Gemma, Olivia, Darren and Lessons of Love….

Returning from a week of magic I feel regenerated. Last week I posted about the event with Gemma Bostik – the young qirl we inducted into the Outer Rim Garrison:

http://www.delta-optimist.com/news/big-ladner-star-wars-fan-gets-special-honour-1.23305735

and then the young woman Oliva whom I also gave a hero medal to when I was visiting the north for a fancon:

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Little did I know I would be presenting another medal that weekend. The third recipient of the “Hero of the Galactic Empire” medal was a young man named Darren. I was asked by the organizer for the 501st up there – Trevor – if I would be ok to do a hospital visit for the kids in the hospital. The 501st members who come up for Fancon make an appearance at the hospital as part of the “Spirit of the North” foundation. I was tired but of course I agreed. The one good thing with doing hospital troops when you’re “friends” with Vader is you have the added protection of wearing a mask. The mask hides the tears that sometimes flow freely with the accumulation of sweat inside the helmet. If you’ve ever done character work you will understand how hot and sweaty the costumes can be. Vader is particularly hot and moist because of the layers of leather, fiberglass and wool that make up the Lord of the Sith. The mask is a barrier between the character and the actor. While the dark lord makes kids laugh (yes, he does that – he’s not all bad) the actor behind the mask has the freedom to let the tears out. No one can see it, nor should they in these situations. I have always been amazed how Princesses can interact with everyone and withhold the tears – characters empower, entertain, enlighten and make magic – there is a time for them to debrief when they are packing the princess away out of sight of the people we entertain.

Forgive me as I am about to reminisce about something I’ve shared with a few people that further illustrate my poor attempt at a point I tried to make in the previous paragraph. Years ago I had a brief stint with making magic in Southern California. I was young, and I ended up dating another character performer I worked with. She was good friends with Princess Aurora. For those of you not familiar with this princess, she is commonly known as “Sleeping Beauty”. Performers are encouraged to create magic personified for each guest they encounter. One day Princess Aurora was visiting guests at a character breakfast. Characters rove from table to table signing autographs and taking pictures with the guests. Aurora approached one table. She greeted the guests with her usual happy demeanour and asked them what they were celebrating. The guests consisted of a couple and their daughter. Their daughter could not speak, was wheelchair bound , but she could express her feelings through her face. This young girl, balding from bouts of radiation and chemotherapy, was all smiles when Aurora approached. The parents explained to Aurora that she was their daughters favourite princess and that they made the trek to visit the park because it was their daughter’s wish. It was, in fact, her last wish. They were there to make her last months of their daughter’s life full of magic and happiness as they eased the transition of her life to the unknown. Aurora did not have the luxury of being able to hide behind a mask. Her training provided the tools she needed to withhold the tears that would otherwise stream down her face as she empathized with the family. Instead Aurora wished them the most magical time and took pictures with their daughter.

Aurora was at the end of her visit, and she asked her supervisor if there was something they could do for the family. The response was “no”. It is common policy that all guests should be treated equally, and that no one guest should be treated any differently – even when facing the end of life.

When Cindy had changed, she went to the Emporium and bought a Princess Aurora doll. She was able to find the family near the Plaza Inn and approached them. She introduced herself as Aurora’s friend and told them Aurora had told her how much she enjoyed visiting with them and wanted to give the young girl a gift. Cindy handed over the Aurora doll and wished them all well. Later that day she told me about her morning and what happened. We cried together. She was deeply moved by the experience, as was I hearing her share it with me.

A month later Cindy was asked to see her supervisor. The family had written to the company and mentioned to them that their daughter was a huge fan of Princess Aurora, and how her friend “Cindy” had met them outside the restaurant with a present for her daughter. They wrote how impressed they were with the present from Aurora, and how the doll became their daughter’s favourite toy, taking it everywhere with her. They concluded by writing that their daughter had recently passed away, and that they buried her with the doll.

Cindy’s gift was something she felt she had to do. It was a gesture of kindness. She was not expecting to hear anything back from the family. She wanted to simply do something to show she cared. It was something she did to make magic for the girl and her family. Her gift did that.

I have long thought about the Princesses and how strong they are. Cindy’s act of kindness has become a story I share with students. As a masked character I have the luxury of anonymity. Tears are hidden from view. I have the freedom to cry. I am so glad for that. However, the Princesses are my heroes. They continue to inspire me.

So – back to Fancon.

