Sunday, 29 December 2019

A Revisiting of Self-love vs. Inflicting Resolution

General well-being for me... cannot wait until New Year's Day. So despite considerable gravitation pull to stay one, with the Lay-Z-Boy; I busted out, got on my bicycle, and rode an indirect route, to the very coffee shop, I'm now visiting. I've taken note of the various perspectives regarding - not feeling compelled to be doing, maintaining the pinnacle of productivity and social calendar this time of year. Yesterday I was the embodiment of inertia - with the exception of bookending the day with meditation, a stretching routine in the a.m. and a some walking - not much happened. 

I understand the value of honouring this time of year (the darkness/void) a time of introspection - not getting too wrapped up in the "Christmas crazies." I also need to remember, that I am given to be introspective all year round ... it is my default lens. Bigger picture views ,I have to work at to consider. Introspection, to the point of becoming inactive, don't serve me. There has been a vast amount, of emotional processing for me throughout the year. I am therefore on all levels,  rebuilding. As such, driving myself, at this time, is not conducive to well-being either.

I sat with my nose in the "social" media for a while. The "phone" saw fit to affirm for me, my screen time was up this week, and on average, my day to day walking was on par .... but I have walked more overall in past weeks.

I don't go looking for this information ... it just arbitrarily presents. There was a time I was tracking my walking - I was jump starting a fitness program, and I wanted to make sure, I was achieving a minimum activity level, every day. I needed the push then, I was suffering the consequences of too much inactivity, the monitoring was helpful in staying pro-active. Now, I can just tell within myself, if I'm active enough. I love to be active, I love the feeling of being fit. I'm not keen on the feeling of restoring fitness, when I've become de-conditioned.

I puttered around the house some, recycling and such, taken out. Rooting through stuff, continuing to compile that which is to be purged. Which is one of my intentions .. but I had to keep it in check or I wouldn't have got out the door. Wrongly place activity, can quite readily become, a distraction or avoidance.

There hasn't been much in the way of "seasonal indulgence" for me (in terms of consumables) so I don't have that deficit to over come. I don't drink, no baking (haven't felt like it) a few bags of cheesies and slipped back into a little caffeine consumption - my body let me know in short order, it's displeasure with my choices, and I've discontinued.

The route I rode getting here, took me around part of the "water-front;" a pleasant scenic distraction to the "exercise," albeit the road is still in pretty rough shape, as the work continues to install, a sewage treatment plant, and pipelines to transport the discharge, to a secondary treatment facility. This is the longest ride of I have under-taken since resuming riding a few weeks ago. I feel good about that, although whether I need to adjust the seat, replace it, or just get accustomed again; I'm not enamoured, with the mashing of my gonads whilst riding.

I'm sitting at a table on the patio of this coffee shop, the overhead radiant heaters making it pretty comfy. I'm intermittently over-come with the glare of my "cycling" jacket. I decided soon after resuming riding, to attend to my visibility in traffic. I took note of various riders, pedestrians, road-work flag people. Though gaudy, these jackets are, unquestionably visible. I've always had lights (except on those occasions when they were stolen) but even in daylight hours, this time of year (rainy or low light) I noticed, that I could see those wearing the reflective clothing, before I could see their lights. So it's quite possible the only time I will wear it is riding, but I consider it would be an unfortunate irony, to resume riding for my health, and get creamed by a car (the most common cause of which is drivers say: "I just didn't see them!!") As a driver, I can say, I have encountered situations where that was true - until I was nearly upon them, they were virtually invisible.  Of course the jacket doesn't override the need, to ride safely and be alert.

I don't place a great deal of stock in "the New Year," there are things I have in mind to do, but not because it's a new year - but, that I have a want to do them, and the time is right. I haven't trashed myself through the holiday, so I don't need to resolve to live"better."

I have a wide range, of "wellness" experience, from trying so many different approaches myself. I could be helpful in coaching others. I don't have the cookie cutter paradigm for anyone... a lot would depend on where they're at & what they hope to achieve... Much of what I'm doing, has been arrived at through trying it on, seeing how I respond to it, achieving some continuity (check in again)... how do I feel, when said activity, has been let go for awhile.. Adherence, while once all about "discipline" has softened to include - that the maintaining of certain "habits;" is a self-loving thing, for me to be doing. This includes doing what feels right for me (not what someone else "tells" me, I "should" be doing...) I'm not advocating the renouncing of discipline .... it has it's place and can be seen in the light of self-love as well - if it isn't inflexible and tyrannical.

My experience tells me, few people (myself included) respond well, to anything being enforced upon them - even if they are their own enforcer.... 

For me, wellness is a process, that happens within an over-arching intention of self-love (which in itself is an organic undertaking)... "Resolutions" - enforced, rigid, expectations, annually imposed -are I would say, part of a patriarchal mindset, that ignores a significant part of being human... 

How can that be considered wellness?

R. O'Neill (December 29, 2019)

Saturday, 28 December 2019

On the Road Again......

Considerable time has elapsed, since I have plied my love of singing through busking. It is my intention to become consistent once again. Which of course means, beginning. There has been some considerable inertia, with respect to resuming. Today, at least for today, that inertia was broken. I was happy to get first crack at the downtown library courtyard, which is both sheltered and acoustically advantaged. Being December, the former is a significant consideration. 

I think I might have played (and sang) for an hour or maybe a little more. It felt good. Though my equipment has been sitting untouched for sometime.. I discovered my music stand has popped a rivet and for sure a new set of strings wouldn't hurt. The stand is still useable (though it might be a little more unstable if there was to be a wind)... it's probably repairable - God knows who would do that sort of thing.. Maybe I can find a tiny screw and nut to slip through there. I don't want to just toss it, if it can be repaired. I don't necessarily feel a sentimental attachment, though it belonged to my adopted father (from when he was musician in the Naden band) and was then passed on to me. I think I more, feel adverse, to the idea of so much these days, be treated as "disposable." 

