Sunday, May 06, 2018

Making Peace With Depression

So many people I know are struggling with depression.

To me, depression is like the weather...good days, bad days, good seasons, bad seasons. Some people live where the weather is always bad. Some get away from it for mini vacations.

For what it's worth, this is my perspective on depression:

It's like a bad mother-in-law that you're stuck living with. You try to live together despite your dislike of her. Some are in constant conflict with their mother-in-laws and it takes their energy so they can't really enjoy much else. When they try to enjoy other things, they're still stuck with the hangover of the argument with mother-in-law early that day.

Some are lucky enough that their mother-in-law moves out, but how does one make peace with a mother-in-law from hell?

1. Stop struggling to think of ways to get her to move out. Don't give up on the idea, but don't let it fill your thoughts when other good thoughts and feelings can fill you instead.

2. Introduce her to the people close to you and people you trust. We fear that others won't like our mother-in-law either and will make excuses to avoid us. This is incorrect. No one hates you because you have a bad mother-in-law.

3. Make peace with her...even when she doesn't want to make peace with you. Acknowledge that you don't like each other but that you can also enjoy doing things in each other's presence...a nice cup of tea, a walk outside where you don't have to talk to each other

4. Don't share your bed with your mother-in-law. She wants to keep you there and will tell you things to make you feel so weary that you can't get out of bed. She hates alarm clocks, so put one beside your bed and turn it on. As long as you abide by the alarm, she won't come to bed with you. Warning: she does like the snooze button, so don't let temptation prevail.

5. Don't listen to your mother-in-law. She is mean. She will tell you terrible things about you to make you stay with her. You will believe some of her words, so you need to acknowledge some of them and make peace with those words.

5b Those words are much like mini-mother-in-laws. They are words like "worthless" or "useless". There's a trick here when dealing with these "minis". Do NOT challenge the mini words. For example, do not say "I'm not useless". Minis have a way of taking away the word "not" so you actually end up hearing yourself say "I am useless." Instead, say something without the work "not", like "I feel kinda useless at times but that's OK. Everyone feels useless at times." Then, to kill the mini, say something good about yourself, like "I'm an OK person and I'm OK with being OK"

6. Manifest your fairy-godmother. She is skilled at keeping your mother-in-law quiet and in a room away from you. Yes, mother-in-law finds ways to get out or speak up at times, but not as often. You can manifest your fairy-godmother when you do say and do things for yourself that you think your fairy-godmother will say or do. Speak kindly of yourself and others. Find beauty in your surroundings and every day things. A cup of coffee, the smell of a flower, the feel of soft clothes on your skin.

7. Find your inner warrior. Envision them as big, strong, and beautiful. Although you can't get rid of your mother-in-law, your warrior will help make sure your mother-in-law can't get rid of you.
Finally, if you read this and it made your mother-in-law a bit smaller, have joined the club of recovering owners of mother-in-laws.

I'm in that club too. My mother-in-law is currently gagged and sitting in the corner of the room staring at me. I just stuck my tongue out at her and will now go into the kitchen for a lovely cup of coffee.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Do As I Say, Not As I Used To Do

Often, I post on social media about things that I think can help improve the world.

...anti-plastic, anti-GMO, anti-fur, treatment for animals, pro-environment, ethical-this, ethical-that.

I realize I can seem hypocritical. After all, photos of me on social media show me wearing leather motorcycle gear, fur-trimmed ski gear, various plastic items, etc. I still eat meat (albeit, humane raised and organic)

I bought my ski jacket because it was on sale. It had fur trim on the hood. I wondered what kind of fur it was but not with any serious concern. It was on sale, after all.

A few years later I read about a boycott on Canada Goose coats because they use coyote fur for trim. Perhaps real fur is helpful added warmth if you are wearing the coat while racing your dog sled on the iditarod, but for your average city commuter, it was only a fashion accessory...and unnecessary. Given the number of Canada Goose coats sold, the number of coyotes killed is rather frightful. I posted my anger, urging my friends to ask Canada Goose to use artificial fur trim instead of coyote fur, and boycott them until they stop using real fur.

Then I noticed the photo of myself in my ski jacket with the fur trim. After some reading, I realized it was, indeed, coyote fur.

Do I throw out the jacket? It won't bring back the coyote that died to make the trim. Luckily the fur trim could be zipped off for cleaning. I contemplated whether to leave it on to remind me the importance of advocating against fur. I left it on for one year and felt guilty every time I wore the jacket. Then I decided to remove it.

