Memories Folding: Reflecting on a Piece of the Past

I Know the bottom, She Says. I know it with my great tap root.

It is what you fear: I do not fear it, I have been there.

The letter reads 3/06/03, March 6, 2003. I was 15 years old. This is a letter from my mother that I carry in my purse as a reminder of all the darkness I have overcome. It is a token of my strength and courage folded into a piece of college-ruled notebook paper.

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As I’ve mentioned many times in my blogs in the past, I struggled with  severe depression throughout my teens and to a lesser extent, in my early twenties. This letter is from a time when I was truly at the bottom; deep in the pit of despair and sorrow. I had recently been misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and was doped out of my mind on mood stabilizer medication which I didn’t need. I was withdrawn, numb, lethargic and unresponsive to everyone. I was on a mind-numbing pharmaceutical cocktail including Depakote which caused some of my hair to fall out (not clumps, thank god), weight gain, blurred vision and tremors. A fantastic host of side-effects for a hormonal teen insecure about her looks!

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After being on all these medications for maybe a month or two my mental capacities began to slow down, and my expressions were simple and terse. My creativity and ability for abstract thought were severely limited. And believe me, I’m no dummy. I began thinking in short, one or two word sentences. Numb. Weightless. Pain. Sad. Can’t move. Empty. Imagine having to deal with this while at school? Having to tackle Earth Science and math is hard enough as a teen.

I am terrified by this dark thing/   That sleeps in me / All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

I couldn’t talk or express my feelings so my mother had to start writing me letters letting me know she was there for me. Her unconditional  love and support shows in her message. My parents, close friends and family were always there for me but felt helpless in their efforts to ease my pain.

Love is a shadow/ How you lie and cry after it/ Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.
I mention the testimony of love and support that this letter represents because it is crucial for anyone suffering from mental illness. It’s important not to stick it out alone and remain silent. Reach out to others and talk about it. This letter helped me that day because it served as a reminder that I wasn’t alone.

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Or shall I bring you the sound of poisons?/ This is rain now, this big hush/ And this is the fruit of it: tin-white, like arsenic.

I’ve opened, unfolded and re-folded this letter so many times. Reading it over and over again as I weep and remember the painful memories of the past. I read it when I’m feeling down, lost, empty or confused. I use it as a reminder of how strong and courageous I have become because of my experience. My sentimental habits have caused me to forget the right fold of my dear letter. It’s never quite right. There’s a flap that sticks out, I fuss with it, unfolding it again as I try to make it perfect. This art of origami  I’ve been practicing with this letter is a lot like my thoughts on my experience. Throughout the years I’ve felt shame due to the harmful stigma surrounding mental illness, sad, angry and incredibly proud. It’s taken me so long to get to this feeling of pride that I now feel.

This Wednesday, January 25th, is Bell Canada’s Bell Let’s Talk day, an initiative to raise awareness and funds for mental health. Since 2010 they’ve donated a total of $79,919,178.55. Every time a Bell customer texts or makes a phone call, or anyone uses social media (Twitter, Instagram, etc) with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, Bell donates 5 cents more to mental health programs. So getting talking and posting! Don’t say silent. More information can be found here: http://letstalk.bell.ca/en

Even if mental illness doesn’t affect you directly, there’s a very good chance someone you love has experienced it. So start caring about it and keep an open mind. Don’t judge and belittle people who you see struggle with mental illness. You can’t “shrug it off” when you can’t eat or manage to get out of bed in the morning. I know because I’ve lived it. The reality is that 49% of individuals who suffer from depression or anxiety don’t seek treatment due to this attitude. Can cancer patients shrug off cancer? No. Mental health is health. We won’t be ignored anymore. More statistics and facts on mental health in Canada can be found here: Fast Facts About Mental Illness

Thank you for reading. Now it’s time to start a conversation! Get talking 🙂

Its snaky acids hiss/ It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults / That kill, that kill, that kill.
The stanzas of poetry in this post are from one of my favourite poems of all time, “Elm” by the literary queen, Sylvia Plath.

