One Question

Litmus, Litmus on the Wall
If you had to come up with one question, the answer to which would determine whether or not you could be friends with a person you’ve just met,
What would it be? What would the right answer be?
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 So, my best friend posted this blog post and it got me wondering what my question would be. What would I ask in order to try and understand a person in the first few moments of a meeting?

I have had plenty of failed friendships and relationships, ones where I should have asked many a question prior to engaging with the other person. Its incredibly hard to judge what a person will be like when you need them the most, what their reaction will be when you tell them something unsavoury about yourself or what they will say in response to a life changing moment.

But lets be serious here, what I really need to know is whether or not they have ever watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians (I had to look up the spelling for that!).

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The only acceptable answer is FUCK NO! Anyone who watches that, or any any of the shows that are of the same ridiculous “reality tv” standard, obviously has a very different lifestyle/IQ/understanding of reality than I do.

‘Nuff said.

Going Back

When I went back to school in 2007 I thought I had found the career that would take me to retirement and would provide me with the type of fulfillment that I was looking for. I was right, kind of. Being a Pharmacy Technician is certainly something that I am proud of and I could absolutely continue working where I am and have the pensioned retirement that I had planned on. What I hadn’t planned on though, was being introduced to something that would set my mind on fire and pique my interest so much that I would spend the next 7 years reading and researching and wishing for a different career path.

I remember the first time I ever watched the show Intervention, it was a game changer. I couldn’t stop watching, episode after episode, all the facts and information was filling my mind and I couldn’t get enough. I bought Addicted, a book based on the HBO series by the same name. It was full of personal stories, but more importantly with facts and information with regards to the neurological and physiological side of addiction. Teaching me the changes in brain function and chemistry with the use of different substances. It had a chapter in it that had some inclusions by a man named Gabor Maté, a Canadian physician working in Downtown Lower Eastside of Vancouver, a well known area for its drug use and homelessness “problem”. I went to the bookstore and bought his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. It introduced me to the concept of dependance vs. addiction, to the societal consequences of addiction and the fallout from that, including disease and poverty, homelessness and the sex trade, crime and punishment. I learned about inSite, a safe injection site in Vancouver that allows active drug users a safe and supportive environment for them to use as well as access to healthcare providers and addiction support staff.

Over the next few years I did some more reading and research, but focused more on raising my family and on building my career. Never though, did the yearning or passion wane. Sometimes, I felt guilty about the fact that I had already gone back to school for what was supposed to be my career, but I knew that this was not something that was just going to go away.

So here I am, filling out my application for the McMaster University Addiction Careworker Diploma program. I never imagined at this point that I would be able to “go back” to university, but McMaster offers this program which is mostly or all online (depending on the electives that you choose) and it is going to allow me to continue to work and raise my son and follow my dream. I am ecstatic. McMaster University holds a special place in my heart. I have relatives who taught here and when I was younger my plan had been to become a doctor and attend Med School here myself. While that plan obvious has gone by the wayside, this seems to be a serendipitous chance in my life to make my wish of being an Addiction Treatment worker a reality.

I could easily apply to a hundred different programs at career colleges or online schools, but none of those programs seemed right. I want to learn and reciprocate my knowledge at a University level. I want to be among others who are thinking and functioning at my level or beyond. I want to be able to succeed at this career and be a resource for other people. I want my colleagues to value my input, not that they wouldn’t if I didn’t attend University, but I feel like the people with a PhD are going to appreciate and look at staff member with a university level education differently. And lets be honest, having that on a resume certainly isn’t anything but an advantage.

So, let another new chapter begin! (As long as they will have me, of course!)

Family Ties

When I asked for the separation, he wanted it over and done with right away. Over 7 months later, I finally moved into my own place. After the initial emotions were discharged, we came to terms with the fact that separating our home and lives was going to take time and that it was never going to be possible to not be in each others lives due to our son. So, we made the conscious decision to move forward as a team, as co-parents and as friends. I told him that no matter what, we had to put in the effort to either love each other or hate each other and so why not go with love? Its better for everyone and especially for our son.

THIS WAS NOT AN EASY ROAD!

It took a lot of patience and counseling and talking to get to where we are today. The place where we can talk and have lunch together, go to each others homes or see each others families and not have it be awkward or upsetting. But it has been so worth it. When you invest so much of yourself into a marriage, its devastating to think about having to give all of that up – the friends and family, the stability, the partnership and the memories. So we have elected to embrace them.