Maybe getting out and playing, might motivate me, to put some time and energy into expanding my relationship, with the guitar. If not "lessons" there seems to be endless stuff on Youtube - seeing various artists on facebook posts, shows me there is endless directions, one could develop on the guitar. I need to allow myself the exploration and venture into unknown territory and just be a beginner in these realms. I can ply the waters of the familiar, which is my mainstay for busking... just for the sheer joy of it. At the same time, I could allow allow myself, to have no idea what I'm doing and enjoy that... I have the time, or I'm sure; I can designate some of my time, toward this endeavour. I've stayed rooted in the familiar with guitar, probably as much as anything, because I have been reticent to embrace the unfamiliar. My aim is to give myself the gift of play.. There must be some combination of getting grounded in the fundamentals and just happy accidents. There's a whole neck on that guitar that is under utilized. Some people just "teach" themselves, I'm no prodigy anything I accomplish will have to be ground out through endless repetition. There have been places in time where I spent hours a day on the guitar. I don't know that there will be a return to that, but some continuity of course would allow for the breaking of new ground and retaining it.

I have spent considerable time in personal expansion, growth and healing - while I recognize that all represents, a life-long journey; I also recognize, that while I allowed a very diversified exploration for quite sometime... a reinsertion, of some focus would be useful. The guitar for me is symbolic of my life. There are some things I'd like to see happen in my life. In some cases I have made appreciable beginnings and then perhaps there has been plateau or an interruption. In other cases I feel drawn toward certain work/service, but I have been hesitant both to make a concrete start, along with, diminishing, my own life experience toward these ends.

Busking isn't strictly about "performing," for me. It has that, aspect to it. It also helps me get out of myself (fears, self-judgments) ... I guess it addresses what ever spectrum of fears that are cited as being present in for example,"public-speaking." But again, it really is what you train yourself to become comfortable with. A few years ago, I was busking regularly and got a few different opportunities, to sing/play as a soloist, at a "spiritual community" in town. Big fancy venue... up on a platform, bright lights, microphones (with their associated cords and stands).... and a somewhat more attentive audience... all these elements, combine to create a potpourri, of unfamiliar and a call for adaptation. Being well grounded in the songs I was playing, helped me deal with my nerves around the other variables ... but for sure there was more adrenalin flowing. That I have done that in the past, gives me the assurance of the "experience;" but without regular participation, to just step into the situation again, would likely have, some of the elements of "unfamiliar" return.

It's interesting being in the act of busking. There's an element of, "fly on the wall" about it, at times. I engage, and try to connect, with some folks when I'm playing (those that are interested in paying attention). For many, they are so deeply involved, in their own train of thoughts or experiences, that the music goes largely unnoticed. 

There are those that view street performing, as nothing more than "pan-handling." (These attitudes can be reflected in such attitudes as, "if he was any good, he'd be singing in a real venue." Patrirarchy/capitalism creating the attitude, that arts are only really of any value, if you get rich doing it and street performing, certainly doesn't fit the criteria for a "real job." As such, they avoid eye contact ... lest even the smallest amount of humanity,  might cost them (personally and/or financially). 

I gratefully accept any and all tips!! I'd take bags full of money if they were offered. I also don't place that expectation on my art - my creative expression. If it yields some financial return, cool!! If some session aren't particularly "lucrative," I still consider it a gift given and a gift received, to be able to do it.

Then there are people from the other end of the spectrum, that stop and listen, sing along... or dance with their little children; wait for a song to be complete, to then come, and share a story of the significance of that song to them, or just to say thank you.

Today, as I was starting to put my gear away... a mom and and her little son stopped.. He was telling me that he had a guitar... we entered into a discussion about that and then he wanted me to play something.... I said, I would be happy to, if they could wait a moment, while I dug out a particular song sheet... They were all thrilled with "Puff the Magic Dragon.." 

The mom thanked me after, telling me more about how her son loves his guitar.. (a full sized one, which at this point would dwarf him).... She told me how inspiring it is for him to interact with someone who actually is playing the guitar... I don't know about the lives of others, but an experience like that, in my life, is Gold!! I don't always think my life, has much of an impact, of any significance on anyone, sometimes I'm proven wrong.

I think one of the lessons for me, is to not judge myself, the same way some do, concerning a "street performer" - or anyone walking in town with a back pack and/or guitar. If I walked downtown in the same clothes, but carrying a briefcase, different treatment - it's like the blatantly different treatment flight attendants give you between "economy" & first class (business.. whatever) ... I was "upgraded" on one flight as my seat was broken... I was left to struggle with my own stuff - trying to fit it in the last overhead baggage compartment that was full of airline stuff... when I was moved up to "business" they couldn't do enough for me - the classism, really pissed me off!!

  I also don't over-inflate myself upon receiving the accolades - I just try to be open to receiving them, with gratitude.

I've had other buskers tell me I should "dress down" and before you start to play, put some money in case ("seed money" they called it) the idea being, if people see money there, they will be convinced to follow in suit.

I'm not out there trying to portray myself as in need of financial support (and it's not like I'm out there in a tux; clean casual generally) ... nor will I manipulate people with "seed money" the case will stay empty until someone feels inspired to tip ... if nobody does that day (which hasn't happened so far)... then that's how it is.. I don't expect remuneration, but I also believe if I get some, I'm giving something of value and I am not willing to misrepresent myself.

The library courtyard has the added bonus of not being regulated by the city .. so no busking permit is necessary there. I have one for this current year, that will expire December 31st. 

Come January 2nd when City Hall opens again, I already made the cash for next years permit.

R. O'Neill (December 28, 2019)

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Yes O'Neill, There is a Christmas....

My life doesn't read like a Hallmark card (or movie). I don't consider that to be problematic, but as a result, at this - a "Hallmark" time of year my anecdotes will be of another variety.

