does it matter who started this? I hear people using the word “terrorist” to justify everything. The terrorists bomb things. The terrorists kill children. Now I have to ask, who’s the terrorist here? The extremists or the ones responding to three murdered teenagers who are now razing everything in their path.

This weekend this whole mess came to my doorstep. There was a protest in Calgary where both Palestinians and Jews gathered. I don’t know what happened. I don’t care. One group pushed another. One group got violent back. What should have been Canada’s opportunity to make a statement turned into a reflection of what’s happening there.

And I got angry.

Alberta is my home, dammit. Alberta is where we welcome people from ALL OVER THE WORLD and their religions and their cultures. Yes, even the extreme stuff like Scientology and Witchcraft (which I am, so hold off those protests). Some of us shake our heads at some of the practices like said Scientologists doing body cleanses and Wiccans dancing naked in the moonlight. Other times we watch cautiously but at no time do we EVER demand that someone believe something just because we do.

Alberta is about as blue-collar as you can get. Come to Edmonton during Canadian Finals Rodeo week and look for yourself. At any given day during the year you can see people in business suits having a beer with guys who work on rigs or “shootin the shit” with someone who runs a farm. Some people, like my family, have been here for generations and others have just arrived this week. In Edmonton we celebrate everyone’s diversity with the Heritage Days Festival which has great food, great shows, great works of art. People laugh and meet and talk. This is what Alberta is.

So both you assclowns decide to bring your little fist fight to my backyard?

OH HELLS NO

This is my home. You want to destroy each other and kill children, I’ll weep. You do it over on your own soil. Not mine. I will not allow you or anyone else to turn my home into a battlefield. As I write this children are playing happily outside in the sunshine. They will continue to do so because I will not allow you to destroy their lives like you so wantonly do over there.

If you want to live here then you will learn to respect your neighbours. That’s what we do in Alberta. If you want to demonstrate your horror over what’s happening somewhere else, go ahead. I promise we’ll listen. You want to get violent? Then it’s time for the rest of us Albertans to step in and remind you where you are and that we won’t put up with it. This is our home, not your battlefield.

Where Is God?

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Contrary to what you may have heard, I don't hate anyone - GodWhen I was a little girl, oh so long ago, my parents joined an Anglican church here in Edmonton, Alberta. I really liked it. The windows were all stained glass in different pictures and when the sun shone through it was like looking at living art. The church itself was all wood and had a nice smell. Clean, like the sun and rain and wind. The priest was a younger man, new to the pulpit, I figured out later. He always told great stories from the bible. He talked about those people in the bible who were strong, who were leaders, who believed in something beyond themselves. My favorite was the Book of John. Still is.

As a teenager I joined a Baptist group and my life took an odd turn. This was during the 80s when Edmonton was number 4 on the places to have a nuclear strike in the world. This group had no stained glass and I didn’t hear about how to be a good leader or to believe in something outside myself. Here I was taught to fear and hate. Here is where I learned intolerance. At the age of 16 a good friend was murdered by an act of arson. When I went to the pastor to see if she was in heaven, I was told she was in hell. She wasn’t saved. I became obsessed with Nostradamus and the Book of Revelations.

It wasn’t until I became a Witch or Wiccan that I felt safe enough to question my Christian years. I was oddly fascinated by the Inquisition and read all I could about it. At the University of Alberta, I took Religious Studies as my minor. An act that has since served me very well in my writing. It taught me to look at an issue from a detached perspective and how to write a story that endures. I still love the Book of John.

Yesterday I discovered something disturbing; Ric McIver participated in the Calgary Street Church’s “March for Jesus”. This is a group that states very clearly on their website that;

“Last year alone, Calgary’s streets were flooded with people of wrong sexual preferences during a homosexual parade of over 30,000 attendees and none of them were embarrassed the slightest to publicly even present their nakedness in front of families and in front of future generations to openly proclaim and manifest that they are not ashamed to declare the name of their master (Satan) and in the same way not concerned with provoking greatly the wrath of the Living God.”

Gay pride flag flowing in the wind

Gay Pride Flag

Wrong sexual preferences? Excuse me? I had to do a triple take on this line as I’m not sure what a “sexual preference” is. Preference indicates you’re making a choice and choosing something you prefer. LGBTQ people don’t make a choice. It’s who they are. Just as someone who dates members of the opposite sex aren’t making a choice. It’s who they are.

