This Weary Tattooed Body.

I wanted to write something this last week, but I found myself drawing for the first time in over two years, and it felt so good that I just couldn’t take a break to post a new blog. My hands were moving freely, unlike the stiffness I had become so used too. And for four days, I did hardly anything, but play around with my pencils, getting my hands dirty, pushing graphite over stark white paper and spilling my imagination across the torn out page of my sketchbook.

If you draw, paint, or create anything with your hands really, you know what I mean when I say, I had gotten used to stiffness. Where movements that once felt natural, have now become tense and strained. The fingers and wrist are rigid, pushing back against you and leaving little room to create the thing you have swirling around in your mind. It’s frustrating as hell. But, this time, it wasn’t like that, and it felt amazing.  It felt amazing because, in all honesty, my body, mind and heart haven’t allowed for that kind of thing lately. Life’s been harsh and sharp, and some of the most authentic parts of myself had fallen asleep. Laying dormant beneath the ash and rubble of a life once lived, and now only endured.

So when the pencil hit the paper, and things were happening the way I wanted them too, I couldn’t put it down. For the first time, in over two years, I felt a part of myself alive and breathing again. Rubbing my fingers into the grey powder, the metallic smell lingering. Pencil shavings filling my ashtray, smudging line after line, until the shapes began to come to life, impelling the weight to lift from my shoulders, and wander away to the place it belongs. In God’s hands.

It gave me hope. And it validated, that I was still here. That I was alive, and somewhere in this weary tattooed body, I was in there.

So, day after day, in my joggers and baggy t-shirts, one cup of coffee after another, cigarette after cigarette, I created a piece of art that I am proud of. Too some, it may not seem like that big a deal, but to me, it’s everything right now. It’s a piece of tangible evidence that I am not dead. That I’m still rooted in my body and that I can still create something beautiful. That I can DO SOMETHING. That, I still have a loud and passionate soul, willing to expose itself, vulnerable or not, to my fellow-man. To my creator and Father, who shaped these gifts within me.

At the end of the day, it had made it known, that it wasn’t too late for me. As depressing at that sounds, I was tip toeing on that ledge of deep despair, and now I had some hope back in my life. And I think that’s the beauty of creating something, it confirms our authenticity, mirroring our own mystery and showing us a piece of ourselves we may have lost or simply forgotten was there. It is a form of expression that can untangle our own inner web of chaos, simply because of the release that can happen there. Taking down the guard, to liberating something beautiful and unique from within, in turn, maybe even smoothing over those jagged parts that have become so raw. It gives the creator a chance to look at oneself, and perhaps decide, that they still have something to offer, even under the suffocating soot and residue of things past by. Things past by, but at times, and often for myself, relived everyday.

At the end of this post, are a few shots of the piece I was working on all week, if you wanna check it out.

As I said earlier, I needed a break from telling my story. The beginning of the week was rough, and after a few sleepless nights, waking up in tears, I decided I needed help. So, on Tuesday, I found myself sitting in the doctor’s office, mid panic attack, covered in tears, emotional and weak as hell. It took a lot of courage on my part, to expose and vulnerabilize myself to a man I had never met. I’ve never been one to trust doctors, and asking him for anxiety medication was hard. I was embarrassed it had gotten this bad, and I was really nervous about the whole thing. Talking about cancer screening was even worse, and it left a kind of pit in the bottom of my stomach. I’m not looking forward to those appointments, at all. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my Moms death, that she was a young 48 years old, and I’ve unknowingly taken on a deep fear, that the same thing will happen will to me. I’ve even caught myself counting how many years I’d have left with my son, if I died at the same age. Just like my Mother, and her sister, who also died of cancer before the age of 50. I have to stop myself when my mind goes there, sometimes violently, because in all honesty, I’m terrified. And so, these are the thoughts that wake me in the night, my pillow case drenched in tears. Amongst other terrors from within. The old fears, and the new, swirling around my subconscious, creating a circus act of horror I’d do anything to escape. And so, the doctor’s office and the newness that came with it.

I promised I was going to walk you through each and every detail, the details of a fight to save my own life.

To rise to the place I belong.

The fight to tell the truth about what happened to me.

The reality, that on all scientific counts, I should die of cancer within 20 years, and the way that I have chosen to deal with that.

To not only heal, but to overcome in a way, that the story of my life represents a truth I would die for. The truth that, not only can each of us survive absolutely anything, but that God can take the cruelty and suffering each of us has endured, conquer it in all His strength, and wrap them up into stepping stones towards a life that would baffle the enemy. Stealing away his efforts to destroy us, and instead, building a house of truth over his lies. A house, a life, that represents what trust in God looks like. Free, and beautiful, and overflowing with gardens of abundance. Loved.