I had gifted a “Hero of the Galactic Empire” to Olivia the day before. As I shared what I had done with the other members of the 501st up there, Trevor asked me if I had brought another medal up with me. I had. He told me about Darren and hoped that he was still at the hospital. It sounded odd to me to hear that he “hoped” Darren would still be there. I learned that Trevor does the troop at the hospital only once a year, during Fancon. He was hoping Darren would still be there this year. I learned Darren had not left the hospital in years. I finally knew what he meant.

Years.

I brought the medal the next day. We changed in the boardroom at the Spirit of the North office within the hospital. The group consisted of a local Spiderman, a Stormtrooper, TIE Pilot, Captain Phasma, and Vader. We were brought to the ICU, Emergency, Pediatric and other areas. We were followed by the local news station. Here is their report:

https://ckpgtoday.ca/article/527319/special-visitors-unhbc

They left before we met Darren. We were brought into his room. Unable to move or speak, Darren communicates with his eyes. We visited with him and Trevor presented him the medal. He wanted to wear it right away. The doctors helped Trevor place it on Darren. He asked if we could take a picture with him. He agreed. We did. I am glad we did. Darren, like Olivia and Gemma, is a fighter. I continue to have much to learn from such people.

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We all count. We all deserve love. We all deserve respect. Here is the funny thing. I am not a religious person. In the book Les Misérables, Victor Hugo writes “To love another person is to see the face of God”. This line is echoed in the musical’s finale as well.

Gemma.

Olivia.

Darren.

These people were presented the award in that order. G-O-D.

Love. It is what we all have to offer.

Just.

Love.

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The Importance of Being Magically Earnest

It has been some time since I have made a new entry. I do not have a schedule for posting – I simply write when I am feeling the urge. The urge has struck. It is time.

Many things have happened since my last entry. I took a bold step and performed my one-person show, How Star Wars Saved My Life. Audiences were subjected to my story of being abused, and how one science fiction film did save me from destroying myself. I had no idea how it would be received. It was a success. Truly a success. I was humbled by the responses – here is an example:

 

The show had a short run. However, the message of hope was strong, and it appears that there will be a very exciting future for the story. I wish I could go in to more detail, but with NDA’s being signed I will have to wait until I am cleared to share what the future holds for my show.

This post is not about that, however. It is about magic – or more specifically – how magic can be a powerful tool for healing, creating and empowering. You see, I went dark after my show – I needed to take a break. I needed to recharge, reconnect, realign and rest. In doing so I realized I am truly happy when I am helping others. I am most happy when I am creating magic for others. I love magic. Please allow me to explain.

Two years ago I was part of a small group of troopers who went to visit a very special girl. Her name is Gemma Bostik. She is really something. I wrote about my visit with her in an earlier blog. It was titled “Beginnings, Z95.3 and Nick the Guy”. That visit changed the way I approach trooping with the 501st Legion. Here is a bit more on Gemma and her life’s adventure to date:

 

Gemma loved our visit, and this year we were asked to come back and help her celebrate her 8th birthday. It was a bigger event. I attended as a handler (a person who helps others get into costume, look out for them, etc). I was able to watch the characters interact with Gemma and her friends. She was having a blast. The troopers were having a blast. She made them all dance to her favourite song “Uptown Funk”. I watched them dance together: A Stormtrooper, Tusken Raider, Kylo Ren and Boba Fett. She had asked specifically for Kylo Ren to attend her party. She asked us lots of questions. I was not in costume. Instead I was wearing my black BDU Legion shirt with various Star Wars patches. She asked who I was. You see, she believes. She believes in magic – that these characters can visit her, that she is on friendly terms with the Empire. It is something that I believe gives her hope and helps keep that mystery and magic we all love as children. I was slightly taken off guard when she asked me who I was, but I responded that I was their “representative” on Earth. It was a feeble response, but it seemed to work. I realized after that if I was to be a handler for future troops I would need to create something that kept me in the realm of the Star Wars Uniform. An officer costume would be perfect – I could monitor the characters I was handling without being out of place. I now wear the uniform when taking on handler duties. It’s that extra effort that really goes a long way.

Later that night I received an email from Amanda – Gemma’s mom. In her email she wrote that Gemma had a fantastic time and that there was no way she’d be able to top this. Amanda and her husband Charlie go all out for their Gemma because she was not expected to live past one year old. She’s eight as of this year. I pondered over the comment “no way to top this”…..It was time to put magic into action.