The Decline of Democracy: My Thoughts on the 2016 US Election

As a U.S. citizen and American expat permanently living in Canada, I’m often asked about my thoughts on this messy election going on South of the border. “What do you think of Hillary?” “Do you think Trump will win?” I’ve had all these questions from Canadian objective observers, and I’ve spent all this time trying to figure out the most concise, informed and passionate response to it all. So of course I decided to put my response in writing and to lay it all out on the table, like a loaded gun.

As a long time independent and Left-leaning  progressive, I chose the candidate who best shares my values and beliefs: Jill Stein of the Green Party. I also voted Green across the ballot for Congress (21st District) and the Senate. Bernie Sanders left all of us progressive voters in the dust when he drank whatever potent Kool-Aid the DNC slipped him, threw all of his ideals away and endorsed the corporate warhawk Hillary Clinton.

If I was still living in the States, I would be relentlessly harassed and attacked for my views. “How dare you not vote for Clinton?!” “Your third party vote is a vote for Trump!” “You’re a spoiler!” Seriously? That sounds like an angry 5 year old accusing one of his playmates of stealing his crayons. This is a fucking democracy and as a citizen I have every right to vote for the candidate I choose. My vote is for Jill Stein and no one else. Yes, Trump’s buffoonish, xenophobic, sexist and disastrous campaign is scary. You know what else is just as scary? The decline of democracy that so many of these chump “spoiler theory” Democrats espouse. I’ve seen so many of them belittle and harass us progressives and Greens for voting for someone other than Clinton. To advocate the lie that we must vote for only her or the world will split open is disgusting. The belief that there are only 2 choices to pick from is an absolute betrayal to democracy.

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Just last night I watched a Funny or Die video (starring Purple Marie from Breaking Bad as the mom) in which the parents of a teenage girl lecture her after finding a Gary Johnson (Libertarian candidate) button in her car. They stated that Democrats and Republicans are no longer the same. LOL! That’s a good one. Nice try, Funny or Die. You get an F. Also, that video wasn’t even remotely funny.

It often feels as if we’re being lectured by the Clinton campaign for misbehaving and need to be punished by being sent to bed without dinner. Just for voting for a candidate that shares all our values: Universal Healthcare for all, education for all, stopping the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia (which starts wars), cutting military spending, raising the minimum wage, breaking up the big banks, etc. That sure sounds a lot like Bernie Sanders’ platform, but in fact it is Jill Stein’s. Do you see now why I voted for her? No? :tosses pencil angrily across the room: I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of times the Democratic Party has let us down and has pushed us even further to the left everyday.

If there are enough of us who vote for third party candidates, the third parties can reach 5% of the popular vote in order to qualify for public campaign funding assistance in the next election. So no, my vote is not wasted and that’s certainly something to strive for. Vote with your conscience and vote for your values.

And to conclude, I’ll just leave this here for the trolls who don’t know how to conduct research properly…

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I think it was actually closer to 300,000 and of course that pesky Supreme Court ruling, but you still blame poor Ralph.

Here is an article I found on voting for Third Party candidates:

http://www.john-uebersax.com/plato/thirdparty.htm

Votes are not an entitlement, you have to earn them.

Happy Voting!

-L.D.

Stuck in the Mud: Some thoughts on our Transition

During a thunderstorm in my elementary school years, I remember rushing home after school in the pouring rain with a gaggle of classmates. We cut through a soccer field behind the Catholic school that was slick with mud and rain, dragging our shoes through the muck as it splattered onto our jeans.

I ended up getting my foot caught in a small hole in the field, a hollow pit possibly dug by a playful dog on a walk with his owner. Although this hole was nothing like the trenches during the Battle of the Somme, it certainly stalled me and put me way behind my friends who continued their sprint home. The front of my shoe had slipped off, pushing my heel into the muddy field. The rain continued to drench my clothes; I heard a crack of thunder as my friends began shouting for me to hurry up. I pull my shoe back on and begin  running to keep up with them, my sneakers slipping like bare feet on wet porcelain. Don’t trip, don’t trip!

