I was listening to a CBC podcast the other night, and there were a couple of people talking about their feelings about various famous authors and musicians. The conversation was really about whether or not our judgements about the behaviour of artists should influence how we feel about their art, and if we should decide to like or not like their art because we don’t agree with the conduct, opinions or morality of the artist.
My political opinions are progressive within the Canadian meaning of that word meaning that I tend to share and support the politics of liberal leaning parties, and instinctively tend to feel sympathetic and supportive of anyone who self identifies as an outsider, whether as result of ethnicity, race, gender, ethical, sexual and religious views, appearance, etcetera. Which generally means that I’m somewhat judgemental about other people who I perceive as judgemental against all those people I’ve previously mentioned. So I’m inclined to be pretty judgemental about myself, since I know perfectly well that my own behaviour over my life has failed at times to live up to my own ethical, moral and social standards.
So the questions being raised are important to me. Is it safe for me to listen to music I like or even love, if it has been created or performed by someone I judge to have behaved badly? Say, like Michael Jackson, who now appears to have been a pedophile. Should we erase all of our collective memories of his music and dance, and never moonwalk again? Should we ban any mentions about Sir John A. MacDonald, who, in addition to being a drunk, a racist about first nations peoples and their rights, an outright unapologetic sexist. The fact that our nation exists because this man, and other similarly flawed men founded it continues to be true, even if I don’t like it. History is made by flawed men and women. Music is sung by creepy assholes. Great classical art was drawn by perverts we wouldn’t allow in our living rooms.
Should we hide the Mona Lisa, because her painter was a narrow minded bigot who was probably gay but denied homesexuality over and over again to gain social acceptability, not to mention contracts that paid for his work and allowed him to survive in times we can barely imagine.
I found it fascinating that these two commentators came to the conclusion that excluding people from your life because they happen to have been flawed, made terrible mistakes in their relationships, or even committed heinous crimes, should not necessarily mean that you deny the value and beauty of their art as fruit of the poison tree. Doing so would deny human beings the ability to grow, to make amends and try to do and be better than their worst selves. Doing so could remove the incentive for people to change and reflect on their worst behaviours, and thereby learn something.
Should I forever hate my father because of what he inflicted on me as a child, even in the certainty that he committed himself to looking after my younger sister for most of his life after she became a quadriplegic in her early twenties. He did bad things when he was younger, but did amazing things that made her life possible when it had become impossible. So I try to hate the behaviour I judge offensive and admire his enormous contributions to my sister. So I will never forget either, but I judge him to have been a deeply flawed man who showed the capacity for love. I love my father, but see him clearly for all that he was in his life, not just those things that harmed others but also those things he did that contributed.
Which is how I think we should look at historical and living people alike. We should make every effort to be our better selves, no matter how damaged we are or have been in our pasts. We should be as transparent as we can be, without expecting it of others. Fight for equality, justice and freedom, but make allowance for human frailty, both for ourselves and for others.
Reprise from ten years ago – Welcome to my world of Art and life.
There was new beginning in my creative life in 2010 when I went to Nanaimo to take pictures of Bodysage 2010 and the Canadian Bodypainting Championships. I went as a photographer but ended up on stage for the finals at the Victoria Fringe Festival and Championships. Even more amazing, I won a prize for the best performance by a model.
Who knew I had it in me? Not me, that’s for sure, although I admit to having been on a stage a few times before in my 57 years of living. (I’m almost 67 now)
When I was just a young lad, in my early teen years, I modelled bathing suits for Jantzen Swimwear one summer. My aunt Physlis was a clothing designer with the company and she took me with her and introduced me to the stage.
It was first my modeling job, and, I must admit, my last until the Bodypainting championships.
I was happy just to be a photographer at the festival and show. There were a good number of beautiful models and skilled painters working together to create amazing designs. It was great to earn the respect and affection of the crew and a delight to shoot under the circumstances.
I got a lot of great shots, which I shared with the artists and models after it was over. Still, the biggest surprise was being asked to be painted on the Friday night before the big show.
Of course it was initially just a great joke. After all, everybody else was either a painter or a model, and I’d been taking thousands of shots of people nearly naked in all sorts of compromising positions.
Of course I said yes. I can take a joke as well as… as well I can, and I thought that it would be hillarious to be painted as a penguin for the party on Friday night. Who knew that it would be so popular with the models and artists that they insisted that I go into the show on Saturday Night at the Fringe Festival.
Well, the rest is history. And the dance of the Penquins has never been danced quite so awkwardly, or by such a comical character.
That performance and the photos I took that week launched me anew in the world of fashion photography, model portfolios, and just plain fun with new friends and a new generation.
Life is interesting when you start down a road you didn’t even dream existed.
People who have been abused as children have a really hard time as adults, especially as young adults trying to formulate romantic relationships. Without a solid foundation established early in life, emotions can feel like quicksand and you soon feel like you are drowning. People become desperate for love and accept all sorts of inappropriate behavior that seems like it must be some kind of love, or it wouldn’t be so intense. So this is the story of one such person, after an abusive and destructive marriage
Even after years of counseling, he still feels the desperate self-criticism of his youth, pulling him back into depression and suicidal thoughts. At the end of his first marriage, he actually tried to kill himself by sleepwalking in front of a bus
The transit bus driver drove his bus into the side of a building to avoid hitting the patient, most likely saving his life.
