Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Best Bitchy/Heartache Breakup Song

I was chatting with a friend and he asked me what I thought was the best bitch slap breakup song. For me the hands-down winner is Tony Bennett's version of I Wanna Be Around . BUT I also volunteered the best rip your heart out breakup song, Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me. Please don't get the George Michael version of the Raitt song.

I Wanna Be Around

I wanna be around to pick up the pieces
When somebody breaks your heart
Some somebody twice as smart as I

A somebody who will swear to be true
As you used to do with me
Who'll leave you to learn
That mis'ry loves company, wait and see

I mean, I wanna be around to see how he does it
When he breaks your heart to bits
Let's see if the puzzle fits so fine

And that's when I'll discover that revenge is sweet
As I sit there applaudin' from a front-row seat
When somebody breaks your heart
Like you, like you broke mine.

I Can't Make You Love Me

Turn down the lights, turn down the bed
Turn down these voices inside my head
Lay down with me, tell me no lies
Just hold me close, don't patronize - don't patronize me

Cause I can't make you love me if you don't
You can't make your heart feel something it won't
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power
But you won't, no you won't
'Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't

I'll close my eyes, then I won't see
The love you don't feel when you're holding me
Morning will come and I'll do what's right
Just give me till then to give up this fight
And I will give up this fight

Cause I can't make you love me if you don't
You can't make your heart feel something it won't
Here in the dark, in these lonely hours
I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power
But you won't, no you won't
'Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't

Monday, March 27, 2006

Horoscope Horror

When trying to come to terms with a final decision one has made one should NEVER read horoscopes. This afternoon I saw an article on the Canadian music scene from yesterdays Toronto Star and how it is at an all-time high. I turned the page to see if the article continued and BAMN there were the horoscopes. Now I rarely read them except as the last ditch read on public transit. Yesterday's said:

Just because a certain arrangement has a history of going wrong, doesn't mean that it's bound to go wrong again. This time around, you'll be far more successful.

That's just plain cosmic chance mindfucking evil. Read below and by the end it will all make sense.

Stepping Out of the Shadows of "WE"

I have discovered that life is a process of learning the same lesson repeatedly. I hope that each time the lesson comes around I learn it at bit of a deeper level than previously. There are many metaphors: the onion, the concentric circles, the mountain.

The onion is pretty cool because the peeling back of the layers can cause a lot of pain and tears and there is very little and often nothing at the center. The Buddhists probably like that one. The concentric circles work as often we are going around in circles and it takes a dramatic event or force to bump us into an inner circle or maybe we may end up farther from the center circle. This is maybe a good one for the Greek Aristotelians. The mountain offers much as an incline requires constant energy and hopefully the higher up the clearer the air and the better the view. The movement upward despite struggle is probably good for the Christians and most religions.

Now all that is wonderful theory to state but hindsight is what makes it palatable.

Last night I had dinner with my friend Bao and he was telling me about his latest relationship gone wrong. It turns out that my friend becomes too attentive to his partners. He practically dotes over them. He quickly becomes a combination of friend, lover, and mother. He treats his partners too good too soon.

Now I am not saying he should change who he is as a person but it is very easy to be taken advantage of or to be taken for granted in such situations. There is a fine line between attentiveness to a partner’s desires and wants and smothering and mothering.

I am always reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s words on marriage in Chapter Three of The Prophet:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

This passage is a staple at Christian weddings. Many people forget that before they became a “we” they were a “me” and a “you”. It is only by continuing to allow the “me” and “you” to grow as individuals will there be a strong “we”. I want a partner who is pursuing his life with passion. I want him to be able to say, “Guest what happened to day?” and I not know. That is where the excitement and fun is.

As I was listening to my friend I was paying my usual attention to eyes and body language. I think he is getting disillusioned with repeated failures. He hates the dating part of relationships which is why he moves into the acting like partners too fast. He said that he has known very soon after each of his relationships started that the fat lady should have gotten on stage and belted out her requiem. On some level I think the over-attentiveness is somehow fueled by the need to hang on to what has come his way. He settles for partners because the fear of having to date and go through it all again is too distasteful.

