Month In Review: February 2016

Goodbye, February. You were an arbitrary selection of days, interspersed with different seasons. I mean, come on, going through a 50-degrees-Celsius range in one month, from -45 to 15… That’s a little ridiculous.

I didn’t have a good month, but that’s nothing to dwell on. Headcold. Emotional roller coaster. Discouragement. Onward to March.

This month in pictures:

For all my not-so-cute days, I have one or two days where I fell hella hellaaaa cute.

A photo posted by Coryl o‘Reilly (@coryldork) on

“FEELINGS ABOUT SCHOOL” ink on paper, Coryl, 2016 #doodles #cartoon

A photo posted by Coryl o‘Reilly (@coryldork) on

Grooming on his pink blanket. ??

A photo posted by Coryl o‘Reilly (@coryldork) on

Hell yeah. #homemade #sushi carrots, cucumber, tuna, avocado, wasabi, and miso soup!

A photo posted by Coryl o‘Reilly (@coryldork) on

This month, I achieved:
  • Some new writing thanks to WTH’s February Challenge. I wrote some poems, some reflective non-fiction, and the beginnings to some short stories! Not every day produced something good, of course, but I was writing. Hallelujah.
  • Confidence in my identity as A Writer. I feel less afraid than I did before.
This month, I was grateful for:
This month, I learned:

More about my triggers for my eating disorder and mental health. Seriously, figuring out what makes me want to do certain things feels so much better than being able to fight back. It’s like I have an advantage against myself.

This month, I got bored of:

University. But, hey, that’s standard for me. I’m bored easily when I don’t have reasonable challenges—and university right now, with my course selection, has no challenges at all. (Unless you consider “frustration” a challenge. I don’t.)

Next month, I’m looking forward to:
  • Getting closer to finishing this semester—and, by extension, my degree. I have 6 weeks of classes, then a few exams unfortunately spread out through the next month. I’m determined not to flake off.
  • Spending time with my rabbit. I’m trying not to be sad about his old age.
Next month, I’m going to make the positive change of:

Attending therapy weekly. I had to reschedule my appointment from last Friday (February 26) to this Friday (March 4), and thus only had one appointment in all of February. I think I’m starting to really feel some progress and learn more about myself, so I want to continue relying on my guide (AKA my counsellor).

Next month, I’m making the effort to:

Outline, plan, write, immerse myself, and make progress on THE PILGRIMAGE. Of all my novels, I feel this one has the most potential. I decided on a major change recently—removing a character entirely, in order to tighten up character arcs and thus plot—and have found excitement. Normally my writing has a small shadow of fear lingering, but this time? I’m less afraid. I have less expectations set upon myself. I’m enthusiastic.

If I had to write a book about this month, I would call it:

River Bottom Blues and Bubbles. I’ve been extremely emotional this month. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Format and some questions from “Achievement Unlocked: February 2016”

I hope you all had a decent short month. Also, can we all appreciate the Google Doodle for the leap day? Adorable. Bunnies are best.

month in review february

Night #2

You and I and our six children went to a nature retreat and hiked around. Forests. Large trees. Dirt and dead leaves. We went to a huge pool in a facility—like a rec center—and swam for a bit.

Then you all disappeared while I was changing.

We were suddenly texting each other. I was out in the pool area again, swimming, trying to find you in in the ever-expanding linoleum and water. You and the children were kidnapped by a magic king who turned you all into ice molecules. I watched you and our children flutter by, like snow caught on a breeze, and had a vision of where you went. He brought you to his kingdom on a cliff.

I found myself in the labyrinthine changing rooms and showers, trying to get away from people. Families and bodies and children following me through curving, light blue subway tiles. When I got out, through a back door, I started looking for you all.

I stood around, glancing, in a modern economy sector. Business suits. Busyness. A marble, geometric statue with the names of offices enscribed and a small fountain on top. The water dripped down the statue and over the names like rain against a window.

I wander through a cafe for writers. The building seemed small from the outside—a narrow, few-meter storefront—and I felt as if I were climbing as I walked further into it. The cafe had multiple levels, multiple lounge areas, and numerous large seating areas like high-end restaurant booths. On the right wall, behind the cashier and baristas, were locked doors. Heavy metal material. Coin slots for loonies and toonies. A sign specifying the fee for varying time allotments. These rooms were total isolation units for the patrons with the sole purpose of getting writing done.

