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

005 | hers.

What’s a superbly extreme joy I’ve felt in this past year? Beyond career achievements, beyond broadening my home into an extremely comfortable white-collar prison to accommodate my every whim… It was the unexpected time and availability to connect at a deeper level with my nieces clear across the country in Vancouver. Up until March 2020, I was barely talking to her (the second was born in April 2020) once a week, if lucky. Most usually it was once a month, on a weekend morning when our times matched up, her at breakfast, me lacking an improv class or shift to run off to.

I went from barely remembering what sleeping in felt like, to lazy mornings 7-days a week, entirely focused on 3-hour Facetime hangouts and exercise sessions with a preschooler. We chatted, sang, danced and made faces at each other, eventually dissolving into simply sitting in silence in each others company while she coloured and I attempted to add on a second-a-day to my daily planking. We were suddenly gifted with the unexpected benefits of my schedule being blasted to smithereens, and her having developed enough tongue and lip control for us to converse without her parents as my kiddie translator.

A daydream I’ve held since she was born, since I realized I could be the sole non-parent in her realm purely focused on making her laugh and feel exuberant joy– I want her to never feel alone. To always know that I’m available to her at every turn. To never think that the self-depreciating thoughts that lurk in our minds, because we’re only human, in no way deserve permanent occupancy in her big beautiful brain of possibilities. (I know her parents are very much in favour of these ideas as well, but they’re also concerned with paying for her soccer equipment and ensuring she gets her reading homework done. Meanwhile, me, the languishing auntie, I’ve got all the time in the world for her beyond those boring things.)

I think about the weird shit I’ve encountered growing up, how certain peers treated me, how certain adults put me down in order to drive home a point, be it my weight or my shyness. None of it should’ve built up to a point of holding me back at stages, but yea, it happens. It happened to you. And that whole bullshit about “It made you strong and learn how to work hard to be a success,” yea all of that can go eat its own butt.

Think of how much farther ahead you’d be right now in your own vision of “success” without those setbacks. I think that’s what I’ve been exploring in my last few posts, about learning from a young age to be scared to ask for help, to be fearful of not being perfect because that’s all everyone in my community seemed to ask of me. Be nice, be sweet and be exactly what we’re telling you to be. Be their version of perfect.

I want her never to think that the self-depreciating thoughts that lurk in our minds deserve permanent occupancy in her big beautiful brain of possibilities.

For my final project in 4th-year Abnormal Psychology I focused on the topic of Exceptionalism, the opposite, but equally extreme, end of the spectrum when people think of “abnormal.” Basically, the other end of the bell curve when you look at “normal” right down the middle. Those incredible viral articles about the poor disadvantaged kid born to a single mother who almost aborted him, growing up to be the 7th-richest person in America. That stuff. The go-to view of the general public on such outliers seems to be that their tough beginnings instilled a sense of wanting more despite all odds– and Hard. Work. Pull yourself up from your bootstraps. Ooh yea. And yea, total bullshit. Yes, they did work hard, I’m in no way taking that away from them. But these are the outliers. You still have generations of kids growing up in supremely difficult and disadvantageous circumstances who do not make it out thriving, or even alive.

The absolute only single variable that was common amongst all of these kids who made it beyond the odds, despite their situations, and absolutely thrived, be it 7th-richest human or middle-class suburban glory– was the presence of an adult, any adult– teacher, neighbour, relative, Big Brother/Sister– in their life who truly believed in them. Who mentored them. Who showed them possibilities. Who supported them through their setbacks. Who cared enough to desire more for them beyond food, water and shelter. Beyond basic survival.

I’ll never regret not having started my acting career sooner, not having done an acting degree instead of Psychology, because I got the privilege to study human behaviour– the single-most influential factor in our lives– and reconfigure my worldview. (Sure, I left undergrad massively depressive and suicidal, but at least I knew what was happening, and that’s a story for another time.)

That tiny little squirt who spanned the length of my forearm when I first met her. That tiny little weirdo, home sick with a sniffle and colouring in a unicorn– her mom working in the home office, her dad preoccupied by a phonecall– pulled up Facetime on her own yesterday on the family iPad, and for the first time ever, called me.

The overwhelming magnitude of gratitude I feel towards this pandemic for shutting down the world so I could build myself into the image in my daydream, into that first person this cool little human turns to when she’s left to her own devices and on the hunt for a good time. As much as I hate covid for totally and completely throwing my career off-track, for leaving me physically and emotionally isolated at the height of grief I never could have imagined– there’s finally a sense of relief in having located a source of forgiveness and acceptance for what the world is now, and where I get to progress from now.