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Having Borderline Personality Disorder sucks a lot. The struggle and pain of it all is so intense sometimes.

But I’m also discovering the gifts of highly sensitive emotional people.

  • We are naturally empathetic and compassionate
  • We are able to have deep and authentic relationships
  • Our joy is contagious and can be found in the simplest of things
  • We can’t ignore the pain and injustice we see around us
  • We make great artists and storytellers.

I’m glad I’m still myself with BPD and that having intense emotions isn’t inherently a bad thing. Emotions are signals that help us understand what is important to us, what we need in each moment, and how we relate to the world around us. I’m grateful for my emotions, even the sometimes really painful ones, because of who they make me.

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World Down Syndrome Day 2017 passed on March 21st. This day of celebration and raising awareness is organized by Down Syndrome International to give voice to individuals who aren’t often heard in the mainstream. Although there has been increasing advocacy in Canada for education, opportunities and jobs for people with Down Syndrome, there is still a need for strong advocates who will help others listen to them and work alongside them to build a more equitable society for all people, both with and without disabilities.

My friend Brian Sloan is one such individual. I met Brian when I worked at L’arche Hamilton in 2010-2011, where he shares a home with other core members and the assistants that support them. My wife and I have remained close friends with Brian ever since.

Brian was born with Down Syndrome, a developmental disability caused by an extra chromosome. Down Syndrome can affect a person’s development to a variable degree – some people with the disorder live a very normal life going to school, working at a job and living independently. Others require more assistance.

For Brian, who is in his fifties, he learned from an early age to depend on non-verbal forms of communication and never developed speech. Had he been given some of the opportunities, support and resources that are now available to young children with Down Syndrome, this may have been different, but we’ll never know.

What’s more important is that Brian’s lack of verbal skills does not hold him back from developing close relationships with friends and communicating his desires and emotions. If you ever get a chance to visit Brian, you will instantly discover his incredible ability to help you feel welcomed into his home – most likely by taking your hand and suggesting you spend some time colouring with him. He can be quite convincing and his joy as you colour together will show you the worthiness of this often overlooked pastime.

My friendship with Brian has taught me so much about non-verbal ways of communicating. He uses a moderate number of signs, mostly for activities he enjoys, people in his life, and of course, his favourite foods. But his eyes and his smile communicate so much more than words. I know this when he pulls me close for a hug, when we relax on the couch colouring together, when we’re dancing and laughing along to music, and when I sit with him in silent prayer.

Brian has taught me more about friendship, presence and joy than eloquence could ever express. I forget my fear of judgment when I’m with him and I learn true acceptance of myself and others by his example. He helps me remember that all the ways I communicate with others are important, not just the words I use.

Thank you, Brian, for teaching me language beyond words.

On Sunday night I sat on my team’s hockey bench, sucking in air after a long shift. I cursed my body for the poor choices I’ve made when I’ve given in to the addiction of sugar, and the laziness of screens.  I love the game of hockey – the thrill of chasing the puck, confronting an opponent, and being part of the team.  But at times my body holds me back, and at that moment I felt like quitting for not being as fast, as strong or as skilled as some of the other players.

And then I remembered my brother.  And what he would give for lungs that could play hockey, for the chance to be sucking wind on the bench after a tough shift.  I took notice of my breath, of the relief of air entering lungs, and felt my pounding heart slow down and my energy return.

Later that night I lit a candle as a prayer for my brother’s health.  I pictured him playing with his dog, and skating with my niece, and swimming at the cottage.  I cannot wait to see him run.

As gratitude for my body, I wrote these words:

 

This body is not perfect.

She is marred with scars and stretch marks.

At times she creaks and groans.

I hide her from the lens of cameras and the eyes of others under layers of cloth and shield.

 

This body is not perfect.

She is not as fast, as swift, as graceful.

At times she huffs and puffs.

I conceal her fatigue and weariness with silent gasps for air, for life.

