I was raised to be an underdog. Trained. Beaten down, talked down to, told I was going to fail, treated like I was a disaster, I became that. I learned to fend for myself as my family fought and fell apart around me. And as I grew I never had the capacity to excel, to bring myself up, to rise. Because I wasn’t allowed, there was a boot there on top of me everytime I tried to lift my head, keeping me from getting too high. Making me stay at the bottom, moving failure to failure, never aiming any higher than survival, meeting terrible people who used me.

I’m not doing that anymore. I’m not going to be the underdog anymore. I’m not going to be on the sidelines and clinging to the bottom anymore. I’m here, I deserve to be here, I’m not taking failure as my reality anymore. I’m raising the bar. I’m leaving that old mentality behind–the idea that I can’t do anything. I’m getting out of here. Escaping. Joining. Cutting the ties. Pulling my head up, breaking away. Standing up, standing on my own, not being dragged down, or mistreated. Biting back, walking away, saying no, saying when, being in charge, taking the reins, taking control, being in control of my life.

This underdog mentality has permeated everything. It’s prevented so much, and allowed so much to happen that really shouldn’t have. It’s brought me to strange places, so many random places, and people, the undersides of things. I’ve seen the undersides, and for that I’m thankful. I’m thankful to have seen the whole picture. To have seen both sides of people. But I’m ready to move on, and I don’t care who comes with me. I’m in it for myself now. No one yet has shown me that they’re here for me. I’m still on my own, so I guess I just am meant to walk alone, for now anyway. So fine.


You are not what you have put on you

You are not what you’ve had put on you, what was placed on you before you knew it was happening.

It was so unfair.

These clothes were placed on you while you were so small, they loved you and thought you needed them. They were scared too.

But you kept these clothes on that maybe weren’t the right ones, because they were someone else’s guess, or ideas for you, or what they thought was best.

They became comfortable so you kept them on. You didn’t know what other clothes felt like, or what you would look like in them. You accepted the clothes you were given. Because you didn’t have a choice at the time and then they just became who you were.

But they’re not and they never were, and as you get older maybe these clothes get too small for you, they become more and more uncomfortable, and you start to look around and see that there are all sorts of other types of clothes that you never imagined, and you begin to think that maybe you might like to try on something different.

But it’s scary, because you don’t know how you’ll look in these other clothes, how they will feel, if you’ll be able to breathe in these new apparatuses.

And also, you know that for a time, after you take off the old outfit, but before you can get this other one fully on, because you don’t even know how it will fit, you’ll be naked. And that is terrifying.

But maybe this feeling, this feeling of having nothing on, is something that you want to try just once. You want to live without anything on for just a moment and see what it feels like, to move without encumbrance. And maybe you like the feeling and you just hang out like that for that for awhile, daring anyone to say anything. And maybe there are a few raised eyebrows and someone even does say something, but you find that you don’t care, and that feels pretty good, too.

And you try on a few things, here and there, and things that you don’t like, you take off, and things you like, you wear for awhile. But you take your time. And you find that this ability to try on what you want or to wear nothing at all, it’s your choice, and you enjoy the freedom.

The people that put those first clothes on you, the clothes that protected you for so long but also hid you and obscured your view and started to even choke you after awhile, those people are gone, they’re long gone.

You are not what you have put on you.




After you go on for awhile and meet people and lose people and lose yourself and find yourself and do some things and lose yourself again and maybe lose everything…eventually you must come to a place where you’ve rubbed up against the walls of the world enough, of your life, that things have chafed away enough that you can move around a bit freer, unencumbered by so many extra layers that you put on when you were younger as protective armour.

With all these layers gone you experience the world more fully. You carry less, you are able to deflect more without this buffer around you muddling things, slanting, making you question yourself, making you squint just to see who you’re talking to.

Now it is just you and this clear abyss around you, shining, exchanging, standing, moving. Not afraid or hiding just quietly being, out there, standing on the edge of something and not looking away, or inwards, or to another. Just looking.

Meditation on turning 39

I don’t even know what I’m feeling really. This is the first birthday in memory, maybe ever since childhood, that isn’t fraught in some way. The biggest stress in my life right now is upstairs neighbours who are occasionally noisy. Being nervous about my life’s dream coming to life; about being live on the radio. But I fantasized about that for years, thought longingly about it, did a crappy internship in Berlin at a jazz radio station just to be NEAR radio. And I transfer my stress onto things that should bring me joy. This is my greatest stress right now, this joy that is in my lap. And when I look at it it’s easy to see that it’s fear of failing that is the real stress. Of course.


This year, my last year in my thirties, is about reaching goals. Or setting new ones. But leaving the past in the past. Enough years have been spent dragging those past hurts along with me, wearing them like some armour. I refuse to bring that weight into my next decade, into the next stage of my life.

I accept what has been for what it was, and I let it go. I accept what is, too, what is out of my control, and what I can control.

Most of all, I will no longer accept negativity in my life. Negative people who want to bring me down. Negative situations. And my own tendency to put a negative spin on things. I will no longer entertain things, people and thoughts that don’t serve me.

I have been in hiding my whole life. I now vow—or vow to try my hardest to—as I enter the final stretch toward my forties and “real” adulthood, to just be myself. Unapologetically, unflinchingly, relentlessly.



