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2016 has been a horrific year. Between mass murders, deaths, racial tensions and Donald Trump; I keep hoping the gods will jump out and say, “just kidding!!” However, that will never happen. No powerful being is going to pull us out of this one no matter how many prayers you throw at the dead and dying. It’s up to us to change the direction of our destiny.

We have an opportunity here to do something amazing. To be more than we are and we can do it one person at a time but it won’t be easy. Evolving is painful and difficult but if humanity is to survive, we have to do it. Each person can have a hand in it and know they helped humanity to move forward. To evolve.

First I ask you to set aside your religious beliefs for a moment. I’m not saying give them up but, rather, just put them in a box to the side for a bit. Be human before you put on the mantle of your Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Buddhism or Wicca or whatever. Put all that to the side and just be human without the help of gods or written words or holy men. Just, for a second, be human in all its frailties and foibles. Be human in all its glory and wonder. Just be human.

Second, put aside your things. Oh, I know, they’re important things. Houses and cars and clothes and boats and bikes and… things. Just put them aside for a moment. They’ll still be there when you return. I promise. Just put them on the shelf for a second so you can remember your humanity without the burden of things.

Third, the next time you come across a living creature, take a look at it. It might be a person, it might be a butterfly or a dog or a monkey. Just look at them without the tint of religion or the white noise of things. See them. Know that they are struggling to live just like you. Understand that they have as much right to be on this earth as you.

Now look at the world around you. See it for the first time without the noise of society and religion and things. Understand that you’re an intricate part of that whole. That your place in that whole matters. It matters without the religion and the words and the things and society. You matter. You’re important.

The last part that I ask you to do is the hardest. Take up your religion and your things. Now see them as you have the rest of the world. Some will hold up to your scrutiny and some won’t. You have to decide what to do with them.

One thing I will tell you is that once you see the things and the religions without the white noise of what “should” be, they will start to look very different than you once assumed them to be. It’s not that they’re unimportant or wrong but that they may not have the shape and size they once had in your life and that’s ok. It’s when this happens that the truly important things can enter your life. Things like a love of life, an acceptance of that which is different from yourself, respect and love for yourself and others. True love and respect, not the mouthings we voice daily.

I challenge everyone to try this. 2016 should teach us something important; that we matter, that we are part of a whole. Unless man evolves beyond his infantile ways and temper tantrums, we will not survive.



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I planted some sunflower seeds just off my patio recently. Sunflowers are the perpetually happy flower. Those and dandelions. I don’t know what it is about them but they remind me of smiles and sunshine. When I look at them I can’t help but be happy for the moment.

Which is a good thing because I seem to need it more right now. Events in the world have me confused, scared and sad. It’s hard enough for my brain to wrap itself around normal human behavior but recently my brain has given up completely trying to understand.

When I first heard about Brock Turner from a letter the victim wrote I was outraged. Then I saw postings on social media and I became confused. Why was everyone upset about this when this exact same scenario had been recurring for decades before Turner was even born? This event was nothing new and when the fury dies down from it, it will occur again and again. Why, then, the anger now? Where is the anger for all the other women who have suffered the same situation?

Then I heard about a mass killing in an Orlando gay nightclub and my heart sank. For years the gay community has been trying its best to become mainstream and accepted even as politicians try to legalize hate. The LGBTQ community continues to live in fear and no one seemed to care.

Worse than that, many have cried out for stricter gun laws in the United States for years and the NRA scream that rights are being violated. Guess what? People are dying. That’s more important than your need to play John Wayne. Murder trumps all.

Among all this chaos is Donald Trump spewing hate and inciting his followers to violence. Didn’t we see all this in Nazi Germany? Didn’t we hear the same rhetoric from Stalin? There are others like him, you know but no one wants to see.

I have to believe there’s hope in all this, though. I look outside and see my little sunflowers struggling to survive and dandilions stretching up to catch the sun. It’s then I think about those little bits of happiness that Mother Nature has given me. Maybe there’s a path through all this. I have to believe there is.

Riding the Black Horse

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This is the first time in years that I’ve used my writing to work out what’s going on in my life. Right now I’m so overwhelmed that I feel I have no choice.

See, that’s the biggest problem right now. I’m helpless. I’m poor and that doesn’t give me a lot of options and I have a whole list of disabilities that limits me as well. I have this fantasy about living a life where I’m allowed to make choices that benefit me instead of being forced into situations that benefit some faceless government.

I just got a notice today that my rent is going up $265 in two days. Yes, you got that right. Two whole days to come up with $265. Looks like groceries are optional now. See, I live in a low-income building and let me give you a few facts.

