Maya Angelou: Quotes & thoughts

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   ~Maya Angelou

Last night, I went to a free public lecture at the university I used to attend. Toward the end, this quote was shared.

Usually, we tend to interpret quotes like this in a positive light. That’s the purpose, isn’t it? I, for one, used to. But yesterday, in a epiphanic flash, I saw how true this is for all interactions – positive and negative. The lion came for a sudden visit, bringing with him a colourful, heavy splash of emotions. Everything except my body abandoned the lecture all together – but just for a moment. I came back because the lecture was interesting. The lion lingered, but at a distance.

Later, I looked up Maya Angelou quotes. Some I’m not sure if I like or dislike, but I see the depth of truth they hold for me now, which I would not have seen a few years ago. Others I’m forced to question, because of my life experiences.

Here are a few that resonate with truth and hope:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

And three that bring with them baggage and many questions:

“A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.”

“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination of hope.”

But – what does it mean to be wise? How do we develop the strength to refuse victimhood? What is a victim? And what does it mean to be defeated?

What is love, really? Sure, love gives us unmistakable strength to do, say, and accept a lot. Perhaps too much, in some situations. Does love always have hope? What is hope, anyway? Is hope the destination, or is it the path? Or is it both? Is it a black and white situation, where we know this is what love is, or is this what we feel love should be?

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未来は

「未来は明るいのだよ!」

今日、父に言ってみた。

「いや、ココロが言うとな…」父は首を傾げ、食事を続けた。

私が小学生の頃、前向きだったのかもしれない(覚えていない)けど、だいぶ前に変わった。外から見れば私は多分前向きに見えるのかもしれない…しかし、本当は違う。皮肉なことを言うし、あまり希望があるとは言えない。それを知ってる父に急にこんなことを言っても信じてくれないのは当たり前…

正確に言えば、周りの人の未来を想像すると希望もあるし、楽しみも沢山ある。他の人を思うと結構ポジティブになる。応援したくなる。人類や地球の未来はともかく、彼ら一人一人の未来は明るく見える。

しかし、自分のこととなると全然違う。好きなこと、やりたいことは沢山あるし、人にあったり、旅をする楽しみもあるけど自分の未来を明るいと思ったことはあるのだろうか?自分の未来を想像するのは無理に近い状態がもう何年も続いてる…

ライオンから離れる前から芯まで悲しく、苦しく、「いつかは変わるのかな?」と考えることすらほとんどなかった。でも、離れて時間がすぎるうちに楽しみが少しづつ増え、笑顔も戻りつつある。

しかし、嬉しい気持ちはあっても「幸せを感じてる」とは言えない。

今日、気づいた。ライオンに出会って三年が過ぎてしまった。あれから本当に色々あったな。時が過ぎるのは早いわ…

ここ数ヶ月、たまに不思議なことが起こるようになった。

ふと、自分の未来が遠くでキラっと…一瞬だけ光る。え、何?これ。

嬉しいのかな?怖い。くすぐったい。緊張する。変なの。あまり期待はしたくない。でも、この説明できない気持ちは少しの間、心に残る…

今日一日生きることを必死に頑張っていたこの私の未来でもふと光るのは凄いことだね。人ごとのように思わないと素直に感心できない。

決して「明るい」とは言えないけど、全然輝かない、真っ暗闇に囲まれる未来よりは良いかな。

いつも輝いて欲しいとは思わない。たまに「ここにいるよ」と思い出させてくれるかのようにキラッと、遠くでも良い、光ってくれたら十分です。

そこまで自分のことをポジティブに思うことが大変なんだけどね…

 

 

Le vin les portera

His favourite wine is Gigondas.

When he came to Japan in September 2014, he brought with him a bottle that he shared with me about a month later. We had proper demi-sel butter, cheese that he approved of, and his precious bottle of Ogier Duc de Mayreuil Gigondas 2011. It was the first weekend we were together, back when things were still in an uncertain, fluttering butterfly stage. 

That stage lasted just a few days, but I could never get rid of the empty bottle. It was a symbol of something special for me, even if that something special had never happened.

I learned to like red wine because of the lion. I still do like it, especially Côtes du Rhône.

While we were together, I searched high and low for his favourite wine, to give him for his birthday, for Valentine’s Day… but never found it.

