I used to be a temp for the provincial government of Ontario. Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services. Someone asked me recently what exactly we did there, and after thinking long and hard about it, I had to admit I had no sweet clue. I was just a cog in the wheel. These are your papers to push, here’s your pay cheque, have a nice day. It suited me just fine at the time.

A couple of other young ladies were in the same boat as me. Stef was an aspiring actress and she didn’t give a rats about any of it. It was just her day job, a means to her meals. We quickly became partners in crime, commiserating in the drudgery of the tediousness, and were always coming up with ways to keep ourselves stimulated ensuring our souls weren’t completely sucked dry.

I’ll never forget the day we were walking along the boring, carpeted hallway back to our cubicles and I felt compelled to cartwheel. Oh yeah. Cartwheelin’ down the hallway of the Department of Justice, and juuuust as I managed to straighten back up to standing, the card swipey door opened with the head hauncho, CEO or something, coming through. Sweet mother of god. That was a moment that meant something for me. Seriously Cynthia, what in the hell are you doing in a place like this? I can’t even imagine the reprimanding that would’ve awaited me had I been caught acting like a 6 year old at gymnastics class. Maybe he would’ve loved it? Maybe he secretly did some kind of jig when the elevator doors closed, just to make sure he still had a soul too. I’m not sure how else you could make it to the top without at least a couple of discreet diddly dances.

I also used to be employed by the House of Commons in Ottawa. A big swanky desk, fridge, TV, bathroom, the whole shebang, right in my office. My boyfriend at the time made a road trip from PEI to visit me. He met me in the office at the end of the day, and patiently waited for me to putter around, taking care of a few last VERY IMPORTANT pieces of government business before calling it a day. I went across the hall to the neighbours, and actually, come to think of it, it likely wasn’t anything business related I was talking to them about – I used to perform a daily diddly dance for Susan, because god love her, her poor soul was pretty near sucked outta her, and she would get the hugest kick out of it. So yeah, across the hall under the guise of business, and I guess I must’ve been giving her the extended version, because when I came back to gather my bf to hit the road, he was gone. “He must be using the bathroom,” I thought to myself, “so I’m just gonna hide behind this filing cabinet until he gets out.” Tick, tock, tick, tock, he was taking forever, and I figured he must’ve got caught up in some VERY IMPORTANT personal business, so I gave up on my hiding spot and stepped back out into the light of day. Just as I came out from around the cabinet, I saw him crawling up from underneath my desk. “What are you doing under there??!” I asked him, “I was hiding on you, waiting to scare you!” he said. “I was hiding on you!!” Hilarious. I was working on Parliament Hill, playing hide and seek in my big, fancy government digs. Another big sign, Cynthia.

Anyway, I guess I’ve figured a few things out since then, because I’ve made a commitment to myself that I’m going to honour that little lady inside me who needs her daily dose of the absurd and ridiculous, and I’m just not going to do the soul sucking work I used to convince myself was ok. (not to say working for the government *necessarily* sucks ones soul, it just did a number on mine, is all) I’ve uprooted myself yet again, and as annoying as the rigamarole that entails is, I don’t even mind any of it, because I know I’ve got to keep following the path of what is true for me. I was walking along College St. in Toronto last week, and once again, the urge to cartwheel overwhelmed me. I managed to keep it at bay, but by golly, watch out. Everything is coming up roses and good vibes are hard to subdue. I should add “spontaneous gymnast routines” to the “Interests” section on my resume…I guarantee, the person who sees the value in that will not be disappointed.

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So it’s pretty redundant to even bother rattling on about how messed up our medical system is, however, I had an experience recently that really takes the cake.

I could feel it coming on, and I tried to stave, fight, fend it off with cranberry juice and the most powerful herbs I could get my hands on, but alas, no dice. I woke up with a raging UTI. Urinary Tract Infection. (TMI? If so, then don’t read on.)

I had to go to work, but had to get it sorted, so thought I’d drop by the walk-in clinic at the old “Friendly Pharmacy.” Full. Waiting room was packed. Plan B. I drive to the hospital and check in with the lovely triage nurse (highly unusual that she was in fact lovely, because most of the time they seem to be angry and bitter at the sight of you). “It’s going to be at least a 4 hour wait, maybe you should try another walk-in clinic?” and she goes out of her way to photocopy a list of them for me. Kind soul.

