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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

The year I turned sixteen was, for lack of a more poetic descriptor, a bit of a garbage heap.

My parents split up.

My Nana died.

I spent the entirety of my grade ten year trying to eat as little as I could, and exercise as much as possible.

The acne on my forehead, chest, and back mutated from a small community garden patch, to a GMO-modified super crop. Equal parts horrified and embarrassed, I spent as much time spackling concealer onto my shoulders as I did my face. (Thankfully, for my birthday I was gifted a prescription for Accutane, and therefore also a new lease on my teenage dermatological life.)

I had braces and was in total denial about my (very real) need for glasses. I can never be sure I didn’t cause permanent damage to my eyes, what with the amount of squinting I performed every day at school.

I had extensive surgery which saw the breaking of both of my jaws and the reconstruction of my mouth. The end result was a complete restructuring of my facial composition and profile – although this never became apparent until approximately three months post-breakage, what with the amount of swelling that I had to live down.

During this time, I ate so much instant oatmeal I couldn’t even look at Quaker package for almost six years.

That summer, I enrolled myself in Camp Potlatch’s “Leadership in Training” course, the completion of which would certify me to work as a camp counsellor.

Unfortunately, my Nana died two days before I was to start the camp and I missed the first three days as I had to fly down to Nova Scotia for her funeral and wake.

I remember feeling so utterly discombobulated flying back home by myself. I was jet-lagged and flu-ridden from the back-to-back, cross-country plane rides and the ensuing whirlwind of familial gatherings, churches and burials.

I was also livid that my parents still expected me to attend the camp. I hadn’t even had the chance to properly grieve, and here I was flying right back home, packing up my bags and pretending like nothing had happened.

I’ll never forget the car ride to the camp’s boat launch just outside of Squamish – my entire body seething with teenage rage, hurt, and indignation.

Any time my dad said anything I just ignored him while screaming, “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP” inside my head.

Unfortunately, once I arrive at the camp things didn’t get much better.

My first three hours were spent in the frigid waters of Howe Sound, learning how to right a capsized canoe.

I also somehow lost my retainers (negating much of my happiness from having just gotten my braces off in the first place!) and then almost fainted, as I was too embarrassed to tell anyone that I was very hungry and hadn’t consumed anything since leaving Halifax the day before.

I was also subjected to the advances of the world’s worst flirter – a seventeen year-old boy named Christian, who was my partner in our canoe-training exercise.

Christian was about six foot four, weighed approximately one hundred and fifty pounds, and had a shock of white-blond hair that stood a good six inches straight up from his head.

He liked to sing to me, in particular the lyrics from Dennis Leary’s seminal work “I’m An Asshole.”

As you can imagine, I was immediately smitten.

Walking up from the waterfront, soaked from head to foot, lugging the front end of our very wet, and very heavy canoe, I felt the first prickle of a tear in my eye.

Trying my best to air on the side of positivity, I whispered to myself that “there was no way this could get any worse.”

And then it started to rain.

I immediately began to plot my escape: I would tell the director that my mourning was too great! I would “accidentally” break a limb!

No doubt reacting to my increasingly pallid complexion and demoralized demeanor, my counsellor Julie came up to me, put her arms around my shoulders and gave them a squeeze.

“Come on,” she said. “Let’s go get warmed up.”

As we walked up to the showers, she and Amanda (another counsellor in-training) let me know how happy they were to have another girl in their ranks.

“I really didn’t want it to be just me and five guys,” smiled Amanda.

Looking quickly back at Christian and his rag-tag group of compatriots, I silently agreed. I too wouldn’t have wanted Amanda to weather the incoming storm on her own.

As we walked into the washroom, and I saw both Julie and Amanda begin to undress, I felt a wave of panic rise inside of me.

I didn’t want to get naked in front of these two strangers.

I didn’t want anyone to see my body.

For a second I was completely paralyzed, unable to even breathe.

But then I saw how completely unmoved both of them were by the scenario; how completely at ease they were in their skin.

And in that moment I wanted this more than anything I had ever wanted anything before – more than I wanted my parents to get back together, more than I wanted my Nana to be alive, more than I wanted clear skin, and skinny legs.

I just wanted to be warm, and bare, and happy.

So I took off my clothes and under the stream of the second shower from the left, I felt some of that happiness and strength.

And in that moment I forgot about my retainers. About my parents. About death, and acne, and my body.