I began with my fellow troopers. I asked them if they’d come out to troop a special troop for Gemma again – all replied they would! Great. I thought, we can’t wait for another birthday – it’s too far away. Maybe a few of us could come to their door and give Gemma a “medal of yavin” as a hero medal. Yes, I know you’re thinking “but that’s a rebel medal”. You’re right. It is. But the Empire doesn’t have any medals. I reflected on this. I belong to an international group who dedicate their appearances to raising money for many amazing charities for children. We DON’T have a medal. Giving Gemma a Yavin medal would not be appropriate. After all, they are readily available, easy to get. No. If we were to do this right we would need our own medal. An Imperial Medal. We often gift challenge coins to the children we visit but this has bothered me from time to time. After all, some children are tactile. There is a choking hazard with some coins. Coins can also be easily misplaced or lost. Children, like adults, need touchstones. They need talismans to reassure them things are going to be alright when they go back to the hospital for the umpteenth time. Many of the kids we visit are hospital regulars. Some never leave the hospital. Some don’t come back when they go to the hospital. They need something to let them know it’s all right. Challenge coins can be lost – and if you have ever been with a child when they misplace something they rely upon to calm themselves, to reassure themselves that things are not bad or not scary, then you will know that things can quickly get out of hand. Something that can not be easily lost, that can be nice to look at, that can be held in moments of needing extra reassurance, that is unique and makes them feel special, can be a powerful calming and healing tool. I decided we needed to have our own Imperial medal. Gemma would be the first recipient of the medal. But what would it say. It had to be something that looked like it came from the Empire. I created one that had the phrase “Hero of the galactic empire” forged in the alloy. The ribbon would have to be Imperial colors – so red and black were the obvious choice to me.

Now I had taken care of troopers and a medal. what would be next? I remembered a few years back we inducted a young boy – Wilson – into the garrison. That’s it. I asked our executive and they replied there would be no problem doing that for Gemma. I went over the check list:

Troopers. Check.

Medal. Check.

Honorary member of the Garrison. Check.

Not too bad for a young girl. What else could we do for her? What if she had her own patch and her own coin? Maybe we could create these for raising money for a charity of her choice. Ok, but now this was getting larger and larger. I tried to get a cartoonist to come up with a fun image of Gemma. He didn’t get it and the image was frightening. I posted my dilemma on facebook. Terry, our former Garrison Captain responded with the question “how can I help”. I shared with him how Gemma’s mom asked her if she was ever to have her own patch, what would she want on it. Gemma responded that she wanted to be in a stormtrooper costume, saluting in her wheelchair while Darth Vader stood behind her in front of a symbol of the new order. A bit of a Star Wars hot mess. Within the hour Terry had nailed the design. Things were coming together. I spoke with Matthew Purdy at Toy Traders. His store is huge and amazing and just happens to be Gemma’s favourite place to go when she’s looking for toys. Matthew didn’t even hesitate and offered his space, created a raffle, and advertised. I asked Amanda what Charity she would like to represent – Muscular Dystrophy. I contacted them. Tiffany, the representative attended the day of the ceremony. The troop became an official 501st troop with many troopers signing up. It became larger. I decided I would have to run the event, meeting Gemma at the door when she arrived and announcing her arrival. Stormtroopers filing in behind us as we approached Lord Vader, Boba Fett, a Tusken, Imperial Guards, TIE Pilots and our Commanding Officer. somehow it went off well. We called ourselves “Gemma’s Squad”. I presented Gemma with her medal.

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Gemma had an amazing time. We all did. Her joy and happiness is infectious. That was a few days ago. I then drove up north to Northern FanCon with the 501st. I visited my mom and she told me of another little girl who was a fan of mine (I am not making this up – she loves the Airbud franchise, as well as other Robert Vince movies that I have been somewhat of a regular in). She’s wanted to meet me for years. Just tonight she came by – my niece is one of her caretakers. Her name is Olivia – and like Gemma, she loves Star Wars. I happened to have brought up two other medals, so:

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I presented her with her “Hero” medal. Much like Gemma, Olivia is expressive, full of life and has so much to share and we have so much to learn from heroes such as these two. They inspire me to go beyond to create magic. Some say magic isn’t real. But when I see the joy and the happiness in others, it moves me. Gemma and Olivia have medals that are not common. They have medals that they can wear to their hospital visits and that can make them feel proud to be heroes. They are. Both of them are my heroes. I am so honored that I have had the opportunity to present them both with something that makes them feel special, something that is for them. At the end of the day, it’s not about the medals or the stuff, though. It’s about the things we do or say  and the actions we take that can make this world a more beautiful and magical place.

Gemma told me at her ceremony that she couldn’t walk. I told her, why walk when you can glide? She liked that.

Olivia doesn’t speak. But her movements and expressions say everything. She is full of energy and is a happy and joyful person.

