Cindy walked into her condo, slipped off her shoes and slid into her slippers. Leaving her purse on the hall table, she walked down the hall and into the kitchen. She took a bottle of wine out of the wine rack – ah, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Italy; she had heard very good things about this wine and she was looking forward to trying it.

She poured herself a glass of wine and walked through the living room to stand by the floor length glass windows looking out over the ravine behind her building. Everything was quiet; everything was peaceful.
As she sipped on her wine, she thought about how having a glass of wine when she got home was starting to become a habit. She had always enjoyed a glass of wine after work, but usually it was because she needed a way to dull her senses so that she could make it through the evening. Her wine ritual was now a way of congratulating herself for productive day and a kick off to a relaxing evening.

How much her life had changed since her divorce!  She realized that she had almost made the same mistake as her parents; chained for years in a loveless marriage, going through the motions every day and not looking forward to the future at all. What was there to look forward to? More of the same, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Ad nauseum.

She used to ask her parents why they didn’t travel more, enjoy life. The answer was always the same; they were going to when they retired. They had planned to rent a motor home and travel the country, spending their winters in warmer climates to the south. Except it never happened, because they got old and sick. When they died, they had never traveled, had never done anything they’d hoped for. Their lives had been chained to each other, to their children, to the jobs and to the house.

Cindy had been about to make the same mistake. When Robert admitted he’d been seeing someone else and wanted a divorce, she felt devastated; her whole life was coming apart. Then she realized that she had been set free, freed from taking the same path her parents had. She’d sold the house and spent a couple of months traveling, seeing all the places she’d once only dreamt of. She had bought this condo because it was close to the downtown area and she could walk to stores and theatres. She was focusing on filling her life with new adventures.

That meant meeting new people as well. Musicians, writers, and artists were now part of her circle, and they didn’t know the role they were playing, each was had an influence on who she was becoming. Absentmindedly, her hand caressed the silver crucifix nestled in the small of her throat. The delicate chain and crucifix were a gift from Robert several years ago, and she had never taken it off.

Reaching up, she undid the clasp and held the necklace in her hand. She loved the delicacy of the tiny chain and the crucifix held so much meaning for her, since she had always been Catholic. It was also a constant reminder of Robert though and represented another type of chain she supposed. Without hesitation, she gently tossed the necklace over the balcony railing and into the fading light of evening. The last chain to her previous life was gone.  

She was finally free.

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The Thompson House

The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person or place is unintentional.

The old Thompson house sat between a church and an empty lot. The house itself was slated for demolition, having failed to procure another wealthy patron to take up the cause. With lead glass windows and turrets that faced the front of the house, it stood silent and empty – a memory of another era. Various real estate connoisseurs had left their marks on the house; the last one had tried to divide it into separate apartments and had paved over much of the field to the back, to create tenant parking.

I walk by the house twice a day; once in the mornings on my way to my work as a teller at Fitchley Bank, and again on my way home in the evenings. Throughout the ten years that I have passed by the Thompson house, I have been witness to the house’s many transformations. And now it stands silent and empty, unloved and unwanted and facing demolition. Soon it will no longer even exist.

Every day when I walk by the house, I slow my pace and gaze at the majesty of her. My imagination transports me to the early days of its existence, at the turn of the last century. I imagine horse-drawn carriages and footmen, women in long gowns and men always neatly attired. A box at the side of the house that once held coal now holds trash bins. I’ve never been inside the house but in my imagination, I see twelve foot ceilings and crown moldings.

I guess it’s just a matter of time until the strippers come to strip away anything of value – copper piping, cedar flooring, the leaded glass. The house will soon sit gutted, condemned for safety reasons, and wait for its demise.

Something was different today though. As I walked home in the early evening at dusk, I thought I saw a flicker of light in one of the turret windows. I stopped and looked up and before the dim light faded, I could make out the profile of a woman’s face. It flashed in the window and then suddenly disappeared. Did I imagine her? Was there someone living there? Or was it simply a memory of days past, come to bid a fond farewell?

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In Hiding

I loved a man and then I lost;
And now I have to pay the cost
Of life alone in Solitude;
A constant dark’ning of the mood.

It’s not the loss that I can’t face
But haunting mem’ries of loving days;
So filled with lies and subterfuge;
T’would make another want to lose.

Perhaps I trusted much in haste.
Now I stand amidst the waste,
Trying to face reality
And slay the dragons to set me free.

But still I’m bound with all my chains,
While I’m learning to cope with all the pain
And this agony I feel inside;
But there is no haven – I cannot hide.

