The Race

“I find my calm not at the finish line looking back,but rather as I am: on the run,out of breath, chasing something eternal”

– Vanessa Rousso

People chase this idea their entire lives. The idea of the prefect resting place, filled with a spouse, 2.5 kids and a retriever. From birth, you are told you need to do this and that. Good grades to a job to a family – The End. You’ve reached the finish line, time to rest. Now what?
This idea is so ingrained into the minds of the masses, there is no escaping, ever. You don’t want kids? Too bad. You don’t think school is for you? Too bad. This sense of finality has overwhelmed me my whole life. For most, this is the greatest thing that can be accomplished in life, this family and security. What about the rest? Are we wrong?
This is the question I asked myself in my adult years. I spent my high school days secluded, I thought and acted differently. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want to find my calm at the finish line. When I started out on my own I floundered and flopped and failed. I had all these crazy ideas and schemes of how I was going to make my life work the way people wanted it to. I even believed it was what I wanted for a short period, because it was a sense of normalcy, calmness. I grew restless and angry and I fell. Hard.
It was only recently that I found my peace, or at least a road to peace; and it’s covered with pot holes and steep hills. A road most would intelligently avoid because it’s clearly a bumpy road. For me, those pot holes are bumps to go 4x4ing over and those hills are like roller coasters. Hard to get up but damn is the ride down fun. This moment of clarity happened in a most unusual way. A single person, who I’ve never met and probably never will even speak to changed my life with a simple message.Her words effected me not because I saw her as this goddess of perfection, but because she found her place, not by fitting into this mould that’s expected, but by following her own idea. This idea that not everyone has to go to the finish line to be happy. Some of us are just happy racing. And again, this idea, was the spark I needed, it was confirmation that I didn’t have to figure everything out now, or ever, it was the idea that I could be happy, “on the run, out of breath, chasing something eternal.” And so I am.

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The Day I went to Prison… and Didn’t Even Know It.

happy easter

It’s weird to think my best Easter was spent in prison.What’s even weirder is that I had no idea. I can’t remember the logistics of it but it was a large event for minimum risk prisoners to spend Easter with their children, grandchildren, ect. I think they brought us in through some magical tunnel so that the sight of our loved ones, and strangers behind cold bars, didn’t frighten us. Now it obviously wasn’t some magic tunnel but I had NO CLUE that is was a prison until a couple of years ago.

Yeah, apparently my grandma was a notorious drug dealer, and finally got caught.  I thought she was the sweetest woman who always had the best treats; funny how things work out like that. These criminals behind bars aren’t all bad people; they just do some not so good things. I don’t think less of her for her crimes, I actually think it was badass but I’m glad I didn’t know where I was.

We were taken to a large field with a basketball court in the middle. I remember nothing else but a couple of worn wooden benches. The sparseness struck me even then, I thought it was a crappy place to have an Easter hunt but hey, at least I was on one. I could see a couple of the elderly or lazy guardians lounging on the benches, the slightly sunny sky giving them this hazy glow.

I glanced over at the my grandma, waiting for the cue to hunt. I was a competitive brat even then and I would find the best chocolates.  Sadly, I was right and this was a crappy place to have an Easter egg hunt. You can only hide so many eggs in tall grass or under a bench. Regardless. I won. Ha.

Owned

Owned

Easter wasn’t over yet, now was the time to potato sack race, egg race and three legged race.  We gathered on the cracked cement that was supposed to be a basketball court and suited up. My grandma told me to go easy on them, but I scoffed in her face and bolted past the short legged, unstable twits. I won all three races, and I suppose some credit is due to my three legged partner for not being a complete nincompoop.

After the utter humiliation of all the small children, and the refreshments had been consumed, we left without my grandma, and I never wondered why. I was busy reflecting on my day of successes. I don’t normally get birthdays or Easters with family so I got to show off in front of them. Make them proud. One last time.

When I finally found out that I had been to a prison unbeknownst to me and the reason why, my jaw dropped, I hope you’ll excuse the cliché but that is how it felt. My sweet, innocent, baker of a grandmother was even more badass than me and I made her proud.

How could that not be the best Easter ever?

No, this its not an picture of my actual grandma. Wish I had one

No, this its not a picture of my actual grandma. Wish I had one

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My Epic Murgh Makhani and the Adventure of a Lifetime

butter chicken

Some of the best experiences revolve around food; weddings, holidays, and gatherings of all types include food. For me, the greatest experience was always the making of that food. There are so many variables and varieties; the theoretical database of recipes would be a mindboggling experience to behold. Despite this sundry of recipes, I have my favourites. I’ve twisted and contorted meals until I’ve created the perfect dish. My most recent, and difficult accomplishment was my Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken). It took me three years to get here, to this magical and savoury land of sauce and chicken.