He went to see a doctor after this because he felt that he was in danger because of his actions. He consciously knew that he was a danger to himself and potentially others, but so deeply depressed about losing his wife that he was wandering around in a complete daze.
This was despite the fact that the relationship was fundamentally dysfunctional, and she used and abused him virtually every day from the very first moment he laid eyes on her. His self-worth was so low that he actually believed that everything that ever went wrong was his fault. He allowed himself to be her emotional and physical servant, charged with somehow making her feel good about herself.
Although she was highly intelligent and won many academic awards she required constant affirmations of her intellect, and couldn’t accept any opposition to her opinions on any subject at all. To whatever degree he differed from her point of view, she called him out and accused him of trying to undermine her and make her look like an idiot to their friends or families. He also took on responsibility for taking care of every aspect of her life, including paying all the bills, providing her with funds to pay for her advanced education, and a constant stream of extravagant gifts. Their life together was one of extraordinary social adventures, with a stream of her unusual friends variously moving into and out of their home and their lives together.
They were together for nearly ten years and had a daughter. Their divorce was highly acrimonious and as a result of an emotional breakdown, she intimidated him into giving into virtually all of her demands, including extremely restrictive access to their infant daughter, who is now almost forty years of age.
Because of his blindness to her faults and unwillingness to acknowledge her abusive behavior, He simply was not in any position to provide adequate co-parenting to their daughter, who ended up with her being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by his ex-wife and her mother, who had previously done the same things to his ex-wife.
It wasn’t until their daughter ran away from her mother’s house to live on the streets that he became aware of all that she had gone through in her mother’s care.
The daughter suffers from multiple psychological disorders including acute anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD as a result of multiple sexual assaults starting with her grandmother as early as five or six years old. After she ran away, at thirteen years old, from her mother’s home when she came to live with his current partner and him. It was only then that he heard her story and got her into counseling. The road was very difficult, and they were not very successful in helping the daughter overcome her many conditions.
Never in all the years he had been married to his ex-wife did he realize how destructive her constant personal attacks and total narcissistic behavior had been to him. After he more or less recovered from his breakdown and hospitalization after their marital breakdown, he still blamed himself for everything that had gone wrong in their marriage.
But no more. His daughter suffers from many psychiatric and emotional defects, some of which would have been there no matter who raised her as a young child. She also has many physical disabilities including muscular and skeletal problems that have resulted in her living life in chronic pain, and incapable of independent mobility. She also had two children, which he had to have taken from her because she is incapable of providing the minimum care level necessary for their physical and emotional health. He doesn’t blame his ex-wife or her mother for all of it, as it would unfair to do so.
But what is fair to say is that without the abuse by her narcissistic mother and a grandmother who barely survived Nazi rule in Holland as a young girl before abusing her own daughter and granddaughter, their daughter didn’t have a chance at any reasonable life. Despite years of counseling himself, He still knows that he has blinders on regarding his ex-wife and still has hard time understanding what he allowed to happen in his marriage, or what really took place in all the years she had total control over their daughter’s care and custody.
He had even blamed himself for that restricted access, and his lack of involvement in his daughter’s life. The extreme anger his ex-wife expressed towards him made a more normalized co-parenting arrangement impossible. Even spending thousands of dollar on legal fees trying to get better custodial arrangements failed.
If you are a survivor of an abusive relationship and have gotten out, don’t try to deal with this all on your own. Find a good counselor and make every effort to deal with your own demons before they drag you into yet another dangerous quagmire.
Unfortunately, you may find yourself repeating your mistakes, over and over again. Learn to recognise the cycle of abuse in your own life, and take action to change your circumstances. Leave.
Happiness is not only the absence of unhappiness, but also an affirmation of a kind of state of grace, which encompasses all the good and bad in life, but as a kind of continuing sense of gratitude. Happiness is not necessarily always being a happy person, but is rather the presence of a profound sense of joy in life itself, for good and ill alike.
The happiest person I ever met is my sister Kathryn, who had a life altering car accident in her early twenties which left her paralysed Although she died a couple of Christmas seasons ago, her joyful embrace of life made everyone around her more aware of the reasons to celebrate, even in the face of massive disabilities and chronic pain. She suffered from serious pain, life threatening deficiencies caused by her disability, and severe restrictions in mobility, or even taking care of herself physically. It used to take her hours each and every morning just to get out of bed, go to the bathroom and get ready for the day.
Through it all she spread joy to everyone she knew.
I am making only one New Years Eve vow this year. To bring an attitude of acceptance and joy to my everyday life, and to celebrate the joy that all of the people in my life bring me every day.
Global Warming is not the most important crisis facing the world’s human population at the moment.