I exited through the back door of this cafe and found myself in the nature retreat proper. An attendant ushered me to the front of a zipline queue. You contacted me again—not by texting, but by telepathically speaking into my mind. I got onto the zipline and soared across a great canyon. Though it was summer in the nature retreat, I ziplined straight into winter settled onto a pine forest.

I landed on the snowy cliff and was suddenly surrounded by beasts. These gigantic, crystalline wolves approached and teased me. They were huge—almost two storeys tall. They were in groups separated by their translucent colours. Their breath came out frosty, not only because the air was cold, but because they were ice. The packs of wolves were in red, blue, green and yellow.

While the wolves circled around me, I kept screaming for you and our children. Then I noticed you come through the great white pines and stand behind the other wolves: you and all six of our children, in translucent, white ice. The other wolves left and I ran after you, but my still-human legs could barely keep up with you. I fell behind, and as soon as you all disappeared from my sight, the magic king appeared. He flew through the air, a building-sized lion with wings and a jagged crown. I pleaded with him to make me part of the clan, to make me part of my family again.

Next I knew, I was running with the line-up of you and our children, at the tail end, as a crystal wolf. We ran through a dense forest and I seemed to be running along as if I were a balloon attached to the wolf in front of me—more floating and flying than running. As we broke out of the forest, the group split and advanced on a village situated in the clearing, at the bottom of a hill that rose up on the other side of the village. I stood and watched what you and our children did.

Everyone jumped from house to house, and each one that any of them touched became covered in ice. Then you telepathically said to me: “Sometimes we freeze them. Other times we only steal their food. But the Shirelings?”

At light speed, we zoomed in on a mother, father,  and infant huddled together beside a house. I cradled them in my gigantic, icy paw. Your voice continued as I did this. “We never harm the Shirelings, for Frodo was one of them.”

Then it jump-cut to a balcony at the King’s castle talking with his daughter, Princess Peach. She was sassy as all hell and knew alchemy, which her father disapproved of. Her father came to dispute something with her and she dusted some red powder at his nose. Mid-sentence, he stopped and said, “I forgot what I came here for,” and then left.

I woke up to blinding sun and blue skies.

night 2

The Genesis of My Creative Writing

My desire to be a novelist started when I took my first Spanish language class in high school. Prior to this class, I wrote poetry as an outlet for my emotions (#bullyingvictim) and didn’t think I could be a serious writer. I have vivid memories at age 8, when a teacher gave me one of those brightly coloured certificates for a story I wrote; and at age 10, when a story project took hold of me and my artistic ability and I went above-and-beyond the rubric. I don’t remember many good things of my past. But these flashes are important and filled with joy.

At the young age of 14, when I took that first Spanish language class, I wasn’t even thinking about careers, or life-long goals and dreams, or even what classes I would take the next year. I was thinking of my boyfriend at the time, romanticising his first language and everything about him.

Before studying Spanish, I had studied French since I was 10, as is the requirement in my school district. But since this studying was required and not voluntary, I felt it was a chore. Plus, after 4 years of studying it in elementary school, you just get bored of it.

But that Spanish class.

Oh, that Spanish class.

I felt like JRR Tolkien, the linguistic and literature nerd that he was. I was on fire. Grammar! Phonetics! More grammar! Etymology due to the Iberian Peninsula’s strategic placement between three different language families! (Okay, this I didn’t learn specifically in that class, but I did learn some tips about spelling that came directly from words coming from Arabic or Greek.)

Language opened up to me. Here I was, bright-eyed and getting straight A’s in all my Spanish courses, and all I thought about was the potential that language had.

I learned all of my English grammar when I studied French and Spanish. The two Romance languages have verb tenses, verb moods, and aspects that English doesn’t. But even now, as I enter my final year of study where Spanish Language is half of my major, I think back to French grammar rules. If you ask me to state the verb tense in “John had walked to school,” I would say “plus-que-parfait” because that’s what it is—in French, anyway. I have to remind myself of the English translation.

In the English classes I took during high school, we didn’t learn grammar. We analysed literature and media. I think in one Grade 9 class, we had a week of grammar worksheets, but nothing more. Now, my literature profs, the generation above me, question why the heck their students don’t know grammar. Because not all of us were taught it formally in school.

