Thursday, 29 December 2016

Pain is Not Always Visible

This post is courtesy of my good friend Annie, who deals with pain every single day.


Truth time.  I am going to share a secret.
I have a multi-system autonomic nervous disorder called fibromyalgia.  I was diagnosed when I was 23.
It is a long-term condition which can cause pain, fatigue, headaches, tingling, stiffness, and mood and memory issues.  It also affects temperature control, digestion, restorative sleep, and more.  Symptoms vary.  Sometimes the simplest touch is agony.
I am not ill; my brain processes pain/stimuli differently.  No, I didn’t "do" anything to cause it.  Yes, it is why I need more rest and sometimes have motility issues.  No, there is no cure.  This is my normal.

Sometimes I can do something relatively minor like fixing dinner for my family and feel awful afterward. Other times, I can participate in something major and feel fine.  If I can’t predict my own reactions – I certainly don’t expect you to.  Additionally, I don’t expect you to know what to do, what to say, or even how to help me, so please do not feel that it is up to you to "make me better".

There is a difference between feeling "healthy" and feeling "happy".  If you see me and think I sound happy, it means I am happy.  I might be tired.  I might be in pain.  I might be feeling sicker than ever.  Please don't say "You sound better".  I do not sound better, I sound happy.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Love from Grief

Credit to my friend Tamu Townsend for the original post, I've just modified and added to it a little.
The child in me is having a hard time right now because of Carrie Fisher.
The teenager is not doing so well because of Richard Adams.

And David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, and well, all the other artists whom I admired and whose work helped me through some dark times.
But you know what?  A year didn't do this.  You can't be sad about something lost if it did not at some point also give you great joy or revelation. The sadness will dissipate, though, and the joy or some part of it will likely survive and still be there.
Aren't we lucky that we grieve people who left a little something behind for us to contemplate, enjoy, discuss, and learn from?
Author Terry Pratchett wrote: "Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?"  Art, music, literature, film -- that is the legacy that keeps these people alive in our hearts.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016


Credit for the following goes to author David Gerrold.


I think that one symptom of the disease that afflicts us all is self-righteousness.
We have a need to be right because we have a need to survive. We get it drummed into us in school -- where "I don't know" is an admission of stupidity and is therefore, the little death. So rather than die, we make stuff up to fill the vacuum of ignorance.
And then we marry it. That stuff we made up. We invest ourselves in it, no matter how stupid or how wrong it may be. We hold onto it like a drowning man clutching his anvil. Things like "trickle-down economics," for example.
And we mortar the bricks of that particular wall with language like "SJWs always lie" and "pathetic beta-male libtards" and "genetically inferior" and "sexual deviants" and other terms of undearment.
When that cement hardens, we've walled ourselves in, like Poe's unfortunate Fortunado -- only this is a self-abnegation, a premature burial of thought and understanding and compassion.
We do it on the hard right, we do it on the hard left. Fanatics do it, religiously, politically, theologically, ideologically, and every other -ically. With the emphasis on the ick.
We do it because we're self-righteous a$$holes, investing our energy into our beliefs with all the devout conviction of a Christian Scientist with appendicitis, praying harder and harder for the invisible sky-fairy to fix it.
Here's the thing about self-righteousness. It's about needing to be right. Regardless of the issue, it's about needing to be right.
The problem with being right is that in order to be right, you have to make someone else wrong.
This is why nobody ever wins an argument without losing a friend.
Because to win the argument, you have to make them wrong.
And nobody, in the entire history of the human race, has ever said, "Thank you for proving me wrong." Usually what we say, whether we say it aloud or under our breath, is something like, "That son of a bitch...." And we go away, more strongly convicted in our delusion than before.
Because being right is always more important to a human being than being accurate.
That's the design flaw in the human animal.
It takes deliberate and conscious effort to get past that. It takes training and practice to make it a habit to consider evidence as more important than opinion.
This is particularly depressing because the number of people who think that their opinions are more important than the evidence vastly outnumbers the much smaller number of people who practice some form of the scientific method.
The irony here is that too many of those who reject the scientific method are logging onto their computers to tell the rest of us why their delusional opinions are more important than the evidence.
That's a large part of the infection that is paralyzing our political and social processes. Self-righteousness.
I have not named anyone specifically -- because the ironic part of this is that when you call someone out for being self-righteous, you're being self-righteous yourself.
So I discuss the issue rather than any individual. Discuss issues, not personalities -- this is because all of us have issues, but not all of us have personalities.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

