Day 197: Etched in Flesh

Every time I start to write, I throw a number up in the title of the post. Every time I throw a number up I debate on not bothering with the number because I don’t have time to blog daily anymore…. and then every time I put the post number in. It’s not habit because I don’t do it unconsciously. I think I just appreciate the fact that the numbers keep the posts in order even when my timeline is not.

Today’s Thought in the Bucket:  There’s a tattoo concept I’ve been chewing over for the last year or so. It was one of those “in the back of my mind” type of concepts that I wasn’t in a rush to pursue. It was more of an awareness that there was a specific statement that I wanted etched into my skin that I hadn’t quite defined enough to bring it forward out of that back burner stage of thought.

Four months ago I started working security and the office is directly across from a tattoo shop. I started casually chatting with one of the artists – not even about tattoo originally – and a couple of weeks ago I decided to shove the concept into his hands and see what happened. I gave him next to no information, no back ground, and no restrictions other than where I wanted it placed. I hadn’t even looked at his portfolio yet. (Which I did do immediatly after realizing I hadn’t…. always look at how an artist sees the world. There are many incredible artists that draw in styles I can appreciate but would never get placed permanently on my person.)

And he completely slayed it.


When I was sixteen I memorized William Ernst Henley’s “Invictus” during a pivotal moment in my life. I chose to take responsibility for who I was going to be as an adult, as a mother, and as a person. I always invisioned an naval warship at full sail when I thought of that piece. It fit – I was drowning,  hand on the wheel, and I was the only one capable of making the decisions that could change my course.

The artist unexpectedly decided to take the concept and age it. He shredded the edges; giving it a tattered appearance that ties in very much with the last year of my life. It’s ended up unintentionally becoming a personal statement in regards to staying the course. Weather worn, beaten down, showing the scars of time and experience – but still pointing true.

I’ve blogged about touchstones before. This one is on my wrist, permanently, as a personal reminder. It’s perfect.

(Note: I’m touching base with him to see if he minds his name published. I’ll update the blog when I have that information.)

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Day 196: Troll Face

I’m just going to jump right in on this one… it really doesn’t need much of an introduction.

If a person has ugly thoughts[1]

The Learned Bits: Entitlement makes people ugly. It doesn’t matter how educated a person is, how well dressed, how well put together… entitlement makes people ugly from the inside out.

I’ve been chewing over why, of all of the negative emotions, entitlement is one of the ones that gets my back up the fastest. I think it’s because most of the more aggressive negative emotions – prejudice, elitism, misogyny, hate – I can trace back as originating from a place of fear and insecurity. They’re like irrational or disproportionate anger; I understand most violent outbursts from people because violence most often originates from a place of fear and insecurity. It’s because I can empathize with and understand how fear and insecurity alter the way people perceive their environment and how that colours their reactions. I don’t struggle as much to keep my own reactions in check when confronted by those types of negative emotions because I understand what the landscape of fear looks like. The world viewed through filters of fear and insecurity is a terrifying and dangerous place where conflict of any kind immediately becomes a potential threat to a person’s sense of security. I’m pretty explosive when I honestly feel like I’m in a position where I have to defend myself. That makes sense to me.

Entitlement is a completely different monster. It’s this self focused, self absorbed, greedy thing that shares company with things like narcissism and victim mentality. It’s a petulant, sulking, close minded repetition of demands based on feeling owed something that is being kept from a person that seems to creep in people’s eyes and in the way the corner of their mouth curls. Entitlement is the troll under the bridge of other people’s good will and accomplishments. That’s the largest part of it: entitlement isn’t about what people work to get for themselves…. it’s about what they feel they’re owed from someone else.