My new place has maternity photos and wedding photos adorning the walls. It has memories from our home and our times together. They are things that I will never give up thinking about and cherishing. They gave me a wonderful life and brought me my son, I don’t ever want to forget them or resent them. He has come over to help me with my computer and to share dinner as a family, he is a person that I can vent to about my noisy neighbours or to confide in when I am having a tough time with things. I can do this, because he is sharing in all of these changes with me, he is the other side of the equation and I don’t ever forget that.

It takes two people to actively make the choice every day to have a positive relationship and I am incredibly lucky that I have this person who is willing to make that commitment to me and our family every day. Its not been easy for him and we haven’t always received the best response. Its amazing to us to hear people be so negative about it or to tell us to “just wait”, that it will get bad and tempers will flare and its all downhill from there. Its frustrating to have people ask why, if we are able to tolerate each other so well, why we didn’t just stay married.

Marriage isn’t a convenience, its not meant to act as a placeholder. We are no longer the best partners for each other, and that is all. We are allowing each other to find someone who is. But we are also allowing ourselves to embrace a new found appreciation and love for one another, one of family and as parents to this amazing little boy that we call ours. That is what keeps us going every day, the fact that he sees us as his parents, engaged with each other in a happy and healthy relationship and showing him the love and support and encouragement that he deserves. We are a family, they come in many shapes and sizes and this is ours.

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Its Been Awhile

Life has been full of, at times, overwhelming changes in the past few months.

New Job

New Address

New Car

New Legal Marital Status

oh, and my tiny little amazing human is going to school.

So I’m sure a lot of people will think that this means that I would have had plenty to talk about, and there was, but I wasn’t ready to share my inner struggles and outward changes with everyone. I knew that life was going to be an interesting journey this year, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll it was going to take on me or how much I was going to second guess myself.

But here I am, on the other side. I recently (as in, its still peeling and making me itch like I am some kind of crazy person) started another tattoo project to commemorate these changes.

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It was perfectly described by my artist as a bird of light and infinite energy. She is in full flight, graceful, beautiful, loved and powerful. Those are all things that I never accepted as being a part of myself, but this past year has forced me to rethink not only my life, but myself. Its been a year of spectacular growth for me, one that has made me shed more tears, smile more times and grant myself more forgiveness than I have ever allowed myself.

What this really means it that I have lots to say and I am now ready to say it.

Wow, that felt good.

An Ode to Detroit

I love Detroit. I consistently get asked why. My answer usually tries to convey the beauty and resilience of a city that has undergone devastating change, but really, I should just tell people to go. It’s something that truly has to be experienced to be understood. And I guarantee you will either love it like I do, or hate it like so many others.

I just recently spent 2 nights there. I stay at the Hostel Detroit when I go. It’s the cutest hostel that is a non-profit trying to educate people on the awesomeness of the city. It makes me happy and gives me a sense of adventure.

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Being welcomed by name and having kitschy sheets to sleep on makes me smile and waking up in a typical Detroit neighbourhood makes you feel less like a tourist and more like a part of the true city.

Don’t get me wrong, Detroit and it’s economic situation are not to be taken lightly. There are constant reminders of the hardship the city and it’s residents have experienced. Abandoned homes and historic buildings stand like wounded soldiers on every block, but they are hauntingly beautiful and are a quiet reminder of the fragile landscape that we have created in the industrialized world.

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I woke up early the first morning I was there to take some photos before the dew had lifted and while the sun was still low in the sky to try and show people a different side of Detroit. That the sun rises there as it does everywhere else. That people get up and go to work and kids head off to school. It’s functioning under intense pressure. The people who have stayed love their city. They are proud of it’s history and are sure that it will one day recover. They are committed to making that happen. You have to see beyond the graffiti and boarded up windows. It’s not an easy task I know. But it’s there. They want the rest of the world to see it too.

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I feel like maybe I am biased though. Detroit reminds me of myself and my struggles. Overlooked and under appreciated. Judged by many and loved by few. But those who know her feel her intensity and never forget her. I look forward to my next visit. She never disappoints.

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In Transition

Being in the in-between is undoubtably the most difficult place to be. Not knowing what is going to happen next, what you should be doing or saying and the inevitable self doubt that comes from any major life change weighs heavily on your mind.

I am there. I have chosen to be there, but it’s hard. Knowing that you are making decisions that affect the lives of countless people, some of whom you love more than anything in this world. I am acutely aware of the damage that I am causing on a daily basis. I see it in the strained faces and hear it in the distant conversations.

The worst part though, is second guessing myself. Wondering if I am doing the right thing, making the right changes or if I am just ruining everything I have thus far built in my life. Giving up my outwardly perfect world to reset back seems crazy, but I know if I don’t do that I will live as I have been – unfulfilled, unhappy and not being the kind of spouse or parent that my loved ones deserve.

