(Still) Intense



Intense is confused, contradictory,
Intense is conflicted.
Intense is connected, insightful, wise, crazy, vulnerable and volatile, even.
Intense is wild, unfettered.
Intense is not funny or amusing;
Intense is hilarious.
Intense cannot be contained, will not be boxed.
Intense puts shattered pieces together;
creating a picture more beautiful,
than the seemingly in-tact.
Intense grows wings, makes pigs fly.
Intense knows not, of impossibility.
Intense is creativity, its core, its essence.
Intense is never indifferent, mediocre or neutral.
Intense knows no middle ground.
Intense is love and hate, war and peace, black and white;
but Intense resides, in living colour.
Intense is primary, neon, even.
Intense registers no nuanced hues or shades of gray, has no space for washed out and faded.
Intense is not boastful, but aware of its internal power.
Intense is student and teacher.
Intense appears bossy, but is in actuality, a leader.
Intense roars loudest when silent.
Intense will not walk the talk of shameful suffering and pastel-coloured pity.
Intense occupies souls, fuels infernos of spirit-blazes too hot to extinguish.
Intense will be doused only, with (premium) fuel.
Feed the flame;
Intense incinerate,
evil; with Love.
Intense will no longer apologize for its intensity.

©Marcela Y. Mrnka

Original written in 2014, edited for publication July 17, 2022.
Page 27


Coming Soon…



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The Untold Story of My (M)other Hero


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-Mama Marcella at 20-ish                  -Marcela (moi) Jr. at 20-ish

July 17, 2022 (how time flies when ole Bitch Slappy is busy dloing it out to us… le sigh…)

Happy Birthday my dearest mama Marcella!
Things have changed a great deal for both of us in the five years since I penned this, but the core of it remains true, will always remain true. You are the single, enduring piece of my life, the one human I have been to rely on, 100% for more than I care to admit.
You are such a gem, and this story needs revising, but you are and always will be, my other no 1 hero. We know who the other is/was… for we share our somewhat unrealistic ‘worship’ of him. 
HappyHappy DAy mama! It was so good to hear your voice this morning. I have learned, most often the hard way, that no guarantee exists, for another opportunity, so I am learning not to squander them…
All my love,
the other Marce l a .

I want to tell you this story. I have told you the untold story of my original dad, the hero status I raised him to, because most of us do, when folks die young, tragically, dramatically. And because his heroism was brash, in your face, and because we as a culture have this bizarre tendency to idolize the dead, forget their misdeeds, while we ignore the living, breathing heroes who walk among us, every single day. My mother is one of those silent heroes.

She turned 81 today, and I need to tell you this story while my mama Marcella, yes, two L’s in her name  is still with us, because she deserves more than a eulogy, because she deserves more than me extolling her virtues, waxing poetic about her loving (mis?)deeds, when she can no longer hear me.

It is far less cumbersome to paint a balanced portrait of a dead hero than a live one. For a dead hero cannot take offense, be hurt by, feel misunderstood, when I shed light on the dark side of their humanity, or my experience of it. The telling of these truths as I know them, shining light on all of our human parts, is a significant piece of the indescribable thing which drives me to write anything, about anything, in the first place. It is about normalizing humanity again, in all of its glory and folly. It is about refusing to buy into culturally-boxed ideas of what is real, what is appropriate, what is worthwhile, who and sadly what, we ought to idolize.

My mama Marcella is a Warrior Woman. One of a much subtler ilk and variety than the outwardly visible, unfiltered rebel-rebel style I inherited from our mutual hero, my original dad. She has known more strife and hardship, worked harder in her life, waded through more shit than you and I combined have ever flushed. She has trudged up more hills, bled herself dry for my dad, for my step-dad, for my brother and I, our children, and so many others, more times than I have the mathematical skillset to count.

She grew up in war-torn Eastern Europe with a mal-adjusted, alcohol-loving, violence-inclined father. When my grandmother finally managed to get them the hell out of his reach, with nowhere to go and no-how to get there, she learned by the same quietly tenacious example of her mama, Žofie Ševčíková, that I have experienced and learned from her, my mama Marcella, with two L’s.

When my babi Ševčíková forbid her to date my über unruly, leather clad, motor bike riding, womanizing, Czech Casanova of a dad, she up and married that boy, with my big brother Tom already in her womb. Keep in mind that this was 1960 in Eastern Europe, and nothing about him or their love story, was ‘appropriate’ or ‘acceptable,’ but especially not in my very strict and proper grandmother’s world view, and the hopes and vision she had for her only child.