I still have my leather motorcycle jacket and chaps. I was a bit of a leather junkie for a few years and have a number of blazers and jackets and purses. I'm not getting rid of them all. I have plastic storage containers. Keeping them. Sheepskin slippers. Keeping them.


I have my eyes open. I am a more informed consumer. As my fur/leather/plastic items wear out I will replace them with non-fur/leather/plastic items. I will continue to shout out for ethical ventures and against harmful ones. Clearly, my behavior is changing because someone voiced these things to me, so maybe my words will cause a change in someone else.

I still have the coyote trim from my coat in a drawer somewhere. I'm trying to decide what to do with it. I thought about doing some respectful ceremony. I thought about using it in some kind of anti-fur way (whatever that looks like). I might just keep it to keep my feeling of guilt alive enough to continue to advocate for change.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Birth of a Scapegoat and the Role of Fearmongering

Today, I am reading about hatred. This hatred is pointed at "Immigrant/Refugee Muslim Terrorists".

Apparently, there are Immigrant/Refugee Muslim Terrorists who are ruining everything. They threaten our jobs, homes, family, lives...EVERYTHING.

They rape, bomb, torture, kill EVERYTHING. We are not safe with them around. Lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!


How has it come to pass that anyone that's an immigrant (must be a muslim if you're an immigrant), or a muslim (any middle-eastern looking person falls in this category) must be a terrorist (a muslim who commits a petty crime is a terrorist) because the president said that he is making the country safe by keeping them out of 'your' country.

Fearmongering and scapegoating. What's the purpose? How does the average citizen become recruited as accomplices?

Let's look back into history. The Red Scare in the 50's created a feverish witch hunt for communists. Anyone Russian, Asian, or anyone you didn't like suddenly became evil communists that threatened to destroy your life. The Japanese internment in the 40's created a ridiculous fear agains all things Japanese (and Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, etc since they look like they could be Japanese)

We all reflect on these periods in history with disbelief and embarrassment. Nothing like that would happen today because...well, we're not stupid and close-minded like our ancestors. Right?

Currently, I stare in disbelief at 2 things.

First, I stare slack-jawed at a world leader who has planted an evil seed that 'immigrants' are criminals, rapists and terrorists, that 'Muslims' are terrorists (especially Muslims from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia), and that 'real' citizens are at risk of being annihilated or taken over.

Secondly, I stare slack-jawed at the people that, blinded by their fierce patriotism, join in this ridiculous witch hunt.

Why would a world leader say these things if they aren't true, you ask? (I could find all sorts of statistics showing as many mass killings, gang rapes, and various evil-doings are perpetrated by non-muslim-immigrants. But you will ignore the evil-doings by white, rich, Christians and my statistics will fall on deaf ears)

Imagine if you are a world leader who basically promised peace and prosperity for it's citizens. The citizens want to believe the dream of a strong safe country where they will prosper and live happily ever after, so they will follow you to the ends of the earth if you can make this happen. (You can close your eyes and envision Hitler's Nazi vision if you need a reference)

"Good paying jobs for everyone! Nice homes and food on the table for everyone! Yay!! Paradise!" it's time for the reality check.

How does banning Muslim or Mexican immigrants do this? Are they stealing your jobs? No. They are doing the jobs you won't do...the less-than-minimum wage part time crap jobs that you won't do. THE job you envision, YOUR job (the permanent full time with benefits one) isn't there because Big Corporations pay themselves and their stockholders instead. A Corporation gets money from investors. Investors have 1 goal when they invest: Make more money.

And then there's the banks. They don't exist so they can run around giving away money. They are there to make money.

So, why doesn't a world leader rally the citizens against big corporations and banks?

Half the world's wealth is held by 1% of the population. the top 10% of the population hold 85%. The bottom 90% of the population hold only 15%. So if you are running a country and need billions and billions to finance military ventures, national security, etc, who do you want to be your very best friend? Whose happiness gives a better payback for you?

Why create a scapegoat? Well, as a world leader you need to be able to keep the 90% of the population supporting the 20% so they can support you. Can you imagine the system collapse if the 90% revolted? What if they protested against the big corporations?! *cough* Dakota Access Pipeline.