It’s a personal trigger point for me because I’ve spent my entire life working my tail feathers off for every small advancement and accomplishment. I’m almost pathologically uninterested in receiving help… I think I have been from day one. Perhaps that’s why I struggle to understand the mentality of “do it for me”. I’m an aggressively determined “I can do it myself” personality. I get down right hissy when people try to do things for me when I’m in the process of learning anything new. Don’t touch it. Don’t fix it for me. Show me how to correct it myself and then get the hell out of my way while I puzzle through it until I’ve mastered it. I take a lot of pride in doing things for myself especially when those things are things I’ve had to struggle towards, be they skills or material things or milestones in life. I take a lot of satisfaction in being able to say “I did this”… and I struggle to accept “this was done for me”.

If I think about it, on some level I take it personally when I’ve gone through all of the struggle I’ve gone through and someone is parroting the situational equivalent of “It’s about ME ME ME ME ME” in my face. I take it personally when entitled people lose their minds and bully others because for some reason they think they’re being denied something they feel they deserve that they haven’t actually done anything to earn.

Dude…. existing does not count towards earning anything. Sharing a cultural heritage does not mean you’ve earned everything those who came before you fought their asses off for any more than living in a country means that you personally have earned all of the benefits and freedoms our military and veterans go to and have gone to war to protect. Disaster relief is not a right, nor is other people’s good will, or donations of time, money, and possessions. Social assistance was not designed as a government fall back because having to actually work for a living is a lot of work.

Just because you’ve chosen to live under the bridge does not mean it’s your bridge.

Entitlement makes people ugly in the way they treat other people. In the way they talk to other people. Entitlement reveals the troll face behind the false gratitude when entitled people don’t get what they want. When the handouts don’t come fast enough. When the effort they’re expected to put in to something in order to get what they want out of it exceeds their expectations. I’ll be the first one to throw in a hand and help. I’ll be the first one to roll up my sleeves and get to work when there’s work to be done and people need the support. And I’ll be the first to knock the troll out from under the bridge of my efforts the moment it rears its ugly face.

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Day 195: Hickory, Dickory, Dock

So, my birthday is next week. Birthdays put me in a very specific “rock and hard place” type of a scenario… people ask what you want for your birthday when birthdays are coming up. Here’s where I struggle: people don’t want a list of things you could use or things you need, they would like a list of things you want.

I used to get in trouble when asked what I wanted for birthdays and Christmas and my responses were typically practical things. For some reason, getting practical things seems to offend people because they want me to treat myself.  Maybe it’s that I’m just Dutch: not having to pay for something that I’m going to have to pay for anyway is kind of a treat. That, however, is not what most people mean by “treat” or “splurge” or “something for myself”.  The issue is, that I really don’t want for things most of the time. Things are not where I typically assign value simply because they’re things. The things I have that do have a high value for me are often the little gestures that come from people because they thought of me and the thing is nothing but a material representation of the thought. Dollar value, to me, is not an indicator of value. An indicator of cost, yes, but not of value.

So…. if it’s not monetary, what do I assign a high value to?

The Learned Bits:  There are a lot of different factors that come into play when I really sat down to figure out where I place my value modifiers and at the end of the day and everything I could think of boils down to the same thing.


The memories and moments across the board in all levels of my relationships involve time. Friends, family, intimate partners… all of the material that I put a high value on are things that are directly linked to time I’ve spent with people. I show affection, respect, and appreciation by going out of my way to make time, to be on time, and in prioritizing my time when things come up or something needs to be taken care of. I feel cared for, respected, and appreciated when time is prioritized for me as well – people who make time, are on time, and who prioritize time for me when something comes up where I need something.  When people use the words or buy the things but either do not make the time, do not respect my time, or always seem to have more important things to do when I need their time, then I find that the value of the words and the things rapidly becomes more of an insult than anything. If the time isn’t put in the words start to come across like they’re just lip service and the dollar amount of things makes me feel like people are trying to buy my respect, my affection, and my loyalty. People trying to buy me piss me off even though logically I understand that how some people show affection is directly tied into where they see value.

People value different things.