One of the things that really concerns me about the current mass political movement around global warming is that it is distracting the human race from several other issues that are of far more immediate concern, and which also require a global response if there is not to be catastrophic outcomes, some of which are already far advanced.
And I am NOT saying the Global warming isn’t a serious danger to the health and quality of life of millions of people around the earth, mostly in the mid to long term, anywhere from twenty-five to fifty years from now. And while I believe that it is important, if we don’t address several other, far more pressing issues, half of the population of the globe with sick and dying, directly because of these other issues.
I specifically referring to serious medical problems arising from really bad lifestyle choices being promoted by governmental agencies, national and international disease associations, doctors, international food industry giants, dieticians, and the public media.
So what the heck could I possibly be ranting on and on about? There are three health crisis catastrophes happening right now that can have a bigger effect on the human race, today and tomorrow, than global warming.
Antibiotic resistance and superbugs
The explosion in pollution of the world’s oceans
Religious and political fundamentalism in the political area, and erosion of political and religious freedom
Industrial corruption around the world, and its impact on the peoples of the world.
No one article could even begin to explore these five serious hazards to humanity, and the quality of our existence on the planet Earth.
Personally I’m optimistic that the human race will figure out how to reduce or eliminate the human contribution to global warming. It won’t stop the climate from changing, either continuing to warm for the next few hundred years, or crashing into a new ice age, which is what many scientists were concerned about only a few years ago. It took a lot of effort to stop using fluorocarbons in spray cans, which was attacking the ozone layer only a couple of decades ago. Global warming is more of a concern than fluorocarbons, and will require a much more consequential response if the human race is to find solutions that will resolve our contributions to it. But call me Pollyannaish but I do believe that we will find technological solutions to a problem fundamentally caused by technology. As someone said to me, “it’s not rocket science.” No, it’s harder. But it be done.
I’m far less optimistic about our response to Metabolic Syndrome. Only recently have scientists started to realize the breadth and seriousness of the syndrom, which is directly caused by the consumption of excessive carbohydrates and sugars by populations of all ages, and is a now a global problem facing all of the nations of the globe. Recent research and publication have demonstrated a direct causative relationship between the over consumption of carbohydrates and sugars to the following disorders and diseases.
Cancers of the pancreas, heart, liver, kidneys
Chronic lung disease and cancer
Heart disease including cardiac arrest, arrhythmia and death
May be related to several mental disorders underlying depression and mania
The number of deaths in the world from the above categories of diseases, in 2019 caused by carbohydrate and sugar far exceeds the projected loss of life in the world from Global Warming by 2050 or even 2150 assuming that we don’t do anything to stop it. There is now solid evidence that over a third of all human beings alive today are suffering from Metabolic Syndrome, and many many many people die from it every single day. Far more than from wars, automobile accidents, distracted driving, alcohol abuse and drunk driving – all put together.
Superbugs present a slightly less ominous threat, if you don’t think about the fact that without effective antibiotics we are all vulnerable to diseases we once believed we had wiped out.
One in four infections is already resistant to antibiotics and other known forms of treatment, and 5,400 Canadians died last year from infections that until recently had been treatable. That’s according to a comprehensive peer-reviewed report presented by the Council of Canadian Academies this week.
That’s roughly double the number of Canada’s annual traffic fatalities and homicides combined.
These infections range from pneumonia to infections of the urinary tract, the blood stream and the skin. And their numbers are rising everywhere as international transportation carries every infection-causing microbe to every part of the world.
The report, When Antibiotics Fail, was prepared for the federal government by an expert panel. I was a member of this panel, chaired by Brett Finlay of the University of British Columbia.
Oceanic pollution, including plastics and other waste
Ocean Pollution: The Dirty Facts
We’re drowning marine ecosystems in trash, noise, oil, and carbon emissions.January 22, 2018 Melissa Denchak
The fate of our seas is not only up to the government or industry. Our individual, daily actions matter, too. You can start by reducing water pollution and runoff at home, being more mindful of your plastic consumption, or organizing a cleanup of your local waterway. You can also support the work of NRDC and other environmental advocacy groups as well as other businesses and organizations that work to preserve our coasts and waters.
Religious and political fundamentalism in the political area, and erosion of political and religious freedom
The news is full of examples of political terrorism around the world, including bombings and individual acts of terrorism against innocent civilians. This is terror on a retail scale and pales into insignificance against the damage being done to our political and religious freedoms around the world as a result of religious or political fundamentalism that denies people the right to their own religious beliefs, personal development and gender identification, even the right to exist as ethnic minorities in various parts of the world.
There are more people in concentration camps today, than during the second world war, with the vast majority of them in China. We in the west have been negligent in this, but mostly because we are also complicit in our own attacks on minorities and aboriginals. The United States and Europe are split right down ideological and religious seams that threaten the future safety of the world because of the increasing intolerance being shown to people with different religious or political beliefs of large parts of the population. Christian, Muslin and Atheist fundamentalists deny the very right to exist for anyone who dares believe something different than they. The intolerance of a pulpit bully today is the concentration camps of tomorrow.
Industrial corruption around the world, and its impact on the peoples of the world.