I thought, “Ah, screw it, I’ll manage…ignore it, it will go away…” but my body was not having it and I found myself driving to the new and improved Sherwood Drug Mart. I get there, the waiting room is also jammed, but I resign myself to the wait, take a number and sit down thinking, “Settle in, there’s at least 20 people ahead of you here…You’d better start enjoying the ‘Doodle Bops’ or whatever the hell this kids tv shit is on the tube cuz you’re gonna be a while…”

Much to my surprise, I realize the doorway to the Doctor’s office is practically a revolving one. They call someone in, someone comes out, and it’s moving fast. Each person exits with a ‘script in hand and a clear sense of relief. Anyway, it being PEI, of course I run into an old acquaintance, and we do the whole chits and chats thing, “Oh, what are you up to these days? Where ya workin’? You like it? Good. How was your summer?” Shootin’ the breeze, neither one of us going anywhere near the reason why we’re both waiting here.

I stare at other people reading their books and magazines, watch the 3 year olds play with that toy that’s in EVERY waiting room – the colourful wires attached to a board with little beads you can shuffle back and forth and up and around all the loopdy doops – and finally hear my name. “Cynthia Dennis – number 33.”

So here comes the gross part. The receptionist, guides me to the washroom, hands me a plastic cup, removes the top, writes my name on it, “Cynthia” and instructs me to leave a small sample, and simply set it on the back of the toilet seat, with the top off when I’m finished. “Geez, I guess I could’ve figured out where to leave it, judging by the fact that there are at least 5 or 6 other exposed (top left off) samples arranged on the back of the toilet from your other slew of patients…” I think to myself in disbelief. Then before she ‘leaves me to it’, she takes one of the tester dipstick strips from a box on the shelf and drops it into one of the said bottles of piss. How goddamn disgusting and unprofessional is this whole business anyway?

What if I was some kind of crazy/creepy person (I can comfortably assure you I’m not the latter) and wanted to screw up the samples? I could mix them together, read the other names (and then thought, I hope my old acquaintance in the waiting room doesn’t get to come in here and see “Cynthia” written on my bottle…our relationship is merely a cordial one, and this kind of intimacy would move it to a strange level for sure) or what if I lost my balance, or moved the wrong way and tipped the precariously placed piss pots (ha!) everywhere. So many things are and could go wrong with this whole operation.

Anyway, less than 3 minutes later, the Dr. comes into my waiting room, asks me what’s up, (I’m not at all confident, judging by their ship shoddy system, that’s he’s actually had the results of my dipstick relayed to him) I tell him I have a UTI, he says, “Have you had this before?/What did you take last time?/Did it work?” then writes me a prescription. As appalled as I was at the whole thing, in this case it was exactly what I needed; I know what’s wrong with me, just give me the drugs. But I can’t help thinking about this, and tutt tutting at how utterly ridiculous it is.

Like I said, there are a million things we can nitpick about when it comes to how we care for ourselves and each other, it pains me to even lift a corner on it, but like I also said, this just seems to be a touch over the top. Is this really what we’re doing, folks? We’re all ok with this? At least the pharmacy was just a few steps away. How convenient.

Words are simultaneously the most powerful yet most overrated tool we use. My sister taught me that.

Time after time I’ve tried to write about my sister and expound upon the endless gifts she’s given me in this go around, and with each attempt I feel less and less able to do it justice.  But I’ll give this one a go. Melissa is “mentally challenged.” That was as far as we ever went with trying to label, or compartmentalize her. It’s a broad term, I know, but I’ve come to realize that most of her challenges in this life are very much in line with those who are “Autistic,” so that’s how I describe it in an effort to give it some specific context for those of us who prefer the neat and tidy.