Yesterday, being "Christmas eve." I decided to take in a early evening "Caroling service" at one of the "United" churches. Of what limited experience I have with this sect of Christianity the contents therein are relatively palatable (in small doses)... I was going there to sing, so the scope of their theology was not relevant to me. The evening began with a soloist on the harp, I caught the last few songs (as I wasn't aware this was part of the offering and had arrived closer to what I saw was the posted 7:30 p.m. start time. The harp music was beautiful!

The main floor of the "sanctuary" was very full. I commented as such as I was being steered in that direction by the usher. "Is there anything left down here," I asked? "Oh yes!!"
Upon looking around and determining what appeared open was "taken," and a few open seats were buried mid-row - which I declined. Not nearly enough consideration for my personal space preferences nor could I make a clean get-a-way if necessary!!

I opted to go back around and up to the balcony. I was informed due to fire safety protocols I would be disallowed a candle for the "candle-lighting" portion of the gathering... All the more reason to go where I can have my space ... I don't want to be wedged in with hordes of people brandishing lit candles!! This was a room full of Christians... what if they had a collective flashback & decided they were going to sacrifice a Pagan??

The evening turned out to be a mixture of carols (which I came for) scripture reading, (which I wasn't entirely prepared for (but I channeled Linus reading "Luke" something or other) for my personal amusement and choral performances (accompanied alternatively by piano and pipe organ) - pleasant enough but made for a more protracted evening than what I envisioned.

I sang ... with great gusto!! (Great for the heart and why would you sing in such an enormous space - if you weren't going to fill it?

During the remainder of the proceedings, I pondered why would people arrive when it's 75% over? Why would you go to the trouble to come to such an event (clad in Christmas finery) and leave part way through? I'm not finely attuned to Christian sensibilities but as far as I could tell the selected scriptures, minister's reflections - choral selections weren't offensive.....

I left during the closing choral performance of Pachebel's something or other.... to beat the rush to the facilities. I then exited self-satisfied that despite intermittent emotional malaise, I got out and embrace something I enjoyed - singing!

I decided to carry my holy days observances further downtown to the cathedral yard where I could walk the labyrinth. On route there I was stopped by a lanky gentleman darkly clad, who offered me the sale of a PVR (which was vaguely concealed under said dark clothing) I'm not particularly electronics savvy but I think that is some sort of recording device.... I politely declined, despite the assurance of better than retail pricing... I told him not to give up hope, perhaps he'd have better luck selling it on Boxing Day!! "Is there anything else I can do for ya,?" he asks. I'm thinking, "I'm not sure I want to know, what he possibly has in mind that he might "do for me." 
"Ya know, I don't think so, but thank for offering, I hope you have a great night!!"

I got to the labyrinth and did my walking contemplation. The christians in that venue, contributed to my practice by going mad on the cathedral bells.. I wondered did my footfalls disrupt the complete lack of anything melodically discernible that they were offering... It then became clear, what I was to let go of as I proceeded deeper into the labyrinth.

Coming back the same way I had come to the cathedral yard... as if "out of no where" there was suddenly a youngish women right up close and personal.. Clearly she had missed the directive regarding my personal space requirement... For the life of me, I don't know where the hell she came from ... I was walking along and boom, there she was...

Anyway ... I just said, "hey how's it going?" "What...?" she says, "oh good, ya.. don't mind me, I was a million miles away..."

I'm thinking -"from a million miles away, here you are now breathing in my face... where the feck did you come from??)

"Would you like to by some rock?"

Now I would consider myself being far, far beyond the universe trying to "test" me in such a fashion however who am I to say really... (of course there would have been a time).... now it so abundantly clear I neither want any nor do you have enough should I decide that I do....

So once again, I'm politely declining... and this time the response is, not what else could she do for me, but "well you know what you could do for me????"

I'm intrigued by now, "do tell what, might I be able to do for you?" "I'm in a little over my head, she says.. If you don't want to buy any of this could you spot me five dollars so I can pay "this guy," and get the heat off...?

I don't know who "this guy" is.... but I'm aware that Christmas eve or not - if she doesn't come up with the money - she will undoubtedly "pay" in some fashion....

I said, "is there an ATM in that convenience store?" .... "oh yes, thank you!!!" As we're walking to the store ... "do ya think you could make it ten?" ah.... no, really whatever you can do, that would be great!!"

I got cash from the machine and gave her twenty dollars... she looks at me stunned and oh my God, there are not very many people like you around!!!" and gives me a big hug.... Who's to say (me included "what kind of guy I am" (some would say I'm enabling ... some would say I'm wasting my money...) blah, blah, blah...

She asks me how might night is going, I said it's pretty mellow. "oh I wish she says, well it's going to be better now that I can pay this guy but...." I just said, well ya know, it doesn't have to be this way...

"But for now, I don't want you getting hurt.." she thanks me, blesses me and disappears into the night.

Keep in mind, I don't go looking for these events to happen, I simply go with the flow of what's occurring in the moment. I do have an intention, to be the change I wish to see in the world. So far, I haven't any explicit definition of what that looks like.

Today (Christmas day) I decided to attend an afternoon community dinner put on by the "recovery community" - it is attended by a vast array of such as well as low income folks with a wide variety of different backgrounds.

I got in line with a fellow I know from a First Nations support agency I volunteered for.. as we filed in through the door, we were each offered a gift of toiletries in a new pair of socks. I took the gift with gratitude and will ensure it gets somewhere where it can do the most good.

There was so much food there!! Continually there were volunteers circulating with platters of baked goods ... I had a good meal and honestly, the sugar bombs just didn't have any allure. I even went to the "dessert table" I had seen folks coming back to their seats with pumpkin pie and whip cream, but when I got to the table and looked at it all - it just wasn't appetizing.

I had a medley of squash and yams, a little stuffing and a piece of turkey smaller than my cellphone. I eat mostly vegetarian (still the occasional salmon) and on this occasion I decided to gift myself a little turkey...

