This is my arm. About every 56 days or so I'm at the Canadian Blood Services clinic in Edmonton, donating whole blood. I've been donating since 1979, and since I'm ONeg, a universal blood type in which my blood can be administered to anyone in an emergency, I feel especially compelled to donate for the good of others. I'm hoping to reach 200 whole blood donations within the next couple years. If you're interested in donating yourself please reach out to your own local donor agency.
In the meantime, I think its time to extend my arm and open my heart in another way.
You will note elsewhere on my author website that I committed to write again once my wife and I visited Savannah, Georgia. For some reason, that I still don't fully understand, I wanted to allow my creative energies to lay fallow until we took this dream holiday. However, that long-awaited trip scheduled for April 2020, was cancelled due to the current pandemic. The same way I feel called to donate blood I also recognize a force within me needing to be poured out again. Like donated blood, I may never know how my words may be received, or if it supports and inspires others, but unless I show up at the clinic, or show up to write, then I can be certain nothing will happen.
Yes, its time to write again. The season of fallow and rest is over. I can tell you one of the characters in my new novel is named Savannah, and she will have lots to say to me and my readers, even if she's unresponsive in hospital. Like all my novels, I will write from my collective experience in health care, and after 41 years of service there is no shortage of inspiration to draw on. And hence, no reason to pause any longer to write. I will keep you posted as the story unfolds...
If you've read, A Most Spectacular Narrative you might be able to guess the significance of this picture. I took part in the Pittsburgh Steelers Fantasy Football Camp earlier this month, and am happy to say I survived it without injury! Sore and limping, yes, but thankfully no torn ACL.
This was a dream of mine for some time, and if there is one regret in my life it's that I wish I played football. Alas, my dream of a career in the NFL was all but a fantasy, but what was real was the hard work this spring, all the hours of training, and the intense mental work of preparing for camp and believing in myself that I could do it. I'm proud I participated and grateful for what I learned about myself in the process.
From a cognitive therapy perspective, the messages we tell ourselves about what we look like, or how smart we are, or if we belong and fit in can play havoc with our lives, and rob us of the joy and serenity of being "good enough," as my Dad always said. I have struggled throughout my life with needing to reframe those messages that would want me to doubt being good enough, of fitting in, and having something worthwhile to say and contribute. Even to go to a Steelers fantasy camp.
So this experience was more than just hard work on the field, and pushing myself to the physical limits. It was as much a metaphor for my life. A mental exercise of daring myself to claim what was important and meaningful without yielding to those inner demons that might otherwise temp me to play it safe.
It was also an experience I wanted to share vicariously with my brother, who first introduced me to the Steelers as our team back in the 1970s, and unlike me, didn't tell himself he wasn't good enough to play football. He went on to play for the St. Boniface Warriors in Winnipeg, whereas some years later I could only serve as the General Manager for the St. Vital Mustangs, and watch the game from the sidelines. My brother Tim has taught me much and I know that we have a bond that will help us face any demon in our lives, and claim any dream worth pursuing. He is still a warrior whom I respect and love deeply.
I will continue to write and give voice to the issues of mental health and hope my readers will find that place within themselves to claim their own dreams. It took me over 40 years, but I did it.
I want to thank those who have read my novels, and their generosity in providing reviews to post to my website. Especially those good people from the other side of the world.
I'm reminded of the unparalleled reach of literature, and those artists who have touched me...across time and space...with the enduring images they've created that have lived on in my own imagination. I'm grateful for the many authors and poets and musicians and painters who have inspired me and impacted my life. They took risks to give away their work, and as a fellow author, I know the inherent vulnerability in committing myself to the page.
I heard a lecture once entitled, The Spirituality of Creativity. The speaker said that it is in giving away our creative gifts that more in turn is generated. But playing it safe, and keeping it locked away for risk of rejection is what will inevitably stifle creativity. I sense the truth of these words, and am beginning to look ahead to writing again, and taking new risks and probably, face new vulnerabilities. Thanks for the encouraging words my reviewers offered to keep writing. Their own words reach further into me than they could ever know.
The picture doesn't capture how busy this intersection in Palm Springs was earlier that afternoon, outside the store on N. Palm Canyon Drive where the book signing took place. Around 3 PM the other two authors, the staff and patrons of Just Fabulous, and myself heard yelling from the street. A young woman was sitting down on the pavement, visibly distraught and screaming at passing cars who dangerously drove through the intersection, narrowly missing her.
Fearing for her safety, I went out into the busy street, motioning for cars in either direction to stop, and proceeded to try coach her to come with me to the sidewalk. She stood up, swinging a metal sign at me that she wore around her neck, screaming obscenities. The young woman appeared to be mentally disturbed and needed urgent, medical help. Thankfully the police arrived shortly after and very professionally and calmly were able to move her out of harms way.
As readers know, my stories attempt to heighten awareness of those living with mental illness, and what we must do as a society to better support our hurting brothers and sisters. Nothing could underscore that more than the incident that took place outside the bookstore that afternoon. I hope she is getting the help she needs. It challenges me to think about who in my life I may be called to support.
Who are the people in your life you are also prompted to rush out to help?
Thanks to the staff of Just Fabulous for hosting me and two other local authors for a book signing, March 24, 2018, from 1 - 4 pm. Its a wonderful opportunity to share of my literary work, and the motivation to write stories; some tragic, some romantic, and some even comedic, affirming the resiliency and dignity of people living with mental illness and addiction. Our brothers and sisters deserve our compassion, not judgment.
A Most Spectacular Narrative is set in part in beautiful Palm Springs, and so I'm really excited to be able to give tribute to this inclusive and welcoming community.
Click here to view the event.
I'm really impressed to see the corporate world standing up to support the mental health needs of their employees. The Bell Let's Talk campaign is on right now, and serves as a great model for us all to create mental health friendly work environments. See: letstalk.bell.ca/en/
I was also very privileged to meet with the Canadian Mental Health Commission recently, who are committed to help break down stigma in society and to support the mental health of all Canadians. They have a lot of great resources on their website, too.
The tragic story of a newborn found dead in Calgary has raised questions about the role of newborn safe havens, and what we can do to mitigate such tragedies in the future. My first novel, The Necessities of Life, was inspired in part by work we did to develop the first such newborn safe haven in Alberta, called Angel Cradles, Of course, we need to be thinking about the vulnerable newborn, but also the parent who may be hiding their pregnancy or facing untold hardships themselves. I had wrote about Magda in Necessities for that very reason. I'd be interested in what you think.
See one of many media stories here
As mentioned during the book launch, and in keeping with my novels' themes, I encourage you to join me in making a donation to the Covenant Foundation this year to support a good cause...mental health-friendly environments. It's a privilege to work in heath care, and I have to thank so many people for creating such welcoming and compassionate environments to support our patients, residents, and staff. The inspiration for writing stories comes easy by the witness of my colleagues' many examples. http://www.covenantfoundation.ca
Please consider supporting Covenant Health's new NeoNatal Intensive Care Unit at the Misericordia Hospital. Some of the subject themes I addressed in my last novel were inspired by the great work of our NICU staff. https://www.dreamlifelottery.win
Enjoying dinner with one of the many great people who have encouraged me to write...Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil.