009 | still on the hunt.

Every night I fill up the humidifier on my bedside table with a large plastic jug of water, up to the marked line indicated by a sticker holding up its own against the well of water and moisture, and have the same thought, “Sarah’s no longer alive. You won’t see her again.”

And every time my brain retorts, “Well, that’s absurd.

“But yea, that’s accurate.” And then I get scared.

Because it is so very absurd and it came true. Five months post-“the news that night,” six weeks of weekly therapy sessions in, I’ve gotten to a point where the daytime finally again has its distinction from the nighttime. The daytime, the lightness, the sun and even dark rainy clouds, offer the opportunity of time and space to focus on the here and now and do my taxes, the hunt for joy through collaborative fulfilling work, and feeling panic ease away as I engage in daily sessions of relaxation– Disneynature documentaries are the current drug of choice. Observing animal behaviour we’d ordinarily never otherwise have a chance to witness really drives home that oh-so-healthy notion of not being alone, that what we are and feel is universal, no matter how we all do it, and will continue to evolve and change, in that I won’t always be stuck in this glue.

But it’s that nightly routine of wrapping up our days and bringing it to a close, and we naturally incline towards an unconscious review of our day and assign a satisfactory grade or a disappointing sigh. An exuberant excitement in the past five months is something I’ve yet to etch into my brain during this examination period. And that’s a given. But it’s a yearning that’s popped up in the past week that I can’t seem to squash. Like a teasing ray of sunlight from between the cracks of heavy dusty window drapes that I can’t seem to locate in this room. I want to whip them open and feel excitement and love and a thrill that I know will be contrasted by the most depressingly low of the lows the following day– because that’s how I interpret my deservingness of joy, apparently; a mandatory immediate return to a balance of debts and credits. But I still want it. I’ve felt the lowest of lows, the bottom-depths of pressure exploding from within your temple kind of hell. And now I want the high. I want the high that makes those lows… not “worth it” but more… acceptable.

Because if anything, I know there’s a balance. That low I was at, it could not be sustained. That low might revisit me, no doubt it could, but my ultimate fairy-clouds hopes and dreams on Gumdrop Lane would be to have achieved and experienced a joy like none other before the next lowest of lows.

My last post (008) was me attempting this post and topic, but redirecting and ending in a quick joke. So I’m back, trying again. I want joy. I tried to find it in savoury puff pastries and Toblerone chocolate tortes and countless other delicious temporary hits. No. I’ve felt joy. That wasn’t it at all.

I listened to the recording of my set on my phone that I left with you. It was all of you laughing.

Cathy Boyd, after her stand-up set at Comedy Bar

Then I embarked on funny videos on the internet, a classic for a reason. I’ve gut-busted a few times and the fact that every instance of those belly laughs was a remarkable moment is depressing on its own, when you are in fact known within your comedy community as the one to invite to your show if you want the audience to immediately get on your side. Professional Laugher will likely be my backup career, that’s how loudly and easily it comes to me, to the dismay of my mouse-like parents (which they are not, so I don’t know where this detriment built from). Numerous times I’ve apologized to my colleagues for accidentally sitting next to the camera and almost making their footage unusable, but they swore I made it sound like the audience was completely onboard. I don’t know. I think most room acoustics and recording devices would prefer such outlier sounds be evened out by a mid-room placement. Yes, I will sit right up front in the first row and be your proud mama hen.

I heard your laugh after our first joke and immediately thought, “Oh, phew, Bree’s here! We’ll be fine.”

Rob Michaels, after sketch comedy troupe Woke ‘n’ Broke’s first Fringe performance

I want to feel good. I want to crave amazing something so badly.

Do you have images in your head of memories long gone… but they’re of scenes from books you read (or fanfic) or TV shows (or fanfic)? Might not even be a significant scene, but the rush of memories you feel from the emotions tangled up in the tiny details of how a character stood, not knowing what to do with their arms, or an overarching theme of implications of the moment. Sometimes it feels easier to revisit Sarah through those scenes. It’s got me hunting for an Ugly Betty fanfic about her loving the heck out of an ugly blue and yellow sweater that Daniel loathes, then comes around to loving because it simply makes her happy. I think it’s gone, taken offline in the decade since I absorbed the images into my cortex through incessant re-reads. But I just have to accept it. I have to accept that I won’t have certain things in my life again. I have to accept that my most enthralling and weirdest and fulfilling relationship ever took a nightmare of a detour, dragged eighteen months, and then before even a hint of closure or a gift of resolution could be felt through her own unique Sars-like ways, she died. Of all the loved ones grieving this human, how am I the one left with this particular mess. I don’t get why, after decades of cherishing this human, I’m left holding this godawful bucket of vile fish heads gaping up at me in horror and fear, all wondering the same, why the fuck did this happen to me.

