Gallery-Written · Life · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

Lessons in Letting go.

The other day I was playing fetch with our puppy. Despite my inconsistent training she’s proving to be a very clever dog. I throw the ball, she runs to get it and when I yell “come” she brings it back to me. The part we’re still working on though is “give.” Most of the time she grips the ball firmly in her teeth and she holds on. If I try to forcibly pull the ball from her teeth she resists, or she pulls back. She will not share the ball until she is ready. But I’ve found if I gently hold the ball, while reminding her to “give” she seems to come to an understanding that the game can resume if she lets go. As we practice she comes to this realization quicker and quicker.

And as we played it got me thinking about what I let go of, and what I hang onto in my own life. Not unlike the dog I/we want to enjoy the game. And I don’t know about you, but when I started out regardless of what was happening I was all about the game. I would run after lots of things with vigour. But I can be a stubborn bitch too, ha! When it comes to releasing, I often struggle to let go. Somethings I can let go of easily. Usually the lighter things, the joy, the achievements. I can face them easily, I can even share them and talk openly about them knowing that these things put me in a good light. I accept them and the game resumes. But other things I find difficult to let go. The darker parts of myself, the things that make me angry, the resentment I’m ashamed of, my efforts to control (sometimes in the name of good or love), looking for validation, begging for attention, times when I’ve been guilty, and again the anger that has been an ever present companion in my grief. All of the things I/we might wrestle with. So maybe we hide them. Not just from others, we try to hide them from ourselves. Or we defend or deflect, we right fight, or shove them deep down so we don’t have to face it. We bare our teeth, and if anyone tries to get in there and look at what we are holding onto we resist. It seems no one understands why we must keep holding tightly to it. So we pull back, or we fight, or we twist ourselves up so no one can get it. No one must see it. But before we know it this friendly game of fetch and release, has become a tug-o-war.

Sometimes it’s internal, and it affects our physical and mental health (ahem, me). Sometimes it’s external, maybe we lash out, blame, runaway or hide. most likely it’s a combination. And we think we have no choice.

So we hold on. But I’m discovering if you hold onto it, you never get to escape it. Somehow, someway it’s right there even if we run from it. And you start to think the people around you are to blame. Why do they always have to test you? Is the universe testing you? You find yourself thinking, “Seriously? What the f*ck!” all the damn time.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. My husband and I have been trying for another baby off and on for the last several years. The last couple of years I had been working really hard on myself, and my health issues. We were doing what we could and seeking fertility treatments. I couldn’t let go of this picture in my head of having another. But I started to realized the dream was getting in the way of enjoying what I had right in front of me. I would either feel really good and clear, or really bad and confused about everything (not just fertility). So after a lot of thought I finally decided to call it quits, I called the clinic and canceled the treatments for the cycle. And I thought I was ok with it. But I kid you not, the next several days I could not escape pregnant women. Every woman I see is pregnant. And then the final kick in teeth. Not even a week later, people in my own circle also announce their pregnancies. One is a teenager, and the other is a drug addict. And while that news is great for them, I think my head almost exploded. I was home alone so I lost it. I beat up our garbage can while trying to rage clean. I went to town and tried to distract myself, but I couldn’t stop crying. I was bawling in traffic so I turned around and went home. I think I had let go of the dream, but I hadn’t let go of the emotional toll that infertility brings. Those emotions where just waiting to explode.

I had felt so angry and scared, knowing it’s not fair, secretly hoping the drug addict would miscarry, feeling that I’m not worthy as a woman if I can’t do this easily, fearing maybe I’m not worthy as a mother. I still hadn’t faced those things because they are so ugly. What if I find out they are true? So I held them right there in my teeth, and as I resisted letting them go they persisted. And despite the struggle it’s so hard to admit that we are the only one standing in the way of game. By holding onto those emotions we stand in the way of our own peace and happiness.

