When I was in third grade, my teacher showed us how to “make our own books”. She would make hard cover blank books for us with cereal box covers and hand sewn binding, and we could publish our stories. All of my stories ended with girls wishing for peace on earth. I’m not sure why I was so fixated on that. I was however, hooked on writing. I think I published about eight of my own books that year. I’m fairly certain I did one in second grade too, but I can’t remember how that would have worked out.
Anyway, I wrote stories all through high school and by the time I graduated I wasn’t too bad at it. I gave up on writing full length novels though. I enjoyed the symbolism and shortness of shorter fiction way too much. For a long time after that, I wrote non-fiction and only half finished short stories if I had a vivid dream that I thought could turn into a great story. I rarely finished even those, although I have a collection of really great starters.
A few months ago, I submitted some photographs to Paper Street Journal and a short story I had written based on my graduate school research. I studied the Inuit at Chedoke Sanatorium in Hamilton, but the research paper was really disjointed and without a strong argument. The Paper Street Journal published my story. It felt like a long shot, but they did, and even though it’s a newer publication, I’m still really excited about it. I guess the point is, don’t give up on your childhood dreams. They may yet surprise you.
Photos of Inuit children at Cherokee Sanatorium in Hamilton. There History is very sad, and relatively unknown. Please look into it, but start with my FICTIONAL work obviously.
Check it out here: The Unnamed Baby, by Charity Blaine.
People always talk about searching for a soul mate, but I don’t think you can really. He or she just has to be there. If you search, you put conditions on what you’re looking for – you go to places where he or she could be – then you look for people who fit the the qualities on your internal check list. You ultimately decide on the one who most closely resembles your soul mate within that pool. I am not saying this approach is never successful. I am suggesting it allows many people to settle down with the best “of the worst”, or the best of that particular group. There is a degree of compatibility and a mutual understanding that it’s the right time to step into that phase of your life, then three kids later, you have a life together. Maybe that’s not so wrong. In reality, the human race definitely would not have survived otherwise. But it’s not just that. That process isn’t less reliable or faulty necessarily.
All I’m saying is, I’ve never been able to do that and not even by any choice of my own. I’ve tried and failed, and ultimately feel like garbage and a terrible human being and like surely I have malfunctioned. My internal warning instinct goes off – like a skunk emitting spray – there is no helping it – it is a defence against predators – or maybe I’m the predator – out to rip apart an unsuspecting victim as an innate natural ritual. I’m exaggerating, A LOT. I probably just haven’t liked anyone enough or the right way. I have a really tough time with the idea that someone who is a complete stranger becomes your family. You rely on that person entirely and trust them entirely, and if I’m ever going to do that, it’s not because the person meets certain adjectives on a list. In fact, I don’t know how I’m ever going to do that. Maybe I won’t.
The point is, there isn’t a formula. You can say “try online dating” or “travel” or “be more open-minded”, “take risks” and although that may widen the prospects – it will no more guarantee that that one person will finally find the way into my heart before I turn wild on him. I have to trust in something greater than myself for this. I have to have a little faith (and confession, 50% of the time, I don’t).
I use to sort of roll my eyes when people posted memes saying to “enjoy the small things” or “appreciate the moment”. They seemed like cliches and not even entirely valuable ones. The thing is though, I do enjoy small moments and although I am always grateful for big happy times too; it’s really being aware of tiny pleasures that make life better. When times are tough, being able to appreciate the first sip of coffee in the morning, can really make a day more bearable. This posted is just a few of my favourite things, the things I can look out or focus on when a day or week or month is tough.
I really enjoy snow, and being outside in it when it’s not too cold. I also really enjoy watching how much these guys love playing it in. (They aren’t my dogs, but I like to borrow them.)
It really does help to surround yourself with things that you love. I decorate for the holidays, especially Valentine’s Day because I enjoy red and pink together. There are books everywhere, and flowers when I can, and framed pictures that remind me of places where I felt at peace. The quilt in the basket was made by my great grandmother from squares of old men’s suits. I had it on my bed for a while, but I really don’t want to ruin it.
Taking photographs always helps too. I haven’t taken an afternoon to just make photos in forever, so I did a few weeks ago.
It made a huge mess but it was definitely worth it.
All of this is just to remind you that happiness isn’t about life being perfect, it’s about getting joy from all the small moments that make up our day to day lives. Pay attention to the details that you so carefully add into your life, and notice how those things make you feel. If you are aware of that feeling, life will get more bearable and eventually become happiness. One step at a time.
People love all the time, inherently, no lessons required, yet the world somehow seems short of it.
- Forgive. Sometimes you just have to accept that people are imperfect and will hurt you, and instead of trying to pay them back, or staying angry… just let it go. Act like it never happened. For me, empathy and forgiveness go hand in hand. If I can feel what they are feeling or understand why they are doing what they are doing, it’s much harder to stay angry. I am not in any sense advocating going back into toxic relationships. But even if you cut these people out of your life, for your own sake, forgive them and then move on from the past.
- Have empathy. When someone does something to you, try to think why you would behave that way. Are you grouchy because you didn’t get enough sleep or things are just going poorly? When someone mistreats you, assume the same. If you give yourself grace, (which you do) give others grace. Never assume they hate you. Always assume they are just having an off day, or are nervous or have social anxiety, or are over-thinking. You do it, they do it too.
- Just be kind anyway. If someone doesn’t talk to you, don’t avoid talking to them. Try to make a conversation. For some reason, we are taught that small talk is the devil, but the reality is, small talk helps make connections, so you can have “real” talk. Some people are just shy or feel like no one is interested in what they have to say.
- Compliment people. Sometimes I think I’m borderline creepy with how much I compliment people, but honestly, I like compliments, and it’s an easy ice breaker so I say, go for it.
- Give people a chance. Our society is full of mixed exceptionalities. Just because a person doesn’t achieve a high IQ score, or has autism, or even a physical disability, doesn’t mean they aren’t the sweetest most interesting people in the world. A friend of mine always asks me to fill in greeting cards for him because he can barely even sign his own name, but he is the funniest guy I’ve ever met and totally deadpan. Sometimes he tells the same jokes over and over, because he knows I thought they were hilarious the first time, but my life wouldn’t be so complete if he wasn’t in it.
- Listen. People have stories and they want to tell them. The biggest thing you can do is just listen.
- Don’t judge. You know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t do it. Just because someone does something differently from you doesn’t mean they’re wrong or less than you. The world takes all kinds of people. Someone has to collect garbage, someone has to protect children. Someone has to educate, someone has to sell coffee. Each of us does our job, raises our children, teaches, dresses, eats, in a way unique to us. Love the diversity. Love people.
- Assume good first. No one is perfect. And sometimes people just need you to believe in them in order for them to achieve their potential. When I was teaching, another teacher said to me, “Hold the standard high, children will rise to the standard”. If you don’t believe in someone being their best, they will get their in spite of you, or not at all. That’s no fun.
What other things do you suggest? I’d love to know.
Rock Point Provincial Park on New Year’s Day and learning to embrace hope.