The Last Christmas

There is no good time to lose a loved one. Near or on Christmas might be the worst time of all to have to say goodbye to someone we have loved all of our lives. The last Christmas we had with them grows ever more poignant in our minds.

We may go through the motions of decorating a tree, stringing up the lights and even baking some Christmas treats because we know that’s what our loved ones would want us to do. Still, every bite of cookie, every carol we hear and every empty space on the tree may remind us of the hollow in our hearts. And the tears and longing are awakened all over again.

Grieving can be a strange process and even more so on special calendar dates. We all grieve in different ways and at our own pace. Some are angry for a time and some fall into depression. Others may turn manically busy to distract themselves from the overwhelming sorrow until it is easier for them to be at peace with their loss. Some are able to bounce back far swifter than others. Most of us have witnessed this in a person who marries mere weeks after the loss of a partner or in those who wrangle endlessly over material goods left behind, the markers of a loved one’s existence that may feel as laden with emotion as loving them was.

Memories are really all we have of our loved ones and likely all we ever will have that truly matters. The sentiment tied to an object is all that lends it value and for some, these things are too hurtful to hold yet we treasure them until we, too, pass away. Some of us gift these inherited treasures to others who need the comfort of having them. Nobody is right or wrong at a time of loss, it just is what it is and I find cherishing those we have left is the best way to celebrate those who have left us.

In my own losses near Christmas one of the worst was when I already had gifts for a loved one. After the funeral those gifts in the cupboard stared back at me, unanticipated interlopers in all that was sacred. I recalled how happy I was to be able to afford the gifts I really wanted to give. I also remember wanting to smash them to smithereens and may have done so but it didn’t seem enough. Enough what I asked myself. Enough to protest the loss of someone we never wanted to say goodbye to. No matter what we do or say there is never enough time to do all we wanted, say all we wanted or to stop loving loving them enough.

Finding meaning in anything is challenging when everything suddenly seems so useless and trivial. There is no meaning in death some might say, it hurts too much to make any sense of it. I understand this all the way back to losing my father when I was still a teenager and could not make sense of feeling so robbed. Everyone telling me they were sorry set my teeth right on edge and I even asked one of those people, “what are you sorry for, your father didn’t die.” All these years later in life’s natural progression of losing more loved ones I have come to see that memories are the meaning of death and of life.

How our beginning and our end can be so inextricably interwoven is a mystery to me and yet in that very mystery lies the meaning of it all. In between the hollows in the Christmas tree, in between the bites of homemade shortbread and in between every twinkling light we see the last Christmas we shared together with their love for us living on in everything their presence gifted us. In that vast “in between” of birth and death, we live, we love and we learn that our history with loved ones is the very best gift we have to give and their history with us is the greatest gift we will ever receive.

Wishing all who read this enough of whatever you need, many comforts and much peace.

(c) JT Styles

16/12/2020



The Power of Lull

The world is a tightly wired ball of tension right now from the ravages of the pandemic and other world issues we have little personal power over. Where we do have control is in social distancing and masks or helping a less fortunate family this Christmas. We also have control in how we manage our stress. Staying calm or finding calm is something we can do when stress tests our resilience to the limit. When our senses are in overwhelm from the relentless noise and over stimulation of 24/7 electronics, news feeds and regular daily life stresses, the power of “lull” may help.

Lulls may not sound powerful but consider the simplicity in the word lulling. Whenever I read it, hear it or say it “lull” has a calming effect on me, as if there is nothing in the world that can’t wait. Avoiding stressful people, silencing ringing, pinging gadgets and switching off the television are the most obvious ways to “lull.” I see lulling as a painless path to living with less stress and more healthy intention.

Even in watching television, I choose lulls by watching gentler shows with quieter noise levels and lulls for thinking. I cannot watch anything full of constant battling or loud action, it is just too disturbing to my soul. I left a movie theater a few years ago because the movie was not what I expected. The promised story disintegrated into loud warring for nearly thirty minutes and I had to escape it to lull myself. Ditto for constant sports, the high volume and constant commentating hold no hope of even a single lull. It doesn’t surprise me that there is so much unchecked anger out there, the constant barrage of noise and pressures permit no down time for the mind to replenish. I’d walk around angry, too, if that’s how mentally besieged I lived. My mother hated television and I see why. I prefer the tv off most of the time, I think better, feel better and sleep better. All of which suffers if I don’t give my psyche and emotions rest periods in those much needed lulls.

In the age of being busy it seems the busier we are, the angrier we become. Evidence of once unacceptable aggressions are everywhere. People arguing in store line ups are no longer a rarity. And that’s pre-Covid19 days. Covid19 has created a whole new level of stresses that we could all use some “lulling” from. Feeling uneasy, frightened and angry in the midst of a pandemic is normal but exploding at strangers or loved ones helps no one and is, ultimately, as damaging to ourselves as it is to them.

Yet road rage roars on daily with people racing to get a single car length ahead, flipping other drivers the bird, honking at drivers who don’t want to drive over the speed limit and cutting people off as though it is their birthright. When I was taught to drive, the first thing I learned is that the last place in the world to have a temper tantrum is behind the steering wheel. I question why anyone would consciously choose to spend their lives that way instead of choosing a lull. There will always be annoying drivers. I expect it and just let them do what they do because engaging in frustration is a waste of “lulling” time. “Don’t engage” are the most lulling words ever in my world.

Lulling can be a power move for healing rifts. Where a partner barks at a loved one because they feel stressed, choosing a lull instead could deescalate emotions and restore much needed calm. Choosing a “healing lull” might be the best and most inexpensive relationship medicine we have. Yet some willfully gamble away their relationship health like quarters in slot machines. Eventually the quarters run out and there is nowhere left to go except apart. Unhealthy choices always lead to unhealthy outcomes. Lulling is a gentle technique with a gentle outcome.

Stress expressed as hostility is a contagion we have power over and choosing lulls could be an easily accessible option. A lull might prevent a parent from yelling at their child. Lulling may calm the same child from having a total melt down over being grounded. As a kid if I dared melt down over being “grounded” from anything I would have faced double the penalty. But that was back when the phone was attached to the wall before people started stressing out from being “on” 24 hours a day. I will never be glad for Covid though the lesson I take from it was best summed up by a friend’s 11 year old grandson who said: “the world needs to start over.” Maybe we do need to start over.

