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After a rather lengthy hiatus, I’ve put on my writing hat again. A fresh start needed a fresh space (and wordpress was hopelessly confusing) so I’ve switched over to www.alexismarieink.com.

I’ve missed you all so much in my absence and hope you’ll join me as we continue along on this adventure called life.

photo(247)The day after I was born, my father was nowhere to be found.

One can only imagine that my mother was rather annoyed when he showed up at her hospital bed sometime after supper. When she inquired as to where the hell he’d been, he told her that my name was now inscribed at the top of Mount Glasgow.

She shouldn’t have been surprised considering that for their first year anniversary he’d given her an ice axe.

Growing up, the room across the hall from my bedroom was a maze of climbing ropes, ski poles and bike tires.

I would say that the mountains were my father’s second home, but I think it would be more accurate to say that when it came to his love of the great outdoors, everything else came second.

As a kid, he did his best to instill the spirit of the wild within my sister and I. We spent our weekend under the stars, scrambling up rock faces and racing down ski hills.

I was always afraid I was going to tumble off the side of every cliff.

And if not that, it was almost inevitable that I’d be mauled to death by a cougar.

Needless to say, I did not inherit my dad’s adrenalin junkie genes.

I stopped going to the mountains when I realized I was never going to be the climber or the skier or the cyclist that he’d hoped I’d be.

And in that moment, I constructed imaginary boundaries of what I was capable of – and what kind of relationship we’d ever be able to have.

Of course, I didn’t realize all of this until earlier this week when I was clinging to the top of a 40 foot climbing wall and was told I had to “let go”.

As the woman on the ground below me instructed me to do so, I flashed back to all the times in my life I’ve been told to “chill out”, “take a breath”, “relax” and “let go”.

Not surprisingly, the most vivid images were of standing at the top of a bunny hill or sitting on my bicycle as a child, screaming and crying as my parents rolled their eyes and told me to just get down the bloody hill.

And in those moments, I never understood why they thought it was so amusing that I was petrified that letting go meant I was about to risk my life.

As the woman on the ground called up to me at the climbing wall, I realized that it’s been the holding on – not the letting go – that’s been slowly killing me since I was a little girl.

The holding on to all those stories, all that fear, all that shame that I wasn’t the daughter I should have been has had me stuck to the side of a cliff for years.

I didn’t mean to drag the little girl who never thought she was good enough, brave enough or strong enough into my adult life.

I just never knew how to let her go.

The other day, forty feet up a climbing wall, I fell backwards into a free fall, until the ropes caught me and brought me safely to the ground.

The other day, I let go.

All that terror I’d been holding on to wasn’t so scary after all. In fact the minute my feet were on the ground, I was itching to scramble back to the top again.

And as my arms ached and I calculated each stronghold on the makeshift wall, I dreamed about scaling mountains for real.

Maybe I am stronger and braver than I’ve given myself credit for.

Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all.

dec 31Someone (aka the cast of the hit musical Rent) once asked how you measure a year. In daylight? In sunsets? In midnights, in cups of coffee? In inches, in miles? In laughter, in strife? Or do you measure those 525, 600 minutes in love?

When I look back on the past 365 days, I’m not so sure a measurement exists that could quantify the kind of year it’s been.

I suppose I could try to measure it the number of Wunder Unders I no longer fit into. A sign that in this past year, my body began to heal.

I could measure it in the number of kilometres I ran. How each one taught me that I have it in me to be a warrior.

I could measure it in the number of times I shit myself. Once. And in that moment I learned to laugh at the things I can’t control.

Or maybe, the number of posts I wrote. 332 including this one. Shy of the 365 I was aiming for, but more than I ever thought possible.

I could measure it in the posts I didn’t write. How I learned on those days to forgive myself. How each day I stepped away from the page, I learned to let go of perfection.

I could measure it in the number of dollars I saved. Zero. Which, if I were the same person I was that wrote the very first post on here, would be considered a monumental failure.

But I can’t measure this year in goals I achieved and goals I didn’t. For it was in the pursuit of them that the magic happened.