All you vegetarian police ... can either chill or go ask yourself, why someone else's choice, is so concerning to you??

What a cast of characters at this feast!! One women called me over and asked... "do I know you as a musician?" I'm thinking, well it's all relative isn't it??" 

But yes, both of us used to attend the "Unity" community where I performed as the solo music a handful of times... I've seen here around town since, availing herself to resources to support her low income status -- So I see her on the streets pushing her bike (loaded with bags) or pulling a little cart - when I've been busking....

"Yes, I busk around town from time to time.." "I thought so, she says....." "keep the music coming.."

That's more encouragement than I've received from some people that were supposedly much closer to me.

By many measures of society .... we're an auditiorium sized room full of "mis-fits." But the thing about bringing a group of such together is .... we know what it's like to be ostracized, and it simply doesn't happen here... bring your eccentricities, wear 'em loud and wear 'em proud!!

No means test at the door. No designer fuck-all. But there is creativity, let me tell you!! There is warmth, compassion, caring and genuine concern for each other and by and large not a drop of liquor has been consumed by any one!! (even if so, as long as a complete shit show is not being presented - welcome, and keep coming back!!)

After dinner ... I thought I was going to pay a visit to someone and needed to kill some time first. So I decided to go back to the labyrinth for a day time walk...

When I arrived there - there was an older fellow sitting on one of the church yard benches.. we exchanged greetings as I walked by... He was hooded and wearing one of those woolen sherpa hats so he wasn't recognizable to me at first..

As I was walking the labyrinth two and two came together.... where he was sitting... cane on the back of the bench... which would make sense as my recollection was of a pending knee surgery earlier this year...

Once I got done my walk... I came back his way, stopped and gave him a few memory cues to see if I had the right guy and did he remember?

Sure enough it was him... we've hung out there a few different times... he lives in a "shelter" in town... did have that surgery (has since had all his teeth extracted) and is waiting for his mouth to heal to get full dentures... He had been around the venue (where I went for dinner) earlier to volunteer to set up ... said, there was "too much drama," and stress so he just went on his way....

You'll be happy to know that between the two of us and over the course of an hour or so ... we pretty much solved the quandaries of the world...

So it's near 6pm Christmas day (evening) as I write this.... Someone just drove along the avenue out front of my condo at Mach 9 (God willing they won't kill themselves or some else in there haste to get where ever it is they're going)....

I think though relative early, the day is done. That is my Christmas story. Unconventional I suppose, but it seems to me it has the requisite connection and honouring of humanity and relationships.

One belongs .... yes of course (when they decide they belong within themselves) - so says Obi Wan Kanobi or maybe it was Master Po....

But pragmatically - belonging occurs, where one is welcomed ... as they are.

Christmas day or any day, change for yourself, if the need serves you well ... But to continually try and change yourself, to fit in or gain acceptance, from someone else... is no end of painful!!

I think Christmas will always be a disappointment as long as people try and define it along the lines of any number of previously existing story lines.

If one, writes the story after having participated in it's unfolding, how can one be let down by the story?

R. O'Neill (December 25, 2019)

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

T'was the Night .... (but we've been here) before

So much anticipation, which has been amassing now for varying lengths of time. I suppose if you worked in some avenues of retail, then you've been unloading Christmas merchandise since October. It begins with a whisper and gathers momentum... until it's whipped into a frenzy which in some regards, hits the apex around about now, (Christmas Eve). Of course depending on, to what degree one embraces the "twelve days of Christmas," then there is more to come beyond tomorrow, the day beyond all days.

I had one client visit today for the home care company I work for. The "clients" are an elderly couple - he generally leaves soon after I arrive to attend a "day program;" which leaves his wife. Most often their daughter is there visiting and co-ordinating (grocery deliveries, pharmacy orders, house maintenance contractors etc.) Today, she is down and out at her own home (recent health issues and the run up to Christmas are taking their toll). So the two seniors are home today, and I'm there to see to their midday meal, get another meal ready for them to have later - make up a guest room for "Christmas company" and various odds & ends. Neither resident is in possession of "total recall" with respect to memory ... She however, knows Christmas is looming - "sometime soon!" In truth, there's very little or nothing for her to do. I don't think she gets out much independently and most likely everything has been pre-arranged, by their daughter. Even though she's convinced she should be out there up to her elbows in the chaos, she doesn't really have the capacity to do so anymore. Still, she cannot relax - a lifetime of conditioning to be wound up for the holidays, has her in it's grips..

"I'm sure I should be doing something..." it's Christmas today!"

"I don't think there's much left for you to do..." "Christmas" is tomorrow..." You're daughter is resting today, and will be over tomorrow." "Then between all of you, the day will unfold.. I know from being here last week, she was working even then, to prearrange everything...."

"But I should be cooking for dinner tonight!!"

"I hear your concerned about this all coming together, but there's not as much to do, as you might think." That's why I'm here, remember..."

"Yes, that's right - thank God you're here!! and on such short notice (well not exactly, it's a scheduled visit and wait until you try the lunch I've prepared you, and see if you still believe my being here is divine intervention).

"But what about Christmas dinner?" I should get that in now!!"

There were two large foil containers on the counter... One contained an assortment of mixed pre-cooked veggies, the other sliced turkey in gravy (also pre-cooked) ... I'm guessing they are from the same meal order place they utilize for their regular meals - these two platters, were likely previously frozen and have been left out, to thaw to be reheated Christmas day....

"No need to worry look at all this," I showed her what was all pre-made ready to go....

"We should get that in, now!!"

I explained to her again, "dinner" is tomorrow - this is all here ready, only needing reheating... Your daughter will come and the two of you, will whip it all together!"

"Now all you need to do is relax, and have the soup and sandwiches you requested for your lunch."