I have learned a lot about love, joy and happiness in the past few days than I ever thought I could have. The magic that I thought I was creating was not what I expected it to be, for it seems in both these cases, these girls were making magic for me. Their magic, like mine, was earnest.

 

 

Hope.

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In Rogue One Jyn Erso manages to convince a group of rebels to join her in retrieving plans vital to the destruction of the Death Star. She tells the assembly on Yavin IV that “…rebellions are built on hope.” Initially she is only able to muster a small group – calling themselves Rogue One as they liberate an imperial shuttle in an attempt to find the plans that ultimately save the galaxy from the destructive super weapon. Eventually the majority of the Rebel fleet come to her aid.

How does she manage to do this? How can one person be the catalyst for change?

Hope.

The Rebellion reaches out to her because they have hope she can help them with their cause. She, in turn reaches out to them because she has hope they can help her. Her decision to go to Scarif and find the plans is one that ultimately saves many. She stops running and directly faces the challenges before her. When she does make this decision to help for a greater good, she finds support – because “Rebellions are built on hope.”

Hope.

Many years ago I suffered grave injustices to my soul, my childhood, my right to innocence – all at the hands of men who could not keep their hands and genitals to themselves. These “men” were men of power. They abused their power for personal gratification. They perhaps found some sense of strength in silencing and abusing the young and the weak. It did not matter to them what three minutes of personal gratification for them did to the children they defiled. Some once. Some more. Much, much more.

 

I still bear the scar on my chin from Brother ______ who violently pushed me down the stairs one day. I believe to this day he had done so as an attempt to kill me. After all a dead child cannot speak – cannot be a threat to the collar he hid behind. He did not kill me. He did not succeed. Soon after that incident I was pulled out of that school – not for what he had done to me over the years – but for what another teacher did – whipping me with an electrical cord. I would move on. I would carry on. I would always remember. I could never forget. I tried to forget – oh, man did I try. It became a part of me – a part of my story. A story my abusers hoped would die in silence.

Hope.

Over a year ago I was accosted in my office. Blocking the door to prevent me from exiting, the older colleague became accusatory. I was triggered. I was brought back to the place of being trapped as a child. It all came back. Over the next several months something changed in this world. People were making the news for speaking out – for telling their stories. The worst kept secret of the Hollywood-casting couch is being shattered. Many, many people are now speaking up.

Hope.

Silence feeds on the individual. When a person is forced to endure hell, it is easy for the victim to remain silent out of fear – fear of repercussion, fear of not being believed, of being mocked, and even fear of being killed for speaking out. It saddens me to hear perpetrators of violent acts of rape, intimidation, and sexual and physical assault, dismiss the accusations against them as false news. To the people who speak out, it is important to know that to do so is brave. It is also the right thing to do. Rebellions are built on hope.

Hope.

The people who thought they had silenced me long ago were wrong to think so. I remember. Some – if not most of them – may be dead – but that does not stop me from speaking out, for adding my voice to the many more before me who have done so. It is time to be heard. For all victims and survivors to be heard.

I have written a play. It’s a testament of the love of my parents, the evil deeds of cowards who hid behind religion, survival, healing and hope.

The play will have its world premiere in December of this year, 2017. I hope that this is only the beginning of this story. It’s a powerful play that chronicles the evil that men do, the resilience of the human spirit, the power of healing, the Force, the way of the Jedi, and of course…. hope. Initially my story was a research paper for an instructor while working on my PhD. It became a performance-based narrative after being urged to write it by a friend. It grew into a production over time as more people joined my rebellious writing. They agreed with the message. They came to join me. Now what was once a singular voice has grown and it continues to grow. I hope that people will come and see the story. I hope they will learn from it. I want people to laugh and cry with me. This is a story of my experience. It is my rebellion against those who believed I had fallen silent. I didn’t. As Obi-Wan tells Darth Vader – “If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Hope.

If you can, if you are anywhere near Vancouver in December, I hope you will see this play. It is for you. It is for everyone who has ever hoped for change, hoped for a better world, and who has hoped for the silence to end.

May the Force be with us.

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Mother of all Jedi

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I miss my Dad. It has been 11 years now since he left this world and became one with the Force. My Mum carries on – alone.

She never had an ‘easy life’. She was the daughter of a railroad agent, and the oldest daughter. When she was just a child – and I hope I am getting her story right – during the second world war, she would help the man who owned the restaurant in her small town. She would write letters for him and help him with his book keeping. Because there was a war on she was paid in rations for her and her family. She has always had an affinity for numbers, and never a stranger to hard work. By the time she was 13 years old she was working in a tomato canning facility. She was moved up a grade early on because of her intelligence. She never went to college but she began working at a bank and became a career banker. She started as a bank teller, and moved up the banking ladder rather quickly. She became a head bank teller and moved on from there to be an executive, spending many years with the RBC.

