Archive for Hope

My friend just died and I don’t know what to do!?!

Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.



3 years… Time to make a difference.

September 3rd 2009 was the day that everything I thought I knew ceased to matter.  Everything changed for me that day.  I came home only to discover that my best friend had shot himself to death in the wee hours of the morning.

I miss him. Every. Single. Day. It’s normal for me, missing him is like breathing.  I’m so used to it now and the hurt hasn’t be completely erased but it is no longer the hellish nightmare that it once was.  Jason’s death however, was not in vain.  No matter how bad a situation, I try to take something positive away from it.


If anything to make it suck a little less.  I have learned that life is short.  Too damn short.  I stopped caring what people thought of me and started living life for me and me alone.  That’s why I am the way I am today.  It took something to rock me to the core of a soul that I never even knew that I had to wake me up.  I stopped taking things for granted.  I stopped taking people for granted.  I’ll admit it, I was one of those people.  I always thought that I had more time.  Don’t we all?

We always think we have more, I think in a way it’s a defense mechanism to offset the guilt.  Such as when we ditch our un-wanted animals in the alley.  We figure that they can fend for themselves.  Right?  Perhaps we drop them off at the local pound.  They’re super smart/cute/unique so they’ll get adopted fast! Right?


I will spare you the horror stories of how many cats I alone have seen in this area either dead or near death due to the carelessness of someone else.  I have assisted in the rehabilitation/rescuing/fostering and re-homing of several dogs and all of my animals have been rescues.  You’re likely wondering what NAYOP and animal rescues have to do with each other.

It’s quite simple actually.  Jason had the biggest heart out of anyone I had the privilege of knowing.  His kindness and generosity was something that always stood out to me and he would often donate to charities.  Jason also suffered from severe depression/bi-polar disorder and anxiety.  Jason was told that there was nothing they could do to save him.  Animals have been proven to have a calming effect on people who are suffering from some forms of mental illness and art has also be proven to be exceptional therapy.

When I lost Jason, my world fell apart.  I honestly and truly believed that I was going to die from a broken heart because it just hurt that bad.  It was because of someone else who was a part of my life at that time that I got in touch with my creative side and started painting.  I also started to focus on my photography more and Bandit, this amazing sweetheart of a dog from the SPCA stole my heart.

So I decided that this year on the anniversary of his death that I was going to do something a little different.  I am choosing to pay it forward using my art work, along with the donations of several other people’s work to assist the voiceless.  That being said (I’m) Not Afraid Of Your Pain (NAYOP) and Stuff by: Chef Steph will be sponsoring this event.

A special smug mug account has been set up.  You shop and smug mug does the rest!  The quality is exceptional and their customer service exceeds even my highest expectations!  Please share this album with your friends as it will only be around for a limited time!

Click here to check out the gallery and purchase prints!

The two rescues who will benefit from this for the month of September are: I am alive dog rescue and Bell’Anima rescue.  I am hoping that this is so successful that I can keep doing it (using different images) for different rescues across the globe.  There is so many and after doing countless hours of volunteer work, the costs are far more vast than one would think!

Along with the smug mug goodies, Chef Stephanie will be selling batches of her homemade dog biscuits!  Made out of 100% natural ingredients, they are fit for human consumption, a good source of protein and best of all: They’re made in Canada from start to finish!  Everything is locally sourced.  For more information on Chef Steph’s dog cookies please go to her facebook page for more information and how to buy.

Thank you all for your support!  It means a lot.


Dear depression, grief and sorrow:

*orginally written June 4th 2011 updated with additions:

I’m not sorry that I finally had to kick you out of my life.  Mostly because you almost ruined it.  I thought I was going to be OK after I came to terms with Jason’s death, I foolishly thought that the minute that happened that life would magically fall back into place for me once again.

I’m smart, I’m strong and countless other things.  Yet you held me in captivity for far, far too long.  It wasn’t bad enough that fate decided that my friends life should be snuffed out far too soon, wasn’t bad enough that living conditions in my home got to the point that they were UN-bearable, that I live in a province that winter seems to live on far past it’s expectancy, that three more people that I knew had to take it upon themselves to play God and cut their lives too soon.  No matter what I did, you were always there.  Hanging around and turning me from a bright and vibrant person into something so dark that I couldn’t stand myself anymore.

So much to the point that I was sitting there with a proverbial noose around my neck, waiting for the courage to kick that stool out from underneath me and just end it all.  The others did, why not I?  I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that life/fate/the universe/God or some other spiritual being had dealt out so many lousy avenues in my life and yet somehow I got up, got out of bed and made it through the day.  I was still alive, however I had ceased to actually live.

It’s so easy to say to someone that there’s help out there.  Because there IS.  That however takes effort.  Far too much effort for some.  You’re left to wonder if you’ll ever truly live again, if your life will ever be the same.  Except it never is, life as you know it ceases to be the same ever again.

Updated: July 5th 2011

It’s hard to accept that you life will never be the same again…  Yet, you want it to be.  Desperately so, you think to yourself that if you stick it out just one more day; you’re going to make it.  Some things are just far greater then you can ever begin to imagine.  In spite of all that you have managed to overcome thus far in life, it’s no match for this.

At least for me. 

