28 April 2020

I Lost A Bet

On 28 April 2002, I was baptised.

On 28 April 2015, I lost my faith.

No, I do not have the dates mixed up.

You've all heard the story; I rehash it every year. How my cousin suddenly had an asthma attack and was taken to hospital where she died. I entered into the story between the hospital and the death when my aunt called and told us the situation and told us to pray. We did pray as a family that night, collectively and individually. I vividly remember saying to God, "If You love me, let her live."

In the years since then, I've had so many people -- pastors, student theologians, Bible study leaders, fellow Bible college students, even people who no longer adhere to the Christian faith -- tell me how badly my theology was flawed that night. They tell me how ridiculous it was for me to base my entire hope and faith into one miracle. They tell me it was wrong for me to hinge His love for me on one prayer, on one human life.

I can follow where they're coming from, but I cannot understand their logic.

If God really is as great as they say He is, why then can't I do that? If God is capable of using a donkey to accomplish His purposes, why can't He reinflate dying lungs? Even modern medicine can do that nine times out of ten, why can't the God of the universe even manage that 10%? If God is so great, how is it wrong for me to bet the farm, to hinge my entire faith on one crazy possibility? Isn't that the very definition of faith? I believed so much that God loved me that I bet my cousin's life and my entire faith on it. They make entire blockbuster films on the stories of lesser bets.

Oh right -- the ones in the films usually pay off.

I made a crazy bet based on crazy faith -- the kind they begged us in youth group to have -- and lost. Yeah, yeah, maybe it was wrong to bet with God, but if He loved me -- if He really loved me -- why wouldn't He prove it? I have spent the last five years in a pit of numbness, knowing that I should love and serve and be faithful to Him, but also knowing that He was fully capable of saving my cousin and proving to me that He loved me and He did not do it. 'Ask and you shall receive,' my foot.

You know if it had been a degenerate -- somebody addicted to crack who'd gambled his entire life away and made a hobby of murdering children for twenty-five years -- God would have done it. If that 'degenerate' had pleaded for the life of his own nine-year-cousin, using the exact same wording I did, God would have done it. And it would have sold millions of books and packed out arenas to hear that testimony. What makes me any different? Why can't I ask the exact same thing? I'm really no less of a degenerate in my soul. Am I not evil enough for God to bother with me? Is that not 'bad enough' for me to get a prayer answered? What do I have to do? How bad do I have to be?

I've lost many people even closer to me than my cousin, but my cousin's death is the one that I keep coming back to, the one that continues to infuriate and flummox me.

I asked for one thing -- one thing. I had a hell of a lot of faith -- it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to bet my entire faith on one person's life. I didn't ask for new shoes or a better-paying job or more friends or anything frivolous. I begged for someone else's life. Is that not a noble thing to ask? All I wanted was my cousin to live, and I wanted it so badly that I exchanged my relationship with God for it.

How is that not enough? Nothing I do is ever enough for humans; I've known that for years. But they always told us God was gracious and while we would never measure up to His standard, He had this really great thing called 'mercy' because He loved us SOOOOOOOO much. I bet a hell of a lot on that mercy and that love that night.

And it failed me.

21 April 2020

The Sweetest Thing

I read a writing prompt this morning -- something about the sweetest thing your significant other has ever done for you.

At first I thought of all the little cumulative sweet things my fiancé does for me -- the way he hugs me when I'm sad, how he makes me food and tea (somehow he makes it perfect every time?), how he will turn up the thermostat whenever I visit because I'm always cold (even though he's always hot) and always offers me a blanket just in case.

But then I thought of this past summer.

We met in mid-June and hit it off fairly quickly. On 20th July, we officially started dating. Also in July, I began a job delivering newspapers.

It was the single most soul-draining thing I have ever done in my life, and I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in the performing arts from a Christian college (read: where you have to fake like everything is 100% okay 100% of the time). I would leave the house at 12.30am, pick up my papers from the drop location whenever they deigned to bring them (it was supposed to be 1am but was sometimes as late as four), and then drive around the richest (and hilliest) neighbourhood in town in the dark, searching in vain for house numbers. I delivered roughly 120 papers a night for 21 cents each (yes, in 2019 in a first-world country). I was spending $20 on gas every single night to accomplish this feat. I made only enough money to pay my (absurdly cheap) rent and put gas in my vehicle -- I had long stopped eating by this point, which worked in my favour as there wasn't enough money left for food anyway.

Last year, you may remember me lamenting how nobody ever cares about my birthday. I had originally planned to go visit my now-fiancé on my birthday last year, but then he found out he was supposed to be at a major out-of-province family function that weekend and they had to leave that day. As I mentioned in my blog post from that week, I was devastated. I was too far away from my family to make a day trip and still manage to work that night and nearly all of my friends were in Saskatchewan (or farther). I was facing the very real prospect of being alone on my birthday. We planned for me to come visit Jacob the day before my birthday so I could see him at least close to my birthday (the way I've always had to settle for social things surrounding my birthday).

Then, on 30 July (my birthday is the second), the drop supervisor at my job -- ordinarily a huggy, demonstrative person -- began showing me a little more affection than was appropriate in a workplace setting. He began literally pulling me into hugs and then kissed me without asking. I was too shocked to say anything to him, but the next day (31st), I texted Jacob (and my boss) about it.

My boss didn't get back to me (at least not till after my shift started). I still felt unsafe, and since Jacob couldn't drive out directly that night, I gave him the drop address and contact info for my boss and my parents, dressed in as many layers as I could stand in southern Alberta in late July (to hinder any moves my supervisor might try to make), and, as I approached the drop site, called Jacob, connected my Apple earbuds and put my phone -- with the line still open -- in my pocket and ran the cord under my shirt, leaving the earbuds (including the microphone) hanging over my collar so he could hear everything that happened. The agreement was if I hung up for any reason without giving a reason or saying goodbye to him, he would call the police.

