Just F*cking Do It

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My husband delivered a keynote one time to an audience of startups and technology nerds. His advice to them was “stop talking about it and just f*cking do it”. Everyone laughed and nodded. This happens a lot in technology and business. People spend a huge amount of time talking about what they are going to do; pontificating, planning, researching, and discussing – but then fall down on execution.  So things either never get off the ground or they lose steam shortly after they launch.

The exact same thing happens in our lives when it comes to creating change, starting something new, or embarking on a personal goal attempt. We often build things up in our minds and make them appear way bigger or more complicated than they actually are. If I would have thought about running for 30 minutes without stopping before I began running on day one, I would have given up or possibly not even started running. But here I am 9 weeks later and running has stuck for me. First I had to be okay with 3 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 10 and 20 and so on. It was a gradual build up that all began with me just f*cking doing it. Every day that I run, I don’t think about anything other than what is in front of me at that moment. I put my shoes on and head out the door thinking only about putting one foot in front of the other, that’s it. And I do my best to apply this same logic to pretty much everything I work on. It helps tremendously. I am the type of person who gets completely overwhelmed if I think about everything at once, so for my own sanity I have to break it down. And just doing it helps because you take the first step, and then the second, and then the third and before you know it you’ve accomplished something.

Not all things work out just because we start doing them, but at least you can say that you actually did something. Talking about doing something and actually doing it are two very different things. So just f*cking do it no matter what that thing is for you.

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this is what happens when I try to write

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I sit down filled with hope, my mug of tea and the motivation to accomplish the days writing. I click MS Word open and greet the blinking cursor with resolve and a smile. I take a deep breath in and begin thinking about how I want to start this section off. Then I see an alert in the corner of my screen from apple mail. I click it. Oops I didn’t mean to do that, I am supposed to be writing. But oh look it’s Fab and it’s Foodie Friday. Oh my god are those gourmet chocolate covered bananas? Okay I just have to go see those. I would really love to eat something sweet right now. Mmm chocolate. I follow the link from the email and go to the page that Fab hopes I will go to. I am a marketer keep in mind and I fall for all of the tricks of the trade. In looking at chocolate bananas I am reminded of the Warhol banana and then begin wondering if Fab is still selling Warhol stuff. I click over to the art section and start looking at art completely forgetting why I am there and what I am looking for but stumbling upon a dizzying array of beautiful art that I would love to have on my walls. In looking at the art I remember that I have been wanting to go to the AGO in Toronto because it’s been a while. I am just gonna go see what’s happening there right now. Oh my god look at that exhibit. We HAVE to go check that out. I excitedly hurry up the stairs to tell Dean about the exhibit. I stop on the way up and play with Yeti. He looks so cute. I am gonna grab my phone and take a photo of him because he looks so cute right now. While upstairs I walk through the kitchen and begin to feel hungry. I forgot to eat breakfast. I should eat something. I begin to look through the cupboards for something to eat. But I forgot my tea downstairs. I go down to get my tea and sit down in front of my computer. I grab my tea and begin to take slow sips. Oh shit! I am supposed to be writing right now! I click over to MS Word again to see my cursor blinking at me in a mocking way. I finish my tea and forget that I was hungry. Okay time to get serious now. I have to write. What am I writing about? Yes consciousness. Oh I better look at that research report I have open in my tabs. There is some good information there. I click over to the research report that has been open in Google Chrome for the last seven days because I haven’t turned off my computer in that long. It is one of fourteen open tabs. I start reading it and get about three paragraphs in when I notice that I have 12 unread alerts in Facebook (which is also open in another tab). I click and open Facebook and am enamoured by photographs, YouTube videos, angry rants, drama and funny comments until I realize I have to close Facebook. It’s really fucking with my productivity. But then I remember I am hungry. So I go upstairs in search of food. I feel mild panic when in the kitchen because I don’t have time to make lunch. I am writing and I have shit to do! I opt for a granola bar and some almonds instead and head back downstairs. It’s almost time for the girls to come home from school and I am seriously starting to panic. Where has time gone? What did I do all morning? I decide that I have to focus. I open MS Word and just start writing. I am afraid to look at the research report again in case I am distracted by something else on the Internet, which I know is a very plausible possibility. I start writing. Halla-fuckin-lujah!  I get about two pages written and am on a roll until I hear the bing of my email alert again and not even thinking about it I click my email program open and oh look it’s an email from so and so. I had better email her back. I wonder how she is doing? I haven’t talked to her in three weeks. I start typing an email to her, but then have to respond to several text messages, and a few phone calls. Oh and I really wanted to research flights to Nepal to see if there’s a cheaper way to fly there. It seems crazy to spend $2500 on airfare.

