Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More On Why I Don't Dream

It hit me why it is that my defenses go up when people talk to me about hoping for the future and envisioning myself having energy and stamina and the things I'd be able to do with that. It reminds me of faith--blind faith.

It is not like I was well and normal for most of my life and had an injury that robbed me of my mobility and strength. It is not as though while I'm doing physio I know in my body what I'm working towards. There isn't part of me that says, "Oh I look forward to having energy again. I look forward to being able to (insert activity here) like I did when I was 5 or 15 or 25 or before the 'accident'." I have no such framework. I am not going back to anything. I am pushing forward into something I've never had, based on the experiences of others and what the body should be capable of doing. I have no rational reason to believe that my body can do the same. So for me, it's like blind faith. Much like the paradise earth I bought into as a JW.

"The paradise is real. See yourself there. Others can see it, why can't you? They've tasted it, felt it, lived it." When you tell me to hope, to dream about a body that can climb and hike and explore, it is like this carrot of paradise. Irrational, illogical. There's no file for this anywhere in my body. As long as I can remember I have lacked stamina. It is like asking a blind person to dream of the color red.

And it feels unfair. I want to run screaming, "There is no paradise. It's not there. How dare you tell me to dream of the impossible!"

Yet, I see the physio. I do the exercises. I trust that her opinion is valid. I want to believe. I feel like a JW all over again. Damn it.

tall penguin

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why I Don't Dream...

Josh and I have been having an ongoing conversation about hopes and dreams. I tend not to entertain either. There are times when I'll get excited about something, even allowing myself to verbalize my excitement. If I'm feeling really dangerous I may even feel this way for a few days, dreaming about a possibility, a person, an experience, a goal. But inevitably, the dream begins to fade and is replaced by the reminders of so many unfulfilled dreams, so many unrealized hopes.

I saw my physiotherapist the other day. We've only been working together a short time, but she's pleased with the progress I've made so far. Between the Fibromyalgia, shoddy genetics and some back issues, it's taking time to put Humpty Dumpty back together. I'm lying on the table and she's working some of my muscles. She says, "You have lots of strength but little stamina." I sigh. Story of my life.

It is this lack of stamina that has killed almost every dream I've ever had. I remember how often as a child I would set goals for things but I couldn't bring them to fruition because my health would not sustain me. There are many pictures of me as a young girl dancing. I would choreograph routines to my favorite 45's and then call my family into the living room to watch my performance. I loved dancing.

As a JW, my one goal was to be a full-time minister, devoting seventy hours a month to the preaching work (in addition to working to support myself). I strived for almost two decades to reach that goal. But it was always just out of my reach. My body couldn't take the rigorous schedule. Inevitably I would crash and burn.

As you well know from my previous entries I love children. I love being around them. I love playing with them. But even this joy comes at a price. Children are physically demanding. Carrying them, caring for them, getting up early with them---this all requires stamina that I don't have. It pains me but this may prevent me from having children of my own. There are always considerations to be made with anything I dare dream about.

The silver lining: my physiotherapist is hopeful I can build my stamina. She says though that considering my body, it will take me longer than most people. So, maybe one day, you will see this tall penguin dancing. And maybe even dreaming. I guess anything is possible.

tall penguin

Friday, February 23, 2007


There is a rage welling up in my soul. Not many people know about this but 8 years ago, while a JW, I went through a closed-door interrogation process for a JW religious infraction with 3 of the groups "elders" (supposed men of God). It lasted about six hours. By the time I left, my head was spinning. To this day, I have nightmares about what happened behind those closed doors. Sometimes, things will trigger up memories of these events. This happened today.

I saw a psychiatrist for an initial consult regarding anxiety, much of which stems from my JW upbringing to begin with. He begins the session by informing me that he won't be treating me long-term. His schedule is too full for that. He says he'll take 3-4 sessions to come to a diagnosis then recommend a treatment plan, usually involving meds of some sort.

Then he begins barraging me with questions. When I don't answer them clearly enough for him, he asks me to be more specific. I can feel my anxiety level rising. He's asking me questions about what triggers my anxiety, what it feels like. The questions keep coming, one after another. My heart is pounding, my stomach is churning, my temperature is dropping. I'm beginning to shake. He asks me to tell him more about what it was like when the anxiety first started, back in my teens. I describe it as it was then, not being fully aware that I'm right in the middle of the panic attack I'm attempting to describe as some past event. The tears begin to choke me.

He asks, "What's happening right now?"

I first say that it's the recounting of my past anxiety that is making me anxious. He apologizes and then asks me, "Do you want to talk about something else?"

"No." The tears are flowing now.

"What do you need right now?"

I say, "I don't know." What I really want to say is, "Stop questioning me mother fucker and let me catch my breath."

At this point I have flashbacks of the JW "judicial committee" process I went through 8 years ago (the anniversary of which is fast-approaching). I tell him, "I feel like you're interrogating me. It reminds me of something that happened when I was a JW (which he hasn't as of yet bothered to ask me about)."

He apologizes again, with the empathy of a signpost. The rage is building but I stuff it down with, "It's okay. It's not your fault. This is my problem. You've just triggered me." Now I'm getting angry with myself. I excused him like I excused those JW elders. "Just give me a minute here," I say.

"Do what you need to do", he says, shifting his weight in his chair and turning his attention to his computer screen.

I stuff down the anger. Just get through this I tell myself. So I choke back the tears and continue on with his questions. He doesn't ask me about the JW stuff; just keeps asking me about my social anxiety and what I've done so far to help myself. He then says our time is up, hands me a few more forms to fill out for our next appt. and shuffles me on my way.

I get my gear together, choke back the tears and go stand and wait for the bus. It's -10 degrees celsius. I'm shaking already with anger and I can barely keep myself from screaming at the sky. There appears to be a bus delay and it takes 30 minutes for the bus to arrive, long enough for my body to remember yet more JW stuff.

My frozen toes bring up flashes of the many winter Saturday mornings spent as a child knocking on people's doors, bringing them the "good news". I remembered how long those mornings seemed. How I couldn't wait for my dad to scoop me up and sit me beside him in the front seat of the car, take off my boots and turn the heater on full blast. I remembered the twinges of feeling returning as the heat thawed my toes. And I remembered sprinkly donuts, as my parents would often take us for a coffee break half-way through those cold mornings. To this day, you can still bring some life back to my soul with a sprinkly donut.

By the time I reached home, my fingers were frozen, my toes were frozen and my soul was, well, frozen. As the warmth of my apartment thawed my feet and hands, the rage returned. I screamed. And then the tears came. I sobbed and sobbed. It's been 3 hours and I'm still shaking a bit. My fingers are still chilly and the tears are still just at the surface.

Maybe I should email that doctor this entry. Perhaps this would give him a clearer picture of where I'm at than his interrogation process did. Regardless, I'm not going back to see him. I will not be processed again. Ever.

tall penguin

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Road Continues...

From the Archives: December 2004

I was visiting a client recently who had just constructed a house in a still-to-be-developed neighborhood. Their lot was on a cul-de-sac overlooking a beautiful forested area. As I drove onto the street I noticed a barrier where the street ended and this sign: “Road to be continued at a future date.” It made me laugh at first. I wondered why the general public needed to be informed of these plans. I imagined that it was probably a selling point for the prospective buyers to know that eventually their street would be going somewhere.

And then I stopped to ponder the greater significance of the sign staring at me. Being as I was at a turning point in my life, not knowing which way to go, this seemingly innocent road sign seemed to be speaking to me. Okay, so it wasn’t actually speaking to me. But it was speaking to me, in the metaphysical sense.

Sometimes there are roads we begin to travel only to realize partway through the journey that we’re on the wrong road or on it at the wrong time. And so we back up, move down another road, knowing that at some point in the future we will continue our journey on that first path. Just like those contractors don’t know precisely when their road will be continued, we’re not sure when we’ll travel that particular road again, but somewhere deep in our heart, we know we will return.

tall penguin

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A thousand words...

I stumbled on this blog recently:


It showcases beautiful, random photos taken by the blogger.

tall penguin


There are things that happen when you’re a child that have no explanation. You wish you could have given them words at the time yet know that there are just no words when you’re five to express the sensation of sheer delight on leaving your body.