What happened that night is a completely different story (which will probably show up on this blog eventually as it's a great story), but suffice to say, the next day -- 1 August -- when I went to visit him, I was still unsettled about the whole situation. I had not even been working that job one month, but I was already planning on quitting.

We had dinner with his parents that night, and over the course of dinner, Jacob mentioned that he was thinking of coming with me to work that night to make sure my supervisor didn't try anything. This was the first I'd heard about this plan, but I was pleasantly surprised at the prospect. It was arranged that he would stay the night after my shift finished with his grandmother, as she lived significantly closer to where I was living and his parents were going to be picking her up the next morning on the way to the family gathering anyway.

So at 11.30pm we set out in my van, talking and playing music. At one point somewhere on Highway 21, my phone dinged.

"Who's that?" I said, as I often do whenever I hear a phone (any phone, much to the annoyance of everyone I've ever lived with).

He looked and said it was my best friend.

"Oh, what does she want?" I asked.

"You should know," he said. "Guess."

"It's J, it could be literally anything," I said.

"What time is it?"

I glanced down at the clock. "12.12. Why?"

"What day is it?" he asked.

I opened my mouth to say 'Thursday, why?' but it suddenly dawned on me. August second. My birthday. I had (somewhat intentionally) forgotten about it.

He saw the realisation dawn on my face and said, "Why do you think I'm here?"

It took every ounce of self-control I possessed not to cry.

I had thought he was just coming along to make sure I was safe -- which is sweet enough -- but it turned out he had been planning for days to come along with me to work after my visit, just so he would be with me for at least a couple hours on my birthday because he knew how much I wanted to be with someone that day.

He stayed to the side and kept an eye on things at the drop, helped me deliver the papers, and then we ate breakfast at 4.30am in an A&W parking lot as the sun rose behind us. He apologised for not having a gift for me, but the sacrifice he made to spend just a few hours with me meant more than anything he could ever have paid for.

08 April 2020

Day 21

I feel useless -- again.

I was laid off from my job (due to the virus) after working only three weeks. Three weeks of feeling like a human being with something to give to the world. Three weeks of being finally free from the vice-grip of 'how am I going to pay for this wedding?' Three weeks of sweet freedom from the despair that maybe I actually am unhireable for some unknown reason.

As an artist, I feel a certain responsibility to the public in general. Historically, in times like these -- when all the world seems upended and topsy-turvy -- it falls to the artists to make the Herculean effort to find and present hope to society. It's our job to bring encourage flagging morale and point to the hope of rescue, of a brighter day.

What then, of those artists like me who are drowning in it themselves and can't find it either?

Well... those ones are failures.

So I'm a failure. Again.

I hate it. It never gets easier to be the failure. I hate it so much.

07 April 2020

Death

Written 27 January 2020, 10.22pm.

All trauma can be escaped, on some level.

All trauma except the trauma of death.

And that is the one that consistently dogs me.

With divorce or family splits, both parties are alive and there is always hope (however unlikely) that there might just be reconciliation one day. With abuse, one can escape the abuser. It's not easy, but it's doable. With health issues (including mental illness), you are again still alive and there is the hope that one day a treatment will be found that can help you. With unemployment, there is always a way to beg, borrow, or even steal what you need to live. Your moral code may protest it, but it's there. Plus there is always a thin hope of economic improvement.

There is always hope -- even the thinnest strand of it -- if you can just hold on to it. There is always the hope of escape, one day.

Except in death.

Death comes and cannot be escaped. When someone close to you dies, you can't undo it. You can't go back and say sorry and ask forgiveness. You can't re-see them one last time. You can't send them an email with all the words you wanted to say.

Death causes trauma. Traumatic situations can be escaped... except for death. Death is the one that we cannot choose and we cannot run away from. We can't control it. It comes for our loved us and we are powerless in the face of it. You can throw money or hugs or kind words at literally anything else and it helps, even the tiniest bit. It may not fix the problem, but it provides even the most fleeting of respites.

I have spent so many years trying to build up walls against things that will cause me harm. I don't get close enough to people for them to abuse me anymore. I live on $60 a week to offset my unemployment and I literally beg for that amount from those lucky enough to still have jobs. I sleep most days, waiting in a half-dreamt haze for the day when there is a treatment for my depression. I have distanced myself from my family to avoid the fallout when they -- inevitably, it seems -- split.

But I can't shelter myself from death. The old and sick live, the young and healthy die. It traumatises me every single time, and I can't cushion it and I can't get away from it and there is no hope. There is no hope that they will suddenly come around and start breathing again. There is no hope that suddenly their heart will start up again. Christians will insist that 'death is NOT the end!!!!!!!! *8 million sickeningly sugary happy emojis and heart-eyes*' but the fact is that once a person dies, all hope is gone. Even if they are in heaven -- the fact remains that there is no hope here. There is nothing to cushion the blow to my staggering heart. You never know who's next, and you never know when it will be. There is no preparation. There is no going back. There is no making the best of it. They are gone, and you are broken. You are at the mercy of God, or Death, or Fate, or whatever the hell you want to call it. And Death has no mercy. There are days when it seems God doesn't either. They call Him a merciful God, but then why doesn't He stop the never-ending parade of meaningless deaths when I plead and beg for Him to stop it and let my heart breathe for just one day?

We can't control God and we can't control Death. Both seem hell-bent on destroying me, burying me alive under the shards of my shattered heart. I breathe them in and they pierce my lungs.

