Death and Life

I attended the funeral of my friend’s dad today. He was killed a few days ago — it was an unexpected, tragic event that happened. I had been feeling really emotional about it in the days leading up to the funeral. I just felt a lot for my friend and his family. I thought about my own dad and how I’ve often thought about the state I’ll be in once he passes from this earth.

I knew I’d be crying at the funeral today, but I didn’t know the tears would come pretty much ten seconds after sitting down in the visitation room and watching the slide show of family photos playing on the screen at the front of the room. I had never met my friend’s dad but all of this has somehow impacted me a lot.

I have been led to think really hard about a lot of things — about my views on punishment; about what “victim impact” really means (I was a Criminology major, for those who don’t know). I’ve wondered about how I can believe that there is an afterlife for my friend’s dad but not for me. When I die, I believe I will just disintegrate into the ground. Yet I believe that he is in the Pure Land where he deserves to be for being such a kind and generous man.

I also thought about forgiveness and opening up to those close to you in your life. I had started working on a family history project a number of months ago and one theme that quickly became apparent across my older relatives was that of regret. Regrets of wishing they had told one of their family members something when they had the chance, and so on. And I could see how easy it would be to live out several decades of your life not doing anything about some kind of conflict that could at the moment be easily pushed aside and ignored, but down the road would be so much more difficult — or impossible — to repair.

I have thought about my own regrets and feelings of guilt with respect to family a lot in the past several years. And from time to time I’ll tell myself that I don’t want to still have regrets down the road that I didn’t do enough now, that I didn’t see my family enough now, that I didn’t say enough, listen enough. It’s easy for that motivation to subside once “life” gets busy and “in the way.” But what do you say to yourself when the chance is no longer there? No reasoning will seem acceptable enough then. “You should have just made the time” will be the only thing you’ll say (with regret).

I have to confess, there are times when I imagine that someone I love dies. I’ll imagine it happening and I have often cried thinking about it. I don’t know why I do it, but I do. But as morbid and depressing as it can be, I feel that I do need to think about it sometimes (in a somehow healthy way) because it is always a reminder to not take them for granted, a reminder that no one around you will be around you forever. This is all a work in progress. Sometimes (many times) I slip, sometimes I do well. And I think you’ll have to go through some of that along the way, but hopefully, gradually, you do more well than slipping :)

Another thing I thought about is how true it is that so much of what occupies our thoughts, desires, and complaints are so completely trivial (something my friend had written in a FB post). Of course, part of this is understanding that family, friends, loved ones, good health, being a good person — these are the most important things. But I also thought today about what I spend my money on, what I spend my time doing. I asked myself what do I really want to invest my free time and money on, aside from the most important things? And I could think of three things right away (and I haven’t thought of any others since): learn opera again, write music, and finish writing my family history book. These are things I would regret not pursuing to the best of my ability if I did get side-tracked by all of the trivial things instead.

This led me to also think about my mom and sister who are able to live a minimalist lifestyle, and focus their energy and time on the things that they truly value and that are beyond the material and superficial. I often see and hear people making fun of Jehovah’s Witnesses (yes, they are Jehovah’s Witnesses), but I have had nothing but the utmost respect for the way they try to improve themselves, stay true to their beliefs, and what genuinely good and kind-hearted people they are. True, they have their own things that they need to work on, as we all certainly do. But I am nothing but the better for being their daughter and sister — and when friends tell me what a nice and caring person I am, I know exactly who I get that from. If I think of all the people I’ve met in my life and the small fraction of that who are truly genuine, I know that my mom and sister are amongst the top of that very special minority.

Well, I just needed to write all of that down today. I’m thankful to my friend for reminding us all of what is really important in life. I stopped blogging because I felt my posts were not coming from as genuine a place anymore. I know that this is 100% my genuine thoughts and that it’s something I would like to share with others, but more importantly to engrave it in stone (so to speak) for myself.

~ Janice <3

P.S. I’ve decided to start bringing back some posts here from the archives — for now, some Writing From the Heart posts — because there was so much wonderful discussion that happened there that I felt was kinda selfish for me to take away. I hope that people could enjoy reading others’ comments and find some inspiration!

My New Year’s Resolution is to Keep My New Year’s Resolution

Happy 2013, everyone! Are you ready to kick off the new year with a big bang? Or do you find yourself starting this January sleepily dragging your behind back to work? Let’s wake up and get excited for bigger and better things, people!

