Posts by KM Cooper

Low points and grownup jobs

Posted by on Mar 9, 2017 in Life in Writing | 3 comments

All I ever wanted in life was to be a writer. Literally. I can remember being a little girl and I never had dreams of a family, never cared much about getting married, and didn’t even consider where I’d like to live. The only thing I ever wanted was to be a writer. Let me tell you about one of the lowest points of my life. I remember it vividly. I was 28, and had just gone back to university to finish my degree. I left a good job–I was manager of a growing chain store–and it was the closest to a “grownup job” I’d ever had. Leaving was a huge risk. I had a house and mortgage, and there was no guarantee that I’d be able to find any kind of comparable work after I finished university. I was about a month and a half in, and was doing pretty poorly. I was failing an entry-level required course, and was having a really hard time keeping up with such a full schedule. I was still working part-time at the same place as before and wasn’t quite making enough hours to get by. In short, I was stressed in every sense of the word. For some reason, I decided I should go to a career fair being held at the university. It seemed like a good idea at the time. As I walked in, I gave my name and student ID, and looked around at the stalls, and then I was promptly hit with the horrifying realization that it was actually a terrible idea. I knew before I set my first nervous footsteps into the area that I would find nothing that appealed to me there. That shouldn’t be a problem, though, right? You’d think I’d be so firmly rooted in my life choices at this point that I’d have been chuckling to myself, recognizing my personal need for freedom and allowing myself the knowledge that a “grownup job” wasn’t for me. But, no. Old insecurities popped up and I suddenly felt like everyone was looking at me. I felt sick. And I wanted desperately to leave. If only I’d thought this through! I tried to navigate a sea of people who were milling about, taking their time to savour the experience. Some were talking to potential employers and exchanging information. I just wanted to get out of there without being seen. Being stuck behind a large amount of people in a narrow pathway, though, only meant that I’d have to wait. I bit my lip as tears blinded me. I felt panic well up with a giant lump in my throat. And then, at last, there was a long stretch of pathway that led out of the room. I almost ran. I grabbed my coat and walked right into the women’s bathroom, and I locked myself in a stall. I felt the world around me crumble into heavy sobs. Why am I here? What’s my purpose? Do I have one? What good am I if I can’t even work so much as a desk job? What is wrong with me? All these thoughts and worse flooded my mind. I clenched my fists and leaned heavily on the stall door. I vaguely heard other students coming in and going into the other stalls, some waiting their turn. I didn’t care or pay any mind. I focused most of my energy on staying quiet. What’s worse than a panic attack in public? People asking you if you’re okay while you’re having a panic attack in public. After about ten minutes of intense sobbing, I finally managed to put the world around me back together and I stepped back from the stall. I was okay for that moment in time, but I was wrecked for the rest of the day. Many years later, I still feel like this. In fact, I got in touch with someone from many years back recently, and the words “grownup job” came up. I felt that all-too familiar sting, as someone who’s currently a part-time waitress. I...

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Weathering the storm

Posted by on Jan 20, 2017 in Life in Writing, Uncategorized | 2 comments

UPDATE 11/02/2017: I found this article about 3 weeks after writing this post, and I drew parallels from its boat imagery to my own. Enjoy! Last night as I went to bed, I looked out at the night sky. Snow was falling gently, drifting past the street light and onto the ground. The world around me was in silence, despite the turmoil that was culminating elsewhere. I looked up to the night sky and I whispered, to no one, “what can I do? How can I help?” I fell asleep shortly after lying down, and I slept deeply. An interesting dream visited me not long after. I was in a ferry boat, surrounded by friends and loved ones. The captain, who was someone I actually met only yesterday, announced that a storm was coming in rapidly. We were anchored to a dock, but it would be too unsafe to leave the boat on such short notice. “We’ll be all right here,” said the captain. “Hang tight, though. It could get rocky.” The storm struck almost immediately, bringing with it howling winds and heavy waves. Our boat was strong, though. No one was tossed overboard, and no waves came over the side. I was at a comfortable spot by the payphone, where I’d set up everything I had with me. I was surrounded by friends and a few family members, and had been trying to get ahold of my mom on the phone. I saw a few people behind me who didn’t have a place to sit, so I moved all my things out of the way and let them through. My husband was near, talking to some of my family members. I looked out the window of the boat and saw other boats sailing past, going strong despite the storm, and I silently wished them luck. I wasn’t focused on the storm. I was focused on the people I loved, and the people outside of the boat—the people struggling. I was focused on strangers to whom, in that moment, I could easily give kindness. Before long, the storm passed, and we were well on our way again. There’s something we all can do: weather the storm as best we can. Ground ourselves firmly, prepare for the long haul, and refuse to be distracted from the good around us. The message I received in response to my question, how I could help, was this: more kindness. More generosity. More gratitude. Less judgment. This, too, shall pass. Around the world today—and in one country in particular–people are anchoring their boats against what may be a heavy storm. Maybe the songs we sing in celebration of one another can drown out the deafening howl of the wind. Please follow and like...