A new report has alleged that international medical and pharmaceutical companies are complicit in China’s organ transplant scandal.
The report has, for the first time, named 20 global companies profiting from China’s transplant trade, where innocent people are murdered in a state-sponsored campaign of forced organ harvesting.
The report supports China Tribunal’s Final Judgement in June 2019 which exposed China’s ‘wicked’ organ harvesting crimes and murder of innocent people as ‘Crimes Against Humanity’.
Western companies allegedly involved
The new report emphasises that China’s transplant system is ‘dependent on the import of devices for organ preservation’ from the West and has accused the Western pharmaceutical companies of using Chinese prisoners for testing transplant products.
Over 1.5 million people detained in Chinese ‘camps’ are seen as ‘ideal source of organs’ according to the report and the authors are calling for companies named in the report to answer to allegations or for state offices to “investigate international criminal activity”.
Global pressure is now mounting on China to stop the brutal murder of prisoners of conscience in a scandalous industry estimated to illegally earn the People’s Republic of China over $1bn (~€0.89bn) per annum.
Susie Hughes, Executive Director, International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), stated: “These companies are in a very powerful position because China’s transplant industry would falter without them. It is imperative they withdraw from China immediately to help save innocent people who are being killed for their organs.”
Hamid Sabi, Counsel to the China Tribunal, who recently raised the issue of forced organ harvesting in China for the first time at the United Nations said: “I welcome all new research confirming this horrifying issue. Organ transplantation to save life is a scientific and social triumph but killing the donor is criminal.”
Industrial greed and complicity in the dangers to human survival, both individually and collectively cannot be pursued with enough vigor. Companies are responsible for causing untold health hazards and killing millions upon millions through smoking, dietary corruption of the food chain, false information distribution to the public over years and years.
Global Warming is a Safe Enemy
I started this blog by saying that I don’t think that Global Warming should be at the top of our concerns about the future (and present) of the human race. There are lot of things to be concerned about, and Global Warming is just one of them.
The massive obsessive focus on Global Warming is a little like the obsession in the 1960’s with the nuclear threat and the idea that the Russians were going to wipe out the human race in their global arms race with the USA and the West. The obsession wasn’t totally misguided, it just missed the point that there were other things which should have been addressed and were not. The consequence of obsessing over one significant challenge facing the world, without paying attention to many of the other issues is highly risky.
I appreciate your feedback to my blog which is couched as a question, but by which you really mean as a statement of your convictions and societal beliefs.
First of all, polyamorous relationships may or may not be “open marriages” and in fact most people in poly marriages prefer to de-emphasize sexual aspects of poly life in favour of the “loving” aspects.
Polyamory means loving more
Polyamory means loving more than one person at a time but doesn’t automatically include sex. True, if often does, but the ideology of multiple relationships rests more on a person’s right to engage in intimate personal relationships outside of a formal hierarchical structure. In some respects it’s the social and familiar extension of the ideas of the Libertarian philosophy, which postulates that the free will of an individual is the highest freedom. Anything that impinges on individual freedom and the personal right to control her/her own life is contrary to this philosophy, and that includes the traditional marriage customs of almost all religions and legal systems.
“Free love” is the lowest expression of the idea of polyamory, included but hardly the point of it for most of us. Many in this community are part of the LGBTQIA community as well, with certain blurring of the lines of gender identity and sexuality as well. It also includes BDSM and other types of experimental behaviour for many followers. What Polyamory shares with this community is a conviction of many that they are “born this way” rather than this being a “choice” which is what was believed to be true about homosexuality and transgender issues until very recently.
Almost all of the women I know in this community contend that polyamory is the fundamental nature of women, only controlled and managed by organized religions and public policy. Men in this community are often less certain that it is so, I think, because they feel enormous guilt about their inability to exist in traditional relationships without “cheating” and being outlaws of a sort.
But Polyamory is also not necessarily kink.
A kinky person may be polyamorous or a traditionalist believing in the one man/one woman type of marriage. But he/she may also be extremely interested in maintaining their own independence of thought and action, regardless of choices made as to their sexual partners or co-parents of their children.
I respect that your concerns have more to do with maintaining a stable, loving home, both for the benefit of children having two parents in the home, as well as for the husband and wife, who can have the comfort of maintaining lifelong stable relationships.
However, families such as you describe are rapidly vanishing in contemporary society, and seldom, in history, were seldom more than a minority of the population. Single parent homes now out number two parent homes in many communities, especially in millennial families.
Families may be stronger in polyamorous relationships.
Recent social trends and statistics suggest that polyamorous relationships are on the rise, radically so. On a recent CBC TV special recently it is now believed by certain social scientists that more children have multiple parents (ie: more than two) than are being raised in two parent families.
There is strong historical precedence for this. If you take the issue of sexual fidelity out of the question, and simply look at the number of children raised in homes with only one adult or two parents in the historical past, the number was small.
Families often included the two parents, at least one grandparent, often a couple of aunts or uncles, and siblings of the partner. Even today, in Vancouver’s East Asian families, there are many many homes which house as many as twenty five people at once, including the children. The same is true of many families from China, where the one child rule pushed people together to collectively raise children for their welfare.