It was 1979. My family and I lived in a three-bedroom bungalow in a quiet development in Northeast Toronto. The house was new and so the basement was still unfinished. The walls were rough white stucco and if you rubbed up against them or got pushed into them by your older brother you’d end up with some pretty serious scrapes. Wood beams with no drywall divided the rooms, so you could see what was going on in the next room. This was great because I never had to spy on my brother and his friends. And the open space between beams served as secret passageways between dimensions in time and space.

The floor was cold, rough concrete, which my father had painted black. I guess he figured it wouldn’t get dirty quickly. Eventually, we would get carpets to put down, but at this time, slippers were needed to traverse the icy floor.

As many little girls do, I had a fear of the basement. Not rational of course. I’d never actually met any of the creatures that I feared lived down there. I just knew they were there. Big, hairy green monsters with long saber-tooth fangs and eyes that could penetrate steel. My greatest fear was not that they would eat me, but that they’d take me back to their far-off monsterland and make me their slave, doing who knows what.

Unfortunately, our freezer was in the basement and my mother would often send me down there (by myself) to get hot dogs or rump roast or steak or if I was a good girl, ice cream. Yet the journey down below was a terrifying one. It took lots of self-talk to get down there and back in one piece. I’d stand at the top of the stairs, slippers on, flip on the light (light kills monsters didn’t you know) and mentally psych myself up for the trip. “Okay, you’re going to run as fast as you can, open the freezer lid, get the hot dogs, close the lid and run back up the stairs.”

Ready, set, go. I flashed down the steps, grabbed the dogs and flashed back upstairs hoping the monsters didn’t even have time to see how cute I was lest they snatch me for some evil plot. I’d run into the kitchen with the hot dogs, throw them on the counter and run into the living room, out of breath and completely exhausted from what seemed to be a year-long trek.

“You forgot to turn off the light!” Mom yelled from the kitchen.

Darn it! I had to go back to the scene and flip off the light. This I did as quickly as possible, mumbling about my clueless mother under my breath. How could she not realize that the basement monsters were just waiting to capture me? I flashed back, turned off the light and returned to the safety of the living room.

There are so many basement stories to be told but I’ll talk about that later. Now, I want to tell you about the day I floated down the stairs.

Again, I must have been about 5 years old. My brother and I were to go downstairs to play some games. Being in the basement with someone else around was okay. Although my brother was just a kid himself he was older than I was and somehow represented superhuman protection in case of monster attack.

As I followed him down the stairs, I reached the fourth to last stair and something rather strange happened. Time seemed to stop. I found myself floating. I was still me yet I felt as if I was on the outside of my body looking down on myself. It was a feeling of sheer delight, as if for a split second everything was still, calm and safe. The world contained no monsters. Everyday was Saturday and I could do anything I pleased.

Even as I put words to this event I still find it indescribable. I eventually came to and found myself at the bottom of the stairs with no recollection of having taken those last few steps. It’s an experience I haven’t had since yet trust that one day I’ll be able to float again, if only in my dreams.

tall penguin

Diggin' Through the Archives

I have been writing since I was 7 0r 8 years old. I remember writing a piece of poetry about Anne of Green Gables for a contest. That started the long road of using pen to paper to express, to unclog, to release, to keep sane. Most of my writing has never seen the light of day. Much of it sits in a Rubbermaid container buried in my closet gathering dust, pages yellowing, ink fading. Perhaps some of it is better left unseen. And yet I am drawn to it every now and again. To journey through where I've been. To see who I once was. To see who I still am.

I will be sharing bits and pieces of the archives with you on occasion. Enjoy.

tall penguin

Live the Questions...

"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

tall penguin

Sunday, February 18, 2007

...and my feet were dancing.

From the Archives: Winter 2003

I had been in a depression for weeks. The winter was still raging on with no end in sight. Cold, windy, snowy, like a winter should be; if you live in the Arctic. The lack of sunshine had taken its toll. I was miserable. Sleep was my only consolation. To sleep and dream of summer and warmth and all the marvelous possibilities that lie therein. Perhaps love, perhaps not. But at least there would be sunshine. I craved it and it eluded me.

