Category Archives: Life

Time

Time heals. Time takes forever. Time requires patience, a virtue I’ve only just begun to build a relationship with, so maybe that requires time, too.

Not too long ago I remembered that the Wayback Machine has archives of all sorts. It’s recorded Internet time since, well… a long time ago. You know, relatively speaking. The Internet isn’t that old, after all.

So I went back in time to see what kind of a person I was five, ten years ago. Turns out I was an impatient person. But not the kind of impatient person who would do something. No, I just mostly complained. And then glossed over some of the biggest moments in my life. Like meeting my first boyfriend… Or breaking up with him. Or moving into my first apartment solo (shortly after the breaking up part.) Or adopting an orange tabby cat and subsequently naming him Trotsky because I studied a lot of twentieth century European history and wanted to give him a name with Historical Importance. Is it a coincidence he lives in exile now?

How about learning to sing? That’s been documented here a few times. I think I’d categorize those moments as the beginning of my relationship with patience. Although when Patience and I first met, it was a rocky relationship. I couldn’t wait to do things; Patience liked to check me a lot.

Most of the things I wrote back then are now of such little importance now. Most are meaningless in my life. Why didn’t I mention any of the Big Things? Why were they only hinted at?

Am I doing the same with this blog post? Perhaps.

I’ve only written a few things this year. Most of them are pretty meaningless.

I’ve never mentioned that I took a course in early Spring called the Neighbourhood Leadership Institute. The NLI is a leadership and skillbuilding program with three different streams, resident, professional, and youth. Because you needed a partner to participate, I contacted the NLI and was connected with a wonderful partner. Through the NLI you incubate a community project. My partner Sheila’s idea is a self-directed learning group called Partners in Learning Hamilton.

PIL is a weekly meetup group, mainly meant for senior citizens who’d like to socialize through meaningful conversation. We held our first pilot session in July, and we’re working on putting together the first five week session around the theme of Wellness, starting in late-September.

The idea of Partners in Learning Hamilton came from the original Partners in Learning group, of which Sheila was a member, in Grand Bend, ON.

The NLI was a unique experience. I met a lot of people from different parts of the city. I got to explore areas of Hamilton I’d never been to before, including the McQuesten Urban Farm, and Honouring the Circle, the Native Women’s Centre tucked away on the Mountain Brow.

Honouring the Circle Native Women's Centre

Honouring the Circle Native Women’s Centre

Prior to the NLI, I participated in the Women’s March here in Hamilton. The night before the march, a few of us gathered together at a friend’s place and we made signs and masks. The next day we gathered in front of City Hall to stand together and chant, sing, and be together. According to French sociologist Émile Durkheim when humans gather in a crowd, it creates a “collective effervescence,” a “glowy, giddy feeling where your sense of self slackens, yielding to a connection with your fellow, synchronized humans.”

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Women’s March protestors or the world’s best girl group?

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Cynthia looking pensive in the crowd. Photo: John Rennison/The Hamilton Spectator

You can see the effervescence on my face here:

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You can see the effervescence on both mine and N’s face here!

Or how about the fact that I got a new car this year? Haven’t mentioned that at all, have I?

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Her name is Joni. Because Joni Mitchell wrote “Blue,” one of my favourite songs.

I’m reading Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime right now. It’s the first time I’m reading a memoir written by a contemporary. I have to keep reminding myself that his stories of life in South Africa happened the same time I was growing up here in Canada. Our realities are a stark difference. In one story he recounts how his life changed after his friend Andrew gifts him a CD writer. At this point, he’s already running a flourishing bootleg CD business, but when Andrew gives him a CD writer, his whole life changes because he has the means to go further and he recognizes that without it, his life could have been stuck much like a lot of his friends who remain in South Africa.

He’s better able to explain it but essentially it amounts to this: that old adage that you can give a man a fish and he’ll eat for one day, but if you teach a man to fish he’ll eat for the rest of his life is all well and good. But how about giving the man a fishing rod, too? That’s the essential difference for some people, especially South African blacks. So many of them already know how to fish, but they haven’t got a fishing rod. It took a friend to give Trevor his first “fishing rod”.

All this to say, I would not have this car without the assistance of a friend. And maybe it’s too soon to tell what this car can do for me, other than haul my butt from my office to the home (for now.) Actually I think it’s definitely too soon to tell what this car can do for me, but I know that it will help me in my life. Maybe it’s my fishing rod?

It’s hard, you know. Hard to tell what you’re looking at when it comes to time. Because so often we’ve got our noses pressed so hard to the glass that everything just looks blurry. All you’re seeing are shades of colours rather than anything fully formed. And maybe that’s why I’ve written so little about what now look like bigger things in my life now that they’ve come and gone. Even so, as the years continue to stretch out and I get a clearer idea of the picture my life is turning into, they could just be minor blips in the bigger picture.

But at least I’m noting them down. And maybe the Wayback Machine will one day spit out this blog post to remind me that these things happened and I’ll be grateful for the reminder.

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Happy International Women’s Day 2017

Year after year International Women’s Day transforms just a little more, honing itself into a careful diamond that shines brighter as more women wake up.

We’ve had some incredible moments as women in the year.

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau stood up and declared himself a feminist.

Air India organized its first all-women’s flight crew. Their inaugural flight circumnavigated the globe.

Female artists showed us that we can be in the same space together and hold hands, not throw elbows.

Credit: Billboard.com Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage

The world stopped for one day and declared itself female.

Credit: Wikicommons Photo by Mark Dixon

It’s a heady time. I’m constantly full of emotions I can’t always explain. But these are good things. We all need these moments. I am so proud of all of us.

Keep going, ladies. We’re all in this together now.