The nuclear family is inherently unstable, even in the best examples of western values. Do you have any idea of the number of these traditional families who break up over and over again, reforming into new arrangements and new parenting partners? It can scarcely be better for kids to go through repeated divorces and remarriages than to live in long term polyamorous families with multiple parents in constant attendance. My poly friends mostly have a number of children, and their children are raised in the wider family community.
Traditional marriage is a financial disaster for most, even for those it works for emotionally.
One last point. The nuclear family, and its necessary companion, the single parent family, are financially a disaster for most people. The addition of more than two people to help share the load makes all the difference in the quality of everybody’s lives, including the children. When there are multiple people earning incomes it is much easier to be able to afford a home, feed the family, have nice cars, and afford family vacations together every year.
So don’t be quite so quick to judge. Those quirky people who live in these weird situations may have it much, much better than you realise.
It’s Thursday night, and I’m sitting in an airplane, about to take off for New York. I’m heading home from Las Vegas after attending Obesity Week 2019, the world’s largest obesity medicine conference, a collaboration between The Obesity Society and The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons.
I don’t quite know how to express my feelings and thoughts about this event, but the words ‘anger’ and ‘hopelessness’ immediately come to mind. My anger and hopelessness are best exemplified by the first keynote speech, delivered by Dr. William Cefalu, who is chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association.
After accurately describing our country’s spiralling healthcare costs, and the morbidity and mortality associated with diabetes and obesity, Dr. Cefalu went on to discuss the benefit of low-calorie approaches for diabetes reversal. He also highlighted bariatric surgery and medications. But ultimately, he harped on one point, that is frequently repeated at conventional obesity medicine conferences:
“There is no best diet. The best diet is one that a patient can adhere to.”
The above article by Dr. Tro Kalayjian the physician behind Dr. Troys Medical Weight Loss and Direct Primary Care is a discussion about why it is so difficult for the medical profession to accept fundamental changes in medical understanding about diabetes and current treatments for it. It is why patients continue to get contradictory advice from doctors who really ought to know better than to recommend any number of established and well known dietary strategies that simply don’t work. It’s not that they don’t work anymore, it’s that they never worked, and there is no scientific basis for any of them.
This sounds pretty revolutionary to me. The esteemed Canadian doctor is joined by a number of US based colleagues who are challenging the status quo in the treatment of diabetes, and sending a message to their profession. Just stop! Stop misleading the public! Stop lying to patients! Stop killing your clients!
Of course, they are doctors and they don’t quite put it that way. But what else can you say when so many health professionals and authorities continue to promulgate misleading information, such as “moderation is the best strategy” when clearly, based on current information that is simply not true. Moderation will kill you if by moderation you include relatively mundate advice about carbohydrates and sugar. What sciences know is that consuming carbs in excess of certain pretty limited amounts leads to metabolic syndrome, metabolic syndrome leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance leads to diabetes. Diabetes leads to lots of really bad stuff that can kill you, or at the least, make you really really sick.
If you or someone you love is fat, obese, or has diabetes or prediabetes follow the link on this blog entry to the above article and understand what is being said. Doctors are willfully ignoring solid medical evidence in favor of standing by old, disproved theories because they are afraid of rocking the boat. Read Dr. Fung’s book, the Diabetic Code.
Stop believing anyone who says that eating many small meals a day is ok. Stop following advice so far heard that has led you to being overweight and obese. If you want to live and healthy, long life, fire your current endrochronologist if he or she disparages the most recent research and tells you not to follow Dr. Fung’s advice. Run away from anyone who says that carbs and sugars are not the cause of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and many many many other life threatening diseases.
How has pain been a complex problem in your life? How has pain interacted with your movement, energy, sleep, social life, finances, identity, memory, and mood?
Mastering Pain Institute
After listening to and reading the materials in the 1st leasson of the Pain Mastery Class it asks the student to answer the above questions.
How has pain interacted with my movement? As pain from various causes has increased over the past few years I have observed that my ability and willingness to move has undergone an uncomfortable metamorphosis. Simple tasks like walking, bending over, picking up items, getting dressed, doing my toe nails, making the bed… etc. have all become much more difficult.
Neuropathic pain has combined with arthritis to make steering the car for long periods increasingly painful. I alternate from my left to my right hand constantly as I drive, because the pain builds up in each as it is used. Eventually the pain is too great in both hands and I have to take a break. The pain in my legs and feet make driving hard as well, and certainly limited my pleasure from doing so. Driving a car is one of my great pleasures, or, it used to be one of my great pleasures and it represented a kind of freedom that is now gradually disappearing from my life.
The same can be said for a lot of routine physical tasks, all the way from making the bed to cleaning the mirrors in my bathroom. I didn’t used to mind housework or gardening but it is now so painful to mow the lawn that I’d rather let it grow twice as long as I used to. These type of restrictions have inevitably reduced my freedom of movement, and my interest in and willingness to do routine, simple life tasks.
