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Let’s forgo the easy way.

In October, I found myself at a funeral for a friend’s daughter, who was just shy of her 19th birthday. She’s just a kid. It’s the phrase that played on repeat the whole day. At the service, two things were emphasized that struck a deep, reverberating chord in me:

— Finish your unfinished business

— Learn as much about life as you can while you have the good fortune to have breath in your lungs

It made me think about what it meant to be an 18-year-old girl again. I can’t quite fit into the shoes of that girl anymore, but I remember the world had endless potential then. There was a promise of things to come. I still think there’s my whole life to do all the things I wanted to do when I was just a kid.

I’m not just a kid anymore–even though I don’t feel like an adult, either. I’ve had 18 more years on the planet than this girl did, and I can’t help feeling as though I have unfinished business.  For all the hard (and necessary) lessons I’ve learned in my life, I’ve not learned enough. I’ve not done my part.

I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life sorting myself out. It’s been necessary. I believe in the power of self-reflection and brutally assessing oneself. I’m self-aware, sometimes to a fault, and I believe in the power of self-reflection and internal struggle. While suffering matters – it means something – I’ve nearly out-suffered myself.

But I’m not a kid anymore. The thought is as sobering and final as the closing of a coffin.

And so when I started thinking about how to enrich my life, the one thing that kept coming up was travel. With the exception of a “go me” solo excursion to Alaska and some side trips here and there, travel has been on the backburner for quite some time. It’s too bad, because I feel a sense of freedom and euphoria when I experience a whole new world.

And oh, where to go. There’s so much ground to cover (literally). The immediate bucket list is chock full of mountains and/or glaciers and/or snow…the very things I do not have in my corner of the world. Nepal and Iceland are the top two international contenders while the national parks in Alaska, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming are calling my name stateside.

The details will come. It feels good to make an 18-year-old promise to myself to continue to learn what I can about universe. After all, I’m not a kid anymore.

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who would choose the fate of fire
the apathy of plunge
blade for blood

in the face of death
some of us shine
brighter
as if destruction was our calling
in life

There’s no way to avoid life’s cruel, incessant lashings. Here’s what you do when difficult times descend:

• You carefully examine the rubble of your cookies. Your immediate thought is that you could never overcome this woeful obstacle.
• You put the cookies out of your sight for 35 seconds.
• You can’t get the cookies out of your mind. Your immediate thought is this is an unacceptable position to be in and dammit, you’re a strong woman who’s over come unexpected cracker crumbles and apple mush.
• You search your mind and soul.
• Endless time passes. Perhaps upwards of 15 seconds.
• And then. Your eye catches the box of tissue on the corner of your desk.
• You take your package back out and excitedly dump the destruction of your cookies on your tissue.
• You pick through the rubble and eat what you can, savoring every sweet bite.
• You say, “fuck the rest” and expertly through the tissue and cookie grains away. You don’t need that shit. Now you can get back to the full-fledged, good-time cookies still waiting for you.

So, I asked and she said yes. And so it is a pleasure to unveil our Val, our rightly nightly warrior. The one who speaks with truth beyond the Fucking Bullshit. I love her and this interview. Which makes sense as Val is perfectly loveable, as you well know, dear readers. Please give it up for our chosen one.

1. Val (dearest of all Vals). You’ve broken this down for me before. Tell me again. How does one endure the Bullshit of Life?

I’m happy you started us off on a topic I consider of utmost importance to a both a writer and a woman. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, being immersed in it, shooting it and philosophising about it.

First, one must identify the different types of Bullshit and their specific function in society/relationships before it can be endured.

Work Bullshit: This can be seen in the embellishment and padding of resumés, outrageous claims made around the coffee pot or water cooler (usually detailing some sort of extraordinary sexual conquest that is obviously false but everyone collectively pretends to believe), stories of active social lives outside the office/workplace that don’t exist ie.; yachting expeditions, cocktail parties with people in upper management, hanging out with famous people like rock stars, actors and writers.

In addition, we have those accessories that are what I term, Physical Bullshit: fake shoes for short men, fake breasts for flat women, botox for anyone wrinkled and makeup applied by a bricklayer.

All acceptable Bullshit, but should be left at work, because it’s not applicable to anything else.

Friend Bullshit: Oh I wish I was more like you, I’m so jealous of you, You look great in that dress/suit/relationship. This is cowardly saving face and not wanting to be alone Bullshit. Anyone worth their salt is well aware the friendship can’t be real without lack of bullshit.

Dating Bullshit: Sure I loooooove bungee jumping/sky diving/rock climbing…this is of course related to: Sure, I can play guitar/was once in a film/loved the movie Titanic. All designed to get in someone’s pants/car/apartment/house/family/life. NOT conducive to anything longterm but fun as a time waster and exercising your inner thespian.

