The Final Frontier

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13 years ago, I faced a border that everyone inevitably crosses:

Crossing from Life into Death.

I was reckless in my youth. I did things merely out of contempt for authority. I liked to blur the line between moral and immoral. I was a loose cannon.

When I was 16, I ran drugs for a guy named Joe. By no means was this guy a role model. In the same token, he wasn’t some low-life taking advantage of a naive teenager; I knew what I was getting into.

At least, I thought I did.

Heatherington is a particularly scummy area in Ottawa. Nowadays it’s home to a lot of gang activity. In my teens, Heatherington Park was a major pick-up/drop-off site for drugs. Now, let me make this clear: I wasn’t doing work for some big gang or cartel. Which, if I had of thought about it harder back then, should have been a red flag.

The big guys don’t want little fish in their pond.

Long story short, I was doing a regular drop-off in Heatherington. As I got close to the park, I noticed some guys from the bus were following me. I started to get anxious, and before I knew it, 3 guys were chasing me across the park.

Bat to my lower back; I was down immediately.

I went numb momentarily, before the pain radiated through every inch of my body. The assailants were on top of me in no time. Rifling through my pockets, tossing me around like a rag doll.

Then they put a knife to my throat.

I didn’t dare move. They emptied my pockets, then patted me down; they wanted to make sure they got everything. I didn’t dare move. I tried my best to focus my attention anywhere but on the person holding my life in his hand.

Then our eyes locked; I recognized him.

We went to middle school together for two years. He often found himself in trouble for beating up other students. He was a nice guy in general, but his temper always got the better of him; he was prideful.

I thought for sure that was the end for me. I was looking death right in the eyes. I was convinced he recognized me and would not leave it open to chance, that I would turn him in.

Suddenly, his comrades began yelling at him, in Somali (I recognized some of the words from former classmates in middle school.) They stared at him, yelling. He yelled back. And then in a flash, they were gone.

I got to the border, but was spared from crossing.

People often talk about seeing “their life flash before their eyes” in a near Death experience. I had no such moment. Perhaps because I wasn’t truly facing Death; only violence with no motive of killing from my attackers.

There was definite fear, which I am sure is shared with those who have shared near Death situations. Fear not necessarily of dying, but more of pain and torment.

Would it be fast?
Would I in-fact die?
If I didn’t, what would my quality of life then be?

Since that day, I’ve always wondered about why we fear Death. Why, do we put so much weight into something that is completely out of our control?

Is it the prospect of facing the unknown?

We face many unknowns on a day to day basis. Yet throughout human history, we persevere through them. Granted, most of these don’t have quite the finality that Death seems to impose. Since we have yet to find a way to scientifically measure, quantify, or even experience Death, it makes it that much more difficult to want to go through the process. Is Death a pure and simple finality?

Is there an Afterlife?
Will I be Reborn?
Is time non-linear? If so, am I just reliving a series of experiences? Am I stuck in a temporal loop?

Perhaps science one day will advance to the point where we can experience Death, and record empirical evidence. Until then, we are left with the dilemma that Death may in fact be, a finality.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why we fear it.

Many would say they fear Death because they lack a sense of fulfillment with their life. This is more commonly seen in younger persons, who have perhaps not accomplished the goals they’ve set in life. If this is the case, why are so many people complacent and inactive in filling this void? Does the nature of Death itself, not prompt a greater desire for living and learning?

One does not control their own fate; that is to say, whether they live or die. Even those who decide to end their lives, do so at the mercy of their own chemical imbalances; something which they have no hand in.

Since we can to a degree, control our actions on the mortal plane, why are so many of us apt to follow the path of an unfulfilled life?

We seem to hold on to the idea that you must live many years, to have lived a “full life”. Do years really equate to a life lived? I believe most would agree that it is the content of those years that determines this instead. One could live 100 years in a vegetative state, while another 25 years travelling the world, meeting people, trying new cuisines, and indulging in everything our planet has to offer. Who then had the “fuller life”?

Would it not be fair to say: “Collect experiences, not years”?

That’s a lot of questions in one night.

I’ve been taking a philosophy class, and it’s incited me to look deeper into existential questions. I’ve always had a curious mind, but have stopped short over the years addressing these types of topics. Taking this class (plus a fresh new notebook) is opening a new realm of thinking, that is really exciting. It also gives me a chance to put these thoughts into a concrete medium.