And so, I set off on this journey. One of self discovery and self acceptance. Some days are better than others. There are days when I love who I am and am excited about the new opportunities that I am going to have. And then when I least expect it I become overwhelmed at the prospect of going it alone. Thinking that I will forever be a disappointment, a failure in the eyes of everyone on the outside.

I am incredibly lucky to have a co-parent who is as dedicated to preserving our family unit as I am. Things aren’t perfect, but we are figuring things out as we go. Electing to choose happiness and understanding instead of the hate and negativity that all too often consumes people.

And that is exactly what I have learned through all of this. Life is about choices. You make the conscious choice every moment of every day to be either happy or sad, hateful or joyful. I choose the joy and happiness that I deserve, that my son and his dad and the rest of our families deserve. Not because it’s the easy choice, but because I know it’s the right one.

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Why It’s Worth The Drive

I was packing my overnight bag tonight for my upcoming trip to Ohio and was procrastinating decided to hit Starbucks beforehand. While I was there, I realized I had hit my “Lucky Dozen” (not a shock, for anyone who knows me!) and mentioned that I was going to save it for my long trip tomorrow. When the barista asked me where I was going, I paused for a minute to decide if I wanted to give the real answer or a fake “just doing some shopping” answer. I told her the truth and much to my surprise, she responded with a “that’s awesome!”. It not the response that I am used to getting. Usually it’s a mix between disgust, confusion and them thinking that I am batshit crazy.

Why you might ask, would they think such things? Because I go for this…

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Yes, I drive 15 hours round trip to get tattooed.

Now, I am aware that there are plenty of tattoo artists residing here in the fair city of Toronto and in cities closer than Columbus, Ohio, but that’s not where Adam is. Adam France is an amazingly talented artist who I stumbled across on Instagram last year. I loved his artwork and so I followed him and one day we got to chatting about my pieces and I ended up heading down to see him. He is now my go-to artist and I couldn’t be happier.

It always amazes me when I hear people coming up with an idea for a tattoo and then they just randomly head to the closest or trendiest looking studio to have it permanently etched on their person. People do more research on a toaster than they do on a tattoo artist.

So, below I have listed the reasons why I make the trip and why everyone who is contemplating either their first piece or their 50th piece should do their homework ahead of time…enjoy!

1. THAT SHIT IS PERMANENT . Okay, I am aware that there is laser tattoo removal and the option for future coverup work to be done, but let’s be serious, no one wants to have to do that, or pay for that, later. It’s expensive and painful and time consuming. Just get it done right in the first place. In the end, the plane ride or long drive it takes you to get there will be much more fun and take way less time than either one of those options.

2. THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF ARTISTS TO CHOOSE FROM. Pick one whose art makes you inspired and whose previous work reflects the quality you deserve. There is no need to settle, this is a lifetime commitment. It’s okay to be selfish and picky.

3. I WOULD RATHER HAVE SOMEONE THINK I AM NUTS THAN HAVE THEM THINK I HAVE A TERRIBLE TATTOO. What’s worse than your parents thinking you must be off your rocker? Them being right because your daughters portrait looks like a zombie from The Walking Dead. Enough said.

4. TAKING THE TIME TO PLAN THE TRIP AND SAVE UP, GIVES YOU THE TIME TO REALLY THINK ABOUT YOUR PIECE. I know we all get excited when it comes to getting a fresh tattoo done, but trust me, rushing into things is never a good idea. Remember that time you got too excited about the hottie you met at the club in Vegas and you rushed to the alter? At least that could be annulled. Your dolphin jumping over a rainbow tattoo? Not so much.

5. IF YOU ARE PLANNING A LARGE PIECE, YOU ARE GOING TO BE SPENDING A LOT OF TIME WITH YOUR ARTIST. It’s nice when they aren’t an asshole. Or they don’t smell (that has to be THE WORST). Having a good rapport is key since you will be discussing design elements and placement with them so you want to feel comfortable voicing your thoughts and opinions and you also want to trust them and their expertise. Having good communication is the key to any relationship, even with your tattoo artist.

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And So It Begins

I am literally starting this blog while cycling at the gym hoping to somehow make it to 60 45 minutes. So if this post ends midway through, it’s because I have collapsed or fallen off due to my inability to multitask.

Things have changed drastically in my life in the past year and there are more changes to come. Some that have been incredibly challenging and some that were more liberating than even I anticipated.

I am here to vent, share and hopefully give you some laughs. There is certainly potential for tears, confusion and joy as well.

Cheers.

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