Melissa spoke gibberish, or her own language (whether it was gibberish or not is questionable) until she was about 5 years old, but once she started to talk the way we talk, she was off to the races. She was constantly in your ear, nattering away about something or other. Not only would she invent her own little hilarious words, i.e. calling my father “David Earl Wiggador” instead of Dad, or even “David Earl Dennis”, but she would get stuck on these words and repeat them over and over and over again. She knew when she was doing it too because she’d be sitting in her room repeating a phrase for her own amusement and would then announce, “I sound like a broken record in here!” My heart melts with the memory. She’s just so damn precious.

Something changed over the years in the way Melissa approached language. My guess is that being in the middle of an excitable, gregarious family, where everyone has a habit of talking too much, and blathering on about everything, somewhere in her development she chose to keep silent. She hardly says, “Boo” anymore to anyone. Slowly, but surely, she just sort of abandoned this method of communicating. Mom told me that she once asked her, “How come you don’t answer people when they ask you a question?” “I don’t want to say the wrong thing,” she surprisingly, and wisely responded. And another time Dad made a similar inquiry about why she wasn’t speaking, “I choose not to,” she said. I don’t think anyone in my family is a dope, we’ve all got some brains behind us, but man, she’s the one with the wisdom, no doubt about that.

Often times we’ll be sitting around the kitchen table, carrying on about nothing, and she accompanies us, calmly observing and obviously surmising. She has this thing she does when one of us gets too excited, and she’ll take her thumb and slowly move it in a circle, like when you take your hand next to your head and do the “cuckoo” motion to poke fun at someone, and we know that’s her subtle way of saying “here we go again with all your silly words…” Every now and then, just when you think she’s checked out of the conversation, she’ll pipe up and shock you by finishing your sentence. Just her way of letting us know that she knows.

Sometimes I think I love Melissa too much. And then I think “Man, if this is what it’s like to have kids, I’m in trouble…” How does your heart not burst? She is this absolutely pure and innocent being, with no agenda, no dramas, no nothing but love to give and lessons to quietly, silently, slowly teach the rest of us chatterboxes. I used to strive to help her communicate the way the rest of us do, spending time with her, trying to “help” her to fit in to our molds, but I’ve quit wasting energy on any of those endeavors. Melissa comes to me in my dreams. In the other dimension, she speaks to me with clarity and ease, often guiding me along by advising me of things that no one else can. She has her way of communicating with the world, and as I grow and figure a few things out, the easier it is for me to stop trying to teach her things from my book, and start taking a few notes from hers.

Words are overrated. It’s so funny to me that all my life I’ve had this love affair with language, it’s something that’s always come soo easily to me, and one of the biggest things this glorious angel, Melissa is here to show me is that words are one of lowest forms of communication that exists. The sooner I get it that I need to shut my mouth and keep listening to my heart, and my instincts, the sooner I will hear the stuff that’s really being exchanged along the airwaves.

Melissa colours instead.

Something about the way

he holds his hands makes me

think he’s afraid to live life.

The idea is nice.

But there’s a difference

between what your brain

likes and what makes your

heart beat.

I used to spend a little bit of time making jewelry. I took some classes at a studio in Toronto, soldered some metal I’m proud of, and learned some stuff about myself while I was at it.

I was really into my hobby back then, most likely because I was going through such a strange chapter of struggling to fit in to a law firm on Bay St., and trying to make a bad relationship work, it was something that just made me feel like me, and I loved how it forced me to concentrate on one thing at a time. When you’re filing, you’re filing, when you’re hammering, you’re hammering, one step after another while you build the beautiful thing. A simple, steady process. A lovely, much needed metaphor.

Strangely enough, one of my most cherished memories of my time in that space has nothing to do with the metal, but it was how it facilitated a chance encounter with a special individual who used to frequent the shop that accompanied the studio.  I was passing by one afternoon to pick up one of my works of art, and this woman, homeless perhaps, “mentally challenged” for certain, comes in from the cold to strike up a conversation with my teacher and say hello to the resident pup. I can tell straight away this is a familiar exchange, and I so loved how my teacher apparently made this “less fortunate” woman feel so respected.  She gave her the time of day, engaged in her mundane small talk, and listened, earnestly, to her disjointed stories and sentences.

The woman asked my teacher if she would buy her a piece of pizza. I was getting ready to walk in that direction, and sensed that their conversation might not otherwise have a neat and easy conclusion, so I offered to help her out with lunch instead. I can’t really recall many other details other than it was absolutely freezing out as her and I made our way down College St. together, and that rather than me doing some sort of good deed, she was the one helping me out. Her muddled narration ended up sticking with me all these years later. She was explaining some of her daily challenges, and somewhere in the middle of it all, she turned and looked right into my eyes, right into my heart, and said, “I don’t know how Jesus made me so strong, but he did.” It was alarmingly coherent, and profound; unexpected to say the least from how I initially sized up the situation. Felt like something I needed to hear.

What I love about this sort of mismatched combination of recollections is the comfort I take in what I learned from it all. Trust the process. In order to create something shiny and beautiful, you have to hold only one tool at a time (I, decidedly, had a habit of holding many…), and be willing to invest hours in attention to detail. More importantly, it was the gift I was given of seeing the blinding sparkle of the unexpected treasures. Sometimes the things, the people if you will, that aren’t so polished are the ones that are actually the strongest, and are deeply and truly the most wonderful.

Day 1 @ SeaWords.

Erika showed us an object and told us to write something about it. My lunchtime musings are as follows:

She kept the inconspicuous brown box on her kitchen shelf next to a fancy Cadbury lady finger tin that was too nice to throw in the bin. That tiny box that housed the razor blade was a good reminder to have around. Evidence of lessons learned and kind of like an old notebook from chemistry class you hoped to God you never have to look at it again.

Gilette. She wondered how often she read that word. It was part of the scenery of the paraphernalia and as innocuous as the Push/Pull sign on a doorway you pass through day after day. But reading that word meant she was exactly where she shouldn’t be. Tracing a familiar pattern down the wrong path. Gilette. Hello there, Gillette. Nice to see you again, as much as it isn’t.

The lid stays closed on the box. There’s a big difference between reminders and temptation.

I’ve been attending some workshops on Shamanistic Journeying over the last couple of months. I’d been seeking a teacher in this realm for the last few years, so when this opportunity presented itself, as nutbar, whack job as it sounds, I signed up. I condone judgment on this. Understandably, it could seem like airy fairy, hokus pokus, Castenada kind of horseshit to some, but it’s exciting and telling as hell to me. And so I carry on…

A quiet room, a drum, a candle, some sentimental things offered on the sarong/altar laid out in the center…expected objects, I suppose. I lay down, comfortably swaddled in the afghan my mother made me and I go off.

I’m flying through the air with butterfly wings, and I’ve got a few miniature playful fairy companions on either shoulder. I float slowly over a lake, and land barefoot in the muck on the shore. “Still water…always makes me uneasy…” I thought to myself. My feet squish in the wet dirt as I look up to the sun speckled, tree-lined path in the woods. I sort of half skip, half float along with the light-hearted fairies until I come to a clearing on my right. A perfect, patterned, spiraled circle of tall green grass and I meet him there. He teases me about my wings.

We walk in the circular path until we reach the center where there is a giant seed pod. We climb inside together and embrace, crouched up with my legs straddled over top of him. We’re laughing. We float up and suddenly gaining additional perspective and seeing the pod from the outside, I can see that down along the other end of my path, there’s the ocean. A trustworthy, moving body of water.

We float back down, and when it’s time to move on, he tells me he’s staying…not to worry, he’ll always be there…and I reluctantly push on towards the ocean.

*****I conveniently misinterpreted this vision. I have a habit of asking to see things, receiving them as clear as day, then selectively mistrusting the symbols. As much as I purportedly aspire to the Truth, it doesn’t mean I’m necessarily capable of a guaranteed wholehearted embrace of it. He knew what it meant when I told him. We’ve been meeting each other in dreams for a good long while now. We’re well versed in the metaphors of reverie. Cryptic quips embedded in other people’s lyrics. Nothing straight up, straight on. Just the way he likes it.*****

The next journey I went on, I was going down a hole through the ground at the site of a now deceased but cherished cherry tree in the backyard of my family home. I was digging and digging until I reached a lair below and an old woman grabbed my wrists and pulled me down to meet her. She looked like a witch and I was afraid of her and she knew it. She asked why I feared her and I told her it was because we’d never met before and sometimes I’m afraid of things I don’t know anything about. She told me I shouldn’t be.