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This metaphor is our lives (Mark and I that is) exactly at this moment: stuck in the mud of this transition into our new home. We’re caught in the drudgery of trying to break through to a sense of normalcy and calm. We moved to Pembroke, about an hour and 45 minutes north of Ottawa to settle down, take advantage of the affordable housing and try and get ahead. In case you were wondering, no, I’m not comparing Pembroke to mud; it is in fact quite nice, especially in the summer with its beautiful natural setting, and is comfortably quiet and middle class like my hometown of Plattsburgh, NY. Pembroke reminds me a lot of Plattsburgh in many ways.

In Ottawa, we didn’t fit in. This is a wealthy capital city brimming with public servants struggling with the first world problems of finding the right house for a quarter of a million dollars. Awe, that’s tough! Would you like a latte? Meanwhile, we were stuck in a 2 bedroom apartment for more than the price of an entire rented house in Pembroke. We want the house, the kids and the yard, too. How is it that they get everything, and us commoners have to struggle to get ahead? We’re highly educated as well, we just haven’t been as lucky.  I had a  Full-time job  that I had to leave behind, which pained me, but we wanted to try this out.

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Beautiful Pembroke sunset over the mighty Ottawa River. It gives me hope.

The one problem with this town, which also reminds me a lot of Plattsburgh, is the lack of jobs due to its size. I’m going to keep it quite vague here just in case any future employers are snooping around and reading this. Hi, there, how are ya? The top five employers in this area are in the public sector and one of the biggest private employers involves getting verbally abused by irate customers over the phone. I’m struggling right now because I of course worked for the latter company for a mere month, and I didn’t eat for about a week and a half due to the stress.  I find seniors with dementia and  Alzheimer’s to be easier to deal with; after 5 and a half years, I can definitely say I know how to calm them down.

 

Which sunset is better: Pembroke’s or Ottawa’s? This one in Ottawa cost me 75 cents just to gaze at. 

We will get through it, we just have to keep trudging through this muck of life’s basic problems. Where to live, where to work, what to do.  Life is a struggle but it can always be worse. At least we have our health, food, clean water and a roof over our heads. Our families and friends are healthy as well. Like walking through horizontal rain and strong winds, we just have to fight through it, get ourselves to a dry place and wipe off all the dirt and grime.

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I’ll just leave you with this last image:  This is our life, we’re not changing what we’re doing just because you disagree. We’ve faced way too much criticism and judgement for our choice to move here. This is who we are; humble, down-to-earth, middle class folks  trying to enjoy our lives just like you. So, have a lovely day and thanks for reading.

EDIT: We moved back to Ottawa! Pembroke is terrible.

 

I’m Okay Now: Honouring Mental Health Week with poetry

This past week has been a week of reflection on my experience with mental illness. I’ve garnered all my strength, hope and determination to be  vocal about this issue in order to help others struggling with their inner demons, crippling fear and inexplicable numbness that accompanies individuals with mood disorders. It’s time to get loud in the only way I know how: through the written word.

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No talkin’ shit about a pretty sunset. I can now enjoy the beauty that life has to offer

Throughout the years that I suffered with depression, pharmaceutical-induced psychosis* and a hodgepodge of other symptoms, my life and my poetry has made a miraculous transformation.  In these following poems, I was in the grips of my darkest days, my persona was like a dark horse; galloping through the cold, numb tundra of a life that kept expanding with a never ending landscape of despair and pain. I’m happy to say I climbed off that horse long ago to reclaim my life and my happiness.

 

                                                           “Black is back”

Her bones just

crack

she’s coming back

She is coming back

this black

it has no slack

It climbs

up a latter

now mad

she is no hatter

black is leaving

it is quick

waxing like a

candlestick

Once it had left

grabbed the keys

this was theft

Gone for notion

do not stare

potent potion

she is bare

Young serpent, I swear

once you coil

you are now there

Come down

down off that

jest

curl up

into my nest

Ahh, so much rhyming! It must have been all the antidepressants I was on. I wrote this in a vigorous creative fury in study hall in 10th grade while  suffering from another episode or “relapse” of the depression. Depression is very much like the waves of an ocean. For awhile, you’re up and content and then you suffer another traumatic episode and your meds are tinkered with. In poetic terms, the serpent will curl inside you once again. The calm is gone and you’re also hit with a storm of side effects from an increase in the medication. In my experience, the side effects of the medication were almost as bad as the depression. Wellbrutin, traditionally used by doctors to help with aggressive behaviour actually made me aggressive.