Even on days when nobody close to you actually dies, the trauma is there now. It never goes away. Your heart rate jumps at the sound of every text alert, wondering who it was this time. You constantly run through every person you've ever met in your mind, freaking out most over those who seem fine and are happy and healthy because those are always the ones that go first and those are always the hardest ones to predict and 'recover' from. Every time someone posts something on Facebook or Instagram, you think 'is this their last post?' There is no hope that everyone will be safe and alive at the end of today. You can only hold onto what remains of your tattered heart with whitened knuckles and beg the sky for mercy today... and hope that God cares enough about you to give you one day off.

But even then, that's not a sure thing. You hope He gives you rest, like He promised, but rest is not a sure thing when death is involved. It's never a certainty. And somehow death still blindsides you every time. There's always one person you forgot to worry about, and it's always that person who dies unexpectedly.

There is no escape. There is no hope of escape. There is no choice. And it's so stupid and it's so unfair. Why do I have to endure seven deaths in four years and other people go to maybe three funerals in their entire lives? Why aren't the numbers more even? Why is it always the people that I know and love, seemingly at the exclusion of all others?

When I was a young teen, I used to think I was God's punching bag. That's literally how I referred to myself in my writings from that time. In my late teens and early twenties, I began to see that label as somewhat melodramatic. But now I'm starting to wonder if eleven-year-old Kate wasn't on to something after all. After all, if God is a God of mercy, and I beg for mercy, for respite from everyone around me dying, and the dying doesn't stop, does it mean God has been misrepresented and painted as merciful when He is not, or does it mean I am just the 'chosen one' -- the punching bag, the one who absorbs His anger at everyone else whether I like it or not so that He might show them His famous mercy?

This is enough. I am not only crying uncle, I am screaming uncle at the top of my shredded lungs. Mercy, mercy.

Please.

21 March 2020

Lockdown, Day 2

I've been officially house-bound for almost two days now (though I was severely limiting interactions before that, but I can't say I was in lockdown yet because I was still working until the middle of this week).

Ordinarily I would have jumped at the chance to have so much free time -- all the dancing! all the writing! all the music! all the choreography! But after the past year or so, burnout talked louder than the joy of opportunity.

I knew the lockdown was coming, though, and slowly I came to terms with the idea of creating things again. I started with a crochet project -- no-one's ever told me I was worthless for crocheting, so it was a safe but still creative option that at least kept me from scrolling Facebook 24/7.

After two days of planning to do it, today I officially started the rewrite of Kyrie. Not 'adding scenes,' not 'revising,' rewriting. Top-to-bottom rewriting the novel. I'll insert the newly polished scenes as I come to them, but I need to write the entire story out in chronological order again. Doing it out of order does not make sense in my brain and I have accepted defeat on that front. (Also it's much harder to see where the holes are if you're piecing it together anyway.) I have a month-by-month timeline of the novel's events that I'm referring to, and let me tell you, that's been a massive help so far -- knowing at a glance what to plant and what to foreshadow and where to do it. There are almost no flashbacks in this entire novel, so this should work fairly well.

I was telling my fiancé about it over FaceTime today while on a writing break. As I was talking, I realised I had never really verbalised the core of this particular story before. I've done that with some of my other novels, but this one I kept very close to my heart. I rarely -- if ever -- refer to it in real life (though I talk about it almost incessantly on this blog). I warned him at first that he might find it sad (because 99% of what I create is sad and this is starting to bug him), then plunged into it.

After I'd explained the general idea, he said, "That actually doesn't sound very sad."

I was surprised. Two of the characters suffer depression and one dies. "Really?"

"Yeah," he said. "It sounds like something a lot of people could relate to. I'd buy it." He went on to say that he liked how the main character changes for the better because of the story's events and how he eventually stands up to the villain. He seemed quite excited about the whole thing. And for the first time in a very long time, I began to think this might be a story worth telling.

After five and a half years of tweaking and changing and half-living-in the same story, I was starting to think my concept was unoriginal, if not overdone. I wanted it to sound like a story that really could happen in real life, but with that comes the risk of writing something unremarkable. But even the subtle change in the protagonist excited my fiancé, which in turn excited me. Maybe this isn't a dumb story. Maybe people would enjoy it.

And maybe this is the year I actually get a complete second draft of this thing done.

15 March 2020

Watching The Walls Close In...

It started to hit home when the NHL shut down.

I watched as every theatre in the province closed ongoing shows and forthcoming ones.

And then, as I sat alone in an almost-abandoned Pizza Hut, staring at the view that defined my childhood, I received a phone call.

I didn't recognise the number, but I knew the area code. And I knew this was the call that I had been waiting for, that I hoped would not come. As a rule I don't answer numbers I don't know, but I answered this one.

"Is this Kate?"

"Yes."

"This is B., director of (my show that's scheduled for May). We have been advised by our board to cancel tonight's rehearsal. I'm really sorry for the late notice... they're meeting tonight to decide what's going to happen moving forward."

I thanked him, we chatted briefly, we hung up. I continued to stare out the window and think upon my breadsticks and pepperoni pie -- my meal now lengthened indefinitely. It had started a semi-quick meal on my way to rehearsal, but now with that commitment gone, I could sit here till closing if I liked.

But I got full. I packaged up the remainder, paid, and left. I bought what I'm sure was the last thermometer in the city and stared in disbelief at the price of fuel. 74 cents a litre. Just two days earlier it had been 84 cents -- and I had been overjoyed at the low price. To lose ten cents in two days -- over the weekend -- emphasized the economic freefall that had been predicted but I hoped wouldn't come. On one hand I rejoiced at the cheap gas (I'll take any financial break I can get), but on the other, I live in a province built on the energy sector. When gas prices drop, that's because we're collectively out of work.

I got home, checked my email. As I expected, given the public health update that had gone out while I was in Pizza Hut, my other show had emailed and cancelled rehearsals for two weeks. Our shows -- originally supposed to be the beginning of April -- were now tentatively moving till after Easter.

And I am the lucky one.