Additional versions and variations of this conversation continued through the rest of the visit. My mandate was achieved ... they got a hot lunch, there was spaghetti and a salad for dinner later .. kitchen cleaned, guest room made up .. companionship provided...

All this aside - apparently, you cannot keep someone from stewing about Christmas, if that is what they want to do. Even when all the gears of cognition, are not entirely meshing, the programming to be stressed over Christmas lives on! Christmas "present" is somehow over-shadowed by the PTSD of Christmases past and replays again & again.

I have zero exceptions around Christmas for tomorrow. I'm not against it per se. I'm neither religious nor atheist. I wish for everyone  - the fulfillment of every, of their heart desires. My lack of expectation will ensure, that whatever I experience tomorrow, that will be exactly what I experience and, the day will be Christmas (the two may not necessarily be inter-related though they could be) If there is even the smallest thread of human decency, what a beautiful thing that would be to behold. Nothing that I might be involved in tomorrow will come about specifically "because of Christmas." The sun will rise, the sun will set (somewhere behind the Westcoast cloud cover). Most of the stores will be closed, preparing for "Boxing Week" (but in particular Boxing day) madness. Starbuck's will likely hold their tradition and work their employees.

Zero expectation.... zero stress. I am not all awash with jubilance .... I am not immobilized by grief. I occupy the spaces on the spectrum in between. I would prefer my day to day life, to at least have some moments, of peace and contentment (many do). I'm not going to allow Christmas-mania, to derail my tenuous march toward equanimity. If I make it, to become a septuagenarian or octogenarian, I am not going to have the last reels of my cognition, be pre-conditioned Christmas stress - that become activated the moment "Grandma gets Run Over by A Reindeer.."

I want profoundly, an end to human suffering - anything or any way, that I participate over this Season, must as a requisite element, contribute to that vision.

While out and about in the community ... I will do my utmost to stay visible, so as not to become collateral damage in someone's zeal, to get a "bigger" screen T.V.

R. O'Neill (December 24, 2019)

Monday, 23 December 2019

Stop Before You Drop

"There's a canery, shall we shop?" No I haven't extracted a line form a Dickens manuscript. I was on my way to meet a friend, for an impromptu coffee; and had cut through an alleyway, that leads into the heart of "Victoria's" historic chinatown. The alley itself, houses an assortment of retail shops - one which apparently, is said "canery." I don't go through there on a regular basis, and though no stranger either, I had never paid attention to this shop before. At a glance, it appears to deal in (I'd presume "canes".. but I noticed mostly umbrellas. I'm going to guess that as it is a "specialty shop," therein might well be, a cross-section of "premium" merchandise; which I'm sure, wouldn't guarantee that if you got caught up, in a classic Wet-coast wind/rain tempest, that your designer brolly might still, be rendered land-fill fodder.

What really drew my attention to begin with, was the opening statement of this piece. It reverberated in the alley as being somewhat surreal. It was a man and women engaged in the discourse. He had rendered the query. For me, it hung in the air. Firstly, as I said, I wasn't aware the city had, a "canery." Of course my second point is highly subjective, but to me, what wasn't being said was, Foresooth, behold yonder canery, that our good fortune has presented this glorious opportunity, surely we must venture forth, that we might ply, the merchandise held within!!!!

Maybe if he'd sold it more along these lines, he wouldn't have been on the receiving end of an unceremonious, "What??.... uh, No!!"

I'm fully aware, that many are primed to engage in unbridled spending. Yesterday being, December 22nd, means there are a great many (lore would have it, many are said to be men) that haven't even started yet... so the no holds barred, full contact shopping, is yet to begin!! Still, I got the distinct impression, these folks hadn't come "looking" for an umbrella, a cane, or whatever else might be in there.... This was a bonafide impulse notion. Only those involved, might have any idea what the nature of the itch was, they were hoping to scratch. There again, in many cases, the tail would be wagging the dog (while the dog is "blissfully" unaware).

Upon other blocks of downtown, transactions, commerce and consumption, of a different sort transpire. A particular form of malice and scorn is reserved for the city's addicted and afflicted. How is it that this judgement differentiates, one form of addiction over another. Isn't the spending orgy known as Christmas; which involves loss of impulse control, loss of control, fiscal self-sabotage, vast over-indulgence, rising debt-load, credit card abuse, alcohol abuse; just a complex, multi-layered socially sanctioned form of, a myriad of addictions?

My answer is yes! I've personal life experience with addictions (in various forms), so I'm not speaking from any moral high ground. For one thing, I don't consider addiction to be a question of morality. My outing it as such (not that it is a "you're hearing it first" revelation) begs the question how is this selective judgment justified and even sustainable?

Am I, just like the "self-righteous" former addict (insert here, addiction/s of choice)? I would maintain that I am not! But I would suggest, that nobody knows the futility of over-indulgence more, than someone that has had the good fortune, to survive it.

In two days time, when the first thing that comes across everyone's lips that one encounters is, "Was Santa good to you?" Which loosely translated means, where are you on the social-economic, geo-political scale... the "value" of your "haul," being equated with your success and/or "value" in society.  ("oh you indeed are "loved" to no end!") Nobody really cares or is listening, your inventory will lull them back, into the same numbed out state they embodied, when they were shopping. (of course this assumes you are among those, privileged enough to have received, and/or actually choose to participate).

Time will tell, what the response will be - when I inform any that might ask; "I gave "Santa" the year off, I don't need anything, I don't actually want anything - so go put your feet up and relax, or devote that time and energy, to someone that really needs support. 

I'm on the consumption wagon! Does it matter, that I have engaged full tilt in the past? No it does not! Not to me anyway. Because I have, doesn't mean it must continue. I may never grow hair again, but I assure you, I can, do and will continue, to change!

I considered taking in the "spirit" of something of it all,  after coffee last evening. The city square I'd heard, was all lit up and there was to be something going on, with respect to "lighting the Menorrah" to commence Hanukah .....