My experience with bowed heads has always been prayer related but recently I witnessed a family in a restaurant, all four heads bowed to their gadgets, parents and kids only speaking as needed to their server. When did being plugged in 24/7 become the priority over simply being present with our human beings? Or simply being at peace, free from the stresses of gadget minding. Imagine if that family of four had taken a collective lull during their meal to look into the eyes of their loved ones. What could have been some meaningful memory making together was lost because there was no “lull.”

Lulls can be a tonic, I find, for overall peace and health. Internally for me if there is too much stimulation I go into sensory overload and start physically shaking. My stomach feels sick and that sensation won’t ease until I do. It’s all I can do to take care of myself when I feel so overwhelmed. I find myself wanting to escape the “busy ness,” noise or nagging gadgets and think of quietly enjoying my naturally lulling space.

The times we live in are frenetically busy and complex but we don’t have to be. Lulls are a gift we can give ourselves no matter where we are. Humans are not meant to feel so emotionally tapped that hostility becomes our default setting with constant explosions over nothing when “nothing” may be the very remedy needed. Lulls not only help to restore mental balance but they actually alter the physical chemistry required to stay in an agitated state. A doctor once told me stress can cause cancer. The mind body connection can only take so much stress before something gives.

Giving ourselves lulls is also a way to lift our mood toward life in general. Lulls certainly won’t solve all of the world’s problems, there is no “one size fix all” for that. Lulls can strengthen us, empower us, help us cope and better manage our challenges. Lulls mean different things for different people. Exercising, meditating, listening to gentle music, reading, a gadget free diet or simply doing “nothing at all” to replenish ourselves. Whatever calm and soothing means for us, lulls are easy to include in our lives. Funny thing? With sensory overload weighing on me, I started creating more “lulls” for myself and what happened next was a beautiful illustration of nature in motion. Those little buggers started multiplying like bunnies and I now have lulls with happy attitudes all over the place.

And the smile on my face from all of this multiplication reminds me that healthy self care means “healthy everybody care.” That is the power of lull.

JT Styles
02/12/2020

The Fire Series: Foundlings


In a life no one would otherwise take note of, her ordinary days of boiled egg in a cup, jam toast and taking the dog for a walk before setting off to her accounting work were at once comforting and unsettling. Reversing the night routine to walk the dog and eat a tea of tinned kippers by the electric fire. An orange peeled and eaten section by section, though why she does not know and yet each time staves off an urge to gorge four sections at once. She might have followed through if fear of death by choking ceased rearing up in the back of her ever winding mind. A cup of tea when the kettle whistles her into the kitchen and a book to pass the evening. Loneliness in the wee hours when she awakens and wonders if it will always be this way. Men who feign romance for trades she will never make. Their true colours in graduating shades of shadow following them out the door. Family so geographically distanced she may never see them again. Sisters who behave like frozen bergs harbouring memories they don’t want her to melt. The sea a constant reminder of unstoppable waves of change coming for all of them one day. A sudden deviation from her path though she’d been warned off venturing into the groves alone, anything could happen to a woman in there they said. Her feet welcome the discordant elevations of the earth beneath her leather oxfords, the uncertainty of a footing she cannot find, oddly delighting. Her nose awakens to wet fallen leaves mashing under her shoes and she hurries as if she might be too late already. Into the forest deep where no paths go the trees surround her, battle ready soldiers wearing aprons and beards of softest moss, their tall protection a cover she has never felt before and here in this moment of revelations inhaling the fragrance of green she is struck by the notion that these are her sisters, she has had many verdant sisters growing by her side all along.

(c) JT Styles

Forest photo compliments of Sharron MacLeod of Nanaimo BC, a dear sister friend who inspired this piece.

Dear Sister America

My Beloved Sister:

For the past three and three quarter years we have watched you, our “sister” being slowly murdered before our very eyes.

We cry for the daily injustices of corrupt and incapable leadership collecting a salary for no services rendered, a salary you and your family are all paying in good faith.

We cry for the hundreds of thousands of needless lives lost to the pandemic and all of the injustice in your streets.

We cry because we miss who you used to be before the all consuming disease of 2016. So many decades of wellness yet so few years of poison have all but destroyed your constitution.

We all long to visit you but even if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic we no longer feel safe enough to spend time there with you.

We cry because we love you very much and miss you terribly but we are all so afraid we may never see you again.

We cry because the daily lies, criminal cronies and photographic evidence of your leader’s supporters who actually cause all the violence are not enough to quell the hatred on their faces or your streets.

We cry because we know in the the psychological make up of “blamer minds” there lives no such thing as fact, rationality or accountability.

We cry because we see absurd conspiracies touted while hard science that could actually help you is spurned.

We cry because we want to cling to hope for your healing and full recovery but find ourselves mourning because your disease is so malignant, we are afraid for you.

We miss you our beloved sister and hope to see you again soon,

Your loving sister and family in Canada

————————

Those are my thoughts on what we are all seeing and this is where our voices are all needed for the healing of our sister. Our united voices can be part of the accountability that ensures this type of toxic disease never hurts our sister America again. As citizens around the world, we may not be eligible to vote in the U.S. election but our voices can elect to cast a collective vote by shouting together in protest against this horrifying nightmare we have witnessed since 2016. And we can keep shouting until a full healing for our sister’s disease begins November 3rd.

How to use your voice to help our sister America follows:

 

Writers Against Trump wants to mobilize the literary community in advance of the election.

https://www.writersagainsttrump.org/get-involved

 

#BidenHarris

#BidenHarrisToSaveAmerica

#BidenHarrisToEndThisNightmare

 

The Bike Series: Paper Girls

she rode her bike daily

papers tossed on stoops

a feathered life hers

darkfall

chasing her

peddling mightily

over knolls with no path

through dark looming wood

until safe home

forgotten fright

stirred

by a sly warming sun

his face

front page

caught at last

two girls gone

her shoulders

guilt weighted

good fortune

still hers

(c) Janni Styles

 

 

 

 

Scared or Overwhelmed? Both Are Normal

Today I saw more posts about people contracting Covid19 or dying from it. We are living in frightening times. This, I believe, is why I am also seeing a lot more sharing about emotional health, depression and suicidal feelings. These times are challenging for the heartiest of souls nevermind those who were already struggling.