Then I got to the line about nakedness. I’m not sure “nakedness” is viable as a word let alone something to be ashamed of but let’s look at it. At what point do your god or gods tell you to be ashamed of the very thing you say they made? The Christians say humans are made in God’s image yet they tell you that image is something to hide and be ashamed of, something sinful. Wait. What?

I’m not even  going to talk about the whole Satan thing. That’s where things just get silly.

Now, I will never tell anyone they can’t have their beliefs, no matter how disgusting I find them. If you want to march in Calgary for Jesus, go right ahead. I’m not sure Jesus needs a march but it’s your schtick. However, just because you believe something does not mean I have to believe it or stay silent about it. If you preach hate and intolerance, I will preach love and inclusion and I will do so until my last breath. Jesus never said, “go out and hate people.” This was the carpenter’s son who said, “love thy neighbour.” This was the man who sat with whores and tax collectors (the goons of the time) and lepers. This was not a man to turn anyone away from his table even when all he had to feed 5000 people was a loaf of bread and some fish. Some people forget that.

What blows my mind is Ric McIver and his support of a hate group. Let’s be clear; that’s what the Street Church is, a hate group. On his Facebook page, McIver states,

“As an Albertan and if chosen Premier, I do and will continue to defend equality rights for all Albertans as defined in the Charter, including sexual orientation. I deplore discrimination against all groups and individuals without exception.”

Okay, let’s assume that Uncle Ric is telling the truth here. My daddy always said, “listen to a man’s words but watch what he does.” My daddy was a very smart man and only had a grade 6 education. So Uncle Ric marched with a Christian group that preaches hate and intolerance towards the LGBTQ community. As a pansexual, I consider myself a part of this community and Uncle Ric’s support of this group for the past four years is disturbing. Now, Uncle Ric says he’s supporting all groups. Okay. Where was he in the Gay Pride parade? He claims to stand up for all Albertans yet his record during Redford’s Reign of Idiocy, something very clear to anyone who wants to take a look at, very clearly says otherwise. Then he tries to pull out his juggling act, hoping that Albertans won’t see the blaze he’s started elsewhere.

Uncle Ric, your record stands for itself. You don’t stand up for all Albertans. You stand up for those Albertans you think will get you a vote. Let me state this very clearly, Uncle Ric, the LGBTQ community votes. We have a voice in Alberta politics and we’ve heard what you have to say. When you joined that march you were making a very clear statement about where you stood on the issue of LGBTQ rights and that was not on the side that marched in the Gay Pride parades.

We vote, Uncle Ric. We vote.

Edmonton’s Gay Pride Week

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Gay pride flag flowing in the wind

Gay Pride Flag

Since this week is Edmonton’s Gay Pride Week, I thought I would devote this week’s blog to that subject. I am a big fan of the LGBTQ community for a number of reasons so I wanted to give them this time to talk about them and their story.

My first experience with LGBTQ was in grade school. I had a friend I’ll call Derek (not his real name) that I would play with at recess sometimes. One day he was feeling particularly down and I asked him why. He revealed to me that he was a girl inside and didn’t want to be a boy. I digested this for a moment and, since no one ever told me otherwise, I simply asked him what his name would be if he were a girl. He told me Deanne (the name has been changed). I asked him if he’d like me to call him Deanne. We decided he might get teased so we shortened it to D. I don’t know what happened to him, he moved away and I never saw him again. I hope he finally got to have the body he felt he was supposed to have.

I had no contact with the LGBTQ community until I was a 20 something taking some secretarial classes at a small local college in Edmonton. I was taking a class in Alberta law and we came to the subject of marriage. Marriage, I was told, was a legal union between one man and one woman. My brain put the brakes on and I yelled out, “that’s not fair!” The instructor, amused, asked me what I was talking about. I said that everyone should be able to marry. What if two men or two women were in love? They couldn’t get married? The instructor laughed at me and said that “those people” gave up their rights to have a “normal” life. I got incredibly angry and said that it wasn’t fair to deny someone a right just because they weren’t like you. Several students agreed with me but the discussion was shut down. I was hurt. This was 1989, not 1889. We were changing the world and we couldn’t stop long enough to respect the humanity of others?