So truth be told, I actually haven’t made a New Year’s resolution. I can’t remember the last year that I did. There’s two reasons why I’ve bowed out for 2013. The first is that I feel like I’ve gained enough motivation and momentum from 2012 to continue bettering myself in the new year without any pre-defined goals.

And secondly — as the title implies — I don’t have the greatest track record for keeping the NYRs that I have made. I don’t think most of us do.

Canadians New Years Resolutions 2011 Toronto Star

Of the friends I’ve asked, almost all don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions. To them, NYRs merely represent “empty promises”. But there are a couple who have set some lofty goals, including the second top NYR of last year: to quit smoking. And I actually believe that they have a good chance of sticking to it.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t typically goals that we can attain with the snap of our fingers. Inspired by the “fresh new start” that apparently comes delivered on January 1st, many of us pump our fists in the air with newfound purpose and declare: “Yes, I can!” At least for the time being it seems like anything is truly possible.

But somewhere along the way — a week later, two, three months into the grind — our resolve wilts like flowers in the harsh, winter snow. The NYR that was becomes no more.

new-years-resolution-list

So how is it that some people are able to achieve what they’ve set out to do for an entire year? Are they a special breed of people? Do they have severe punishments in place that deter any and all notions of failure? Do the ones who make it to the end choose resolutions that were just easier to resolve?

I can’t give you the answers. I’m not one of these people. Doesn’t mean that I’m not inspired or want to improve myself this year. I’m just not ready to set anything in stone right now ;)

Calvin and Hobbes New years resolution comic

What’s your New Year’s Resolution? (I’ll be checking back with anyone who answers this at the end of the year to see how you did!). And what does it take to see one’s NYR through to the end of the year?

- Cafe

Credits: Canadians’ NYRs statsJanuary list comicCalvin and Hobbes comic

On Mental Health: If You Got Issues, You’re Officially “Normal”

While going on trips and posting photos of the great times I had has been fun, I need to bring it back to something a little more serious. Something that’s been brewing in my mind and in my heart for quite some time now. Brewing like some good coffee. Okay, sorry …

On October 10th, I discovered that it was World Mental Health Day and since then have come across numerous stories about people’s struggles with their mental health. Actually, since starting here on WordPress, I’ve frequently come across many blogs that serve as outlets for people’s experiences with depression, eating disorders, anxiety, drug addiction, and so on.

A blog about a woman’s experiences living with complex PTSD and depression (click on the pic to get there!)

As I learn more and more about other people’s struggles with achieving good mental health — including people in my everyday life – I realize that it’s actually more rare to find someone who really has it all together than someone who feels like they’re nowhere near society’s standard of “normal.”

I didn’t feel this way for a long time though. I really felt like I was one of the few in life who wasn’t normal. Ever since I could remember, as a young girl, I would get into spells of feeling down and depressed and wouldn’t know why.

It never turned into anything where I couldn’t get myself out of bed or thought of hurting myself. And maybe that’s why I was even more confused about whether I had a problem and if so, what that problem was.

It seems that so many people go through feeling down about life, feeling like they’re not good enough, feeling angry, feeling misunderstood. And many don’t know how to deal with that in a healthy way. It’s so easy to push those awful feelings deep down inside where we don’t have to face them, or even turn to things like drinking and/or drugs to escape. It’s one thing to experiment, it’s another to use it as your security blanket that you can throw over yourself when you want to hide from the world.

I found myself doing just that — escaping from my problems, all the anger, sadness and insecurity that was making me feel like a wreck inside during my teenage years and early 20s, through drinking. At the time, I probably just told myself that “everyone’s doing it.” It’s not like I was getting smashed first thing every morning, nor did I feel like it was an overwhelming physical need that I had or that my life was completely in shambles.

But as time went on, I questioned whether my drinking episodes were all simply social or “just to take the edge off” after a long day. Eventually, I did look at my defense mechanism for what it was and acknowledged that I had turned to drinking as a way to escape the reality I didn’t want to face from time to time. And unfortunately, I know so many others who have done the same to various degrees.

My thoughts from various journal entries over the years.

It was during a part of that tumultuous time that I was in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship, which obviously did not help in getting me to a healthy place where I could deal with the issues that I already had. My mental health was hurt badly through that experience, to the point where I felt so worthless and helpless as a person. It took a long time before I could get it to a state where I felt safe and good about myself. But perhaps more on that another time.