At least one of my shows will still go on, however late. So many of my friends had shows that were cancelled entirely, some after the final dress rehearsal but before the opening curtain. Mine will go on eventually -- theirs won't.

My parents play a game with my youngest brother while we listen to music and several of my sisters work on handcrafts. I solve several sudoku puzzles before tiring of them. My parents discuss the forthcoming 18-hour round trip out-of-province that they're going to have to undertake to collect my other brother from his suddenly nonfunctional college -- his first year of a new adventure truncated just before performance season (which of course is the best part).

Throughout the night, as I ponder the surrealness of it all, I wonder mostly what will happen to me should I fall ill. I fall into the category of 'those with pre-existing medical conditions,' so my age does not mean I'm safe. I'm not worried about my family except my youngest brother (also has a pre-existing condition). He's young enough, though, that he will be a priority. I am not. I'm nearly thirty. I'm also not a 'productive,' 'valuable' member of society. I work part-time at a small-town sandwich shop which may close any day now depending on the next public health statement and, till about a year ago, spent any spare moments I could find dancing or writing. None of those factors make me worth saving -- let alone the fact that now I spend any spare moments either playing Pac-Man on my phone or scrolling mindlessly through Facebook because I've lost the joy/desire/inspiration/confidence in both dance and writing. I don't have any children -- no-one would would actually need me should something happen to me. I may mean the world to my fiancé, my siblings, a handful of friends, perhaps my parents... but when the chips are down,  I won't mean enough to 'society at large' to choose saving me over saving literally anyone else.

For years I wanted to die. Sometimes I tried to take matters into my own hands. There were moments I almost literally stood on the edge of the cliff, and I had walked there myself. But now that it seems like a genuine possibility -- I don't want to. Not yet. I want to grow old with my dear fiancé first -- to have adventures and a life with him, to hold his hand and sleep in his arms while feeling him breathe. I want to see if I can find my old artistic passions again. I want to see what happens after this -- if society in general collapses; if Apple slows down their confounded forced-obsolescence trend because nobody will be able to afford a new iThing every three and a half months in the almost-certainly-forthcoming economic recession (this was an actual thought that I had while staring out of the window over my breadsticks).

Part of me wants to draw on my artistic skills to flagrantly show hope to people through their phone screens. The only thing stopping me is I lost my ability to see hope years ago, and it's well-nigh impossible to give to others something I can't even find.

21 January 2020

The Curly-Haired Man (My Side of the Story)

My fiancé discovered my blog, noticed a lack of posts mentioning him, and insisted I write about how we met. I did actually plan to do a post about it, but my depression (as well as my lungs) hit an all-time low and I am still honestly having a hard time getting out of bed every morning. I'm still feeling pretty hopeless and abandoned by God. But my fiancé insisted, so here we are.

(For his version of the story A.K.A. the Cliff's notes version, click here.)

It was during my first show back in Alberta after graduating college. I stayed in Saskatchewan and finished out two other shows (Jesus Christ Superstar and The Sound of Music), then, two days after Sound of Music closed, I packed my entire life -- three years of hopes and dreams -- into my Chevy Uplander and drove seven hours to a new life in Alberta, in a city that I had only seen twice in my life and never lived in. I had a rental place and one show lined up and nothing else. No job, nothing.

As I've mentioned in earlier posts from 2019, I had planned to make my life in Saskatchewan for several years after graduating. I had already made a couple inroads into theatre there and most of my friends were there as well. But in the course of three or four days, all of my plans for Saskatchewan fell through entirely. I had the one show lined up in Alberta... I had almost backed out of it because I had planned to stay in Saskatchewan but I had procrastinated on actually sending the email telling the people in the Alberta show I was backing out. When everything fell through and I made the decision to move to Alberta, I emailed them asking if I could join rehearsals late (as I was in Sound of Music until mid-June). After a week of deliberation, they said I could join late. I would be joining during rehearsal week five out of ten.

I moved to Alberta on 11 June and reported for my first rehearsal on the 15th. The venue was rather farther away from my city than I thought it was, and I ended up staying in the private campground reserved for the actors (rehearsals and performances took place on a massive outdoor amphitheatre). I didn't bring a tent because I despise camping. Instead, I still had my little mattress that I had bought in Saskatchewan sitting in the back seat of my van, and my plan was to simply sleep in the van, on top of the mattress.

During the first day of rehearsals, it somehow came out to some of my castmates that I was planning on sleeping in my van. But before I could explain that I had a mattress and wasn't just sleeping on a bench seat, one woman maybe ten years older than me insisted that I stay the weekend in her camping trailer. I tried to explain, but she would not hear of it -- "you are not sleeping in a van." I accepted the offer, feeling it would be impolite to refuse her kindness. She said her son was usually with her, but he happened to not be there that weekend so she had a bed free in her trailer.

At the time, I was extremely depressed, having been told repeatedly throughout the previous year that I was worthless as a performer. This was the last show I had lined up, and I had prepared to quit performing entirely. I was also by this time starving myself in an effort to hasten my end. My life was ending -- performing arts had been all I had and without it there was no point in eating to prolong it. My plan was to die very shortly after this show ended.

As such, I was not doing a lot of socialising. Usually I'm fairly quick to make friends or at least talk to people during rehearsals for shows, but my bitterness and my fast-approaching death sucked away all my motivation to do so here. I deliberately isolated myself, telling myself that nobody here would really want to talk to me once they knew the real me -- which they would know real fast once I started talking to them because I apparently have this horrible habit of 'oversharing.' My plan, therefore, was to not talk at all. Nobody wanted to hear it, so I wasn't going to share it.

To that end, I brought Lila, my faithful word processor, to the campground with me. I had intended to sequester myself in my van and work on the Kyrie revision. I brought her with me to the trailer. My host went to the washroom building to shower, and I pulled Lila out of my backpack and put in the key code. She returned an error message. I turned her off and tried again. Same message.