Ladies and gentleman that is an inside view into the train wreck that is my mind. Isn’t it a fucking glorious wonder that I can get anything accomplished? To me that is ultimate validation that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. The mere fact that I can still succeed in despite of that says a lot.

Oh look a kitty.

Vulnerability

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A friend and I have been having an open conversation on Facebook this morning about vulnerability and its role with the artist. Vulnerability is an important asset when communicating, creating, or acting out a part or role. It allows you to reach an emotional depth that you cannot reach by being too safe or avoiding thinking about uncomfortable things. Vulnerability helps us delve into those areas of self that we might not want to explore, but that help us understand ourselves better. Sometimes exposing those vulnerabilities, and embracing them even is the best form of therapy. 

Somewhere along the lines in our society we have been told that vulnerability is wrong, weak and not something we should project to others. Perhaps it was your parents or your grandparents who told you to never show your weaknesses. Maybe you received that message from society or indirectly from the people in your life. However you received it, you are not alone. I would say the majority of people on this planet do not want to show their vulnerabilities. Often when you look at the most popular bloggers, business leaders, and public figures they like to present themselves as being in control, having it all together and being very confident (sometimes overly so).

But why can’t we admit when things are going wrong in our lives? What is so wrong with that? It is through the honesty of vulnerability that you find the most support and compassion in others. And it is through the honesty and vulnerability of others that you are able to connect and offer your compassion to them. We don’t connect to positivity robots and artificial confidence. We connect with what’s real, that is why we come together so strongly and profoundly through times of hardship and change. Pain has the ability to heal us, and allows us to embrace our vulnerabilities, together as human beings. 

So instead of thinking of something awesome to post as your next Facebook status about how wonderful your life, job, clients, kids etc are… Why not post something honest and vulnerable. Just watch what happens. It will resonate more with your friends than “I am so lucky to have the best life ever”. It is great to express gratitude for your life and be happy (that’s the sweet spot), but dont forget that the vulnerabilities are necessary too. You wouldn’t truly be able to appreciate happiness in your life without knowing the contrast of pain.

Here are some of my honest vulnerabilities:

I have struggled with my weight for the last several years and can never seem to lose more than ten pounds or so. The way I see myself in the mirror is not what others see.

I have horrible self-esteem and often feel like a failure. It prevents me from putting myself out there a lot.

Social situations often make me very uncomfortable and I need to have a drink or two just to be able to talk to people without panicking. 

If I am too happy in my life, I cannot be creative or write. I become blocked. So I need a certain amount of vulnerability and hardship for my creativity to thrive. 

I’m Tweeting This

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I feel like Frank at the end of Godbless America with what I am about to say here but what the fuck has happened in our society that we are more obsessed with American Idol, our current Facebook status, and the number of followers and friends we have online (who likely don’t give a shit about us anyway) than on LIFE itself? When did we become so shallow as a society that we are more concerned with how we appear to others than on living for ourselves and being true to who we are on the inside.  Why do we care more about what others think than on our own sense of virtue? Who gives a shit if someone likes you or not. The people that matter will be in your life, the ones that don’t shouldn’t be on your radar screen or take up any of your headspace. Like Dr. Seuss once said “those that matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter.”

What happened to real relationships? You know, the analog ones that used to happen face to face. Where interaction with a friend meant more than commenting on a Facebook photo. Where meaningful interaction meant taking time out of your busy self-absorbed schedule to actually get together with someone in real life and look into their eyes, and maybe even share something vulnerable of yourself that isn’t an attempt to manipulate someone into thinking that you are fucking awesome. An interaction that you didn’t have to share on Facebook, tweet about or incessantly photograph because you were just happy to be there in the moment of life. We used to know how to live without the need or distraction of having to show the world how cool we are. Now we can’t even enjoy the present moment because we are too busy Instagramming the experience, tweeting the events in real time, or posting an excessive amount of narcissist photos of ourselves doing everything that we hope others envy. Why do we care so much what others think? Why can’t we just be authentic without the need to overproduce, overdesign, overthink , and overstate everything in order to get attention. Did our mommy’s and daddy’s not love us enough when we were young? What happened?