It was in the showing up – even when it sucked, even when I’d failed, , even when the last thing I wanted to do was show you who I was – that makes this past year immeasurable.

And, the truth is, I wouldn’t have shown up if it wasn’t for you.

Your support, your encouragement, your standing for me when I didn’t know how to stand for myself has meant more than anything else.

It has taught me that none of us are alone.

So thank you, for sharing in this journey with me. Thank you not just for reading, but for offering up your stories too.

This year I discovered that we are so much more than our bodies, so much more than our clothes. So much more than what others think of us. So much more than what we think of ourselves.

This year, you taught me that who we are is infinite, possible and immeasurable.

All in all, it’s been a wunder-filled year.

dec 30We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?” – The Doctor

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved to write upon a blank page.

She’d hold a coloured pencil crayon in her tiny hand, and pull stories out of the air.

She’d write what she imagined, and about what she knew. She’d write about far away places she longed to go, and about the place she called her home.

Those coloured pencil crayons were wild and abandoned. The words she wrote told the story of a most spectacular past, present and future.

When she was very young, she’d share the stories that appeared with those around her.

Because she was only little, she had the wisdom to know that her words, though simple, were magic too.

As she grew older, she became afraid of the words that would fall out of the sky and wind up on the page before her. Afraid of the power they carried. Afraid of what those words might do. Afraid that the story she’d tell wouldn’t be the right one.

She forgot that our lives can only be as wondrous as the story we choose to tell with them.

A year ago, she stood before a blank page for the first time since she was a little girl.

As she stared out into the landscape of possibility, it became clear that she had two choices.

 

She could run from her story. Or she could write it out.

That little girl is no different from anyone.

We are all stories.

We all have our beginnings, our middles, and our ends.

There are no right words or wrong words.

There is only the story you choose to tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dec 28Happiness is a muscle.

This is the thought that woke me at 5:22 this morning. The unintended wake -up call that made me jolt out of my slumber and sit up straight in bed. The message from the universe that seemed to shoot through the very darkness and point me back towards the light.

Happiness is a muscle.

So like any muscle, when you use it, it’s strength increases.

According to positive psychologist Miriam Akhtar, 40% of our happiness is under voluntary control – and that’s a lot to play for.

It means that the choices we make about our bodies, our spirits, our pursuits, and even the thoughts we focus on, have a monumental impact on our happiness levels.

It means, that in every single moment, I have a choice.

I can focus on the sources of my unhappiness, or I can flex my happiness muscles.

This is not news to me, it’s just that lately, I’ve been forgetting to work out.

No, I don’t mean I haven’t been hitting the gym enough (although I haven’t and that would probably be helpful), I’m referring to the fact that I’ve been forgetting to savour the moment, express my gratitude and practice the natural self-defense against depression, relentless optimism.

In the wake of some uncertainty surrounding my life’s meaning and purpose, instead of focusing on how much opportunity I have, I’ve only been able to see how lost I am.

And focusing on all that anxiety and fear has made me kind of miserable.

Thank goodness for 5:22am wake-up calls.

 

 

 

dec 27[What’s] worse than the total agony of being in love?” – Sam, Love Actually

We are strolling down the street, hand in hand, enjoying the warmth of the late afternoon sun on our faces. I stop to look in to the window of one of the shops, when J suddenly remarks “Have we really been together three and a half years?”.

I nod and smile “A record for you, huh?”.

He puts his arm around me and we continue down the street until we find a spot for lunch.

As he says it, I realize why I’ve been such a basket case this Christmas.

It is three and a half years in, and I don’t want to run.

In most of my relationships (and for the first couple of years of this one) I spent a great deal of time planning my escape route. Searching for the end of the stick of dynamite. Ready to strike a match and blow a rabbit hole through the structure of our relationship.

I’ve always had my parachute on stand-by, so that I didn’t have to be the one that got hurt.

See, I’ve always just assumed that whoever I loved was going to run.

I figured it was just something that people in love did.

Maybe it’s because of my parents, maybe it’s because of my own heartbreak, or maybe it’s because of Hollywood, but I’ve never believed in everlasting love.