A quick Google search (on my phone and 1GB of data) suggested that her memory was corrupted and she was gone for good. I emailed the address provided in her error message, then set her aside and began to mope, sliding into the abyss of boredom and subsequent despair. Lila had been with me for nine years. I haven't even been friends with any humans that long. It was almost like another death.

My host returned. "They're playing some games in one of the other trailers," she said. "I can introduce you to them if you like."

"No," I said. I was too listless and depressed and had no interest in being around people who would inevitably think I was too much if they knew anything about me. She accepted my answer and engaged me in conversation. I did try, though I'm sure my responses came off as somewhat anaemic. After some time, she said, "Come; I'll take you to that trailer and introduce you." I agreed, telling myself it would be good to at least learn more names.

She led me to a tiny refurbished 1970s trailer about the size of a postage stamp and ushered me inside. I found myself in the middle of a dozen people crammed around a table, on a bed, standing on the two square feet of copper and beige linoleum available for standing on. I was offered a chair -- which I declined -- as well as food and a spot at the game table. I declined the latter as well, but ate a couple bites of something, I don't remember what. A man with a red beard stood in the centre of the tiny trailer and said, "This here is Betsy," sweeping his outstretched hand around the air above all our heads, indicating the trailer itself. Everybody introduced everybody else and I somehow managed to more or less retain all the names coming at me.

I leaned against the counter -- there was nowhere else to be, and I didn't feel comfortable sitting and taking up so much space that way. I was coughing a lot due to my ongoing lung issues, and a curly-haired man with with a handsome beard and an orange hat put his hand on my shoulder at one point. "Don't die," he said. I gave him a very brief overview of my lung situation (this particular coughing spell became pneumonia by the end of the show's run).

Throughout the night I noticed the curly-haired man seemed to look at me a lot and I suspected he was flirting with me. But, unpracticed with men as I am, I didn't dare jump to any conclusions. He wasn't making me uncomfortable, so I stood where I was and observed his behaviour. I was suspicious enough of his intentions by the end of the night that I texted my best friend about it before I went to bed that night. She told me not to freak out, and I tried my best to take her advice.

The next day, we were rehearsing in a large tent due to weather, and the curly-haired man came up to me and flicked the brim of my sunhat.

"Hello," I said, too taken aback to think of anything more eloquent.

"Hello," he said with a smile.

Over lunch I texted my best friend about the incident and she said, "he's into you. Guys don't flick girls' hats if they're not interested in them." I began to freak out a little bit. I couldn't deny I was somewhat drawn to him, but after a previous bout of male attention I'd gotten during a show the previous year, I had made a rule that I don't date guys I'm currently in a show with. If they are still willing to pursue something after the show closes and we're not spending sixteen hours a week in rehearsal together, that's fine, but I was absolutely not interested in dating someone only for the duration of a show's run again. To be getting this kind of attention from a castmate again unnerved me.

As rehearsals progressed, I continued to find myself drawn to him, despite my repeated attempts to deny it even in my own head. Every move I made was soon calculated to be near him as much as possible without it looking like I was trying to be near him as much as possible. (Apparently I succeeded, as he didn't fully realise I was hanging around him deliberately until I told him this after we started dating.) I would watch the entrance to Betsy from the side mirror on my van, and if I saw him go in, I would wait a few minutes, then go in. I never went to Betsy unless I saw the curly-haired man go in first.

During one of these visits, he and I ended up sitting on the bed/couch, in the corner, talking. He told me his entire life story, plus the stories behind all his tattoos -- some three hours' worth of material. I was so fascinated that somebody else was willing to tell me their entire life story, the good and the bad, and drank in every word of it. It was a nice change from me having to bare my soul. I think it was during this conversation that we exchanged phone numbers.

At some point, we developed a pattern of him walking me to my van at the end of the night and giving me a good night hug. I'm not a touchy-feely person, but I was extremely touch-starved and always felt safe in his arms, with my head resting against his chest. I began to look forward to the nightly hugs and would replay them over and over in my head once I was in bed.

Eventually I added him on Facebook... along with about eight other people in the cast so it wasn't as obvious that I was just adding him.

Opening day dawned extremely rainy. Our campground was quite close to the river, and the rising levels were visible to the naked eye. We were told the show would go on that evening, so during the day the cast either hid out in their tents or gathered in the big central tent in the middle of the campground. Several of us spent the day playing card games -- mostly Racko, a game my dad and I have played for years. The curly-haired man sat beside me.

Near the end of the game session, when people were starting to make their early suppers before going to the amphitheatre, my text alert went off. It was the curly-haired man. 'You're awesome,' it said. I wasn't sure how to respond, but eventually settled on 'Thanks... so are you.'

He was called to the theatre earlier than I was to review the stunts. When I got to the theatre for warmup, he met me at the warmup location and we started chatting. He brought up his text to me, then said, "I almost used a different word."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"'Like,'" he said. "The word 'like.' I like you. You're a cool girl."

I stared off into the horizon, not sure of how to respond. I don't actually remember how I responded. I remember thinking how I had to focus on the show and not the fact that a man I was not willing to admit I was drawn to had just said he liked me. I had never had that happen in my entire life. I'd had guys flirt with me and even take me to dinner, but none of them had ever been man enough to actually admit they were interested in me.

I managed to get through the performance without being too distracted, and after opening night, the production team held an ice-cream social for the cast. He and I sat next to each other and the topic quickly shifted to us, as friends.

"What do you want it to be?" I asked him.

"I'd like to get to know you more first," he said.

I nodded.

"If you're okay with that," he added.

"I'm just skittish," I said.

"Why?"