I feel like whipping out the red pen on this one as I read it again after so many years. One day I’ll take the time to make some overdue revisions on it. Although this is a classic in my collection and was in fact published in Teen Ink magazine in January 2005. The “young serpent” will always be immortalized as a metaphor for my depression.

“A breed apart”

Stuck together, but not apart

Two breeds are one without a start

The lesser of two evils.

the greater of one skill

Once more for the kill

Float along now, float as you say

Break apart the skin

The dangers are only within

Flew off like the hat of a doll

She says

as ink spurts from the pen

Catch it, before it slips

On the verge of becoming one

These are no birches, these are no trees

beyond the fogness as they are

Let them split

before they dwell

send me, please, into

my silent hell

Written sometime in 2007 or 2008, I wrote this a few years after I went off my medications for good but was still suffering from mild bouts of depression and dealing with the pressures of university life. I no longer had the wave-like symptoms of depression that I was stricken with as a teen on antidepressants but I still suffered and the dangers of it were always lurking nearby. Yes, i’m saying I was in a MUCH worse condition on the medication than  I was off. Isn’t that ironic?

In this poem, I envisioned myself as splitting into two parts as a way to get rid of the depression: One half is depressed and the other is happy. I was fighting to get those two halves to merge and I think that they finally have. The stanza that reads “Let them split/before they dwell/send me please/into my silent hell” is a desperate cry for triumph over my illness.

”A fearless Desertion”

You woke up early the day you died,

face down in the dreaded dust,

drinking from the potholes like black coffee,

this could have been your grave,

now you slobber with

the drool from your mouth is the only liquid in this place

I saved you from the crows that morning,

allowing myself to become a shield as they pecked viciously at my back

your earnest protector,

I dropped you off here as your guardian

unlike any stray cat

Forgotten is the importance of sincerity,

with your own garden as a rare duality

tending to the roses like lies,

 Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers

their endless petals

stretching out for eternity,

this is the trellis for which you build your power,

the vicious cacti underneath

it was in the sky that morning,

a lone cattle skull in the twilight,

a brilliant silhouette

singled out in its featureless interior,

a slice of death for

your fiercest competitor

you were locked down like a fearless mortal

Then they came for you,

crouching over you like a four-legged ghost,

protecting your leftovers

the bones cracking in the heat like old porcelain

an abstraction that is scant

I never buried you anyway.

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I admit this work is an unusual choice to showcase my depression-related material, as I was doing a lot of experimenting with punctuation, line breaks and huge gaps of space. I had just gotten back into O’Keefe’s work and had almost a whole year of studying the Canadian long poems of the 70’s and 80’s so of course my own work was informed by that.

Although the subject, setting, tone and imagery all are experimental, this poem does indeed signify the beautiful death of my depression ( “the vicious cacti underneath”) personified as my abandonment of one of my close friends in the desert. I was both expressing the end of a tumultuous friendship and the destruction of my mental illness in the most ferocious and ruthless way possible.

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Flower or vagina? You decide.

In the stanza, “like Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers/their endless petals/stretching out for eternity/this is the trellis for which you build your power/the vicious cacti underneath” I am acknowledging the undeniable influence that both this friend and depression has over me and the ongoing pain it has inflicted on me. I am almost murderous in my desire to leave him, and it, behind in the dry, hot wasteland  of the desert for the vultures to devour the body. I’m done protecting and nurturing its existence and mortality.

Although O’Keefe’s work has been referenced in recent memory on Breaking Bad while Jesse and his girlfriend Jane are viewing O’Keefe’s painting, ”My Last Door,” and Jane mentions that she thought some of her paintings resembled vaginas. To me, the sharp contrast of the cattle skulls and flowers in the desert setting in her work express a desire to embrace life as we’re faced with the reality of death.