-The way to repair a rupture-- in your case, a massive gaping hole-- in your fabric is through communication, leading to receiving an apology.
-What happens when the person is mentally not able to and you know it so you were never expecting it. Or, what happens when the person dies?
-Then... well, ideal would be communication--
-What happens when they die.
-You accept it.

Sourcing out joy, v.2.0 didn’t pan out. I’ll try again in a future post. For now I’ve got a flock of flamingos to go get lost in on the Disney+ app.

Oh no, I just noticed you’re filming. Should I move?

Me

007 | thar she blows.

What the hell are we even supposed to do with anger? Evolutionarily, currently, in reality– what? Are we supposed to pump out its venom until we successfully destroy everything and everyone in our vicinity? Distractions rarely put it out.

Sadness, I can sit in it. It hurts, it can hurt a lot and very deeply, but half the time it almost slows down time to let you figure out what got you there.

But anger. What is the fucking point. It’s seemingly incomprehensible most times. Flares up as quick as the fire imagery its equated to. Completely smoothers and squashes down everything else in its path like a flash flood or tornado ripping through your brain.

And all for what? Evolutionarily, is it supposed to be the kindling that sparks the fight response rather than flight?

But personally, and currently in reality, I want to know to what end I’m supposed to carry this flame torch.

What am I supposed to destroy in my path. What am I supposed to leave in ruins in my wake.

Disclaimer: Don’t worry, I’m not a complete lunatic you need to be wary of working with or friending. December 2016, I tried meditation for the first time and my very next visit to my parents was life-changing. The way my brain and body reacted to my mother’s incessant outdated generational sexist ramblings fully confirmed to me the value of mindfulness and meditation.

But hold on, before I show you the After picture, let me share the Before.

In fifth grade our whole grade took a field trip to Medieval Times. Who knows why, but I’m glad the teachers got to enjoy a show and delicious meal rather than have to supervise kids losing their minds– rowdy levels matching the level of exuberance brought forth by jousting knights was left to the discretion of MT staff to decide upon. My class was placed under the Blue Knight’s care. We got blue flags and blue paper crowns, which afterwards the Blue Knight himself signed for me. I hope that actor felt like the castle’s King that day, surrounded by screaming 10-year olds.

The paper crown being autographed, I kept it in care. Sat it on the top shelf of my bedroom closet. Didn’t fold it. There it sat fully curved with its peaks sharp.

You know what’s coming. I got angry one afternoon at my family. I don’t know specifically who, I don’t know over what. I just know my anger was rage in the fullest sense of the word. Whether I was sent to my room or ran away in the middle of my screaming match in the living room in order to gain a power position (he who speaks last…), I have a vivid image in my head of running into my bedroom, slamming the door, pacing furiously, completely worked up, absolutely no clue as to how to, what to, where, what, why to do with this anger erupting out of me. I flung open my closet doors, started yanking and throwing clothes out in all my fury, and up I looked.

Oh, how it sat. A blue, a lovely medium blue, a hint of cobalt, a hint of navy. “Medieval Times” in ye olde font. Not a bend or fold to be seen. And that hurried scrawl in black Sharpie.

How dare it remind me of a good moment in time.

Didn’t even hesitate between grabbing it and that first satisfying rip. A very thin bristle board with a shiny coating, it was very giving under each rip, rip, rip. I shredded the Blue Knight’s honour as if it were my father going to town on a bank document with his full name and mailing address going into the recycling bin. Man v. Identity Thief. No, an electric shredder certainly could not accomplish the task as thoroughly as my father could with his hands– and that is exactly what I did to that crown.

Rip, rip, rip. How dare you exist in happiness while I am completely turned inside-out.

It wasn’t enough though. I remember hundo-p not giving a flying fuck as to how I’d destroyed a sweet memory of a nice day, and continued onwards into a full-body tantrum on my bed. Because I was eleven years old and had no idea how to figure out and fix what I was mad about.

It sits there, burning under my skin and heavy on my tongue.