Originally written on May 16, 1984

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In the Air

There was something in the air lately. After the nuclear meltdown two months ago, there was a sickness that filled the air. The ones closer to the reactor had died within days, and all of the smaller communities on the outskirts of the city had followed in the next few weeks. The results had been devasting; entire companies had been wiped out and resources were now becoming scarce.

Beth and her partner lived 300 kilometers northeast of the disaster, and had been ordered to isolate themselves and not go out at all. The poison was in the air. Beth and Carin didn’t worry though, they owned a small farm in the middle of nowhere and because of the dust and chemicals used in farming, an air purifying system and a complex water filtration system had fortunately had been built into the design of the house.

They were safe.

They’d both come from the city and many of their friends still there had become ill and died as a result of the catastrophe. The symptoms had been the same, a cough, sore throat, mild headache, and extreme weakness. Some went into a coma before they died. After losing so many close friends, they had no desire to go out themselves, so they stayed inside and ventured out only for minutes at a time, twice a day, and always with a face mask on. When they fed the animals, they quickly returned inside. They had no clue how this was going to affect their livestock.  

Time would tell.

The past few weeks, the number of deaths fell steadily, and there hadn’t been any deaths for the past two nights. They had decided to stay inside for at least another week, to sure. Other than less socializing, not much had changed in their lives. They read and they watched television, worked on the computer, kept track of finances, and followed the news very closely. Doing nothing was exhausting, it seemed.

Now, it seemed as if this was over. They’d give it a few days, or maybe a week to be safe, before going outside. None of the animals had become sick or died, so obviously the radiation didn’t reach this far away. They were been safe.

Then Beth began to cough.

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He stood on his balcony looking out over the cityscape to the south. The red glow of the sunset cast an eerie light over the downtown core as wisps of smoke rose from buildings and factories. The streetlights flickered constantly, as if deciding whether or not to remain on.

He felt completely alone.

He had never married or had children. An only child himself, he remained devoted to his parents and lived just down the street from the house in which he’d grown up. Just him and his cat.


His parents had passed away a few weeks ago from carbon monoxide poisoning. He was filled with guilt; he should have made sure the batteries in the CO2 detectors had been changed. He felt responsible.

They died in their sleep; together, but alone.

Today he had to put his cat to sleep. At 18 she’d had a long life, but her kidneys had finally failed. Damn! The timing really hurt.

And now he was truly alone.

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Life Poetry

The Beauty of Simplicity

With the gentleness of a stirring breeze,
I am awed by the simplicity.
In God’s creations, all but one
Can live in harmony under the sun.
But God’s most complex creature is doomed
To live amidst the strife and gloom.
Ambiguous, they thrive on war;
They kill each other and then keep score.
With no respect for nature’s neutral state,
They fill the world with a cancerous hate.
Destroying everything they meet,
The human race will face defeat.
And once they’re off this planet Earth,
The world will have a wond’rous birth;
For nature conquers over all;
T’would take a lot to make her fall.
She’s learnt to live in harmony
And the death of man will set her free.
She’ll bare her soul so all can see
The beauty of simplicity.

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The Masquerade

Charlene walked into the grand ballroom of the Royal Victoria Hotel, her elegantly coiffed hair piled high atop her head. Her satin gown was off the shoulder and shimmered with the lights bouncing off the many chandeliers. The semi-precious gems of her necklace settled demurely in her décolletage. Her bejeweled mask hid most of her face, except for her shining red lips and her light green eyes. She had arrived.

She held her folded invitation in her right hand, which she had flashed at the doorman on her way in. She looked the part so much that he had not actually asked to see the invitation up close, which was a good thing since she had not been invited. She slipped the folded invitation back into her small clutch purse.

She had never been invited, but this was the fourth year she had attended the ball. It was always the same doorman and she supposed by now he had come to believe she was invited. Only the first year had been the real test. She had decided to sneak into the ball that year, because she longed to see how the one percent lived. This was like dress up for her, a magical night when she could pretend that she was one of them, that she had style and grace and was accepted.

Everybody just accepted that she was one of them. Year after year, she saw the same people and they no longer wondered from where they knew the mysterious “Antoinette”, since they remembered her from last year. No matter, they believed she had money and believed she had donated the required $10,000 to attend the ball. And so, they were gracious to her.

One man in particular seemed to seek her out each year. She had to admit, she was looking for him now as she gazed around the large and elegant room. She felt like Cinderella, looking for her prince.