I just felt the water warm me – all of me.

The following three weeks were impacting, and transforming, and utterly brilliant. That time spent in the bush canoeing, hiking, kayaking, building fires, cooking camp food, swimming, fending off Christian’s advances, and sleeping under the stars was exactly what I needed to get over the trauma and drama of being sixteen years-old.

At least for a little while.

(Along, of course, with Accutane.)

Say something I’ve giving up on you

Okay.

Some things.

First.

I made this:

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In light of the Seahawks’ absolute dismantling of poor Peyton Manning (and what I can only surmise to be the entire collective Coloradean consciousness), I figured post-game we all needed to bring a bit of levity to the situation.

Because, and I think we can also all agree here, that a slightly more entertaining game, and not just a blow-out of every tire on the Denver semi-truck heading to Nowheresville, would have made for a much more enjoyable three hours of football.

(And to all the glorious, gloating – totally deserved, and encouraged gloating – Seattle-ites –  yes, I too am including you in that sentiment.)

Just saying.

But seriously though, what is wrong with this man?

Why does he look like this?

(Also, WHO IS HE?)

And why doesn’t he know that, in the end, the light side always, ALWAYS wins?

Second.

This quote:

“A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.” —Charles Peguy

I have been thinking about this a lot of late..

I came across this text in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death this past week.  Someone commented that, although he was not a writer, he was often reminded of Mr. Peguy’s word when confronted with Hoffman’s seamless, and yet soul-wracking transition from one character to the next.

And of this, I agree.

I cannot say that I have ever been disappointed by any of his myriad performances. Whether disgusting, or delightful, there was always an innate (and oh-so important) humanity to his characters; one that was never forgotten, nor manipulated, or abused.

But truly, for me, Hoffman will always and forever be The Big Lebowski’s Brandt, the most amazingly sycophantic suck-up to ever grace the silver screen. An absolute perfect foil to both the Dude’s lackadaisical, anti-hero, and Walter’s neo-conservative, Vietnam vet (and owner of Sobchak Securities.)

Just listen to this laugh:

I love this movie more than I can properly communicate, and although only a supporting role, Hoffman’s brilliant portrayal of the Big Lebowski’s assistant is the linchpin, of what I believe to be, the best movie I will most likely ever watch.

And I think that’s why I’m thinking about the quote – everything about the film feels as though it is the sum of months, and months of meticulous preparation, culminating in pitch-perfect performances by absolute masters of their crafts.

It is gut-wrenching in its simplicity, and perfection.

You truly can always tell when an individual, or individuals, put everything they have into their art. (I use the term “art” loosely, and define it as anything from dance, to sculpture, to ultramarathon running, to public company auditing.) It doesn’t matter the medium. Gut-wrenching transcends boundaries, or definitions.

It, as I believe as shown by the outpouring of grief over Mr. Hoffman’s death, transcends life.

Third.

For my part, I’ve been doing some light crying all evening long.

Not for any real purpose or another.

I watched this video a couple of hours ago, and all I’ve done in the interim is listen to incredibly sappy, emotionally destructive songs, and read about all the insane human rights abuses occurring at this precise moment, all around the world.

Sometimes I think the world is void of anything good.

There is no other way to describe the sensation of emptiness I feel when confronted by such ignorance and inequality.

I want to run away and hide and have Marc’s strong arms wrap around my weak little body and then we’ll just lie that way until our bones rust, and our smiles turn to stone.

This could, of course, never happen.

Because a.) I know how to turn off Youtube.

And b.) because I am, as some of you know, a proper LOVE WARRIOR and if nobody else is going to champion the betterment of this heaving cesspool of a planet, then I bloody well GET ON IT.

Plus my body is jacked.

JACKED.

Fourth.

I am writing a book.

This is exciting.

STAY TUNED.

Fifth.

For my birthday I did this to my hair:

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I have been wanting to do something blondy-blond for a while now, but haven’t been able to muster up the appropriate level of courage to commit to the follicle colourization process with gusto.

(AKA I am a giant wimp.)

But I figured I am only twenty-nine once – I might as well do it now before the aliens arrive and I spent the next sixty-odd years of my life making origami toilet paper swans for our six-legged, intergalactic overlords.

They’ll probably want me bald as a baldy thing.

(Egg? Cue Ball? Bruce Willis?)

Yippee Kai Yay.