She has told me many interesting stories about her banking life over the years. As a child I remember her telling me how the police gave the tellers a seminar on how to remember facial features when dealing with customers in the event they were robbed. She had a good time in the seminar and listened attentively. Soon after the course was over she had a pleasant conversation with a customer. When he had left, her manager asked her if she could recall any particulars. She remembered his pleasantness, his brown hair and his smile. However, the manager pointed out to her after her vague description that the customer also had no ears (true story).

She has told me about carrying a gun at her wicket as a young bank teller. It was common practice at the time. She also seemed to attract repeat customers to her wicket, and if she was on lunch it was not uncommon for her customers to wait until she returned to do their banking for them. It may have been because from the pictures I have seen of her, she was tall with dark hair. She made everyone feel at ease when they dealt with her.

What I have observed over the years as her son is that my Mum has always been a people person. She had a way of relating to everyone. It didn’t matter if a person was from a certain social class – my Mum accepted people for who they were.

As a young cub scout I remember my Mum putting on a display of her antiques for the wolf pack. She showed my fellow cubs how cylinder records worked, and was always quick with a funny story. When I am asked about my abilities at storytelling I know I get it from her – though she is way better at telling stories than I will ever be.

My Mum has also been a very private person. She was (and continues to be) a force of her own. I have noticed that her directness is sometimes taken as a harsh attitude. People have said she is tough – and she is. Her living for 11 years on her own is a testament to her strength and resilience. She simply is a woman who does not take sh$t from others. She has had to be tough. However, those that really know her know her beneath that rugged facade. She has the biggest heart out of anyone I have ever met. She often would get in trouble in the bank for helping people out. She would find the best ways to save people money – and if it meant she was out of a commission it didn’t matter as long as it helped the people who often had nothing. She cared for everybody. She was the life of the party. She seemed hard and tough to those who didn’t really know her – but the few who really did knew her for what she is – a caring and loving soul.

Over the years since my Dad passed, my Mum continues to carry on in her house – the only house I knew as a child. Her generosity has been taken advantage of more than once from many in her own family – yet she finds ways to forgive but never ever to forget.

I have written lots of things about my Dad – but I think Mums often get short-changed. I wanted to boast about my incredibly powerful and strong Mum.

I love her as a son – and I adore her as a friend. I often tell her that she is a huge inspiration. I love her more than words can ever do justice.

My blog is about how Star Wars saved my life. Well, my Mum bought me my very first Star Wars Action figure (R2D2) when I was a child. She has a great sense of humour – teasing me about watching Return of the Jedi so many times in the theatre when it came out, referring to it as “Return of the Walleye”. She taught me to have humour during the darker times. She taught me a strong work ethic when I was a child. She led by example and always jumped in to help. She was never afraid of hard work, and yet leads with grace and dignity. The day she found out I had been abused at school, she wasted no time in pulling me out immediately. Looking back I wish I had been able to tell her when the abuse first happened. She would have saved me from a lot of suffering.

It is not Mother’s day. It is not any day in particular. My Mum is my hero. She deserves so much more happiness at this stage in her life than I can ever give her. I hope she truly hears me when I tell her that I love her. If I am a Jedi – then my Mum is a Jedi Master. I am proud to be her son, and she really is the Mother of all Jedi.

Innocence, Ignorance, and the Man at the Blue Bayou….

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It was two years after I was pulled out of the private school that my family went on a road trip to Disneyland. I have written in the past about my Disney experience and how much I savoured my time in that park, feeling so safe and having so much fun with my Dad and my Mom. The recent events in Charlottesville reminded me of that initial trip to Disneyland…. Let me explain.

I was only a child and was growing up in the North, in a small town. Disneyland was an incredible experience unlike anything I have ever experienced before. In fact, it has spoiled my amusement park expectations everywhere. I find myself looking forward to every pilgrimage I can make there. Upon that first visit, I remember visiting Frontierland, and like most park guests, had to look for treasures in the gift shop inside the fort. I picked out a toy musket and a hat. This was no ordinary hat. I had never seen that kind of hat before. I thought it looked really cool. I knew I had to have it. It had crossed swords on the front, with a short black visor. It slouched down in the front and was taller in the back. It had a screen printed fabric sticker on top of a red and white flag in a cross formation – just like the flag on the car in one of my favourite TV series, The Dukes of Hazard. It was grey. I didn’t know anything about the civil war, or the meaning of the confederacy. I was innocent and ignorant to those events at that time.