Not believing in love has kept me safe from the total agony of being in it.

But somewhere in the past six months, I stopped functioning in escape mode.

For some reason, I let myself fall dangerously in love with the one I’d been trying to play it safe with for so long.

Somehow, even though my rational self tells me I’ve lost my mind, I’ve started thinking about marrying this guy.

And it’s agonizing because the further and faster I fall, the more I begin to see that I’ve had it all wrong.

Suddenly, I cannot avoid my own bullshit any longer. Because all the things I’ve run from in the past, are staring me in the face every time I look at him.

And I realized this Christmas that he doesn’t wasn’t to run either.

And it’s totally and utterly terrifying.

Because it means I’m going to have to step up.

It means I can’t keep being a mediocre version of myself. It means I’ve got to start believing in the woman he sees every time he looks at me. It means I’ve got to start creating goals that don’t involve dynamite sticks and rabbit holes.

It means I’ve got to start believing in everlasting love.

dec 24Regardless of your faith or affiliation, there’s never a bad time to spend time with the ones you love.

Whether it’s a makeshift family, a gathering of your closest relatives, or a sweet party of one – it never hurts to celebrate the wonder of your journey on this earth.

So in light of spending some quality time with some quality people, there’s really only one thing that I need to say. And that’s Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

I am filled up on the kindness you’ve offered me, in awe of your wonder and love, and forever grateful for your support you’ve showed me over these last few months.

May you always know, regardless of the season, that who you are makes a difference.

Who you are lights up this big, wild world.

dec 23Come Christmas, my mother has two rules. The first is, there is always room for one more.

This rule has meant that Christmas in our house has had a tendency towards the unpredictable.

In fact, I can’t remember a Christmas where someone that I’d never met before wasn’t sitting at the table.

Whether it was someone she’d ran into at the grocery store that morning, a man from the shelter she worked at, or a friend of a friend of one of the pre-invited guests, there are always some last minute additions.

When she’d have my sister and I create the name cards for the table, she’d instruct us to leave a couple blank because, “You never know who might show up”.

This rule was never a problem in terms of food. Her father was a chef for the Royal Canadian Air Force, and so my mother inherited the ability to cook for an entire army.

Where it became problematic is that while figuratively there was always room, our table could only physically hold so many.

This reality, coupled with the sub-rule Christmas dinner is a sit-down affair, meant that you get really comfortable with the people on either side of you pretty fast.

It is likely for this reason (aided by the copious amount of wine consumed) that the post-dinner traditions got so unpredictable. I’m not sure what other families do, but in our house, Christmas dinner consists of a drag show.

In the early years, my mother simply required that all guests sing for their supper. For those too timid to stretch their vocal chords, a simple spoken word poem would suffice.

One Christmas, my sister and my then boyfriend’s brother got away with performing an out of water synchronized swimming routine involving a couch, shower caps and bikini tops.

You had to be there.

In keeping with the nautical theme, our close family friends (a brother and sister duo) were famous for a performance of a strange Siamese-twin routine of “Part of Your World”.

Their father surprised everyone by dressing up in a leopard print coat and doing a dead-on impression of my mother that year.

But the drag show took on a life of it’s own the year we plied my ex boyfriend with half a bottle of whiskey and had him dress up as “Jessica” and sing Santa Baby.

It was such a hit that the following year, given that he was the newest gentleman to grace our table, we forced my mother’s friend from high school to do the honours. He obliged after a few shots of Polish vodka.

A couple years later, I knew J was a keeper when I brought him home for Christmas and in front of my whole family and numerous friends (including the aforementioned ex), he dressed up with my future stepdad and the two became the ugliest drag queens in Christmas history.

Away from home, it is a tradition that I miss deeply.

Not because I long for the sight of bearded men in lipstick and tights, but because Christmas in my mother’s house is always an exciting event.

Regardless of who is sitting around the dinner table, how crowded it is, there’s always space to be wild, unrestrained, politically incorrect, and a little bit crazy.

It is chaotic intimacy at it’s finest.

Without the drag shows, and the synchro routines and the inappropriate board games, Christmas just doesn’t feel like…Christmas.

