to everything, an unavoidable and frustrating challenge

a few months ago, jenn and i decided to get a second dog to keep our first dog, stella, company. we decided we wanted a dog of a similar age, size, and temperament so that they would be more likely to get along well and play together when they are at home in the yard. we searched a lot and found a dog named laika that seemed like a good fit. we brought stella to meet laika and they got along great. we had a second meeting that also went well, so we took laika home.

then everything went to shit.

laika had never been walked off-leash so we had some significant challenges training her on that. then we found she was not socialized enough with groups of dogs and became aggressive in those situations. then we found that stella is actually very possessive of her home and she wound up attacking laika many times. then laika attacked one of our chickens. then, only two weeks after we got her, laika ruptured her ACL.

so here we are, 6 weeks into her recovery from the knee injury. it seems to be going well so far. the other issues have mostly been sorted out too — laika is now better about off leash walks, meeting groups of dogs, and her and stella rarely get on each others nerves. so it’s been a real pain in the ass but it’s getting better and will eventually be fine.

however, i can’t help but wonder sometimes how much easier things would have been if we picked one of the other dogs we had looked at. it’s so easy to think the grass looks greener on the other side. so i’m trying to remind myself when i do that, that stella would have been just as much of a bitch to any other dog, and if the other dog was not as easygoing as laika, we could have ended up with them actually hurting each other during their scraps instead of just posturing. that would have been really bad. or if we got a puppy, which maybe stella would have been less pushy and dominant with, we’d then be dealing with all the other bullshit that goes along with puppies: house training them, teaching them not to chew everything, starting all their basic obedience from scratch. that would be a huge and frustrating commitment too.

so i use this to remind myself that even though i’m annoyed with how things have gone with laika so far, it wouldn’t have necessarily been any better with any other dog. it may have been slightly better or worse, but it would most likely have been a comparably challenging experience. and i think that view applies to most things in life. everything presents its own unique challenges so it’s impossible to say — even with hindsight — that choosing one house, or partner, or career, or anything else, over any other options would have been any better. as long as i make careful decisions based on the best information i have available at the time, i can’t beat myself up over those decision when things don’t go perfectly. because that’s just life.

look at me, being so zen and buddha-like. how pretentious.

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tired of not being retired (at age 36)

i had the last week off of work. not for a vacation, it’s just the way my shifts were allotted, but it was fantastic nonetheless. i had a lot of great sleeps, got lots of exercise in, started work on fixing up our travel trailer, helped jenn with working on her horse trailer, played a lot of tetris…nothing to write home about but just having the freedom to do that kind of stuff at my leisure was so lovely. and it got me to thinking how much i look forward to retirement.

i plan on retiring ASAP.

i think a lot of people would roll their eyes at that kind of statement, like ‘dream on’ or ‘you’re a lazy sod’ or ‘yeah, you and everyone else.’ but not having kids and having a dual income household certainly makes early retirement financially possible, and i don’t think it’s a lazy pursuit at all. in fact, i think it’s a great one. what’s the point of living if not to enjoy our time here? if busting your hump is the only thing in life that you enjoy then fill your boots i suppose, but i don’t believe that all the workaholics in the world are that way because they like it. i think they’re usually like that for a number of unhealthy reasons — guilt, lack of self awareness, poor relationships with their spouse, etc.

i even used to be a bit of a workaholic myself. then one day when i was trying to decide if i should take yet another shift, jenn said to me, “no one ever died wishing they had worked more.” that really hit home for me. i like making money and being financially comfortable but i don’t want to get hit by a car, lay dying on the side of the road, and have my final thoughts be, “oh no, i should have visited russia when i had the chance,” or “i shouldn’t have worked christmas day last year. it would have been nice to spend that last one with jenn.” there needs to be a balance between making a living and actually leading a life that i love.

as much as i like my job and most of my co-workers, i like sleeping in, road tripping, camping, watching the chickens in the yard, working on old cars, and hanging out with friends way more, so working takes a definite back seat to all the rest of it.

that being said, i really need to get over my fear and get to russia sometime soon.

Photographer

i want to see this, bad.

i don’t want anyone to be carefree

the other day i saw a bunch of private school kids walking by. they were all coupled up, holding their partners closely or holding hands, laughing, having a great time. each one was fit, attractive, confident, beaming with youthful exuberance. to be attending this local private school, they each must come from great wealth. it was a warm sunny day and they were all in shorts and flip flops.

they really had it all, they were on top of the world.

i thought, that’s nice, but i wondered when they’re going to start aging and noticing wrinkles, receding hairlines, swelling guts and asses, high blood pressure, diabetes. i wondered when they’re going to lose touch with all these friends and feel alone in this world. i wondered when they will become addicted to prescription pain medications, cheat on their spouse and find out their spouse is cheating on them too, get divorced, marry for a second and third time. become embroiled in hellish workplace scandals and drama. i wondered how many of them will come to eventually hate life, when this perfect sunny daydream will come to an end for them.

i think that fantasizing about the shattering of their worlds is my way of coping with my jealousy of their short-lived yet currently carefree lives. i’m ok with that. you’ve got to grab your laughs wherever you can, i think.

mud people

i’m dying.

not any quicker than usual or anyone else. i just like to ruminate on the fact. and not because of any goth tendencies. in fact it’s because of quite the opposite, and very hippie dippy: i think death can be a beautiful thing.