In intimate relationships especially, understanding what your partner values and what specifically makes them feel cared for, respected, and appreciated is a very important piece of information. I think a lot of people struggle to see beyond themselves and honestly don’t understand that other people don’t place value in the same areas. It’s a case of “this is what I like, so this is what I’ll do” instead of “this is what he/she likes, so this is what I’ll do even if it’s not necessarily what I like”.

I always feel horrible when someone goes out of their way to do this super extra special thing that means the absolute world to them and they’re trying to share and show that they think I’m super extra special and that thing they do has next to no emotional value for me. I can totally respect the gesture. Logically, I can see exactly what that super extra special thing means for the other person and I can understand the meaning behind their attempt.

That doesn’t, however, emotionally make me feel super extra special. It typically makes me feel like maybe they didn’t take the time to actually consider me and try to find the thing that would do that. It’s a lot like taking the kids out to buy gifts when they were young. It’s like trying to explain to a four year old that the <insert popular kid’s tv series or favourite superhero> toy that they’re absolutely drooling over would be an awesome gift… for them. But that maybe it wouldn’t be an awesome gift for Dad for father’s day. Teaching kids that the things they like aren’t universally liked blows their little immature minds. Trying to find a way to explain to them that the intention behind gift giving is to give people something you think the other person likes… even though it’s not something you like yourself… that is a big one to chew on.

I think that’s the part a lot of people struggle with. They get stuck in: “This doesn’t mean anything to me and I wanted it to be something special. This isn’t what I see as special. So it doesn’t count.” And again, that comes down to time. Taking the time to learn what is important to the people around you. Taking the time to understand what it is they value. Taking the time to go out of your way to find that thing when you really don’t have any interest in spending your time looking for it, or doing it, or whatever. I think what I see isn’t necessarily the thing itself… it’s the time invested to get to a point where someone knows me well enough to understand me. It’s the time invested in going out of their way to do something for me that they wouldn’t choose to put the time into doing for themselves.

I was asked what I wanted for my birthday… and the best answer I could come up with was “Time”. For me, that’s the best answer I can give.

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Day 194: Maybe Toddlers Are On To Something

I’m noticing a trend. At first, I figured it was primarily a social-female thing but as I’ve been paying attention I’m noticing that it’s just a social thing. Maybe it’s more of a Canadian thing – we do have a reputation as a country for being almost apologetically nice.

People struggle to say “no”.


The Learned Bits:  I think that no is the only word I’m aware of in the English language that is often described as being offered as either a “soft no” or a “hard no”. There’s no such thing as a “soft yes”…. it’s a yes or it’s a maybe, which can go either way.

The entire concept of a “soft no” drives me crazy. Basically, the concept seems to revolve around implying that you mean “no” without actually having to SAY the word “no” in a decisive manner. The person saying “no” means no but what they actually say is more of an excuse as to why they’re indicating a no in an attempt to soften it and make it less confrontational. It’s that whole line of “Oh, gee… yeah, that would have been awesome but I’m washing my hair that night.” … instead of “No, thank you, I’m not interested in going out with you.” Or the whole “I can’t, I have a boyfriend/girlfriend.”… which just implies that there’s still an opportunity there once the whole relationship inconvenience is out of the way. People often use the “not right now” approach over the “no” approach to avoid conflict, to avoid confrontation, and to placate the other person because they don’t want to deal with the reaction they perceive a straight forward no would incite.

The problem with using a “not right now” or a “maybe later” is that the other person often will hang on to the “now” and “later” portion of the conversation instead of the “no” part. That can cause a lot of miscommunication and can cause a lot of hurt feelings because not only does the person kinda sorta saying no run the risk of the whole “how about now” repeat approaches, the person who’s not being given a clear indicator can feel led on or lied to if they keep trucking along thinking they still have an opportunity to get the yes they’re looking for. That’s a problem.