I believe God can do that in my life and I believe He already has. Even in the tears, through the panic attacks and the sleepless nights. Through the death, and in the worry. The dark, and back to the light, through prayer, where I always reunite with my authentic self. Because that’s where Jesus is.

And so, tomorrow, I’ll go back to the place I was before, and continue telling my story. Until then, I thank you for being my friend and for reading.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller 



Getting used to my pencils again.

Getting used to my pencils again.

Coming together.

Coming together.

Hit it with some graphic overlay and editing, and voila!

Hit it with some graphic overlay and editing, and voila!



What Granny Said.

“You be a good girl Angie,” her eyes fixed on mine. “You be a good girl for Granny or else Granny won’t let you see Mommy ever again. And you know Granny can do that don’t you?”

I am five years old. She is sitting on the edge of my bed, it’s nighttime and I’m in trouble again. I did everything she asked me too. I put my pajamas on like a good girl and brushed my teeth when she asked. I crawled into bed without a fuss, and did my best to finish all the food on my plate at dinner time. But, she’ s angry with me, like she is most of the time.

She grabs my jaw roughly, it’s invasive and controlling, my little heart beating so fast. She’s digging her fingers into the sides of my cheeks and it hurts. I want to move under the weight of her grip, to pull on her forearms, and twist out from under, but I know better. Yanking on my chin, she pulls her face up close to mine. I am frozen. Her eyes locked onto my eyes, the sharp sting of her nails pressing down on the soft skin.

“You remember what Granny said.” The heat of her breath, mixed with cigarettes and coffee and she just lingers there for moment, her gaze tearing into me, before she whips her hand away in disgust. It is harsh and unrelenting. And with that, the room goes dark and I am left to stare at the crack of light beaming in through the hallway. I had forgotten to breathe and my exhale is shaky and strained. I’m terrified to make a sound, pushing my face into the cotton pillow, the warmth rushing to my cheeks with the release and I can hear my Mom downstairs. I want to tell her what happened, but I’m scared. The fear ran through my body like a current and I wouldn’t, couldn’t move.

I had to stop,  and reach out to my God, two paragraph’s into writing this post.

Jesus, give me the strength I need to see myself through this evil maze of sickness. This torment, Lord.” Repeating verses from the bible, that have held me up during my most fearful of days, through the deepest of shameful nights, those powerful words striking through the fear and lifting me with His golden staph. I am so grateful God is real, and alive and with me. The residue, of these moments in my life, can be crippling. I often find myself, staring off into the ground, my thoughts overlapping each other in a frenzy of anxious shock, and I can’t find my way out. I get lost in this unbelievable reality of my past, and when the child inside me can’t make sense of it anymore, and my adult self is raging with a hate that frightens me, all I have left is God. 

I have a husband, and a son, who think the world of me and this isn’t lost to me most days. I bask in that light with them, and pour as much love into them as I possibly can. But every survivor knows, each in their own way, the loneliness that comes with the mark of abuse. It’s a solitary experience. One that traps you within the confines of your own painful existence, tearing you away from being able to share it with anyone, a place set aside just for you and no amount of explaining or clawing away will ignite an understanding between you and the world. Because the thing is just too evil, and you know that if you were to really expose the truth of it, your comrades would turn away in disgust, tummy’s churning and your tears would turn to dust with the reaction, the regret pushing around in your gut, and so many of us stay silent. As I have for the last two years. Until I chose not too anymore. I believe, that by staying silent, I am allowing her to still have that hold on me. That I am welcoming the harsh grasp of her hand. Letting the fingers dig into my cheeks, her nails gripping my face and falling weak under her weight. 

I can’t let her do this to me anymore. I refuse to lay in that bed any longer, the fear running through me like a current. I think of my five-year old son, the pureness of his heart, the innocence of his soul and I have to stand up for that little girl. 


“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr. 

She Was In There.

I cried all night, the day I published my last post.

It was September first, and one year prior, to that very day, was the day I lost my Mom to cancer. It happened at Elizabeth Bruyere, the palliative care building located in a beautiful area of downtown and  my husband, myself and my son, were the only family left to visit that day.

Somewhere, deep inside my gut, I knew she was going to die that day. I knew, in the same way, I knew it would rain. How you taste that cool breeze in the air, and even though the sky is bright blue and the sun is beaming down on the flesh of your shoulder, that coolness running over your bare skin, tells you the truth. I knew it in the same way as this, and I tried to put it away, but could not. And when my Grandpa left  that afternoon, shuffling away, with those sad, heavy shoulders of his, I knew I would be the one to call later, and have to tell them him truth. That she had died.  And I was right.