To me it is all about loneliness. As a species humans really hate being alone. I think being alone reminds us of the possibility of having nothing and no one to share our lives with. Deep loneliness reminds us of death. I am happy to say I have not felt lonely in a long time. I enjoy my solitude. I enjoy the time I spend lollygagging around the house or out about town alone. To me a good book or movie is as rewarding as a good conversation. They each have a place and time.

So much of living is a struggle against loneliness.

My friend is looking for someone to share his life with. He is happy with his career, his financial world is stable and profitable, he has a good circle of friends, but no one to share it with on a “we” level. I think when he learns to be single he will learn to be a partner.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

We also talked about how easy it is to give such advice but not to follow it. He once told a friend, “Relationships are like plants that need the right amount of water and sunlight. Too much water they drown and die. Too little water they dry up and die.” The quest is to find the right balance between support and nurture for our partners and ourselves and the right amount of independence for each. This is easy advice to give but hard to follow when the consuming fires of love and passion, fear and loneliness, commingle in the lovers dance.

One thing that I notice about all past relationships, and this is true for me as well, is the lingering of memory. There is a need to swim around in the pain of goodbyes. There has not been a day since I came back from my retreat that Allan has not been on my mind: his smile, his humour, his passion, his cute butt. The moment I stop being busy he is there. But then the devil on the other shoulder says, “DUDE!! Don’t forget all the pain and trouble. Just because you really like someone does not mean you should be with that person!” Nasty little devil.

The other day I was thinking about him for an hour and a half. I had a student from the Philippines. She would probably be a little younger or the same age as Allan’s mother. I taught her for two classes. Hearing her talk about the Philippines and the concerns of immigrant mothers made me wonder if his mother was similar. The student is raising her 11 year old daughter by herself. She is a talented woman but being in a foreign environment where language sophistication can be the difference between success and merely living, I could see the fear and insecurities and how they were keeping her from passionately exploring her life’s possibilities. I wonder if she is passing those fears and insecurities on to her child.

She is afraid to sit and read at length and journal because of the difficulty. And her daughter has the same problem. I said to her that if she wants her daughter to read and write well she will have to model those for her child. This seemed to affect her deeply. I could see it in her eyes. She now realized that becoming a better reader and writer herself was also for her daughter. I suggested she have a reading hour on the weekend with her daughter. They sit and read together. They each get something they want to read by themselves and then when they finish reading they tell each other what their reading was about. Her daughter will only do what is modeled. Giving her daughter the gift of books will change both of their lives, especially as immigrants to an English language country.

Also I got her to start a gratitude journal to practice her writing. This is something I discovered on my retreat. Everyday in a journal I hand write one page with the heading, “Five things I am grateful for today!” I have not missed a day and it really helps me celebrate my life by focusing on the good things. Well sort of focusing as this part of the post is proving I am still focusing on someone.

The Filipino mother took to this idea very well. When I told her she would be one of my five things for that day you could see her face light up. Someone was listening to her and helping her achieve her goals. Not merely pointing out grammar mistakes and pronunciation problems.

I think that is what we have to do with the people in our lives. We teach and learn by example. But we need to give, and have for ourselves, the space to grow as individuals. Then and only then will the “we” be a healthy combination of the “you” and “me”.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Suicide in Canada

Thank you to all those who wrote me personal emails regarding my last post. They are greatly appreciated. Here are some statistics for Canada.

"Each year, on average, 294 youth die by suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24, following motor vehicle collisions. Although suicide rates for 10- to 19-year-olds have remained consistently below the overall suicide rates, suicides in this age group began to rise in the early 1960s and tripled by the late 1970s. In recent years, the rate for 15- to 19-year-olds has begun to approach the general population's rate of 13 per 100,000. Suicide rates for 10- to 14-year-olds have also increased, but remain below 2.5 per 100,000. Studies show a significant percentage of adolescents contemplate, plan or attempt suicide without seeking or receiving help. Males are less likely than females to seek help from any source."

Let's play with some Numbers (approx)

33,000,000 = Canadian population

4290 = Suicides per year based on 13 suicides per 100,000 people (source above).

26,000 = total suicide attempts: source - The Hospital Morbidity Database: 87 attempts per 100,000 people

Let’s compare!

26,000 = population estimates for Pickering, Ontario. People between the ages of 5-24. Source - Stats Can 2001.

