Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Running Scared

Rage - Blue Rodeo

When will you rage again, is it enough 
Just getting out of your head night after night
Are you running scared or you just don't care
Or are you waiting for that one high and holy sign
To shine a light on you and pull you through to the silent true

A lot of things have happened lately that have me swimming in quicksand trying not to drown. And I'm so tired that I really want to stop flailing about and just let the mud invade my lungs and pull me down. The mud is warm and comforting and the pressure against the skin is providing the first sense of security I have not felt in a long time. 

But every time I think..."It's time" my eyes well up with tears. There is a conflict that compresses my chest like an elephant sitting upon it. I'm tired. My heart hurts. My brain is pushing against my skull trying to break free. A desire to let go and give in but a stubborn streak that doesn't want them to win. I'm not sure that God is going to let them see the light of day so I have to prove them wrong. 

Forgiveness is not an option. When you knowingly and willful set out to hurt someone you may try and seek solace in another realm but in my world you can go fuck yourself. The drunk who gets behind the wheel and kills - that wasn't an accident. The truck driver who follows to close and uses his bulk to intimidate, who alters his driving log unmindful of the innocent people on the road who aren't sleep deprived - no pity here. Anyone who has mistreated another human or animal in anyway - may you rot in hell. And the people of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board who systematically and willfully whittled away at everything that was good about me. I can't imagine a punishment I could inflict that would bring me any peace. 

And to all the professionals who have taken a microscope to my life since my character was pulverized by the Catholic Educators and Administrators, I only have one thing to say that I hope you will take into consideration. We all have a past and some of us had a difficult childhood with imperfect parents, we somehow managed to survive. I happened to have had an especially traumatic childhood and was forced to cope with a lot of diversity. My past happened. It affected me. But it was the 1970's. Three decades ago! So today you can label me social phobic and try to change my pattern of avoidance for dealing with issues. You can blame that on the pain of my childhood and try to fix me. But I want to ask just one thing "Would you even be aware of my existence today if it were not for the work issues I was forced to endure at the hands of my crucifix-touting supervisors?" I was being nailed to the cross and slowly tortured until I finally broke. Wouldn't you? Doesn't everyone have a breaking point? What the hell do these actions have to do with an accident I survived 36 years previous?? 

Was I a misfit cruising under the radar of society? Waiting to be hauled off to the rubber room because I was depressed, anxious and social phobic? Or did I learn to cope and survive despite the rocks that were pelleted at me trying to knock me down. I think the latter, despite being far from perfect I managed to not only fit into societal expectations but did it on my own - Thank you very much. A single parent who raised two kids on her own without the benefit of spousal support (financial or otherwise), no familial support, no handouts from the government. When we lacked, I volunteered my time in lieu of paying for extra-curriculars. As the kids became a little more independent, I took on a second job to try and make our life easier. I didn't ask for help because that's not what I do - well I used to but having to go to distant relatives instead of immediate family meant I was flatly turned down. Who should I have asked for help from?

I was doing fine. I was happy. I was satisfied with my life (although always looking for ways to improve). My children had both graduated high school and gone off to post-secondary education. Now tell me how children of single parents don't succeed cousin! Regardless while I was busy minding my own business I was successful not only in my chosen career but every part time job I engaged in. I allowed the Catholic School Board to systematically assassinate my character and I never stood up to them. That behaviour and lack of willingness to fight for myself you can put down to learned behaviour as an emotionally abused teenager. But if someone chastises you simply because you refuse to say hello when you pass them in the crowded halls of the high school - how do you fight that? When you are told lies and they say that they have people who swear to hearing you make a racial slur - how do you refute that? When there are 6-8 of them staring down at you and listing off infractions and flaws in your character and personality while you look at the ground and clench your jaw to stop from screaming..."Look at ME when I speak to you!" they command me. I cry and hide further within myself. The one person that was there to protect me and my rights (my union rep) sat beside me, scribbling furiously on her note bad and saying nothing. How was I, a simple peon in the mighty cog of one of the largest employers in the county is not the country, how was I supposed to fight for my rights?        

They finally broke me! After nearly 10 years of suffering abuse at their hands I finally broke. I could hear them laughing at me in my warped consciousness. I strived to change myself - so that I could be what they said I should be. I failed and began to hate everything about me. Councillors, psychiatrists, doctors, therapists, group sessions. I did it all. I heeded the recommendations. Get out of the house, volunteer. Exercise, it elevates the anti-depressant hormones. Write, be productive. Each one of the activities I engaged myself in was used against me as proof that I was okay. They threw my childhood trauma in my face as a reason for the problems with the School Board. Hell, even the Board in official documentation to Workers Safety Insurance Board said that my behaviour in the work place was due to trauma suffered as a child. HOW THE HELL DID THEY EVEN KNOW ABOUT IT? I'll tell you how, I bore the scars like a badge all over my body. If someone asked what happened, I shared. I didn't shrink away and pretend it never happened. But tell me this - if I had no scars would anyone have ever known what I went through? The answer is NO! So to avoid an allegation of bullying the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board chose to lie. 