People struggle to say no. It’s not a human nature thing – talk to any two year old. I have yet to meet a two year old who isn’t perfectly capable of a decisive, firm no. Maybe the issue is that right out of the gate, as parents we tend to come down on them for it. Granted, you can’t respect every no that comes out of a small kid’s mouth because they’ll no everything depending on the kid and the opportunity. Maybe the base of the issue stems from the fact that often times we get so harried in dealing with the nearly constant resistance that is the trademark of toddlerhood that we shut it down instead of teaching our kids where it’s appropriate to use. We’re so busy teaching the fine art of negotiation, empathy, and trying to get the little terrorists to work with other people that we’re forgetting that being able to be decisive and firm in a negative manner is not a negative thing. We forget that no isn’t a bad word.

There’s nothing wrong with saying no.  Honestly. If the answer is no…. it’s no. You don’t have to explain it if you don’t want to, apologize for it, or waffle on it because you think that your answer will make the other person feel bad. You don’t have to go through some weird social contortionist routine, hinting that you mean the negative without actually saying anything negative, in a way that you hope will be palatable for the other person. You can just say no.

Like most things, it’s a matter of using tact… not negotiation. There’s a big difference between a “psh… yeah, no.. and you’re an idiot for asking” and a firm but polite “no, thank you for asking”. You can be firm and give what most people see as a negative response without having a negative attitude. Giving a negative response doesn’t mean you have a negative attitude. You’re not being an asshole, a jerk, or a cow because you’ve said no… and people have to start accepting that from both sides of the equation. Not only are you allowed to say no, people are allowed to say no to you without it being some kind of personal attack. They don’t have to explain why they’re saying no if they don’t choose to, they don’t have to give excuses, and they don’t have to apologize for not wanting to do something. We don’t expect any of that if they say yes…. why would we expect it if they say no?

People have to get over having issues with both giving and receiving a negative response. It’s not a statement directed at the other person’s value. No simply means I don’t want whatever I’m saying no to. It doesn’t mean that you’re an awful human being and I want nothing to do with you. It doesn’t mean that I’m an awful human being for not just giving someone else something they want regardless of what I want or feel in that moment. Saying no doesn’t mean I’m taking away from someone else. Disappointing them, maybe… but not taking something away from them. It’s okay to not get everything you want. And it’s okay to not give something you don’t want to give. We need to remember that as adults.

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Day 193: Internal Dialogue

I think that it’s fair to say that often when life gets complicated it’s not the situation itself… it’s the human element that complicates things. The life part is relatively basic.

It’s the living part that thows in the monkey wrench.

The Learned: Heart and Brain sat around the conference table in the boardroom, Heart doodling in the margins of the agenda for the day.

Brain began flipping through files. “There’s the daily list… laundry? What is the plan for dinner? Is that school thing on the calendar and is it tonight?”

“Sure. Don’t care. I think so.” Heart looked up. “The school thing will be fun. She’s wearing the blue dress with the bow. It looks really good on her and I’m proud of how hard she’s worked all week.”

Brain nodded, writing madly in the minutes.

“We need to discuss Item Six again.”

Heart put down her pen. “We’ve discussed it every day for the last three weeks.”

“I know….” Brain flipped over the cover of an unusually fat file. “… but we haven’t come to a consensus yet.” Brain cleared his throat. “We need to go over it again. It seems pretty clear cut – the information is all right here. I don’t understand why we’re even debating this.”

Heart sighed slightly, her voice firm. “There’s nothing to debate.”

“But if you take a look at the logical progression of factors, our experience base, and the circumstances…”

“There’s nothing to debate.” Heart repeated a little louder.

Brain raised his voice in protest. “Are the facts wrong? Is there something I missed in the risk assessment or when outlining the projected expectations of cost? I don’t understand how you can read through all of this and tell me there’s nothing to debate!”

Heart shook her head and picked her pen back up, adding scrollwork to the agenda header.

Brain slammed the flat of his palm against the table. “But you’re getting hurt! Look… it’s all right here. I’ve got it organized by priority and I’ve highlighted the most important factors here in this bar graph. I even have a power point presentation based on memory clips. And this operations assessment clearly indicates that our current course of action on this Item is causing reprocussions to be felt throughout the mechanical systems.”