When my dad was up against an extended jail term (for various political and other rebellions) she lessened that term by several years, doing what a good, loyal wife would do and made sure the authorities did not find everything they were looking for; she shoveled coal in our basement for days, to ‘obscure’ the immediate visual existence of various artifacts of interest to them.

When the Soviets rolled their tanks into our lives on that notoriously famous day in 1968, she quietly went about the business of being my dad’s right hand, in the complex affair of ‘getting him out of jail,’ think about that, and all of us out of the country. She literally bled her hands dry when she went to work with him in a metal toy factory in Germany while we were in hiding, because they were looking for him. She did it again when we finally got to this country, working at night producing and repairing the massive anchor lines used in the Port of Vancouver.

When he died two years later in a mysterious mining ‘accident’ in Stewart BC, she found herself standing in a world completely unknown to her, with two kids under the age of 12, no language, no job, no money, and no family support to speak of. We had fled former Czechoslovakia ‘illegally’ and going back was not an option. So like the Warrior Woman she is, she chose to put down his rifle the day they came to tell us he was dead, she chose to stay alive, and make the life for me and my brother that he always dreamed of, for all of us. I don’t think she ever thought of it as making a life for herself and her children, it was always about making sure my brother and I had what we needed, and then some. She slaved at several jobs to give us what our two-parent Canadian friends had, and so much more, always. This has never changed.

When we first landed in Canada I felt completely alien and in an effort to fit in, decided to change the spelling of our shared first name, Marcela, to Marcella with two L’s. My 1st grade friend Michelle had two, and I thought if I did, I would be more like her. My mama agreed because she needed her daughter to be happy. When I started to figure out who I really was in my mid-thirties, I changed it back to Marcela with one L, announced it to her, and the woman who hates profanity said ‘fuck you,’ I’m not changing it again. I’m keeping two.’ Insert that accent we all love so much and boom, you know where my feisty comes from. She may be a silent hero, but she ain’t no pushover!

When a millionaire wanna-be-hobby-pimp turned me out and she heard what I was doing for a living, she combed the known strolls in Vancouver looking for me in the middle of the night, and when I started to pump my veins full of poison to kill the pain of inhuman judgement, she never did, judge. She just wanted me to stay alive. When my brother wanted to get married at 18 and needed her signature, she may not have liked it, but she signed, because she wanted to support her son.

When she finally made the decision to pursue a life of her own again and married my second dad Mickey, there was not a moment’s hesitation, when I asked to follow her to Switzerland less than a year after she had moved to be with him.  I needed to escape a life I was seriously unprepared for and she needed her daughter to be safe. Naturally she took me in, right into the middle of her new marriage and life. I was so happy for her. It was so short-lived.

You should know that we both cared deeply for him. He was lovely. That phrase is a standing joke between her and I, because in actuality he carried decades of anger and negativity that had nothing to do with my mother or our family, and she was where he directed it, more often than anywhere else, because he knew she would suffer in silence. In the beginning, for the first 20 years, she defended him almost as fiercely as she had defended the folly of her one true love, my original dad. Later, during moments of profound unhappiness and intense vulnerability, she talked about her sadness, but like so many of our species, was afraid of ending up alone in her old age.

So she stayed, stoically, in what I believe was a deeply unhappy union for both of them, for over 3 decades, until he died in 2012. She cared for him for months, brought a hospital bed into their living room. She slept on the couch so he wouldn’t be alone in his illness and fear and anger. We spent a week together sleeping on the floor of his hospice room, so he wouldn’t be alone and afraid and angry when he died. I learned something from her during his illness and ultimate passing, which almost defies description. I believe it is connected to human dignity, in profoundly undignified moments, and complete and utter un-conditionality and commitment.

This very generosity, loyalty and dedication to the well-being of her children and others, continues to be one of her greatest strengths and pitfalls, all in one. I recognize this characteristic well, because I, her youngest apple, have not fallen far from, am still clinging fiercely to parts of her tree. I share her tendency to stay loyal to individuals, organizations even, that by virtue of their less than stellar behaviour toward her or I, have rendered themselves undeserving of said loyalty.

Giving undeserved loyalty is my mother’s Achilles heel.  I have learned from her about getting out of really bad situations sooner than later, and I am beyond sad that I had to learn it by the heart-wrenching example of her prolonged suffering.