 

And yet this body moves.

This body breathes and digests and regenerates.

She can run and play and jump.

She makes rhythm, song and dance.

This body tastes and hears and smells.

She feels my lover’s embrace.

 

These eyes seek out beauty in its endless forms.

These muscles and bones are strong and able.

These lungs take in air and give oxygen to this blood.

This heart circulates life to each cell.

 

This body is blessed with health.

She deserves love over judgement, movement over idleness, food over filler.

This body deserves kindness.

This body sustains Life.

I know I am one of the lucky few people who has found a career that fills my life with hope and meaning.  I can’t begin to describe how much my life has been shaped by the wisdom and grace of the men and women I support.  People often think that supporting adults with developmental disabilities must be challenging or requires a lot of patience, and yet they fail to see the depth of reward that comes from these relationships.  My friends from L’arche, and the clients I work with now, are constantly teaching me about grace, patience and identity.

A few months ago, a client saw my wedding ring and asked me about my husband. When I told him I married a woman, he reacted with surprise saying “Why would you do that?”  It was clear that the idea of same-gender marriage was not something he was familiar with encountering.

I responded by saying, “that’s just who I fell in love with.”

And without missing a beat, he raised his shoulders and said, “well, you gotta marry the one you love.”

I wish he could explain this to so many others who think the love that two men or two women share is somehow different than the love between a man and a woman.

Same love.

We move towards grace.

At times the progress is sufferingly slow.  Yet, even in our most painful moments, we stumble forward.

When I came out over two years ago, my world was different than it is today.  The changes in my life (and the lives of those around me) are part of a greater process. We both influence and are influenced by this process.

When I came out, my dad struggled to accept what he called “a life-changing choice.”  He was hurt and angry.  In our first conversation about my orientation, I came to see the root of fear in homophobia.

When my wife came out to her extended family, it sparked conflict that, while the foundations have existed for decades, suddenly centred on her orientation and her choice to share the love she and I had found together with her relatives.

When my dear friend came out, his family believed reparative therapy (or ex-gay ministry) was the only choice he had.

Today, I look at the picture of my father walking me down the aisle to marry my bride, I see the look of sheer joy and pride in his eyes, and I am filled with gratitude for the grace in our lives.

Today, I hopefully anticipate the first family gathering Kathryn and I will attend together, knowing many of her extended relatives feel as broken by the family conflict as we do.

Today, I celebrate as Exodus International, the largest ex-gay ministry in North America, announces its closure and the head of the organization issues a heart-felt apology to those who have been hurt by its existence.

If you don’t already know, being gay is not a choice.  The only choice we have is how we live our lives.  We choose to live towards grace.

When I was a camp counsellor, I used to do Roses and Thorns with my campers – a way of reflecting on the day and saying this was the best part of my day, and this was the worst (or the thing I enjoyed most and the thing I enjoyed least).  Looking back it’s funny how related this practice is to the prayer of examen – an idea I’ve recently come across and began practicing as often as I remember (which isn’t very often).  I had a wonderful reminder on Sunday of the significance of this practice, of taking the time to weigh both the good and the bad of the day, with gratitude and an acceptance that both are what create life.

Monday was a difficult day.  Monday, in my opinion, would have been the perfect day to stay in bed and ignore the world.  My ideal Monday would have began at 3pm after sleeping all morning and most of the afternoon, at which point I would have watched a movie, maybe found something to eat, slept again till 10pm and then complained to myself for sleeping all day and not being able to sleep at night.  It would have been nice.  Instead, I spent Monday at Irving Nature Park and it was much too buggy.  There were too many children running about.  Too many happy smiling faces that were interrupting my grumpy day.  So I gave up on the walk, found Trevor and Candice (who were most certainly having way too much fun biking through the park) and we decided that Coralee, Sandy and I would go shopping instead and meet up with them later.  Except Monday was a holiday and the stores were closed.  By the time we got home it was time to meet up with two friends who were coming into Saint John to whisk me away from the chaos of a very full house for supper.  And of course, it was lovely to see them, but I was so frustrated by the beginning of my day and so caught in the headspace of chaos and feeling so guilty for wanting to be ‘free’ from the group for awhile that I couldn’t really relax.  I got back to the house and sneaked away to ‘do homework’ which actually meant fall asleep.  By the end of the day I wished it hadn’t begun.