Well the square was "lit up" all right! It actually hurt my eyes to look at it. There were throngs of people, music blaring.... Not my scene! All of this, super-imposed on a time of year (Winter Solstice) that is given to quiet reflection and introspection.. In my estimation, the "return of the light..." should not scorch ones retina..... More excess!! "Tradition," transmuted by social agreement, to be another in a series of extremes, that can be worn as a badge, when the "holiday" apocalypse has subsided; and exhausted, further indentured city-dwellers, regale one another, with tales of over-indulgence, that they were compelled to participate in, while harmonizing in unison: "Thank God it's over for another year!!

R. O'Neill (December 23, 2019)

Friday, 20 December 2019

Post-script (Age of Communication)

"Social" media
A bed
Character assassination
The guise



R. O'Neill (December 20, 2019)

Liberation from Tradition

T'is the season!! Who says? While it might seem like most everyone, chances are that's a skewed perception. What if one paid it no attention whatsoever? For those that are firmly ensconced in the capitalist/consumer mindset; and derive their notion of success, based on their position in that system, and the magnitude of the gifts, being reflective of that form of "prosperity;" to not participate, would be unthinkable. Crucifixion at the hands of the "Jones!!"

Though I have varying degrees of experience with different "faith paths" this time of the year, I wouldn't know what any individual within, or their sub-set as a whole believe might happen if they took a pass.

For the "I'm spiritual, not religious" crowd, as might be expected a widely varying response. Blended with the cries to "save Mother earth" (from crass commercialism/consumerism) there are "Christmas specials" on crystals (mined from Mother earth) readings sourced from everyone from Archangel Michael to Lassie. And of course, for those for whom, their heart may weigh heavy during this time of tyrannical joyfulness and peer enforced glee; your pain can be commodified and filtered through a seemingly endless array of different lenses; room in your budget facilitated through "sliding-scales."

Whether you consider the "holidays" from a commercial standpoint or seeking solace through the darkest time of the year - access to many facets are privileged. I saw somewhere recently the "average" Christmas expenditure would be eight hundred and some odd dollars. "AVERAGE!!?

I have privilege. In this day and age, I can check all the boxes that define such. I am housed, a little cash reserve etc. I won't inventory my assets, nor apologize for them being in my current possession. What I'm doing from my position of privilege and about it, are not the focus of this particular post. I am not what anyone would call financially astute and still, the very idea of spending $800.00 + just on Christmas, seems ludicrous to me. Obviously, as an "average," that amount could rise quite considerably. I presume it still to be true, that many retail outlets literally depend on Christmas spending, to flush out their annual revenue. Now I don't begrudge someone their livelihood, there again, I'd wonder about the sustainability of business models, that are reliant on that unbalanced spending model.

I won't have to speculate or consider this matter abstractly come the end of the year. In fact I currently am embodying the lack of participation. Circumstances are such, that I am effectively alone this year, which I suppose means, I don't have, the direct involvement or influence from anyone, to engage. It is equally true, that I have a distinct lack of distraction, which fans the flames of introspection/reflection; losses and absences thereby, becoming more pronounced.

There will be no gift giving or receiving. I don't need anything anyway. Through episodes of excess, I have more than I need ... given my penchant for impulsivity - at any given moment, there could be a purge. I know first hand the incarceration of stuff.... I've also never been able to renounce it all together.  The work I'm currently doing ... doesn't exactly ignite passion in me .. though it most certainly is, a valuable service. As such, I certainly wouldn't want to do more of it, just to pay for Christmas.

I have very few plans related to the season, specifically. I did respond affirmatively to some form of Solstice gathering... I don't have design on becoming a recluse. On the other hand, I gracefully (I hope) turned down an invitation, to attend another potluck gathering. I was already feeling spent the day of, the prospect of feeling obliged to be "on," struck anxiety in my heart. I began to imagine being at the gathering, having exhausted all avenues of "networking" & small talk; which might take me about 15 or 20 minutes, and that's if I'm allowed unrestricted access to the food table, so at least some of the discourse, will be about the food - interrupted, by eating the food. I look around the room, everyone else seems to be genuinely engaged in conversation. There's a balance and a flow, I don't want to interrupt any of them, soon thereafter, I determine, I don't belong here at all. I look outside, and my car is boxed in three, four deep ..... That's it!!! Clearly my driving days are over, I need to get out of here, and, I couldn't possibly interview enough people, to determine who owns all those cars and, ask them to move, so I can get out.... I must abandon the car and walk!!!!!!

So you see, crisis averted .... I just didn't go!

I've seen mention of various Christmas "services." There's a certain allure to singing the songs. If I consider it, predominantly, I like to sing. There would be some degree of familiarity, (though I don't know the words to any of them from beginning to end) and therefore comfort. Equally true, it's possible some will incite melancholia ... I don't personally pathologize my grief, but I guess I'm not entirely comfortable, with being emotionally transparent in a room full of strangers. Ironically, a congregation, wouldn't be where I would go seeking compassion. I don't entirely renounce Jesus (Yeshua).... however that's where the "carols" & I meet the parting of the ways. I'll be singing along and look at an approaching lyric and everything in me comes to a screeching halt ("Say What???") ah... hell know, I'm not going to say that!!!!!

The teachings of Yeshua particularly with respect to their availability to everyone... that's what resonates for me... of course the songs don't reflect that. I've been in some church gatherings and the proceedings (or some part of it) I've been deeply moved by or connected with..... PARTS of!!!!

But largely ... I enjoy them the most, when the place is mostly empty, or there are just a few people, observing their own silent contemplation..

It's just as likely that I'll get up "Christmas" morning, if I remember, maybe I'll have bought myself a grapefruit or something "special," for breakfast and then, I'll just go for a hike. Should be no problem accessing the local trails ...