I told him my rule and the story behind it -- how someone from a show I was in led me on and then ghosted me, and how I later found out he was dating a friend of mine (from the same show) and was cheating on her with me.

"That's wrong," he said. "If you don't want to date till after the show, I'll wait."

I told him I appreciated that, and we continued our friendship. We began texting each other during the week -- constantly. Eventually I texted my dad, letting him know of the developing situation. He and my mother were planning on coming to the show the next weekend and I wanted to hear my dad's impression of my curly-haired friend. I did not, however, want anybody else to know in case it didn't work out, and I swore my dad to secrecy.

That Friday, I admitted to the curly-haired man that I liked him back. I still remember the look on his face. My parents saw the show Sunday and I managed to introduce him as a friend. It raised no suspicions from my mother, as I had so many theatre friends already so what was another one? But I had texted my dad his name, and when I said, as casually as possible, "This is Jacob," my dad caught the significance of the introduction immediately. I managed to draw my mother into a separate conversation as Dad and Jacob talked for a few minutes.

I should mention at this point that what I fell in love with was his tender heart and kind personality. I was actually not physically attracted at all at first -- which was the way I always wanted it to happen. I never wanted to fall in love with a guy's looks; I wanted to fall in love with his heart. I don't remember the exact moment I fell in love with his heart because it happened quite gradually, but I remember the moment I fell in love with his looks...

The dressing room for an outdoor amphitheatre is little more than a shack behind the set lined with wooden benches and covered with corrugated tin. There are no walls except the set wall itself. Jacob and I happened to have claimed spots on benches that were back to back. I could look across and just to the left and see him.

One night after the show, he went to put away his costume, and I hung around on my side of the bench, looking at my phone as I waited for him to come back. I heard him return, but didn't look up until he asked me a question. I looked up and his face was RIGHT THERE -- all hazel eyes and freckles -- and for the first time I felt my heart skip a beat at the sight of a man.

We continued talking through the rest of the show's three-week run -- joking about dating and even marriage, but with the understanding that we were not actually discussing dating until after the show. It didn't stop the speculation among our castmates though... Jacob would come hug me before each show and during each intermission in addition to our ever-lengthening good-night hugs. We began holding hands, less and less covertly. It was little surprise when people starting asking if we were dating, and it became harder to answer that question.

He discovered fairly early on that I was only just eating enough to stand upright, and he used his texting privileges to plead with me to eat (spoiler: he still does).

The night before the final weekend of the run, we got talking about it again. I asked what we were doing, and he said, "It's up to you. I've already told you how I feel and what I want. But I want us to decide together, not just me. I won't pressure you into dating. I'll just wait and not say anything about it until you're ready."

"No," I said. "Let's try it."

But we didn't use the words 'we are dating' until two days later. There had been a situation where our friend group had decided the night before to go out to the dollar store that morning. I had been part of this discussion and was, I thought, part of the invitation. I had no connections in my new home city yet so this was my final opportunity for human interaction. I had told them to wake me when they were ready to go.

That morning I woke at 11, found my curly-haired man, and told him I was ready to go.

"We already went," he said.

It gutted me. I was in a funk for the rest of the day. Another friend tried to cheer me up but I couldn't shake the feeling of betrayal. Finally, Jacob invited me to walk with him and we wandered around the campground. He apologised, explained the reason for the change of plans, and said he had tried to wake me but couldn't rouse me (this was entirely believable as I will probably sleep through the apocalypse). Then he asked my forgiveness. I gave it to him, and the conversation turned to other things, namely, our relationship status.

"What are we doing?" I asked. "Are we dating?"

"Do you want to?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Then we are dating," he said.

And that's how I started dating a curly-haired fellow actor in a show that I almost wasn't in. We are now engaged, set to be married within a year.

It's weird -- part of me never thought I would date anyone, let alone get married. I always thought I would be too much for anybody -- after all, literally everybody in my life up to this point has had that exact complaint... 'you're too much.' 'Nobody will ever love you.' 'You need to be more positive before anybody will want to have anything to do with you.'

How then does a man fall in love with me while I am actively starving myself because I had tried so hard to be positive and make myself fit their mould and I couldn't? Was everyone else lying? Is he sent from God? Both?

It is no exaggeration to say I am still alive today because of this curly-haired man. Recovery is still ongoing, but he is just as stubborn as I am. He wants me to live even more than I wanted to die (which was quite a lot). He is slowly convincing me that I want to live too. I am glad I met him and I am even more glad that we get to spend the rest of our lives together.

20 January 2020

My Fiancé Takes Over My Blog

(Title is self-explanatory. My fiancé and I thought it would be fun to write the story of how we met and publish both sides of it. For the extended version -- A.K.A. my version -- click here.)

Hi, I'm Jacob, Kate's fiance. I'm 6'3" tall, fluffy, bearded man with tattoos.
This is our story from my point of view.

I want to start this story with why I joined the Passion Play in 2019. The whole winter and start of summer I had people say to me that I was happy that I was in the Passion Play in 2016 and that was true but I was not really happy and not feeling God in my life so I just thought why should I even be allowed to go to do something I loved and the people I loved, if He wanted me to join give me a sign and yet they were all around me and I didn't even know it at the time. It was May 17 I woke and still felt that I should go to the Passion Play and I called my mother and asked what should I do about it, she said trust in God and do what He says so I did and I rode my bike to the Passion Play not knowing His plan so I watched the first half of rehearsal and said to myself I'll trust in God and sign up. When I went to sign up my name -- full name -- was signed up for the Passion Play and I asked around to all my old friends and none of then signed my name, so there was a reason for me to join and I had to find out why.