We don’t read books anymore, we read blogs by authors who care more about power, influence and social manipulation than about the craft or art of writing. They don’t care about the content itself, so much as they just want to hook you with another lackluster blog post so that you’ll come back and increase their site traffic, feeding their fragile ego. They feed and prey on the insecurities of others, look for the weak to exploit, and love to wax about anything that will obtain another notch on their shallow belt of influence. Meanwhile, many real writers are drinking themselves into a stupor, cutting themselves and bleeding onto the page, and pouring out their truths into their words without regard to who reads it, because they have no choice but to write – because they are the real writers.

But this isn’t about writers. It’s about people.

I hate to be so cynical about our society. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good things too, like a return to local business, local food and community – be we seriously need to fuck off with our exaggerated sense of self-importance. We are all awesome in one way or another and we don’t need a logo, a popular blog, or fifty thousand profound tweets to demonstrate that.  I’m not speaking directly about one person or another, but rather collectively as I observe the tweets, posts, photographs, and experiences of a completely neurotic digital society who spends way too much time thinking about what others think.

Occasionally though, this life is splattered with beauty and truth and people who really do “get it”, and it is in those experiences and interactions that I derive hope for the rest of society. They are the ones who will push things forward when we come out of this deep, thick yet shallow fog we seem to be in.

The Art of Disappearing

Image courtesy of http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/

Uncle Jack was an unusual man. He was never quite the same after returning from duty in Vietnam. You would look into his eyes and feel the horror seething out, the undeniable regret, the pain, the dark secrets that he carried around with him on a daily basis.

He never much talked about Vietnam, but you knew that it was all he could think about. The experience raped him. He couldn’t have the life of an average citizen and had a hard time reintegrating into a society of people oblivious to the horrors of war. He used to say, “Ignorance is bliss”.

Before he disappeared I remember asking him “why didn’t you get married Uncle Jack? Didn’t you ever fall in love?”

He looked at me and sneered “Heh… me fall in love? Who the hell could love someone like me!”

It wasn’t his answer that was heartbreaking, but the fact that he actually believed it.

“Everyone deserves to be loved” I said naively.

“Look sweetie… Why don’t you go play with your Barbie’s. I’d like to say you’ll understand one day, but the truth is no one does.”

I was eighteen. Barbie’s were long over for me. I was into boys, smoking, and record players. What was he thinking?

The last time I saw him he was alone in my grandparent’s basement. He sat on the couch staring blankly at the television in a dimly lit room, chain smoking. It was my job to get him to come up and join the rest of the family for dinner. It was also when I took my last photograph of him.

“No thanks” he said “I don’t have the stomach for that. Get that damn camera out of my face too will ya.”

What did he mean? The stomach for us? For dinner? For having to communicate with his family?

I was angry. “It’s time you forgot Vietnam Uncle Jack… You’re sinking like a submarine. What kind of a life is this?”

I stormed upstairs and felt his stare cut into my spine.

Uncle Jack never came upstairs that evening. Never came up to say hello, to make small talk, or even to pretend that he wanted to be around us.

The next day my grandparents called in a panic. He was gone. His room cleared out, nothing but his dog tags left sitting on the dresser.

For the first few years we thought he just needed some breathing space… but when my grandparents died and he didn’t show up to either of their funerals, we feared the worst. The mystery became even more frustrating.

One afternoon I went to the vegetable market in Chinatown. I could have sworn I saw an older Uncle Jack. I waded through the crowds of people towards a man sitting on the steps of an electronics discount store. I got pushed and swayed around in the crowd, my vision occasionally blocked by people, hands, or signs.

When I got there he was gone.

Did I really see that? I didn’t know if I was imagining him, or if it in fact could have been him.

The mystery of Uncle Jack had tormented me for years. I felt like my comment pushed him over the edge. How stupid of me to think that somebody could just “forget” about war. I was one of those oblivious people he spoke so spitefully about. I was no different than the others.

In my late twenties I landed an installation with some old photographs I had been working on revamping. It was a series of photographs I had taken of Uncle Jack. Black & White images mostly. There were images of him staring off into another realm while blowing smoke from the corner of his mouth, others of him sitting in a solitary chair, or sitting on the edge of his bed…waiting, for relief from his mental anguish. His eyes told horrible truths.