But here’s the good news. I’m also discovering we always have a choice. And you don’t have to become a hermit or tell off every person you encounter. Because friends it’s never about “them,” or those things that happened to you. It’s about you and how you feel about yourself after they happen.

I had previously deemed light as good or beautiful, and dark as bad or ugly. So I hid what I thought may be perceived as dark. Or I focused my energy on trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong, what was good, what was bad. But by doing so I denied the dark, and in turn I denied a part of myself. And the more I hid it (or the more I lashed out), the more I held onto what I believed were dark emotions. And the more I held them close, the more they blinded me. It became harder and harder to see or fully experience the light. And although at times I’ve wished it wasn’t so, I’m coming to accept that I/we are and will always be a combination of light and dark. And as I peel back each layer in this self discovery journey, I find more and more light and dark. Sometimes it’s not easy to let go, and as I learn I often make mistakes. Like I said, I’m stubborn. But now when I feel a lot of emotions bubbling up, or I’m playing the story in my head on repeat and find myself wanting to resist, I know there is something I’m holding back. So instead of fighting it, I gently hold myself there. I try to be aware of it, accept it as it is. Just cry, or yell, just feel it. I know I won’t let go until I’m ready. So I lay more love on it. I ask myself why I feel that way, I ask myself what I need, and if there’s anything I can do. And lately I’ve found it really effective just to look at myself in the mirror and say, “I was there and I acknowledge those feelings, thank you for the experience, I’m willing to let that go now.”

And while it’s taking a lot of patience and practice on my part, I keep getting better at it. And each time I let go, I accept myself more, I love myself more, I feel stronger physically and mentally. And the award for all of this hard work; I notice more and more light as I get back in the game. So bring it on self! Let’s play ball!

What are you holding on to? How do you let go? For those of you that are struggling with the chronic condition we call life today. I hope you can find enough self compassion to love yourself in whatever way you see fit. When life gets heavy, let love do the lifting.

Love you,

Jessie.

Gallery-Paint · Gallery-Written · Life · Uncategorized

Oh hey, you’re out of Milk- Notes from a stalker.

It’s been said by those that know me, that I come off as a bit of a creep. I can be a kind of intense. And if you give me a cocktail, you can bet I’m turning into a total close talker. If I’m at all interested in you I’m probably going to stalk you a wee bit. You know the usual stuff, gather intel, do a background check, light surveillance, nothing too crazy. I promise its totally innocent, sort of a detached appreciation. I’m actually quite introverted and definitely have no interest in a possessive way. But, I’ll most likely come on too strong, or over share, and send you running for the hills. And even if I’m not at the wheel of my creep-mobile, if you are remotely in my orbit, at some point I’m going to say or do something weird. I’m generally always doing something to embarrass myself.

For the most part I’ve embraced it, I’ve even worn my stalker badge proudly. I love making my friends these creepy music videos, kind of a birthday-gram. They all share the same theme—obsessed fan. It’s all in good fun and thankfully they still accept me despite my special brand of weird.

But in this life long pursuit to connect with those I’m drawn to, I’ve made things weird on a few occasions. Recently I was reminded of one of the more notorious events in my stalking escapades.

I can remember when I first met him. He was quiet and handsome and had dimples for days. I barely knew him, but I knew I desperately needed to know him better. I can remember one time I saw his car pull into the only gas station we had in our small town. It was blocks away, but I ran there as fast as I could. When I arrived he was just leaving. I was completely out of breathe, but I tried to act aloof, managing to squeak out one word. One breathe-less “hey.” He said hi back, hopped in his car and left, and I collapsed to the ground gasping for air. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but nope, that’s me. This is just one example of the many embarrassing things I’ve done when I find myself attracted to another soul. He should have been afraid but for whatever reason he tolerated my intensity and we became friends.