The day was June 15, 2019, it was a nice sunny day no rain in sight that I remember.
It was the start of that week of PP (Passion Play), and I've been doubting God through 5 weekends, asking 'why am I here?'
Right when we start warmup, I see this geeky little girl (remember I'm 6'3), as I said sunny day, but she's wearing a sunhat, jean shorts, pink fluffy legwarmers, and at the time I thought she was wearing a winter jacket. But I was wrong, it was a rain jacket and 2 hoodies. First impression was 'how the heck is she cold?' I'm a hot blooded man, I'm wearing a tank top, shorts, and sandals. I didn't see her again till lunch but sadly I didn't sit with her because I was sitting with friends (this is my second time in the PP).
When I noticed that no one was sitting with her and she was lonely, I got up and put one step in and we were told we had to start up again.
So I was invited to the PP camp site yet I live in the same town as the PP. I was in a camper called Betsy (I am friends with the owner of Betsy). I was invited for a beer and games so I came and it was fun, still doubting God but I listened. After a hour and a half of of talking and not playing the games (I'm not a game player I like watching them though), the door opened and I looked and 2 people walked in. And ding ding you guessed it Sarah was one of them. She walked in the same outfit that I first saw her in. She was so quiet and shy that she didn't say a word, it was weird for me not to say "hi I'm Jacob and what's your name" and there was no answer so I thought to be kind and wait for a little bit and ask again, that didn't happen because I said "does anyone smell gas?" she by accident turned Betsy's gas stove on. After that I said, "There's a spot next to me." She said, "No, I'm gonna go." I said, "Let's talk for a bit before you go." She sat and we talked for an hour. I was the one who started off the conversation with my story (too long to tell, if you want to know ask Sarah-Kate and maybe I'll do a part 2). She was interested in my story of my faith and pain that was night 1 that I met Sarah-Kate.


The next morning I thought to myself why the hell did I share my life story to a girl I don't even know. It's going to be weird seeing her again today (I thought this while riding my bike to the PP). I was fine not seeing her again till lunch (I had a lot to do; I had 6 or 7 roles to do in the PP). I was so busy I didn't have lunch that day. But I was again invited to the campground for games so I went. And ding ding she came back to Betsy, and this time she opened up with her life off faith and pain (if you want to know about her faith and pain just read her blog). I thought it was cool we kinda have a similar story but not the same, but this time it was a longer talk, like 3 hours' worth, but it was weird I walked her to her van where she was sleeping at the time to say goodnight. Again, something I never do.
I didn't see her for another week and yet I missed talking to someone who got a similar story like mine, and yet I was excited to go back this time and I didn't know why.
I started to hang out with her more and more and I felt happy and it was weird, later in our relationship I found out that she felt safe with me, a guy she didn't even know. I got off track -- I felt angry, happy, and sad at the same time that the days were getting closer to the end of PP.

Opening day I prayed for a sign that what she was was a friend, not a girlfriend, but if she was the one for me, give me a sign. That day she asked to be my friend on Facebook. Later again in the relationship she just wanted to add me but thought it would be weird that she just added me and no one else from the PP.

So I took it to God and trusted Him. That day, opening day, I said to her, "I think I like you" and went to do my stuff, thinking she probably thinks I'm a dick for telling her I like her and leaving right after that. Honestly I felt like a dick. The whole show I wasn't in the same scene as her so I didn't feel super bad. She offered to drive me to the campsite and I thought sh*t she's not gonna be my friend anymore. I was wrong. She said she didn't date guys in the same show that she was in, and I said, "I will wait," and we were friends and that was cool. After losing 3 shows due to weather and a tornado warning, the end of the show was here and she and I were sitting in her van, and said "well, it's the end of the show, what do you think?" She said, "about what?" Then I told her again that I liked her and what she thought of it. We have been talking on Facebook a lot, not about us, about PP things we like and don't like, you know, friend stuff. When she thought for a while she said to me, "I do like you," and I said, "Then let's try it. If it doesn't work at least we can be good friends." She agreed.

And now we're engaged, but that's a story for another time.

09 January 2020

New Year? Can't Tell...

2020. The start of a new decade, a new dawn, a new hope. A fresh slate, a brand-new start.

Nine days in and there have been two more deaths, a full-on identity crisis, a huge row over the wedding and it's now on hold, I've been fighting a chest infection for a month and still have a stabbing pain in my lung that hampers every single breath I take, and I lay in bed till 2pm every single day because I have literally no reason to get up in the morning. Or the afternoon for that matter.

I don't even know where to start.

All I ever wanted was to dance. I went into musical theatre because a certain program director told me I was not cut out to dance and that was my only real option (even though he also told me I'm not cut out to sing either).

I'm increasingly starting to resent musical theatre. I wanted to dance. But because of the money situation (see my post dedicated to that rant), I can't keep up my dance training. I thought musical theatre would get me into the dance world more easily, but it didn't. The last two dance callbacks I've done have been abysmal and I don't blame them for not casting me.

I'm starting to let auditions pass me by. There's no point and I can't afford the gas money to get to the rehearsals anyway. I don't want to do theatre. I don't want to do anything. I'm not sure I even want to be alive... I don't know that my existence means anything to anyone anymore.

I wanted to start 2020 off without complaining. I wanted to have a more positive attitude. I swear I did. Nobody believes me about that anymore -- I say I want to be positive and I do make an effort but then another rash of devastating things happens and how the hell am I supposed to stay positive through that? Stay positive? My friends are dead.

I tried. I try over and over and over again. I try so hard, so many times. I keep getting up and I keep trying again and it's like nobody believes me and nobody cares.

31 December 2019

I Am Trying, I Swear

I picked the literal worst year in the history of Alberta to get married.

I've had almost ten other perfectly good, not-economically-abysmal years that I could have used to meet him and get married. But nope, dumb Kate has to pick this year, of all years. Nobody in Alberta has money, and even less people in Alberta have any sympathy. Alberta is a province of hard, determined workers who will themselves into a job and have exactly zero sympathy for anybody who's struggling to find work. It is worse in Alberta to be on financial assistance than it is to be a Nazi.