A few years later I made my first foray into “The Roost” which, as many Edmontonians remember, was the gay bar in Edmonton. I’d never been there before and my friend, a gay man I was secretly in love with, took me for the evening. When we got there I met the most beautiful woman I’d seen in a while. Since I don’t have permission to use her real name, I’ll call her Rose (also not her real name). Rose was a true beauty in the style of the Hollywood goddesses of the 40s. I was fascinated. Then she revealed to me that she’d been born male. I blurted out how beautiful she was. She then offered to let me feel her breast which she took out of her top and placed in my hand. I murmured something and the smile she gave me melted my shyness away. This woman had all the grace and style I wished I had.

When I came out as pansexual to my friends, the only person who was shocked was me. I thought it was something I’d kept secret but really no one was surprised. I dealt with the jokes about having sex with pans that casual acquaintances make and persevered to be me. I’ve never told my family but they never deserved to know. They didn’t deserve to be involved in that part of my life. When I hinted to them once by suggesting I bring a female date to Christmas, my sister said she’d disown me for “disrespecting Jesus like that.”

This past little while I’ve been slammed by groups who use hate to further their own agenda. Some of these groups use their anger and hate at another group to place blame for their situation. It saddens and sickens me. Using hate to fight hate never makes sense. When I decided to write about my experiences with the LGBTQ community I was struck by the realization that this is one group that has never used anger or hate to gain their rights. The LGBTQ community has always used understanding, tolerance and respect to further their push for equal rights. I think we could all use to follow their example.

This week marks Gay Pride in Edmonton. I am proud to support the LGBTQ community and am grateful for the strides in tolerance and understanding they’ve made. We have come so far but there is so much further to go.

Childhood Horror

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Sunflower

Sunflower

When I was a child, there was a man who lived in my area that we kids called “The Bubble Gum Man”. He was well into his 80s or so and always had Dubble Bubble bubble gum for the kids. The problem, though, was that you had to sit in his lap to get it. The adults had no clue about the guy, figuring him to be a harmless old man who watched us kids play. We kids knew and kept well away from the guy. He was even off limits for dares.

As a student at the University of Alberta, I met a girl who was a survivor of childhood pornography. X went into details about her experience and the fact that she wasn’t in a corner gibbering daily spoke of her strength. I was a big admirer of hers and always wished I had a small portion of her determination.

Malala Yousafzai is one of my heroes. I remember when I was her age and school was such a large part of my life. I was awkward, the victim of psychological and emotional abuse, trying to figure out where I fit in and what boys were good for. I still haven’t come up with an answer to that but so far I’ve determined they warm up toilet seats and kill spiders. Yet, this girl turned a horrific act into a rallying cry. She’s learned poise and grace beyond her years.

Now there are 200 girls missing in Nigeria. The anguish I feel at hearing this goes beyond words. There’s so many harmed by this simple act. I find myself searching for words and phrases to describe what’s happened and the scope of it stops my brain. I imagine what it must be like for the parents of these girls. You send your child to school. Perhaps they’re chattering away about a boy they like or about something they’re excited to be learning. Later that day they don’t return. You wait. Supper comes and goes. You contact their friends’ parents. No one’s heard anything. You call the police. That’s when you learn the full impact of what’s happened. Your child, your baby. The one you gave birth to. Held in your arms and nursed at your breast. The little girl whose scrapes and cuts you kissed is just one of many. How do you hold on in the face of that?

Then there’s the girls themselves. I have no doubt many of them are tougher than we adults realize and will come through this. However, this is a hell that would break even the most seasoned of veteran soldiers. No one should have to live through this kind of trauma. Ever. When these girls get out of this, and I have no doubt they will, the rest of the world will owe it to them to help heal. After all, this is a situation all of us have helped contribute to in one way or another.

Yes, I imagine I’m going to get flack for that statement but each of us are responsible in some way for letting the situation get as far as it has. Too many of us have allowed hate and fear to rule and fought back with bloodshed and death. Those aren’t solutions. Never have been. If we had stood up and stopped the situation when corporations and governments ran roughshod over the populace in their bid for power and money, groups like this wouldn’t have gotten the hold they have now. We have a voice. It’s up to us to use it.

However, that’s done now and we can’t change that. What we can do now is use our voice to get those girls back safely immediately by any means possible. I personally don’t care who does it and anyone who starts spouting politics in the face of this situation is a self-aggrandizing jerk. This isn’t about politics or religion or power or money. It’s about girls. That’s it.

Trauma and childhood should never be used in the same sentence. When it happens, though, it’s up to us to stop it. Push politics and religion and even personal agendas aside to ensure our children are safe and happy. They should be laughing and playing. Not fighting for their lives and sanity.

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