I can write about this now because I’ve come such a long way in my thinking since then. And because I realize now that so many others go through the same thing. I am by no means alone in feeling like I am not perfect and have a lot of things I need to work on.

Part of a poem I wrote during my struggle to get my mental health to a better place.

The impression I give on this blog as a positive, life-loving person is genuine. But I want you to realize that I’ve gotten here through mistakes, lessons learned, and many ups-and-downs that make me appreciate life and the positive influences I now have around me so much more than I would have otherwise. And it still, and always will be, a work in progress.

I encourage you all to understand that everyone is different and that we’ve all had our share of life experiences that have impacted on us negatively and led to our own individual mental health issues, no matter how big or small. Whether you are diagnosed with a mental illness or just have a feeling that things aren’t completely okay in your head, remember that no one is “perfect” and no one feels like they’re society’s unattainable standard of “normal” all, or even any, of the time. And that’s totally okay.

The more we talk about our own mental health challenges, issues, fears, insecurities, and imperfections with those around us, the more it will become normalized and the less afraid people will be of just being themselves.

Thank you for reading with an open mind, and please feel free and safe to share your story here.

- Cafe <3

Blog post: October 10th, 2012 — World Mental Health Day by littleburstsofinspiration
Blog Post: Perfectly Imperfect by vinnylanni
Blog Post: Stop hating yourself for everything that you are not and start Loving yourself for everything you are. by sexandmiami
Blog Post: I am not a loser by bipolarblogging
Photo Credits: We all got issues, Normal is boring

Why Do You Blog?

When I first started out as a new blogger on WordPress a couple or so months ago, I was trying to get used to the new landscape, the new community. How could I search for other like-minded bloggers? How did you work these Widgets? And what did “Freshly Pressed” mean?

As I became more and more familiar with the WordPress neighbourhood, I kept thinking back to a post that I previously wrote – Why Do We Blog? Although I still stood by everything I said in that post, I started realizing that it didn’t truly capture the myriad of reasons, motivations, and inspirations that drive Bloggers to, at times obsessively, update their readers with the newest thing that’s gotten their wheels turning. I started realizing that blogging was truly a passion for many — a way to fulfill something that they might not be able to fulfill elsewhere.

Walking down a block in the WordPress community. (Sorry to those I couldn’t fit into the drawing, I just included bloggers as they accepted my invitation to participate! Karen — there definitely needs to be a Starbucks in WordPressville!)

I’ve taken quite a few strolls through the WordPress ‘hood and come across many different types of blogs and Bloggers, but I know that I’ve only caught a small glimpse of what’s out there. There is just no shortage of what people can and do write about. We blog about our best recipes, music we love, beauty tips, fashion ideas, places we’ve traveled to, marathons we’ve run, our eating disorders, our depression, addictions, stories we’re writing, our goals and dreams, things we find hilarious, things that inspire and challenge us, things that piss us off, and so on. We write about our opinions on things that matter to us, or maybe things that don’t really matter but that we’re gonna give our two cents on regardless. Some of us want the world to know exactly who we are and what we look like, and others find freedom in anonymity.

But what’s really interesting to me is that, in the end, despite the differences we may have, we all share one thing in common: we choose to speak out in this public space, to share our stories with potentially hundreds or thousands of other people whom we will likely never know or meet. We know that out of the thousands of readers who walk through our community (and we are a community) every day, at least one, at some point, will hear us. Some people might think blogging is silly — just a bunch of people ranting about nothing — but I’m always amazed to see how much people can affect others simply with their words and images. Many of us seek to touch or inspire others with our experiences, ideas and creations — and from having read your blogs, I know that there are so many who end up doing just that.

Two inspiring bloggers, Nadia and Den, who have never met each other but created a blog together that spreads optimism far and wide! (Photos from: Writing a blog & Dear Optimists)

It’s taken me a very long time to write this post, because I have found it difficult to convey to you, my dear readers, why blogging is such a staple in so many people’s lives. I didn’t think that it could be complete without a few words from just a handful of great Bloggers who have one way or another inspired me, gotten me to think, or simply made me laugh so hard that it hurt. So I asked them the question: “Why do you blog?” and here’s what they had to say …

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“There many forms of expression, whether by music or art. In writing we take inspiration from within ourselves and place it in words, sharing with everyone our most sincere thoughts.”