It's so frustrating. I only moved back to Alberta because I got no paying work after two years -- read that again, two years -- of job-hunting in Saskatchewan. I have applied for I swear every single job in Alberta. Every single one. I have applied for everything I may be even remotely qualified for, and even quite a few jobs that I am not qualified for. I have applied for everything, in pretty well every field of employment. Cashier, food services, waitressing, construction/contracting, sales associates, secretary, janitorial, grocery clerk, post office, farmhand, dishwasher -- you name it, I have applied for it. I promise. I have applied for all of the above in five different towns/cities in the past two days, in fact.

I cry a lot nowadays -- half because I miss my sweet fiancé so much (stupid long-distance), but half because I can't fund my own wedding and I'm losing to ability to convince everyone else that I really actually do want to help finance my wedding. Even his family seems to think I'm expecting a free ride somehow but I swear I am not. I am trying as hard as I know how and if there was a way I could be guaranteed a job, I would have done it already. My parents are experiencing their absolute worst year financially since I was a very young child, so they can't afford to help me out, no matter how much they would love to. I swear I'm not being lazy. I would absolutely pay for this entire wedding out of my own pocket if I could. If it has to be, I will go beg on street corners to get the money together for this wedding without asking any of our family for any more help. I am NOT lazy, and I am NOT looking for a free ride in anything. I know it takes hard work. All I'm looking for is a job.

It would be so easy to just move in together and call it done. It would be a hell of a lot cheaper and way less stressful. But I really want to do this right. I want to have an official Christian wedding. I want to be married before we live together. I want to do the right thing.

Yes, we could sign documents, get legally married, and have a party later -- but we all know the 'have a party later' thing never really happens. If we don't pull together the money for it now, will we really have the discipline to pull it together later, after we're already married? What's the point of it then? People won't take it as seriously then and then they're less likely to come celebrate with us anyway.

Sure, we could postpone the wedding a year or two -- but I hate this long-distance thing. I hate being apart from him, and I want to be with him as much as possible as soon as possible. (For the record, we already have postponed our wedding three months.)

We've cut down the budget as far as it can go. We got our wedding down from an initial $10,000 projected budget to $4,000. We are getting a lot of things at a reduced rate due to networking. There is nothing else we can cut... except the dance.

I never planned out my future wedding as a child, a teen, or even a young adult. I didn't have a dream venue, or dress, or flower arrangement figured out, or a Pinterest board of decorations, or a playlist of songs I wanted. The only thing -- the literal only dream I had about my future wedding (if there even was one) was the dance. I wanted a dance.

I was flowergirl in my aunt and uncle's wedding when I was young. The only thing I remember about that wedding -- besides cupping my aunt's face in my little five-year-old hands and telling her she looked beautiful -- was the dance. I watched all sorts of people get onto the dance floor and dance to the music and I loved it. From that age, I knew that if I ever got married, I wanted a dance at my wedding. That was the only dream I had about my wedding before my engagement. The only one.

And of course that's the most expensive thing. That's the easiest thing to cut, financially. Both the hall and the DJ are big-ticket expenses, and both are dispensable. This puts me into a state of extreme stress (even more than unemployment already has done)...

I want a dance. It's my only dream.

But it's expensive.

But that was the only thing I ever dreamed of having at my wedding.

But you could cut the budget in half if you dropped it.

But it was my dream.

But you don't have a job. You can't fund it. And you can't in good conscience make everyone else fund it when you're already contributing diddly-squat.

But I've always wanted a dance.

It's not like it's a necessity. Grow up.

But I'm only ever going to have one wedding...

And now I'm crying again.

It's starting to feel like God made me defective. Literally all my passions are the exact things that western society will not pay for. Even my artistic siblings have jobs, side passions that fit neatly into a trade or at least something that will pay them minimum wage. I'm willing to learn stuff outside of my passions -- I already have for previous jobs -- but first somebody in this God-forsaken prairie has to actually hire me.

I pray so much about this. I beg and I plead and I yank desperately at the hem of God's cloak but still He is silent. Just like He always has been toward me when I have been in need. I try to do the George Müller thing and not ask anybody else for money and just trust God for it but then my gas tank is empty again and I have rehearsal in literally forty-five minutes and I have no choice but to beg my friends and family on Facebook for money again. And I feel like scum doing that. I feel like the worst specimen of humanity when I have to beg my friends for money just to put gasoline in my vehicle. A lot of times it does feel like I would be better off dead -- I wouldn't cost anything anymore. The literal only thing that stops me is the thought of how devastated my fiancé would be.

I hate that all I think about now is money. I hate that everything is so tied to money. I hate that I'm obsessed with it now, but I have to be -- you cannot exist in western society without it, even if your tastes aren't expensive and you know how to stretch a dollar. A dollar only stretches so far before it breaks.

Everyone talks about the faithfulness of God. Everyone else talks of His miracles of provision. I can't even tell you how many people just in the past week have said to me, 'just let go and let God,' or 'just pray more, and I guarantee...' You don't think I haven't been doing that? You don't think I have prayed my face off for the past two years of my unemployed (and therefore worthless) existence? I have confessed sins, I have prayed for guidance, I have taken risks, I have worked hard, I have tried. What yet do I lack? What magical ingredient am I missing that God still requires from me? I thought His grace to us was just that -- grace. Not based on our merit or our works, but our need. Not once have I pointed to my Bible college degree. Not once have I pointed to a lifetime of church attendance and tithing. Not once. All I have said, over and over and OVER again, is, 'God, you know I need to be able to pay for this. Please help me. Please provide.'

And He is silent.

I have great need, God -- and only some of it is financial. Do You care or not?