  1. There is no definition as to who can live in a low-income building. There’s no regulations stating that you have to make under a certain amount to live here. I could be a millionaire and still rent here.
  2. There’s no regulations stating what they can or can’t charge for their apartments. Legally, they could raise my rent to $1000/month if they wanted to and still call themselves “low-income.”
  3. There’s no regulation stating how they determine my rent. A common practice in low-income buildings is to have tenants hand in their tax assessment and base rents on that. However, that’s not the law. It’s just common practice.
  4. They’re under no legal obligation to give me any notice in rent increases. Yes, folks, you read that right. Two days is completely legal.
  5. I can be kicked out at any time if I can’t pay that rent.

Yes, that’s the life I live as a tenant of a low-income building. Sometimes low-income buildings will evict tenants they don’t like on very spurious reasons. When you’re poor, you learn to live with this reality. You are always one step away from being homeless and everyone knows it.

That’s not all I’m dealing with this week, though. I’m finding out things about myself that leave me feeling at odds with myself.

Back in 2011, I had an assessment done. At that time I was given the diagnosis of Non-Verbal Learning disorder. I did my research (for which I’d like to thank both the Edmonton Public Library and the University of Alberta library) and felt more in control knowing more about what it was. Once put on the Asperger’s spectrum, it’s been given its own diagnosis. However, it exhibits a lot like Asperger’s.

I also deal with anxiety. Nothing new to anyone who’s been reading this for any time. I talk about that black horse a lot. What is new is something I failed to read in the assessment; I have ADHD. It’s at this point my brain stops and I have no words.

Coming to grips with the reality of the link between NLD and Asperger’s is enough of a blow. Realizing I have ADHD on top of it…. how do you add that information into your life? Yes, it’s a diagnosis and shouldn’t mean much but those four letters stun me. I’ve always known my brain works more like a blender on high than the functioning computer it is but that didn’t bother me. I worked with it. But ADHD? How do you add those letters into your life?

So I’m particularly vulnerable right now and want to feel like I have some control. The truth is that when you’re poor and disabled, control is taken away from you. The Powers That Be believe that, somehow, you’re unable to handle control so you’re treated like a child. I don’t know where anyone got that idea but I’d really like them to get it out of their heads.

Right now I’m scared because something new has come down the pipe and this infantalization of me as one of Alberta’s poor and mentally ill has left me with few tools to deal with it. So, in a desperate attempt to gain some control, I grasp at the only thing that has ever made me feel powerful; my words. Right now, they’re all I have.


Open Letter to Therapists

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Dear Therapists:

I’m here begging you to listen to me. Not just hear my words but really absorb their meaning and intention. I’m tired of getting lip service from you on this score so, for a moment, put away your degrees and books and really understand what I’m telling you.

Please stop.

So many times those of us with mental illness are subjected to the lasted fad in psychology designed to make us all better. You’ve read all the papers and the books and you have the degrees. You’ve published in some of the best papers and been peer reviewed. You’re at the top of your game and we should feel lucky you’re our therapist.

Please understand I’m saying this with the best of intentions. When we walk into your office, can you please put away the books and papers? Can you please not look at us like we’re something to experiment on as you try out the latest fad or new idea? We have something to say and we want to be heard.

You’re our therapist and we need to trust you but that’s a two-way street. You can’t reasonably expect us to walk into your office, tell you our fears and thoughts while you hold yourself apart from us. If you don’t trust us, how can we trust you? If you don’t listen to us and what’s going on in our brains, how can we listen to you?

I know that it’s part of your medical training to stand apart and aloof from your patients. Don’t get involved is the battle cry of the doctor but I’m telling you that hiding behind your education and books prevents you from hearing what we’re really saying. So many times I’ve had symptoms dismissed because it didn’t fit in with a preconceived notion of what the doctor or therapist felt was wrong. I know hoof beats are usually horses but sometimes it really is a zebra.

So when we walk into your office, please give us the same courtesies you expect from us. Beyond the polite conversation, please offer us your trust and confidence. We’ll give you the same in return. Please hear us deeply and don’t twist what we’re saying to fit what you think they should be. It’s hard enough for us to come to you without feeling like we’re tossing ourselves against a wall.

This is our therapy, not your opportunity for career advancement or to indulge in your new fad. Sometimes, we want to talk. Sometimes we want help in getting over a hurdle. Most of all, we want to trust that you have our best interests at heart.

So, I’m begging you. Just please stop.