19,000 = The Air Canada Centre in Toronto seating capacity – Source ACC website.

6000 = Starbucks stores in 30 countries around the world. Source Starbucks website.

12,000 = Sheridan College student population. Source – College Surfing

37,000 = Full-time student population University of Toronto downtown campus.

3330 = Deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 1997 (Stats Can)

If 4290 committed suicide and each only new 10 people that would be 42,900 people affected by the death.

If 26,000 people attempted suicide and each new only 10 people that would be 260,000 affected by the attempt.

That's a lot of people needing attention!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Retreat Treat (Part Two) The Big Insight

Retreat Treat (Part Two) - The big insight!

From experience, I can say retreats are a curious thing. Prior to a retreat there is a list of things that one feels they need to look at or work on. I thought I was going to be looking at some of my family ghosts. I thought I was going to have to look at my lack of motivation and focus. I thought I was going to have to look at what am I doing with my life. Boy was I wrong.

The big insight arrived when I came face to face with my Bipolar II Mood Disorder. I learned a lot about my illness. Though I had come a long way since my diagnosis in September of 2001, I hit a dead zone this past six months. I used pot as a crutch; it got me through January and February. Between November and January, my alcohol consumption was higher and solo. I was in so much pain that I had to numb myself to the world in order to make it to the retreat.

Moreover, like many bipolar people I was able to conceal all that chaos. I kept my work schedule except for a few crashes here and there. I maintained most of my social engagements and between January 4th and the beginning of my retreat on February 27th I even started exercising on a consistent basis.

However, beneath all that I was falling apart. I was going mad. I was cycling through highs and lows at a break neck pace. Sometimes I would take my meds; sometimes I would forget, and never on a fixed schedule. I kept a smile on at work with my students and colleagues.

One thing I am thankful for is that I have learned to turn my illness inward as opposed to previously thrusting it outwards. There is a little collateral damage in my past. Now some people might say that internalising all that garbage is a bad thing. I on the other hand would rather hurt myself than hurt other people. I do not lash out anymore.

On my retreat, I realised that I had a lot of anger, fear, and frustration towards the illness. I was fighting it consciously and unconsciously. Whenever I would feel a dark spell coming I would get upset and that would cause it to get even worse. Before you knew it, I was spiralling downwards in a quagmire of negative emotions. On my retreat I read, “Loving Someone with Bipolar” by Julie Fast. The book is written for the partners of bipolar people. Because the book is not written for me, I was able to read it with a cool intellectual detachment. I was able to sidestep the emotional baggage and look at it as eavesdropping on a counselling session.

During the reading, it was all resonating with me. Every page had a new insight that helped me understand the illness more. I had to accept that bipolar is not going to go away. To complain about it and fight it is like complaining about or fighting being right-handed. It just is. The main point is I have to manage bipolar first. Only then will I be able to get on with life. I have to manage it lovingly. I cannot beat myself up over this. I have to manage it lovingly.

If I cannot love myself and treat myself well as I deal with all this then how can I invite anyone into my life to love me and treat me well.

This management philosophy is a difficult one. Since returning from my retreat there have been some bad days. What I have found is my new level of awareness is helping them not be so bad.

"You did what you knew how to do and now that you know differently you do differently." Maya Angelou (paraphrase)

(more to come)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Damn You Jerry McGuire

This afternoon I spent a few hours with a Bipolar Comrade in Arms. For someone all of 21 he has a great handle on life. Sure, he has all the highs and lows of most semi-lunatics, and the fear, anger, and frustration that go along with it all, but he has a warm fuzzy center that is wise beyond his years.

After the bonding over our respective serotonin swirls, and like most gay men having chitchat, the conversation wound its way to relationships. What struck me as profound was that this young man knows what the most important thing in any relationship is. Now when you ask most people they will say chemistry, compatibility, or list various other traits they wish to find. The biggie I hear most often is PASSION! He said communication. To which of course I agreed. The most important characteristic of any relationship is communication. The ability for two people to try to understand each other through open dialogue is the cornerstone of any relationship.

We then began a discussion about how movies, songs, books, and other forms of entertainment down through the ages have really screwed up what people think relationships are. DRAMA!! All of the above have created basket case drama queens of most people when it comes to love. Most people’s ideas of what a relationship is come from movies. Case in point Jerry McGuire.