My path to this magical land was riddled with horrors and all the bridges were haunted by trolls out to stop me. Acquiring the vast amount of colourful spices needed was expensive, so I paid off my first troll and crossed the bridge, buying in bulk in hopes of defeating the dragon I now call Lauren’s epic Murgh Makhani. My first encounter with attempting this dish was a fiasco. I knew little about butter chicken other than that I loved it, so I used the first recipe that had a delicious looking picture. We’ve all done it, don’t judge. Needless to say, following a recipe blindly with a romanticized dream of how it should turn out, did not work. The chicken was dry and over cooked, with little flavour. The sauce tasted like a slightly spiced, watered-down, tomato cream sauce, which is not at all appealing.

I paid off many more trolls in the months to come, trying new recipes and combining old ones until I started to understand what this dish was really about. The key is to get the perfect mixture of all the ingredients. This isn’t a salad where you can enjoy a fresh tomato in one bite and a crisp lettuce in the next. This is a dance of every flavour put in there. It needs to become one ingredient rather than 20. In order to do that, I needed to make a lot of mistakes and discoveries.

Slowly, my sauce thickened and my chicken moistened and the day came where I was ready to show the world. Well, it was a couple of my boyfriend’s family members, but to me, it’s the same thing. All of my trolls had been fought or bought and today was the big day.

I woke up early that morning, unable to sleep and decided to throw a fabulously excited puppy at my sleeping boyfriend. While his squeals of alarm and random giggles pierced the air I ran into my long, mirror covered hallway. Those mirrors made me realize that it was impossible to hide in a fun house, and I accepted my punishment of having to take that fabulous puppy outside. Upon our return from the triumphant adventure, I showered and went to work on what was to become the perfect creation.

I whipped around my kitchen collecting all the utensils, tools, ingredients and other odds and ends that I would need. It’s a small enough kitchen that I can basically stand in the middle and reach all my cupboards and appliances, but I’ve got my music on and I dance to each cupboard instead. I have to remind myself to close all of those white cupboard doors as my boyfriend foolishly walks into one, scolding me for once again leaving them open. I mock him instead and set him to cutting the onions. They need to be small as I like to blend them and have a shitty, broken hand-held one that threatens to break and fly into the air at any moment. What can I say, I’m a daredevil. While the onions are being massacred, I pull out the marinated chicken and light the grill. The chicken is stained pink from the chilli and tandoori; the two spices mask the bright yellow of the turmeric, something that I ALWAYS get EVERYWHERE and end up yellow for a while. The grill is heating up and I’m mulling around my tiny kitchen preparing the many other ingredients because it’s time to make the sauce

Making the sauce is my favourite part because you get to experience every step of the meal through your sense of smell. Even the butter heating up in the pan, browning, gives off the smell of hazelnuts and almonds. Its delicately sweet smell becomes almost spicy-sweet as the dry spices are added, heated up until that smell breaks free, mixing beautifully with the butter. Slowly the other ingredients are added in segments. The ginger-garlic paste, the onions, the tomatoes, all add their own voice until a glorious song of flavours is made.

The sauce is made and simmering, which means it is time to add the chicken that has been grilling on the BBQ. First I need to chase my all too white dog around the house so I can clean his turmeric stained face… again. Even now, I can see a small yellow finger print on his cheek as he ponders my laptop. With the crisis averted, I add the grilled meat, blackened around the edges, into the orangey-red butter sauce. The simmering stops with the temperature change and I take the opportunity to taste test my concoction. Like a witch, I cackle at its magnificence. It feels as if I could fell Rome with this one delicious dish. I pace as the dish reaches its simmering potential once again and wait for the right time to add the cream, the final ingredient. I stand over the pan and pour the thick cream into it, watching the stark contrast of the fall coloured sauce with the white of the cream. I grab my spoon to destroy that contrast and bring rise to the final product.

The family arrives now, so I put on the rice. Basmati with a bit of saffron and a stick of cinnamon for that extra pizazz I love so much. The fluffy white rice is yet again contrasted by the colour of the sauce as I pour it over the rice, adding a splash of cream to the top of the dish for presentation. I hear the “oohs” and “awes” from the members who have already been served. I move more quickly as I wait to serve myself and join my family so that for once, I can have one of those great experiences that revolve around food.

Moments

Because I needed a hug today

Because I needed a hug today

It’s one of those moments in life where it’s far too difficult to face yourself, yet you know you must if you’re ever to survive. You’ve let yourself down in some monumental way, or perhaps it’s the same mistake repeatedly. The feeling to run and hide can be overwhelming, and for me it was. This is my story of depression. I’ve never written or even really spoken of it my entire life because I thought I could beat it on my own. Here’s proof that I haven’t.