In my creative writing class in 2015, my professor asked me why I used a specific verb tense in contrast with the rest of the verbs in my poem. In my head, it made sense; I had the simple present and the present perfect (or present past) together, and to me (and in Spanish), those fit in the same world of past/present/future. My professor and I debated it for a bit, and, ultimately, he let me decide what I would do with the present perfect. Of course I kept it. It felt correct—and, grammatically, there was nothing wrong with it.

I wouldn’t have even known about different verb tenses if I hadn’t studied foreign languages. Where would I be in my writing journey if I hadn’t studied French for 9 years and Spanish for 5 years? Would I feel like a stranger in my own language? Would I have been inspired to start writing novels?

I don’t really know what prompted me to consider Novelist as a career in that Spanish course. I originally took the class to know more about my abusive boyfriend’s first language.

I suppose it was only a moment of inspiration. The language presented itself to me, deconstructed, and I was given the opportunity to put it back together. There, in the rebuilding, in the dissecting, in the analysing and reconstruction of the language, I think I found bliss—and power. I could create something. I could do things and hope to make other people feel what I felt—bliss, curiosity, awe, intrigue—if I could show them language used differently.

Sometimes my Spanish and French knowledge invade my English knowledge. I find myself pausing, seeking an English equivalent, but eventually settling for a near-translation. How do I translate a second person plural from Spanish to English without using slang? Y’all? You guys? Pronouns alone are troublesome in English, especially since English is so resistant to a singular “they” (which, I will state firmly now, is grammatically correct and even if it weren’t, who gives a damn? Seriously. Don’t be an ass about language “purity”).

If I had grown up bilingual, I don’t think I would have the same appreciation for language. I think I needed to study the languages and take them apart. I needed that linguistic awareness to really see the beauty behind writing.

The Genesis of Creative Writing: How I started writing creatively. It didn't start from a book; it started from language.

Therapy Diary: Day 2

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I’m nervous again but I get the feeling that this is normal and will possibly lessen as I get more comfortable with this interaction and entire shift in mindset.

Before my session, I run a few errands. It is 3 minutes before my appointment time and the door is closed. Last session, it was propped open. I am nervous, hesitate, then lightly knock on the door. My hands are overflowing with my overcoat and personal effects—I thought I would be late and rushed to get here, despite the fact that the two places I went were in the same hall. I am grateful for the “Just a sec!” response. I put things away and the door opens.

Session

I feel confident.

And I know I’m faking most of it.

I try to pay attention to some things, but I am hyper-aware of myself and how my gaze blanks out straight ahead of me, toward a filing cabinet and a poster that has Comic Sans in the titles.

We are always growing, changing, and learning—even the people who are unkind, or seem to judge and reject us.

Sit with an emotion to see what it does.

Be kind to yourself.

I blank on things to say and talk about. I don’t know why, but I’m not going to explore the why. I’m only going to explore what I want to talk about. For next session, I hope I can remember the ones I forgot for this one. And I hope I can have the courage to mention the ones I was still too afraid to mention.

Post-Session

Am I a fake? This is all pointless and I’m failing at it. I can’t open up enough. I can’t get comfortable and let myself do this. I feel blocked and resistant and I don’t know why. I think a part of me doesn’t want to get help, or be helped, or learn something about help and being helped.

And of course I blame myself for this. As if something is wrong with me, when really there isn’t anything wrong or different or abnormal. Everyone I know has mentioned the difficulty of starting therapy.

I still feel like I’m the only one doing something wrong.

Even safe spaces have adjustment periods.Therapy Diary: Day 2--Blog post about my personal experience going into therapy for my mental health. Day 2 = The second session.

This Was A Day: February 13

I slept terribly last night. Packing until 1am, after waiting for laundry, and then the excitement of returning home. I wake at 6:30am and rush to get things done: shower, breakfast, brush teeth, make and pack lunch, check my luggage to ensure everything is packed, get dressed, grab a bus ticket, and stuff my phone in my pocket. I leave the house, dragging my suitcase, bundled with my winter coat against the -35C weather, and my backpack loosened to accommodate the extra bulk.

When I wait at the stop, unfortunately one without an enclosure, I pace back and forth until I remember that jus wastes energy. My breath is collecting on my scarf and moistening the area around my mouth.