My parents acquiesced and allowed me to purchase these items. It was no big deal, or so I thought. I sported my grey cap throughout the park. I thought it looked cool. Heck, I thought I looked cool walking around with my musket and my grey kepi. I received compliments from the cast members and had no idea of what kind of message I was broadcasting.

My family had lunch at the Blue Bayou in Disneyland that afternoon. We were sitting and enjoying our meals. My hat drew the attention of a middle-aged man at the table next to us. He kept looking over at me. I thought he must have been admiring my ultra cool look. After a while he leaned over to make pleasant conversation with us. The first thing he asked us was where we were from. We told him we were from Canada. He turned back and said something to the others at his table. He then spoke to me. “That’s a mighty fine hat you are wearing.” I thanked him. “Do you know about the history of that hat?” he asked. I told him that it was a soldier’s hat but that’s as far as my knowledge on the subject went. “Do you know anything about that flag on the top of your hat?” I told him it was the same flag the Dukes of Hazard had on their car. He then said, “You know, that hat would look a lot better with out that flag. They didn’t used to have those flags on them.” I looked at my hat, and thought he may be right. Perhaps my hat would look better without that flag. “Do you like grey?” I told him I thought it was okay. “I prefer blue”, he said. We finished our meals and said goodbye to the people we were sitting next to. They wished us a safe and fun stay. Before leaving he told me that blue would be a really nice color for that kind of hat.

As we roamed around the park that afternoon I began to take notice of the looks I was getting. They were mostly pleasant. But I did notice that the people who were like the man at the restaurant gave me more studied looks. Perhaps the man was right, and the flag on top of my hat did not look as cool as I thought. We sat down later that day for a snack and a break and I took my hat off and looked at it. I started to pick at the sticker. It pulled off rather easily. I discarded it in the trash and believed the hat did look better without it.

It is now decades after that event in my life. Watching the events at Charlottesville this week, like I mentioned earlier, reminded me of that time and that man. Upon reflection of that memory, I can understand his initial hesitation when asking us where we were from and his relief to hear we were from the North. His short conversation with us that day was bold. He planted the seeds for me to look into the deeper meaning of the colors of the hat, and why he had subtly told me a couple times that blue was a good color. It was a few years later that I began to learn about the Civil War and really began to understand what the man at that table, the African American man, was telling me. My grey hat eventually found its way to the trash, and I came to agree that blue was a much better color for me.

I wish I could find that man and thank him for his lesson all those years ago. It was not a lecture, and it was not provoked by anger. I was ignorant to the facts and he offered me an opportunity to educate myself on a matter I had known nothing about. I can’t assume anything about that man’s history, but I can imagine how the image of a confederate flag might feel to some people. I had thought it looked cool. I was ignorantly innocent. I can only imagine how blind acceptance of hate symbols in our society can humiliate and intimidate some of us within our multi-faceted society.

There are some symbols of the past that are best left in history books or on display in museums where they can be put in context. Removing images and symbols from public displays that provide a phenomenological reaction do not erase the history or significance of those objects or their cultural and historical significance. Proper context is required to understand the meaning beyond the “it looks cool” factor. Iconic symbols of history have the effect of being cultural time machines. I don’t remember seeing swastika keychains or souvenir SS hats when I was in Germany. Why are confederate symbols any different? I know I am leaving myself open to many arguments of iconography, semiotics and phenomenological debates, but the essence of what I am attempting to get across is that education is important if we really want to stop the ignorance of “hateography”. If you are going to display it, know what it really means, rather than seeing it through fifty shades of grey.

Time, The Force, and Old Friends Long Gone….

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At the end of The Force Awakens, Rey lands on Ahch-To, climbs the steps towards the first Jedi Temple and finds herself face to face with Luke Skywalker. She hands him his first lightsaber – the one Ben Kenobi gave Luke many years before on Tatooine. Luke knows then that his isolation and mediation is over.

To me, this is perhaps one of the most powerful moments of Episode VIII. Luke has exiled himself far away from his circle of friends – from those who love him. He has made a choice to live in isolation.

Over the past number of months I have been living in an isolation of sorts – I have gone out of my way to exclude myself from others and from social activities. To engage with others brings up feelings of anxiety and fear. Much like Luke, the incident at the university I worked at brought with it many ghosts from my past. Ghosts that I have been forced once more to spend time with. Hear me out, I am not a victim of the past. Quite the contrary.