I’ve had depression, severe depressions, since I was a kid. Coming clean and talking about anything that makes me less than perfect is something I’ve chosen not to do until now. What these symptoms, along with my own bad decisions, have led me to commit shames me. Why would I want people to see that? Put into perspective though, these things are nothing outrageously terrible. For me however, my mistakes could cost me my future.

My education is quite literally all I have that is my own. My future is what I hold on to. That promise of better. I boil up in side when people say it will get better. I’ve actually started to scream at them, I scream that I’ve been waiting 15+ years for things to be better. I’m sick of hearing it, and I’m sick of hoping; and yet here I am. Hoping. My education is the only way out, and it seems I’ve failed.

I need to put this out there, and it is not for bragging purposes but purely to show that I am perfectly capable of passing. I use to be a straight A student, and that comes with minimal effort. Within this year though my attendance waned, and my work load piled up, something that has NEVER happened to me. I freaked, just straight-up broke the fuck down. I can’t pin-point the reason of this break-down, but it completely and utterly consumed me. All I saw was darkness. I got so behind in my school work that it became physically impossible for me to catch up. So I didn’t. Three classes…failed. Three very important classes might I add. Failed.

I made the decision that I needed outside help because my dreams are massive and not for the weak of will, and I refuse to go down without a fight. Even if the enemy is me. I have wild dreams of being a top professor at Oxford with documentaries and books written by me soaring the internet and stores. I want to travel the world as an activist and fix the things I read about in the papers. I want to do all of these things and more, and sometimes it feels as if I’ll burst. I know I cannot do all of these thing, but I’ll work towards them none the less. I can still teach, and I can still protest what matters to me. But it will never be enough.

My outside help was a therapist and the thing I dreaded most, medication. It dulls me. It dulls my writing and it dulls my senses, but it’s easier to just be. So the question ends up being, do I choose to lose what really makes me me, the fire and the passion, but gain a general balance, the ability to function? Do I want the white fence, SUV and kids? Or do I choose the all-consuming chaos that will destroy me in the end so that I can have that fierce passion? I can choose to feel things, or I can choose not to.

I will always choose fire.

.

Bits and Pieces

This story was a lot harder to write than I wanted it to be. Writer’s block wasn’t even the issue. Frankly, I’m tired of writing tragedies; so therefore, I feel I have nothing of significance to write.  Not all my tales are stories of woe of course, but the sad ones are the ones that hold the lessons.

I could tell the story of when I tripped and skinned my elbow. I was skipping and hollering, “she’ll be coming around the mountain”, in this one-piece short/dress mistake of an outfit that looked like my dog ate a garden of flowers and vomited on the dress. It was full of browns and reds and yellows and all those flowers look stretched and worn. The thing about this story is that I can’t tell it because all I learned was that I was such a freak of a klutz I could trip on nothing and that perhaps I shouldn’t skip while passionately singing because – as I previously implied – I can trip on air.

I could tell the story of when I said my first swear word in front of my mother. We were at Playland, an amusement park here,  and I was confronted with the salt and pepper shaker ride. I am not sure if it is still called that, but I believe it is still there. The massive long ride with two cages on each end that just goes round like that hands of an incessant clock. This ride was and is the highest one there, by a long shot. I hadn’t quiet had my growth spurt yet so I was still a munchkin. I am sure you can imagine my terror at the prospect of riding this massive giraffe of a skyscraper. Why ride it you ask? You see, I absolutely had to. We were with my older step-sister and my two male cousins who were like brothers at the time. I had to be as unflinching and tough as all of them so I agreed, not having seen the ride. Well – when I did see that ride, I let out a quick but audible “oh fuck”. I was terrified at my crime. My mom thought it was funny because she knew that I had done it by mistake and my utter terror amused her as it so often does.  She had let it go unnoticed but I was so focused on how much trouble I was going to get in, I barely noticed I was being strapped in to my seat of doom. I was committed now. The ride made me dizzy and my mother never mentioned the breach so my only lesson learned was not to agree to things just to be cool because it makes you dizzy and swear when you shouldn’t.

I lost any semblance of a family around the age of 8 so my childhood was only filled with me and the ghost of a mother. I can’t write a story about the failed attempts at communication with my mother or the utter failure I have in social settings, despite my outer appearance.  I can’t write them because they have no meaning any more. It would only be words. That is why my story is about stories. My story is not one of joy and ice cream or one of epic moments of clarity.  My lessons have come through in all the little parts of my life. I learned humbleness from an amusement park ride and focus from a side-walk and a scar.  I learned that nothing is constant from a divorce I cared nothing about and that blood isn’t thicker than water from a parking lot battle – a story I will keep a mystery.

I can write a story about how all those tiny stories made me who I am. So I did.