It is so hard not to put the fear pedal to the metal in the midst of all this. It is especially overwhelming for those who no longer have their regular supports to lean on. Where once we could rely on simple daily routines of getting ready for work or running Saturday errands, we flounder as we try to find our place, make sense of how the world was fine one day and upside down the next.  Personally I miss grocery shopping. I have always enjoyed it, even done it free for others over the years and of my routine outings it is the one I miss the most.

So many of our regular tasks are suspended as are our social touch stones. All our usual meeting places are closed. Those who celebrate Easter are unable to get together for services, egg hunts or turkey dinners with every chair possible squished around the table. It is not safe to shop for birthday or other celebratory gifts. For most of us this is manageable. But for some this means spending an inordinate amount of time alone. More time alone than usual with nothing to look forward to or lift their spirits.

it’s hard to stay strong when we are so scared so much of the time especially for those we love who are still out there providing essential services.  But we have been here before and most of us made it through. Let me share some past storms we’ve weathered:

In no way am I saying we should dismiss our current fears. Letting ourselves feel our feelings is okay. Finding ways to remind ourselves that this is all temporary is helpful, I find, and sharing this chart is part of realizing that perspective.

Many are already terrified about whether they will even have a job when this is all over. Others are panicking because they can’t even see where next weeks groceries will come from. I don’t have answers for those situations beyond hope. When everything else is gone, hope is all we have left. It is so important to hold onto hope because looking at the list of all we’ve survived is a reminder that following the path of hope is helpful. Whenever I thought there was no hope left, a human Angel proved me wrong.

When H1N1 struck I caught it on an airplane  Three days into what was to be my last visit with my mother I was banned from seeing her because she was too frail to risk giving her H1N1. I was delirious for two weeks, thought my long dead father was in the room with me and that I was still babysitting “the little ones,” my four younger siblings . I even told an adult sister she couldn’t see a brother without my permission  I cannot remember any of it.

Wheel chaired onto and off of the plane home, I was sick for three months, coughing blood and generally unable to shake the virus that had set off my asthma and compromised immune system. Doctors kept stepping up my antibiotics until they could go no further.  But I finally started getting better in the third month.  I really thought I was going to die. But I didn’t. I never lost hope and will always believe that’s what saved me, helped me survive.

Most of us are going to make it through Covid19 just as we made it through the list of world challenges  I shared above. Please note this  is not my list but I felt it worth sharing because when fear threatens to swallow me whole, it helps me to maintain perspective.

And perspective is what we need. Fear is normal. We’ve never been here before. Staying in fear keeps us physiologically and psychologically revved up. Trust me, I get it because all fears and anxieties trigger my PTSD into the relentless nightmare zone. I can’t stay there  because I can’t let fear choke me out of my own life

Each day I try to “normalize” myself by doing routine tasks. At first I fell into not caring if I got dressed until I realized dressing helped me feel better. Whatever the little things are, hold fast to those. These are our anchors.  Fixing meals, doing laundry, normalizing as much as possible. I have discovered I can actually forget we are still in this Covid19 crisis. In the midst of doing chores or getting absorbed in a movie or documentary, I forgot about the world out there.  In fact, watching a series to the final episode saw me forget everything in the world until it was over. Then when it struck me that we are in the Covid19 crisis, I felt my muscles tighten, my stomach went queasy and I felt tears rising again. .

So I told myself, if you can do this, if you can feel better just by being distracted for watching a series, doing chores or reading, you can practise “mind relief.” Which is what led me to writing this.

Seeing this list of all we have survived in the past may not be much help but it is if we use it to maintain a healthy perspective. Knowing we are not powerless to help ourselves is also proving helpful for me right now. It means I don’t have to succumb to the fear mongering. It means I can do something to distract from staying in a constant flight or fight mode. It means I can still try to help others which is an innate desire  I was born with.

That’s what compelled me to write this today. If just one person sees this and it helps at all, then mission accomplished. We may not be able to do much but whatever we can do, let’s just keep doing it. This  is how we will make it through to the other side of this challenging time. We really are in this together and just knowing this is comforting, too.

Being scared is okay. Staying there can be costly. Staying strong is wiser. And staying safe is a must. We may make more phone calls, send more texts, play more on or offline games, video chat more, post more, read more on social media, paint, draw, write, Garden or clean every closet in the house. Whatever it takes, I have to believe we will make it, a minute at a time, an hour at a time, a day at a time, whatever we can manage. I am scared sometimes too but I look forward to the day when we can add covid19 to the above list. And, in the meantime, if you are struggling and need to reach out for help, here are some helpful links:

CANADA

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html

https://www.foodbankscanada.ca/utility-pages/find-a-food-bank.aspx

https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/

US

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml

https://www.usa.gov/food-help#item-214625

 

Lifeline Chat

(c) Janni Styles

 

Donning Fox Gloves


In our lives so many moments are pivotal and yet it is often only in hindsight that we realize moving forward led us there. The human ability to move forward fascinates me because, as a PTSD survivor who still endures triggering episodes that can last a week or longer, I wonder how some make moving on look so easy when tomorrow can be a challenge for me depending on today.

Humans are all so different and nothing illustrates this more than our stress responses. Some work best under stress. Some cannot work under any stress at all. Even trauma responses are so varied it leaves me wondering how nothing bothers some and everything bothers others. My mother used to say I was like the princess and the pea, I could feel anything anytime. “If there’s something wrong, Janice will feel it.” She was right and it’s still true.

I read some years ago about a couple who witnessed the same car accident and nearly two decades after witnessing that tragic scene, the woman was still having nightmares while the man was able to process it and never looked back. And before you go thinking this may be a male or female matter, it is not. I know of first responder men with PTSD who cannot get out of their homes while some women who were working alongside them are doing just fine.