Tuesday, another day that I began feeling equally as tired, was surprisingly much more enjoyable.  And it wasn’t a bump free day.  But something was different… maybe it’s just that I was committed to spending the day with my group and that commitment made it easier to roll with the group as they flexed and adjusted to the schedule.  I think there are at least two or three lessons here.  I’m not sure I can articulate them well, but I will try.

The first is that these relationships I am forming are not relationships of dependence.  It is true that I assist Coralee and Trevor and Sandy with various things throughout the day, but there are so many things which I also need assistance with.  These relationships are ones of interdependence.  This changes my role in the group.  I am here as a participant, not as a staff person.  And the things which I need assistance with are various and probably innumerable – learning forgiveness and grace (a gift of Coralee’s), finding something I’ve misplaced be it the car keys, or a car, or a person (a strength of Trevor’s), learning the depth of non-verbal communication (a gift of Sandy’s).

Secondly, the structure of our days should be more like a rhythm and less like a routine.  Rhythm leaves room for improvisation, creativity, interpretation, spontaneity and even error.

Third, thinking about wanting to be somewhere else makes it harder to see the gift of where I am.  I think having made a commitment to a moment, a day, a year actually makes it easier to live through the harder days.

And I think all of these come back to gratitude.  And gratitude for both the gifts and the challenges.  One without the other would not create the same opportunities for my own growth and development.  And both are equally necessary and present in each day (I think).

So I am still struggling through some of the hard things about being here.  But I am learning that most often I am frustrated by my own failure.  I am frustrated by my impatience more than by the person with whom I am being impatient.  I need others here to show me how to deal with this.

Manitoba:
+ played a didjeridu
+ jammed with the greatest beatles fan
+ built a teepee
+ fallen in love with Hugh Grant
+ memorized the best creamy pasta broccoli recipe
+ watched about a boy
+ read Ecotopia
+ african drumming workshop
+ read Waiting for Godot
+ chicken butchering (30)
+ discovered bubble tea
+ two weeks at Northern Sun Farm
+ hula-hooping with steph
+ building the cob house at SNAC
+ Thanksgiving and our walk to the park (Hippies!)
+ worked at a thrift store
+ wore black lipstick (halloween)
+ learned a bit about running a small business
+ house managering with Becca, twice
+ scavanger hunt in Lorette, meeting Micki
+ visited the Monastery ruins
+ visited three workers co-ops (Organic Planet, Mondragon and the Bike co-op)
+ gotten better at chess
+ watched countless sunsets from our swing
+ read communist manifesto
+ harvest and the potato dirt fight with Jess
+ house managering with Micah – AH! The Beets!
+ World Bank Game
+ made 2400 dream-catchers for the Festival du Voyageur
+ self-defense workshop
+ made a 4 person swing out of a cubicle wall
+ played poker, and lost a lot of money
+ read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
+ roller-skating with our cluster
+ Winnipeg wander – so many cool shops! (Ragpickers, Prairie Sky Books, Mondragon, Mango, the used bookstore, Junto 91)
+ Winnipeg Art Gallery
+ Museum of Man and Nature
+ spent 48 hours with my parents in winnepeg
+ jamming with Guillaume at rotation camp
+ visited Springs church in Winnipeg
+ fell in love with chai tea
+ walked the Assinibone River
+ learned a bit of accounting stuff (quite boring)
+ been to a meditation sanctuary
+ learned to make falafels
+ planted trees
+ pig butchering (4)
+ saw love actually
+ sorted books at the high school library
+ breakdancing workshops
+ Tai Kwan Do workshop
+ wrestling workshop
+ visited the petroforms at White Shell Provincial Park
+ visited the Forks
+ read David
+ bought weakerthans cd, left and leaving and fell in love
+ landed in Thunderbay
+ Reflexology workshop
+ two saunas at NSF
+ learned to split wood
+ harvested 100 trees
+ collected eggs, gardened, other farm work
+ read Fast Food Nation
+ made friends with a goat named Reuben
+ saw the Aurora Borealis for the first time, and my parents were with me
+ watched a bollide light the evening sky, sitting around a campfire with alumni
+ lived in Manitoba for 3 months
+ read Mere Christianity
+ sang twelve weeks of Katimavik at rotation camp
+ massage workshop
+ watched boys don’t cry
+ learned about different Ojibwa tribe rituals (Sundance, Vision Quest, sweat lodge)
+ made homemade yogurt
+ roasted my first chicken (at 500 – eek!)
+ and two more since then
+ lit my own woodstove
+ learned how ‘eh’ got started
+ final presentation in lacolle
+ become an Xavier Rudd fan
+ the cube visualization activity
+ learned about sustainable living
+ meditation workshop
+ learned to play and dance the tango
+ watched a lunar eclipse on a somewhat cloudy night
+ met motivational speaker, Brad West
+ saw 2 Charlie Chaplin films in a theater
+ visited Big Rock Organic Farm
+ thanksgiving dinner outside with 30 people under the stars
+ bought my first Ani cd
+ climbed a windmill tower
+ met a drug dealer from Amsterdam
+ learned to make potato pancakes, two different ways (shredded or mashed?)
+ shingled a hallway

