View from the inside

There’s a kind of stark
bewilderment here,
a deer caught in headlights
kind of a vibe.

I wonder if you feel it
like I feel it.

I can sit for hours
waiting impatiently for
the space between thoughts
to collect into a sort of
zen.

That crystal clear sky,
that endless blue
without fail,
becomes thunder.

Every time I close my eyes.

Conversations with strangers: Adam

You know when you have an experience and it feels somehow like the universe conspired to put you in that specific place at that specific time? That’s happened to me often in life. Maybe it’s just because I like the idea that somehow and for some reason the universe is attempting to show me some sort of direction. Maybe it’s because there have been times where I’ve felt so lost that the second anything aligns in any sort of interesting way I’m ready to pounce like a starving cat about to sink its teeth into its prey. Or I’m just a bit of a hippy. Who knows.

I often find myself having some very interesting conversations with strangers. Sometimes inspiring, sometimes a little strange, sometimes funny. Last week I had one of the more impactful of these conversations.

I was out and about on my bike in the downtown core, casually pedalling my way through the usual hustle and bustle of Toronto: the impatient cars attempting to run me off the road, the incessant construction, the death-defying pigeons. I arrived at my destination just in time to witness the fpotd, or freakout-person-of-the-day. I may have just made that up. But I usually see at least one person having a bit of a freak out on the daily around here. I mean there are a lot of us crammed into Toronto’s downtown core so it’s only natural that at least one of us is going to snap…

This time he was a man in his late 30s, yelling brusquely about how much everyone sucks and challenging every man walking by him to a fight. Quite aggressively, too. He was getting right up in their faces demanding a punch. The hobble in his step gave away his drunkenness if the slurred yelling hadn’t already. He was quite close to me as I was locking up my bike and it was then that our eyes met for the first time. I knew in that moment that he and I were going to have an interaction. I could feel it. I stood there with some mild nerves, trivially attempting to avert my gaze from all the ruckus he was causing. I watched him try once more to provoke a fight from a passerby, and when that failed he staggered his way over to me, looking me in the eyes, and yelling:

What’s the point? What’s the point?” 

I just stood dumbly at my bike as he came closer to me…

Why am I waking up every morning?

I could have wrapped my arms around him our proximity was so uncomfortably close. With our eyes locked intimately he admitted, almost at a whisper,

“I don’t want to wake up anymore.”

My heart pounded in my chest as we stood there together with that knowledge. It was just raw, honest, and painful. The way he said it was so matter-of-fact it broke my heart. And this from stranger whose name I didn’t even know.

What do I do? How can I help? I’m not qualified to deal with this raving man on the street and my own life is out-of-sorts at the best of times. I don’t have anything to offer him. 

Such were my thoughts as I stood there. But for some odd reason I felt like I had been given this great responsibility from the universe to offer something to this man, however small or feeble or unhelpful it may appear to be. So instead of shying away from him, I started talking to him. I asked him for his name.

Adam.

Adam and I ended up spending the afternoon together in the park. We talked about life, people, ambitions, and the “point”. Here are a few things I learned about Adam in our afternoon together.

He’s homeless.
He’s spent most of the last 7 years living as a hermit trying to deal with a kind of PTSD I never found out about.
He loves dogs.
He has a mother nearby who he loves, but doesn’t see much. And he credits her for his plugging along this far in life.
He hates materialism, but he has a thing for motorcycles.
He’s very articulate.
He finds the park very peaceful and likes to spend his afternoons under the trees.
He’s given up on people and tends to dwell on the bad nature of others.
He’s possibly dealing with some mental health issues.
He’s a bit of an alcoholic.
He has very beautiful eyes and wild curly hair.
Most importantly, he has the capacity to be very kind, generous, and outgoing.

He’s a real person with a complicated backstory. Along for this ride with the rest of us.

As we walked around together we got quite a few dubious looks from strangers. Adam was pretty drunk if you recall and so good at drawing attention to us, but it didn’t bother me. I tried to get to the bottom of why he was picking fights with people on the street. Apparently dealing with physical pain is a good distraction from dealing with mental pain, hence the provocations. He wanted bruises. He invited physical pain. I guess I can understand the immediate logic in that. It’s somehow simpler, isn’t it? Our minds are a difficult thing to master or even understand minutely. But even acknowledging that I still had to argue how unfair it was to the poor random people he was challenging. Nobody wants to be provoked into a fight on a sunny afternoon, or even a rainy afternoon for that matter. I just told him what he already knew, that it wouldn’t solve anything going on inside him, and that he’d have to make up his mind to deal with it another way.

But mostly, I just listened. I listened to whatever he wanted to tell me and offered whatever I could. I opened up to him about some of my own struggles which I thought he might relate to. It was a very mutual exchange. We were just two humans in a park talking about life.

For a man who had admittedly “given up on people”, he was certainly very kind to me. Which, to my mind, just shows he needs a helping hand to remind him that he can still become the best version of himself. Maybe with a little encouragement from a stranger. A little acknowledgement. A smile. Eye contact. An ear or two to hear what he has to say and take it seriously. Did I really help him? I don’t know. But I think he was grateful for the interaction just as I was.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be homeless, it makes me sad to see so many people struggling without a roof over their head on the daily. It’s a bit hard to admit, but when I was younger I used to walk by homeless people and pretend not to see them. You always hear how giving money doesn’t help them/increases the problem/whatever. But whatever the truth is to that doesn’t excuse the purposeful act of looking away from another person who is reaching out for help. A smile, or a brief glance, or a hello… these things can go a long way. People feel invisible because others treat them so.

Let’s always treat each other kindly, please.

Just rambling… thanks for reading.

xo

 

A life not to be

A little heartbreak this morning.