A couple years later we were hanging out just doing the normal teenager thing, cruising around and hanging out with friends. My girlfriends and I were scrutinizing and exchanging the only selfies we had back then, our annual school photos. I was picking my photo apart, but he thought it was cute and said he wanted one. I was embarrassed because I had to give them to my mom first, but I told him I’d give him one later. A normal human being would have just set aside one of the leftover photos. But instead, I spent the evening constructing a giant poster board, using all of them. Twenty or so of the same photo and pose, in every size. The idea was that he would hang it on his wall, and if anyone saw it they would assume he was obsessed with me. A real stalker of my own, swoon! My girlfriend and I laughed the night away at the thought of it. We added blinking lights, shiny paper and tinfoil. The next day I went to present him with my masterpiece. But suddenly I felt a bit ridiculous and started second guessing myself. I was a bit worried he wouldn’t get the joke, and would likely think I was a total lunatic. But I threw caution to the wind, and decided to go for it. I put it in his truck and when we got a chance to be alone I told him to go have a peek. I was laughing, because no matter what I kinda think I’m hilarious. To my surprise he seemed totally unfazed by this monstrosity, he smiled and told me it was awesome!

Awesome? Perhaps this quiet, smiley boy is a bigger weirdo than he lets on. “Let’s go plug it in” I exclaimed. And the rest is history.

The point is, sometimes you are better off just letting it all hang out. I want to be liked and cared for just as much as the next guy, but getting close to people can be scary. I can be insecure, and I make mistakes attempting to do so. Some people get turned off by me, but I’m slowly learning those aren’t my people. Rejection is hard, but I’m a woman of many shades and I’m the only one who gets to define exactly who that is. Anyone else’s opinion is none of my business. Sometimes I’m intense, maybe a bit overwhelming, sometimes I’m introverted, probably kinda underwhelming. But I’m also a loving human being that desires intimacy with others, not in a sexual way, but a spiritual one. I need people I can be totally unfiltered with, laugh with. People who care about my story and remind me that although I feel like a misfit, I’m not alone in this journey. Apparently this is going to be misinterpreted at times, and may scare the odd person off. But there’s something special about it too. So I vow to be myself and see who stays. I’ve had success and found kindred spirits by doing so in the past. And I think those who are brave enough, might end up with a great friend. Someone who will always be looking out for them——albeit through a long range spying scope. Ha! But seriously I can’t help but be me, flaws and all. So I’ve decided to let my freak flag fly! Cause you never know who might be happy to see it.

Words and Art by Jessie Thoresen.

Gallery-Paint · Gallery-Written · Uncategorized

Honest Rumours. Words and Art by J.Thoresen

If you were honest,

And your intent was true.

Don’t you be disheartened,

By the opinion of a few.

Some may take it personally,

Some may reject or criticize.

But that’s a reflection of them,

Not a reason to apologize.

You needn’t explain your truth,

So don’t bother to try.

For those committed to

misunderstanding,

Often prefer the comfort of a lie.

J.Thoresen

Gallery-Written · Marriage · Uncategorized

Secrets. And the site of the next Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

Edited to add: I wrote this in the fall of last year. This tragedy and the loss of those boys really rocked me. In truth, my hometown is very close to the crash site. I take the long way to my sister in laws house just so I don’t have to see it. I was angry with the methods of operation within the industry, before and after the crash. And was so mad at everyone in it, including my husband for seeming to go along to get along. Until finally, my fears spilled out into this blog post. I intended to open eyes, and I knew that it would bother some people we had worked with. And in all honesty, I think I wanted it to. I thank everyone that responded. Especially those within the industry. But I no longer believe that sharing fear is the best way for me to illicit change. I was going to delete this. But instead I’ve decided to edit it, and add that you always have a choice. I don’t blame the industry anymore. Because it comes down to a matter of individual choice. You may tell yourself you don’t have a choice, but you do. Even I do. And I have told my husband he can do whatever he thinks he needs to, but so will I. And I will report him to the department of highways myself if he chooses to break the law, endanger himself or others just to hold a job or contract. I no longer care if I lose anything of monetary value because of it.