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Reminders in life

This sign hangs above my desk in my office. It pretty much covers all of life, be it business, love, relationships with other human beings, your spirituality, and even your health.

This sign hangs above my desk and when I am stressed or feeling down I look up and there it is.

A photo posted by Olga Kwak (@piratecakes) on Aug 12, 2016 at 7:50am PDT

 

It reads:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste and, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of years, gravefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

— Found in old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore; Dated 1692

There are many moments in my life when I could use this advice. Even today, as I sit here pining over this, that, and the other, I am reminded that whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. So I must be gentle with myself.

Do you ever find yourself in that mood where you feel stuck because of one thing or another isn’t going right or isn’t moving fast enough? Maybe this poster will help you as well. Feel free to share it.

Cause You Gotta Have Faith

I believe in God again. Oh, sure. I believed in God before. He was the omniscient and omnipotent being that lived outside of my understanding and scope, but I still acknowledged, cause for me it just felt right that there is a God. Except for most of my life I did not pay Him much attention, nor contemplate my faith in any kind of constructive way. I just believed in Him.

As I said goodbye to the Motherland, I was kindly given a clue as to why I believe in Him.

God’s love is eternal, compassionate, and, most importantly, forgiving.

When was the last time someone reminded you of that fact? Maybe you already know it and that’s why you’re such an awesome person. You already know that love and compassion and forgiveness are the elements of good living and you’re as cool as a cucumber about ’em.

Or maybe this is the first time you’re hearing it. I know when I did it felt like I’d just discovered the Pythagorean theorem. And I went to Catholic school. But maybe it hit me like a tonne of bricks because I finally understood it within the context of my life. You can lead a horse to water…

We all place a lot of pressure on ourselves to do the best we can in our lives. What if I told you that what you’re doing is good enough? What if I told you that God will love you despite any number of shortcomings you think you see? Would it set you free?

These were questions posed to me by a stranger on the flight back to Canada. I could have shaken them off. I could have dismissed him as a kook and burrowed my head into a book or my laptop and ignored him for the rest of the eight hour flight. But I listened. In allowing my heart to open to God, it began to fill itself with joy, love, and hope.

All of the stupid bullshit that used to kick up a storm in my head disappeared. I dismissed it. I forgave it all. I made my peace with it because I finally understood that God wants us to be at peace. He doesn’t want us to hate our lives. He wants us to rejoice. And yes, there are shitty times. People die. Hearts are torn asunder. Pets get run over by cars. Kids are mean.

But babies are born. Love is kindled or even reignited. There are a million adoptable pets in North America alone. And yeah, kids are mean, but they’re also the darnedest, right? Yes, there is darkness, but there is lightness as well. And without the darkness, the lightness hardly seems that bright at all.

Through the wonders of the Internet, this is an actual shot of that mug. I remember this font.For a good long while I lost faith, which is like developing vertigo. You can still live, sure, but it’s more like you’re hanging on to blades of grass while the Earth spins out of control. We used to have Irish coffee mugs with this saying on them – “An Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold on to one blade of grass and not fall of the face of the Earth.”

That’s what it felt like when I lost faith – holding onto a blade of grass as the world spun and spun and spun.

Now I get why I have faith in God. And it’s so comforting. Even as the earth continues to spin around, I keep a tight grip on that blade of grass, but now it’s coupled with a conviction that feels like a pair of moonboots that anchor me to the ground even more firmly. Thanks for the kickass pair of moonboots, God.

Rememberance

World War II is never far from anyone’s mind in Poland. This year marked the seventy-first anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Uprising.

While I was visiting family I got a chance to take some photos that I’m particularly fond of at this time of year as we’re thinking about our loved ones and how they served and fought for freedom.

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Mending a Broken Heart

Two years ago, when I had my first episode of psychosis, a mental state I wish upon no one at all, my doctor told me that I needed to take things slowly and not rush the healing process. My mind, after all, had a heart attack. Heart attack victims can’t just get up and go after their heart attack. The same can be said for a “head attack”.

This past summer I had a heart attack of a different matter. I let go of a person I love because our paths are going in different directions. This is not my first time at this particular rodeo, but this may be the hardest I have to live through. But, as my aunt says, somehow we must live through it anyway.

Some days are harder than others. Facebook is a particular minefield that I tread along carefully, but, of course, despite my knowing better that, as Gloria Steinem once said, “There is no there, there,” I still take a look and feel that ache that although is beginning to heal slowly, is still there. Maybe not as acute as it once was, but still definitely there.

About a month ago I hurt my thumb climbing an old foundation in Lublin to take a photo of a castle. As I hopped down, I heard something go in my thumb and for a frightful few hours worried that I had broken it. Turned out to be nothing more than a sprain, but that pain lingered, much like this heart pain lingers. And although I know time will heal this wound as much as it did my psychosis or my thumb sprain, because this particular pain I feel in my heart, my mind, my lips, my eyes, my stomach, my fingertips, it’s much harder to let it go.

It takes time. Time and patience.

Paying Our Respect

There’s no better place to visit than a cemetery on a hot August day, said no one ever.

Regardless, we decided to head to the cemetery to lay a memorial down on my grandparents’ grave. First we had to find them, though. I had little knowledge since it was only my second visit and mom had only been there a handful of times herself, so our supercharged march began to flag a little, then a lot, when after about twenty minutes of searching we concluded we couldn’t find them.

It didn’t help that I wore the wrong shoes and did I mention it was a hot August day, and we left at 10:30 in the morning?

Eventually we found them, though. We were off by a lot, so it wasn’t like we didn’t see them the first time around.

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Afterwards, I snapped some photographs of the cemetery while waiting for our ride. We sat under a grove of trees near the entrance.

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