Máma, I know that my deep sense of empathy, compassion, and to some extent a sense of obligation to others, come from you. I love you so far beyond these few paragraphs, for they are but a mere snapshot into a life most folks would be challenged to imagine, never mind survive and thrive in. I feel that you cannot possibly comprehend the extent to which you have informed some of the best parts of who I am; they are not the outwardly intense and obvious bits I get from my rebel-rebel father, they are the stoic, silent inside that I so often feel is going to break me, but I know is part of the core, the very root system of that apple tree I come from. For you have always been the roots that keep our family tree healthy and strong, and bearing crazy-ass Ševčík-Mrnka-fruit that defies anything like normal, when it comes to categories.

This story is a work in progress. The task of attempting to portray your heroism is one of proportions most epic, and I am overwhelmed with anxiety about getting it right. There are so many more parts, so many more pages in the story of your life that I feel must be included, but it is important that I release this draft from the vault of my beloved writing lappy, before I am paralyzed with the enormity of painting an accurate word picture, of your beautiful soul. The figurative ‘stick people’ I have managed to draw on this page, will have to do, for your 81st birthday, my dearest máma.

I have faith that we will both continue to flex that never-give-up-muscle we have in common, and while another 81 for either of us is a bit of stretch, I choose to believe that we will enjoy many more years of life, love, learning and growing old(er) together.

More filtered than usual, for I know you hate it when I swear, and with all the love I have:

~Tvoje Marcelka.

PS: Thanks for the style, we do love our hats and clothes and shoes’n things!

July 17, 2017

All Rights Reserved



What I know, the only thing I know for sure…


To say that it has been a very challenging time in my life could be the
understatement of my rarely to never understated life.
Honestly, the last 3 years have been one Bitch-Slappy whack after the
other, quite continuous actually, in every.single.area of my life and
health, but I refuse to give up on myself.

Most particularly, though, I refuse to give up hope that I will be
inclined, have the energy left over after work and keeping at bay that
which ails me, to do what has literally kept me alive in the darkest
moments of my life: to write.

To write about what hurts, to write about the individual and collective
experience, to write about what is right, to write about what is wrong,
to write about everything that matters, or should. To write beautiful
and dark and silly poems.

I will not give up on myself to write. Just to fucking write!

~Marcela: not uninspired, just un-something… un-everything…

“When we face pain in relationships our first response is often to sever bonds rather than to maintain commitment.” -bell hooks

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Write what you know.” – Mark Twain




Was there a different, more unifying solution?


A group of what some folks are referring to as Wokes took down the statue of Gassy Jack in Vancouver’s Gastown yesterday. And while I absolutely stand behind and share, their outrage at the reasons behind his fall from positive to not-so-aggrandizing notoriety, he ‘married,’ think about that, a 12 year old Squamish Nation child, and went on to father his own child with her. In other words, he was given legal permission to rape a 12 year old girl.

I clearly see how leaving his statue up comes off as condoning his (and others’) heinous acts of child-rape, legally condoned by every system and individual who co-signed it, but I fail to see how this particular action serves to remedy anything over the longer term, and isn’t that what we really want? To air the dirty laundry of history while working toward not repeating it?

I find (and some of the comments support this train of thought) that this kind of action, while very gratifying in the moment, is divisive and inflammatory, and isn’t that what we’re trying to steer away from?

Would it have been more useful to erect a statue of her beside him, and a plague, articulating the actual history? You know, owning the colonial and paternalistic crimes committed against her and mega thousands of others, taking responsibility, acknowledging her and by direct extension her people and the suffering they endured?

Just a thought or two…


Relevant Tyee article by Jen St. Denis is here, the photo is also hers::


Gag Me With the Decapitated Head of a Martyr… or Two… The Origins of Valentine’s Day…


Gag me with the decapitated head of a martyr…

If you hate the consumeristic commercialization of a holiday that literally had nothing to do with romance, rather “originated as a liturgical feast to celebrate the decapitation of a third-century Christian martyr, or perhaps two,” by the Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus, then please, by all means,  do STOP commercializing and bastardizing it.

I am still a devout Atheist, but that does not preclude my belief that people should not be decapitated, for theirs.

I have long abhorred this particular Hallmark Holiday, single or attached, and have repeatedly requested of my Royal Consorts to kindly, NOT engage.