After I left him, I knew I’d be leaving Japan to return to my parents’ place in Canada. I had to downsize. I carefully removed the label from the bottle that symbolized that something I now knew with 100% certainty that I would never have. I recycled the bottle, and glued the label into my journal – the little book that I was petrified he would one day find. The little book I was almost never able to write in while we were together because I couldn’t reflect on my life and what was happening at the time.

I started writing again when possible, after I left him. It helps me to see, read, and understand my progress. My little companion that faithfully holds my memories and feelings, drawings and cut-outs, and allows me to reflect whenever I want, never commenting, never complaining.

On September 15th, 2016, the lion’s two year postdoctoral fellowship in Japan ended and he left the country, flying back to France. It was an important day for me. It symbolized many things. I felt relieved and sad, free and heavy, cathartic… On the other side of the world from where he was, I was a murky mess of emotions.

I’d searched for Gigondas in Toronto to drink by myself. It was something I needed to do. It marked the beginning and the end. I bought the only one I could find, took a photo, and began drinking at 14:00. I continued to drink until perhaps around 21:00 or 22:00. I’ve never been much of a drinker, so even just a couple of glasses affect me, but I drank about 3/4 of the bottle. I was properly drunk for what may have been the first time in my life (previously my body just expelled alcohol from it’s entry point when it’d had enough).

The lion had introduced me to Noir Désir while we were together, and my favourite song by them was (and still is) Le Vent Nous Portera. I did a play on words and posted along with a black and white photo on my Facebook wall:

Le vin les portera🎶

Although I wrote nothing else in that post, it was an extremely important thing for me to do. I knew that those who needed to know what it meant, would know. Part of me wanted him to see it. I wanted him to see it, and to think… I don’t know, something.

Before or after that flight back to France, he deleted me off Facebook. Until then, we had been connected, but hadn’t conversed in months.

It’s now been a year since he left Japan. I’ve rarely touched alcohol during this time. I’ve just not been interested.

Today, again, I commemorate September 15th. It’s not a celebration. This day, and a few other important days, mark my milestones. They are for me, for my sanity. For my mental health. For me to reflect. To foster my desire to live, to recover, to enjoy life, and to move on. They’re like bookmarks, in a book that is my life.

I count the months, the years away from him. I’m supposed to be happy and proud of my recovery. Maybe one day I will celebrate a September 15th, but today, I am again sad for him, for me, for us, for everyone else that was directly or indirectly affected by all that happened.

Here I am, thinking about getting a cake to have with my favourite Côtes du Rhône… to cry, to enjoy, to hurt, to stare into the abyss that is my mind…

It’s going to be okay. Last year it was his favourite wine, but this year, my favourite wine that’ll carry it all away.

Santé

‘Til the siren come calling

The lion introduced me to a lot of new music – singers and groups I knew, but had never been interested in listening to, and also ones I’d never heard of before.

I now listen to a lot of these groups and songs. In most cases, it’s because I genuinely enjoy their music. It’s often been really painful because of the associations I have, though. There was a time when I couldn’t listen to any of the music he’d introduced me to. But I practiced (a topic I’ll cover another day), and now I’m often able to listen without flashbacks or too much pain.

There’s one particular song that I listened to the other day, and it brought back a lot (to be fair, this song often does). I don’t run away from it though, I’m almost always able to just feel the emotions and sit in the memories. I let them do what they need to, let myself feel what I need to, and after a while it passes. Until then, I cradle the ache around until it’s run its course. And that’s okay.

Are you my family?
Can I stay with you a while?
Can I stop off in your bed tonight
I could make you smile

In the morning I’ll make you breakfast
In the evening I’ll warm the bed
And I’ll always be happy to kiss you
Promise I’ll never get sad

I hear myself in these words. I hear him in these words. He wanted me around to do stuff for and with him, and I was happy to. He had never felt like his mother showed him any affection as a child and I think that has been a deep, unresolved issue within him, that has resulted in him wanting his female partners to fill that void. That was okay with me; I wanted him to overcome this, and besides, looking after others is second nature to me (this tendency has clearly shown its pros and cons).

He’d sometimes prepare a luxurious breakfast for us on Sundays, a thing neither of us had grown up with.

