I have just returned from 2 weeks of pure magic.
Feeling panicked at the possibility that Cuba and the U.S.A. may mend fences and change Cuba's heart forever I threw together an "emergency" trip. Normally before going on a trip I plan for 6 months to a year. I wanted to be more prepared, I wanted to at least have some basic conversational Spanish and to read up on Cuban history (history was never my passion or my strong suit). With 6 weeks from booking to departure all I managed was the purchase of the "Rough Guide to Cuba" and a condensed Dictionary with helpful Spanish words and phrases. I made my peace with my lack of prep-time because the most important thing was getting there.
I had many reasons for the trip besides the political/cultural worry of the inevitable changes coming down the pike. On top of my "Reasons to go to Cuba" list was research for the novel I am working on. Part of my story takes place in Cuba and I wanted it to be historically accurate, but more importantly I wanted to describe her essence in a way that people could connect with in their own spirit. I discovered things I could never have known had I not walked on Cuban soil. The white sand beach and turquoise sea of Varadero was breathtaking; the ornate architecture, classic cars, and numerous plazas and statues of Havana definitely left a lasting impression, but Cuba's true treasure was the depth and beauty of her people. These people work ridiculously hard for socialist wages and they do not allow that to rob them of their values. Their greatest joy, their pride, and their world is their family. In a world where common sense is not that common they know that the only really choice is to choose to be happy because life is too short not to be. I saw many pictures of people's children and spouses and could see and feel the unconditional love in their eyes. The things they have right they have SO right. I adore that Cuba has 100% literacy. I think the whole world needs to allow people to go to school as long as they want for free. Healthcare and dental are available for all. There are no guns and no drugs. There is no racism! I did not witness a single car accident in Havana, a city of 2.2 million people in my 5 days there. I saw amazing art made of recycled material. If someone needed a ride and there was room in a vehicle they pick people up. I never felt like a tip was expected but experienced genuine gratitude when I did tip. I saw people struggling themselves share their money with those less fortunate without hesitation. Cuba is not without her problems to be sure, but for me who has grown disillusioned with how spoiled our society is, how people worship money and stuff, the blatant disregard for the environment and horrific lack of value placed on life, Cuba was "almost" paradise.
Te Quiero Cuba... you taught me much.
Thank-you to all the beautiful Cubans that made this a trip of a lifetime. xo
Today is the first day of my winter vacation and I have kicked it off with some coffee heavily laden with Bailey's. I have fire in my belly thus I am inspired to share with you. A friend retired yesterday from a job she hated. She looked shell shocked that this part of her life was over. I did my best to let her see the departure as an amazing gift. It is an opportunity to reconnect with all that gives her joy. My friend, despite being almost 55, looks 40 and acts 20. She has survived much and has managed to keep her sense of humour in tact. I gifted her 2 books, one was lined and one had blank pages, the cover read, "Do What You Love." Years ago she had introduced me to a book called "The Artist's Way," by Susan Cameron. It is a life line for artists experiencing a block. Daily writing and artistic exercises gently coax their gift out of hiding. My friend is an artist, but like 99% of artists (myself included) she struggles with the fear of rejection and failure. I have several projects on the go and want very much for her to do the art work for one of them. She timidly shared her sketches with me once years ago and I was blown away. Those that know her would find it really odd to ever hear her described as timid. Artists' work is their child and they protect it so much often they stunt instead of nurturing its growth. One of the great gifts of aging is how you find yourself caring less about what others think. You find no need to filter yourself because you are acutely aware that time is a cruel bitch and she isn't waiting for you to catch up. There is no room in this life for doing anything half-way. Not every time at bat are we going to hit that ball out of the park and it doesn't matter! Swing batter swing! When the ball connects that crack will vibrate through you and it will be the sweetest music you'll ever know. Pick up your pencil my friend and regret nothing. No more dreams deferred, the time for joy is now. I am raising my cup to you today Cherie and so together let's win this game called life. xo
Often we operate under the impression that if we could only just get ourselves together we would have the life that we envision. If we had more time, more money, more sleep - THEN we could achieve our goals. The truth is every act we choose defines us. It is who we become every second, every minute, every hour, and every day. I read this wisdom from a post by one of my favourite authors, Richard Wagamese. He was sharing what was passed on to him by an elder. Our beliefs are exactly what we become. We all have fears and doubts and feel like giving up on our dreams. These feelings are not exclusive to the worker bees tolling away at the 9-5 job, our heroes battle demons too. I always keep in mind that it doesn't matter how many times you fall down, it is the number of times you get up!