There Is No "Right" Side

I have not been closely following the news lately; I've been making a concerted effort to snap out of my depression and I felt that I didn't need to worry about other world affairs.  However the worsening situation in the beseiged Syrian city of Aleppo has prompted me to say something.

For years the city has been a bitter battleground between heavily armed rebel militias, and government forces loyal to the dictatorial President al-Assad who are backed up by Russian aerial bombardment.  Most of the city is in ruins, men have gone missing, and women and children are being used as human shields or simply executed by pro-Assad soldiers.

Yesterday a tentative ceasefire was violated - each side is blaming the other - and activists are posting heart-wrenching videos to the Internet, saying that agreements to allow evacuations of citizens have not been heeded, and they fear for their lives and the lives of their families.  The United Nations is accusing the Syrian government of failing to protect its people and of violating international law.

Many of my friends are asking, why has there been no intervention?

Part of the reason is nobody knows what the "right" side is.

Going by the philosophy of "us vs them": if weapons are being sold to one side, then that's the "right" side.  The minute the other side discovers a source of greater wealth, then we were "conned" and have to support the wealthier side.

We've seen this happen in Afghanistan, where first the Taliban were the bad guys, then they weren't, then they were again.  Flip flop rinse repeat.  All to kill one man, who is now dead.

So why are American forces are still there today?  To guard an oil pipeline?  It appears that way.  Why don't they have a look at the threat of a Russia/Iran/Syria supremacy that could threaten Israel and American oil interests in the region?

Several countries including the United States have been arming various jihadist groups in order to bring about regime change.  It didn't go well in Libya or Iraq, and it won't work here either.  It's next to impossible to determine the "right" side when both sides are committing atrocities.

Perhaps there's no "right" side at all.  Not when civilians are feeling the brunt of the viciousness.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016


As Christmas nears and 2016 draws to a close I find myself thinking back on the year and wondering where it all went wrong.  Certainly there has been a long buildup to this: as the lobster doesn't see the danger in the slowly-simmering pot, many people don't realize how bad the situation is until they find themselves in the thick of it.

This time of year is especially difficult for me.  My late mother's birthday is two days after Christmas and her holiday parties were legendary.  She would spend most of December cooking and baking in preparation for having friends and neighbours over to celebrate.  I would happily pitch in to help, whether it was polishing silverware or washing the good china.

Now I'm the one who hosts the parties for my friends, and I even make Mom's famous lemon trifle, but of course it's not the same.  I can only hope that one day my daughter remembers my parties with the same fondness.

We all have lost so many people this year.  From favourite celebrities like David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Gordie Howe to more personal losses - my childhood doctor George Fortier and dentist Paul Guilbault both passed away this year.  Several people I know have lost a parent, colleague, friend, or even a pet.  I have in effect lost my father as well; while he is still alive, over the last year his dementia has progressed to the point where he no longer is able to take care of himself and must be looked after full time.

I grieve with them as well as for all those who are losing their loved ones to various calamities.  It's hard to get into the holiday spirit when elsewhere there are people suffering, but if we allow ourselves to dwell too much it becomes overwhelming.

What we can do is look to this quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.  Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

So I do little things here and there like baking holiday treats for the neighbours, helping shovel a car out of a snowbank, or offering a smile and encouraging word; anything that brings a bit of light into someone's day.  Sometimes a little thing can make a big difference.