~Marcela: Still the Queen of This here Quackdom, and happily not receiving Valentine-specific overtures from one Salty-Ass Sailing Man, without having to ask, because he gets it, all by his-self.

P.S: Do Check out the Smithsonian link, I don’t just make this shit up to suit my perspectives and beliefs….though admittedly, in this case, it worked out well for me… :)



‘Petrie,’ and other Saturday Musings…


I should know better than to brave the Cowichan Valley Trail (CVT) on a sunny, autumn Saturday… it was so people-y out there, and those two most uncommon of things, common sense and common courtesy were so sorely lacking in said people, that I almost headed home after just a few hundred metres… fortunately, there is escape to Stocking Creek Park off the CVT, and while it’s not a great power walking/running spot (the trails are very root-y and rock-y and web-y and steep and such), it is stunning in there, and there’s stairs, so I ran those, 10 or 12 times, instead…
The leaves on the ground hold no end of fascination for me, and I cannot simply walk by a tree that has ‘bent’ for its environment, ‘flexed’ for its circumstance, without marveling at it… an uprooted behemoth that is dead but supports new life, a dead trunk sprouting ferns or huckleberries, or a fully developed other genus of tree out its top, or any of the other wonders I see in our quickly dwindling green spaces, when I pay attention, and I do… I can’t even walk some of the trails closer to home anymore, and won’t go on that tangent, it is simply too sad… I am a realist, after all, and have you just met my life, never mind my job…? It is not possible for me to see only the beautiful, I have an eye (and heart and brain) for context, and the fullness of reality… but I digress, how odd…
A bit of rain in the last couple of weeks has done wonders to restore the ‘verdant’ to bright green glory, and while I feel like I missed the ‘proper’ workout I get doing a seriously intense 5-10k on the CVT, and it was hard to rid myself of the week’s frustrations, it was stunning in there…
By the by, I do not ‘power’ just for the physical fitness and Lyme symptom-reducing benefits, it is my moving meditation and one of the only ways I have found that actually works for my high energy self, to rid me of the hamster in my brain, cause we know that bitch is doing pushups in there, and riding amok on a roller coaster replete with several hamster wheels…
I said hello to Petrie (say that out loud a couple of times and tell me why I named
that tree Petrie), and honestly couldn’t wait to get back to the safety of my walls. Lack of common courtesy (mostly on the part of people riding big, fatty e-bikes notwithstanding, Delta variant doesn’t give a shit if we’re all vaccinated, ask the (vaccinated x2) dead folks, and it’s just too fucking hard dealing with anti-vaxxers and such at work, never-mind trying to function in the world to keep myself fed, and sane and such… didn’t mean to turn this into a Covid rant, but just get fucking vaccinated and if you’re not, get the fuck off my friends-list… seriously. Leave, now. Naturally, if you have a for-real-for-real health issue that precludes vaccination, you are exempt, otherwise, get the fuck outta my life.
Aaaaand we’re back… Freddie V. took over for a minute there, and I won’t apologize for her, I am nothing if not multifaceted…
Picked the last few blooms in the yard, did some kitchen things, put a different hat on SallySilverspoon, and maybe I’ll get to putting the patios and their accoutrements away, or maybe I’ll herd the dust bunnies multiplying in my house like proverbial, well, bunnies… or maybe I’ll just play games and/or finish one of the dozens of poems and other writings started and awaiting my attention in my trusty lappy…
It has been too long… the death of my girl Claire back in July, sent me into a bit of a self-protective cocoon, and getting Lyme & Co. corralled back into some semblance of ‘manageable’ took the rest of any energy I’ve had left after that thing called work, but I’m hoping to take pen back in hand sooner than later…
The Salty one should have his slip back by the end of the week, he’s looking forward to being moored for the winter, and so am I… and, there’s an adventure coming on the 30th, but I’ll tell you more about that when me’n the red-headed
wild one get there…

September 26, 2021

Photos and writing: All Rights Reserved

This, is ‘Petrie.’ :)


Good bye my friend…


My precious Claireabelle:

I have put this off for days; ‘this,’ meaning saying goodbye to you in some meaningful way. Intellectually I know that putting it off does not make your death any less real, any less true, but emotionally, it has kept me safe from the bottomless black pit of grief I fear falling prey to. So I apologize to you, to your family, others who loved you so fiercely, as fiercely as I do, as fiercely as I always will, for taking so long to say a goodbye I still struggle to wrap my brain around. I have been hiding in my job, hiding on the trail, hiding in my own pain.

