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The Power of Naming

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9girl_on_the_beach_in_frameNaming is a prominent theme in our religions, our mythology and our legends – to name something is to have power over it. It removes the thing from the unknown, makes it familiar and therefore manageable. I feel that the scene in the Bible here Adam is given the task of naming the animals in order to have dominion over them is an prime example of this.

The unknown is the largest human fear there is, which is why naming holds so much power. Without an identity you don’t know how to handle it. Without a name it’s part of that terrifying blackness, or blankness that haunts us – the moment after death, the bogeyman in the night.

But once a thing has a name it becomes something else. It has edges, definition and with those comes all the information that others have gathered over the years.

Which is why a chance encounter with a single word was such a relief to me: dysthymia. For years I just figured I’d been affected by things that had happened to me, that I was permanently – not broken, but damaged. It didn’t occur to me that I had a form of depression, because I could still get out of bed in the morning and go to work and interact with other human beings in the fairly normal, if limited way of an empath. But reading the article I stumbled across online entitled “high-functioning depression” made a light come on in my brain. I wasn’t alone, and the black dog that sometimes sits on my chest making it hard to breathe, or think, also visits other people.

I’d purposely avoided reading about depression because the literature I’d seen up until that moment had focused on major depression and suicide prevention. I didn’t think about leaving this world in dramatic ways or that everyone else would be better off without me. Depression in that frame didn’t apply to me. I wasn’t there, I just felt low, worthless, anxious to the point that sleep eluded me. I gained weight. I stopped writing; something I truly enjoy. I spun in little circles trying to chase the black dog off. Some days I felt like I succeeded. Sometimes that feeling would last for weeks so how could I be depressed?

For a while I thought it was just my backwater job, or the weight of student debt, the general anxiety that has dogged me since childhood, or some external force that weighed me down. And they did, certainly, but the fact that I can tackle my feelings as ‘depression’ is a relief. I’m not a pretender to the term – if you know what I mean. It’s not a capital D depression, but no less legitimate for its form because now it has a name. The more reading I do, the more talking I do, the better handle on it I get. Some days are still better than others, but having that one piece, that name, makes such a difference.

So if you feel that something isn’t right, I encourage you to keep going, keep reading, there’s a name out there to give you power over the dark.

Bye-bye 2016

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baw035Many have said that 2016 was a shitty year. In terms of celebrity deaths and US politics, I can honestly concur.

We lost some bright lights this year. Some bright, formative influences on my childhood and the adult I became. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, George Michael, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. (And so many of them so shortly after Robin Williams and Leonard Nimoy.) All of them had some part in my popular culture formation. And then there were others; Elie Weisel, Fidel Castro, Richard Adams, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Alan Thicke, Ron Glass, Florence Henderson, Ursula Franklin etc, etc who nevertheless helped shape the fabric of the world that shaped me – and others of my generation. This is why I think the year felt like such a blow: our childhoods are starting to fray into the electric threads of memory and nostalgia.

And then the perpetual stress of the US election bombarding us from TV and internet feeds, only to have the worst possible result at the end of it all was depressing, if not downright frightening. ‘Murica has elected a TV repairman as a brain surgeon believing that the skills are similar and therefore transferable. (I suppose this is what happens when you think a country should be run like a business, forgetting that it’s primary purpose isn’t to make money. But the idiocies of capitalism are the contents of another rant.) Some ask me why I give a crap what happens south of the border, but don’t forget – what happens to our closest neighbour affects us because we’re inexorably tied by trade, by borders and by history. Talk of walls, terrorism and sheer stupidity in the White House (as evidenced by the loose-cannon tweeting by The Toupeed One) is enough to set anyone’s teeth on edge. I, for one, am going to miss The Obamas.

But.

2016 wasn’t all bad. J and I had a bunch of adventures on the island, exploring parks and trails from here to Jordan River, Lake Cowichan and lots of places in between. We did a lot of things we hadn’t done before, including attending a monster truck rally. We also gardened for the first time in a rental plot in a local community garden. We ate a lot of our own home-grown vegetables which was amazing. I’d missed home grown veggies for a while, so our accomplishment, as total garden-noobs was fantastic.We also got a fish tank, which is something I had never had before. Fish are not as easy to care for as one might imagine, but their little colourful lives are worth it. And yes – they do have personalities.

I also changed jobs after five years at my previous place of employment. A step up in responsibility and income. While I miss some of the coworkers, I do not miss the endless cycles of stupidity – or the fact that I had solutions that no one would take seriously. It was stressful and futile – and while I enjoyed the actual work, there was a limit to my patience and sanity.

So while the year has been characterized as pretty terrible, take time to highlight the positives in your year and cherish them all the more. Happy New Year, friends.

Review: Doctor Strange

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456I did not really get into comics as a kid. I was into the nerdiest stuff I could get my hands on, but comics were still sort of off limits. For one, the cost was a little prohibitive, and for 2 there was that insidious ‘comic books are for boys’ or ‘for people who didn’t read as well as others’ floating around in the back of my brain. Of course we know both those ideas are total BS, but me being the sensitive little shit I was, I didn’t need one more thing to be teased about. And so I missed out on comics. Oh I secretly coveted the brilliantly coloured covers and longed to look inside them – or to go inside the comic book store that was frequented by the nerdiest of nerds, the uncoolest of the uncool – a social suicide if ever there had been one.

But now is another story. I preface this review with this little factoid, because I waned to show that I knew little about the story of Doctor Strange before I walked into the theatre beyond the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch and Mads Mikkelsen were in it. It may just be that I like saying Benedict Cumberbatch’s name, but it isn’t. Truly. I am a Sherlock fan – have been ever since I read the Sign of the Four when I was eleven, so Cumberbatch came into my sphere that way. When I found out that he was cast as Doctor Strange, a figure I had seen in passing, I felt the movie was going to be worth seeing for more than just the visual fest it was undoubtedly going to be. And let’s face it Mads can convey incredible amounts of emotion without saying a word so I had high hopes for a complex villain.

So J and I went to the theatre with our popcorn and were prepared to be entertained. And we were. Mostly.

Cumberbatch did a good job being Steven Strange – the arrogant surgeon crumbling before our eyes and the becoming a slightly less arrogant, but still cocky sorcerer. I loved the visual effects, but there were a few things I had issue with. One; that Tilda was the Ancient One. I mean, kudos to the production for trying to up the lady count, but why a white one? Why could the ancient one not have been a TIBETAN female? I don’t know the white washing was deliberate, but it’s something I see over and over again and it’s old.

The second was Mads character: Kaecilius. Perhaps some of his motivation was left on the cutting room floor, but I felt like he was not given the attention he deserved to be a true threat. The Dark Dimension was the real threat and Kaecilius the mere messenger but it was frustrating to see Mikkelsen explain, with tears pooling in his eyes, that he was trying to save humanity with this cataclysmic dimensional invitation he’d given to the cosmos and we don’t know why. We’re told he lost his family, but that felt like an afterthought. It would have been better to have a flashback, however brief. The conflict with Kaecilius was not nearly as interesting as the potential conflict with Mordo that came to a head at the end. Perhaps it’s that I didn’t know the story going in, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that felt the potential was missed.