Heart shrugged without looking up. “We’ve been hurt before. You need to recalibrate the mechanical systems to handle the current sleep and nutrition situation. The adrenal and endocrine levels are within tolerable limits. There’s backlash in the stress responses that can’t be helped because I’m not willing to move on this Item at this point in time.”

“I don’t understand the logic.” Brain carefully squared up the pages of the file before closing it in frustration. “I don’t understand why you’re fighting me on this. It makes no good sense. You do remember who Sense is, yes?”

Heart shrugged. “It’s not about Logic; he’s in your branch of management. It’s about emotion.”

“Your emotion makes no sense. I don’t know how your department gets anything accomplished.” Brain grumbled.

“Sense is also part of your branch of management.”

“Well that’s obvious. Why exactly are we doing this, then?” Brain shoved back his chair, tucking the stack of files under his arm.

“Because belief and hope have nothing to do with logic or sense.” Heart capped her pen and folded her agenda carefully in half. “And I can’t afford to lose either.”

Brain paused at the door. “Please be careful.”

“You know I won’t.” Heart laughed. “I have no sense.”

Brain closed the boardroom door quietly behind himself, leaving Heart to stare out the window.

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Day 192: If Wishes Were Horses

I don’t remember where I heard it the first time… I think it was in an old book of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes that my Oma gave me when I was very small. It’s always stuck with me…..

If wishes were horses, the beggars would ride.



Here’s the thing with nursery rhymes: they’re not typically just whimsical little pieces of word play. “Husha, husha, we all fall down” was originally “Ashes to ashes, we all fall down” and was written about the Black Plague of the 1300’s.

Ring a ring of roses
A pocket full of posies
Ashes, to ashes
We all fall down

A ring of roses typically marked gravestones. A posie is a small satchet of pungent herbs, flowers, and clove that you’d wear around your neck and press under your nose to block the smell of rot and sickness in the street. Ashes refer to the burning of the mass piles of bodies in an attempt to keep the plague from spreading. And everyone fell – it didn’t matter your station, your social standing, your breeding. The Black Death did not discriminate and killed without any regard to social structure.

And it’s a skipping song sung by children. How twisted is that.

The Learned Bits: I’m struggling today to translate what I’m thinking into a cohesive piece of writing that makes any kind of sense.

If wishes were horses… if one could simply wish hard enough. If one could simply need hard enough in those moments when you’ve reached the point that you have nothing left, when everything around you has come crashing down and you feel like you’re sitting with a cup in your hand and relying on the charity of others dropping in a coin or two.

For myself, “if wishes were horses” is my moment of feeling right on that edge where my reality and what I wish are so far separated that I’m drowning in that reality. I bulldog my own life a lot. I challenge myself, others, expectations, barriers, and boundaries. I suck at accepting the status quo, I really do. I throw myself at life with everything that I have and the costs are as high as the gains.

I believe that wishing is only the very first baby step in a long line of steps. Daring to dream, to wish, to hope… they’re the tiny first spark of light in the darkness. That flare of heat so small, so unsubstantial, that you hold your breath out of fear of blowing it out by accident if you exhale. Most people are pretty good at making wishes.

I don’t just dream. For myself, dreams and wishes are that first step toward staying dynamic and growing as a person. The steps between dreams and reality involve a lot of willpower, dedication, commitment and work to make the one manifest into the other.

When people think of “beggars” the typical image that comes to mind is someone who is homeless, on a street corner, dirty, hand out and begging for charity. People with nothing. People worth nothing. Without pride, without respect for themselves… broken. People good for nothing. Personally, I think that there are a lot of people who appear to have everything and inside are nothing but beggars: people who on the inside have nothing. In the context of the nursery rhyme, for me, “beggars” is a broader concept in regards to who we are as individuals on a personal level.

There are a lot of successful people who, at their core, desperately have their hand out in regards to their work, their intimate relationships, and their relationships with themselves. You can appear to have everything and still be in that place inside of your heart and your head where when it comes to the things you need to make you happy, you have nothing… and all of the wishing in the world has no power to alter your reality. You’re a beggar trapped within your own skull on the street corner of your own inner landscape.