You are welcome to continue reading. But I hope you’ll also take the time to read this as well. As it’s where I am today:https://smartandsmitten.com/2019/07/21/to-all-of-the-people-i-knew-before/

Secrets. And the site of the next Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

September 13, 2018.

Last night I tuned in to watch the Humboldt Broncos and their emotional return to the ice. I watched them with pride, but couldn’t help but wonder whose hometown will be the site of the next bus crash.

This being the Broncos first game since the bus crash that claimed the lives of so many young people, the emotion was palpable. In a city that has become accustomed to tears, fans, friends and family, had tissues ready to try to quell the inevitable sniffles and unshakable sorrow. But as the opening ceremonies proceeded one could see and feel the gamut of emotions, from grief and sadness to excitement and hope. The love of the game is evident here. A new season brings new hope for the team and a step in what will likely be a very long healing process, not only for this community but also our province and country. I think most of us can remember the shock and sadness we felt, as reports of what had happened emerged that day. There was even a worldwide response as people from around the globe contributed to the funding, and expressed their condolences to the families.

And while the new season brings hope and excitement in many ways, it’s also a reminder of the sorrow and grief that this tragedy caused. I know my mind kept wandering, and wondering how the victims families are coping? Or how the survivors and their families are coping? How anyone involved in this crash might be coping?

I didn’t personally know any of the people involved in this calamity. But even despite that, it felt like it had happened in my hometown. This tragedy really hit home. For many reasons really, but for me as a mother, lord knows I’ve had fears and reservations about putting my children on a bus everyday. My heart immediately ached for the mamas of those boys. But it also really bothered me because my husband is a truck driver. The scene on that highway was a horrible combination of my worst fears. And I want to make it clear that I am not here to excuse or condemn the driver involved in this crash. I will leave that to the police and the court system. I am writing this today because the fears I had before this disaster, have since been amplified. After witnessing that horrific scene I’m finding it difficult to remain silent in regards to the reality of trucking in this province.

And while I know that truckers head out everyday, saying goodbye to their families to supply the needs of yours. I also know, that the trucking industry has dirty little secrets that can have deadly consequences. My only hope is that from this tragedy we might see some changes and prevent something like this from happening again.

My husband has been involved in trucking in some capacity most of his working life. Being a prairie boy himself he started off trucking grain, but for more than two decades he has hauled dangerous goods in the oil and gas sector. Although he was farming and learning to drive big equipment in the field before most kids have their training wheels off, many drivers do not have any experience. In fact, in Saskatchewan, (as in most provinces) you aren’t required to have any training. You just need to pass a basic road test and written exam. On more than one occasion in his career he has been asked to ride along with new drivers to show them the ropes, which seems like an excellent idea. Until he came home with tales of drivers who aren’t even sure how to start the truck, shift, or make a proper turn. One of these guys could barely cross an intersection without stalling in front of oncoming traffic. On more than one occasion he has questioned how some of these drivers ever passed a road test.