And much to the displeasure of the School Board, I have the proof. 10 years of documentation, of wrong-doing, of mistreatment of students, of bullying students and staff. The Good The Bad and The Ugly. I have it. Long before I left work, I made accusations of being bullied by superiors and instead of action being taken, it was dismissed. I was dismissed. The law was broken to save the ass of employees who had a stronger union than I. Oh dear! 

As Blue Rodeo (in the above song) says so eloquently in their lyrics "Fuck off and die, I feel like the lucky one"


Everybody Loves You When You're Dead - Wild Strawberries

Anybody can get so tired of the fight that they don't want to do it anymore. The fight is survival. Instead of feeling stronger for the effort the strength is sapped out of you and you feel yourself wilting like a dead flower in the middle of the winter - never to feel the warmth of spring. I am that tired and sometimes I really don't want to take another breath. I want the pain to stop. 

It just seems to be a constant struggle to try and make people understand...to believe. As I said previously, a lot of labels of mental deficiency have been heaped upon me of late. None which I specifically dispute - what I dispute is that they are being lumped together with childhood trauma as if I was still a child - that child. Nobody asks about the 36 years in between - how I coped for those years. 

That is what I want people to understand. I survived the trauma because my mind and resolve was stronger than the people who tried to break me. I knew that the unpleasantness couldn't and wouldn't last forever. There was light at the end of the tunnel. I was an optimist. I could see good in everything. I saw good in my scars - it could have been worse. I saw good in the death of my family - at least I still had my brother. When he left I was grateful for the time we had together - I was glad he was going to a better place even if it meant leaving me. I wasn't selfish. 

I now know that most of my life's outlook was based on what psychiatry deems as Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), and it should be noted that I did it without benefit of any counselling. SFBT is essentially is goal-orientated concentrating on where you want to be and how to get there. There is no point focusing on the past. We know how and why we are what we are, but it's the future that is important and how we are going to get there. I was an angry, frightened and intelligent person who was dealt a shit hand of cards. I can analyze the who, why, how to death but it won't change the past. I had to move on and decide how I wanted to live my life. I chose the high road and walked away from the pain. The ironic thing is that I never had an psychiatric counselling besides during the brief initial stay in the hospital after the accident. I became the person I was because that's who I wanted to be. I succeeded and I was confident. I was left alone and learned to live my life that way. Alone and self-sufficient. I learned to protect myself from anyone who I thought was trying to hurt me. I shut down, I avoided, I hid behind the wall.

New Normal Philosophy
Eventually your life will have a new "normal" without him but you can never expect to forget or hurt sometimes. The new existence comes with a certain amount of pain that will always rear its ugly head, usually when you least expect it but there is some predictability as well. Loss is almost always harder when it is sudden and unexpected because we have to process the loss and are expected to cope in the blink of an eye. 
by Gigi

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hearts are Buried in the Cold But the Souls Live On in Our Memories

Ghosts That We Knew - Mumford and Sons


How often do you think about freedom? Your freedom? It is a time to recall the sacrifices that were made on our behalf so that we may live in a free and just world. When I think about Veterans I often think of grandfathers and old men, the Veterans of the two Great Wars - already, I need to be reminded of not only the women but all the other conflicts past and present. Fact is that there are no longer any Veterans alive from the first World War and Canada has been remembering the anniversary of the War of 1812. Long past should not equal long forgotten. Why even the commentators on the special newscasts this morning but heavy emphasis on the men who served in World War I, the Korean War and Afghanistan. But in the crowd of Veterans, I saw many women, and Canada has sent members of the military to places beyond the middle East. On Remembrance Day we should not forget anyone who selfishly sacrifices. 

It has been said that "You don't remember the bad, only the good". I am not sure how true this is - based on personal experience I can attest that some events are so traumatic that they are forever burned in your memory and form the basis of your psyche. Seeing the look on the face of many of the assembled Veterans, I would suggest that many of them would agree with me. The "horrors of war" is not just a phrase contrived from marketing executives, we can only imagine what the bad is and how horrible it was for them. My grandfather was a citizen of Italy during the second World War and rarely spoke of his experiences and never in a great amount of detail. He didn't serve, though I don't know why, I do know that he was forcible taken away from his home and family to a prison camp. The only other thing he shared was looking up to the sky when it suddenly darkened with the cover of hundreds of planes flying in formation. With this limited first hand experience of human conflict, I never quite understood why I was deeply affected during Remembrance Day services. Many times I have had to remove myself to the back of the throng of people so as to not disturb their own reflections with my uncontrollable emotions. It hurts to hear the stories, see the faces and ponder the sorrow. I feel the pain. 