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Combining past and present selves

Posted by on Nov 29, 2016 in Life in Writing | 0 comments

“If we think of Baudrillard’s division of collectors into the young and the old, we might account for the seriousness of the older collector by noting that often the nostalgia involved in a hobby is to do with the wish to reanimate an earlier incarnation of the hobbyist.” – In Defense of Hobbies I’ve been thinking about this article–and, in particular, this quote–a lot lately. It seems that my hobby is walking, and watching any animals I find. It doesn’t have to be anywhere in particular, and there doesn’t have to be a destination. If I’m outdoors, I’m happy. I especially love hikes in the woods. I always say that I wouldn’t go back to my younger days because I love the life I live now, and some aspects of my childhood were challenging. But, there are little pockets in my memory that are calm and happy. There was one fall, somewhere between 1996-2000–Dad and I can’t seem to agree on the year–that the two of us were out for a little drive through the Laverty Lake auto trail. We got out of the car when we reached the lake and we took a little look around. I heard a rustling nearby, and I turned around to see a small baby raccoon lying on its back and tossing a leaf around with its little paws. It continued to play, mostly unaware of or unconcerned with our presence, until we drove off. I named the little raccoon Meeko–Disney’s Pochahontas film had been released around this time–and we occasionally drove back, hoping to see it again. We never did. I thought about it for a long time. Recently, I took my daughter down to Alma again for a brief visit with my parents in the middle of the week, just after Halloween. Mom, Amelia, and I decided to go to McLaren Pond in Fundy Park together and walk around the little trail loop that encircled it. We got a little way in and saw a large beaver dam, and watched as four beavers started swimming and working around it. After a few minutes, a little way down the path, a massive beaver–one of the adults, we later learned–wandered into our line of sight. She grabbed a stick in her jaws and tossed it in the air until it got the correct balance, then went back into the water to continue working. We continued down the path, and the second adult walked out of the water further ahead. He turned his head to observe us, and my daughter pointed at him and said “hug!”–she wanted to go over and give the beaver a hug. Something about this entire experience brought back the long-forgotten feelings of that day by the lake, with the baby raccoon tossing leaves in the air nearby. Suddenly, I was a much younger version of myself, standing there and watching the creatures swimming around us and standing before us. The lost feelings of humanity intermingling with nature and the desire to embrace it fully bubbled back to the surface. This feeling of nostalgia that I felt that day was a visitation by my past self. It’s amazing how parenthood forces so many of us to relive our past in a new way: with heightened awareness and appreciation for experiences we may have taken for granted earlier on in our lives. Our children invoke often unexpected memories. November is a strangely nostalgic month for me. It’s the stillness between Halloween and Christmas, and that’s why I like to wait until December first to even start thinking about holiday preparation. This time of year, I’m obsessed with the smell of smoke, and anything that tastes smokey. I love woodsmoke smells and the tastes of smoky coffee, beer, cheese, and Lapsang Souchong tea. It’s a comforting smell during the colder months, but I think a big part of it is the nostalgic reflection I subconsciously feel when I smell it. At our home in Alma, we had a wood stove that Dad would light to keep us warm in the winter. Smelling wood smoke brings me back to cold days at home as a...

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(Re)treat Yourself

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016 in Life in Writing | 1 comment