Quebec:
+ read the favourite game
+ sign language workshop
+ CPR course with Craig Ross, funniest guy ever
+ thrown up on a bus
+ seen butterfly effect
+ farewell party in quebec and jamming with liz
+ broke up a fight on the school bus
+ saw mean girls
+ read go ask alice
+ watched a magic show in french
+ ringette on beaver lake
+ played scrabble in french. (jeux for 60 points.)
+ new horizons workshop in st. jean (boring!)
+ tire d’érable – maple syrup on a stick. no easy task, just ask kori.
+ two words: tracy. chapman.
+ had mussels for dinner. and enjoyed them.
+ watched Saving Private Ryan
+ T.U.R.D.
+ vanilla tea. yum.
+ saw butterfly effect
+ st. valentine’s festival
+ watched hitch in theatres in french
+ house managering with jess
+ Huit Femmes in Chambly
+ said goodbye to the class of kindergartens 😦
+ made my first lasagna
+ found an ice rink to play hockey, a lot of hockey
+ had my family visit for christmas
+ witnessed a pick-pocketing
+ saw The Hamburg Cell
+ saw dodgeball. twice. in one night
+ biodome (penguins & monkeys)
+ read The Catcher In The Rye
+ played ping-pong with a 63 year old lady and lost. three times.
+ 3 local Quebec bands play live
+ played guitar with liz, 67 years old
+ watched the sun rise over lake champlain
+ played Greensleeves on a 100+ year old pipe organ
+ read I was a teenage katimaviktim
+ wove a basket
+ donnie darko and pop rocks on a date with steph
+ watched the titanic and erin brokovich in french
+ read Illusions
+ painted a canvas
+ survived my first christmas away from home
+ made a list of goals for my life
+ dreaded Jess’s hair
+ bought Oliver Twist and Selected writings from Descartes
+ competed in a lumberjack competition. came in second. with style
+ fetes de neige in montreal
+ read Uh-oh, by Robert Fulghum
+ had the airport lose my luggage
+ discovered bobby mcferrin
+ read Beautiful Losers
+ read oliver twist
+ organized a christmas movie marathon including: eight crazy nights, the grinch, love actually and miracle sur la 34e rue
+ learned how to play Summer of ’69
+ read Franny and Zooey
+ learned to knit
+ had tea with jessica everyday of house managering
+ skated on lake champlain
+ learned Hotel California on guitar
+ had a boy cut my hair
+ 48 hours in Ontario! (jamming with azalea, lunch with matt, sleepover, lake with mom (the sunlight hitting us so suddenly), party on saturday, and rob’s ordination (harmonica lessons, food, and jokes with jenn))
+ went to a petite carnival in quebec
+ listened to the ice on the lake crack
+ compiled a list of authors to investigate
+ danced the salsa with steve in a techno club
+ saw the Adirondacks
+ watched the moon rise over lake champlain
+ beaver tails. yum yum.
+ the room visualisation activity
+ miracle poutine
+ visited two old age homes (met Maurice and Gary)
+ climbed Mont Royal
+ made lasagna for my host family
+ tobagganing with the kindergarteners
+ Hellenore Plunka
+ lived in the country with corrine and christian for two weeks
+ read up on the history of Montreal
+ visited St. Joseph’s Oratory and attended Mass in French
+ helped with the food drive
+ skated beside the st. laurent, across from centreville de montreal
+ watched elf
+ visited a butcher shop
+ dreaded jessica’s hair
+ worked in a French school with grade one’s, two’s and kindergarten