That’s one incident I can remember very clearly. And throughout my childhood and teenage years and into my twenties, my parents had no qualms about reminding me of my “anger problem.” Which is such a stupid laugh in the face when you think of a child having anger problems– not including drastic physiological factors and disorders requiring medical intervention– can we please look at the people they are modelling within the home. Hot tempers are always very much accepted from those in the power position, but not the one expected to be subservient.

It was always confusing to me as to how I was the one labelled with an anger problem. Outside of the home I was pretty shy, funny, a rule-follower, and later, quite charming and genuine in affection. But with my parents, I was a monster apparently.

Plain words– where the heck was I supposed to learn anger management ’cause it sure as heck wasn’t happening under the very people who taught me the power of a bad mood.

The phrase “water rolling off a duck’s back”? Me. I was the duck. I’m never the duck!

So, December 2016, I was wrapping up my first year of acting classes. I’d been going heavy and throwing myself into the deep end of this career transition looming on the horizon. By night, I was attending acting classes or memorizing lines. By day, I was at my corporate office job, fully immersed in one acting book after another (at lunch only, I swear), one acting podcast after another (throughout my entire day at my desk, working). I filled my brain with what to expect, how to manage my career, how to find non-union gigs to start off my resume, how to not ruin first impressions with the very few casting directors in Toronto, how to build my community of actors, how to juggle side-jobs, how to receive acting notes, how to take direction from a director, how to train, how to be on set, how to… imagine the ludicrous career I’d first declared to myself almost twenty years prior.

So I was in it. A sponge fully dunked not just in the kitchen sink, but the Pacific Ocean.

And one podcast featured a guest. An actor turned meditation coach. She spoke of how she once sat in awe of her co-star backstage, an actor who was juggling multiple understudy roles without breaking a sweat, without freaking out. She herself was losing her mind. She asked how. And her coworker let her in on her secret: meditation.

To me, the person who so craved the limelight, but barely handled the nerves, this definitely caught my attention. When I’d get on stage for a stand-up set, I’d leave the mic on the stand for at least the first minute, just to let my hands calm down and stop shaking. So why not give it a go? Got this quick 5-minute meditation from this coach right here on this podcast…

Three days later, my friends and cousins were in attendance at my term-end performance. Mine the first in the showcase, a scene from Storm Warning. After a quick few minutes of alternate-nostril breathing backstage, I made my luscious entrance. Performance? Great, I enjoyed it thoroughly (my mom, begrudgingly viewing the tape later, “overacting”). But what I remember sharing the most was my shock in how my nerves were reduced by “at least 70%, I swear.” I didn’t need much else to continue onwards with meditation and mindfulness, in order to assist me on this new career path I was on. You keep on a great employee, you know what I’m saying?

Few days later, I was at my parents. We’re in the kitchen. Mom’s spouting off something or other about how I’m not living up to my potential by being unwed… and I felt fine. I mean, I could hear her words. I definitely heard them. But they weren’t landing on my nerves. They had no power. The phrase “water rolling off a duck’s back”? Me. I was the duck. I’m never the duck! (Not in hockey, either, sadly.)

The moment when your world shifts into perfect axis, boots up to the optimal speed, and lets you float.

It took my parents a long time to stop faulting me for my “anger problem” as it is difficult for people to unconsciously fall out of habits, you know, especially when they’re not consciously trying to stop said bad habit. But they’ve had to, because I really don’t give them much ammo anymore.

But when I fall out of my meditation practice for a few months too long? You better believe I’m quickly alerted to an overreaction.

And right now, I’m in a really fragile moment, speaking of the emotional aspect of my journey on this earth. I’m grieving, I’m mostly isolated like so many others (52% of my urban provincial riding, apparently, according to my Member of Provincial Parliament’s enewsletter early on in the pandemic), and I’m doing my best to give myself designated moments of relaxation and laughter and joy, to keep myself patient and calm.

Because in this frenzied time of anxiety and grief, when I feel triggered, when I get riled up, it’s not always sadness, or despair, or grief, or panic, or boredom. It’s anger. It sits there like a burning under my skin and heavy on my tongue, ready to lash out at those who are supporting me and treating me with kindness. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this anger beyond exercise and/or barf up my poison through talking or writing.

So. What’s the purpose of anger? What am I supposed to do when I get angry at the world for carrying on while I feel stuck in tar? I’m at the end of this post and I can still feel it simmering, little zaps. This achieved nothing. I clarified nothing. Guess I’ll just wait.