Universal Bullshit: This is a giant umbrella term used to cover a wide range of social illness creating bullshit: Anything said by a politician/clergy/health organization/scientific think tank funded by a government/drug company etc…All lies I tell ya.

Now, how does one endure it.Take control of it, never believe it, treat it like an explosive and only use when you need to move a large metaphorical rockface and NEVER…EVER…ignore it!

2. For that matter, Val (dearest of all Vals), how do writers endure? Tell us your secrets.

Writers endure by getting the crazy out of them and committing it to paper. If we didn’t have paper or laptops, we would see a whole lotta crazy people chipping away at granite boulders with a hammer and chisel a la Fred Flintstone. What is in must come out…it’s therapy really and same people call it art. Hehehe

3. You’re quite the scandalous Canadian. And by scandalous, I do not really know what I mean other than you’re Canadian and because I’m American, that seems scandalous. I know you understand what I mean and do not take offense. Do you (heart) Obama? Did you ever watch Alf? Don’t you think Obama and Alf would make a cute couple?

Yes, I fully embrace my hockey lovin’, snow shovellin’, prime minister electin’, maple leaf adornin’ gay marryin’ weed legalizin’ scandalous canuck self. :0

Do I heart Obama? NO. I don’t heart him. I only heart people I feel I know to be real. I’ve yet to see that person. When he emerges…oh say halfway through his term, ask me again. 😉 I think Obama would make a cute couple with Rahm. I’m just sayin’. Hmm, Rahm does look a bit like Alf…especially the eyebrows. hehehe

4. How did you celebrate your birthday? I need to know specifics. Val (dearest of all Vals), I feel as though I might take to stalking you. I have a great affection for you. Tell me about your birthday, dammit! I will not be ignored.

I opened presents: A painting of a medieval door, an ornate pie plate I’ve been coveting for eons, an African Violet, a journal for…wait for it…writing, a large lovely Swiss Chalet dinner and one more day of breathing, living and winding up anal people.
If you stalk me, you should be warned that I’m NOT a boring stalkee. Peculiar things seem to happen to me on a regular basis, so be forewarned. I won’t ignore you medicatedlady because I don’t want that sharp scathing weapon of wit turned in my direction. I’m wise about these things, I’m old now and I know stuff. 😉

5. Such a clichéd question but where do you get your inspiration? And also, when did you know you would be/were a writer?

Bullshit of course. Well, that and pain. The agony in pain that causes a person to give up or emerge stronger. The humour in pain…oh yes, it’s a veritable flourishing field of hilarity on the frontline of suffering. I’ve met the funniest people on the street. True comic geniuses with nothing to lose.

I knew I was a writer when I was three and I told a lie and someone believed it. I then told it the next day with more details and they still believed it. Oh god I knew I was on to something then and when I learned to make letters into sentences I wrote those lies down so they would be permanent. Now, it’s called fiction HA! Of course as I grew older, the truth started creeping in and now it’s called ART…Remember? Therapy for crazy writers.

I enjoyed your probing questions my dedicatedmedicatedlady and I’m flattered as fuck that you chose me. Many are called to this blog, but few are chosen. HUGS

Please be sure to check out Val’s blog! http://valbrussell.wordpress.com/

When life hands you lemons, I suggest
• having narcotics on hand
• having a friend-spouse who will tell your business to the world
• cocooning
• curling up a ball and rolling yourself somewhere dark and safe
• blocking all light
• you think about those people who are allergic to sunlight
• giving to a charity of some sort
• reflecting on your distinct dislike for lemon-flavored anything, aside from Dum-Dum suckers
• sending lots of emails
• posting lots of posts
• stealing office post-it notes
• adding junk to your already junked-up car
• watching your tan fade
• showing your tan who’s boss by applying tanner
• you make a list of every possible response you can have to every possible situation in your life
• you complain to everyone how tired you are
• asking those around you for some good knock-knock jokes

Which reminds me. Do you know any good knock-knock jokes?

Life is meandering and stupid

Let’s get to the fucking punchline already

Let’s laugh at everyone else

and pretend none of the pretention applies to us

Let’s point and stare at all the idiots

Let’s be above them

Let’s ruin our days, years, lives

and never know what for

or why or how come

Let’s do this because we have been patiently waiting for the funny part of the joke like cattle going to the slaughter.

the leaves are red

turning brown

dying down

the wind

blows a little less fresh

my cheeks are paler now

instead of thickening

my skin is becoming thin

my dreams and disappointments

more transparent

with each intake of breath

there’s a shudder of fear that nothing will come out

where youth ends

life

life is on her throne

 

 

SOB with me

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