How has pain affected my energy? Anybody who suffers from chronic pain will attest to the fact that constant, unrelenting pain is exhausting. There is almost no time when I’m not tired and so sore I feel like I really just want to lay down and sleep for a while. Even a nap would seem like a relief, if I can sleep, that is.
The net available energy is a function of pain in my body. The more severe the pain becomes, the less energy I have. And not only to do life in general, but in having the interest and energy to participate in the things of life. A lack of energy is behind so many other deficits experience by people with chronic pain that it tends to blind us to how serious it actually is. Without sufficient energy to function properly nothing actually works the way it is supposed to work. How the hell am I supposed to do my job at work, when I hardly have enough energy to get there in the first place every day?
How does pain affect my sleep? To most of us with chronic pain sleep is seldom deep or really very restful. Not a single night of sleep goes by without being disrupted, again and again by waking fully or partially because of pain in the body. For me it is all sorts of different parts of the body and different types of pain, but it all hurts, and it all makes me awaken at some point during sleep. If I wonder why I’m so damned tired all the time, I simply have to remind myself that I really haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in years.
I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but sleep apnea really isn’t the reason I’m awake half the night. It’s the pain, the pain. Snoring is a part of it. Blocked airways aggravates it. But pain causes sleep interruption, over and over again, every single time I go to sleep.
How does pain affect my social life? What social life? Who really has the energy to maintain a social group or friendships when you’re in constant pain? It takes energy I don’t have and mobility that is a constant struggle, simply to get out and visit with people. I’m no longer the happy go lucky guy I used to be. I try not to spread my pain around, or make my kids and grandkids suffer from my experience of pain. But I wonder if my increasing isolation from them is at least partly because I do longer know how to overcome my pain for long enough to actually properly engage with people.
And being socially isolated also increases my experience of pain, because lacking real human contact with others is not only uncomfortable, but it’s also actually harmful physically because it encourages inactivity and passiveness. Instead of getting out and doing things with the people I love, I stay at home, watching television, at least partly because it’s less painful than the alternatives of getting out of the house, and doing the things necessary to have a life.
How does being in pain affect my finances? This is one of the things that is most humiliating about being in pain. Instead of being vibrant and capable, I’m tentative and withdrawing from challenges. I used to love going to the office and taking on new challenges, meeting new people, creating new financial opportunities for myself, and for my staff. Now I have no staff, and I’ve been afraid for years of taking on jobs that I know I’m qualified to do because I’m afraid that I’m going to let them down, or worse, prove myself to be incapable of handling the physical and emotional demands of the work.
In addition, my increasing health problems cost a lot of money, which I am now having to pay with a lot less income, due to my reduced employment capabilities. I struggle to manage my prescription deductibles and copays. And that’s for the prescriptions, which doesn’t actually include any pain medications I can trust. Nothing the doctor has prescribed for pain has actually helped very much, if at all. I know that opioids would be more effective than OTC drugs but I also know that they are highly addictive, and have major other problems that I don’t need to add to my pain.
And being chronically short of money, as well as in pain, means that I can’t take advantage of one of the things I used to do a lot, which was going out to nice restaurants and have good meals with friends. Shortage of money means that I’m socially isolated by it, as well as by my resentment over finding myself in this situation. I never wanted to be dependant on anyone else but I find myself in a situation that make this every more a fact of life.
How does pain affect my sense of identity? Truthfully, I don’t really recognise myself any more. I no longer feel like the man I used to be, and I certainly don’t have the confidence I have always had. I’ve always thought of myself as a highly charged, somewhat hyperactive and oversexed Type A personality. If I had faults they were likely the faults of thinking that I could do anything, be anybody, accomplish anything. A little bit of humility probably wasn’t a bad thing for me to learn, but pain has driven me to distraction. The amount and persistence of pain has now reached proportions that are disabling my sense of self to a point of no return. I don’t actually know what it would look like for me to be me, the way I have always been. So damage to my sense of identity is a real cost of being a victim of chronic pain.
How does pain affect my memory? My partner says that I’ve become a lot more forgetful than previously. I’m not sharp anymore, and I don’t automatically pick up on things so quickly. I don’t think I’ve lost my marbles, but I get confused more easily and mix things up, despite my best efforts to not do so. It means I slow down, because I can no longer count on my memory for important information. I’m a lot more cautious than I used to be, if for no other reason than I hate being unable to remember even the simplest facts or common words.
I’ve always been a prodigious reader, at one point reading more than a book a day, not to mention newspaper and magazines. Now it takes me a week to read a novel, and a month to work through a non-fiction title, no matter how interested I am in the subject. I don’t remember names very well, I never did, but I’m also losing the ability to remember what books I’ve read or which ones I liked or didn’t like. I find myself half way through the first chapter of novels only to realize that I read the damned thing six month ago. So yes, memory is being affected negatively, if only because I’m so distracted by the constant pain interrupting the flow of my thoughts and feelings.