Spending too much time in front of the computer didn’t help. There were deadlines. There was paperwork. And the nagging feeling that all needed to get done yesterday. The stress of work becomes somewhat more unbearable in the winter. It’s like the body knows it’s supposed to slow down and hibernate. I mean if the earth in my hemisphere is taking a break, who am I to work twelve hours a day? The nerve really.

It was a particularly good night’s sleep. I dreamed of past loves. Ever notice how the past becomes the present in your dreams? I don’t think there is a past when you dream. Good thing really, because the past is usually not much fun.

He was there. The tall, dark and handsome that I hadn’t thought consciously about for a long time. We held each other tightly and all was well. Which was so different from the reality I lived with him. Thank goodness for dreams. They let you re-file your memories in a more positive folder.

After a great, long and wonderful slumber I awoke. There was sun outside yet I could tell it was still very, very cold. I lied in bed for a while and just reflected. On where I’d been, what I’d been through, who I’d been and well, who I’d been through. And it all seemed okay. I mean granted, I’d made many mistakes in my life. Yet it all seemed quiet somehow, like there was no more to be done there. And it was okay to just move forward. A nice moment to say the least.

I got out of bed after this solemn meditative moment and moved out into the living room. And then I just sat there on the couch, quietly pondering the day ahead. Then it happened, there was this movement from below. I looked down and my feet were dancing!!! Can’t explain it really. It seemed as though they were moving of their own accord. As if some mysterious dancing possession overtook them. There was no music, but the faint release of laughter coming from deep within my heart. First one foot, then the other, and they were tapping for joy. It was like they were aware of my great epiphanous moment just moments before.

My feet reassured me that sunshine was indeed coming and I would dance again, through the Summer, through the year, through my life.

tall penguin

Friday, February 16, 2007

Thank You...

This song popped into my head and it really expresses what I'm feeling right now.

"Thank You" video by Alanis Morissette


How bout getting off of these antibiotics
How bout stopping eating when I'm full up
How bout them transparent dangling carrots
How bout that ever elusive kudo

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How bout me not blaming you for everything
How bout me enjoying the moment for once
How bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How bout grieving it all one at a time

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

The moment I let go of it was
The moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it was
The moment I touched down

How bout no longer being masochistic
How bout remembering your divinity
How bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How bout not equating death with stopping

Thank you India
Thank you providence
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence

From My Heart To Yours...

I had lunch with my parents today. We haven't been out together in quite a long time. I decided to go into this meeting with no expectations and just enjoy the moment for what it was. And I did. I saw my parents as people, two more people who love me in a life full of people that love me. Sure they're jw's. Sure I don't agree with some of their ideas. But really, it doesn't matter. At the end of the day, at the end of this life, nothing will matter but the moments of love and peace I've shared with others on this planet. And that is enough.

My heart is filled with peace, love and gratitude. May that extend to your heart this day.

tall penguin

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Maybe. Maybe not.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we go about determining truth. Sometimes we go by personal experience to determine whether something is true. At other times we may use things like the scientific method to determine whether something is accurate. Depending on the situation, we may use a combination of both, along with other ways of determining truth, like intuition.

The search for truth has been the focus of many throughout history. Is it ever really possible to know for sure though if you've found "the truth"? Our own mind, which we are using to find such truth, is self-limited by its very nature. The mind is self-creating in that whatever we can possibly theorize about the outside world is only what we can create within our three pound universe, our brain. How can we objectively determine what's true while still using the brain with which we ask the questions to begin with? I think sometimes this is the gap where God appears; where we begin to hope for some outside force to give us the objective truth we so deeply desire. But again, just because we can dream it, think it, feel it, create it with our own mind, does that make it true? Does that make it absolutely real?

The more I watch the goings on inside my head, I see how little objectivity I am capable of when it comes to truth. How many more questions there are than answers. And how insignificant my view of the world really is. Each day I find myself answering more and more questions with a 'Maybe. Maybe not'. Most immediately, these questions pertain to my health as that has been an ongoing dilemma for me. I ask: Do the antidepressants I'm being prescribed really work? Maybe. Maybe not. Does Homeopathy work? Maybe. Maybe not. Does massage work? Maybe. Maybe not. And then there's the more existential questions: Is there a God? Maybe. Maybe not. Am I really here? Maybe. Maybe not. Is there life on other planets? Maybe. Maybe not. Does any of this really matter? Maybe. Maybe not.