My whole life is up for review... so much is in flux (or my life is coming to an end, who the hell really knows anyway??) Even if there are decades remaining in my life... there are innumerable endings to acknowledge (some current, many - that weren't given their due respect when they were current,  and they require such now, in order to be integrated. None of this is a popular undertaking (any time of year) - I'm not playing any high moral ground card... if I could get away with further repression, damn straight, I would... Yes I could choose not to, No I'm not prepared to face the consequences of that... I'm clear, for me there is only one choice..

I can rouse some handfuls of enthusiasm moment to moment.. Long range plans seem to me, to have no basis in merit...

I'm tuning and fine tuning..... from the inside out..... Where has my energy been directed? (has it had any direction?) Who is "in the river with me?" I don't mean those standing on the banks throwing stones, or that turn and walk the other way when you call their name.... Is there anybody there? If not... okay! Better to know that now, rather than any further painful illusion...

I don't expect this to ever be a resurrection or return to Christmas' of excess

I'm not here to judge how anyone else engages ... (just keep it contained to yourself) & I will participate (or not) exactly how I see fit moment to moment.

So maybe Christmas this year for me, will be more a kin to Dicken's Spirits of Past and Present - if indeed, I am to have any kind of future, that I care to embrace.

R. O'Neill (December  20, 2019)

Monday, 16 December 2019

Grace - More Than Enough

Sometimes in what I will call a state of heightened awareness, layers juxtaposition; situations, people, places, things that might otherwise be unrelated play-out together or in very close sequential order.
For all I know they may be entirely related - maybe it's all not unlike, the oft referenced, "butterfly effect."

I have walked into town, to complete a series of errands. I finally found the correct store to replenish ink cartridges for my fountain pen - yes I know, a decidedly "first-world" problem. In this moment I am unapologetic. Surely, there is a way I can be a "conscious consumer," and have & allow myself, various luxury and comfort. Did I "need" that pen...? Considering I may well have "hundreds" of pens, maybe not. Most of them are relatively inexpensive, I found a great many. I have gone so far as to say it was the universe giving me gently reminders of my intention (or to be aware of the call to write) and other times I have "collected" them compulsively.

I bought this fountain pen quite some time ago. It was not the most expensive pen in the shop (though was certainly more than I had ever spent for a pen) - I was drawn to it; partly due to the romanticism of owning a fountain pen, I was attracted to the spiral designs on the outside of the pen. I bought a quantity of cartridges at the time (which I tend to do with any pen that has refills) both for convenience and it seems often, if I wait, by the time I need a refill, they are no longer available. The supply I had originally purchased, was lasting, because I didn't exclusively use this pen. When I was out and about other times, I would stop into office supply stores in search of cartridges.. no luck.

My route into town took me in the vicinity of the shop (which in my mind's eye, was where I had purchased the fountain pen). One of the clerks informed me that they didn't carry these cartridges. I had brought along the remaining ones for visual aid. I'm glad I didn't get on my high horse insisting "you sold me the pen and now, you don't carry the cartridges... etc." After showing her the cartridges, I pulled the pen out of my pocket, she looked and I said, "it's a Shaeffer." "We don't carry Shaeffer's, we never have." She then proceeded to suggest a few other stores to try. (gratefully "drama" averted)

As I approached the next store, I'm sifting through my memory... and though not positive, it occurs to me, "you know, this actually might be where I purchased the pen!" They used to carry a number of colours of non-refillable fountain pens.. they had suggested, before I spend considerably more, on a refillable pen, try one of these cheap ones first, see if you even like this sort of pen. This is a worthwhile consideration given, though I am essentially ambidextrous .. I write predominantly left-handed ... so I have to change my approach somewhat, to avoid dragging my hand through the freshly written fountain pen print.

What an interesting thing "memory..." in this case - I was convinced the first store was "the place;" which as indicated, it turned out not to have been. The whole scenario came back to me once I entered the second store - but that "memory," was not available to me before then. (And yes, they had the cartridges & true to form, I bought two packages).. time will tell, if I remember this store and story "next time," and go directly to this shop.

Just before going into the shop, I saw across the road, a women that had been the "spiritual leader" of a "community," I hung around for quite sometime. I knew anecdotally, she had retired from that community. I had left some few years ago, feeling what they had going on there, was not in alignment for me. The idea of "community" is still somewhat of a conundrum to me. At any rate, I didn't feel like walking memory lane with her, so I made my way more directly into the shop.

Walking further downtown after the successful completion of the one errand.. I returned a library book ... walking through the courtyard of the library where I have busked numerous times in the past.. I could almost hear my own playing and singing (I had only just yesterday been talking to someone about my want to return to busking). Once inside the library, I saw the shelves where the "emerging local authors" books were displayed... my first book, had been on display there for a year, not so very long ago. Boxes of those books remain in my room.

Walking further into town, I'm now on my way, to a coffee shop where I have frequently sat to write. The afore mentioned book, would have had some of its inception there. I also wrote many of my blog entries, while sitting there.

My route was via a street in town that is decidedly busier during the tourist season. It is adorned in full spectrum retail world, Christmas fashion. As I round the corner, there is a fellow playing Amazing Grace on the Panpipes, not much further down the lane, another fellow in a t-shirt and makeshift poncho, is going through the garbage receptacles. I'm aware just how "amazing" grace can be at times! Just as I was so sure I knew I was going to the correct stationery store,  I was struck by the notion, I might be oblivious, to how "grace," is playing out right now; at times I might even be convinced, nothing of the sort is going on, and in fact, "Grace" has left the building!

The fact is, I don't know.

I came around the corner from this scene down the next block ... I had one more stop at the "Vitamin Shop" and then, the afore mentioned coffee shop was right next door. I was in and out pretty quickly and went to step into the coffee shop ..  I thought the reflections in the glass doors were playing tricks with my eyes... I refocused and looked through one of the bigger windows, the place was entirely empty with the exception of some of the original fixtures and some step stools - closed!!