For me this may come down to being another nature versus nurture matter. It seems some are born with an innate resilience that carries them through all life challenges big or small while others are born naturally more sensitive to the slightest speed bump in life. Of course I wonder if parenting/nurturing contributes to how we cope in life. Yet, my parents were both survivors who lived through much which, as role models, should have prepared all of us kids with a survivor’s coping mechanism. Yet, some of us are as hardened as they come while the slightest negative tone of voice can still hurt the rest of us as old as we now are. Some are good at “putting the gloves on” for battle while the rest of us don’t even want any gloves.

My own “dream time” defeats me when under stress in that I can nightmare for weeks. The source of stress that triggers this can be anything at all. From my own physical health challenges to worrying about a loved one, from financial stress to social stress of having to be in a large group for several hours running. Some days the daily routine of self care is all it takes to overwhelm and paralyze me. Other fortunate days I think to myself, oh wow, I don’t think I have PTSD anymore. Then, after being triggered yet again (usually by mean, rude or abusive people), I realize I may never be free of PTSD.

What prepares us to react better to trauma or challenges? It could be said that the more we survive and cope with life challenges, the better we grow at coping. To some extent there is a learning curve to life that means we naturally develop and refine our life skills as we go along which is my experience. Yet an unforeseen life changing event can alter everything as it did for me, out foxing all my coping abilities when I was physically assaulted into PTSD.

Perhaps we are all like foxglove blossoms born of one stalk yet our internal freckling so different there may never be a complete answer to any of this. Happen there may be greater peace in simply accepting and supporting one another however we are, wherever we are.

(c) Janni Styles

 

Humble Sandwiches

Sandwiches don’t get a fair break in this world. What led me to think this was reading a morning piece about two women on corona virus lock down in their Tenerife hotel room with no food and only four bottles of water between them. How I wish I could take them some sandwiches was my first thought because sandwiches were the first easy to make and transport meal that flew into my head.

From there I thought of a conversation I had with my mother in her latter years where we shared our love of sandwiches. “I could eat sandwiches for every meal!” my mother announced. “Oh so could I!” I said. We then launched into all the kinds of sandwiches we favored with egg salad at the top of each of our lists. My mother made the best egg salad sandwiches ever. Obviously growing up in a household where sandwiches were so revered and where home made bread was once the norm has left me forever imprinted by “the sandwich.”

if you have bread and most any other ingredient, you have a sandwich. Of course most think of meat or fish or cheese or peanut butter or jam or molasses or honey or mashed beans or eggs or…see what I mean?

Sandwiches as comfort food go back a long way. In my twenties I was down because I didn’t get a job I wanted. I felt flattened because I thought the interview went really well. I went to see a friend and share my disappointment. My friend said, let me make you a nice sandwich. It didn’t totally erase the sting of not getting the job but it sure tasted good.

An in-law in his eighties still shares stories of stomping over to a great auntie’s home whenever he was upset  or angry at an older sibling. There in her kitchen his auntie sat with him sharing tea and jam sandwiches she’d made for him which likely served to heal his emotions just as much as being in her safe, warm kitchen.

Sandwiches are the perfect traveler pack and carry food from working in the fields to a Sunday family picnic. My father used to pack peanut butter or baloney sandwiches for us all whenever we took a ferry to or from the mainland. Initially a cost saving measure, those ferry sandwiches live among my best childhood family memories.

Apart from being so portable sandwiches are quick and easy to make. If you have a baguette and cheese, you have an instant breakfast. If you have bread and meat, you have a meal, no butter or mayo needed.  You can use veggies, avocado, sprouts, chicken salad, tuna salad, whatever you please between two pieces of bread and away you go.

Another sandwich story I will never forget was shared by another senior in law . This “auntie” often tells the story of her wedding day by mentioning first “we had sandwiches.” “I love sandwiches,” I said, “nothing wrong with sandwiches!” She goes on to say they’d had very little money for their wedding and that was all they could afford. Everyone gets that with some weddings these days happening as a tea rather than a meal or as a potluck where closest relations do all the cooking. Most of us don’t even care what we eat, we are just happy to be included whether there is a tea, a meal or a humble sandwich. Her wedding photos are so beautiful, they live forever as testament that sandwiches are a wonderful food fit for any occasion

One of my own aunties is now ninety and still in her own home doing all her own baking and cleaning. On our last phone call together after Christmas she said she’d just baked some bread and was having some for supper. Oh shut up! I said and we laughed. Her key to health and longevity might just be in that toasted tomato sandwich she has every morning for breakfast. Whatever her secret is to aging well, I want the recipe and something tells me it will likely be a sandwich.

So my hope today is that someone near that hotel in Tenerife will take those two women sandwiches every day until they are able to go home. I know I would if I were near enough. Since reading about those women I’ve learned there are 1,000 hotel guests on lock down. My hunch is a humble sandwich wouldn’t be unwelcome while they all wait to get back home.

(c) Janni Styles

 

 

 

 

The Bike Series: No Name

tidy orchard rows

decades ago

planted in true love

 

no room for flyers

with mismatched wings

on a solitary dove

 

many stop to partake

rescuing the bruised

from shifting ground

 

overcome with heady fragrance

never hearing the quiet

lonesome sound

 

of one brave tree

rooting apart

breaking straight lines

 

the inner rings

and outer calls

resisting all confines

 

against the sturdy trunk

stands a rusted

two spirit ride

 

wood arms cradling steel

love has no name

hearts will abide

 

 

(c) Janni Styles

 

 

 

Old Groves

somewhere between

ocean fragrant breezes

and flexing

whispering trees

my own language

faltered

altered

triggering unease

 

all that pain

she fired at me

because she hurts

too much to see

all that pain

she won’t let near

so Invested in serving

her anger muffled ear

pain never mine

misplaced wrath hers to heal

her peace will come only

when she lets herself feel

 

still learning

me too

how to gratefully

bow away

to write only on sea winds

words I vowed

never again

to say

 

(c) Janni Styles

 

 

 

 

Day 18 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge

Day 18 is: Post 30 Facts about yourself. Well, well, well. Wouldn’t that be giving up on being mysterious? Hah! As if. Not one to mince words nor do I care for mystery, bullocks to that, let’s just keep it real, lol, so here goes.