Thursday I had the honour of attending the premiere of the adaption of Shane Koyczan's Stickboy by the Vancouver Opera. It unearthed the darkness of bullying I had buried long ago. I had read the book several times, but watching it shook me to the core of my being. Shane was a few seats away and I can only imagine what it was like for him when it was so gut wrenching for me. He was sharing his pain with ALL of us. This production was a game changer - mixing the media arts, his compelling voice-over and the opera to tell his story. Opera communicates grief so succinctly. You cannot watch it and not be affected.
Shane is no overnight sensation. He has tolled hard travelling constantly, couch surfing, questioning his path, struggling with depression, and as many times as he has fallen he has always managed to get back up again. How grateful I am that he finds it in himself to get back up. One of my favourite lines Shane uses in one of his pieces reads, "you play - you play you win, you play you lose, you play!" Basically keep going and be present for yourself and others.
I couldn't find my camera to take to the event and figured my iPhone would suffice. It did. I didn't hide behind my lens. I did have few photos taken, but mostly importantly being camera free allowed me to connect with other people. I soaked in the experience and felt very present and very humbled that I had been able to take part in this piece of history.
I am choosing to be present and to invest whatever is necessary to fulfill my purpose here and to become the me I was always meant to be. Thank-you to Shane, to Richard, to my Mother, to all those that showed me the power in getting up.
It has been a year today since I posted in the blog - so much has happened… too much to even summarize. I felt I could not let another day go by without sharing - so here are my thoughts on this 25th day of July 2014….
Why is OLD a dirty word?
These lines, these dark circles, these dimples in my flesh – each has a story
You don’t offend me when you say I am old
Old is a privilege denied to many
The fact that I am here breathing almost 6 feet above ground is its own story
I made it
I lived to tell you how I made it this far
Pick a line on my face and I will tell you its story.
Old is a compliment and I thank you…
I wish for you to have the same chance at getting here
Old is knowing that none of the stuff matters
Only the people and the places, the love and the experiences that transpired - that is what matters
You will not take your dying breath hoping to hold your smartphone one more time
You will long for the kisses of your Mother or your Lover
For arms wrapped around you…
To breath the ocean or forest air
Yes I am old. Old, but not so wise
But I am here and that is enough.
© MELODY FOWLER July 25, 2014
"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible" - Dalai Lama
I have always been a sensitive person. At times this has put me at a disadvantage, especially as child when the playground could be a war zone for anyone different. I would lie to try and protect myself. I used to see this sensitivity as a disadvantage, but now I realize it is one of my greatest gifts. I am often able to articulate other people's feelings when they struggle to do that themselves. Some of my best work comes from expressing an event, or a feeling that was someone else's experience. I am able to do this by spending time with them and just listening. I've learned that the parts you need to really concentrate and listen intently to are not the words but the silences. The deepest part of us is revealed in our silence.
Of late I've heard a few stories that kicked me in the groin as though they'd happened to me. I heard of an instance where someone was judged by another in quite a public setting. It said so much about the person yelling across a crowded restaurant. The recipient felt shame and humiliation, which sadly was the intent of the ass doling out the venom. I spent a long time in silence thinking about both parties.
We are all fighting a hard battle.
My high school reunion is this August and I was asked to find a few people. In a class of approximately 100 I have heard several stories of tragedy - brain injuries, trips to rehab, living on the street and even 2 deaths. I know that there will be people that won't want to attend because they somehow feel that they didn't accomplish enough, or don't have enough, and that breaks my heart. We are enough just by being alive. Our survival rate of bad days is 100% to date. We made it. I was not in the 1% of high schoolers that had a fabulous time; and I have never felt the desire to attend a reunion. There is a place in my own silence that perhaps needs to make peace with these people or this time in my life and so I shall attend.
It is very hard sometimes to remember that we cannot see what is behind someone's angry outburst, or anti-social tendencies - and should not judge them. Someone may have lost their job or they could have received a fatal diagnosis from their doctor - we will never know. It costs nothing to be kind. All the things that really matter can't be bought - kindness, love, health and happiness. I borrowed the Dalai Lama's words because of their simple truth - "be kind whenever possible - it is always possible...." That's the beauty of kindness, it doesn't cost anything - and by sharing it the benefit is for both the giver and the receiver...