And he did not disappoint. Although he didn’t know who she was, he would have recognized those beautiful green eyes anywhere. Her demure smile when their eyes met told him she was happy to see him as well. He walked over to where she stood and look down on her.

“My dear Antoinette, you look ravishing this evening” he murmured as he bent to kiss her cheek.

“You flatter me, Armand” she said, but blushed nonetheless.

Last year, Armand had begged for her full name and address so that he could call on her. It was cruel, he said, for her to make him wait a year to see her again. He wanted to know everything about her, where she was from, who her family was, and when he could call on her.

Of course, he couldn’t. He would be shocked to see the small flat she called her home, or to know that she worked in a dress shop. She could never let him know who she really was, or the spell of the masquerade would be over.

Instead she teased him and told him a different story every year. One of them might be true, she said, but she told them so convincingly he believed that any one of them could be true. She was the fourth cousin once removed from Prince Helmut of Austria, was the story she’d told him last year. The year before she was an exiled member of the bourgeois from France. This year she planned to be the granddaughter of a long-forgotten media baron. She knew he’d laugh and try to guess if it was true or not.

Armand took her elbow and guided her to the dance floor where he held her tight against him and together they glided over the polished parquet floor.

“How is your cousin, Prince Helmut?” he asked, his eyes laughing as he looked at her. “I’ve done some research” he said, “and I couldn’t find a fourth cousin in his family.”

“Perhaps you didn’t look hard enough Monsieur, or perhaps you looked too hard”. Her laugh was deep and convincing, and he laughed with her.

“I won’t stop” he said, “you’ve bewitched me Antoinette”.

Charlene had to stop herself from frowning. Perhaps this should be her last year. She would be devastated if he found out the truth about her. Instead she smiled and gazed into his eyes. “I’ll depend on it” she replied.

Of course, Armand already knew who she was. Some months back he’d been having lunch with his mother, when she’d wanted to stop into a dress shop to pick up a new dress she’d ordered. He waited for her outside on the bench but after several minutes, he had walked up to the window and looked inside.

A beautiful woman with long blonde hair stood behind the counter, assisting his mother. She was tall and slim, dressed plainly but elegantly. She glanced up a few times, but never towards the window. She didn’t need to though; he’d recognize those beautiful green eyes anywhere.

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A False Sense of Normal

We’ve all heard about people growing up with alcoholic parents becoming alcoholics themselves. We’ve also heard about people marrying people exactly like their parents – consciously or subconsciously.

The same is true for dysfunctional families and for children who witness emotional or physical abuse. Most will swear that they’ll be different parents, but they don’t account for a subconscious comfort level.

I’ve met people who either dislike or completely hate the type of person their parent was, and vow to be completely different. As they age though, and their children grow, they often look back and see that in some ways they were exactly the same as their parents; maybe not as obviously, but on a emotional level, and they didn’t even realize it until then.

The same can be said for the people we marry as well. We will swear we’re marrying someone who’s the polar opposite of our parent. As our marriage progresses though, we realize we’ve married someone with the same traits. Have you ever had a friend whose second spouse was almost the same as their previous spouse?

Why is that? I believe it’s because dysfunctional childhood breeds dysfunctional adults, and when we’re dysfunctional, we don’t know what normal is.  We’re seduced by the level of comfort we feel with a person, we con ourselves into believing they’re our safe harbour, our calm in the storm. How could it be wrong when it feels so right?

Because our behaviour has been conditioned. We don’t know what right is supposed to feel like. The “comfort” comes from the feeling of familiarity; that’s why it feels “right”.

Life is all about learning and growing. If you find yourself in a dysfunctional relationship with either your partner or your children, the first step is to recognize it and change it. If we didn’t like certain behaviours in our parents, and we find we’re acting the same way subconsciously, own it and apologize, and actively try to change.

If we’re in a relationship with a dysfunctional person, draw the line. Figure out if the relationship can be salvaged, go for counseling, either as as couple, a family, or individually. Have limits, know what you will accept, how you will respond, and what your deal breakers are. Then have a plan B. Always have a plan B.

If we’re starting a new relationship and we start to feel too comfortable too fast, run faster, much faster. The fact is you probably can’t trust your judgement. If you don’t realize it until it’s too late, see the paragraph above about being in a relationship with a dysfunctional person.