But everywhere I go there you are, as you have been for so many years since we met. At times more distant than others, but always there, in my heart. For you were that rarest of creatures (in my world) who like me, just like me, knows the despair we have known, have felt so lost, so misunderstood, so forsaken, for so many years, and we ‘got’ each other, right from the get go.

And even after a decade long silence between us, because life, it felt more like 10 minutes since we last talked, since we last cried together, since we last cursed, since we last danced, since we last laughed together and at one another, it felt like 10 minutes, not 10 years. That kind of connection can only survive and thrive in an environment of absolute honesty, absolute trust, absolute kin-ship, absolute loyalty, and absolute love between humans, absolute: meaning no matter what. We had that, even when you didn’t like my straight-up words, neither sugar coated, nor brutal, just honest, always stated with and from love, and always driven by the fear of this very reality, losing you, permanently.

But I mustn’t fall down the black hole, for it was not only ‘the pain,’ our experiences of abuse and other vileness that connected us, it was the free-spirited wild, the beautifully crazy, the wicked funny, the sharply intellectual, the intensely sensitive (always shrouded in a self-protective shield of ‘I don’t give a fuck’), that created this most precious of bonds that we had. That bond will always be there, and as your beautiful daughter said recently, I too, ‘will never stop fighting for you.’

For what has occurred, this mind-numbingly tragic event, is a direct result of pain, not one of intent, and most certainly not one of failure, on anyone’s part, including yours. I have a good idea of what you yearned for in this life, and I know how determined you were to get it. I also have an inkling of how far down in the bottomless pit of pain you landed, how deeply you felt, believed, to have let others down. I know how low, how non-existent your self-esteem was, your feelings of unworthiness for the support you received in recent months, over the last several years.

I am acutely aware of the line we cross, when the war we wage with ourselves (because that, is where the true battle lies), turns everything into a toxic quagmire of shame and self-loathing, a pain that seems quell-able only with more pain killers; that Plexiglas shield of substances and behaviours that I have come to understand over the years, as more than the convenient, judge-y, pathological label of ‘addiction.’ I have come to understand this quick-sand swamp as a set of responses to trauma, to pain, to a lack of self-worth, self-acceptance. I have come to understand it as a set of reactions, decisions and choices we have made, that others made during times in our lives when we were unable to defend ourselves, decisions and choices we made as adults when choice A and choice B appeared to be the only two available and they both equally sucked. Decisions and choices that often served others and harmed self, decisions and choices that felt like the only survival tactics we had in our arsenal of weapons in this war. Decisions and choices that in the long run, stop serving us in any useful way, no longer kill the pain, and harm others, harm the people we love most, the people who love us most, and there we come full circle.

The cycle is only breakable by breaking it, and my heart bleeds for you, for now you will not have the opportunity of knowing that freedom. That freedom does not mean a life free of pain, because we do not live in a benign world, we live in a world fraught with injustice and systems and structures which doom people, the most vulnerable people, people like you were, like I used to be, still am, just in a different way today, to failure. A world in which bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people, and ‘fair,’ is a place I go to ride a Ferris Wheel.

The freedom I speak of is one of mastering self, nothing else; because ultimately self, our response to any given situation in life, as our friend Collie recently brought to our attention, mindset, our response, is the only thing in the entirety of our known Universe, that we ever, have any real control over. I wanted this freedom for you so very badly that I can taste the foul and bitter taste of its loss to you on my tongue, and it is all I can do to keep myself in check, for I am not just sad and gutted, I am furious.

But I know how futile, unproductive, and harmful that fury can be… we talked about it, along with so many other important things, on July 10th, at 11:28 a.m. It was a long and at times difficult conversation, as real conversations, about real things, between real friends often are. And remembering that conversation since learning that you are gone, remembering how both of us pushed through the hard parts, because love and trust, having finished it, having left things, as we always have, at a place of honesty and our respective truths, a place of deep and unconditional love for one another, a place of friendship, brings me some measure of solace.

And then I went away for a desperately needed reprieve from work, from most civilization, technology, and from health and other unwelcome realities of my own, came back with the intent of responding to your most recent messages once back on dry land, and before I could catch my breath, the message from your child, and that phone call, the gut-wrenching news we all fear most, when it comes to the people we love so fiercely.