I have grown bored of my search for answers. I have grown weary of the search for truth. I really just want to enjoy each moment as it comes. Is this the answer? Is this what it's all about? Maybe. Maybe not.

tall penguin

God Hates Fags?

Thanks Sean for letting me know about this video. It's a song by Christian artist "Donnie Davies and the Evening Service". Why would anyone be inclined to worship the God promoted here? Oh wait, I did. *sigh*

"The Bible Says" music video

tall penguin

**edited to add that there is some controversy as to whether this guy is for real or this is a parody

Unfinished Business

Do you ever feel this generalized sense of angst in your belly? Like there are things that need to be done and you're not even sure what they are or how to do them? I've been walking around lately with butterflies flitting away my insides wondering what it is that is unsettling me. Last night it hit me in a flood of tears and grief. I had just finished watching Walk the Line, the biopic film about Johnny Cash. I followed it up by watching one of the last videos Cash filmed before his death, "Hurt", a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song. This video tends to bring tears to my eyes. Last night it brought me to my knees.

Flashes of the people I love, some who I've not spoken to for some time, reminded me of the unfinished business I have in this life. Things I want to say. Things I want to do. The tears flowed as I realized that these people may die without my being able to finish what I need to finish with them. It may be because of circumstance, timing or because they are not open to speaking with me or being part of my life, as is the case with the JWs I know. I feel so powerless, so helpless.

With the recent realization that this is the only life I get, I feel a sense of urgency. Perhaps that is still my JW indoctrination prodding me to "make things right" before the worlds ends. Maybe I'm just transferring that angst onto my life now. Still, I can't shake this fear of uncertainty; the weight that comes with realizing that my destiny is in my own hands, that there are things in my life that I will hold as regrets should I, or certain others, die tomorrow.

To quote the lyrics from "Hurt":

"What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end"

This is the inevitability for all of us. Eventually, we will all 'go away in the end'. Will our business here in this life ever feel finished?

tall penguin

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Be Mine

May this day bring you joy and peace.
May you treasure the moments you have with those you love.
May you be comforted by the memories of past loves, regretting nothing.
May you be excited by the idea of future loves, expecting nothing.
May you be embraced by this life and all the love it has to offer.
May you know from the tips of your toes to the top of your head that you are loved.

tall penguin

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cyanide & Happiness

If you haven't as of yet had the pleasure of viewing this most wonderful web comic, allow me to be the first to introduce you. "Cyanide and Happiness" is created by Explosm.net. And it's funny as all hell! If you have the time, go through the comic archives. Hours of entertainment there.

tall penguin

Sunday, February 11, 2007

La Petite Mort

In French, the orgasm is sometimes referred to as 'the little death'. It wasn't until I was twenty-five that I had my first orgasm and a little death it was indeed, almost preceding a big death, quite literally. I was suicidal at the time, preparing for my final exit. And I was angry...REALLY angry. Angry at God, angry at my ex-husband who I'd been married to for five years, angry at myself, angry at life. This all got embodied in my sexuality. "Why didn't anyone care enough for me to experience an orgasm?"

So, I figured that since I was going to kill myself, I was sure as hell not going to leave the planet without having had the experience of climax. Damned be God and everyone else! So, I did. And I cried and cried and cried. It was like a little death. A death to the God I thought would strike me down, a death to the idea that someone else was responsible for my pleasure, and a death to my ego, realizing I wasn't as strong as I had lead myself and others to believe. I was vulnerable.

While I struggled with guilt over the following years around masturbation, a no-no in my religious dogma, each orgasm was another death. Each time I touched myself without a lightning bolt striking me from heaven, I had to question the dogma I'd been raised with. "Maybe God doesn't really care what I do with my genitals?" This was a huge question for me with huge implications. If God didn't concern himself with that, maybe all the other stuff my religion was making such a big deal of didn't matter to God either. And further still, maybe my ideas of God needed to be questioned too.