Till the siren come calling calling
It’s driving me evil, evil
I was a heart breaker I loved you
The same way I do
But I’ve got so much wickedness and sin

My name is Pearl
And I’ll love you the best way I know how
My blonde curls slice through your heart
And the siren come calling
In the night till the light

When things were good, they were great. I enjoyed a lot of the things we did together. The things he did for me, the things I did for him. But when things were bad… they could get really bad. And almost all of those things happened at night, when the sun was down. When the sun was up, things were often better, and work was a distraction, a break from it all.

By his standards, I was not showing him enough love, enough dedication; but he knew I was doing my best. He tried to help me get better and learn from my mistakes and wrongdoings. I blamed myself a lot for anything that went wrong. But the thing was, he had a lot of pain and unresolved issues from his own past. He loved me the best way he could. He once told me about some stuff that happened when he was younger; among other things, how he used words to tear apart someone and this person ended up attempting suicide or something? (This wasn’t too far from what he did to me, and probably others too, even though after that particular incident, he had decided not to use his ‘skills’.) I had my ‘sins’, and he had his.

I tried to be everything he could want. He wanted that of me, too. But of course, it was impossible; requests and requirements would change and I couldn’t keep up.

Today, of course, I have no idea what was really true. Maybe he never loved me at all (I remember very clearly Kei texting me saying that he never did). Maybe he had no idea what he was doing to me, or maybe he knew exactly what he was doing, and it was all on purpose. I don’t know what his real mental state is like, or what it was like when we were together. I only have clues that can help me guess.

There’s something about Siren Song by Bat For Lashes that has been resonating with me since the first time I listened to it, because he wanted to share his favourite music. It’s sad, but it’s beautiful. It makes me cry. It makes me feel all the things I used to. It allows me to mourn the loss of all the things I escaped.

It’s heavy, and yet it’s also freeing.

“You’re so lucky”

Recently, I’ve been doing quite well – even though I’ve been stressed and annoyed by a variety of things. The fact that I can even be annoyed is a good sign. It means I’m doing much better than I was a year ago.

My youngest sister has been having her own issues – mostly relating to stress, anxiety, and I think some depression too, all negatively impacting her physical health (which happens to us all – I just think it’s more obvious/prominent for some). She’s been on anxiety meds for almost a year I think.

My mother’s family is fairly Christian, fairly conservative/”traditional”. For that reason (and probably others), they know about my sister’s problems, but not mine. No one knows I was living with the lion, no one knows what happened between him and I, no one knows why I left Japan and moved back into my parents’ house in Toronto, no one knows why I haven’t worked for a year. No one knows my pain, heartache, heartbreak, mental health problems, physical health problems. No one knows, and no one can know.

Why? Because it’s not proper for a young lady to be involved with a man when they’re not married (to each other). Because sex before marriage is bad. Because co-habitation between unwed partners is bad. Because it would hurt my 94 year-old grandfather who’s beliefs are so very different from mine. Because it would raise many questions, and probably embarrass my mother.

I bite my tongue, smile, avoid, pretend, give answers that tell only a fraction of the story. I do this to keep them from knowing. To protect my mother too, I guess (if you can even call it ‘protecting’). I’ve been doing this for about 2 years and counting.

My parents have been great. They allow me to live in their house for free, and they don’t charge me for food either. I do my best to pay them back, through doing things around the house and making sure everyone is looked after as best as possible.

This entire system though, it takes a toll on me.

Neither parent knows what to do, or how, to help me out (and they never have, when it’s come to relationship stuff). I know they care, and they want what’s best for me, but it just… hasn’t worked that way.

My sister, don’t get me wrong, she’s had some tough times. But people know what her issues are. Relatives, friends, neighbours offer to help her and ask how she’s doing. People are extra kind (or try to be) to her. Doctors know what to do, what possible meds to suggest.

There’ve been times when I’m grateful no one knows, because they all leave me alone. No one knows, so no one’s nosy.

Today, she was telling us about some of the things that had happened recently (she was at home on her own for a week, during a pretty rough patch), and I heard myself saying to her in my head, “You’re so lucky people know.” I didn’t say this with compassion and patience. I was (and still am, though it’s dying down) hurt, sad, frustrated, annoyed. Everybody, including me, is so concerned, so sympathetic. The aches that this brings me leads to temporary anger. She doesn’t do it on purpose. She’s just cute and small and fragile and vulnerable, and so people want to protect and help her. It’s always been that way. She knows how to get attention (and I don’t mean that in a bad way).