How does pain affect my mood? I was diagnosed as being bipolar when I was about thirty years old, after a major breakdown and depression. After being hospitalized for six months I came out of the hospital with somewhat better emotional management tools than I had previously. Relatively quickly I abandoned the prescriptions for bipolar I had been given, because they made me feel like I was living in a fog. And I reconciled myself to living with vivid emotional ups and downs. So depression and mania have long been a part of my nature, and my life. I’ve done well in managing to live a full life despite these problems, but now it feels like depression stalk me, without the accompanying manio to provide any balance to it.
There are two kinds of depression with which I struggle, one of which is a direct result of serious and chronic pain. It’s tough to get out of being depressed when you feel like you’re under a constant pressure cooker caused by physical and mental pain. This past weekend, in addition to chronic neuropathic pain in my hands and feet, arthritic pain in my shoulders, fingers, hands, I was also slayed by a serious migraine headache. I haven’t suffered from migraines on a regular basis for years, ever since I started practicing a form of self-hypnosis that seemed to be effective at shortening their duration, and eventually led me to being able to predict and prevent the worst of them.
Even that ability seems to be beyond my control these days, because it’s pretty hard to meditate when I’m in so much pain that I can hardly sit still.
I don’t know if this exercise in counting the ways that pain affects me is supposed to make me feel better, but it hasn’t yet. I also suppose that to defeat an enemy I first have to understand the enemy and all the territory it has staked out in my life. This is the exercise from Chapter 1 in my program to begin to manage my pain. I hope the next exercises don’t leave me here.
To you this day am I wed And to you do I make these promises:
I will love you from my deepest self Sharing my life with you, I will be joyful In your sharing your life with me
I commit myself to you , to a life Of service to our marriage, and our family And will keep my agreements with you In a spirit of love and acceptance.
I will love you without conditions No obstacle, no action will divide this pledge And I will take you as you really are And as you will become, as you grow Into the person you shall become
I will be joined with you in a common bond To a life of love, acceptance, and growth To reach out beyond ourselves, and make Our contributions to the future of our family, Our people, and our world
I will love you without seeking to own you Give freely of my abundance, while Receiving joyfully from yours.
I wrote this poem in 1984 and my wife and I based our marriage vows on it. Our marriage was my second marriage, but her first, and so far, only marriage. These words bound us together in a marital relationship for the last thirty-five years. Our marriage was always unconventional in many ways, and the way it started made it necessarily so.
It turns out that we are quite different in our points of view, on a lot of issues, including, and maybe, especially, what marriage means to each of us. For many years we chose to leave our differences unfocussed and just slightly behind a curtain of apparent and superficial conformity. To our community, and mostly to our children, our marriage appeared to be pretty much according to common community values, one man and one woman, with a raft of kids, going through the process of life. Our initial agreement to be unconventional in being polyamorous was a whisper in privacy.
It was implicitly and explicitly understood that I would be discrete in my external relationships and not bring them home, even in discussion. The policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell applied because she really didn’t want to deal with it, and as long as I stayed away from her circle of friends, she was mostly fine with it. In a sense, she had been a special “friend” with me and mothered our first child while I was in an “open marriage” with my former partner.
Over the many years which followed those early times we both followed what we believed was applicable under the terms of our promises. Suffice it to say that my external relationships and experiences were kept away from the family, and never discussed with her. Any time she did bring up the issue of marital fidelity, I would always remind her of the agreement we made at the beginning. She believed that our agreement was purely a “pro forma” agreement, an agreement made purely to serve as an artifact of our original relationship.
Most importantly, she believed that I merely maintained my commitment to it to retain my intellectual independence, and was not involved with any outside relationships or sexual engagements.
And so we continued until a few years ago, when a time came when I had to explicitly introduce evidence that I had not only engaged intellectually, but had also engaged in sex with someone else. In my view, I was never unfaithful, as our promises never included any promise from me that I would not be involved with other people. In her view, when confronted with specific evidence confirming my external relationships, I’d been screwing around, and unfaithful, for all of the last 35 years.
It didn’t matter that we had this agreement, because she felt that it was obtained under duress, or without her full understanding of what it really meant. Over the years when she challenged me on whether or not I was seeing other people, I had always confirmed our original agreement as still being valid, and refused to specifically acknowledge when or with whom I was involved. She’d had many suspicions over the years that I was sexually active outside of the marriage, but had never felt that she wanted to push the issue, knowing that I would continue to adhere to our agreements, regardless of her fears.
The proof that I had been sexually active for years came when I took a battery of blood tests, including one for STDs, that indicated that I was a carrier of Hepatitis B, a disease that is generally contracted by an exchange of body fluids during sex. The first thing I did when this result was made known to me, was to inform my sexual partners, including my wife. Ironically, the test was a false positive, which the specialist stated to me when I went to see him, upon referral by my family doctor. So I’m not a carrier, not even remotely, but by then the damage was done, and the cat was out of the bag.
Suffice it to say, my wife decided that she no longer considers us married, and wants a divorce. I urged her to reconsider on the basis that nothing really had changed, our agreement from 35 years ago is still in place, and I still consider myself bound to its terms.