Faking it becomes your new full time job, one that you don’t want and certainly didn’t ask for.  You think that people buy into it, yet somehow you know deep down inside that they don’t.  In reality you’re hurting them as much if not more then you’re hurting yourself.  I lived this way for far, far too long.  I was dead inside emotionally, I had lost my ability to care, to cry, and several other things.  I hated myself, hated what I was doing to myself and others and yet I felt hopeless and helpless (in spite of the fact that they are not mutually exclusive) until one day you get so fed up with being this way that you can’t take it anymore.  Something happens, something that’s in reality quite trivial in hindsight and you completely loose it on someone who doesn’t deserve it.  Therein almost totally destroying a relationship that you have with that person.

3 days later, you have the opportunity to see that person face to face and that’s when you fall apart.  Even though in your mind your trying to convince yourself not to cry, thinking to yourself I haven’t been able to cry for months and all of a sudden you Can’t. Stop. Crying.  It’s in that moment that you hit rock bottom so hard that you have road rash on your ass for the next month.  Who knew that you would hit rock bottom wearing a fuzzy bathrobe, sporting bed head, standing in a puddle from the snow on the other person’s feet, crying all over them saying that you’re sorry again and again because you are.  Sorry that you hurt that person for too long, sorry that you waited too damn long to get yourself the help that you damn well knew that you needed and waited far too long to get.

Everything happens for a reason and I believe that what happened was supposed to happen.  In fact, that random incident on March 2nd 2011 quite likely saved my life.  Which sounds ridiculous perhaps, however it made *me*aware that I couldn’t do this anymore.  I had become a prisoner in my own mind and I needed to get the hell out of that prison.  So I did.  On March 5th, the day I hit rock bottom I had an epiphany of sorts.  I was recalling a conversation with said person that we had about 12 step programs and how there’s one for pretty much everything.  That’s when the serenity prayer crept into my head:

”  God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

Then it all made sense to me.  It all seemed so painfully easy and simple; let go of what I can’t change for the past is that, UN-changeable.  However you can learn from those past experiences and move onto something better.  There’s something wonderful about letting go and chasing down your demons.  I made a promise to myself at that moment to get help, and I had to look pretty hard to find something that would cater to my needs and my budget.  Which was frustrating, I didn’t however give up and thought I had found something that would work.  There was no harm in trying, I had nothing to loose at this point.

The next day I grew a pair and made the call.  That was hard, reaching out sucks.  Especially when that person is a virtual stranger to you.  However, the great thing about strangers is that they don’t know you from a hole in the ground so they don’t say all the cliche things to try and fix you, they just want to help you because you’re putting forth the effort to help yourself.  The next day, Monday, was it.  I had a really hard time walking through that door.  Even a harder time walking down those stairs and into that room.

But I did.   And it was wonderful!

There was something strangely freeing having someone ask you what brought you there and having the balls to say  “I’m broken, please help me so I can be whole again.”  and not feeling like a freak.  It was in fact a relief.  I did it.  Not because I felt that I had to, because I wanted to.  Which made all the difference in the world.  Later that night, I was privy to a conversation dealing with grief when someone had asked: “How do you pick up the pieces and move on?” I waited for someone to answer because I didn’t feel that *I* personally knew what it was and the person who responded kept it simple, all they said was:”You don’t.  You start over.”

Which made So. Much. Sense.  
So I did exactly that.

I kicked all the toxic people out of my life that were doing nothing but weighing me down.  It was a shame to have to break up with some of my friends but they weren’t good for me and I feel better not having them in my life and having no contact with them since then.  I moved out of the hell hole I once called home, discarded all the things that didn’t matter and managed to hang onto the job and the people I loved.  People who loved me in return and made me feel grateful that I was still alive to see it, acknowledged it and be a part of it.

It’s been a long, hard, tedious road.  I’ve been in recovery for 121 days, and every single one of them has been nothing short of extrodinary.  Far from perfect, however I have yet to return to that dark place and in truth I hope that I won’t ever encounter it again.  Technically as far as my depression goes, most would consider me cured since I do not suffer from a chemical imbalance, I was the unfortunate victim in too many circumstances.  Depression after all, isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that you’ve been too strong for too damn long.

Most importantly, I have an amazing life.  A life where I wake up happy to be alive, a life where I no longer take anything for granted, a life where I choose NOT to be taken for granted any longer, a life where I live by my own rules.  Yes it’s selfish, I am not however hurting anyone by doing so, especially myself and that’s what counts the most.

I gave grief the finger a long time ago, said good bye to sorrow and as for you depression I only have one thing to say to you:

Fuck you! I took my life back.



A Story to Tell

This was posted in the IMAlive group that’s for the volunteer’s of this new and incredibly exciting project!  I wanted to share it with you all:

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss. What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.

Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and weep.

But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground level window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depend on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.

“Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like someone out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled it photos and glassware.

“Would you like to carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the cur. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

“It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to hospice.”

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like to me take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had once lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up to the front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow down in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she said.

“There are other passengers,” I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held on to me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thanks you.”

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of a closing life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how they made your feel.

-Source Unknown

Last post for 2010!

It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed and rather quickly at that!
We’re quietly going about things for the moment. Slowly, but surely getting the word out there that we exist but more importantly spreading the message of hope, because after all that’s what were all about!

Earlier, NAOYP partook in helping someone having a brighter Christmas.

Today I took a peek over at Stefanie’s blog and here’s proof that one person truly can make a difference in the lives of others.

While we weren’t able to donate much, it’s quality not quantity that counts.  Knowing that so many people pitched in to help a family of total strangers has left me touched and my heart a lot lighter these days.

Wishing you all the best for a wonderful 2011 from (I’m) Not Afraid Of Your Pain.