– Andy from My story to you.. (Life)

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“I blog as a way to connect. I blog to entertain, to provoke, to question, to confront. Blogging is my unapologetic way of sharing myself with the world. And it can be said that life’s greatest insights come at such moments of vulnerability.”

– Fraser McGuire at Unsolicited Advice (General Interest)

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“Why did I start blogging? Because I felt like I had something to say and needed someone to say it to. There sometimes feels like there are things in my head that are trying to escape. It’s like my brain has a cage around it and there are thoughts and ideas trying to get out. Blogging allows me to reach an audience. It cleans out my brain and keeps me creating. It’s an easy schedule to maintain, since I make the schedule. I also want people to like me and tell me I’m handsome. That’s why I do everything I do.”

– Tim at Mooselicker (Humor)

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“I created a blog to show my ability in Graphic arts and media communication.”

– Jake at Time After Time (Graphic Arts & Photography)

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“Writing makes me happy. I`ve always wanted to write but I think I was always afraid of how it would be recieved or what people think. It`s hard when people critique something that you love doing. This blog was my way of breaking away from that and creating a happy place that I can always come to. Also, someone needs to document ridiculous things that happen in everyday life ;)”

- Karen at The Skinny Jeans and Starbucks Chronicles (Humor)

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“I blog mainly because I love writing and telling stories and disseminating knowledge — it’s an extension of my everyday life as a teacher. I also blog because there’s nothing like making someone laugh, or smile, or think about things a little differently, and blogging gives you the most immediately available means to reach others and touch them in some way with your words and experiences. I blog to share what I know, to question what I don’t know, and to examine what I think I know or what I could know. I blog to share my newest works in progress and my experiences writing and revising with my readers, and to hold myself accountable for completing those projects — there’s nothing like those emails demanding the monthly sneak peek! For me, in the end, it’s all about individual and collective understanding and communication. I blog because it is one immediately tangible way to be in relationship with the rest of the world.”

– Melissa Ridley Elmes at Cerridwen’s Cauldron (Lifestyle & Eclectic)

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“I blog for a lot of reasons, but mostly, I like the process of figuring out how to say something in the most direct and resonant way. How can I make this funnier? How can I make this more emotional? How can I make it more true? And because blogging is so hurried, I have to make those decisions in a compressed timeframe. It’s an academic exercise, but in the best way.”

- Yoona at Yoonanimous (Fashion, Food & Other Ephemera)

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“One of the greatest inspirations for this blog is my desire to help people find the beauty in life, and therefore find their own Wonderland.”

– CT at insearchofwonderland (Self Improvement & Enlightenment)

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“We blog because we want to make people smile, we want them to read our post of the day and realize that sometimes, the little things in life are all we have, and to cherish the short moments of bliss, the smiles, the laughs and the hugs that people have on a daily basis but are so small that sometimes they forget about them when the bigger, tougher parts of life overwhelm. We blog because we like to make others feel good, which in turn makes us feel good and want to continue making others feel good, and thus keep a circular motion of positivity that continues on and on and on and on…do you think we are the ones making people smile? Well the reality is that those very same people that we make smile are just as equally making us smile as well.

That, my friend, is why we blog.”

- Den and Nadia at Dear Optimists (Humor & Optimism :)

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And as for me? “I always had a hard time expressing my opinions and feelings through talking about things when I was growing up. Sometimes I still do. Writing allows me to get all of it out in a way that makes sense. But this blog isn’t just about me. There is so much that I want to say and share with others, but I also love hearing about others’ perspectives and own experiences and getting a good discussion going. This blog is my creative space that let’s me explore, discover, and share.”

- Cafe at Your Daily Dose (A Mixed Bag ‘O Goodies ;)

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Thanks so much to the Bloggers who took the time to participate in this post and send me your answers. I would love to hear from more bloggers about your own motivations and inspirations for blogging! So answer me this, my dear readers:

For the Bloggers: Why do YOU blog?  (Don’t forget to leave a link to your blog!)

For the Non-Bloggers (or the Not-Yet-Bloggers): Why don’t you blog? (Just never thought about it before? Don’t think you can write? Don’t have the time?). And if you were to create your own blog, what do you think you’d blog about?

- Cafe <3