She took me by the hand, and I expected we’d take off somewhere, but we sat down at a fire and she said we weren’t going anywhere. She told me we would just sit by the fire and learn not to worry. I shouldn’t waste time or energy thinking about all the things I might not be able to accomplish blah, blah, blah, I should just do. “Those kind of thoughts are very, very dangerous,” she warned “Learn to sit, be still and just do.” We sat by the fire a while longer and then when the drum called me back, she helped me climb back up into the yard.

In the third journey during this particular session, I got on the back of a giant house fly. He zoomed me out to the moon. We hung/hovered in space and I looked at the big, beautiful sphere right before my very eyes, and the fly told me, “Time doesn’t work the same way out there as it does here. Every second counts. Everything you do counts and if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Then we were flying over my dead body laid out on a table. “This will happen to you, there is no doubt about this, so don’t waste time.” Then we flew around on his back for a while, shooting through all kinds of jumbles of thoughts and things.

You’d think I was whacked out on peyote or some shit to be seriously relaying this, but I can’t even boast that good fortune.

There is any number of infinite possibilities, seeds if you will, that exist in the clearings on the periphery of our consciousness, most of them with the potential to be joyful and beautiful and worthy of taking root. And everything, absolutely everything you do as you float along in your little pods of potential matters as to whether the thing makes it this time around, or the next.

I see what’s happening on this one.  More painfully, though, I see what’s not. And so I soar along to the ever-changing tides of the sea.

–There is a field out beyond right and wrong. I will meet you there. – Rumi

I’ve never met my Grandfather. He died long before I was even a whisper. Dead but not gone, he murmured tales to me at night, a dangerous time to tell stories. The darkness inevitably obfuscates matters. Which world was that meant for, Grampy? The one where we visit or the one where I have but one actual image of you I memorized from a faded photo? You kind of have funny eyes, and you’re wearing those thick black-rimmed bifocals, and my lucky sister who got to meet you, is sitting on your knee on that grungy, green couch that lives on in our basement. I could have sworn you told me about a wooden crate of coins that you left stored under our stairs. According to Grampy’s elusive instructions, it was no bigger than a shoebox, covered in a corner of blue tarp. Right before a family trip to Rainbow Valley (where I was definitely going to need more than my allowance to get all the treats I wanted from the canteen and the gift shop), I (luckily) recalled his story and conducted a comprehensive search of the premises. Unfortunately, no matter how many old boxes, jars of preserves, and outdated appliances I shuffled around, I kept coming up short. I could never manage to unearth that coveted box of dosh. He hasn’t come calling in ages, and the details of that picture are dissolving, but I’ve never given up hope that somehow, someway, I’ll find that mysterious treasure.

When I squint my eyes the half moon has 3 solid beams.

Then, when I’m not even sure if they’re open or closed (I assume they are actually closed), the beams (why does the moon have beams and the sun have rays – what IS the difference?) melt together into a wavy portal.

I wish I could look at the portal long and hard enough to figure the way in.

You’re sleeping and I’m sulking.

I found this in a journal today from January 9/09. Strange to reread your past thoughts and positions..it all seems so silly….

——

I once wrote this extremely harsh explicative to a incessant suitor in a text message. One word – scram. Scram with a period. Thinking back, it makes me both cringe and smile. At the time, I laughed to myself because I thought it was a pretty funny word to use, and I guess it still is, but in hindsight it was a damn rude delivery of a fairly simple message – leave me alone. Just go away.

I often oscillate back and forth between being too nice and being too rude. The scorpio that I am, I have a pretty high tolerance for bullshit, my pain-in-the-arse threshold is pretty high, but man oh man, once you cross that line – sting. I hate this about myself. My personal efforts to improve my personality are mostly centered on trying to operate on a more even keel, having fewer and fewer things that I will allow to set me off.

I’m mellowing in my old age, but you know, sometimes people just need to be told. My “scram” recipient is a case in point. Ah well…

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