But sadly inexperience is probably the least of our problems. I will be using trucking in the oil industry as my example in this piece, because the oil sector is what I am most familiar with. But believe me when I say, variations of these issues are present regardless of what goods are being hauled. In our neck of the woods, most semi drivers own their own truck, they sub contract under a trucking company, who bids for work required by oil companies. Therein lies a big problem. For one thing, the top priority of the trucking company is to keep the oil company happy. In order to do so, they ignore the best interests of the trucks and their drivers. They take very little time organizing loads, they cater to oil company employees, and dispatch drivers more loads than they could possibly complete in a legal number of hours. It’s not uncommon to see guys out driving for eighteen hours or more. They send drivers into areas with unsafe road conditions, often ignoring drivers reservations, insisting that the load needs to go. If and when accidents occur they are always quick to flip the script, putting the onus entirely on the drivers. And why wouldn’t they? Owner-operators, and drivers are supposed to refuse unsafe work, they are supposed to keep track of their hours of service and refuse work after this time. It is the law. The trouble is that drivers know that the squeaky wheel does not get the grease, it gets replaced. Many drivers that I have talked to over the years feel stuck. As entrepreneurs they aren’t entitled to employment insurance, they have bills to pay and family relying on them. And although a trucking company will rarely demand or threaten the operators they contract, they do employ more subtle methods of manipulation to get what they want. Drivers who refuse work, complain, or even make suggestions as to how loads are dispersed, are often blacklisted as difficult or lazy. Most often, if they aren’t fired, they are starved out until they can’t afford to stay. Many of the trucking companies also underbid on the work resulting in low rates. Low rates and high fuel costs slowly drive away skilled operators and increase the number of inexperienced drivers. But neither oil, nor trucking companies show much concern. The trucking company makes the same amount regardless of the cost of fuel, or the number of hours they work. And the oil companies save a buck by choosing the lowest bidder. And while oil and trucking companies claim that safety is paramount, it always amazes me how easily they turn a blind eye to these issues. Even though we know these kinds of practices result in more mistakes and accidents. My guess is that because they can’t be found legally responsible, they simply choose not to care about their part in the problem.

Again, I am not going to excuse drivers here. Professional drivers know the law. They know they need hold themselves to a higher standard. But my hope is that we also start to question why anyone would choose to work over 14 hours a day, everyday, putting themselves in a position where they could go to jail, kill themselves or someone else. I know why we have done it; fear. Fear we would lose the work, fear we would fail, fear we would let down the people we work for, fear we would lose our business and possibly our home.

And I don’t know what the perfect solution is. But I do know I can’t get last nights game, or that crash out of my head. I can’t stop thinking of the banners hanging in that arena last night. Each one reminding me of those that didn’t make it to this ceremony. Each one serving as a reminder that there are sixteen families whose lives were forever changed on that April day. Each banner reminding everyone who straps on some skates and gets on the ice, that “we play for them”. Each banner paying homage to the kids, coaches, and staff that are no longer with us, but ensuring that they are “Always remembered”.

Always remembered.

But as I watched those brave boys step back on the ice last night, as the puck dropped, and they held back tears, pushing past their own grief to pay homage to their friends and teammates, I wondered, will we remember them? And I don’t mean just remembering the crash, their names or posting a message of remembrance every April on your Facebook page. I mean every time you turn the key and head out for another day on the road, will you remember them? Every time your company and it’s staff dispatch someone another load, knowing they’re over hours, will you remember them? Every time you speed up, hoping to get home to your family today, will you remember them? Every time your company dispatches a driver into another shitty Saskatchewan storm, despite road reports or the drivers reservations, will you remember them? Every time you lie, or edit your log book and keep your mouth shut, will you remember them?

I hope we all will. I hope we can be as brave as those surviving boys. They have a tough journey ahead of them. But I really feel that if we want to honour and remember them, we in the trucking industry are going to need to be brave too. We need to shine a light on the shady practices that we all know exist. We need to reset the bar! And so, we may have a tough journey ahead of us as well.

Personally and professionally I am well aware of the costs. I know it could increase costs for the oil companies we haul for. And I know if trucking companies have to put the interest of the trucks first, they will struggle to cater to the companies that contract them. It could cost them their run. And I also know that there is a good chance if we as professional drivers hold ourselves to the standards set by the law, if we refuse low pay, disorganization, unsafe work, or the extreme hours of service that these companies expect, we may face the ever present manipulation in this industry. It may cost us income. It may cost us our contracts or employment. It could possibly even cost our businesses. Some say these costs are too high.

So do we just keep our head in the sand? Keep rolling, business as usual. Just keep hoping you, or one of the trucks dispatched by you, are never a part of a scene like the one below. Because on April 6, 2018 we saw that the cost of our ignorance is way too high. What we can’t afford, is for this to happen again.

We need to remember them.