*Author’s note. When I say I experienced pharmaceutical-induced psychosis, I am referring to an instance when I was misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disoder and prescribed a mood stabilizer drug called Depakote. I was also prescribed Topamax (also used for migraines and seizures), Limictal and Risperdal which are  used for the treatment of Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and was not even being treated for my depression by this “licensed medical professional.” After a week in the mental health unit in the hospital, the managing physician said just before my discharge that she believed that those medications and my depression being untreated for so long caused the psychosis, this is known as psychotic depression.

As a survivor it is my duty to speak up and tell you about your rights as a patient. If you believe your doctor is misdiagnosing you, prescribing the wrong medication and overmedicating you, you have the right to refuse treatment. I didn’t know this when  I was young, and I was incredibly weak and vulnerable to the influence of my psychiatrist. Find another psychiatrist who can treat you properly or let your general practitioner/family doctor treat you in the meantime. Don’t let them take advantage of you, you are a person, not a lab rat for them to do experiments on! They went to school to become a doctor in the psychiatric field in order to help people like you, not abuse and demean you.

That’s my rant for the day.

Happy Mental Health Week everyone!

A Quick Update

I thought I’d send quick message to my followers and friends to say that I’ll be taking a small break from writing personal essays and articles on here to focus on a play (maybe 2) that I’ve been working on. Knowing me, that’s a month, tops. I’ll appear sooner or later with some heated commentary on an aspect of life that annoys me at that particular hour.

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Our fly problem at the new place; What is this, The Amityville Horror?

I’ve had these characters, Tom, Hannah, and a door-to-door charity worker, yapping in my brain in a rather nagging way for the past 3 weeks so I just really need to get them out and onto the page. In my mind, it’s like I’m stuck in a room with talkative people flapping their gums about some sporting event or the hotly controversial topic of which washing machine to buy. You know, topics that I feel deeply passionate about. I’d also like to do some research to get some more ideas and a lot of that involves listening in on people’s conversations and reading the news religiously.

See you all in a month or two. Happy Monday!

Also, what’s this whole Easter Monday thing in Canada all about? Easter was yesterday and Friday was Good Friday, that’s one hell of a 3 day weekend right there. I worked all weekend so it would have been a dream to get 3 days off in a row. But 4? That’s just greedy. Okay, I better end this now before it enters into blog territory.

 

We Suffered the Atrocity of Sunsets: How Plath taught us to write for ourselves

With it being the day after International Women’s Day, I felt it was incredibly important to honour one of the greatest woman writers of the 20th century. To this day, no writer, male or female, has been able to capture my experiences and emotions as both an adolescent and a grown woman quite like Plath. Although she’s not technically thought of as a feminist icon,  she lived as a struggling housewife underneath the shadow of a domineering husband/famous poet in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s just as the ground underneath her was shaking with the birth of second wave feminism.

Even now that I am well out of my teens, I am still in awe of her uncanny ability to write with such sheer honesty, ferocity and courage.  Whether you adore her work or despise it for some odd reason, you cannot deny her mastery in the art of suffering. She didn’t just revel in the pain and madness of it as she sliced us right to the bone. After our wounds began to heal and scab over, we discovered themes of hope and recovery rising from the ashes of despair.

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My precious Plath collection: In the event of a fire, I’d scream, “Quick, grab the Plaths!”

In her nostalgic retelling of Ariel in her literary memoir How to Be a Heroine, Samantha Ellis concludes on her chapter on the author that “Plath wasn’t advocating suffering: she was struggling and heroically wishing for rebirth and giving her readers that possibility too.”

As in “Lady Lazarus,” dying is an art she does exceptionally well, but we watch her strive for rebirth in the form of a phoenix, clinging to any mention of strength as we live our lives.

 

Daddy, you bastard I’m through

“Not God but a swastika/So black no sky could squeak through/ Every woman adores a Fascist/The boot in the face, the brute/Brute heart of a brute like you.”