A Client

Employment and the Mentally Ill

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Back in the summer of 2011, I worked as a writer for Alberta Education. It was such an absolute nightmare for me that had I not had the good fortune to be fired, I would have found myself in the psych ward in the hospital within a week. I wish I could say that is an exaggeration but it isn’t. As a result of this nightmare, two things happened; I began to have panic attacks. These attacks were triggered when I tried to write or when I was working in a job and had to talk to the boss. Just thinking about it is enough to quicken my breathing and make a panic attack seem imminent.

Yes, I tried to work but the anxiety got the better of me and I simply couldn’t anymore. The idea, just the simple thought, of talking to a boss still makes me want to shut down. However, I’m not one to give up without a fight so, recently, I thought perhaps I could work part-time somewhere. A couple of days a week shouldn’t overwhelm me and would give me time to recuperate for the next shift.

See, aside from the anxiety, I’m actually a great worker. In an office I’m versatile and creative. Show me what you need done and I’ll get it done. In retail, I’m actually very patient with the customers and like to help. I understand what it’s like trying to find something and needing some help. So, with that in mind, I applied to some local businesses. Like Walmart.

There is a new trend in corporations to use psych tests as a means to thin out the resumes they get. The belief being that they can get the type of person they want without all the hassle of actually talking to people. It’s cookie cutter thinking and it’s dangerous.

Anyone who’s been trained as a psychologist or psychiatrist will tell you that without the proper training and proper testing methods, these tests are, at best, useless. A true psych test such as the MMPI has very specific questions that answer questions that the psychologist or psychiatrist may face. However, these tests are meant to be a tool, not a means to weed people out.

Think of it this way; a hammer is a tool that can help a person with the right experience and training to build a house. However, that hammer cannot build the house by itself. These big corporations are relying on these mini psych tests to do their job for them. A job they were never designed to do.

Further, these tests are not full psych tests. There is a great deal missing from them. A true psychological test done by a trained professional has multiple questions dealing with the same or a similar issue. This is done not only to determine who’s trying to fake something but is also a means to gauge how deep an issue may go. These mini tests don’t have the follow up questions. Therefore, the corporation is only getting a very skewed picture of the person.

There is a very real human rights danger here, though. Those tests can reveal any mental health issues such as, in my case, anxiety. Suddenly the person with a mental illness finds themselves and their illness exposed to strangers without their knowledge or consent. I find that frightening. It goes deeper, though. Once exposed, the corporation will red flag that person so that any subsequent resumes they send in are automatically rejected without even being glanced at.

What does that mean? That means that those with mental health issues are being denied jobs based on their disability. Yet, most of the time they don’t even know this is going on. That the human resources department has red flagged them because their mental illness showed up on a test they neither have the training nor experience to administer.

I find all of that terribly, terribly frightening. Don’t you?

Life Without Parole

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When Orange is the New Black (OITNB) first came to Netflix, I was unimpressed and didn’t bother to watch it. I’m not one to jump on the television bandwagon and, so far, wasn’t wowed by what I saw on the sound bites I caught.

Then a friend urged me to watch it. It was hilarious with some real life lessons to think about. So, being me, I binged on season 1 and found that I did like it. Like so many others, I got caught up with the story and empathized with these poor women who found themselves in a bad place. Like so many others, I glossed over the fact that they were criminals found guilty in a court of law. These were noble and valiant women trying to do their best to live their lives in through the prison system.

Then December 18th happened.

See, on December 18th, back in 1986 (that’s the date burned into my brain. Though, I admit I may be off a year on the date) a young girl named Charlotte Hazel Bass was found dead in a house fire. She never woke up and was overcome by the smoke in her sleep. She never had a chance. She was 18 years old. The fire was arson and the murder has never been caught.

Char (as she was known to me) was a friend. She was tough but kind. There was a core of steel in her that I admired but she was always sensitive to the needs and emotions of those around her. She was intelligent and beautiful.

December 18th is a day I’ll always remember.

Before I go further, I’d like to explain for those who’ve been living under a rock what OITNB is. See, one day, a woman named Piper Kerman went to jail. I’m not sure for what because I don’t remember the actual charge. I’m not sure if it was glossed over in the book or if my memory fails me at the moment. Likely a bit of both.

Anyways, this lovely young woman did a bad thing. So she went to prison like all the other women who did bad things. This white, middle class, straight laced woman was shocked to find herself in a bad place with other women who did bad things. When she came out of the bad place she decided to write a book about her experiences in the bad place. She also wrote about all the noble women trying to live their lives in the bad place with some respect and dignity.

Can you see where I start to have a problem here?

I remembered Char and how I’d never get to see her again. Piper got to return to her family. Char’s family split up. Piper got to return to her fiancé. Char will never have a fiancé. Piper got to have a great career as an advocate for prisoners. Char will never have a career. Piper will get to have kids. Char never will.