I believe my social isolation has been (and remains) a pilgrimage into my soul. I am resetting my compass – and doing so much to the chagrin of my foes – I am regaining my strength. Over the past few years the external dark forces have been feeding on me. I have allowed the actions of a few to break me down and to rob me of my light. I know this now. I have been on a path of self-hate – something that returned from my childhood into my adult years. The opportunists tried to use this to break me, and they almost succeeded.

Almost.

I am a great believer that time is a great healer. I really believe in this. At times I have looked to my own power with awe and excitement. At other times I have cursed the power within and felt it shrivel. In the past I have let moments of time grow large while revisited in my mind – each time the moment replayed it grew and festered. I have had false friends teach me to shame myself, and the shame replayed and replayed like a never-ending carousel. The false friends are gone, but their ghosts live on in my mind.

Those evil spirits have had me pull away from fortuitous interactions. They have helped me keep my head down when I have yearned to hold it up high. Even as I write this I am filling up with a sense of relief to let it out. I am seeing the light of letting go of the past – it’s still baby steps, but the light is ahead – I can feel it.

Yoda tells Luke that the Force is powerful, and that with it a Jedi can see many things – other places, old friends long gone, the future….. I have seen the past many times. I see (sense) the future and it is bringing me back to the light. The ghosts of the past are trying to keep me there – but the love of my family, friends and students is a stronger force.

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Recently I received a surprise gift at my door – it was a hand made envelope and card full of notes from some of my former students. The front of the card featured a beautiful paining of Yoda. Tears streamed down my face as I read each of the written notes within. I had made a difference. Somehow I was an influence. I started to see the power that I am and the potential I have yet to reach.

Each day the self-hatred turns towards self-compassion. I am beginning to see the power of self-acceptance and the importance of self-care. I see now that the incident in the fall was a way of kick-starting the Force within me to a higher plane of understanding and acceptance. It was the selfless act of my students – with no ulterior motives – that helped me see my power and my potential. My Padawans became my Masters. I am thankful for their strength in the words they shared with me and I will cherish the card they sent to me. It was a great and wonderful gift.

When Luke turned around to see young Rey before him – and then hand him his lightsaber as a gift and as an offering, he began to weep for he saw that he had a great responsibility in the gift he needed to share with others. This was a gift he had tried to run from but it had caught up with him. I am beginning to understand the responsibility of sharing gifts such as his with others. The Force is strong with me – and I have the ability to share it in a positive way with those around me. I love my students, and the power of their gift to me has called the Jedi to return to the path towards the light. Time is a great healer – and the healing has truly begun.

I am one with the Force, the Force is with me. May the Force be with you. The Force is my ally and a powerful ally it is.

Goodbye false friends – goodbye ghosts of the past, the spirit of love and compassion is returning me to the path of light.

Time.

Breaking the Silence…The Force is With Me….

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I am one with the Force, the Force is with me…..

I have been silent for months now. Inside, however, I am bursting with the need to speak, to create, to write. I have tried many times to write something coherent. Often I stop and press delete – erasing my painful attempts to share. I have made a decision to not delete what I write now, and I hope I will carry on and post what I write. This will take me a lot of time to share my thoughts coherently as I cannot stay focused for long anymore without anxiety rushing to visit me. So be advised that this, like my healing, will take time.

Time.

Time is (or can be) a great healer. It can also bring isolation and depression. It can lead us to our new beginnings or it can take us to the edge of the abyss. Sometimes it feels as though it can do both simultaneously. Here’s what’s been happening. Buckle in for this ride.

Jealousy is an evil and caustic emotion. We all go to that place of loathing, fearing, and resentment. Sometimes we can feel when it is directed at us – when we are being targeted by the ill thoughts of others. I have had several months to reflect on the spells, jealousies and ill – will that has been directed towards me. But for what? For security and for money, unfortunately.

I am one with the Force, the Force is with me…..

You see, as a survivor of abuse I could take several paths that would lead to my salvation or my destruction. After surviving the horrors of abuse at such a young age, I overcompensated by keeping to myself. My energy was focused into learning. I learned about history – a place I could be that existed in any time except the time I currently reside in. As a result I eventually attained the highest degree – a PhD. This was never my goal, or a plan in my life. In fact, coming from the small northern town where I was abused, it’s a wonder I even grauduated. But I did. And I left. And I traveled. And I immersed myself into other countries customs and ideas. I returned to Canada and tried to ignore the resentment from other “friends” who envied my adventures. And I had many wonderful, scary, beautiful and terrifying adventures. I lost friends as a result of being able to achieve my ambitions. People said I was privileged, that I was spoiled. I say no to them. I was determined to make things happen. I am proud that I have been able to attain levels of success in life despite my abuse as a child. The Force is my ally. I believe in it and it is no different than believing that a grey-haired god sits on a throne above us and watches us. We all have our beliefs and they should all be respected. But I digress.