I'm glad I didn't kill myself at that point in my life. The little deaths I've experienced along the way have lead me to cherish the life I have now. My body is my shrine. I am the Divine I seek. And these little deaths are my prayers to the only God I know.

tall penguin

Saturday, February 10, 2007

JWs Under Fire Over Blood Doctrine

I haven't yet commented on the British Columbia case involving the sextuplets of a Jehovah's Witness couple and their need for a blood transfusion. It's not that I don't have anything to say about it. It's just such an emotionally charged issue that it's been difficult for me to address.

In the past two days, two high profile Canadian news periodicals have reported on this story. I thought it was time to bring these to your attention if you haven't seen them already.

Maclean's, February 9, 2007 "The Fight for the Sextuplets"

National Post, February 10, 2007 "Witness for the Family"

It is my hope that this case will bring more attention to the Watchtower organization. It is time that people see it for what it really is, a dangerous, high-control book-publishing cult masquerading as a religion.

As a JW, I had to confront my thoughts about the blood issue every year as I filled out an "Advance Medical Directive"---a card that I carried in my wallet, wherever I went, to direct medical personnel, in the event of an emergency, that I did not want a blood transfusion. I am fortunate that it was never needed. Others have not been so lucky.

Many JWs have been sacrificed on the altar of the Watchtower's blood doctrine. I remember an Awake! cover article (at right) that showed the faces of young JW children who were martyred over the blood policy (Awake! is one of the Watchtower's main publications...you may have been offered it at your door). This cover gives me shivers every time I see it.

Currently, the blood policy is a confusing, hypocritical mess. While I was a JW it was pretty cut and dry: no whole blood, no blood products. Over the years though, as medicine has advanced, blood can now be broken down into various fractions. This has posed a challenge to the JW dogma. As it stands now, this is what the Watchtower considers acceptable and non-acceptable as far as blood is concerned (for more info see AJWRB, a group of associated JWs looking to reform the blood doctrine):

To use a simple analogy, it's like setting out all the ingredients of a pizza and saying to someone that they can eat all the separate ingredients but if you put the pizza together, you can't eat it. It's now a personal decision for a JW if he/she wants to take all the separate fractionated components of blood but the main parts and whole blood are still unacceptable.

Here are the work sheets that JWs have been provided with to sort out what they will and won't accept. (Click to enlarge)

How does the average JW even make such a decision? I have heard from some JWs that many in their congregations are opting to just reject blood entirely because they are so confused by the current dogma, a decision which could lead to their death should the need for blood arise. This is sad to me. I think of my parents and I wonder what they've decided regarding this issue. I hope I never have to deal with this. It makes my head spin.

tall penguin

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Why Do JWs Call So Often?

Jehovah's Witnesses believe they're following in the footsteps of Christ by performing their public ministry. The question I often got asked while knocking on people's doors was, "Why do you call so often?" Truth be told, it probably seemed often but JWs are lucky if they cover their territory every year. In some parts of the world, territory gets covered only after many years, and sometimes not at all. But in North America, with the number of JWs being higher than in other countries, it seems that they're in your face pretty frequently.

I'll give you the official JW spiel first. They believe they're in a life-saving work, attempting to get the "good news" out before the end of the world occurs. I recall the favourite illustration of the importance of the ministry was to compare it to rescuing people from a burning building, or a sinking ship; this 'miserable, Godless, steadily declining world' being the burning building/sinking ship of course.

The other reason for calling so often is, as we were told, "people's lives change". Life changes such as getting married, getting divorced, having a child, losing a loved one in death, illness, unemployment, poverty---these were all breeding ground for someone to be re-evaluating their life and possibly be open to the message the JW was bringing. They view it as seeking out the "meek" ones. Over time, I saw it as seeking out the desperate and the vulnerable.

When you call on people's homes, you meet all types of people. Often the people who are home when JWs call are the sick, the elderly, the depressed, the isolated, the uneducated and the impoverished. As I learned more about psychology and the human mind, I began to meet people in the JW ministry who needed a therapist more than they needed the "good news". I felt torn. I felt obligated to share with them the "hope" that I was indoctrinated to believe, but deep down I wanted to direct them to the nearest social services agency or health professional for assistance.