When times are tough for her, she asks for help, she gets cuddly, she tells people about her meds and problems. She cries. She tells people that she cries, that she’s lonely, that she’s stressed, that she wants hugs and cuddles.

Me?

Nah, I’m just here… apparently pretending like nothing shitty happened. Hey, I haven’t worked in a year. I’ve travelled a lot. Don’t you think I’m lucky? How do you think I manage it all?

Being at home is great for some things, but sometimes it’s the least helpful thing I can do for myself. And so… on the road I go, whenever possible, where I can build confidence in myself, learn all the things I want, be free, and heal – for real. I can look after me, instead of spending my precious energy constantly making sure everyone else is well looked after.

On the stall door. 

Not long ago, I was at an international airport in southwestern U.S. There, in the women’s washroom, I found this sign on the inside of the stall door.

Oh, nice.

Wait – what?

I wasn’t sure if I felt safer or in danger. I suppose I felt both.

Two thoughts simultaneously passed through my mind: That’s great that there’s enough awareness to warrant this. But is it really so much of a problem here that they need this?

Does human trafficking happen more often here than other places? Or are people just trying to ensure as much safety as possible? It is great though, that this service is available.

Later, I wondered if the same sign existed in the men’s washroom. Both men and women – and children, of course – can be victims of human trafficking, but it probably happens to women more than men. If the perpetrator is a man, could it be dangerous for him to see the same helpline? But then again, maybe he would already know about this resource centre.

For the helpline to really be serious, there should probably be a phone in the women’s washroom. What are the chances of a victim of human trafficking carrying their own cellphone or having access to any phone at all? Presumably the perpetrator would be aware that the victim would try to call for help and/or escape – depending on the circumstances of the victim, of course… I for one, know that I didn’t call or ask for help in my own (very different) situation.

Long after leaving the washroom, I kept thinking about the sign. I was a backpacking, female, solo traveler. Suddenly I felt less safe, and more aware of my surroundings. A familiar feeling, unfortunately.

I felt sad and angry about the need of having such a sign, and yet also optimistic that there at least seemed to be some awareness and help for those who need it.

Later, I looked it up and found out that of the calls made in 2015, 18.3% of calls were from California, and 1.4% were from Nevada, where I was, so the next question would be – Are these signs found more often in California? But that’s for another time.

Important Resources (just a few of many):

Polaris

National Human Trafficking Resource Centre, Data Breakdown, United States Report, 2015

Guardian Group

Stop the Traffik

Birthday 

Today, somewhere out there, he turns 39.

His one birthday we had together wasn’t a pleasant one – and neither were the days before and after it. They were pretty bad.

I sometimes used to sing The Carpenter’s “Top of the World” to him; although looking back, I definitely wasn’t on the top of the world.

I’m not sure if I’d be able to honestly wish him a happy birthday, but I don’t wish a miserable birthday for him either.

It’s just… his birthday.

I just entered my 30’s this year, and he’s starting his last year in his 30’s.

It’s just another day, but it is his birthday… wherever he is, whatever he’s doing.

髪を切る日

「はさみが通るたびに 思い出が落ちて行く
今朝、何気なく見たパスポートの写真だけが君を覚えてる

人は髪を切る前にきっと何かを片付ける
だからわざわざこんな日曜日を選んでしまうのだろう… 🎶」

と槇原敬之の「髪を切る日」が始まる。

この曲がもう数週間、喉に引っかかってる…
髪を切ろうかなと思ってるからだろうね

ライオンと出会った頃、私の髪はかなり短かった。
「僕は長い髪の女性が好きなんだけど、君は短くても意外と可愛い」と言ったこと
今でもはっきり覚えてる。

私は小学校4年生のときから髪を短く切って、1−2年間伸ばしては短く切ることを繰り返している。
もう20年は続けてるってことだね
高校を卒業する頃から今まで何度か30cmほどの切った髪を癌のある子供たちがカツラをつけられるようにとドネーションをして来た。