The installation helped me get to a place of understanding. Going back and looking at the images allowed me to peer into his eyes one last time. For once I actually saw the truth.

He could have never led a normal life. It was unfair of anybody to expect that from him. Especially when they didn’t see the carnage, death, and tragedy that he lived for years.

His eyes were void of a soul. For once I felt happy for him, wherever he was. It was better than here. I knew that now.

 

Chapter Three

I woke up drooling sort of hanging off of Jim and Susan’s couch. It took me a minute to realize that I wasn’t at home, and that this crazy power and communications outage was in fact not a dream, but still happening. I could tell that the heat was still off because the living room felt colder and my feet were freezing. December really isn’t the best time in Canada to lose your heating and electricity. I could see the condensation forming on the windows from the cold air. I stretched my arms and looked over to see Mary sitting quietly and contemplatively in the chair.

“Morning” I smiled

She looked at me and tried to crack a smile, but let’s face it… Smiling was pretty hard right now. It was going on 24 hours without heat, electricity and communications and it had to be at least minus ten outside. Smiling wasn’t exactly the first thing on the morning agenda.

“It’s pretty cold in here” I said looking over at the smoldering ashes in the fireplace from the night before.

“Yeah” said Mary “I could barely sleep last night. Did you hear those noises outside?”

“No. I think the wine knocked me out. I didn’t hear anything at all. What was it?”

“It kind of sounded like mobs of people. I heard screaming and crowds of people. I think it must have been only a couple of blocks over.”

“Wow, maybe we should go for a walk today and see what happened. I think I am gonna go home this morning and get cleaned up and changed into some fresh clothes. Hopefully the heat will come back on!”

“Yeah. I think I am ready to go home too” said Mary “This has all been very overwhelming. I think some normalcy and the familiarity of my house is exactly what I need right now. Here let me give you my phone nu-.”

We both laughed. “I’m at 342” she said. “You know where to find me.”

We had breakfast with Susan and Jim – Scrambled eggs and bacon done over their fireplace with their camping supplies. It was actually very good. I headed home nervously after breakfast and stopped on the street to notice how quiet the street was. Usually I heard buses and honking and cars driving past, there was no sound today. It was quiet like it had never been before. It made me slightly uncomfortable. The birds in the trees had stopped their incessant chirping now though. I guess what they were warning about had already happened.

The sky still looked strange with streaks of Purple hanging like curtains where fluffy White clouds used to be. I unlocked my door and looked sadly at my cat who stared at me. I knew he wanted food. He didn’t have in his mind the things that were going on in my mind. He had simple needs and simple thoughts.

I poured some food into his dish and picked up his water dish. I headed over to my sink where there were stacks of dishes from 2 days ago. “I guess I am gonna be washing these in cold water” I thought to myself. I turned on the tap to fill my cat’s water dish with water. It made some sputtering sounds; spat out a few drops of water and then stopped. I dropped to my kitchen floor and cried. I felt completely helpless and alone. My cat came up and rubbed against my leg and then went over to his water bowl. It must have been at least an hour that I laid on my kitchen floor staring up at the ceiling, letting tears fall from my eyes and my mind wander into territory that I wish it hadn’t entered.

I sat up and wiped my wet and snotty face into my sleeve and stood to my feet. The house was so quiet and uncomfortable. You never really realize how addicted to distractions you are until they are all taken away from you.  The only thing I had was myself; just me and my thoughts in complete solitude.

Sitting on my couch with my cat beside me I let my mind go where I was terrified to let it go and asked myself “what if the power doesn’t come back on? What if this doesn’t get fixed?” I began thinking about who I knew in the area and what my plan should look like. I could drive to my parents house an hour away, but I wasn’t sure if I had enough gas to get there. And all of the gas pumps were down because they (like everything) were controlled by computers. Same reason my water probably stopped. It is really astonishing when you sit back and think about how we created our own system of failure. I mean why didn’t we ever think about this happening. We live in an expansive universe that we haven’t even begun to understand. Who were we to think that we were ever above nature?

“Even if this does get fixed soon” I thought, “we will have to change the way life on this planet currently operates. We need something better.”

I grabbed my car keys and ran out the door to check my gas situation in my un-fuel-efficient GMC Yukon. I had a quarter of a tank. That was pretty much what it took to get to my parents house on the nose. But since I had no way to get in touch with them, I didn’t even know if they were there. I went back into the house and tried to think about what I should do.