  1. My love of dogs once gave me nightmares when I worked to rescue them from vivisection and could not raise enough funds to save them all.
  2. Since I was a little girl I have yelled about injustice or unfairness, at parents, teachers, whoever, I think it’s in my blood because I cannot seem to stop lol
  3. If I could be a fictional character I would be Lisbeth Salander, love her strength, intelligence and sense of justice.
  4. I love strong spirited women who are honorable, no two faced gossip crap, just straight up loyally supportive as humans should be.
  5. I love strong spirited men who are honorable, no two faced gossip crap, just straight up loyally supportive as humans should be.
  6. I detest people who are rude, wishy washy or who engage in “gang think” to justify their malarky I can’t help calling them out on.
  7. I love vegetables. You may take away the meat or dairy or whatever but I would just die without vegetables.
  8. Ditto for fruit.
  9. People have told me I look like a movie star more than once in my life. (most often these three: Kidman, Streisand, Marilyn)
  10. Climate change is really scaring me. Really scaring me. I do what I can and wish everyone would hurry up and do what they can, too.
  11. I have Fibromyalgia, it runs in my family and is a physically grueling task master.
  12. I have PTSD from a brutal physical assault in 2012, something I never knew much about until I was struck with it.
  13. I don’t believe the number 13 is unlucky at all.
  14. I have a beautiful loving family and long time friends who I would do anything for, their steadfast love and loyalty for me moves me to tears.
  15. I am trying to write another book I think women of all ages will relate to but my energy and pain levels mean this is very slow going. Very slow.
  16. Simple is best, in food, in home, in life, it really is the simple things that make life worth living. Especially simple kindness.
  17. My musical tastes are eclectic.
  18. I like to drive at night time, it is quieter, there is far less traffic, the moody moon and glimmering stars my guides.
  19. I no longer own a car so number 18 may not happen anymore lol
  20. I hold an Interior Design Diploma I never really used because encouraging people to buy new when old still works sticks it to the climate.
  21. I am not afraid of anyone or anything. Not even of death. I will be dead so I won’t care lol
  22. The world is in such chaos at the moment, I take sanctuary whenever I can by the sea, church of all churches in my opinion.
  23. I once worked with victims of violence but did not think I was one myself. Violence takes many, many forms.
  24. I believe if we are constantly seeking peace we will never find it, being at peace wherever we are is where peace lives.
  25. Many have mocked my writing but were very pleased to know me when I was published or won awards for it. Art changes lives, writing is art.
  26. Baths are one of my favorite ways to ease my stresses, even watching the water go down the drain, taking away all that stress.
  27. Sleep is something I often struggle for but, if pain allows, I can sleep 11 or 12 hours straight, catching up on those “short” sleeps I guess, lol
  28. My favorite color is white. Then pink. Then blue. No my wardrobe and home do not resemble a nursery lol
  29. Walking is one of my favorite things to do. With the right shoes on my rare good day I feel like I could just walk forever and ever.
  30. My ideal life would be in a humble, pretty home near the sea with energy enough to write out all these books living in my head.

Day 15

Day 15 of the 30 Day Writing Challenge: Bullet Point Your Whole Day

  1. awoke
  2. opened blinds
  3. opened balcony door to welcome cool, fresh morning air
  4. made a coffee, drank it while reading bits from “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  5. had to rest for a bit
  6. checked social media accounts, shared hopeful posts of “impeachment”
  7. sent message to someone struggling
  8. rested again
  9. answered unusual knock on door (buzzer in apt building)
  10. see RCMP
  11. started shaking, thought they were here to tell me someone else has died
  12. couldn’t stop shaking for a long time after, thank you PTSD (NOT)
  13. they were looking for my neighbour, hmmmm, should I be nervous
  14. answered text messages from loved ones to calm my trembling
  15. rested again
  16. emptied dishwasher and put dirty dishes in, wait, there were no dirty dishes, yet, lol
  17. washed face with beautiful gift of handmade soap, applied sunscreen and told myself I will go walk for a bit, if I have the energy
  18. opened blog to do this challenge and first answered kind commenters on prior posts
  19. rested again
  20. niece needs help, answered her request
  21. sitting with nephews for two hours, rather, they will “sit” me, lol, big boys they are now, good thing because my “littles” skills are no longer lol
  22. trying to get this post done before I fade away altogether, can rest the whole two hours boys are here
  23. haven’t eaten yet, that may help with the energy but what do you eat when you feel like nothing? Somebody cook for me please lol
  24. brought dried tops in from balcony drier, put damp things out to finish drying
  25. rested again
  26. thought about book I am trying to write but so overwhelming just had to say as Aria said “not today”
  27. thought about going down to fetch mail but legs are just too wobbly right now and vertigo is not helping, maybe later
  28. only half way through the day and I need to rest again
  29. opting to bullet point only half of my day here, no point boring you further
  30. That’s it, day 15 done, off to rest, hope you are having a pleasant day!

Day 10 of 30 Day Writing Challenge

Another one that opens up endless possibilities: Write about something for which you feel strongly.

Since I was recently asked to write about the plight of abused children being used by sex traffickers and pedophiles, I will say I feel strongly about protecting children. My voice may not amount to much out there but since I agreed to do this a while back I recently started a series on here toward that goal, and will be sharing more as time progresses. It is my firm belief that “turning away,” “excusing” and “shame blaming” have held many abused people emotional hostage to these crimes right through their adulthood. If we can raise awareness not just in practical terms of educating children to what “danger” may look like but also in sharing what parents should keep an eye out for, I think that would be of service. And what are we here for if not to be of service. A dear long time friend says humans have a tendency to put most tough topics in the “too hard basket” and leave them there. I hope that won’t be the case for my series. I hope it will help or save at least one child somewhere from a nightmarish existence. Watch for my next piece in this series, it is based on a powerful real life situation and I hope my friend’s piece will be a warning bell for everyone using social media.

 

 

Salad Matters

you look out the

window

of your life

a summer supper of endive salad

with tomatoes

plucked fresh

from patio planters

the daily exchange

of health hurdles

with neighbors

semi annual visits

from duty bound kids

pictures on the computer

of grandchildren

you once met

no more big houses

no more car

no more travelling

no more work

you ask yourself

am I?