For myself, “if wishes were horses” is my verbal acknowledgement that I believe that I’m wishing for the impossible given my current reality. That I feel like I’ve got nothing left and I’m cup out, relying on the charity of others because something important is broken that I can’t wish hard enough to fix all by myself. That I feel like, in that instance, I’m good for nothing. Of little value in that moment in regards to the reality I’m dealing with. Powerless. In that moment I feel like trying to keep wishing is as ludicrous as beggars wishing for what amounts to a fast car when what they really need is food, a safe place to call home, clean clothing, and a way to support themselves. For myself, “if wishes were horses” is that spirit crushing moment when that little spark of light I’ve so carefully tended is going out and I’m left in darkness.

That’s a lot of weight for a whimsical little piece of word play.

I have too much pride to say “I give up.”  I choke on “I can’t.” I’m aggressively stubborn over lending the power those phrases carry to anything in my life. I will not allow them providence. I have to believe that giving up and quitting simply are not options, especially in regards to my dreams. I haven’t gotten to where I am now in my life by allowing either option any level of viability.

So, in those moments of internal darkness, you’ll hear me softly say: If wishes were horses, the beggars would ride… because in those moments, that’s how I feel inside my own skull, even if that’s not how my world appears on the outside.

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Day 192: Groundhog Day

In 1993 a comedy came out featuring Bill Murray called “Groundhog Day”.  The premise of the movie was that Murray’s character kept living the exact same day over …. and over …. and over. It didn’t matter what he did, he always woke up at the same time at the beginning of the same day. It was technically a comedy but today I was reminded of a thread of truth running through the storyline that I find is often that little piece of reality that makes good comedy.

The Learned Bits: When I was younger I was a lot more idealistic – in regards to not only the world as a whole but also in regards to myself. In some ways, I demanded more of myself. I aspired to be this image in my head which modeled a “better” me. I struggled more with accepting when I made mistakes, punished myself harder for my failures, and I held myself to a standard of deportment and behaviour that I always felt like I had to drive myself to model. I was going to change the world by changing myself.

I’m older now. I’ve had more time to get to know myself – what I want, what I need, where I’m strong… where I’m not.

You see, when I was young the focus was all on attempting to obliterate my weaknesses by capitalizing on my strengths.  In those moments where that didn’t work and I found myself dealing with situations that I’d gotten myself tangled in to, the question I kept struggling with was “how did I get here?”.

I spent a lot of time beating myself up and hating who I was when I was young because I simply could not match the model in my head. I couldn’t be perfect. I couldn’t avoid making mistakes. I couldn’t alway make the decisions that I knew to be the right decisions because there was a personal component that I refused to take into consideration. There are times in my life where something I have needed and something that I knew to be “right” were in direct opposition. And after that moment passed and action taken I would chew myself apart for not being able to break free of what drove me to make those decisions.

When you’re young and idealistic, you want to believe that “right” will always win. That good guys always beat the bad guys. That justice is a truth and not just an ideology. When you’re young you still believe in “fair”.

I’m not that young anymore.

I’ve been down the same paths enough times to understand how I end up where I end up. I’ve repeated the same day, like in that movie, and I often feel like it doesn’t matter what I do because I keep waking up back at the beginning and reliving the same day over again. I’m the common denominator.

I end up where I end up because I keep going there.

I’ve gotten old enough to realize and, in a lot of ways, accept that I have weaknesses. I guess, in some ways, I’ve gotten to the point where there are areas in my life that I’m getting tired of fighting and I’m possibly wise enough to give myself permission to not be perfect. I’ve stopped giving myself license to beat myself up and hate myself because I can’t be. Even though there are moments where I’m still young enough to sell in to that ideal and wish I were.

Maybe that’s wisdom. Maybe it’s not.

Ask me again when I’m older.

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