I needed to get out of the house for a while. I lived in a small but quaint downtown core. On a normal day there were tons of people walking around, sitting in coffee shops and shopping. Even in the winter – people liked to walk around, especially dog people.

I grabbed my coat, hat, and mitts and headed out the door to check out what was going on in my little town. There weren’t as many people on the streets as there normally were, and the businesses all seemed to be closed, except for a few that were boarding up their windows with plywood. Thieves had ransacked the hardware store. Every window was broken and boarded up with a message spray painted on the wood that said, “you should be ashamed of yourself”. It didn’t look like anyone was open today.

My stroll slowed to a halt as I neared City Hall. There were protesters outside demanding that the problems be fixed while others called for a state of emergency.  But the protesters looked weary and defeated, many of them were leaving and going home. I saw a woman bundled up in a sleeping bag with her sign on the ground beside her. Her sign read “Heat and communications are basic necessities of life. Don’t deny us the right to live.” I half smiled at her while reading her sign. She stared at me blankly, void of any emotion.

The streets had a strange glow to them now from the overhanging Purplish-Pink sky. Everything looked pretty, yet dead. No lights, no cars, no life. My walk took me about ten blocks until I returned back to my home.  I went inside and sat on my couch in silence, trying to bring my mind to a point of peaceful meditation. I was on the brink of a total meltdown and I could feel it bubbling up inside of me, but part of me knew that if I let that happen, I would be in an even worse situation than I was. I was here and I was alone. I had no one here with me and this was my reality. I had to decide what my next move would be and figure out a plan that worked for me. There was nobody around to bail old Jane out of this one. When things got tough I often looked to my friends, family and support network for help – and they were always there for me, but I had to think this time.

I sat in quiet meditation for about an hour and slowly opened my eyes to see my cat staring at me intently. He blinked at me approvingly. I guess he appreciated the state that I was in at that moment.

I had a plan, well… kind of.

I grabbed some large storage bins and placed them in the center of my living room. Next, I thought about food – I went through my kitchen retrieving as many non-perishables as I could, along with a few dishes, a pan, some cutlery, knives, and a can opener. I placed them all inside of one of the large storage bins. Next I rounded up kitchen towels, cloths, toilet paper and a case of water from my basement. I put these things in the storage bin as well. I forced myself to think worst-case scenario without making it seem scary or depressing. “I am alive” I thought to myself, “for that, I am thankful.” I rounded up some tools – a hammer, some nails, a couple of screwdrivers, duct tape, measuring tape, and some pliers. I knew that tools would be essential, even though my ability to use them left something to be desired. Next I rounded up some blankets, sheets, pillows and warm clothes. I placed it in the second storage bin. A few months prior a friend had introduced me to soap nuts, saying that she had stopped using laundry detergent and was now using these soap nuts instead. I hadn’t tried them yet but I had a bag of them in my basement that I thought might come in handy, so I grabbed those too.

After about an hour I had two very large storage bins full of essential food, supplies and clothing. These things, I thought – were the basic necessities of life, or as close as I could come with what I had.

I had a very big decision to make – Use the last of my gas to get to my parents house, stay put where I was, or drive a few minutes down the road to my friend Jenn’s house. My SUV was a gas guzzling pig, so any road trip I made had to be for good reason, and possibly be because I would stay where I went. Because of this, I had a hard time deciding what to do. Today was Saturday. I decided to give myself until Thursday, living off of the things in my fridge and cupboards until then.  A lot of the things in the fridge had already spoiled because of the power being shut off. I wouldn’t attempt to eat the yogurt or milk, but other things – like the vegetables and fruit could probably still be eaten.

I went into my fridge and pulled out every last salvageable piece of fruit or veg that I could find and sliced them up into containers. I knew that if this “thing” as I now referred to it, was going to last more than a few days (or months) that I wouldn’t be able to get fresh food for a while, unless I planned on ransacking a grocery store… Which had probably already been done – judging by the state of downtown.

