I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, telling him about a time not long ago when someone said to me, “I didn’t have anything nice to say, so I didn’t say anything at all.”
We’ve all heard this in various forms before. I’m sure I’ve even repeated it offhand, reminding someone that it is better to be quiet than to be mean. “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That’s old. And to some extent, it’s true. If you can only think of shitty things to say, then just keep your mouth shut.
But if you can only think of shitty things to say, you have a lot of work to do. Because you can always be kind. Always.
Last week, my band performed a big show here in our little town. And watching the show was a friend who I know doesn’t particularly like my singing style. It’s not her thing, and that’s fine. But she came to the show. And you know what she said afterwards? She said, “The sound was great!”
And she was right. The sound was great. And that mattered. I love her for not just keeping quiet because the music we make isn’t her jam. She found something nice to say, to show her love and support.
Because there’s always something nice to say.
Someone got a haircut, tattoo or piercing you don’t like? Don’t say it looks like ass, because that’s douchy. And it makes it all about you. Who cares if you don’t like it? Someone’s haircut, tattoo, piercing, music, painting, and general lifestyle choices have nothing to do with you and how you feel about them. So don’t make it about you.
And don’t keep your mouth shut, because you know what? That’s also douchy.
You know she wanted to get that buzz cut. You know he wanted that rising phoenix tattoo. You know she wanted that eyebrow piercing.
Try “Hey! You finally got your hair cut! Good for you!”
Try “Wow, look at the colours in that tattoo!”
Try “I’m proud of you for finally getting that piercing. You’ve been talking about it for a long time.”
Try “Are you happy? Then I’m happy for you.” And mean it.
Someone wearing something that’s not your style? Compliment the colour.
Someone making art you don’t appreciate? Commend them for being brave, and putting their art out there for the world to judge. That’s a hard thing to do.
Someone invite you for dinner but then serve something that was barely palatable? Enjoy their company, and tell them you enjoyed their company. Thank them for their effort. Be gracious. Be kind.
Being quiet isn’t kind. Being quiet is a cop-out. Being quiet speaks volumes. Being quiet is a shitty way to be with the people in your life.
Don’t be quiet. Be kind.
Original Artwork by Allie Brosh
I remember coming across this blog post by the insanely talented writer and artist Allie Brosh when it was first published. Everyone was all, “Allie’s back!” and I was all, “Who’s Allie?” So I started reading, and I couldn’t stop. Plus, she draws, which I can’t do for beans, so I was doubly impressed.
Allie has since had one book published, but I just found out that while her second book was to be published this month, it has been postponed indefinitely. She hasn’t posted a new blog post – or even a new tweet – in years. She kind of disappeared. I hope that she didn’t disappear into the fog of depression again. I hope that wherever she is, she’s happy and snarky and loving it.
I read “Depression Part Two” before I read “Adventures in Depression” (which could have been titled “Depression Part One” if she had known at the time there would be a Part Two.) And while the latter is exceedingly good, the former is really the best explanation of depression I’ve ever read ever ever.
I was talking to a sister-cousin-friend today, trying to explain just this very thing. And then I remembered what Allie wrote. So now sister-cousin-friend can simply read this and know what I was trying to say.
I had a visit from my grandparents last night. I used to call them dreams. But a few years ago, I had an eye-opening — a heart-opening — conversation with my amazing cousin Farhan, and he introduced me to the idea that these were not just dreams, but visits.
Now, my belief in a world beyond our own heartbreaking reality is equal parts shaky, desperate, deep and nonexistent. But I have to say, something about what Farhan said really stayed with me. Because it felt true. It hadn’t felt like a dream. It felt like a visit. And so it was.
Visits from my grandparents aren’t new. The first one was a couple of months after my great-grandmother died. She and I were pretty close, and she passed away one night in her sleep. As far as little old ladies dying, hers was kind of ideal. She wasn’t sick. She wasn’t immobile. She was just old. And done. But still, I was heartbroken.
A couple of months after she passed away, I had a dream that she was sitting on a couch across the room, with her two daughter-in-laws beside her. I missed her, and I started crying. I asked her, “Where did you go?” And she responded, “I’m right here.”
I had this dream 21 years ago, but it’s as clear as day. Not a dream. A visit.
My grandparents visited me several times after Amira was born. In one of them, I asked my grandfather what he was doing there. He looked down at Amira in the stroller I was pushing and said, “I just came to see her.” He always wanted lots of little girls in the family. There’s no doubt in my mind that he came to see her.
And last night’s visit was similar. My grandfather, my grandmother and my great-grandmother were there. The little old ladies were sitting together and talking talking talking like they did every day. My grandfather was off to the side, and when he noticed me, he said, “We came to visit.”