New Brunswick:
+ flown to moncton
+ hiking and beach exploration on Minister’s Island
+ played slide guitar on a horizontal guitar (?)
+ campfire and smores at the ocean bay
+ european handball
+ off-roading in the Katimavan
+ coolest bridge ruins ever
+ drove along the ocean floor when the tide was out to minister’s island
+ worked at Lincourt manor
+ New River Beach Provincial Park (running on the beach, seaweed and barnacles, spelunking with kate and sarah and kori, collecting shells, exploring)
+ st. croix island, 400 year anniversary
+ lived on the bay and watched countless sunrises from my bed
+ bouldering and hike on minister’s island
+ saw winnepeg group at moncton airport
+ watched the moon through the night
+ watched the tide roll in and out
+ seen stars from my bed
+ read all but four calvin and hobbes
+ The Photo Book
+ coolest girl’s room ever
+ organized the bookshelf
+ drum-offs with graehme
+ planted mystery herbs
+ dressed up as turkey lurkey for the skatathon
+ craziest version of keep-away ever, in the dark
+ st. martin’s beach with cluster
+ st. jean wander with emily (washrooms, sparklers and security guards)
+ new brunswick museum
+ drove through a covered bridge
+ lighthouse
+ dulce. yuck.
+ treasure hunt in St. Andrew’s (There’s treasure everywhere!)
+ Block house in St. Andrew’s
+ Biological research center and aquarium
+ Wharf with watermelon
+ wandering st. andrew’s, window shopping
+ hike up Rossmount Mountain, exploring old house with Kate
+ read (most of) The Tattooed Map
+ snowboarding at Poley Mountain
+ Bird’s Eye View live
+ St. Patty’s day drinking games
+ Napolean Dynamite! Idiots!
+ putting on all the clothes I own (44) and playing Strip Tag
+ collage (Baby, you are pure potential)
+ learned to do the loon call
+ floor hockey
+ read the poisonwood bible
+ tasted pomello (grapefruit that tastes good and has a nerf football for a skin)
+ Deer Island
+ Judy’s house for crafts
+ guitar theory lesson from Matt
+ Science East
+ free time in Fredericton
+ Fredericton Farmer’s Market, the hangout on a saturday morning
+ Beaverbrook Art Gallery tour
+ Santiago by Salvador Dali
+ read the first Harry Potter
+ Read Jonathan Livingston Seagull
+ St. David Ridge, and the cattle farm
+ easter egg hunt and SO much chocolate
+ chocolate museaum tour (and more chocolate)
+ racing grocery shopping
+ weenie roast
+ ham dinner
+ mom’s visit
+ running away to fredericton, up 785 and ending up in saint john
+ st. andrew’s (story book town) and walking out during low tide
+ Saint John, St. George, and Deer Island – all in one day. And the gorgeous bridge in St. George!
+ the whirlpools on deer island and my inukshook (sp?)
+ the abandoned house with mom
+ Picnicing at New River beach.
+ Mocton/PEI trip – Hopewell rocks and caving with kate and graehme and getting scared by a pigeon, drugged on gravol, Fundy, downtown moncton, ultimate in the park, the acadian museum and art gallery, the jam room, i hate jude law, magnetic hill, fort beausejour, mooning nb from ns, charlottetown, providence house and the harbour, wendy’s house, summerside, the ice pans, the beach and skipping stones and red sand, confederation bridge, shediac, the giant lobster, fight club, green gables, pei national park, is there anything i missed?