Love and Karma,
I originally wrote this for a friend when his Mother died a couple of years ago - today it is dedicated to Roxanne who's Mother passed on June 5th... may it bring some comfort to all those that can relate...
BREATH - my first, your last, we shared.
Together. Flesh and Blood. No distance could sever our connection... Not even this one.
Your touch, your kiss - My first.
My touch, my kiss - Your last.
Mom, You live, in my... Every... Breath.
© MELODY FOWLER
This seems particularly appropriate after losing my cousin Nathan Feist today.
My friend Kay went to a 24-hour produce store in her neighbourhood. She was greeted by the elderly Chinese proprietor warmly, "Hello my friend!" He shows her a box of organic bananas that are a little ripe and tells her he'll sell her the whole box for $5. She asks him several times if he's sure. She figured she'd freeze them for the smoothies she makes for herself. She says, "let me just go and pay for my other items." He says, "no no whole thing $5 and I'll carry it for you to your car." How can she refuse?
Kay has been through quite a bit this year after her boyfriend died on Valentine's day, but was feeling a little peaceful and asked the man if he'd noticed the stillness in the air. He says something along the lines of, "oh you are one of those spiritual people" And she tells him about her boyfriend... etc. and his response forgive me Kay for not getting it verbatim -went a little something like this...
"Everyone thinks heaven is soft music and flowers. What F*** do I want with soft music and flowers?" "Chinese people think heaven is gold and jade. What the F*** do I want with gold and jade? Heaven is being happy. Be happy. I want to have fun with my friends. I want to have sex. That's heaven. Be happy. "
Now of course Kay was STARTLED to say the least - a) because of his language and he was elderly and b) because she didn't want the visual of him :) lol.
But you know... when she told me the story I had to agree with him, and she did get the message - which I'm sure her bf had a hand in delivering from the other side. BE HAPPY. Have fun! Fill everyday with love and laugher - and have a lot of sex damn it!
:) ♥ ♥ ♥
Every so often life pulls the rug out from under you. It might be a health issue (yours or a loved ones), a sudden lay-off from work, or the words or actions of another that cut you to your core. I was impaled by the words of someone I considered a friend. I had not seen this person in more than a decade and was gob-stopped at the heartlessness of her words. At first I felt a combination of emotions - hurt, anger, sadness... and then I did what I had to do to protect myself.
When I asked this person what she thought of my book she said, "I thought it was shallow." I took the word at its meaning and asked her if she'd realized that much of what I wrote was not about me. She mumbled something saying they were just words on a page. Even so far as telling me I had no business writing about some of the things I wrote about. I chose not to defend or explain I just listened. When she was done hacking me up she queried, "now I suppose you are mad at me?" I said, "No. You are entitled to your opinion" She then commented that she believed I had it in me to write something great and asked when my next book was coming out. Those words were empty.
I got off the phone with her and my darling husband asked me what had happened and I told him. He was horrified. He said, "I hope you didn't take that into your spirit. I hope you know that you are a great writer. Please don't let this mess with your head." He knows how the wet-blanketing of others can turn an artist into a crying mess. He's seen this kind of venom fill me self-doubt. I said, "No. I am going to allow 1 hour to feel this combination of emotions and then I'm going to let it go."
In my years of writing this is probably one, if not THE MOST VALUABLE thing I have learned, do not absorb the negativity. When people react that way it says so much more about them than it say about you. Your reaction is also important, don't give away your power by believing in their opinion. Trust you ability and never stop believing in yourself. I have learned to release myself from negativity and negative people. There is a difference between criticism and this type of venom. Poetry is not for everyone. My work is not for everyone. A true friend, or any decent person would have said, "Not really my thing, but good for you for putting yourself out there." Instead she chose to give her all to undermining my confidence.
I am here to tell you she does not have that kind of power. She cannot take from me what I do not choose to give her. In the past such behaviour would have caused me a serious setback, but I am different person now. She can't take away from me that I am a published writer. She can't take away all the amazing reviews I have received. She can't unsell the books I've sold. She cannot take from me the moments I've shared when people have said to me, "I felt like you looked right into my soul and wrote what I was feeling. Thank-you." No she cannot take any of that from me.