A couple of days ago, our little family was on our way out for a walk when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and had to stop to take in what I was seeing. I was wearing a sweater, jeans, and running shoes. That’s right, running shoes. And not the cool, Skechers kind of running shoes, but actual, white, running shoes. Like, for running.
WordPress is telling me that this is my 100th post. In almost five years, I’ve managed to sit down and write something on this blog 10o times. For some people, that won’t seem like a lot. But for me, it is. It could have been more. It could have been less. But I made it to 100. Each word I put down here has been one less word, one less worry, one less burden to carry on my own. Here, I can lay them down and let them be. I can come back to them if I need to, but the words, the worries, the burdens, aren’t mine to carry alone anymore.
Since graduating from university 12 years ago, I’ve had six unique jobs in four different industries. And I’ve loved them all for their own reasons. All this variety has limited my depth in each industry, but has given me a breadth and a set us transferrable skills that I know will continue to serve me well.
But, there has been something missing in all of these areas – art. They all involved working with different people, working on different projects and stepping outside my comfort zone to some degree, but none of them involved art. And don’t give me that blah blah “you can find art in anything” blah blah. The industries were health care, banking, government and property management. I found fun and learning in all of them, but not art.
Over my 35+ years, many people have graciously said all kinds of nice things to me. Things like, “You look pretty today” or “I love your scarf” or, more recently, ” I really like your writing.” That’s one of my favourites. I also love, “Thank you for helping me”, not because I thrive on that acknowledgement, but because it is nice to know that I was there for someone when they needed it. That means the world to me.
I don’t usually hold up a compliment for too long when I get one. I usually savour it for a few sweet moments, then store them deep inside in a little gratitude box in my heart. I don’t wear them loudly, but I never discard them either. I go back to them when I need to, but usually they stay safely tucked away, never to be lost.
But there is one that keeps bubbling back up – one I can’t just tuck away. It gives me a secret thrill every time.
Being on maternity leave is great. Being home with the baby, having all this time with her, bonding with her, blah blah. All good.
You know what’s not good? The four walls of my house suffocating me all day.
Stu works from home, and he talks often about how he needs to just get out of the house because he he needs to just get out of the house. And while Stu works alone at home, he’s often on the phone or online with other people, having adult conversations, and making stuff happen.
I’m just doing everything I can to get her to sit up. I need to get out.
And so, Amira and I don’t stay home. We go out. We go anywhere. And over the months, I’ve compiled a list of the 6 best places to go with babe in stroller. Since I’ve done the legwork, allow me to share.
I’ve had a really bad habit my whole life that Stu called me on about a year ago. He said, You never practice anything. If you’re not good at it from the get-go, you don’t do it. You know, people practice things. They struggle and work for what they want. You don’t. If you have to work for it, you won’t do it.
And he was right. I’ve been so damn lazy – persistence and perseverance have not been my strong suits.
I could write, so I wrote. I could sing, so I sang. I could play instruments, so I did. But I didn’t draw. I didn’t paint. I could do hoop tricks but I couldn’t dance like I wanted to. I didn’t practice the dancing. I just hung up the hoop. I’ve done this so many times.
And now I have all this breastfeeding DRAMA. And lordy lord, it’s HARD. I’m not feeding her from my breast anymore. I pump the milk, and she gets it from a bottle, and it’s a whole big hassle, really. Maybe I shouldn’t say that feeding my baby is a hassle, but this is. It would be easier if I could just feed her from my breast, but I can’t. It would also be easier if she was solely formula-fed, but she’s not. So I pump the milk and wash the dishes and manage the bottles and measure and warm and pump and wash and oy vey it’s hard.
Of course, this begs the question, why not just formula-feed her? She has been almost exclusively breast-fed for over five months. She’s fine. And yes, she is. But this is important to me. In all the baby stuff that has inundated my life, this is the most important to me. She can wear cheap onesies. She doesn’t need expensive Pampers. If I get my way, her favourite toy will be a pot and a wooden spoon. But for now, as long as I’m still making milk, she’s gonna get it, dammit. So I do this whole rigamarole. And it’s a struggle.
I was complaining about it all to Stu the other day, and he pointed out that the reason it’s so hard is because I’m not used to struggling. I’m not used to working for things, or working at things, or things being difficult and having to work through them. This is the first thing I can remember in a long time that I’ve really worked for. This is the first thing that I haven’t just been lazy about.
And I’m doing it. It’s a struggle, and it’s a hassle every day, but I’m doing it.
I wonder what else I could do if I put in a little effort into it. Maybe I could draw after all. Maybe I could dance. Maybe I could write for a living…