I saw Piper standing up for prisoner’s rights and, at first, stood with her. How awful things were in prison

(Char will never get to see the new Star Wars)

and how hard it was for prisoners to keep connected with their families.

(Char has a younger sister she never got to meet)

I felt bad for them. Criminals were humans, too. They deserved some dignity and respect.

(How much dignity is there in the ground?)

So I asked Piper some questions on Twitter. She never answered me. Instead, David Menschel took it upon himself to answer me. Why I never understood. I wanted to hear what Piper had to say. I wasn’t angry or confrontational, just confused. Didn’t my friend matter?

The issue of life without the possibility of parole came up and I asked what about the victims. Didn’t they matter? In one of many responses I got where he adamantly opposed the idea of life without parole, he had this to say;

Note: I think society listens to victims too much. I reject idea they should have more voice than others about crime policy.

I’m sorry? My friend got life without parole but it’s too much to ask that the person who did it to her should get the same? Her family, ripped apart by her death and given no justice, is heard too much? What about other victims? That addict who is doing life, whether he cleans up or not, doesn’t get a say? That abuse victim who will always live with her scars has too much of a voice?

In our law system, the victims have ALWAYS had the opportunity to give voice to the damage that the crime did to them. There is a reason that the victim’s words have the weight they do. The criminal is not going to willingly stand up and take responsibility for their actions. They never do no matter how many times they do it. So, there has to be a voice that can speak out and talk about the long term effects of their crime.

So that’s my problem with OITNB. There’s a lot of fun and exciting women but you rarely hear about the impact of their crimes on the victims. Read Piper’s book. There’s a small part where she talks about having some clue about the impact of what she did. Otherwise, there’s nothing. Not once does any of the characters in either the book or the show take responsibility for what they’ve done. Not once is there even an apology.

That means it’s up to Char and her family to take responsibility for the crime. It’s on their shoulders to carry the impact of what’s been done to them. Char is not unique. There are many, many others who will never see justice for what’s been done to them. Yet, Piper argues to remove life without parole.

Instead, they’d rather see Char’s family do life without parole. Yeah. Seems fair to me.

Spiritual Adulthood

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We all want to have some explanation for the things that happen in our lives. When something good happens, we attribute it to being rewarded for our good deeds. When something bad happens, we seek out reasons such as being punished by deities or evil rampant in the world.

What we don’t want to face is the idea that there are no reasons. No excuses. No rewards. No karma. No gods punishing or rewarding us. If we continue to look for order in a chaotic world, we can pretend we fit in. That there’s a reason for our existence and the things that happen to us.

That’s all a lie.

I know that sounds harsh and probably it is. However, I firmly believe that humans as a species cannot evolve until we get rid of the fairy tale that things happen for a reason.

I remember reading the Conan graphic comics as a youth. I was disturbed by Conan’s god, Crom. A cold and heartless god, he refused to help the people who worshiped him. Yet, they remained loyal to him. Why?

Crom kept their loyalty because he kept them strong. He didn’t swoop down and rescue them every time they got into trouble. He expected his people to rescue themselves with the gifts he’d given them. Sometimes they survived, sometimes they didn’t. Whatever the outcome, though, it was up to the humans to get through not some god to bail them out.

We humans have been given all the tools we need to survive and thrive. Brains, bodies, the ability to plan, socialization… the list goes on. When we stop attributing things to gods or luck, we learn to rely on those tools we’ve been given through thousands of years of existence.

I’m not saying dump your spirituality by the wayside. Believe in your gods. Love your gods. Talk to your gods as you wish. However, I am saying that when you expect your gods to bail you out of every situation you remain a spiritual infant. It is now time to grow up and stop expecting that prayers and spells are going to be the answers to our troubles.

Sometimes bad things happen and we cry or scream or rage. Sometimes good things happen and we cheer or celebrate or laugh. To sit idly by and mumble to deities to fix things for us does us a disservice. Spells and prayers are meant to be a communion with your god. Not a free delivery service to make your life perfect.

If good things are happening to you, then share them with the world. Enjoy them and remember them. Count the blessings you have every day. Look at your loved ones and tell them they’re loved and cherished.

If bad things are happening to you, share them with the world. Let those who love you be your strength. Rely on science and medicine to help you through. Cloak yourself in your blessings so they can be an armor against the battle you face.

Whatever the situation is, don’t simply rely on your god to get you through. You have tools and abilities and resources at hand. Use them. Do something. By doing so, you grow into a spiritual adult.

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