Surprisingly I feel grateful for her showing me that I am stronger than my critics. I am also glad she revealed herself for who she really is, and that is really valuable information.
Onward and upward my artist-self is safe because I know how to protect her now. So friends, let the haters hate... they berate what they cannot create!
I am in the throws of my vacation. It isn't a trip to Paris or laying on a beach. It is a working vacation to complete my novel. I am filling my days with yoga, family, friends... and writing.
I had to deal with a huge disappointment last month. After months of negotiations with a Chapters location (brick and mortar as opposed to on-line store!) I was going to be on the shelf. Turned out the deal with my publisher did not include the pre-requisite "book buyers return it program" necessary to be stocked on their shelf. It continues to be available on-line. I licked my wounds and vented about it on Facebook... as it turns out that was the right move, and as I've always believed everything happens for a reason.
The right person saw my post and offered an introduction to an agent. Most of you may not realize this but it is almost impossible to land an agent without an introduction. This offer is a HUGE gift from this person and the universe. Wish me well and send me positive creative vibes and the reward will be worth the energy sent!
It is imperative that I finish this piece for my own peace of mind. I'll keep you posted!
On Saturday night I attended Shane Koyczan's performance at The Vogue in Vancouver, BC. For those of you that are not familiar with Shane, he is poetic genius. Some of you may have seen him perform at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The first time I saw him was a small coffee shop on Commercial Drive in Vancouver around 2008. I had no idea who he was, I only knew that his words brought me to tears. I approached him before I left that night to tell him as much.
His performance on Saturday was extremely moving. Beyond the performance, what truly touched me were the anecdotes he shared about his family, his friends, his lovers and his bullies. He told us he had almost been off anti-depressants for a year and had quit smoking over a year ago. He did not mention his weight loss but that was pretty obvious as well. He shared the heartache of being bullied as a child. The hurt he suffered as an adult. He bravely invited us all in to understand his journey. What an amazing human being and for me a personal hero.
He travels the world performing his poetry and has 3 books so far... 2 of which I have carted around for years hoping for the opportunity to have them signed. I had my moment on Saturday night. I was so nervous. I was grateful my dear friend Deborah was there as the greatest wing woman in the world! She shared the performance, laughed with me, cried with me and then made sure I was in the right place to have my books signed. This was no small feat, the Vogue holds 1,000+ and has a very small lobby and you could see the staff were in a bit of a panic, as was I... I was probably about 5 people back. I listened the teenagers behind me filled with excitement talking about the fact they may miss the last sky train but didn't care because they were going to meet Shane Koyczan! Here's me 30 years older than them and having the same dialogue inside, freaking out with excitement. The gentleman in front of me asked Shane if he would sign his ticket stub and told him how moved he was by the performance. Shane was of course gracious so lovely signing his ticket and asking the man his name. Shane makes no bones about he is terrible with names.
It was then my turn. I wanted to be witty. I wanted to be memorable. The man is my hero after all, right?
I said,"well I'm going to make up for him I have 3 books for you to sign." Shane said, "wow you have the whole set."
AND THEN IT HAPPENED. He looked up paused and said, "is your name Melody?" Time stopped. I thought I'd had a break with reality. "Melody Fowler, right?" I am honestly unsure if I responded. My wing woman commented, "Wow you have a good memory." She looked at the stage horrified realizing he may think she meant the poetry and added, "for faces."
Now this may not be verbatim, understand I was questioning my sanity... but he answered something like, "well some faces are so beautiful you remember the name attached to them."
Once again I do not remember if I was able to squeak out thank-you - clearly there would be no witty or memorable dialogue coming from me, so I kissed him. I am GRATEFUL to the universe that security did not cart me away. It would have been worth it though... Whatever words followed I cannot recall, I know he thanked me for coming out...
WOW. Deborah and I like two schoolgirls re-enacted the scene over and over again on our way home. I am glad there was a witness because I absolutely would have checked myself in for observation if there hadn't been!
Everybody needs a hero. Not everybody's hero lives up to what they believe in their hearts and minds though. Mine surpassed anything I could of dreamed up.
Shane is included in the dedication of Life Lyrics and I had sent an email to his fan page saying as much - I don't know if he ever saw it... but if he sees this - I want him to know I can now say with some authority, I know what awesome tastes like!
You will continue to inspire me Share.
With Much Love,