My reaction is nothing to what was sacrificed on behalf of myself and the rest of Canada and the World. Lest we forget that although we are remembering the Veterans of Canada on this day, there are Veterans on the side of peace and goodness all over the world. I will take a perhaps unpopular stand and voice my opinion on the countries that use their military to exert power and control over weaker and less fortified countries. Taking a well-known figure of the past who engaged in this type of behaviour to illustrate my position that this is nothing more than bullying on a national scale. Hitler. Hitler used his power to stomp on the weaker countries around him. We had to stand up to the bully. But there are some conflicts that are perceived as unpopular. The Vietnam conflict comes to mind as one such event. My point is that maybe their is a better way to make a point than raising a gun and aiming it at our fellow humans. Okay, I don't agree with the concept of war. 

Can anyone identify the soundtrack?

This is very difficult for me because it wages a war (pardon the pun) of consciousness within myself. My empathy for Veterans and those who have suffered from war runs deep and hot. On the other hand I am opposed to the very concept of conflict. This very much parallels my life whereby I have allowed the bully to tread upon me and internally hope that their actions will be their own un-doing. I have not fought to save my own soul. But I have given the verbal tools to others who have had the need to fight the oppressor.  
Put the evil doer in a steel box with one bullet fired, ricocheting around and piercing the one at will, leaving a scar as a reminder for each misdeed. 


There is talk in the media once again about making Remembrance Day a National Holiday. While I can see that this is a cause that should be commemorated in such a grand fashion I fail to see that this action will promote the cause. As it is right now, many municipalities seem to be transforming many current statutory holidays as just another day to shop and not work (unless you work in the retail sector of course). It points a finger of cause to the multiculturalism that has permeated this country. Rather than assimilate to the greatness that the country of Canada became in no small part due to the efforts of not only our Veterans but ancestors as well, it seems to no longer be good enough. Merry Christmas has given way to Happy Holidays. God has left the consciousness of society in favour of other beliefs. It is a big country and there should be enough room for all. But like a bully, my beliefs are being trod upon by the others who happen not to believe like I do. Yes, even our Veterans who made the country one that foreigners aspire to come to are being cast aside. To be fair, I don't know why the parents of some students are requesting that their children not be a part of Remembrance Day services in the schools, but frankly I don't care. If you live in Canada by choice (and if you don't I'll personally guide you to the nearest border so you can leave) than the respect of Veterans and the history of this country are mandatory. There have been times when as I stated I have been too emotional to fully participate in services but not once has my respect or admiration waned. 

The effort that is put into commemorating Remembrance Day within the school system is dismal at the best of times. This year because on an on-going labour dispute between teachers and the provincial government, one school opted to observe the sacrifice of Veterans with in-class announcement rather than an assembly. While this made the local newscast, I have an update for you. I worked within the school system for many years and it is my experience that this practice is norm not the exception. It takes time and effort for teachers to organize a full school assembly and no-one wants to bother. There are more professional accolades and perks to be had by spending one's time coaching an athletic team. Additionally, most schools don't even have the facilities to house an entire student body in one assembly. When I was a student, Remembrance Day was a day off of school. And without exception, we attended a service at the cenotaph. It wasn't a day off to "hang out" or shop. It was a day to Remember. We also had school related activities and assignments. It mattered and we knew it. 

Maybe the passage of time has weakened our memories and those with the stories to tell us are going the way of the wind. More than 160 Canadians have died in Afghanistan in 10 years which pales in comparison to the 1 in 10 that didn't return from duty during World War I or the 45,000 dead in the 6 years of World War II. But still they were someone's father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather...family. We all need to mourn the loss - great or small. 


Every year you hear more and more about the theft of the poppy boxes that appear on the counter of retail establishment to remind us to wear the poppy with pride while we support the welfare of the Canadian Veterans. And it was no different this year with several thefts making the news. To the credit of security cameras, alert citizens and law enforcement efforts, some culprits were caught with a backpack full of poppies and $300. Pathetic that someone can stoop so low. I'd like to "pin" a poppy on them...my way! 

After the War - Paul Gross (from Passchendaele)

The wearing of the poppy is one of my personal pet peeves. Over the years I have stepped out of my personal comfort zone to correct many people. Tradition holds that the poppy is to be worn on the left side. Close to the heart. And following the services held at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, it is removed and left as a tribute to the fallen at the cenotaph. In Ottawa, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is covered with a sea of red from the poppies left behind. Officially the Remembrance Period goes from the last Friday in October to the 11th day of November. 

Consumerism is invading the sanctity of Remembrance Day as well. Gone is the collective respect for the sacrifices made. No sooner are the Hallowe'en costumes washed and packed away then the Christmas trappings come out and the cherry "shop til you drop" music sings over the PA system in the stores. This year, Shoppers Drug Mart got a public slap in the face when they were forced by consumer outrage and complaints to shut off Yuletide Tidings until at least the observance of Remembrance Day was complete. A sage move and I applaud all of those who took a stand to remember. I recognize that retailers must take advantage of the spending frenzy of the Christmas season to stay afloat financially but please don't forget the reason you have the privileges you have as a Canadian. Thank you!