Was I?

the weather

watching

a daily event

too hot

too cold

too much rain

not enough rain

am I

the stretching of pennies

never matching the rising

groceries

the watering

of hanging

flower baskets

between

plucking spent leaves

where did I go?

Was I just an

extension

a fringe benefit

in other’s lives

Was I?

Was I ever?

You grab your jacket

and head out

to run errands

on foot

because you

still can

I am!

This is all

that really matters

(c) Janni Styles

The Alchemy of Noise deserves to be on your summer reading list!

“The Alchemy of Noise” by Lorraine Devon-Wilke is a timely story I hope screen writers and movie makers will discover and develop. In the pages of this literary work the ride you embark on will make you stop and think more than once.  The “Alchemy of Noise” is a heart wrenching yet inspirational read as the characters inner lives leave us questioning our own role in dividing or unifying human beings.

Almost poetic in some passages, Devon-Wilke weaves “The Alchemy of Noise” with an intelligent pen of compassion and soulfulness. Her characters are all relatable as you find yourself transported inside the torn social fabric of our contemporary world to first person perspectives of family matters, addiction, police brutality and racism.

https://www.amazon.com/Alchemy-Noise-Lorraine-Devon-Wilke/dp/163152559X

While reading I felt such frustration on Chris’s behalf I yelled out loud just as I have been known to do at a movie where I felt the story so strongly. Overcome with anger or utter sadness just as in real life when witnessing injustice, I was so hopefully invested I finished the book in a mere two days. As a woman I relate to protagonist Sidonie in a thousand ways:  her work life, her love life, her family, her human needs. As a life-long activist I relate to Vanessa’s passion for justice and grew to love her for her fighting spirit alone. As a human witnessing racial injustice in the world, I hurt for her, her family, her “sisters” in the trenches, her brother and so many others in the world suffering the injustice of “white privilege.”Chris is such an easy man to love, he is a shining example for men and women alike in my opinion because his way of walking in balance, not anger, is so admirable, so honourable. No more spoilers here, you have to read for yourself to see exactly who I am talking about and what ultimately happens to each of them.

The day I finished reading “The Alchemy of Noise” a post appeared in my social media feed that shocked me: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/white-campground-manager-fired-after-pulling-a-gun-on-a-black-couple/  The gun toting woman was fired from her job, thankfully. Still, this incident is one of many similar injustices still happening daily in 2019. Yes, I said 2019, not 1920. Devon-Wilke poignantly brings this social crisis of racism to light with even-handed examples of human disconnection and the quiet, enduring power of love.

From the challenge of loving narrow minded relations to finding love without trust impossible no matter your race or level of privilege, this book is rich with raw human experience.  Deftly executed with grace and the author’s own keen sensibilities, the story left me wishing it would never end. It is well-paced with moments of epiphany that had me feeling I was not just a reader but part of the story. In some way, we all are.  Every single one of us can take responsibility for changing history for the better, lessons of yesterday are a chance to improve, to hate less, love more and a chance to be at peace with all people.

In my mind Devon-Wilke’s work is right up there with the movie “Crash.” My hunch is “The Alchemy of Noise” would make a block buster movie or a most deserving series with the much needed reminder that we are not separate as human beings, we are one huge “human race.”

https://www.amazon.com/Alchemy-Noise-Lorraine-Devon-Wilke/dp/163152559X

(c) Janni Styles

#summerreading #summerbooks #books #summer #worthreading #brilliantbook

Downsizing, Decluttering and Doing Better With Less

A decade ago when I walked away from my more than three decades of marriage I found it challenging to down size my belongings and wound up leaving a lot of things behind. I left him all the house equity, the new truck, most of the three bedroom house full of furniture and many other joint belongings. I didn’t care about many of those things because they represented a life I wanted to leave behind. What got to me were the sentimental things, the photo albums, the family keepsakes collected over the years and my beloved books. How was I ever going to part with my hundreds of books?

Well, I will tell you. I parted with many of them book by book. When storing many of these things at my former marriage home was no longer an option, I took what I could stuff into my one bedroom apartment and drove the rest to the thrift store. Book by book. Ornament by ornament.

My years of dabbling in Interior Design after earning my Interior Design Diploma saw me building collections of textiles from zippered cushion covers to draperies and bedding, cabinet hardware as well as scads of different styles of art. It wasn’t hard to find storage for these items while living in a house. There was always a spare room, a large shed or garage and ample crawl space. Condensing a house full of memories and things I loved down to a one bedroom apartment didn’t happen overnight. It took me quite a few years to get it right.

The funny thing is I didn’t plan it, I just inched into it as changes in my life occurred and decisions had to be made. Like many of the jobs I have held in my life, I just seemed to land in the situation I needed to, learning to declutter by coming into it all sideways. That was how downsizing and decluttering happened for me. It was little by little and as I went along, I really began to see just how much mental, emotional and physical real estate these things were costing me to keep.

At first I was a bit angry that I had to even consider getting rid of so many things I had collected over the years. Then as I drove car load after car load to the thrift store, it seemed I could see clearer and clearer with each trek. What had befuddled me and torn me in half to think of parting with became an easy call as I realized what really mattered to me. The more I had to do it, the easier it became.

For a few years I lived in a two bedroom apartment but the square footage was actually less than my previous one bedroom suite. Recently I had to move again, not by choice but a serendipitous move for me it was. You see, I had to downsize again because I am now in a studio suite that simply will not contain all the things I once owned.

My photo albums matter to me so I have all twenty of those with me. Some books I know I can never part with including all those with my mother’s hand writing in them when she gifted them to me and a collection of literary classics she gave me in my thirties. I was able to pass on to beloved young family members some treasures and gifted other young loved ones with some books and furniture they could use or sell if they wished. It felt a bit like coming full circle to be giving these things away and  not feeling badly about it in any way. My emotional ties were not severed, they just weren’t involved in the practicalities of it all. It was as if my higher self knew this was the right thing to do for all concerned.