So, a seed is planted to make us angry at people who collect measly welfare instead of embezzling CEOs or corrupt bankers. Don't mess with the money mojo. Let's target people who can't defend themselves...refugees, perhaps.

Now comes the twice-the-bang-for-your-buck scapegoat. The best target for a leader to choose as a scapegoat is one whose downfall also benefits the leader or the Big Money. Middle East oil competes with North American oil for business. Eliminate the competition. Have a war. Voila! Let's have a war against terror! Shouldn't we have a war on poverty in Africa, you ask? don't interfere with our business profits, and TERROR sounds so much more...terrifying!

So how did we let this world leader turn us against vulnerable people? How could our frothing hate be wrong when we feel it on such a visceral level?

FEAR. Plain and simple. Fear is a terribly uncomfortable and disempowering thing. Fearing the unknown is the most horrific and disempowering fear of all.

If I am bit by a german shepherd, I might fear german shepherds. If I'm bit by a dog but I don't know what kind of dog, I might fear all dogs. If I'm bit but I don't know what bit me, I will become a paranoid, quaking pile of fear.

This world leader is planting seeds to attach to your fears. When talking about fearful things, toss in the word 'Muslim" or "terrorist" or "immigrant", and those words become paired with the fear. I would rather be able to visibly recognize a threat (a brown man with a long beard carrying a backpack that's ticking) than not know where the real danger is coming from (the polite white christian-looking young man next door *cough* Paul Bernardo)

A mass killing by a white man is called a hate crime. If he's Muslim, it's terrorism. Gang rapes by Americans in America will not be part of this leader's speeches. A Gang rape in Sweden (Its not even known the religion or nationality of the rapists) will be part of the conversation about "keeping our country safe" because Sweden has an increase in crime and they take in refugees.
So in this story, CLEARLY Muslim immigrants are implied to be bad bad people. I can now add another word to the fear Immigrant Muslim Terrorist AND Rapist.
(We shall ignore the increase in violence in Chicago and Detroit...we are powerless against violence towards us from one of our own.) We CAN do something about the Muslim immigrants though...and the Mexicans. Don't forget the Mexicans.
After all, it worked so well with the Japanese internment camps, didn't it? (insert sarcasm here)
...and I won't even mention Auschwitz.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year! Wait...haven't I done this before?

New Years Day.

We reflect on the past. We make resolutions for the year ahead. We wish our friends health, wealth, and happiness.

Last year was disappointing. Next year will be better...surely. I will make my year better by doing A, B and C. I will diet and exercise. I will budget better (but I will buy lottery tickets anyways. One can hope.)

Sound familiar?

I'm pretty sure January 1, 2018 will look just like January 1, 2017...which looks a lot like January 1, 2016.

How do we get out of this loop?
1. Gratitude.
2. Acceptance.
3. Love.

GRATITUDE: Gratitude towards the past is the sister to the hope we have for the future. Hope is for what we don't have. Gratitude is for what we DO have. Look at what you hope for, realize that you actually have it.

Here's an example:
"I hope to be happy."
What's happiness? (Umm...feeling good. What's 'good'? No stress? Feeling loved? No physical pain?)
How do you get it? (If I knew I would be happy. )
When have you been happy in the past? (At the cottage watching a sunset with friends or loved ones, eating and drinking)
What was it about those moments that made you happy? (I was relaxed and not worrying about work. Nature makes me feel good. Friends make me feel I have a place where I belong)
Can you duplicate any of that right now? If not immediately, within the next week or month? (Yes. If not at the cottage, I can go for a walk in the park. I can enjoy the sunshine here in my living room with my cat on my lap and drinking a nice cup of tea.)
There. You found happiness. Now recognize you can be happy to some degree whenever you want. Actively express gratitude for that. Say "I am happy and I am grateful for it."

ACCEPTANCE: It's important to note that I am talking about acceptance (positive) and NOT resignation (negative). It's important to accept ourselves. By no means do I suggest that we give up on bringing change to our lives, but it's important not to punish ourselves for not being the change RIGHT NOW.