The bus is late. I have just under an hour until my train leaves and the bus takes around 20 minutes to get to the station. When it finally arrives, I sit next to an Asian girl who also has a large suitcase. I place my backpack on the seat between us and spend the ride avoiding the sun shining into my face through the opposite window.

I see the parking lot and the series of loft apartments. I pull the cord and the driver stops. After I thank him and cross the intersection, I realise I left my backpack on the bus. A blonde girl, who also had some luggage, was right behind me. The bus has a stop a little further down the road, just after another intersection, and I ask the girl if I could trust her with my suitcase. She said yes, and I sprinted like all hell to catch the bus waiting at the next stop.

I wasn’t fast enough. It is me, after all. I suck at physical activity.

There I am, on Wyandotte and Walker, wailing and cursing; wondering what the hell I was going to do without my wallet, ID, subway fare, lunch; looking up the phone number for Windsor Transit to see if I could locate my backpack or inform them about the incident. I am too upset to acknowledge if I’m crying or cursing or simply screaming, “No, no, no, no!” over and over. I try to collect myself and think straight, planning what to do, but I am certainly distraught as I walk back to the girl watching my suitcase.

And then I see with her the Asian girl who I had sat beside on the bus. Holding my backpack.

I wish I could have done something more than thank her too many times and ask if I could hug her (which she obliged). Maybe I should have offered to buy her Tim Horton’s.

I arrive at the train station, my lungs aching from the sudden aggressive use after sprinting so hard. I empty my water bottle, re-fill it, and step outside. The station is rather crowded and I need to cool down.

When the train arrives, I get to my car and sit in my seat. I settle in easily, putting on my music, adjusting my coat and sweater, and placing my bag securely between my feet. My phone is at hand, since I have my ticket saved on there. I bring out a book—The Silver Chair by CS Lewis—and finally get settled in by removing my glasses.

The attendant scans my ticket and I return to my book. I hope to finish it this train ride. It isn’t long and I don’t have much to do, after all.

The seat beside me stays unoccupied for a couple hours—the train ride is just over 4 hours long—and halfway, when we reach London, a chatty woman gets on with a friend of hers.

I’m going to blame the snow for my distraction. Also, probably hunger. That egg salad wrap in my bag has been on my mind since I got onto the train.

My timing for the ride and my reading ability is fairly accurate: just as I’m reaching Toronto, my destination, I’ve finished the book. I prepare for the terminal, the new renovations, and hope for no confusion as I try to get to the subway.

After a sign on printer paper directs me toward the TTC, I follow more permanent ones. The construction has lessened compared to my last visit to the VIA station.

As I get into the junction between Union and the TTC, I spot the girl who had picked up my backpack. She’s heading toward the University-Yonge line, as I am, and I slow down. The area is wide and not busy. Numerous DO NOT ENTER signs are around different spinning gateways that look more like torture devices with how man bars are in the way

After I pay my fare—exact change—I make my way toward the different lines. One is north toward Finch and the other north toward Downsview. The girl from earlier heads toward Finch and I almost head the same direction until I read the sign.

I can only fuck up so many times in a day.

The ride on the subway is fairly pleasant. I sit near the back of a car, my one side against the wall of the car and near the accordion-folding floor. I put my backpack beside me and keep an eye on it, with my knees gripping my suitcase. I take out The Last Battle and start reading, with one ear free to hear the station names announced over the speaker. Waiting for Yorkdale.

While reading the first two chapters of the final instalment of The Chronicles Of Narnia, I think of abusive relationships. Shift and Puzzle definitely have an abusive relationship, filled with gaslighting and everything wrong in communication, skewed to make it seem like compassion.

It is even colder up here in Toronto than it was in Windsor, and I call my dad to let him know I’m on the Yorkdale platform. He instructs me to go where he’s going to pick me up. I stand in the underpass, unsure where I even am, in the wind and the cigarette smoke. I try to huddle between two weird boxes; one is digital and the other is locked. I watch the intersection for my dad’s van and he finally arrives.

Halfway into our hour-long drive to my hometown, we stop for food. The supposed “udon” noodles I have, with teriyaki sauce, vegetables, and beef, are like thick bits of dough, rather than the authentic Japanese udon noodles I’ve had before. But I’m grateful for the food. The beef is nice.

I’m finally home and the first thing I want to do is snuggle my rabbit. He’s been staying with my little brother since I returned to university at the beginning of January.