It’s weird when you’re alone with no way to communicate with anyone. A couple of times I even forgot and grabbed the phone and started dialing. I stopped myself in the midst of doing this, wondering what had prompted me to act so robotically without considering the “now” that I was experiencing. It was like I wanted to call my mom or my friend Jenn and tell them about what was happening, which was ridiculous – because it was happening to them too. And just as I couldn’t contact them, they too couldn’t contact me. I wondered what my mom and dad were doing, how they were coping with the changes. I pictured my dad panicking and my mom gathering firewood and organizing supplies. Their neighbour had a huge fire pit in their backyard, and the small community in which they lived, were likely working together to help each other out, as they often already did. Small communities are great for that sort of thing. My city was, by contrast a little snobbier. People didn’t really care who you were or what you did and you might live next door to someone for five years without ever saying hello or good morning. And that… was my dilemma.

I remembered having a conversation in 2010 with one of my meditation guides, she told me that this was going to happen. She forewarned of the global crisis that we were in – citing that it was inevitable and unchangeable but that it would be a new beginning. No amount of recycling, energy efficient bulbs, or innovative thinking could have prepared us for this. We were at nature’s mercy. The universe decided that its intergalactic weather was going to wreak havoc here on earth, and that’s what happened. We simply weren’t equipped to deal with it. Our entire economy is dependent on satellites, computers, and electricity. We now had no way to pump gas or withdraw money, thanks to this “intelligent” system we had designed for ourselves here on earth.

I remembered thinking my friend Evvie was a bit of a cynic for believing what she believed. She had a serene nature about it though. She wasn’t all doom & gloom “the world is going to end”. In fact the opposite, she was excited and almost looking forward to it, which I couldn’t quite wrap my head around – especially as I looked around me and felt helpless and alone.  She used to say “Jane, it’s nothing to fear. Embrace it. Those who are connected to their higher selves will transition beautifully. Those who are disconnected will struggle.”

Somewhere along the lines in late 2011 I stopped meditating, reading and going to my drumming circles. I had spent 3 solid years being highly spiritual and infinitely creative, but I dropped all of that like a bad habit when someone dangled a fat pay cheque in front of my eyes and I got caught up in a soulless 60-hour workweek. Slowly but surely, my beliefs became murky, my spirit cloudy and my memories of what so many spiritual teachers, mentors, and friends forewarned me of – a distant speck in the history of me.  Sustainable living and love of the planet came a distant second to my career and “life” online. I falsely thought that I was “connected” which was ironic now. But the truth was, I gave up real connection in favor of perceived connection. I gave up my real life connections: my drumming circle friends, my Reiki share group, my meditation group and even my old friends from school. My friends were coworkers and online friends, and none of them were anywhere They all, no doubt, sensed that my life was more focused on career and “the internet” and distanced themselves from me as well. I found myself in a constant state of stress and anxiety, and whenever I tried to reel myself in through Reiki or meditation – a little voice in the back of my brain would be doing a fine job of working against me. I couldn’t focus on my spirit because I refused to believe in it anymore. I didn’t have time to talk about the universe in all its infinite glory and my coworkers thought I was a freak when I told them that I had my Master Reiki certification. There was a distinct contrast between what I believed and what I lived, so I had to stop doing one of them… And well, the believing wasn’t paying the bills and wouldn’t change the fact that we were a consumer based society of materialistic consumption. So I simply stopped listening to my spirit and connecting with my . I stopped embracing that stuff, in favor of the here and now life of consumption, material, wealth and all that stuff that contributed to the awful state of our planet.

I sat there thinking about the way I had spent the last year living and it made me sad. I gave up the most important things, in favor of money. Money that I couldn’t even access right now and that I probably wouldn’t ever see again, unless the banks had some way of recovering their systems from intergalactic communications storms.  How would our society reset from this? How would we be able to go back to the way things were? The simple answer was that it won’t be like it was before. For the first time in human life – money was not helpful right now. Money couldn’t buy me a plane ticket, some gas, groceries, or a way out of this situation.

And even if it could, I wouldn’t know who to give it to.

Joey Fallon’s Life

He had a sort of unusual way about him. Could never quite look anyone in the eye and preferred the company of cats with the glow of his computer screen adorning his face and the low hum of infomercials coming from his 1983 floor model television. It wasn’t always this bad, at one time he had a life, a personality, trusting eyes, and a smile on his face.

This was Joey Fallon’s life.