We can usually recognize a dysfunctional relationship if it:

  • Makes us feel bad
  • Makes us feel sad
  • Makes us cry
  • Makes us nervous (and not in a good way)

Sometimes these types of feelings have actually been triggered by some behaviour. Don’t accept it. Figure it out. Some people do that by keeping a journal so they can understand what triggered their negative emotion, and some people meditate for clarity and understanding. Find what works for you.

Some people never figure it out or they figure out the extent of dysfunction after the fact, when there’s some distance between themselves and the dysfunctional situation.

No matter what the situation, forgive yourself. The subconscious is a powerful thing, and self-discovery and understanding can take a lifetime. Thankfully, we have one. A lifetime.

We’ll get it right. Once we understand it.

And repeat after me:

I am strong
I am worthy
I will be okay

I found that when a situation triggered an anxiety attack, I would close my eyes and silently repeat that to myself. It is true for me and it is true for you too.

Just a piece of life experience and wisdom for you to think about.

7 Signs You’re in a Toxic Relationship
7 Signs of a Dysfunctional Relationship
Relationship Red Flags You Should Never Ignore
Psych Central: Dysfunctional Relationships

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Life Poetry

A Defining Moment

There is a defining moment in everyone’s life,

When we see things as they really are.

When the veil of confusion and darkness is lifted

And Truth stands before you.

Blinding you.

It will not be ignored nor pushed aside

It cannot be denied.

Eyes now open, they cannot close.

Truth may blind you, it hurts you so

But there’s nowhere you can go.

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Fiction Life

Just Rewards

Wayne Dickson had been working at the engineering firm for the past year. He had taken a lower position than he was used to and that fact continually irked him. He constantly had the feeling that others were condescending towards him; they obviously didn’t know how senior he had been at his last job.
Dickson’s attitude made it difficult for anyone to like him. He acted like he believed he was better than them and after awhile they stopped even trying to be friendly and avoided him as much as possible. Wayne noticed and he didn’t let it bother him. He faithfully showed up early for work each day and stayed late. He resented the people who only worked 9 to 5 because he thought they just saw it as a job, and didn’t give it any extra effort.
Two months ago, the owners of the company had called him in and offered him a promotion. Peterson said they’d noticed his extra effort and had a special job they thought he was perfect for. The company was planning a reorganization and could really use his help. They had a list of employees they were going to shuffle around; some would be redeployed to other departments, while others would be made redundant and offered packages.
Finally, they had recognized his experience! He thanked them profusely and said they would not be disappointed. He stayed up late that night and pored over the list. Who had valuable experience? Who was old and outdated? Who had been dismissive to him? There were many factors to take into consideration. He used different coloured highlighters – green marked the ones that were safe, red meant they had to go, orange meant he needed to think about them more.
They needed to cut 30 percent of their workforce and they were planning to do it over the next three weeks. He met with senior management to review the list and make the decisions. Then it was time to call each employee in, a few each day, and give them their final paycheques. Wayne relished this part; this was where he could really shine. With each employee that was called in, he struggled to supress his smile. He knew he was better than them, and this was the evidence. He puffed with self-importance, finally he was someone special again – he was management material.
Those three weeks were the most enjoyable weeks of his time with the firm and when they were over, they had accomplished a very lean, efficient workforce. He wondered what promotion they’d give him as a reward? Would they make him General Manager? He could almost feel his success as he walked around the office wondering which office he’d ask for. Perhaps a southern exposure would be better, not too hot during the day but still enough sunlight to light up his office.
He’d seen artwork and figurines in many of the partners’ offices, so he traveled to art galleries on weekends to try and find something suitable. He needed something that represented culture and class, something that said he was a person of importance. He put a deposit of a few significant pieces.
The day finally arrived when his phone rang.
“Wayne, it’s Peterson. I just came out of a meeting with the senior partners, and I’d like you to come to my office if you have a moment.“
“Of course, Mr. Peterson, I’m on my way.”
Wayne Dickson almost had a skip in his step as he walked down the hall, past the boardroom, to Peterson’s office. He knocked lightly on the door before gently pushing it open.
“Ah, Dickson, come in” Peterson said cheerfully. “Have a seat.”
“The firm would like to let you know how much we appreciate your help with the reorganization. We chose you for the task because we noticed you stayed professional in your job and didn’t form any personal relationships. That can always make these decisions very difficult.
“As a reward, we’ve come up with a very generous severance package for you. As you know, after a year’s employment the usual severance is one week but to show our appreciation, we’ve cut a cheque for one month’s pay.”
Wayne sat as still as stone as Peterson slid the envelope across the desk.
When he looked at Peterson, he saw he was smiling.

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