What does that mean? I recalled some of the friendly banter I had enjoyed with some of the regular staff in there. Gone! What did I really know about those folks? Not really that much. Are they okay now? What about their jobs? Wow it's nearly "Christmas!!" I hope they're alright...

Kitty-corner is another coffee shop... it's been an alternative in the past.. funky motif (local shop .. not a franchise, so they can do their own thing)... I've sang at a few open mikes there in the past...

The moment I walk in and walk toward the counter (still processing all the previous) I see and recognize someone that I would see more or less weekly. Circumstances and personal choices of mine meant that intersection was not occurring. I was a little surprised to see her, very quickly at a loss for words, I could see she was with someone else, so I didn't want to intrude.... she jumped up and gave me a big hug, which I was happy to return.... She indicated some challenge she was experiencing in the moment... I was still a little conscious of the other person still being there. Apparently their "meeting" was over .. he excused himself and the exchange that followed; quickly acknowledged that I had not been "seen" for a while - without going into story, I just affirmed in deed, I had not been there to be seen. I wanted it known, I missed her and hearing her perspectives (I stated just that) - it apparently held true for her as well. There was time for another hug before she left (while reminding me, I knew how, when and where, to address the previously mentioned absences.

I sat down after placing my order..... watching the back of her walking off and beginning to write. (as I reach this point in the missive... the clock has arrived at 4:44)

If you're hoping for some sort of reconciliation, resolution, explanation for all the above, none will be forth-coming - not from me anyway. It's life weaving, creating, completing, beginning, ending, resolving, ringing through with dissonant harmony; rising, falling presenting mysterious today while answering questions from yester-year.


I was just in the process of proof-reading this piece before "posting it" - the door to the shop opens and who walks in, but one of the long-term employees of the shop that just closed! I greeted him and he sat down and filled me in after he got his coffee. Apparently they owners/head office weren't forth-coming with how the closures were going to happen. Himself and another women whom both worked there 7 or 8 yrs. were rather unceremoniously dismissed.

I guess, the previously described multi-faceted cascade of life had in mind I be here, just now - so that this fellow could process the "rug being pulled from beneath his feet." I was afforded a warm welcome and a seat in out of the cold at that coffee shop.... The same shop, that was his, livelihood. There were times when the money that afforded me a beverage there, I had only just "earned" busking. Grace opened those doors... and perhaps Grace is unfolding what will take place next, since those doors are now closed. It brought us together this afternoon. To remember, to seek solace after an unexpected turn, to look to the future; to find "Grace" in some unexpected time off over Christmas, and to offer encouragement to fill some of his time, with his love of creating animation.

I don't know how it works.... I don't know how any of it will turn out... I am in awe to witness all that is transpiring ... Clearly beyond what I'm actually able to perceive (when I pay attention) there is infinitely far more unfolding, all day, every day.

R. O'Neill (December 18, 2019)

Sunday, 15 December 2019

A Fallen Angel

Oh Holy Night
Nearly unintelligible 
The poly-rhythmic
Melodic line
"Fall on your knees"
"Oh hear, the angels voices...."

I repeat 
Angelic about that"
Not Holy....
Missing the mark!

Look there
Upon yon
Genetically engineered 
WalMart Angel

What might
Your voice say
My tinsel clad

"Would you
I to speak?"

Knock yourself out!

Is on your

"Well, for starters
It's nearing
The darkest
Time of year
Everything is
In lights"

This is however,
Not what is 
Weighing so
Heavily on 

"What would
You know
About it?"
"You embody
The problem!!"
Wrap it all
In tinsel
Will be

Will you observe
The season?"
"What is 
Your idea

It should be
No pretending
To be
When that's 
Not how
You feel

So you 
Don't feel
Joyous & festive
How do you 
Feel then?"

"Nobody cares....."

"I wouldn't
If I didn't

For what it's worth
I'm very sad
There's been
So much
I was
Never allowed....
Is to 
Also say
Wouldn't allow

Is the worst
To be
With grief"

Must you 

Time or space
For grief
The best 
of all
No tolerance
For a
At the party!"

"What a
Strange idea."
"Joy cannot
Be killed."
"If you
Are using
The idea
To describe
No wonder
You feel
So miserable."

Would you 
Are not
As you

"In truth
I don't 
I'm welcome
At my
So certainly,
My worst
Be welcome!!"

"This idea
(of you)
There is

You saying
Have been
Are not welcome?"

Let's say
Common sense
Me so!"

So you know,
It's not
as "common"
As you 
Might believe
(Thank goodness)
Not even

"You will 
Never know
To offer
Keep saying

That simple."

"Do you remember
How this 
Conversation started?"

You asked,
"Would I listen, 
Were you
To speak?"

"And what
Was your

"I said, sure"
 (more or less)

"Indeed .. more or less..."

"You did 
Answer yes
Didn't you!!"
"And that,
Made all 
The difference."
You had said,
There would
Have been
No conversation"

No different."

Can heal
And transform"
"It can
The need
Doors (walls)"

It won't
The door 

Will wait
Until you
The door"
Your choice."

Is your
Sacred heart
Holy Night"

Is required
To worship
With you
And your

Will be 

"Time of Silence?"
"How long?"

"Don't deflect"
"You owe
No explanation."

Let habituated
Limited reason
The "Season."

Have no idea
The shape
Army of

"This time
Walmart Angel"

"Next time
The messenger
Is you!!"

The next,
"Walmart Angel!!"

"Oh Holy Night..."

R. O'Neill (December 15, 2019)

Friday, 6 December 2019

Human Folly

Searing lance
Flesh, sinew 
The spirit
Emotional catatonia  
Waves of
Ebb & flow
A previous

Utter aloneness
It's clarion
Ones Incarnate

A moment...
The eye
The storm

That is deemed
Was being
In the 
Wrong basket

A heart
To the 
The Divine

R. O'Neill  (December  06, 2019)