I’ve continuously said that I want to be active with this blog, yet seem to constantly hit a brick wall. I’m hoping that since I will have a hard-copy journal, that it will facilitate my blogging ventures. I know that the way my mind works, and catalogues thoughts is a bit messy. However, I hope this blog can become a vehicle for deeper thinking for those who read it, and expanded discussions down the road.

-DFP-

Because There Were Viva Puffs

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Man have I neglected this thing…so brace yourself, this is a LONG one.

When I started this, it was a forum to remove some clutter from my head. I also wanted to start writing again, even if it was mostly just train of thought, or anecdotes. I used to fill notebooks weekly in high school, and then it all kind of fizzled away. Maybe that’s just part of being young and naive. You have this false sense of pride in things you do because, at that age, you are so sure you’re adult, and mature, and right. Everything you create must be golden. The editor inside your head, he or she hasn’t been born yet. It’s a feeling I hope to rekindle some day.

Then, life suddenly got busy, so this got neglected.

Between taking an online course, tap classes, work, and trying to fit a social life in between, the clutter that’s usually in my head hasn’t formed. There hasn’t been time. Oh, and I finally started to write something again…

k asked me a few weeks back to write her a bedtime story. Of course, rather than let myself go unfiltered and come up with something on the spot, I delayed. Unlike some other writing projects however, (Hello Fairytale Rum-Runners novel and Short Stories about Superheroes in Mundane Jobs!), there’s been some pen to paper. Ok, so I’m not very deep or far into it. Heck, I didn’t even do a flow chart or any character in the rounds (Oh please no one tell Ms. Riddell!!). The point is, pen was put to paper. It’s helped calm my thoughts at night.

k also mentioned the other day that it’s probably about time I blogged on here. Considering I’ve paid more attention to our joint music blog…she’s probably right. I had intended to post something last night. Things got a bit out of sorts though, and the last 30 hours or so have been a bit of a blur. I’m not ready to bore with details…there’s a fair chance I never will be. I will however make use of this sleeplessness to at least write out my intended post from last night.

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I’m not going to sit here and pretend to know what or who extends past our mortal plain. I suppose for lack of a better term (because we are so obsessed with labels) most would call me an agnostic. I’m not a big fan of that term, primarily because it’s so rife with skepticism. Whatever tenants of my spirituality I do hold, are not ones that I struggle with or spend time weighing their validity. I think people have become so focused on boxing a person’s spirituality inside a preset religion (or concrete system of beliefs), and it really detracts from meaningful conversations on the topic.

I’m kind of getting side-tracked though. To start, that preamble should serve as a bit of disclaimer. This post relates to something that extend outside of the “rational” or “scientific” plane. If that’s not something you can handle without being critical, rude, or condescending…this post may not be for you.

ANYWAY…

Thursday was a long day. Since business has been slow at work (oh the joys of tourism dependant retail), I’ve been working on our inventory. We’re just a small shop, so the task seems pretty straightforward. The problem stems from the fact that in the owner’s 30 years of business, no one has bothered to do any inventory management. Last year, it took me 3 months to consolidate 30 years worth of inventory: repetitive SKUs, dead stock, improperly inputted stock, non-existent stock, while also accounting for everything that was ACTUALLY in the store. A year later, I find myself still trying to fight this awful demon.

After yet another full day of going through boxes upon boxes of junk that has been collected over the years, I was ready to go home. I was sore, hungry, and exhausted. My roommate Tara had her parents over for dinner. She made a lovely shrimp/crab sun dried tomato-pesto linguine, and when I got home she had put a plate aside for me. As I was sitting down to eat, Tara told me they were heading out and she was really sorry for the mess in the kitchen. Hey, your parents come over, a whirlwind of awesome cooking for them is going to leave a mess, right? She said: “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it when I get back”.

There are 6 of us in the house for those who are not familiar with my living situation. Paul and Tara are basically the landlords, there’s myself, Rachel, Lyndsay, and Jessie. Lyndsay is one of Tara’s friends, and is also a member of P&T’s church, as is Rachel. Jessie is a home-stay student from China that they are hosting while she goes to school. We are an interesting, diverse, neat group to say the least. Everyone is usually pretty good at helping out when it comes to cleaning up…but hey, we all have our off days ;).