My clothes closet was another story altogether. I had hundreds of hangers, over a hundred pairs of shoes and I bet you I had 20 black dresses. When I knew I was moving to a studio apartment near the sea, I knew I would no longer have two closets. My new apartment has very little storage. Off to the thrift store again I went with bags and bags of clothes and shoes I had not worn in years. I whittled it down each week until I was left with 15 hangers not including coats or jackets. This was a massive downsize for me. Gone were the desert boots I hardly wore, the spiky silver sandals I bought for a wedding and never wore again. Gone were all the black dresses save one because, I now know, one is all I really need. Same for my drawers. I had three dressers and am down to one with only what I need in it. And, oddly enough,  some days that still feels like too much.

I think it feels like too much because it is still needy, still needs care, maintenance, cleaning and still takes up valuable real estate. This is the way I view “things” in my life now. I have to really really love it. Or need it. Or I can live without it. I know this now because I am doing it and happily so. Having too many things can absorb a lot of time and that doesn’t make me feel happy. I know many who declutter talk about the sense of freedom. I don’t know that I would call it freeing but it certainly frees up a lot of valuable time. I remember a friend who was downsizing years ago saying “If I have to dust it, I can live without it.” At the time I couldn’t understand her thinking. Now, some twenty odd years later, I get it. She was right. If I have to dust it, clean it, maintain it, store it or otherwise spend my valuable time on it, I don’t need it.

Doing better with less wasn’t something I planned but I am grateful for it because I now look for ways to continue living minimally. Have you ever had to downsize or declutter? How did you handle it and what did you learn about yourself in the process?

When Home Is Not Where the Heart Is

Where we live can make us very, very ill. High pollution areas are treacherous for those with asthma or any other breathing disorder. And nobody will ever forget Julia Roberts in the movie “Erin Brokovich.” Many “Erin Brokovich” folks are working hard daily to improve living conditions for many around the world. But what about not knowing that where you are living is making you sick until after you move? This is exactly what happened to me.

When I first found my last place to live I was excited because it meant I would be moving back to an area I had once lived in for 15 years so I knew it well and was looking forward to living closer to people I love. Living near those I love worked well for those four plus years because it meant no long drives for dear ones to visit me daily or on weekends, easy access for getting together for errands or outings and celebrations. But the joy stopped there unbeknownst to me until my recent move to a new above ground apartment near the sea.

The suite I rented for over four years was in a mansion, around the side gate, along a walk to the back of the house with a pretty yard to a staircase 15 steps down into the ground. No problem, I told myself, I am able so the walk and stairs are no biggie and not seeing any trees or green would force me into going out more. Or so I thought. The windows looked out on a 15 foot high concrete wall. No problem, I told myself, as I gathered “fake greenery” and fashioned a “drape” of it to hang on the concrete wall outside my main (and only) window in the kitchen/living room. The area had only one park nearby and it was not a proper park, just a play pad for tiny tots, really. No problem, I told myself, I have a car, I will drive to parks and green space more often. A dear friend came to see my last suite when I rented it and said, “I just wish you had more windows.” No problem, I told myself, I will just “whiten, lighten and brighten” up the space with paint and fabrics.

As life would have it the area had “devolved” into what I said it would eventually, a ghetto, if the city did not control the negative growth and high influx of criminal elements. They didn’t. In time, I realized with all the deaths of innocent people due to stray bullets of gang violence, the daily crime and the accompanying drug addicts and other unseemly traffic in the area, the area was nothing like it once was when I had lived there for 15 years in the first home I ever owned. No problem, I told myself, I won’t go out at night alone anymore. The problem with that idea was that I was soon too nervous to go out in the day anymore either with the high crime in the area, the addicts dogging you for money or trying to steal your purse as happens almost daily near the bus exchange now, the stray bullets causing almost monthly elementary school lock downs and crack heads tweaking out crazily in broad daylight on the street right outside my house. It was no longer the peaceful, pretty and safe community I had left all those years ago and likely never will be again.

Staying home more was okay. At first. No problem, I told myself, I will just write more. I had no way of knowing that the stresses were already taking their tole with such force that I would soon be in far too much pain and much too ill to write let alone do my own self care. I even stopped writing altogether as the physical side of me started deteriorating so rapidly.

One month into my new apartment I was surprised to see my nails were returning to their former pink glory from the grey, whitish look they’d had and the fragility of rice paper was diminishing. As I type this I can feel my nails which I could not for the past couple of years because they simply would not grow or what tiny growth they had was quickly torn away by the merest of task. This has ceased. I also noticed my hair was dulling in color, looking very unhealthy and falling out a lot at the old place. Aging, I told myself, just aging, soon you will need to buy a hair dye from the drug store, that’s all. Just over a month in my new place and my hair is lustrous, the hairbrush is back to normal instead of enough hair to build a blanket every time I use it and the color has returned. Yes returned. Best of all, I am no longer living in the bathroom. I spent over a year being so ill with my intestinal disorder that doctors recently found has naturally worsened with age. Little did I know that all the stresses of adjusting to my former neighborhood were the greatest triggers for worsening this disorder which resulted in losing over 50 pounds last year. I no longer have to stay home near a bathroom. The only sad thing about it the weight is I could stand not to gain it all back but it is slowly creeping it’s way up. Still, it is a good news situation.

I did nothing extraordinary. I was under no new treatment from any source. I simply moved away from the place that was making me so sick. I am getting better and better every single day. Once when I lived where there was black mold my asthma railed daily and I had to buy very expensive air purifiers just to breathe. That, however, was far more obvious. “Black mold” to me now is any place that does not contribute to our well being. If we are in a job or living in a place that is “black mold” to the heart, soul and mind, we need to address that as best we can to put ourselves in a position of joy. Not everyone can instantly change where they live or their work but we can do small things to improve the situation for ourselves until we can make the big changes that will nourish our soul once again.

If someone had told me that where I live was making me so sick, I had to get out of there, I would have argued with them and said no, it’s just aging, it’s just my body, it’s just life. Nobody did. Nobody ever asked me if where I lived might be affecting my psyche and therefore, my physical health. Nobody knew. I didn’t even know. Until I moved.