Oh how the masses swooned to the line, “You complete me.” What a bunch of rubbish. If you need to be completed by another person, you will never be whole. Only when we are comfortable within our own “aloneness” can we truly appreciate the togetherness. If you are running to the arms of another person to escape your own feelings of isolation and loneliness you will always live in fear of losing that person. You are not in the relationship because you want to enjoy the person you are there because you cannot be with yourself.

I have often said I want a lover who has 101 other options but has chosen to be with me. Not because they NEED me but because they want to enjoy me as much as I want to enjoy them.

The other thing we talked about is that movies and other entertainment have somehow made people believe that love is supposed to hurt. That love and pain are somehow caught in a twisted dance of fate. Anger and fighting are okay to these people. Word up, LOVE DOESN"T HURT!

I was recently dating (“dating” for lack of a better word) a guy who thought yelling and screaming and fighting were part of what made relationships passionate. Again someone misled by media. I use to fight and argue and get major pissed off, scream, and shout. But not anymore. It is destructive and anti-communication. When anger exists, love has taken a vacation. It is impossible to be angry and love at the same time. They are mutually exclusive. This does not mean a relationship will be without its tense times and misunderstanding that lead to hurt feelings. However, anger, which of course can only end in lashing out, is a destructive force that negates love. I know! I know up close and personal. I’ve tried, it don’t work.

Conflict in any relationship is an invitation to greater intimacy. An intimacy of vulnerability and trust where you know you will be treated with care and respect regardless of how difficult the situation. Sure, we will all lose our cool from time to time. As I like to say, anger is the face your heart puts on to keep people from seeing it cry. Anger is pain thrown outwards instead of inwards. The pain can be so hard that to acknowledge it would be too much.

I think the person I was “dating” actually thought less of our “relationship” because I did not fight with him. I was not showing passion. All the pop songs have anger and fighting, all the books have anger and fighting, all the movies have anger and fighting, and dare I say it, most of our homes when we were growing up had anger and fighting. The wrong behaviour is modeled and we blindly accept it as the way it should be. That is screwed up passion.

I refuse to fight in any of my relationships anymore be it family, friend, or lover. It hurts and is a total waste of time and emotional energy. I would rather hold someone and cry then be the person who screamed and yelled and made them cry. I’ve tried that, it sucks.

So if you are dating a person and his idea of romantic is Marlon Brando screaming Stella!!!!! Or good ole Jerry McGuire all teary-eyed saying, “You complete me.” You can bet you are about to get involved with a drama queen. I suggest you watch Chariots of Fire so you can learn to RUN! FAST!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Retreat Treat (part 0ne)

Having the feeling you are going mad is not the most pleasant of feelings. Being conscious of it and thinking one is powerless to stop it is pretty damn scary. That was the last few months for yours truly.

On February 27, 2006, I scrambled together my last ounce of sanity and found a smidge of courage to take my ass to a retreat centre in Arnprior, Ontario. For the next 10 complete days, February 28 - March 9, I was in silence and solitude.

The beautiful thing about silence and solitude for me is it forces me to come face to face with my reality. There is no place to run, hide, or escape. All the scary places become your companions. Only when you befriend them do they lose their ability to kill you.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about some of the insights that came to me. While on retreat, I hand-wrote 80 journal pages and will share a few here. For anyone wrestling with some monsters I suggest a retreat to help you begin a healing process.

I was first introduced to the retreat process when I was 24. At that time, I was studying to be a Roman Catholic priest. Over the next four years, I went on a retreat twice a year. After leaving the seminary to explore life in a better way for me I gave up on all things Catholic and Christian.

In 1996 I decided it was important not to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. I realised that retreats were nothing about God or religion but about finding ones balance and learning to live a little more in harmony with oneself and the world. So in 1996 and then in 1998 I went on one retreat each year.

In 2001, my life fell so completely apart that I badly needed a retreat but did not have the mental clarity to realise it. Now here we are in 2006 and something inside of me told me my life was out of control and I had to do something about it.

The answer that came to me was, "Go on a retreat!" So began my 12 days of reconnecting with and in some cases finding myself.