Sunday, 19 June 2011


A few years back I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, also known as Painful Bladder Syndrome.  With a name that perfectly describes the disease, I suffered years of tests (as it's diagnosed through exclusion), worrying if I had an STD ( how would I ever have guilt free sex again), or even worse...cancer.  As they're're still suffering.  When I was finally diagnosed I felt a rush of relief.  And when surgery was suggested, I thought great, let's do it and move on with life.  But no, the surgery is exploratory and there is no cure for this disease.  The only thing you can do is change your diet, to avoid flare-ups, and go on meds to alleviate the symptoms when you do have flare-ups.  OK, not so bad.  But wait, there's a catch.  The number one side effect of the most useful and proven drug... hair loss.

For the last couple years I was doing pretty good, learning what I could and couldn't eat (don'ts; ice cream, chocolate, citrus, coffee, soda), going on meds for a week or so to curb the flare-ups when I hit a food that didn't mesh with the disease.  But last winter I got the Alien Death Plague from hell. I was out of commission for nearly a month (kinda of wonder if it wasn't The Swine Flu), not able to cook properly and inhaling vitamins (which I learned I can't take either) like it was my job.  Of course, I had to go on my meds since my bladder was acting up with the worse flare-up since I'd been diagnosed.  I couldn't pee without crying.  So, I started double dosing (with doctor's permission).  I was able to pee but ...I lost a lot of hair. 

Don't get me wrong, I didn't lose it to the extent that I had to wear a wig, or even a hat (which I've heard that some people do on this medication), but my hair thinned out significantly and I had bald spots all over, mostly round my temples.  My signature hair style (The Pouf, to those who know me) was out the window, and I was depressed.  Not only was I losing hair, but I had to keep taking my meds because my flare-up just wouldn't let go.

After months of feeling like shit, wearing my hair down and wondering when I would get a break, a little light bulb went off in my head.  'Who cares?' it said.  'Why are you so fixated on your looks?'  Well...good question.  I spend everyday meditating, working on my spiritual self and here I was letting a little hair loss rule my feelings and my life.  How was it that I became this egotistical person who only cared what people would think?
Society that's how. 

Every single moment of every single day we are all bombarded by images and messages of what's hot and what's not.  You should look like this and then you can achieve anything.  You can be rich, famous and loved by all.  There's something wrong with you if you don't have beautiful hair, or male/female patterned baldness.  God forbid your hair is not full or shiny or styled like the movie stars.  We have shampoo, that promises to make your strands just the way you want, (even though we all know it's just soap), products to make it straight or curly, this color or that, we have clinics to replace it if it's gone and therapy to help you deal, if we can't. Because the way you look is more important than the who you are. 

Who can keep up?  I know I can't.  So after a very brief moment considering a visit to a dermatologist...I let it go.  My hair is not Rachelle.  My sense of self is not rooted in my looks, it's rooted in my personality, my spirit that shines through regardless.  You are what you think.  So I stopped thinking about it, obsessing about it, spending hours in the mirror for weeks on end wishing and hoping for a sign that it was growing back.  (I thought of cancer patients who lose all their hair.  Not only are they dealing with a deadly disease that is sucking, literally, the life out of them, but they have to deal with people...being now what I mean) And low and behold, it started growing back.

My wish with this journey is only that society stop taking advantage of people's insecurities (and the fact that most of us just don't know any better) to make a buck.  Wouldn't we all be better people, living in a more tolerant world, being nicer to each other and reaping what our spirits are meant to learn?  And I do hope you take away a clarity from my journey that you didn't have yesterday.

Monday, 6 June 2011

We All Bleed Red.

The other day I was at work talking to a customer about the weather (this was the day where it was reported that a tornado had touched down in my parents town, and I was slightly worried about them), and I said to her that this year seemed particularly erratic, my exact words being, 'Yeah the weather is being really gay.' A saying that over the last few years I've adopted into my repertoire, same as when we used to say 'as if,' 'far-out' and 'dude.' I'd never really thought about it much before, until on this day, another client over heard me and was offended. She asked one of my associates for Head Office's phone number (insinuating a complaint), refusing to approach me in person, as my associate suggested. "She's really friendly and didn't mean anything by won't turn ugly," my associate said.
Once my associate made me aware that I'd offended her, I was deeply sorry and wanted to apologize, but she'd already left the store.
So I took it upon myself to track her down in another store, walked up to her and apologized in person. I explained to her that I meant nothing by it, that is was simply a saying that unfortunately I'd adopted from hearing it so often. "It's in the air, part of pop-culture, I meant no offense and I'm so sorry it offended you. Please when you're done here come back to the store and I'll be more than happy to give you a gift card." At this point the customer bursts into tears.
Not sure what else to do I return to the store, knowing she wouldn't come back, got her a gift card and returned to give it to her, apologizing again.

