Life and Death

I am not afraid to die. It will be another transformation as my life source steps out of its vehicle; the home it has known since a hot day in July of 1988. I am conscious of my mortality and think about it often, every day.

This is so important.

The powerful personality and mystic Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev wrote a book called Inner Engineering that I always recommend to anyone looking for somewhere to start in trying to understand life or conscious awareness as it eloquently explains complex issues with respect to its more serious topic of life and death. When I was in the worst stages of anxiety and depression I refused help.

I thought therapy wouldn’t help because I couldn’t foresee how talking about something could make it any better, but I realize that in keeping the suffering silent I was only making it worse for myself in the long run. Back in those days I chose medication rather than therapy because I wanted to climb out of my body and the numbing that I experienced was addictive.

I was also untouched by death at that time and blissfully unaware of the significant mental stress I would eventually experience in knowing it intimately. It was through family and friend support that I went off the medications like Effexor and other anti anxiety prescriptions after university, but I was tempted to go right back on them because of the severe withdrawal symptoms which included what felt like my brain getting little jolts of electrocution every once in a while…not fun.

Instead of succumbing to the uncomfortable symptoms I rode it out, started eating better and going to the gym and I eventually got to a “high point” where I was clear enough to make the decision to apply to Mohawk College for the Millwright Program. It was hard, and to get where I was and to have my mother pass away at the end stretch of my trade education was devastating.

When I was faced with the option of therapy or medication once again after she died I didn’t feel comfortable with either option; talking about it in therapy I felt wouldn’t change what happened yet I didn’t want to numb myself because nothing could remove that memory from me. Dying seemed like the right thing to do and nothing else really mattered; I rationalized to myself the way my family would react and I told myself they’d understand because of the circumstances, but my grandmother was still alive and of all people, I couldn’t do that to her. Her, my dad or my sister, really. When I was preparing a collage to present at Mom’s funeral I was thinking about how I would die and I became overwhelmed with what I can now say was Mom’s energy.

I thought it was really weird when it happened…I’m not going to lie. I was sitting alone and thought “Well, I’ve finally cracked.” There I was, sitting alone and all of a sudden it felt like my mother was standing there (figuratively) in the room and she was desperately trying to convince me to continue to live despite her dying yet I could sense she was very angry with my current thought situation.

I was so perplexed by what was happening that I couldn’t shake the compulsion to investigate what was happening. Was I thinking of how she’d react to my thinking of suicide and oddly creating a scenario in my head? Is it my brain’s way of cancelling the self-destruct button? I know I’m in a state of panic but why does she feel so damn…close?

Looking up from my collage, I turned towards the next photo in my collection and it was of Mom standing alone smiling broadly in front of one of the many delicious holiday feats she would prepare for us. “Oh my god. The point of life is to live.” That doesn’t sound very profound…lol.

But I was not living in any of the sense of the word before Mom died and I held especially little reverence for my life upon experiencing her death. I was going through the motions and working on pleasing everyone around me which often failed, causing me to be miserable time and time again. I’ll now contrast the way I used to live my life with the way it is lived now; the differences should demonstrate the changes in my behavior and thought process among accepting signs and “messages” (while keeping the thought that I could indeed be losing it after all).

 On a typical school day at Brock University, the following would happen.

6:00 am. Wake up and my heart starts to race “Did I do all my work? Is something due today? Oh God, I didn’t go to seminar last night because of my nerves. Now the professor will know and I’ll probably fail the class…” Heart is pounding and body starts to sweat as I run to the washroom.

6:30 am. I’m hungry but I can’t eat or I’ll be nauseous or have to go to the washroom during class. I’ll just have a coffee instead

*Makes anxiety significantly worse with coffee coursing through veins deficit of breakfast*

7:00 am. Driving to Brock: 40 minute commute “These people think I’m so stupid. I don’t even know how I got into university…they probably think I need special help or had to get some to get in the school at all. Oh, my stomach hurts so much I don’t want to go. What if it rumbles again and that girl looks my way? That one student in Animal Studies knows so much about everything and I look so stupid sitting next to her. I ought to switch spots.”

8:00 am. First class begins, I am hesitant but I enter. Barely pays attention and worries about who’s looking at me the entire time.

12:00 pm. Headed to the library for studying and “lunch”… usually more coffee.

“God I love the library. No one bothers me here. I don’t think I’ll go to seminar next class…What’s that I’ve missed now, 2? Or was it 3? How many can I miss before I fail the class? 4? I wonder if I should talk to the TA…Nah, they’ll think I’m stupid too. I’ll just fail it, fuck it, what is it worth like 30% of my grade? I’m going to have to do unreal on the exams. Better pay attention tomorrow.”

4:00 pm. Driving home to Stoney Creek. “Today was awful. I hate school! Fuck, I’m going to fail and my parents are going to kill me for wasting their money. It’s their fault I’m here to begin with! If they want the stupid degree they can come get it I’m done.”

5:00 pm. Home for dinner

Mom: “How was school today?”
Me: *Smiling* “Good! Got lots of homework, talk to you at dinner!”
Mom: “Okay, pet. Really proud of you!”
Me: “I know, Mom. Thanks!”

Heads upstairs to my room and cries into pillow. “Fuck. I can’t disappoint her or Dad. How did Lauren get all the smart genes? why can’t I do this and be like everybody else for fuck sakes? I’m so far in over my head and I hate school and my life. Why does it have to be this hard?”

This sequence generally repeated each day; some days were worse, others better. My parents knew some of my suffering but mostly I’d complain about boyfriends or friends and social drama rather than tell them what was also going on with my academic career. I didn’t want to add to the stress of knowing I was struggling academically when it seemed I couldn’t get my shit together in any area of my life so I wanted to keep up the façade that I was excelling.

My first year in university I failed my French class. On one of the first days there, our fluently French professor asked us a couple of *easy* questions in French and I was the unwilling person chosen to answer one of them and my answer was incorrect, causing me extreme anxiety and stress during that class. I never went back. The professor was “too engaging” and I was terrified of being singled out again so I struggled to learn the class online but it was impossible for me to keep up and I failed the semester.

When I had to choose another elective to replace that one I chose differently, even though I knew that if I went back to that same French class my mark would be replaced with the better grade but I didn’t want to risk having that same professor one more time. Overall I think my average was around sixty seven percent or so when I finally managed to graduate from Brock.

I didn’t attend my graduation because I was just so done with post-secondary school after barely making it out and thankful I managed to get a degree at all. I had it mailed to me and only recently framed it, honoring it for what it is…a damn degree that I worked hard for lol. “Never, EVER again!” I thought as I drove away after my final university exam.

The day of my final exam for my Ancient History class I sat in the school parking lot in my car and couldn’t think of a god damn thing that I was taught, even though I’d struggled to attend most of the classes and seminars for it because I found it most “tolerable”. I think it was because the professor was a gentle woman who didn’t pick on people too often and the TA would write wonderful words of encouragement on my essays; it was the first time I felt “smart” while studying there.

Learning about Herodotus and Aristotle was interesting and I loved writing essays about these historical figures. For years I was used to seeing an overall mark of 70% in my classes; it was almost expected. Broken down from the syllabus, I’d consider the 30% worth of presentations and social interaction to be a loss from the start and accrue grades through avid writing projects and exams.

All while trying my best to stay hidden; I hated talking to anyone. One time I met a guy at our campus bar theme night for Halloween and he told me we were in the same introductory science class so “we ought to meet there the next day”…so I basically never went back there either…lol.

Social anxiety is fucked up and really messed with my life for a long time until I was managed with medication, but it’s extremely difficult to explain it to other people. Especially because it can be impossible for other people to even begin to imagine what a person like myself or others are experiencing when this mania or panic begins. Many people would say to me (before the big mental health movement recently…I’m talking ten years ago from 2020) “it’s all in your head” or “I’m sure they weren’t thinking that” which lead to me feeling discredited and wrong in my feelings; another reason I’d shut people out.