For me, it has been like getting my whole life back, having a new chance to live again instead of slowly die as my mind, spirit and body were obviously doing where I was. They say we should never say never but I know one thing for sure: I will never willingly live down in a cave or bunker style home in a crime ridden area again. It nearly killed me the first time and I’m not going to assist in that if I can help it. Each day as I gain back more strength and feel less pain, I realize how much where we live can deeply and even gravely affect us.

Painting all my furniture white and using light fabrics did absolutely nothing to “lift” the heaviness of living in such oppressive darkness where now in my new apartment with a view and the sea right out the front door, my pretty fabrics and white furnishings fairly glow. Just before Christmas when I was watching the children of a young thirty something woman I used to provide daycare for myself, her two sons entered my old place and the six year old said, “How can you live here, you can’t even see when the sun is shining!” Indeed, wise child, indeed.

Have you ever lived where it was not good for your well being? How did you cope until you could move?

(c) Janni Styles

Voices are Vital: Silence Changes Nothing

Many of you already know my story and while it is not the prettiest, I am one of the lucky ones and I know it.

I have a nice, peaceful life filled with many people who love me and appreciate me just exactly as I am which is just exactly how it should be for all of us. Sadly, it too often isn’t so for many. A recent spate of young women dying at the hands of their partners has me talking about these matters again and I know you’ve heard this before, too, but with that innate sense of justice I can never seem to shake since childhood I am compelled to share yet again:

“Once you witness an injustice, you are no longer an observer but a participant.” ~ June Callwood

A dear friend recently interviewed me for her blog and I would like to share that interview with you. So many angels lifted me through those awful years after the assault and Lisa was one of those kind souls who was a bright guiding light on some of my darkest nights. I failed to mention in that interview that I am working on a book I hope to have published by 2020 at the latest, please God and the Angels who watch over me. If it seems I am meandering a bit, I am but not without intent. I mention my story again as a trigger warning because in this interview I talk about what happened to me again.

Recently I stated this “If we stop talking about what must stop happening, it will never stop happening.” This is why we must never stop voicing the truth and keeping it front and center.

Facts can be hard for some to take but for others, they are a sign of hope, a sign of strength and a sign that they, too, can have a better life. On that note, I will say goodnight and share with you my recent interview, enjoy:

Celebrating Women: Janni

 

 

You’re Not Alone

You’re not alone.

Well there’s nobody else here, it appears I am very alone.

You’re not alone.

I live alone. If it wasn’t for alone I wouldn’t be anything at all.

You’re not alone.
Nobody knows what it feels like to feel so alone here inside me.

You’re not alone.
You say that but here I sit still all alone.

You’re not alone.
Alone is something you can only understand if you are alone or feel alone.

You’re not alone.
Those are just words people say but they don’t really mean a thing.

You’re not alone.
Prove it or stay quiet.

You’re not alone.
Every time you say that I feel more alone.

JT Styles

09/01/2021

Please note this is not about me, I am very fortunate with many who love me and am alone if I want to be by choice. My intent was to share a phrase I have seen all over social media for a couple of months now and these sightings increased over the holidays not to mention Covid19 isolating the isolated further. So many feel alone now and telling them they aren’t doesn’t change a thing for them. Reaching out to the hurting is fine and should be done. What shouldn’t be done is trying to soothe them with an outright lie in direct contradiction of the truth they are living.

I know people mean well. Well, most of us do. We just need to think about how the words “you’re not alone” will strike someone who is absolutely alone no matter what any of us say. I believe we need to honour the person who is experiencing feeling alone. I don’t know the best ways to do that but if you have suggestions for how we might do that, please share them here. And if anyone reading this is alone or feels alone please feel free to chat with me, I can keep your comments and our conversations private and I don’t say I have any answers for you but I do have two good ears.

Worth The Read

We all know bullies or have suffered their abuse. Some of us are even related to one or two of them. When reason and logic fail they hurl insults and resort to name calling because it’s all they’ve got. This was a great read on how we can protect ourselves from bullies. Been told all of my life “you are just too good natured and easy going.” Now I see why I was such a target for the haters, all makes sense now:

https://thegirlgod.blogspot.com/2015/09/ending-verbal-abuse-by-mary-scully.html?fbclid=IwAR2LTOwhn1TSEcjuvjh1Q7eI0xo8MUO2gfU0Pap5B4CvJsydpZq19s5LeuA

New Year’s Resolutions: Keep or Toss?

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? More importantly, do you keep them?

Last year I said I thought New Year’s resolutions were a recipe for failure. My conclusion is founded on many decades of witnessing people abandon their New Year’s Resolutions by the end of January or shortly thereafter. Why do people set themselves up for failure like this year after year, I wonder. Why not just plan to make improvements without setting rigid goals that can’t be adhered to.

Several people jumped all over me for voicing my opinion about New Year’s resolutions. I bet if you asked all of them if they achieved their resolutions, 90 percent or more did not. I also bet they won’t be so quick to repeat their claims of a year ago.

A psychologist once told me it takes six weeks of practising new habits to effect lasting change. It strikes me that we need fewer New Year‘s resolutions and more encouraging strategies that may actually succeed.

Just yesterday I read a friend’s social media that confirmed my beliefs about these annual promises we make to ourselves. He said “I made a New Year’s resolution to lose twenty pounds. How do I lose twenty pounds in four days?”

My own desire to live a more healthful life could see me making some resolutions of my own. But I won’t. Instead I will figure out a workable plan of change for myself. A plan that is achievable and not something I will drop in a matter of days. And I’ll kick my plan into motion on whatever day works best for me. Maybe even tomorrow. Oh wait. There are still Christmas treats hanging around. See what I mean? Good intentions are wonderful but commitment for the duration is what is needed to reach our goals.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you succeed or fail at fulfilling them? I invite you to share your own opinions and experiences on this long standing tradition that, in my opinion, can colour the remainder of the year with the failure achieved right out of the gate. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it to do that to ourselves. It’s almost punishing and nobody needs to start the new year like that. I know for sure I won’t be. How about you?

JT Styles

28/12/2020

Quotes I wrote

If you settle for anything you will get nothing ~ JT Styles

Adults stuck in blaming instead of healing are abusing themselves ~ JT Styles

If we are not grateful for what we already have there is no point in having more ~ JT Styles