Nothing typifies this more than the stories JWs would give of how they came into "the Truth". (JWs call their religion the Truth with a capital "T". I'm sure if they could trademark it they would.) Over and over again, I heard of people who were drawn into the religion at a time when they were down and out. "I had just lost my job." "My husband had just died." "I was a drug addict." "I was an alcoholic." "I had little education." The older I got, the more it bothered me that people were making huge changes in belief at a time when they were most vulnerable. But I was so deeply ingrained in the belief that I was offering them a hope that they desperately needed. I felt I was adding to the quality of their life. I was deluded. And I, in turn, deluded others.

I sold hope. A hope based on wishful thinking and pipe dreams. And I wasn't the only one. Besides JWs there are people of many different faiths and religions selling hope every day. "Get saved and be with Jesus in heaven." "Be born again." "Live forever." "Become a martyr. There's 70 virgins waiting for you in heaven." Same baseless hope, different package.

I feel bad about my involvement in the selling of hope. I wish I could go back and tell those people how wrong I was. And with some I have done just that. I'm fortunate in that no one converted because of my preaching. But there are days where I wish I'd never been involved with any of it. Today is one of those days.

tall penguin

Monday, February 5, 2007


Serendipity has been defined as "the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way". I like the idea of serendipity rather than my previous "there is no coincidence" philosophy, thinking there was some great master plan that unfolded the events of my life. I like the idea of random things happening that make me smile.

There is a beauty to having people and events cut across your path in this life without your having planned for it, intended for it, prayed for it, cried over it or otherwise wished for it. It is these moments that restore my sense of wonder, my love for life. There is a certain loveliness in greeting each moment with an "I wonder what will happen next".

If you've seen the movie Pleasantville you'll recall the scene where George, Betty and Bill are sitting on the bench and the following conversation wraps up the film:

George Parker: So what's going to happen now?
Betty Parker: I don't know. Do you know what's going to happen now?
George Parker: No
George Parker: [laughing]
George Parker: ...I don't!
Bill Johnson: I guess I don't either.

This is life. You can never tell what's going to happen. It is what makes life simultaneously grueling and sublime.

tall penguin

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Bio-Clock 5.0

Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Babies float through my consciousness daily. The born ones, the unborn ones. Wherever I go, I see them and they see me. No babies escape my notice. I was on vacation recently in Vancouver, sitting on a stool at the bar in the food court of the Granville Market, sipping some chai, reflecting on life and all of its great glories when a mother and her ten-month-old son sit down at a table near me. Within seconds, this little round face is staring deep into my eyes. No, into my soul. He smiles and flirts with me a bit. We exchange a conversation in motherese which I picked up a few years back while teaching infant development to new mothers. It's the same wherever I go. Somewhere there is a baby talking to me, reminding me that my procreative processes are nearing their expiry date.

I discuss this with my boyfriend who is almost four years younger than me. He doesn't quite feel the urgency I do. I don't think it's the same for men. They're not on the same clock. The average man can deposit his seed until the day he dies. Ewww...you'd think evolution would've corrected that anomaly. I mean, how good can the sperm be by the time a man hits 70? Must be slow little bastards anyways. I can picture the race to the egg...all these little out-of-breath sperm, having to stop for directions because they can no longer remember which way is up. Nah, men don't ask for directions. These tired old sperm probably just get distracted along the way. Ooooo, look at that soft cushy vaginal wall, maybe I'll just curl up here and sleep for a while. Now that's more like it. Couch-potato sperm.

I think the only man who could even empathize with the plight of the aging, increasingly infertile woman, would be Captain Hook. He's the only guy haunted by a ticking clock, being chased down by inevitability. At least he can see it coming. It's kind of hard to miss a ticking crocodile. For a woman, no such luck. Sure, there are some signs of her impending egg shortage, but she's never quite sure when it will all be over, when that last egg will drop and her last chances for motherhood will disappear into oblivion.

I think it strange sometimes that there are, as I type this, a finite number of possible children sitting in my ovaries. And that with each passing month, another potential person slips through the cracks (no pun intended). It's a lot of power I hold within me. Power that may or may not ever be utilized. In the meantime, the babies of the world will continue to cross my path, ticking away with their little crocodile smiles, reminding me that life does indeed go on, regardless of my role in it.

tall penguin