Fantastic scene of happy children running and playing carefreely on green meadow in nature

“hurry tommy, it’s almost time for us to exit this mortal coil”

i think about all that great cycle shit, how plants and crap grow from dirt and water, we eat them to sustain ourselves, and eventually we die, decay, and also become dirt and water. i like to think about my body becoming the soil that will grow corn or trees or whatever, that parts of me will be in those plants, that animals will eat those plants made from me, that parts of me will become become parts of those animals or be shat out to become dirt again and give rise to more plants and feed more animals, and on and on. i won’t be recognizable but the tiny particles that make up my brain, bones, and meat will continue on in these various other incarnations. i think that’s incredible.

dky7tw-l

we probably believe some of the same stuff, but she’s a whack job.

we get really focused on us and our problems — i want to go on nice vacations, these red peppers are too expensive, i don’t want to do this fucking online course —  but in the big picture, none of that junk matters. sometime in the not so distant future, we will disperse and become part of the earth and all the myriad things on it. that inspires a real sense of grand unity in me, a sense of oneness that is based in reality rather than the incoherent ramblings of some incense- and chime-cloaked hipster yoga dipshit driving a sporty mini cooper. and i like that.

and looking at the even bigger picture, when this planet is eventually swallowed by our sun, all the dirt and plants and animals will turn to ash and dust and likely scatter throughout space, or get sucked into a blackhole, or something along those lines, and end up becoming part of something else. that’s amazing! so i like that too. all that ‘we are stardust’ nonsense isn’t nonsense after all.

and that’s why i like death.

living is great too. i’m having a good ol’ time. i’m just not too worried about what comes after.

vultures_eating_human_pevensey_levels_allan_dewitt_sue_beale_cath_jackson_sssi_lapwings

“he tastes like shit.”
“yeah but he’s content.”

 

end

i just took the dog for a walk and got to pondering life and death yet again. it’s a tireless subject, really. today i was particularly focused on the idea that it is possible to keep pulling one’s perspective on life further and further back until the picture is so big that absolutely nothing on this planet is of any consequence anymore.

red-giant

fuck it.

for example, there are a lot of political, environmental, and industrial issues that i care about a lot, and our current conservative canadian federal gov’t is basically doing the exact opposite of what i want. it makes me both furious and depressed sometimes. when i get that fucked up about those issues, i console myself by doing the best that i personally can to make the changes i want to see, and remind myself that some day in the next 45 years or so, i’ll die anyway. at that point i won’t have to bear witness to any more crazy large-scale bullshit, which will be a blessing. sure, it also means i won’t be able to have any more fun here with jenn and our friends, but you have to look on the bright side of things.

but that perspective still leaves me concerned for future generations. what horrors will we bestow on them? choking toxic smog, acidified dead oceans, rampant collusion by gov’t and industry, slow erosion of personal freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism? that can get me down too.

everything is fine, just keep working.

so i take another step back and think about how, if we don’t end up killing the entire human race ourselves, the sun will do it for us when it becomes a red giant and cooks earth to a scorched, barren rock. it may even completely swallow the earth, reducing the entire planet to ashes.

when i think about that — about how not only will i die relatively soon, or how our entire race will eventually die, but how even the planet we live on will eventually disappear forever — well, i can’t help but feel a little less awful about giant oil spills, horrifying human rights abuses, and the global food crisis. nothing we have seen or done here, good or bad, will survive. the only traces of people, our problems, and all the rest of earth will just be atoms scattered throughout space. all those oil spills won’t matter a damn then.

c’est la vie

so i just keep living my life, having the best time i can, and when things start to seem shitty, i try think about the end of everything we know. then all those big problems seem absolutely insignificant: nothing here really matters because it will all end one day. it’s very comforting.

‘still crazy after all these years’ and thoughts on life and death

today i was grocery shopping when paul simon’s ‘still crazy after all these years’ came on the in-store radio.

it hit me then how much this song reminds me of the holiday season, or more specifically how it reminds me of the dichotomy of the depths of winter. the cold and darkness are so morose and haunting but we spend a lot of time over christmas and new years with close friends and family, surrounded by warm twinkling lights and festive decorations, reflecting on the closing year’s happenings. maybe those are just responses to the cold and dark, ways to fight against them. who knows. but for me, the overall effect of the contrast of those dark and light things is one of wonderful bittersweet nostalgia. there’s something sad about it, but it’s really beautiful, and i love it just like that.