The most unlikely of places for life lessons

There aren’t many people I would consider significant to my life, and those that are, generally had a negative impact. It’s not that I’m simply a cynic or jaded; it was the way I was raised. Whenever I picture my father, I always go back to this one photo of us. The only one, actually.  My dad still had colour in his hair, and I’ve never seen it’s like on a person. It’s close to the colour of cinnamon but richer. He had started to grey, but clutched on to this last bit of youth. He looked rather silly with his long mane of snow peaked cinnamon hills.

I was on his shoulders wearing one of those ridiculous 80’s wind jackets with all the neon colour patches. I am looking rather terrified and he had this shit eating grin on his face. What the picture doesn’t show is why I was terrified.

This day is the only day I remember my parents being together. My dad had disappeared when the news of my impending arrival came and only managed to wandering aimlessly back into my life when I was three or four…for a while at least.

I was never upset that my parents weren’t together, for me it was simply a fact. But on this day, all three of us went to the petting zoo. I’ll say little of my mother because I don’t remember her being there other than her cackling at my terror. What was it that had got me so spooked? Was it a lion, or a tiger, or a bear? Oh no. It was a baby goat.

I’m walking around like I’m queen of the petting zoo, ambling and giggling in the sunshine, petting goats and pigs; doing my thing. I was trying to feed some baby goat those disgusting food pellets you can buy at the zoo. I fed the goat, I pet the goat, I fawned over the goat, I got bored of the goat. I can’t remember what caught my attention away from this adorkable fumbling baby goat, but he certainly didn’t like it. I decided to go be cute somewhere else and was minding my own business when bam! I’m being eating. I was so scared and frantic that he easily threw me off balance and then attempted to eat various parts of me, (he left the coat alone, even he knew it was ugly) . By this point I’m wailing and flailing like a screaming wacky inflatable tube girl. My mom stands by doing her evil malicious cackle but my dad comes running to my rescue and scoops me up onto his shoulders.

That day is the only good memory I have of him and for the longest time he was my hero because of this. It took me a long time to learn that who I thought he was, was fake. I’m sure deep inside he has an honourable streak, but he never wanted a kid, let alone a girl. He disappeared again not long after this photo was taken, and I clutched the photo every night, waiting. I blamed myself because I didn’t know better. He shaped me in the worst ways and the best ways. I am one hell of a fighter and won’t ever let any baby goats pick on me ever again. Ever.

About two years ago, after disappearing and reappearing multiple times in this period like fucking Hudini, we finally had the discussion I had been waiting for my entire childhood.  I’m disappointed in myself that it wasn’t me who started it, but I’m glad it was said, even if it was fallacy and pointless. The whole thing was awkward, we have always been awkward. We were sitting outside my house in his blue truck that reeked of wet dog.

He was slumping in his seat as if he could disappear into it, which is really an interesting sight as he is 6 foot something in a small truck. I really should just call him Hudini but I have too much respect for the magician. He started off with an even more awkward conversation starter,

“You know I love you, right kid?”

“Sure, dad”

“I know I haven’t been the best father, but I love you and I’m always there for you.”

Internally I went ape shit, externally I remained poised and calm, my default countenance.

“Well dad, you and I both know that’s bull”

He apologized, and explained and excused, but concluded that he was not father material. Well duh. He wanted a better relationship, which was his point.

Have you ever had a serious conversation with someone that you both knew to be complete crap? That is what this was. My dad did not want to be a dad. I came to terms with that many years ago. Anything he has ever done with me or for me has been driven by guilt. Once, when I was still in high school and being my angsty self, he called out of the blue about something very serious and managed to make it the least important thing in the world. It had been about three years since I’d set eyes on him and the phone rang just as I got home from school.

*ring ring*

“Hello?”

“Hey, it’s your dad”

“Ya dad, I know”

“Well, your granny is dead”

“Uhh…”

“Anyway, want to come to Kelowna for her funeral?”

As heartless as this sounds, I refused. I hated my dad and barely knew my granny.  She couldn’t even spell my name right, despite that my father reminded her constantly and it’s the common spelling of the name. I explained that I simply couldn’t go through this back and forth anymore and I wanted him out of my life. This was followed by the blame game on his part. I remember standing in the living room, flabbergasted that my own father blamed me for our shitty relationship. He hung up and we never spoke again until the awkward “I want to be there conversation”. His blame game is why I knew this conversation was all crap. He had plenty of opportunity to be there and I even agreed to this proposed better relationship. Needless to say, nothing has come of it, other than a life lesson.

My dad taught me a number of things in his lack of guidance. One, parents do not always deserve respect and the second was to be cautious and sceptical, and as a wise man named Michael Shermer stated in his article I want to believe, “ I’m a sceptic not because I do not want to believe but because I want to know”. So in essence my father taught me to learn; to learn people and gestures and to use those things to accurately judge character traits, in order to get a better idea of who that person is. It taught me not to judge too quickly, or too slowly, and to never let someone blame you for their own faults