Thursday, I was quite content to have one of those “off days” and take Tara at her earlier word. I devoured my dinner, and decided I was just going to go crash with some Netflix. I felt a bit guilty though, and thought that I should at least put away the dishwasher. That way it would expedite the cleaning process for when P&T got home. We keep some of our Tupperware in the pantry. When I went to put it away, I noticed something I hadn’t seen in years…

When I was a kid, my Grandma was always sure to spoil us with treats. She almost always had a full tub of some sort of gummy treat. Most times when I would go over with my mum and sister for after dinner tea, we would eat the whole thing. Cookies were also a staple. Two in particular: Chips Ahoy! Chewy, which were my Uncle Raymond’s favourite. I thought he was the coolest growing up. He did tae-kwon-do, had a Turbografx video game system, and he had sweet hair and a million types of mousse just like Uncle Jesse on Full House. I usually headed straight for those. The other ones she usually had were Viva Puffs. You know, the ones with the marshmallow on top of a cookie, enrobed in chocolate with a fruit jelly? I was never too crazy about them, but Grandma always had them…so they were nostalgic.

…Viva Puffs. I honestly don’t think I had seen them in 12+ years. I’ve lived in this place for over a year, and I don’t recall anyone every buying them. Tara does all the grocery shopping (mostly stateside) as it’s easier for the household, rather than have 5-6 of us all buying different things.If you’ve read further back to older posts, you’ll know that my Grandma passed away in early December. I was immediately thrown through a loop. I had both a deep sense of sadness, but also a sense of closure. This all goes back to my preface. I don’t pretend to know what happens after a person passes. I’d like to think that our loved ones stay with us in some sort of way, watching over us, keeping us safe. This felt like a reminder, to know my Grandma is still with me.

So after indulging in one, I felt compelled to repay the favour. Sure, there’s no way Tara could have known about this when she bought them. I just felt such an overwhelming sense of love, regardless of the initial intention…or even lack thereof. No matter who you are, what you believe in, returning that feeling in kind is what everyone should concentrate on more often.

After finishing unloading the dishwasher, I loaded it up again. I ran another cycle, then washed all the other dishes. I cleaned the counters and stove, and wiped the dinner table. Finally, I took out the garbage, the recycling, and the compost, despite being completely wiped and grumpy…

…all because there were Viva Puffs.

-DFP-

Tearaways and The Texas Tango

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Remember tearaway pants?

They were all the rage when I was in middle-school. Every kid wanted a pair. Anyone who got one was the immediate envy of the playground. They would be the coolest thing in pant innovation up until the convertible cargos…pants you could strip away in one quick motion to reveal you were gym-class ready with your shorts underneath.

Of course, they weren’t exactly practical. You had to wear a second pair of pants under them.

A) Because that was the whole point.
B) Without a second pair, you left yourself wide open to pranksters. (Of course, it didn’t real matter, they would still pull the rip-and-run).

This wasn’t the most comfortable get-up. It was awkward, hot, and bulky…BUT it was all worth it to show off your speedy changing abilities.

My family was on the thriftier side. Not because we didn’t have money, but more because my parents were money-conscience and never saw the need for frivolous brand-name spending. It took me a whole school year to convince them I NEEDED a pair. Even when I finally succeeded, I had some weird off-brand instead of ADIDAS or the ever coveted Champion brand.

It didn’t matter.

I was in the cool-pant clique.

ΞΞΞ

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.

There have been small reminders everywhere. Unlike in the past, I haven’t been able to avoid them. However, nowadays, it’s not hard to dismiss them.

I’m finally happy, and my assumption is that you are as well. I may have taken a little bit longer to get there, but I feel we are both finally in the headspace we tried so hard to create for each other. Did we impede each other, or were we necessary obstacles? A lesson to be learned about love and life? Was it more work than was practical to get to something that would end so quickly? What compelled us to believe the constant dance of “on-again” “off-again” was so rewarding?

Sometimes I wonder if everything was real. Maybe we were just delusions of a life we wanted to create. I can’t lie, the idea that I could tell people that I had a gal (even if she was miles away) felt like a badge of honour. Were we just social status symbols, or was there something more?

Of course, this is a pessimistic view of things.

Whatever it was we had, it was what I felt love was at that juncture in time. We created a narrative, stories which will always live in my head and in my heart. We ended up growing up and out of those tales though. We’re writing new ones with different people now, more compelling and structured than what we could accomplish together.

Still, I can’t shake this feeling. Was it all just a phase?

Were we just the flavours of the moment, destined to be grown out of?

ΞΞΞ

My newfound “coolness” didn’t last long.

For one, the off-brand I had didn’t snap off very efficiently. They were more frustrating than gratifying. Even when I finally made it to high school, got a job, and was able to afford the Holy Grail of tearaways (Champions), it felt like a hollow victory. They weren’t “cool” anymore, and their practicality had reached a low point.

So, like many other phases of my life, I tore them away one last time…

Never to be revisited.

DFP