He grew up in a small village in England. The eldest of 4 boys in a working class family with a typical alcoholic father, passive aggressive mother and walls that had tobacco stained on them like a design finish. His mother couldn’t stand the sight of his father and worked 12 hour days to avoid the responsibilities of motherhood, marriage, and the sad reality that she called life. At the age of 18 he escaped the village and set off to London to rack up a huge student debt and hopefully become something in life. He distanced himself from his parents and siblings and started a fresh life with a new personality; successfully convincing people that he was a well-adjusted intelligent hipster rather than the trainwreck child of an alcoholic he really was.

This worked for several years. He had posh new friends, a great job in the financial sector, a healthy bank account and enough people around him to make him feel secure without his family, who always seemed to make things worse. But that all came to a crashing halt when his brawl-crazy and clearly resourceful brother Bobby showed up on the doorstep of his flat with tears in his eyes and said “Joey – Mum’s dead.”

With the news of his mothers passing Joey’s father began drinking even heavier than he had before (which no one thought possible). Scotch was now on the breakfast menu and he failed to acknowledge or attend something he formerly had called “a job”. They forgave him for a while but he was eventually fired for being a drunk and not giving a shit. Joey had to pack up his apartment and do the only-obligatory-because-his-asshole-brother-had-found-him thing… Move back to the village he loathed so that he could get a substandard go-nowhere job and help to support his disaster of a family. His three brothers were still finishing up high school and couldn’t work yet and his dad was too busy shitting himself, verbally assaulting the world and punching holes in the wall with his feverish booze-induced rages.

Although he was educated in economics and was a Junior analyst in London, the best Joey could hope for in the Village was a bank teller job making one third of what he made in the city. It didn’t take long before landing that; where he worked with 3 other heavy set less-than-graceful women, one with a gap the size of a chicklet in her front teeth. Every day he showed up for work, dealt with the familiar penniless villagers, and lost a piece of his soul so he could bring home enough money to pay the mortgage and stop his whole family from drowning in sorrow.

This went on for three years until his youngest brother Dave was finally old enough to get a job. All four boys were now working, which meant Joey could run away again and escape the reality that he so desperately wished to disengage from. His father would die a drunk and hadn’t made any progress on the road to sobriety; he drank booze with the desperation of a man in a hurry to die.

Joey began stashing away money to save for a plane ticket to Toronto, where his cousin Carl lived with his new wife and child. Life in Toronto would surely be better than here. And he wouldn’t have to think about his drunk of a dad and his dim village roots anymore. When he arrived in Toronto, he walked into a bad situation. Carl had been fired for fucking his secretary and his new wife had filed for divorce and taken the kid. Every night Carl took Joey out to get drunk at a dimly lit pub on College Street where the regulars wore lines on their face from hardened lives of broken dreams. They sat and wallowed in their sad lives, exchanging war stories and plotting out their next moves in a city where they could easily get lost. Carl looked at Joey with tears in his eyes and said “what the fuck am I gonna do now mate?”

Joey swigged back his whiskey and remained quiet.  No advice. no words of wisdom and no way to console his hurting cousin. All he could think about was getting back into the game, getting a good job in the financial sector again, and turning his life around. But he knew that this grungy little bar wasn’t gonna get him anywhere, and would be the downfall of him as long as he continued to hang around with Carl.

After a few months of drunken debauchery, the same old stories, the same table at the pub, and the same regulars; Joey packed up and left his cousin without notice. Took an apartment in the East end of the city. An affordable dive with one room; furnished with furniture that looked like it had been picked up from the side of the road, and a floor model television that barely recognized colour. He woke up early every day and delivered resumes to offices all along Bay Street, hoping that he would land a job and begin his ascent to success again. After five weeks of pounding the pavement he was finally offered a position in the mail room at a major investment firm. They told him he would have to work his way into the big leagues. He accepted the position with a glimmer of hope in his eyes and barely a dollar in his old leather wallet.

Joey worked for months in the mailroom wearing his best threads, trying to weasel his way up by getting to know the investors and executives in the firm, occasionally going on coffee and lunch runs. He made friends with one of the analysts at the firm and started drinking with him at lunch time and at happy hour. It wasn’t before long that Joey started  getting a bad reputation at the firm for showing up drunk, stinking like whiskey and cigs, and violating the women in the office with tasteless sexual prowess. He lost his job in the mailroom and found himself once again drunk on the battered old couch in his one bedroom apartment, listening to an infomercial for the magic bullet. He shot back a finger of whiskey before passing out; dreaming of a life he would never come to realize.