With that being said, I have to say that for the last couple days I was upset that I'd upset her. But I was also upset that she thought it appropriate to call in a complaint against me, as I'd never even talked to her during her visit (I'd just return from break when she was leaving) and the remark was not directed at her or anyone else. It wasn't even in reference to another person, but the weather. (Now, be patient, I am going somewhere with this.) I felt that even though deep down I know that this is a derogatory term, meaning to degrade a person's sexuality as well as who they are, and I'm aware that even though the comment was not in reference to anyone, the fact that it was said at all was inflaming. It is something I'm working on to nix from my vocabulary, just as some people try not to swear in front of children. But sometimes you slip. I honestly felt that a complaint to make me look bad in front of my staff, my supervisor and head office was way out of line considering the circumstances. I kept saying to myself over and over, that something must of happened in her past to make her oversensitive to the statement.

Now, a couple days later, And (through the universe speaking to me) it dawned on me. Something in her past DID happen to make her react this way. She was born!

In my morning meditation today (yes, I meditate) the phrase, "Your words and thoughts have physical power," appeared. (This is where I pictured her crying.) Then on Twitter I read the @deepakchopra tweet, " To see the world from others' perspective is to take on their emotional footprint. To comprehend the world through them #spiritualsuperheroes," and in that moment it REALLY dawned on me. She wasn't being oversensitive. She was simply asking for the respect that I NEVER have to ask for. It's automatically given. I'm never judged or ridiculed for being straight. I'm not stalked or beaten or killed for being straight. And I don't have derogatory sayings made up in order to belittle me and my sexuality, and make me feel like nothing. And now...I get it.

Respect and understanding, compassion towards another should never have to be explained or demanded. It should simply be!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Darkness Too Visible?

I woke this morning as I do most Sunday's, slowly, with coffee and hand, checking Facebook to see if I can add my sarcastic wit to any of my friend's status updates.

Instead I found Laurie Halse Anderson's status directing all of us to a Wall Street Journal article, regarding the state of YA Lit on book shelves.

Titled; Darkness Too Visible, where the writer goes on at length on the state of YA Books and how everything seems to revolve around vampires, incest, self-mutilating and brutal beatings. It points the finger at how everything seems to gravitate to depravity and well, as the title suggests, darkness. It explains that YA seems to have moved into a realm that wasn't there 40 years ago...20 years ago. Well duh...we don't live 40 years ago, we live now.

As a book reviewer I have read some of these books, for review and for my own pleasure. I have to say that I quite enjoy them (except the ones about vampires, I'm kinda sick of vampires right now). I think they are well thought out books that reflect the state of society TODAY, not 40 years ago, and gives teens a place a refuge and solace, where they can escape the bullies and the beatings. I think society as a whole as become The Mothership of Censorship, brainwashing today's youth into becoming non-thinking oversensitive beings who cry at the drop of a hat and wouldn't know what a backbone is if it was inserted for them by an alien race.

When did we decide it was okay to decide everything for everyone else? When do we say, "ok, you don't get to think for yourself, I'll do all your thinking for you?"

Granted as someone who's not a parent, I can't really say how it feels to have to protect a child from the darkness creeping in from everywhere, (which is why I say I don't want kids). I give a high five to parents who can create good little people today. But we also must remember to give them the freedom of choice. If you don't think what their reading is appropriate, read it first, then sit with them and TALK about it. Opening the door to conversation is the key to helping your kids with what they are struggling with. Yes parents, parenting is hard, it takes time out of your day, but how else are they going to learn and know you support them no matter what they are going through? Censorship is not the answer. Don't you think that if they are sneaking around to read a certain book, that you are contributing to their belief that who they are is wrong according to society?

As a young girl I had it hard in school. I wasn't popular and the only place where I could be myself and learn about life was in books. I read VC Andrews (which has incest in it, but shockingly it didn't make me want to sleep with my uncles, ew!), RL Stine's Fear Street, Christopher Pike, and Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High. All were books that veered away from the cutesy "Judy Blume-esque" coming of age stories, and I ate them up....sometimes 4 a week. In them was something I could identify with, kids that were going through trauma of their own, and I found out that I wasn't alone. Yes, books about incest and brutal beatings are disheartening, but they are on the shelves so they can help kids realize that they aren't alone. Other kids are going through the same thing and there's help out there for them.

Forty years ago, the gay community in high schools didn't exist. Therefore, there were no books to talk about what it's like to be a young gay person in society, not only struggling with normal teen things like hormones and who to take to prom, but a gay person who IS getting beat up (and in some instances, killed) for being who they ARE.

Let's also remember that most of these books are works of...dare I say it, FICTION. Don't underestimate your kids. They are smarter than you think. Most can differentiate between real and not real. If a sexy vampire is sucking on some poor girl's neck draining her of her life force, don't you think they know that's not going to happen in the parking lot next to the Seven/Eleven they frequent after school?

Let's get real here people. Don't label a genre in a negative light if you haven't done your research. What this article lacks is just that. Where are the interviews with teens about how they feel? Or other parents, such as gay parents raising straight kids or vice versa, or people who have lived through self-mutilation, and any and all the forms of abuse out there? They might shed some light on the atrocities that actually exist in reality.

Life is moving fast, too fast. Let's make sure we aren't taking away the one place where people can get explanations and heal. Cause really, what's next burning parties?

There's a community of teens on Twitter that have already come out against the article, #YASAVES, in hopes that their voices can be heard.