I have an anxious constitution. I have a mild tremor. I am fearful much of the time. I carry the judgemental voices of others (including media) in my head telling me I should eat healthier, exercise more, increase my career skillset, get outside more and on social media less.
Can I will my anxiety away? No. I can use strategies to calm myself more, but my anxiety is as much an innate reflex as my gag reflex. Some people have strong reflexes, others have weak ones. It's who we are. Likewise, my tremor is less noticeable if I avoid certain foods etc, but I am generally stuck with it.
Judging myself for these traits would not only be futile, it would be destructive. Self-judgement blocks our ability to feel love...from ourselves or others.
I admit I could eat healthier and exercise etc., but I need to own my decision NOT to eat healthier or exercise in this moment. I will not allow others to define what I should or shouldn't do. If I want to do these things, I will not use guilt as a highly over-used motivator. I will look for a positive motivator.

LOVE: Love is a wonderful energy expression. It's one of the few energy sources that is both given and received. We actually feel love when we give love. The more we give, the more we feel. Self-love works the same.

Example: Take note of the facial expressions of people around you. Do this for a day. The next day, smile at people when you look at them...even strangers. You will see more smiles. Love works the same. Rather than looking for negativity in others, look for aspects worthy of love. Your love energy will follow. This is unconditional love, and in my opinion, the only true love. You will begin to see a change in the reactions from the people around you.
Pets are a perfect example of this. Every pet owner I know speaks of the unconditional love of pets. Self-love works the same as well. If we can focus on the positive aspects of ourselves, we start to express love and feel love from ourselves. This is called self-esteem. Practise this often.

This year I will start defining my hopes and wishes in more detail so I may see that I have these things already.
What is wealth? What is happiness? What is love? What is health?
I will find these things wherever I happen to look for them and I need not wait for them to come to me.
...or I might have pizza and coke and watch a movie instead.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Thomas

I took Thomas to the vet last week and realized it has been 1 year since he chose us as his preferred staff. He is so much a part of the family and a fixture in the house that I can't remember what our household was like before him.

A year ago, he was a beat-up tom cat with no social skills whatsoever. He is now the sweetest, most gentle cat who we fight over every evening. We used to fight over the remote, but that plays second fiddle to snuggling beside Tom on the sofa while watching TV.

"Stop mauling the cat.....(pause)'s my turn!"

What is it about this 20lb cat that is so irresistible to us? We just want to pick him up and hug him and cuddle every time we look at him. I have been able to answer this.

I speculate. Perhaps it's because he always looks sooooo he's never lost the appreciation for food, a warm place to sleep, and love.

It took 6 months for him to learn what 'play' was after he watched my other cat. When he finally figured it out, he threw himself into the task with so much reckless abandon it was almost frightening and akin to watching a rottweiler play with a ball of string.

It took 9 months for him to meow. He howled to females, growled to males, and hissed to people. He started with an odd Mmm sound to us, and now he meows.

It's like he's started his life over again with all it's milestones, but never forgot how bad his other life had been. He still goes all wide-eyed and chirpy every night when he gets a little bowl of 'milkies'. Milk is still the manifestation of comfort for him.

He does everything like it's the first time. Everytime. Eat, sleep, play, meow, snuggle. Wow! Life is great!

Life through Tom's eyes is blissful. To watch Tom and watch life through Tom's eyes is to live the life of the contented cat. He has taught our household much.

And so, I invite the reader to keep your eyes open for your own Thomas. He or she might be a stray that needs rescuing, or a rescued cat in a shelter that needs a home. There are more than enough Toms to go around. I am reminded of this because on the anniversary of rescuing Tom from the streets, I took him to the vet for an infected bite from this year's homeless tomcat in the neighbourhood.

Can I interest anyone in a male grey persian?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Injecting Crap Into Your Face. WTF?

I was watching the Emmy Awards the other night. I noticed 2 things about all the celebrities: 1. Everyone looked very well-rested...and I mean funeral-home-embalmed well-rested 2. Everyone had identical foreheads.

Neither of these 2 phenomenon looked normal. Both made me feel very uncomfortable.

Is it contagious?

If I am in the vicinity of any of these rested individuals, will I contract this deforming disease?

I don't think I would look attractive if my forehead was covered by a wax plate. I don't think I would look attractive if I stuffed cotton under my upper lip. I don't think I'll look better when I'm dead and embalmed than I do when I'm alive and animated.

I never hear anyone speak favorably of someone who has done botox or collagen injections. I usually hear "OMG! What did they do to their face?" or "They don't even look like themselves anymore!"

Why do people do this?

When I'm 80, I want to look 80. I don't want to look like a 20-year-old with a dowager's hump and varicose veins. Grandmothers should look like grandmothers...not aliens. Don't confuse the children!

Yes, I'm self-conscious about my gradually sagging skin, but we're self-conscious about something or other at every age. Accept it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Support of Spaying/Neutering Pets

I would like to introduce you to Thomas Jr. (Likely the spawn of Thomas Sr. who I described in 'My lecture to cat owners' blog in May 2008)

I first met Thomas Jr. in January 2008. He was a beautiful ginger and white tabby with a glossy coat and incredible muscle tone. He looked healthy and had a flea collar on, so I knew he had an owner. He was not yet neutered.

He was a little bit more sure of himself and aggresive than other males because he was still young (perhaps a year), and so the surge of hormones in his fit and energetic body gave him confidence.

The next time I saw him (about a month later) his ear was chewed off, likely from a fight with another male. He seemed otherwise still healthy and still had the (now expired) flea collar. It was not my place to interfere.

Early spring, I'd see him on occasion...spraying on doors and howling for females. He began to look scruffy and dirty from spending his time outdoors.

I didn't see him all summer...likely he was out roaming and sowing his wild oats. Considering where he ended up (I'll get to that later) he probably didn't go home anymore. A male cat will forego food and shelter quite often for the scent of a female.

I saw him again in early autumn when outdoor food and shelter wasn't as comfortable. If it weren't for his chewed ear, I would have thought he was another cat. An old cat. He was hungry, injured, and guarded, and looked through me rather than at me. He looked hopeless. He was a ghost.

I spent the next number of months feeding him...outdoors a first, then indoors with the door open, then with the door closed for a minute before he freaked out. I couldn't touch him or take away food dishes without being scratched and hissed at. He sprayed my door with urine. He had fleas and ear mites and who-knows-what.

Over the months, and with a lot of patience, bug spray, bandaids, and antibiotic cream (for me). He let me touch him...for a second. Then he let me pet him...sometimes...if he was in the mood...on the head but not the back.

In late December, he actually stayed indoors for a few hours. Food and subzero temperatures are great training tools. Still untrusting, he sat facing the door with his eyes closed, and weaved because he was so exhausted but too frightened to lay down.

A few frigid nights convinced him to sleep in the basement overnight on a box way back under the stairs.

A month ago, I was finally able to get him to a vet to get neutered and vaccinated. (That's another long and funny story). As the hormones subside, he stays outside less and less, and hangs around the house. He's inside most of the time, but still in the basement at night while my other cat slowly warms to him.

He likes to sit by someones feet or at least where he can see us. He won't eat my other cat's food if I say 'no'. He won't go into rooms or on furniture if I say 'no'. If my other cats whines because she's scared of him, he'll leave the room to give her space. He lets all female cats eat the food first. He is the most gentle and obedient cat I've ever known.

Every day is a new milestone. On the weekend, he let me scratch his belly. Last night he let me pick him up. He purrs up a storm and looks so content and safe when he sleeps that my heart swells.

Some people think it's inhumane or unnatural to neuter cats. As a pet owner, it's your choice, but please remember Thomas when you make your decision.
An unneutered outdoor male cat has a life expectancy of 2 to 5 years. A neutered male cat can live 15 to 20 years. Which is more humane? Allowing your cat to live 'naturally' is fine if you also take responsibility for your choice. If your male impregnates a female, you are as responsible for the kittens as the female cat's owner. After all, it takes 2 to tango.

I hope you'll remember this story when you get your new, unsterilized pet. We all want our pets to have a good life. I hope Thomas' story can help you define what a good life for a pet is.

Do the marketing people think I'm that stupid?

I was grocery shopping today, and after seeing a rather unusual item, I decided to look at a number of things a bit closer.

The item that got me thinking was something called a "grapple". It's catch phrase was: "Looks like an apple, tastes like a grape." My response was: "If I want a grape, I'll eat a grape."

This biological mutation was created for bored people looking for something a bit different. My advice...put on a blindfold when you open the fridge and see if you can guess what you're eating.

Other marketing "tricks" I noticed were: granola bars in the diet section have no less calories or sugar than basic granola bars. There was biodegradeable glass cleaner for $4 a bottle. It was acetic acid. You and I know that as vinegar. Go buy a bottle of vinegar for 99 cents. The "less fat" potato chips actually had more fat in them than some other chips that didn't advetise low fat.

Next time you're tempted to buy something because of a marketing buzzword (diet, environmentally friendly, etc) check the label. Buyer beware.