Which brings me to my mother’s second Christmas rule: find the gift in everything.

Sometimes I’m not sure how I ended up in the family that I did.

See, when I’m home for Christmas, my mother’s easy-going nature drives me crazy. I want things to be structured and run smoothly. I want to know who’s gonna be at the table.

When I was back home a few weeks ago, on the afternoon before she was set to host a turkey dinner for twenty people, the drain in the kitchen sink broke. Where I would have called the whole thing off, my mom just laughed and put all the dirty dishes in the bathtub.

I’m not sure there’s anything that could go wrong that my mom couldn’t see some sort of blessing, lesson or beauty in.

So, while this year’s Christmas may be a more subdued affair, it presents an opportunity for me to truly recognize what a gift all those Christmases truly are.

For in all those years I gathered with the masses around my mother’s table, I learned so much about fun, about generousity and about love.

It’s strange how you can’t see the gift in things until so much later on.

I didn’t realize it until now, but all the people my mom invites to break bread each Christmas Day aren’t there out of the obligation of family or because they have to be. They are there because they are loved. And even if she has to find another chair, or go out and get another turkey, she takes them in. They come because whether they happened to be walking through the local grocer that morning or show up every year, they are welcome.

For there is always more room at the inn.

Tonight, miles away from home, I’m grateful for the gift that is my mother.

So very grateful that in each memory she created, she taught me about what Christmas really means.

dec 21It snowed yesterday. From the sky, millions of snow flakes fell and covered this city in a blanket of white.

It was the kind of snowfall that makes you want to curl up by the fire with a good book, and venture no further than your couch all day.

I had woken up early for an appointment, and on my way home to put on my pajamas to do just that, something told me I should go to the Vancouver Art Gallery instead.

The gallery is a three story building of white marble in the heart of the city’s downtown. It’s steps are a gathering place for people from all walks of life. In the warmer months, men and women in their suits and ties eat their lunches on the steps leading up to the cafe. Throughout the year, there is a gang of leather and spike clad folks perched high on the front steps. They intimidate the crowds below with their stares and pierced lips. Year round, crowds of activists, protesters, engaged citizens and the occasional flash mobs stake out in the art gallery’s courtyard to protest varying causes and have their voices heard.

It is a building where art meets life and life meets art.

Since I moved to Vancouver, my mom has gifted me with a membership each Christmas. And on days when I’m in need of a little inspiration or simply seeking an escape from a hurried life, I venture inside the gallery’s walls.

Apart from the seawall, it is my most treasured place in this town. Just like the ocean path I love to run, it is wild and peaceful all at once.

But where I go to the seawall to stop thinking, I go to the gallery to think about everything.

Each exhibit (and they’re always changing) is a conversation between my own thoughts and the mystery and magic of this world.

On any given visit, I can in one moment find myself lost in the forests with Emily Carr and the next be transported to a boardroom where I engage in a silent discourse with contemporary religious figures and politicians.

It is a place where the dreamers mingle with the realists and the historian looks into the future.

It is the intersection of what is known, and what is possible.

There is currently an exhibit that features a selection of works by renowned installation artist Antoni Muntadas. Displayed outside the gallery is one of his pieces most famous slogans “Warning: Perception Requires Involvement”.

I think, to some extent – and I say this because I’ve felt it – that we are all a little bit afraid of art.

We are afraid of what it might conjure up.

What if after bearing witness, we’ll have to get involved?

I feel it every time I enter through the gallery doors. I hesitate and take a breath, for I never know what I will be confronted with.

What if I won’t be the same person when I walk out?

It is in some ways frightening to think that a work of art might transform the way I interact with the world.

That I may witness more honesty on a canvas than there is on the news. That a line on a totem pole might shift my perception of history. That watching a projection across an armchair might make me vulnerable in the face of radical thoughts and violent ideals.

But it is for that reason that I go.

To shake up the way I see the world.

To open myself up to mystery, to beauty and to truth.

 

 

dec 20Taking a ‘snow day’ to spend some time with the one I love. Because that’s what this season is all about.