Medication helped me complete my degree; it got me through the final ring of fire and allowed me to come home with a degree and a battered self-image. I felt like a failure watching all of my friends complete their Honors Degrees and applying to Teacher’s College while I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life.

One thing was for sure, there was no way in hell I’d be going anywhere near school again so that was out of the question in the beginning. I always wonder what would have happened if social media was back then the way it is now; would I have sought support through shared experiences via forums and groups found on Instagram? We had Facebook but social media was nothing like it is now.

The year after university saw me living the most free life and I began to explore myself for the first time; trying my best to figure out a solid path for my life with the gentle encouragement of my parents to seek employment now that I was a university graduate. They couldn’t understand why I was working in a mall with a university degree while my cousin worked for the government, we graduated from the same program at the same university one year apart.

I didn’t want to be a social worker or do social work, which was the basis of my degree…Sociology lol. So after a year of developing self-confidence I googled “what are trades?”; I must point out how excellent working in retail is for developing social skills and especially navigating difficult strangers with strong opinions while maintaining a level head and being professional.

Initially I was terrified to go back to school, let alone to be a millwright, but I realized that the choices I had been making were not making me happy so I actively opted to do something about it and exit my comfort zone for my own good. I knew what mistakes I had made while in university and I knew I wasn’t giving my intellect any credit, so I put my anxiety aside and applied to meet the dean of Mohawk College for the skilled trades and took my new journey day by day.

This time, I knew I’d be going in completely blind as I didn’t know the difference between a nut and a bolt but the dean assured me I’d be fine so I trusted his judgement and told myself I’d act confident and see if anyone noticed it was a big fake façade. No one noticed! They thought I was an extrovert! “Ha! Fooled them.”

It was miraculous the way this “fake it till you make it” energy was affecting me and I was asking questions during every class, making friends to study with and interacting with teachers when I was stuck on something. And I made a point to start looking people in the eye and making my soft-spoken voice audible enough to hear during a conversation.

You know how some teachers say “Is everyone following me so far?” to keep up with the class?

I’d be the one to throw up my hand and go “No! I don’t…” and I would get it sorted out rather than be embarrassed because someone was looking at me for asking a question. I stopped caring about what other people thought about me and focused on what I thought of me instead. My grades soared and I ended up landing a co-op for one of the most well known steel manufacturing companies in the world and I accepted a job offer there (where I still work!) after I graduated from Mohawk College.

My days now look like this:

5:00 am. Wake up, make coffee and eat breakfast. Grateful to have woken up.

5:15 am. Shower and meditate. Thankful for family and work.

5:30 am. Get ready for the day; go over all of the things I’m grateful for and listen to some music to get energy flowing for the day (sometimes dancing, too!) Yum, thanks!

6:00 am. Wake Mila up and get her ready. I created this human and I honor that.

6:30 am. Drive to daycare and then work. Thankful for daycare.

7:30 am. Work!

4:00 pm. Home for dinner and reflecting on the day. “I’m so glad Tim can cook. He cooks like a vegetarian restaurant and if it weren’t so damn healthy I’d be terribly overweight lol. Guess you really can’t eat too many veggies.”

8:00 pm. Meditation and appreciation session. Silence.

8:30 pm. Write, YouTube or Tarot!

10:00 pm. Bedtime

You get the idea! I don’t waste any time anymore. If I’m actively engaged in something, I’m putting all of my effort and conscious thought into it. I say no a lot more often and I take daily stock of where I’m at mentally or else it’s easy for days to pass and stress to accumulate and all of a sudden you’re drowning. If I have leisure time you’ll catch me doing some kind of self-care or advancement like yoga or reading; something that either engages my body or mind or both. Television, tabloids, Keeping up with whoever; I don’t care at all to be honest.

My clothing doesn’t have to be brand name it just has to be me, and to devour delicious vegetarian food should honestly be considered a sport; and I’d win at that game lol! When I realized that eating meat had a negative effect on my consciousness I stopped. Ethically and morally I understand reasons why people dissociate from meat and animal products but my main reason was finding out that ingesting sentient animals significantly dulls our spiritual sense organs.

And it made a difference to quit.