There was a slight chill, fog hanging in the air, and some rain drizzling down as I left my apartment to dawdle my way over to the local coffee shop for a latte. One minute after leaving my apartment I stumbled upon this precious baby bird….

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The poor little thing was lying in the middle of the sidewalk belly up. The rain was coming down on him, the cold surrounding him. It was a strange place to find him, there weren’t many trees in the area and I saw no sign of a nest. You would think his nest was blown over by a strong gust of wind, and maybe it was, but I didn’t find any evidence of that. It’s a mystery how he ended up there. He must’ve just hatched.

On the grass to the side I saw another baby bird just like him, but he was already dead. This little one, however, had some life in him. His beak was opening and closing as if waiting for his mother to give him some food. It was so heart wrenching to see him lying there, so helpless. I didn’t really know what to do. I very carefully scooped him up into the palm of my hand. He was so delicate and tiny and precious. The thought of leaving him there was completely impossible. It seemed unlikely that any mother bird was coming back, and his situation was desperate. I called my boyfriend and asked him to start googling what to do in this kind of situation and made my way back to the apartment with this tiny life in the palm of my hand.

And that’s where he took his last breath. By the time I got back to the apartment, all his movement had ceased and he was just a little body that couldn’t hold onto life anymore. For whatever reason, his life was not meant to be. He was created, he developed into that tiny bird within his egg, only to hatch and end up belly up on the sidewalk in the cold rain. He should have hatched into a cozy nest with his mama at the ready and with his brothers and sisters around keeping each other warm. He should have been able to open his eyes and discover his surroundings. To grow his feathers, to fly, to live the life he was given… so awful to see that torn away from something so young and new.

We ended up burying him in a garden outside the building along with his brother.

It was very sad.

I’m so sorry your life was cut short, little bird. I’m sorry that I found you too late to help you. I’m glad I could be there to hold you for your last few breaths, though. I’m glad that you didn’t die cold and forgotten on the sidewalk.  I hope you had a little comfort in the palm of my hand. Your life was short, but someone cared about you and loved you for the little while you were here.

RIP, little bird.

Ziplining through Mexico

A discovery I’ve made about myself in the last year or so is that I absolutely love having an adrenaline rush.

It was never the case when I was a kid or even a teenager. In fact when my family went to Canada’s Wonderland when I was very young I distinctly remember feeling overwhelmed at the idea of being on even the tamest rides. Seriously. I was standing behind my parents in line for one of those rides where you’re sitting in a little pod that lifts you up and spins you around upside down (you stay in by momentum). It’s a ride that isn’t even that interesting, let alone scary, but I can recall with great detail being a little girl in that line. The fear, the terror, the panic setting in as we inched closer and closer to the front of the line. It didn’t seem to matter how many smiling faces I observed from other park patrons, I ended up bawling at the prospect of actually getting on that ride and in the end I opted to just watch my parents go on. There I was, a little redheaded girl crying lamely as this gentle baby ride whirled her parents around for a gripping and worrisome 2 minutes. Afterward they took me on one of those old wooden roller coasters to show me how fun they could be and that there was nothing to be afraid of, and that thing was so wildly out of control to me that it only solidified my aversion to thrill rides and adrenaline sports for essentially my entire childhood.

Fast forward to now, and that couldn’t be more different. I love roller coasters, sling shot rides, sky diving, giant swing rides, hell even just regular swings. You don’t get much of an adrenaline rush on a park swing but I still love it. That little bit of weightlessness is very relaxing and enjoyable to me. When I was traveling around New Zealand back in November I would always go and swing in the campsite playground as my brother and father took care of all the campervan chores. One particular campsite had this miniature zipline and I probably rode that thing, no joke, about 15 times. Probably would have done it more if not for a bunch of actual kids showing up and spoiling my fun. I never managed to have a proper ziplining adventure in New Zealand, though it was something I wanted to do, so when Pam and I were in Mexico last month and I saw that zip-lining was on the list of potential activities I thought now is the time.

Fortunately for me Pam is very adventurous and easy going so it was not at all hard to convince her to go like it was to convince my brother in NZ. We took some time off from lazing around on the beach and flipped our way through some catalogues. We found an adventure that seemed to work well for us: it boasted various ziplines that take you through the mexican jungle (including the longest in Mexico — the superman), as well as some offroading UTV fun, and even a random water slide.

Normally these tours are provided to fairly large groups and take about 6 hours, but Pam and I were lucky enough to be guided on a private tour for two and so we finished in less than half that time.
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Upon arrival we were taken through a brief orientation by our tour guides, going over the basics of the equipment and safety. The most important thing for us of course is to get the basics of the hand signals so we could understand how to get from one end to the other without getting stuck. Which I can’t imagine happens too often.

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The circuit they take you through provides some pretty fun mission impossible type activities. We rappelled, climbed a woven ladder, and then shimmied our way awkwardly across a rope (above). Which, to be honest, was the most worrisome part of the day for me.

Next up was the UTV adventure, which Pam took the wheel for.

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Pam’s huge smile and my look of concern makes me laugh every time. We only nearly toppled over once. Not too bad for our first off roading experience.

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After that you take a little hike up to the Superman, the longest zipline in mexico where they lay you on your belly, load you up with weights and then send you careening off a cliff at 100 km/h to sail overtop the jungle.

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You can’t even see the landing zone from up there.

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As you can imagine it’s very exciting. You really feel a bit like you’re flying, and the views of the forest are obviously beautiful.

So that was our fun adventure day. Something to do when you need a break from playing in the ocean or lying on the beach.

If you’ve ever thought about going I’d highly recommend it.

Have any of you ever been? Experiences?

Thanks for reading! xo