I barely recognise Pringles. He doesn’t seem real to me, like he’s a very well-done CGI rabbit. He reacts to my voice and hides in his blue hut. I take him out and snuggle him. I splutter and whine, and then splutter some more since he’s shedding—which I didn’t know. His fur gets all over my mouth, nose, and shirt, but he nuzzles into me.

I wonder if my love for him is like a parent’s love for their infant.

When my brother returns, I give him a hug. We watch some movies. I snuggle Pringles for many hours and accidentally fall asleep on the couch.

It’s nice to be back. The snow is falling and the air isn’t as dry as in Windsor. There are no people shouting as they walk by a sidewalk—mostly because there is no sidewalk and the population in this town is mainly retired folks instead of post-secondary students.

I do some low-key unpacking and am relieved I haven’t forgotten anything.

This Was A Day: February 13 - A play-by-play of February 13, the day I took a train from Windsor to Toronto to visit family on my mid-semester break.

Therapy Diary: Day 1

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I slept like shit last night. My mind raced and my body found small nuisances, like a stuffed nose, dry air, and the weight of too many blankets. I think it was around 3:30am when I finally managed to pass out? And of course I woke up at 8:30 .

I blame nerves and anxiety.

My appointment is for 3:00pm and I can’t concentrate on the other tasks for today, since I’m worrying about how the first session will go. This will be the third time I’ve seen a therapist—the first was in 2010 and was… okay. My mother asked me about each session, wanting to know what I talked about. It was a fucking nightmare and made my progress worse. It was only a short term series of appointments, too. Once the term was up, I didn’t know what action to take afterward. I think I was okay for a while.

The second time was in 2013, almost two years ago from this third time around. I saw the therapist a couple of times, but then stopped. I don’t remember why.

I know the logistics of a therapy session. I know more or less what to expect.

I guess I’m scared of letting myself be vulnerable and opening up to someone who can help.

I don’t have much trouble being open. But I do still censor and monitor myself when I am open, particularly when I know how the recipient generally reacts to what I might say, especially when the person is only a listener.

Right now, I need more than a listener.

I could be much worse than I am, but I want to prevent the Rock Bottom Effect; I know I’m edging toward a cliff, and I’d rather get help now in walking away from the cliff, or building a safety wall at the edge of the cliff, or taking some other precaution so I don’t metaphorically jump off the cliff.

I know I’m going to cry. I’m a crier even when it isn’t in the context of speaking about my feelings, thoughts, and experiences.

I’m going to make a list of what I might say, only to avoid fumbling and rambling. Maybe write down what I hope to get out of therapy, and anything else that comes to mind, so I have a better starting point.

I hope I jive well with the therapist. She has a cool name.

Session

“We become thinkers.”

“As you watched everything happen, you learned how to strategise and how to survive.”

“You were just a little girl.”

I cry a lot and she draws my attention to how my body responds to my thoughts, how my voice changes, the positioning of my hands, my breathing. She talks about anatomy and autonomy; about curiosity and survival. I wish I had brought water. Crying and breathing and talking for 45 minutes turns my mouth into a bundle of gel, from mucous and saliva and air mingling together. I’ll remember for next time.

I revealed a lot about myself from the first few minutes and questions. She clarifies the pronunciation of my name. I ask if I can remove my boots, and then get into a comfortable seat on the couch.

She’s good at what she does: a Buddhist, non-judgemental, experienced in her field. I’m grateful for her position as a guide more than a listener. Instead of talking at her about my experiences, receiving a few questions, she directs me inward and explains and uses analogies.

I sense a glimmer of progress.

Post-Session

I still feel disconnected and dissociated, but that’s okay. When I return home, my eyes puffy and my face salt-stained from tears, I drink water and prepare a cup of herbal tea. After sitting at my desk and sipping half of the orange spice tea away, I grab a notebook and journal some thoughts and make some lists. Judgement. Rationalisation. Criticism. Curiosity. I am an expanding puzzle, missing parts of my frame. Who cares about the picture when there are pieces of emptiness riddling the scene?

I cry some more, because that’s what I do. I will see her next week and I’m hopeful, nervous, and excited for what will happen.Therapy Diary: Day 1--Blog post about my personal experience going into therapy for my mental health. Day 1 = The first session.