Some of my childhood “friends” didn’t think I was aware of their comments about me – but I could feel their anger and resentment because I was not afraid to live. I didn’t let them get to me – at that time the Force was strong with me and it protected me. But over time, even the strongest of Jedi get worn down. Eventually the words and dark thoughts do break through our protective Force-bubbles.

I was an instructor. I was an instructor because I believe that “Maxima debeteur puero reverentia” – it is to the children whom we owe the greatest respect. I was an instructor because I believed I owed the future generation gifts of my experience. I wanted to let my students know they had gifts to offer the world. I wanted them to learn to harness their internal powers and let the Force be their guide. I wanted to let them know I cared for them. I loved teaching. It was something that came to me easily. I was not an instructor because I had “failed” in my vocation. I was not an instructor because I could not face the “real world”. I was an instructor because I wanted to prepare my students for the trials and tribulations that the real world had to offer, and I believed then (and to this day) that the world needs more magic. With my students I created magic. It was effortless for me to bring out the best in my students. I respected them and in turn they respected me. I know they did because I could feel that positive energy surrounding me.

But the dark times, they came. Brought on by the insecurities of others.

Superiors to me (longer employed instructors) resented my seemingly easy approach to my students. To them, education was something that had to be difficult, tedious, and full of rejection. They fed on student’s insecurities and aimed to break the weak. I remember meetings of my peers where they made fun of the current state of the future generation. I was there when they felt that today’s children were weak and needed to be treated harshly. They felt that acting students needed to be “broken” down and brought back up. They didn’t listen to the issues the students had. They believed in forcing students to do what they were told. They were the Dark Powers. Of course this was not every instructor – only a very few – but a few who loved being the loudest voices. Other instructors feared standing up to them because they were confrontational. I tried to not let them get to me. But I could feel their jealousies towards me because I was seen as a threat, for I was a PhD. At first their evil vibrations were unable to get to me because I was operating at a higher frequency. But their powers continued to grow and wear me down. Eventually I had to stand up to the first of them. At first my stance was seen as a joke, but once my voice was heard very clearly, that first dark power left the university and it felt, for a short time, that love and positive intention was to be regained.

Time.

Shortly after taking on a new role with more responsibility I was approached by another dark power. All that I had stood up for and fought for was dashed from me in seconds. Decades of healing from abuse were shattered from a confrontation I was not expecting. Some may think I was a snowflake, but that is far from the case. I left the campus that morning – turning my attention once more back to me, and not to others. The confrontation that morning stripped back the years to when I was a small child abused. I was shattered. I was alone. I was returning to being a victim.

My ally is the Force.

My doctor, my therapist and my family have been my shelter and my source of positivity. Through their love, guidance and support I have been able to start towards the path of light once more. Slowly I am regaining my power. I am slowly returning to being a warrior. Note the word SLOWLY.

To this day I cannot be in public for long amounts of time. I still look behind me in public. I still feel vulnerable. I shy away from being with others and still prefer to remain alone.  For the first time in my life I am on long term medication to keep me from slipping deep into the darkness. I am still fragile. I am, however, one with the Force.

The Dark Powers will never go away. But finding a way to keep their energy from affecting me is my goal. I no longer audition. I no longer can tolerate large groups. Slowly I am trying to change that. I am trying to let myself enjoy the gifts I have to share with others. I am slowly feeling that I can one day share my gifts with future students. But as I wrote before, it is slowly.

I will not forget the evil done to me by some of my peers. However, I will forgive them. I will forgive them because they are not even aware how caustic they are. They are on their own paths of hate and destruction. They exist – but not in the compassionate reality of love and light. I do hope that they will not continue to harm the energies and ambitions of the students they encounter. I have other peers that teach in the light – and I look forward to the day I can stand with them once more. But I will not stand any longer for those who teach in the dark. Slowly I have been re-learning to stand up to the dark side. I am learning to deflect the negative energies I encounter. I will re-learn to share with my peers and students. But it takes time.

Time.

Until that time comes, I am not going to feel remorse or guilt. I am not going to feed on my insecurities that I am not worthy. I am going to remain in hibernation until I am ready to wake from the winter of my solitude. But know this, I will once more wake with the positive energy to continue to share the gifts I was blessed with. For the Force is my ally. I look forward to standing up and being seen. I will never let what happened to me months ago happen to me again for the Force is with me and I am one with the Force.