Thank goodness it is the future and 2020 sees vegan and vegetarian delicacies taking center stage in the food production race – when I was in university tofu was plain and veggie options were expensive; a far cry from the way it is today and that was only eight years ago. We’re advancing and we’re doing it quickly. For those who suffer mental health issues and can’t understand how everyone else in the world can just go on like everything is fine…I’m writing this for you. Medication pulled me out of the original hole of depression but spirituality booted me into a completely different universe altogether. It made everything make sense and because it makes sense, I am alive.

If you’re in the thick of suffering or trying to find an escape route from it, I’ve got to say finally that journaling and taking some steps with water (drink it, take a hot shower or bath) and upping the self-care and self-honoring will show you a difference if you give it an honest go. No one knows when they will expire but I want to offer others the gentle reminder that we will all die and to take the opportunity to live because you have been gifted it; there is no time to waste in anything less than meaningful.

It might not be clear today or tomorrow but your purpose will unfold if you take a chance on yourself and quiet the mania in the mind to the level required to hear where you’re path lies. My purpose is to share what I’ve learned with others through the avenues I’ve worked to create and to continue working as a skilled tradeswoman where I enjoy my career and thrive in a masculine environment.

What’s your story? You have the opportunity to create a new one. I did. If my daughter asks me what the purpose of life is I will tell her to just enjoy living. Do whatever it is that makes you happy but remember to respect the society you are a part of and actively choose a role that suits you; create financial stability and love for yourself and if you so choose a partner choose wisely…Choose someone who is whole. Go outside and feel the wind on your skin, swim and taste the salty ocean sea, run barefoot through the grass (but avoid the earwigs and bees!) – be alive.

Our life energy animates our bodies and our brain transmits thoughts into action using electricity. When our vehicle breaks down for good it will return to the earth it came from but the electrical impulses don’t magically vanish – energy cannot be created nor destroyed. It can only transform. I haven’t figured it all out; I haven’t figured much out at all if I’m honest.

But I am certain that we do not die and only our bodies do and I will shout that to anyone who will listen to the end of my days. Develop your conscious awareness and extend some grace and understanding to your fellow humans; it can be exhausting to live in a world with people who don’t understand but the most freeing thing in the world is not giving a shit because you just know.

Let’s get this future in the hands of positive people and use our voices to change the entire word into something our children can be proud of long after we’re gone; a place where mental health struggles are respected and healed rather than chastised or numbed through medication. All adults are just big children and I think we’re about to see one of the most significant societal shifts yet with the technology and communication at an all time high and the exposure and removal of toxic people and ideals coming to light more and more each day.

Just try not to get wrapped up in the fear; it’s a beautiful world out there contrary to what the six o’clock news says. Listen to yourself and your guides. You will be able to hear them if you learn your spiritual language. Mine comes as clairvoyance (clear vision) and intuition or “knowing”.

The first time that Mom connected with me as energy, in my mind’s eye I could visualize her very angrily scolding me while standing there saying… “I didn’t give you life for you to end it like this! How dare you let this kill you knowing how much I love you!” It was no different than if she was right there talking to me and once I opened up and started to communicate back the conversation picked up. “Send me a song that answers *insert question*…” and then a song would play that would in fact answer what I was asking.

Energy is easiest for other, lighter energy to manipulate (we are dense) so energy is essentially why some people can feel and see spiritual energies and some people are too convoluted to begin to touch the experience. We are literally all conduits of spiritual energy but not many people have developed the required spiritual sense organs to feel so it goes unnoticed; it takes internal and external work and quieting but absolutely anyone can do it.

I choose tarot as a way to express the messages…my divination tool of choice. I still have a tough time differentiating between what is me and what is spirit and that’s why I really enjoy tarot or oracle decks as tools to communicate with this light vibration or energy; they take me out of the equation and draw from the energy of whoever I am reading for. So I’m going to leave it at that and I hope I at least have you thinking about energy and manipulation and how you can work with Spirit to gain control of your life and raise your vibration to the frequency required to connect with the divine.

It is indeed, divine.

Kaila A. Notto

Copyright © The Mindful Millwright 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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