Some days it feels like there’s so much cruelty in this world that the earth can barely contain it. From pure evil to petty meanness, it saturates our lives to the point where it’s overwhelming. It becomes hard to notice anything else. But there is something else that’s equally strong. Kindness.
Kindness grows like dandelions through concrete… seemingly impossible until it’s there. It spreads and scatters in small amounts that appear almost pointless. What can a simple smile do compared with war and starvation? But it keeps trying. It’s spreads and it grows.
Today Julie and I are protesting against the gay concentration camps in Chechnya. It is a little protest in a little city in Canada. Ramzan Kadyrov, the region’s leader, will never hear of our protest. On the surface it seems pointless.
But every person who passes us today has the chance to think of LGBTQ rights and the prejudice against us. Every person has the chance to think on their own views and perhaps modify them a bit, which then impacts their families. With each protest, more families are touched and the greater the impact. Then it’s noticed.
Politics is often a popularity game. What can a politician do to please the constituents and get elected again. A positive view on the LGBTQIA community and a desire to do something about those camps will get noticed by more and more and will, hopefully, get added to foreign policy.
Each one of us is but a simple light but together we make up all the stars in the universe. Let your light shine. It might be small but it matters. You matter.
When Jeremy was little, he was mistaken for a girl on a regular basis.
“What a cute little girl!”
“You’ve got such a lovely daughter?”
“How old is she?”
“What’s her name?”
“She’s so sweet!”
I didn’t bother to correct them. Jeremy didn’t mind and it simply embarrassed people. Besides, he was cute, lovely, adorable, and sweet. Even when his hair was short, he still got “such a lovely girl” comments. He was sweet.
Back then I knew nothing about trans people. I wondered why Jeremy only played girl characters in his games and played dress up right into his preteens with his sister but figured he was just imaginative and liked the way the dresses felt.
Then he became a teenager and started experimenting more with his hair and, to a lesser extent, his clothes. The comments changed slightly to include “ma’am” and he was still, to the mildly unobservant, feminine.
He still didn’t mind being called her and she, in fact, sometimes it seemed to bring him joy. And I still had no idea what that could mean.
Now he’s almost 20 years old with mitts for hands, size 12 men’s feet, and a deep bass voice. Now he’s talking about transitioning. And I’m so scared. I belong to enough groups to know people aren’t kind to 6ft 3in women with deep voices and adam’s apples. I read the posts on Facebook. I know there’s been seven trans women (and one trans man) killed so far in the States this year alone. I haven’t heard any statistics for Canada.
Jeremy talks happily about buying a bikini with a skirt and how he’s always wanted a frilly dress with lots of floofy layers. I will do everything I can to help him achieve his dreams but I can’t do everything.
Please be kind when you see my child on the street. For all that he’s 19 years old, he’s still my child. He bought a Minecraft book today and jelly beans then laughed over bathroom humour in a YouTube video. He’s still young. He’s not a joke. He’s not a freak. He’s a person with feelings and thoughts.
One day he’s going to be stepping out that door in the dress of his dreams. You might see him or, more likely, you will see someone like him. Someone who, for whatever reason, just isn’t fitting in 100%. Please be kind, be helpful, and let him come home safely with his heart intact. Stand up for him. Stand up with him. Don’t let him feel alone against the bullies and please, please don’t let him be a statistic.
To me depression is like being underwater in winter clothes, except you can breathe… mostly. It clings to you, dragging you down, making every movement a supreme effort. Noises are oddly muffled or painfully loud and don’t always make sense. And no matter how many people are around, you’re alone… completely alone.
We used to travel across Canada when I was a child and I vividly remember the tunnels through the mountains. You’d see them in the distance, a circle of blackness drawing closer, distinct against the brightness of the day. And then the blackness would swallow everything. The tunnel was grey monotony, punctuated by identical dull lights. No way to judge distance… no way to tell how long was left. It felt like forever until suddenly blue sky appeared ahead, and once out, the tunnel no longer seemed real.
Depression clings and says it’s forever, showing no sign of a way out. It whispers in your ears and tells you that you’re alone, no one could understand. It claims life is hopeless and that you have no future.
Just like the tunnel, depression doesn’t last forever. Eventually there’s a glimpse of blue sky and suddenly you’re in fresh air and sunshine, taking deep breaths and listening to the wind through the trees. More importantly, you are not alone in this world. You are never alone.
Reaching out while depressed is one of the hardest things imaginable but please, try. No matter what depression says, there are people who care. They might not be the people who are immediately around you but they are there and they will help.
I’ve told my children repeatedly that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Yes it ends the pain but it also ends everything else. It ends the warmth of early morning sunshine streaming across your cheeks… spring birdsong… the cool sweetness of an ice cream cone… arms wrapped around you in a hug… how bright the stars are on a crisp winter’s night… the smell of wood smoke… the gooey warmth of a melted marshmallow… the rasp of a kitten’s tongue.
My nephews would have had an aunt except she killed herself when her marriage ended, years before they were alive. She never got to see her brother marry my sister… never got to marvel over their oldest son when he was born… or comfort and hold her brother when her nephew almost died of meningitis when he was a few weeks old. She missed seeing them buy their first house… every Christmas… every birthday… every camping trip. She’s missed her youngest nephew’s wild gymnastics moves and trampoline stunts.
It’s been over twenty years now. She missed every possibility of moving on from her husband and every chance of finding someone new. She missed the chance of having children of her own and watching them play with her nephews… every chance of watching her parents cradling her babies. Yes, she was depressed, but it wasn’t twenty years worth of depression. Depression claims it’s forever. IT LIES. Death is forever, depression is a loud and painful bump on the road by comparison.