In addition to teaching us to always write the truth, Sylvia taught us catharsis in all its fist clenching, heart-pounding glory. Through her I learned that writing from the heart was akin to furiously slapping a handful of black paint on a canvas. I now believe that the only appropriate way to read “Daddy” is aloud to a live audience because it shouts such a bold statement of anger and resentment. Although the whole “absent father” theme is overdone nowadays, she did it first and we loved her for being so forthright about losing her dad at  such a young age. Very few proper young ladies turned 60’s housewives would dare utter such statements of weakness and vulnerability.

 

I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps in me

“All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.”

Sylvia Plath wasn’t just a pioneer  of writing with catharsis, she was also the first woman writer to give us incredible accessibility. Unlike Virginia Woolf who confused the hell out of me in my undergrad classes with all her Modernist stream-of-consciousness in Mrs.Dalloway, when I read Plath, it lit a fire deep inside me.  When I read what she wrote, I felt it almost word for word. “OMG, I feel that way! She understands me! SO MANY FEELS!” She wasn’t too experimental in style, condescending in tone or complicated thematically. Maybe that’s why Psychology Today coined us, her moody teen readers, the “teen death cult,” back in 2003 in an article for her ability to speak directly to us.

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The book that launched a thousand emotions, literary aspirations and pop culture references

Unlike other authors, she didn’t bore us to death with flowery and pretty imagery like Wordsworth or made us suffer through peaceful, wintry scenes like in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (Sorry, Frost, I still like ya). She got me through my struggles with depression, a hospitalization and multiple appointments to shrinks and “social workers/counsellors” by delivering raw emotion. I still adore her themes of anger, death, rebirth , motherhood, self-loathing and her brilliant imagery of the moon, yew trees, Nazi lampshades made out of human skin, beehives and white linen. I see so much influence of “Arrival of the Bee Box,” “Elm” and “Edge” in my poems “The gravedigger’s special” and “Black is back.”

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What is this, this face/ So murderous in its strangle of branches?

The last psychiatrist I had advised me not to read some book called The Bell Jar because it would make me more depressed and suicidal.  I had not yet heard of it or of Plath. But instead I went out and bought the book, read and loved it. That is the book  that started it all. That ignorant moron! Reading that book, Ariel and Journals afterwards actually got me through my suffering. That is the only thing I can thank Ms.Shrinkypants for. I still think she resembles her dog, they had the same damn haircut, I swear.

The high moment, the burning flash, come and are gone, continuous quicksand. And I don’t want to die

Although Plath didn’t fit in traditionally on a course syllabus in any of my literature courses, her work was able to thrust itself into the American literary canon of the 1960’s and 1970’s. I was very pleased to see her in a syllabus for a course on American Culture that I took at Carleton. She was a star on the list of works we read, and by far the best well known of all the authors. James Baldwin, who? Tom Wolfe and New Journalism, wha? By revisiting Ariel, I discovered so much more tragic beauty and optimism in her poems than the first time I read them. I realized again that I loved her for her unique view of the world, her enduring immortality and her status as a literary outcast.

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I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets/ scorched to the root/ my red filaments burn and stand, a hand of wires

This quote here from The Bell Jar has always inspired me to write what I felt about the world and to never be afraid to put my guts on the table:

“I liked looking on at other people in crucial situations. If there was a road accident or a street fight or a baby pickled in a laboratory jar for me to look at, I’d stop and look so hard I never forgot it.”

Although some critics say she is all just blackness and despair, I say these fools are tasteless and know nothing about literature. As I continue to grow and mature as a young woman, her work becomes more timeless and relevant as inspiration for recovery, and hope for a rebirth into a healthy and stable human being. Reading her work has had the effect of Trainspotting by learning not to do heroin and not to commit suicide.

It’s okay to comment on the world in this blog with derisive wit and distasteful critique of ridiculous frivolities like designer handbags, useless china, and costly weddings just to show how much money you have. Because of Esther Greenwood and Plath’s literary persona, I learned that it’s okay to be an outcast and have artistic interests in the macabre and write about dark things that are hard to read about.

Thank you, Sylvia. If I have a daughter, I just might name her after you. Sylvie for short so we can pretend we’re French and hip.