ライオンと出会った時からもうそろそろ3年になる
私の髪は腰あたりまで伸びてしまって、また短く切ろうかと迷ってます

彼のおかげで自分の長い髪を好むようになった
彼のせいで髪を短くするとこを少し怖がるようになった

長い髪に守られてるような、隠されてるような
そんな風に感じるようになった。

髪を上げることでうなじが見えた時に何度か怒られた。
色気を出していると、他の男にセクシーに見られたいからだと、誰とでもいちゃつきたいからだと言われた。特に日本の文化はうなじをセクシーだと思うから見せるなと、髪を結うなと。
彼との付き合いを真面目に考えろ、大人になれと。
恥をかかせてると。

私は髪を伸ばし続け、結わなくなった。
彼から離れても、日本を離れても、6ヶ月以上は結えなかったかな
その後も髪を結う不安が無くなるまで、恥ずかしさがなくなるまで数ヶ月はかかったな

髪をまた短く切ろうかなと一ヶ月考えても答えは出なかったから5cmだけ切ったよ。

やっぱり不安は残ってるんだ。彼の言葉が残ってるんだ。
今の私と共に生きてるんだ。

それでも良い
無理はしない。自分を好きになりたいから、自分と生きたいから
自分に優しくするんだ

「髪を切る日」を一人で歌って、苦しさと辛さを思い出すことで癒される。
いつかは切るでしょうけどまだその日は来てないね。

槇原敬之が曲を通して私に話しかけてくれる
「そろそろ前に進まなきゃ…」
そうね。でもね、自分のペースでちゃんと進んでるよ。

The Danger Assessment

You can do the training, and be qualified to use The Danger Assessment. According to the website, it’s been helpful in court proceedings.  If your area of work is related to healthcare, first response, advocacy, and/or justice, it would be useful (and important) to know.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, you can fill out the Danger Assessment for your own situation.

There’s even an “Escape Now” button to get you out of the site right away.

I’ve spent time on the website reading about it, and yet I still can’t get myself to actually download and open the PDF documents. Funny how time passes, healing happens, and yet there are still some things that I’m not ready for. I’ll get to it though.

“The Danger Assessment helps to determine the level of danger an abused woman has of being killed by her intimate partner. It is free and available to the public. Using the Danger Assessment requires the weighted scoring and interpretation that is provided after completing the training. The Danger Assessment is available in a variety of languages.”

The lion.

Today, a bit about the lion.

I don’t know how he’s doing, where he is, or what he does now. I don’t know how he feels about any of what happened.

I assume he’s alive, but for the sake of this post, I write about him in past tense.

He was about 8.5 years older than me. I knew a few things about him before he arrived in Japan. I knew he was French, and that one of the secretaries in the lab he would be working thought he was handsome.

I didn’t think much about him when I met him, only that he somewhat resembled Mr. Bean (I never told him that, but later found out that I wasn’t the only one who though so – and he didn’t like it).

He was a postdoc when I knew him. He had a PhD in psychology, and one of his specializations was in neuroimaging and PTSD. His thesis research had involved women who had chronic abuse-related PTSD.

(It wasn’t until a lot later that I realized how ironic this was.)

He had wanted to study the potential differences of PTSD seen in men and women. Most of the research on PTSD focuses on the combat-related PTSD in young males, and often the research subjects are from the American military. What is PTSD like for those  of a different gender? For those who experience a different type of trauma?

He’d come to Japan to study PTSD within the victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. How were different age groups affected? How were men and women affected? Proximity to the disaster area? Severity of loss for individuals? It was questions like these that he wanted to answer.

For a variety of reasons, his research basically went nowhere in the 2 years he had worked on it. He returned home to France at the end of his contract. As far as I know, there’s still nothing that has come out of that lab or from him, relating to this topic.

He said he wanted to be a part of groundbreaking research, that working with the abused women had been awful and painful for him (and them), and he felt guilty about it. He had good intentions. He had connections, he had potential to bring about positive change, and increase knowledge in an important  field of research. I don’t remember the exact words he used, but that was the idea.

He and I both wanted to do good – to help the disaster stricken area, and the people who had experienced it. He had a goal, a dream. He was smart, and always wanted to learn. He was playful and silly. He was strong. He loved France and French culture, but also Japanese culture. He was trying to become proficient in Japanese, and already had very good English. He had life experience that I didn’t. He had qualities and skills that I wanted in a partner. He had potential. We had potential.

So.

What could go wrong?

A lot.