All of that took place about a year and a half ago, and we’re still living together and cohabitating. We no longer consider ourselves “married’ exactly, but we are both comfortable that we are still “partners” “nesting partners” or even just “friends” living in a common household. Sexuality has not been a facet of our marriage for a long time, so it really wasn’t an issue for either of us.
We have had a really difficult set of discussions and for now are in agreement to stay together for mutual benefit, if not in fact in a marriage, we are still in fact deeply caring people who still love each other, if not the way either of us had wanted. She will remain monogamous and I will remain polyamorous. Where we go from here is anybody’s guess.
What I can say for sure, is that we still love each other, and will remain friends always.
My experience in the aftermath of acting in a scene.
Last week I played a violently sexual Christopher Columbus in a scene in a documentary film. As an inexperienced actor (my first paid gig) I did my best to follow the directions of the Director, a Vancouver woman with many film credits and obvious confidence, and to keep my own feelings about the subject and the scene somewhat suppressed. I know that the character is not me, and it’s unlikely I will find myself typecast after only one scene.
The young indigenous woman actor who played the victim in the scene was raised in an adopted non-native family. She is reconnecting with her native roots, including her birth mom and blood siblings who she hadn’t met until her twenties. It was moving to hear her talk about finding her birth mom and siblings.
She and I had a good opportunity to connect as human beings before the scene was shot, and I was comfortable at the time that she felt positive about her experience in playing this role with me, despite her playing an extreme traumatic scene with implied violent sexual assault, which was also designed to be symbolic of the assault on the first nations of the Americas. The opportunity to meet and chat casually together before acting out the scene actually made it harder, in some ways, for me to act the villain, against this young woman, who seemed rather remarkable.
In the short time we spoke I learned enough about her to have a great deal of admiration for her search for her roots, her education in aboriginal history and laws, and the courage it took for her to seek out her birth mother and blood siblings. She is also a mom with a five year old child, raising the girl largely by herself, as the father is living far away in Haida Gwaii where he works as fisher. She’s also attending college to become a social worker, with ambitions to work with troubled teens and aboriginal youth.
She is a great actor, and her performance was extremely credible. Her defensive struggles included physically attacking the rapist with her nails and fists, while she made loud and shrieking cries. I’ve never heard anyone sound so much like she was being actually raped and attacked, while we struggled to make the implied attack as convincing as possible, including beating her with a rope and tying her up, while I ripped off her blouse exposing her breasts. There was a lot of pushing and pulling with her fighting off her attacker as best she could. I was directed to make it look as if I was actually having intercourse, and kissing and sucking her breasts, without actually doing so. It’s likely that anyone seeing the film will wonder if the she was actually being violated during the filming.
However, it was all make-believe, and there was no actual contact between my lips and her breasts, nor was I ever pressing against her body in the way that the film will probably make it appear. During my attack against her, after I ripped off my shirt and was ripping open her blouse, she tore open wounds on my back and shoulders with her fingernails, with such ferocity that she actually opened wounds which bled during the filming. She was quite apologetic about injuring me in her enthusiastic performance but I felt that she gave the scene gravitas and believability with her focus and intensity.
The makeup artist took the minor wounds and made them look a lot more serious than they actually were, but nonetheless I have scratch marks on my back and shoulders that have only now begun to fade. Her defensive struggles only made Christopher Columbus become deranged and even more violent in his assault. Which made her cries and screams even louder and more emotionally expressive about what was happening to her.
This documentary is about two separate but related themes – the violent assault on indigenous women as a part of the conquest by the Spanish fleet and the enormity of the humiliation and defeat of the nations of the Americas by European invaders. My scene is only a part of the documentary, and obviously I haven’t seen any of the rest of the film.
What making this film has done to me however, is give me a lot to think about and to process, particularly in regards to the sexual and violent assault of a young woman, by a much older and more powerful man. I doubt that the invader would have given her a second thought once he was done with his depraved behavior, and simply would have gone on to the next act against the native peoples, including more attacks on defenseless women and children.
History is largely silent on what happens to vulnerable women and children during wars, although recently there has been a lot more discussion and literature on the subject. What I did as an actor was play out the most vile behaviour in as convincing a fashion as I could. That was my job, and the Director and the Producer were very complimentary about how the two of us did our scene together.
I still dreamt about the scene, and her pitiful cries during the scene, and her heartfelt weeping during the rape scene itself. At the time I felt my heart pounding, and my body was trembling with the emotional impact of this close encounter. The sweat on my face and my body wasn’t all from the makeup artist. I’ll carry a visceral memory of this scene with me for a long time, and this memory will inform me in ways I never would have expected about how intensely personal and intensely evil is sexual assault actual. The very fact that she was able to express the terror, the outrage and the aftermath so eloquently with her body and her voice means that I’ll never again hear or read about a sexual assault without being deeply moved.
During the filming, the actress kept in character the whole time, until the very end. After the shoot was over she was very subdued, in the aftermath of shooting such an emotionally draining scene. I’d feel a lot better if I could be sure that filming the rape scene isn’t haunting her dreams in the way it has mine.