Love,

Laura Kathryn

 

 

Dear Ottawa, your customer service sucks.


When it comes to customer service and personal skills in this government-infested capital city, a lighter and less witty version of Black Books comes to mind. Instead of a disgruntled Bernard Black chain smoking and sipping on wine at his desk, you get resting bitch face from a moody cashier at Loblaw’s who is anxiously waiting for you to finish their job of bagging your groceries so they can cash you out. Sorry to inconvenience you by giving your company more money and, I don’t know, PAYING YOUR FUCKING SALARY!

Mark and I discovered that when it comes to all aspects of service in this city, whether it be in the restaurants, retail or grocery stores, it’s 50/50. It’s either atrociously rude and minimal, or just barely in deserving of a 20 % tip at a restaurant downtown or in the Byward Market. You can forget about receiving the latter in the west end where we live. They clearly don’t give a shit around here and act like losing their job and living on the street is quite preferable to us inconveniencing them while they’re checking their iPhone.

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The most stunning city in North America with its booming tourism industry and pleasant customer service.

We recently returned from Quebec city for our second wedding anniversary and were quite touched by the level of service we received from the locals. Although we were deep in the “dark side,” struggling through broken French and our nagging Anglophone ways, the locals were lovely, kind, and friendly in every restaurant and shop we stepped inside. Whether it was the charming Italian bistro Spag &tini in view of the Chateau Frontenac where the waitress took our photo for us, or the unique medieval shop on Rue St. Jean where I felt like I stepped into an episode of Game of Thrones, we felt welcome and not at all an annoyance to anyone.

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This is my snarky resting bitch face when dealing with rude and indifferent customer service employees 

Customer service in Ottawa, on the other hand, is like taking a frightened and annoyed cat and trying to shove it forcibly into a carrier as it drags its nails across the floor. About a month ago, we were at Loblaws where Mark was looking at buying a new controller for the PS3 and the game, The Last of Us. When we asked one of the employees hanging around in their little gaggle at the customer service desk for the key to unlock the cabinet, the head idiot behind the desk looked at Mark like he had to turned into the giant insect in Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” Oh, how inconvenient of us to make you actually do your job! Thanks for the eye roll, fatty.

Almost  a year ago, on the day I received my Permanent Residence, we both went to the closest bar to our place, Summerhay’s, to celebrate. The owner, or GM or whatever he is, seated us in the section in front of the building where one waitress, at around 9pm, nowhere near closing time, was obnoxiously and rudely sweeping and vacuuming the floor right next to our table. Yummy! And let’s not forget the most recent experience with Minto management where we called to inquire about looking at a two bedroom apartment. “Well, you know that you need to give two months notice, right?” She responded after a painfully long pause. It was like we were asking her to donate a part of her liver. Needless to say, we are taking our money elsewhere.

The closest thing to actual service that you get around here is in retail when they follow you around like a lost child in order to earn their commission. Take for example, this past Friday when I was in Victoria’s Secret buying a bra. Two different girls asked me if I needed any help and I just told them I was looking for something in my size. So I finally find something reasonably lacy and pretty, try it on and bring it to the cash. The cashier asks me if anyone helped me today, I say no, and she says “oh, sorry to hear that.” Why? I’m  not.

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When I get into the clutches of a friendly sales associate at Victoria’s Secret and they learn that I’m a D cup, everything out of her mouth all of sudden sounds so medical and health related. It’s like she’s become impressed with my superpower that requires extra care and attention unlike everything else in the store that caters to the Tiny Titty Committee.  Despite the fact that I already know my size and exactly where they hide the sexy bras in the bottom D cup drawer, she begins throwing words around like “Total Body Coverage,” “Complete Support,” and back pain which all probably only come in two colours. Move it, cupcake, I know what I’m doing here. Just because I’m not deficient in breast tissue and need a push-up bra or some ridiculous “Triple cup enhancer” doesn’t mean I’m retarded.

It’s a shame that customer service has come to this, with no middle ground at all. We just have to avoid the worst contenders and hope for the best.