She had been in a morphine sleep haze for two days now. The little machine laying at her side, the tubes pumping a never-ending supply into her veins. The tumors in her cervix had grown so large, that she was now unable to relieve herself, and go to the washroom.  They had spent hours trying to insert a catheter two days before, but the tumor was just to big. There was nothing more they could do, and we had nothing to offer her, but the small comfort of our presence.

The doctor informed us that because they could not successfully help her relieve herself, that this would cause the urine to back up into her kidneys, and that she would eventually pass of kidney failure.  It was a peaceful way to die, they said.

“We recommend you say your goodbye’s and do your best to make your peace with this.” The nurses were kind and understanding.

There was so much to say, I didn’t have the words. I still had so many questions, so much anger within. And the contrast between my love for her, and my hate, was almost too much to bear. You see, during the Spring that had just passed, I had come to learn a dark truth. One that, stole away all the seeming  innocence of our relationship and the morsels of trust that had been left. Not that there were many.

She had known what they had done to me, the abuse I suffered. And she had not only turned her back, no, she had not only turned her face away. She had once..

It’s been almost an hour since I typed those last three words. Every time, I  begin to finish that sentence my mind goes blank and I find myself staring at the screen. Repeating it over and over again in my head. She had once….participated. She had once….participated. She had once…participated. I’m stuck here, and it hurts. A lot. I can hardly remember what I began this post with, because just having this thought run through me, is enough to bring me to my knees in tears. I love my mother. And, I hate my mother. It has made my grieving process a terrible and confusing thing, and every single day, my heart wails in pain at how much I wish things could be different. That I could say goodbye to my mom in peace, without the constant tug of war between these two opposing feelings. How my heart contradicts itself equally on both sides, is disconcerting, even though I understand it. 

Moving on. 

She had not only turned her face away, she had once…participated. That memory resurfacing itself just four months before I got the phone call. And so as I sat there at her bedside, with the sound of the beeping machine, of it pushing the drug into her veins, I knew this. The crayons in my son’s hand dragging over the white paper on his lap and the soft weight of my husbands strong hand tracing the lines of my back, I knew.  The smell of food wafting through the halls, the elevator opening and closing again. And as I listened to the sound of my mothers breath, so strained and forceful, I knew what she had done. Cringing internally at the phlegm rising up and down her throat from all those years of smoking and rattling within. That terrible sound. My internal chaos and pain, for the now, and the then, mixed with the soundtrack of this all too painful reality, that my mother was dying.

When my Grandmother was in her final days, the nurses had taught us how to remove the extra phlegm that had spilled into her mouth,

(gross, I know, but I wouldn’t tell you unless I had too)  

…with large kind of que-tips, teaching us to remove the stuff not only because it was needed, but because a person could choke this way.  The thought of my grandmother choking to death scared the shit out of me, but they reassured me how normal this was, and that it happened to almost everyone in those final days. Normal or not, it still scared the shit out of me.

So when my mom began to choke, I knew this was why. It was such a terrible sound. My heart falling to the pit of my stomach, and I ran out into the hallway for a nurse. The attending nurse grabbed this kind of large glass jug, with measuring cup units in red print up along the side of it and followed me into the room. She began to lift my mother’s head in her hands, at the same time asking me,

“Do you want to stay for this?” Breaking me out of my own haze of disbelief and plugging me back into life. I look down at my son, only five years old.

“No, no I won’t stay.” And she gets to work as the three of us head towards the hallway, and into the elevator. It felt like I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes in those fifteen minutes. My hands shaking, my heart screaming, the sound of my mother choking like that. The walk back to the elevator was entirely surreal, the bell ringing as the doors opened on my mother’s floor. The slow walk down the hallway, turning the corner with the thudding of my own heart, and Landon’s little five-year old hand in mine. My husbands strong, warm hand in my other, and I see her. I see the nurse standing in the hallway, and she’s crying. She’s shaking, and she’s crying and she looks up to see me there.

“It was horrible,” she wails, “It was so horrible.”

And all I can do is look at her, because I don’t know what she’s saying to me. And she’s still crying, as she lifts her hand to her mouth, and this look of shock comes over her face. And she says to me,

“Oh my goodness, you’re her daughter! I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry. Your mother has just passed away, I couldn’t clear her airway, and she asphyxiated. She could not breathe. I’m so sorry.” And that was it. As I turned my head towards her room, the tears rimming my eyes with heat, she was in there. Still and lifeless, and gone.  I held her hand and played with her hair until her skin started to get cold, and with that, I kissed her forehead and said my last goodbye.

I love you Mom.

“Someday, you’re going to look back on this moment of your life, as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing…” ~Elizabeth Gilbert