I mentioned a few posts ago about how much I miss spending time in the forest and what an important recharge it is for me. That period of time–early September–became a turning point for me. The downward spiral I have been suffering from a period of heavy depression for a good part of this year. Essentially, it began and April and only started to taper off in August, and I didn’t even really realize it until I started feeling better and more like myself again. Most days, I could just do the bare essentials of taking care of my daughter–taking care of myself was hardly a part of the equation. I haven’t even done any meal prep since May. I haven’t posted much in this blog all year. I can’t say what brought me out of it, but I remember walking to the library in early August to talk to some kids about writing and being a writer, and it hit me that I actually felt like myself. I hadn’t felt that way for awhile. It hurt a bit. But I felt something else, too–the drive to continue on this route. I don’t even remember feeling awful, but I don’t really remember June or July at all, so that might be telling enough. In late August into September, for about two weeks, my back went out. I was finally starting to feel better mentally and my body decided to betray me! So I had a meltdown. I remember sitting on the living room floor sobbing about what a terrible mother I was because I couldn’t move (?!). I spent some valuable recharge time in Alma that week, hobbling through the forest as best I could. And then, two weeks later when I was feeling better, I started thinking about what I could do to spend more time in the woods. I had spoken to my therapist about it as well and she talked about finding strategies to take that feeling of being in the woods with me. Being in the woods is beneficial for many people, which explains why I feel so good when I’m there. The next steps I spent a whole week out and about with my daughter. We’d wake up at the crack of dawn, as we always did, but we’d eat our breakfast and then go out almost immediately. There’s a lovely little playground that’s very toddler-friendly about a fifteen minute walk away, and we often go there. We went every day that week. I packed a plethora of snacks to ensure our stay was well over an hour long. One of my co-workers had been talking about going to a horseback riding retreat, and it got me thinking about how nice a writer’s retreat could be. This led to a little mental back-and-forth of me telling myself there likely weren’t any in the area, and certainly not ones that would fit my schedule. Maybe not even retreats that would be the kind of wilderness escape I was longing for. So what was I looking for, then? Well, I told myself, you don’t have to be around other people to do it. And that was what set the wheels into motion. I started thinking about what I could do, and when. And I settled on September 29th, in an oTENTik in Fundy National Park. Why oTENTiks? I’m not prissy or anything, but let’s be real: camping in late September in a tent on the cold hard ground–where there are critters, and you need to duck down low and huddle up in your tent, sleep on rocks, and hide your food from potential predators–was not my idea of a relaxing and inspiring time, especially when I was doing this to escape obligation, not create a different one. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it wouldn’t have suited my purposes. oTENTiks are basically the baby of a cabin in the woods and a regular tent. Perfect. I had been wanting to stay in one for awhile anyway, so this was the ideal opportunity. I decided on Point...

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Writer’s Retreat Photographs

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016 in Components of other posts | 0 comments

Dad and Amelia dropped me off at the campsite and the three of us explored for a bit. Then, Dad packed her up, and the two of them left me to my own devices. Time to explore.     My campsite and the surrounding area yielded some interesting finds. It seemed the Goutte d’Ô would have been a better option for one person staying alone, but the oTENTik was certainly suitable for my purposes. I also found a friendly hare foraging nearby. After some exploration, I went back to my campsite, got my bearings, and decided to hit the ground hiking. I made tracks to the Coppermine trail, which was a five-minute walk away.      The Coppermine trail is one of my favourites in the whole park. I walked through the woods and along the coast and saw a number of beautiful and inspiring sights.    I took a break along the coast for a snack and to take in the scenery. I very narrowly missed meeting a new friend…    …And connected with a few others along the way. That quartz stone was just glittering in the sunlight as I rounded the corner. Its beauty struck me. It was covered in veins of dark green moss and had what looked like copper running throughout. I couldn’t capture its brilliance on camera, but I tried. After my walk, I ran back to my campsite and quickly wrote 5 pages of project notes for a new idea I’d acquired while walking. Night was beginning to fall, so I set about making a campfire. This proved a challenge at first. It took me a lot of tries, a wasted firestarter, and half a book of matches before I achieved much success. Some scrap wood on the ground nearby also served as a sort of an extended match. But… Before long, I was met with the warmth and success of a happily crackling little fire. Once it was finally lit, it stayed lit for three hours. I sipped an Erdinger, roasted vegan marshmallows and veggie dogs, and contemplated for a long time. 2016 has been a strange year for me, but it led me here, to this moment. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied movement, and a little deer mouse hopped around my feet. I named it Peter. With a chill in the air and an owl hooting in the distance, I retired into my sleeping bag in the oTENTik and got ready for the morning to follow. I would have to check out of my site at 11, which meant that getting up early to enjoy the day would be imperative. I worked briefly on a novel I have in the works, and then went to sleep. Good morning! I awoke to the sun shining down across my campsite. I freshened up a touch, and went out to the Point Wolfe observation deck to enjoy a breakfast I had packed. Next time, I hope to make use of the cooking amenities, but this time I had brought some food from home.    Some veggie dogs from the night before, two hard-boiled eggs, some cold black tea, a banana, and a chive I’d picked from my father’s garden.  I sat there in the sun, reading Thoreau, and when I finished eating, I sprang up to run down another path. I took a walk down the Shiphaven trail, which is just across from Coppermine and runs in the opposite direction along the coast. I walked all the way down there, across the street to another path, then up through the picnic area. By then, it was time to go. I walked back up to my campsite to pack up and say a final farewell to my retreat. While walking, I tried my best to absorb as much sunlight as I could. I wiggled my fingers and stretched them out toward the light, inviting it to stay. The winter is on its way, and with it comes long periods of cold and silence. The trees are my preferred place and reconnecting with nature was such...

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