+ billeting with Kass and Maggie (movies and babysitting)
+ movies at billeting: spiderman 2, klan of the cave bear, pay it forward, sideways, spanglish, monty python and the meaning of life, napolean dynamite, love actually, pirates of the caribean, heavyweights, zoolander, spiderman, harry potter and the sorceror’s stone, lemony snicket’s a series of unfortunate events, finding nemo
+ had my first taste of lobster
+ read The Red Tent
+ read one flew over the cuckoo’s nest
+ harry potter with becca x3
+ posionwood bible
+ nervous conditions
+ hey nostradamus
+ camping trip: rain, fly fishing, amber, jamming, campfire, football, soccer w julie, botchiball, beach, jellyfish and crab, tent evac, caraquet, chuck taylors,
+ eternal sunrise of the spotless mind
+ phantom of the opera
+ mactaquac dam
+ map and compass workshop
+ unb tour
+ sleeping at freddy’s house
+ campfire at freddy’s
+ tenting at freddy’s
+ rock-climbing and the gagetown gym
+ operation store storm, objective: ice cream bars
+ charlotte county food drive
+ huntsman marine biology center
+ camping at ganong nature park in my teepee
+ the coolest playground in st. andrew’s
+ crash in saint john. way to much sugar.
+ hacky-sack and coke refills
+ final presentation with becca (micah and graehme’s halarity)
+ saying goodbye to lincourt
+ ferry to grand manan
+ james bates and his cabins
+ four-wheeling and shovelling gravel with kate. female power and camp songs.
+ debriefing activities on the cliffs
+ “never have i ever…”
+ lobster dinner
+ firecrackers and the campfire
+ shooting star and the dock with kate
+ the bus arriving early
+ saying goodbye to graehme and kate. and the full moons
+ harry potter summary from becca
+ saying goodbye in the airport
+ guitar case full of undies

+ countless campfires and jam sessions
+ baked a delicious egg-quiche thingy
+ leadership, second language, cultural discovery committees
+ sharing circles
+ learned some sick blues improv
+ played countless sports (basketball, hockey, soccer and ultimate being my favourite)
+ tried to become a coffee lover, unsucessful
+ watched no tv
+ become more confident in cooking
+ learned some french
+ learned some astronomy (a light year is six billion km)
+ constellations: seven sisters, big dipper, northern star, orion, cepheus, casieopia
+ learned (or am learning) group living strategies
+ seen five shooting stars
+ made friends from all across Canada
+ cooked for 12, including 4 vegetarians
+ countless team-building games (card houses, spiderweb, nuclear shelter, trip to mars, rope tangle, etc.)
+ workshops on: nutrition, composting, ecological footprints, cooking, bread making, diabetes, tolerance and appreciation of differences, family backgrounds, healthy sexuality, decision-making workshop, values auction, etc.

+ met a great group of ten people to share all this with, and so many others along the way

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