Reach out for help. If you find it too hard to call then reach out by text or email. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to talk. The first time I was majorly depressed, I sat in my doctor’s office and cried. They’ve seen it all, I still walked out with a prescription for anti-depressants.
Just, please. You are unique, you are treasured, and you will be missed. Give yourself a chance.
“Mom! You have to look at our tree!”
Jeremy announced this as soon as I walked in the door from work. I headed into the living room and eyed the tree nervously. The was no smoke or frayed wires. Nothing other than the TARDIS was spinning. Actually I couldn’t see any difference.
Jeremy sighed. “Look down at the presents.”
Oh. There was a new one there with Jeremy’s name clearly printed across the front. My Mom had volunteered to drive twenty minutes each way to pick Jeremy up and take zir to counselling then suggested taking Jeremy out for lunch. Apparently a shopping trip had followed their meal.
“I bought you a present,” zie added. “Well, Nana bought it but I picked it out and I know you’ll really like it. I can’t wait until Christmas when you open it.”
I gave the present a curious look. It’s small and skinny… too small to be a book. Maybe a candle? Goodness knows I’ve got enough to light our entire apartment in a power failure but one more wouldn’t hurt.
“Mom, when I get my inheritance money from Grandpa, I’m going to give Nana and Grandad a hundred dollars. They’ve done so much for me over the years. Taking me places… buying me things… every single present I’ve ever given you was paid for by Nana. They deserve to have something given to them for a change.”
And, with that my heart melted.
It was almost the end of my shift when one of my coworkers walked in. I expected her to go in the back to talk to a manager but she came to my till instead. While she’s a coworker, she’s someone I don’t know well as we work opposite shifts. The most we ever work together is a half hour and, even then, most of that time is spent with her outside finishing up chores.
She ordered soup while I tried not to stare at her face. Her skin was red and puffy from her eyes down with scabby, eczema-like patches across her nose and upper lip. She commented that it was hard for her to swallow. I eyed the reddish mask and patches across her nose.
“Do you have lupus?” I asked bluntly. The mask wasn’t like what I’d read about but she seemed open to talking and I figured pretending I hadn’t noticed anything different would be worse than asking what was wrong.
“I have cancer,” she said. She looked like she wanted to say more but picked up her dish instead and headed to a nearby table.
I glanced around. It was early afternoon and we had no other customers plus there was one other person at cash so I followed her over to the table. She talked briefly about her cancer, explaining the radiation was working and her face was a lot less puffy now than it had been.
“Put down your spoon,” I said once she was finished speaking. “I’m going to give you a hug.” I smiled at her look of alarm. “I hug everyone,” I assured her. I gave her a quick hug and felt her relax against me like it was the first hug she’d had in a while.
“Do you have family nearby?” I asked worriedly. My worry increased as she shook her head. “How about friends?” I continued.
She looked away. “I have the people here,” she said quietly.
I work the day shift which means I routinely spend time with about ten other people. She worked nights, which meant she ordinarily worked with one.
She coughed then explained rapidly that there’s a medication she can’t afford that had to do with mucus. I suggested talking to her doctor to see if he had samples. My mind raced as I tried to think of something I could do to help.
My evening supervisor peeked out from the back room when I walked back. “Is she still there?” she asked nervously. She looked like she expected my sick, tired coworker to jump down from the ceiling like some sort of ninja spider. “I can’t handle seeing her,” she continued then disappeared back into her office.
I went to my till and my younger supervisor took a deep breath. “I’m going to talk to [coworker] now,” she said solemnly.
I watched as she walked over and sat down for a casual conversation.
I’ve already talked to the store owner. My next move is to talk to the store manager to see if we can fund raise to help her. After all, it’s Christmas in another month and we’re all she has. Talk about difficult times.
A friend of mine had a psychotic break at the beginning of last week and attempted suicide. I just found out this morning that another friend has been contemplating suicide, saying the only thing keeping him alive is the love of his husband. Meanwhile the day to day life goes by as normal. A former neighbour just had her 90th birthday party. We went grocery shopping and Jeremy’s chocolate almond milk was 50 cents off. Jeremy’s washing the dishes while grumbling that it’s not fair and I never make anything for dinner that zie likes. I’m thinking about making zir favourite hot and sour soup tonight instead of the curry I planned; saving that for when Emma and Mark come over on Tuesday. No matter what happens, no matter whose heart is breaking, life somehow ends up going on like usual.
Today I found myself incongruously thinking of a neighbour I had when Emma was a baby. We lived in a fairly run down and rather transient neighbourhood. We only lived there for a year and a half and by the time we moved we were considered one of the old timers on the block. Some of the neighbouring apartments might as well have had revolving doors considering how quickly the tenants moved.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon and I’d noticed a new tenant had moved in behind us. She had a baby around the same age as Emma so I wandered over to introduce myself. This was 20 years ago and I’ve long since forgotten her name. I have not forgotten the baby’s name though.
“This is Dakota,” she said cheerfully once we’d settled down in her living room. I looked from her to the baby and then back again.
“Did you name him after the state or the tribe?” I asked. She jolted with surprise and stared at me wide eyed.
“You know I’m Native Canadian?” she asked. Her astonishment was obvious. As for me, I was definitely surprised.
“Umm… well… yes. You look Native,” I stammered.
“I was adopted and raised by a white family,” she explained. “I only just found out I’m Native recently and none of my friends believe me.”
“Are they blind?” I blurted. I have never been known for tact. It made her smile though.
She moved a month later, which is likely why I can’t remember her name. I didn’t know her for very long. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget her reaction when I proved I had honestly seen her.
Take the time this week to notice the people around you. Take the time to see them for who they really are. Be honest and open. And if you don’t know what to do, opt for kindness.