November smoke

he left me in november when the smoke was rising from the forests and fields, when the smell of burning branches filled the air and your lungs were always a little heavy…..such cold air as we trudged through snow fallen woods and walked the streams already frozen over, little tracks of animals going off in every direction.

i remember my dog then, young, bounding off in search of killing and running back to sprint alongside us for awhile before disappearing over a drift again, we would walk side by side, sometimes holding hands but mostly not, remarking on this or that feature of the near landscape, he pointing out a beaver lodge, me rejoicing over birdsong…..but he left me in november.

we had spent all spring, summer, and some of that fall in each other’s worlds, but we would not finish that autumn as lovers. winter would find me lonely.

he came from a small, weird family and lived in a trailer twenty feet from his parents’ house, within earshot of their continued battle in the place they’d been since marriage.

he worked with his father, a bad alcoholic. his job was keeping the business afloat while his father gambled and drank away the money they had made during the oil boom in the eighties and nineties.

he lived and worked there within striking distance of his crazy parents on one side, drinking, yelling, and on the other, his old grandma who called him a loser and his brother, who sponged off his grandma but was married, a morbidly obese man of fifty who spent his days watching the television and eating fast takeaway food.

the craziness of his upbringing expanded from there, to the bipolar aunt, her scared husband and mentally handicapped son who lived in a trailer nearby that was literally rotting into the ground; he told me of a hole in the bathroom floor that you could look through to the stinking ground underneath; the smell, the mould and the worsening tilt of the entire thing; the family trying to get her to leave, going as far as buying her another trailer, but she refusing to leave, dragging her family into the ground with her.

then the uncle who lived in town, the tiny town in northern alberta, he also an alcoholic, who lived in an apartment with all the windows covered over with tinfoil that he never took down. he was elderly, alone, most famous for eating some sort of stinking, gelling-over stew that he kept on his stove for god knows how long and would just keep heating up, over and over, turning the burner on when he got hungry and horrifying whatever visitor had decided to kill boredom for an hour by calling on the crazy old uncle in his cave, bringing him a six pack of beer or a bottle of rye.

but he somehow stayed alive, this repugnant mix of fermenting food and cheap alcohol somehow keeping the old man halfway-upright for half of his remaining days on this earth as he shambled between two or three places and drank his time away in a terrible apartment block on a blank back street of a nowhere town.

then there was his mother’s sister, who died when she fell drunk into a snowbank while having a smoke outside a grande prairie bar in the middle of winter.

but my favourite story that C told me about his family was the one about his uncles, the “bush uncles” as he called them: two old swedes who had wound up in the back woods of northern alberta in the fifties, living together in a shack made of salvaged boards, through which C’s father said you could see the bright shining northern stars at night.

they kept wasps, true story, there was a wasp’s nest in the ceiling of their little shack, that they said they kept to keep other insects away.

when a stranger arrived at the shack the wasps would swarm around them, sniffing, sensing like a million little dogs, sensing danger or not then they would swarm back into their nest.

the uncles never got stung. they were famous once, were on the news once when an edmonton reporter got wind that there were two old men living in a cave together. turns out one of them had developed cancer, had a tumour growing on his head. they had somehow found a cave in the wilds near their cabin that had a clay inside that they believed would cure the brother of his tumour; they were living there, squatting next to a river in a cold, damp cave, two elderly men dressed in decades-old clothing, slathering one of their heads with clay; the reporter went out and interviewed them, and C has the tape somewhere, of this footage that made the evening news, two crazy old men in the woods that were somehow left to their own devices though he can’t remember the end of the story, he believes that the brother just died. i don’t know what happened to them.

i had never met any of these people because he would never let me near them. i knew and so did he that my fascination with this clan of losers, eccentrics and fuckups would turn to horror then revulsion if i ever witnessed the actual tragic sadness that was his family close up.

moving alone

moving alone is lonely work. packing up one’s life, all your little belongings, all your sad memories in boxes, building the boxes and then filling them up with your possessions. you hold them and stuff them in, you arrange them in such a way giving attention to some items and others haphazardly stacking, risking breakage.

you keep going until it’s all done, stacked or piled up in dusty boxes and bags, sneezing because you haven’t cleaned, scared, nervous, wishing you could just be excited.

wanting this to be over and missing the whole experience again as it’s eaten up by your fear, gobbled up and there you are again thinking back and wishing you’d enjoyed it more…one more chapter of your life closed, another begun, seemingly always randomly, still haven’t figured out that sacred pattern that you used to be so sure was there, but now you’re not so sure because as you get older things stop being as magical, or you’re just not buying it anymore, or you’ve forgotten how to look for that, that feeling that you used to get all the time, that something was just around the corner and you had all the time in the world to find it.

another chapter ending, and you feel the book closing, the pages drawing together. and you try to find the thread of the story, where the plot is going, but the truth is you never knew about that, you were always making it up as you went along and not doing a very good job of it. but you kept trying and it doesn’t get easier, it seems like it should get easier but it doesn’t. it just doesn’t. so you pack up one more time, all your belongings one more time, into the boxes, into the bags, the things you’ve been moving from place to place for what seems to be your entire life. and you hope that this will be the last one for awhile, for a long time. that this will be the place that you can stay. that will be a home. because it’s been a long time since you’ve felt that. a very long time.