i often think about the seasons as a metaphor for life and death. no clever surprises here: spring – birth; summer – the prime of life; autumn – decline; winter – death. i sound like a fucking teenage girl with dyed black hair and candles in her room, pretending to be wiccan. oh well. anyway, the point is that thinking about the seasons always brings me back to big picture stuff, like life and death, so i can’t think about ‘still crazy after all these years’ and winter and the holidays without thinking about death. but in a nice way.

i guess i’m just hopeful that death will hold the same kind of bittersweet warmth and glow amongst a world of darkness just like winter does, that dying will feel the same to me as ‘still crazy after all these years’ and auld lang syne and new years with great friends.

phyllis preston

i’ve wanted to write something about my grandma for a while because she was both my closest relative and the closest person to me that died. her name was phyllis preston. i think that’s a lovely name. whenever i mention how much i like it people usually go “ewww” or something but i don’t get that. i can understand that reaction to gertrude or bertha, something that is phonetically displeasing, but phyllis preston sounds graceful and beautifully old world to me.

i guess phyllis probably had an average life. she got married, had two kids, got divorced, got a bachelor of arts degree at UVIC, and then lived alone in oak bay for the rest of her life. but i always spent a lot of time with her, even as a long-haired filthy skid, so i got to know her pretty well and never thought of her as boring. we would go for lunch, walk, clean her chandeliers, run errands, typical grandparent/grandkid stuff. i also took her to stuff like harp concerts, craigdarroch castle, and my friend steph’s doukhobor choir performances, because we both loved that stuff. all the details i learned during those times, the details that flesh out my brief synopsis of her life, made her fascinating to me.

for example, phyllis told me how she and norman (my grandfather) had car problems on their honeymoon. they were pulled over on the side of a dirt road. he was under the hood and got her to turn the key, and then flames erupted. norman caught fire. grandma remembered norman rolling in the dirt to put himself out, getting up, and removing his shirt and neck tie, and how all the skin on his neck came off with the tie because it had melted over it. she said he blamed her for the whole thing for many years afterward.

another example: grandma was awesome at abstract painting, which she learned at UVIC in her 50’s. she had a few of her paintings and sketches up at her apartment and i really liked all of them, even as a kid. i didn’t know what to make of any of them but they were neat. there was one that scared me though, it was a big painting of a collage of ripped magazine covers. something about it seemed violent to me. i guess i imagined some nut tearing magazines apart, god knows why, throwing the shreds in a pile, and taking a picture of it. oddly enough, that painting became my favourite of hers as i got older.

she was a lovely lady too. she was amazingly self aware and open to new ideas for an older person. she loved hearing all about the endeavours of my death metal band. we talked about gay rights. i filled her in on all my numerous, numerous, NUMEROUS girlfriends. she explained to me how she harboured a lot of hatred for norman for many years after their divorce until she realized that she was only making herself miserable by dwelling on something that made her unhappy, so she just let it go—simple as that. i tried to wear long sleeves when i visited so she didn’t have to see my tattoos and i wouldn’t swear around her but in every other way, i was 100% same old david and she loved and accepted me as that. i found these things pretty remarkable from an 80-something year old senior that i would never describe as being very liberal.

i don’t think i’m doing a great job of making phyllis seem spectacular or anything, but basically what i want to get across is that she was a really interesting person and i loved getting to know her. i mean, as a kid, i just thought of her as my cookie- and christmas sweater-dispensing grandma: i visited her, she fed me cookies, i went home. it was something else to eventually see her as a full person, to realize that she had 50 years on this planet before i came around, and that she did a ton of stuff in that time.

i wasn’t too upset when my grandma died. i actually saw a lot of beauty in watching her decline over the years. that sounds idiotically morbid but i don’t mean it like that at all, obviously. i mean that life has an ebb and flow to it and we usually only focus on the upswings, like childhood and growing up and achievement stuff like buying houses and shit. we take pictures of that stuff and stress the importance of them but i think the downswings are just as important, just as meaningful. those downswings are part of the whole picture; without them, you only have half a picture. it’s like looking at a painting but not seeing the yellows and reds—the beauty isn’t just in the blues and greens though, it’s in the poetry of how all the colours work together. at least, that’s how i feel about it. also, i was honoured to be there for my grandma’s decline, to assist her whenever possible, let her know how much i loved her, and just spend time with her like always. it was a really touching role reversal for me to help her when she was leaving this world, after she helped me so much coming into it. one of the last times i saw her, she started falling asleep sitting up while i visited her. i said i should go but she assured me she was fine and wanted to keep talking. we talked a bit more but she soon started to fall asleep again, so i playfully insisted, helped her to bed, and laid her down. she was very fragile and weak at this time but smiled and was grateful for the help. she looked so child-like and sleepy and peaceful laying there as i stepped back and said goodbye. it was such a beautiful moment.

i’ve mentioned synchronicity on here before, and here is another example of it: i had to search my email to find out when phyllis died. i found the email i sent to jenn at work to tell her about it, and it occurred on july 29, 2011. only one week shy of 3 years ago. i have to wonder why i would happen to write this so close to that date without being aware of it.

“something is happening, isn’t it margaret?”