I bought a wildly coloured pair of tights yesterday, because they literally reminded me of (y)our inner fire, and as soon as the weather cools a bit, I will don them, power the shit outta that one trail, the one I so wanted to share with you next Spring, because it is wild and glorious, and covered in Bluebells…

Everywhere I go there you are my beautiful ClaireBear.  We loved (and hated) so many of the same things. I will never look at another fiery sky, another cool cloud, another Bluebell, without yearning to hear your voice, your laugh… without feeling the part of my heart that you will always occupy. This world, your childrens’ worlds, your family’s worlds, your friends’ worlds, my world, lost one of its brightest stars the day you left, but your star-dust has settled into my heart, just in a different way than when you were here, and there it will stay, until the day my own star-light burns fully out.

Always and forever, your mama M.,


July 31, 2021.


Tomáš Mrnka – October 24, 1935 – July 07, 1971


50 years… how has it been 50 years…?

Dear dad:

I think about you every day, miss you every second.

Whenever I have cause to go to Vancouver I look for the places we lived, and remember the early days of our life as immigrants, how excruciatingly hard you and my mother worked to build a life, from nothing, absolutely nothing, in a country and culture so foreign to us it may have been another planet… but it was exciting, and your energy, your never give-up was, is to this day, palpable, and it lives on inside me.

When I lived in Switzerland and started going back to the old country, I sought out Nerudová 1, every.single.time, and remembered the old coal storage downstairs, what you hid there, in preparation for our escape… When I went back there with mama and my boy in 2014, tread upon some of the same cobblestones in Karlovy Vary that we had all tread upon at some other point in time, I drank up mama’s stories of where the two of you had spent time together, regaled my son, one of the grandchildren you never met, with my own recollections of the first 7 years of my life there, and my recollections of you… and I cried like the small child I once was there, when we visited Božý Dar, our old ski cabin, and vague memories of being on those ski hills, on your back, in a rucksack, and then on my own tiny skis, came to life brightly, and as it does in these moments, time stood still…

When I went back to Stewart a few years ago I walked until my feet bled, until I found our old townhouse… and the nearer I knew I was, the more intensely I felt your presence, and I remembered the 20 foot snow banks, and that we had walked this road together, and desperately I tried to make out your voice, failed, for it had been so many years… decrepit, rotting, moldy, the carport caved in by decades of big Northern BC snow, and overgrown by the vegetation that takes its environment back when we abandon it, but also seemingly untouched, it was all still there, frozen in time…

Walking through the front door was the single greatest moment of surreal of the entirety of my years, and no drug on earth would match this high, the emotional crash of it, rolled into one intensely profound experience… so intense profound, because while I cannot buy into the spirit world, you were there, because I was there, because we had all been there, at another time.

I walked into the small square of a kitchen, and I remembered you shaking up the resourceful man’s milkshake, for you were nothing, if not resourceful, for my big brother and me, in a mason jar – canned milk and strawberry jam… I walked into the living room and saw the giant tree through the streaky, fungus-covered window panes, that tree our Collie Sheba chased a bear up into… and I as I made my way up into our bedrooms, where the lamps you had so skillfully MacGyvered for us once hung, I remembered your words, but still, could not conjure up your voice as you told us to put the sheets on our beds… when I walked upon the molding carpet, the same one we had all walked upon all those years ago, I heard your footsteps, coming home from the mine that took your life.

I could not bring myself to walk the rotting stairs down to the basement, where you kept your rifle, the one my mother was tempted to use when we were told you were dead. For that news was and remains the single most impactful event in our respective lives. The mine, the people associated with it, took your life, and with it, my mother’s joy, and my brother’s and my childhoods, in one fell swoop. And while I am aware that it is an exercise in futility, I cannot help but wonder, often, what life would have been like for all of us, had you lived beyond 36 fast and furious years, to see a birthday past that one, to see this day, what would have been your 85th year.

Your rebel lives on inside me, and maybe even some wisdom, which only years can bring, I see more of that in my brother, and I like to think that you would have been like him, at this age, and so in this way, and so many others, you live on inside him. Your rebel, your energy, your wild, your survivor, your wise-man, and sometimes your impulsive adventurer, they all live on inside me and my brother, in a thousand different ways.

And 50 years today, 50 years… changes nothing… because still, I think about you every day, miss you every second.
Love, your Macek.

October 24, 2020 (re-posted July 07, 2021)


Mindset / Personality: Fixed? Not in my world…


I have long argued the concept of 'fixed personality,' and by direct 
extension 'personality (and other) related disorders.' It is all about 
what we choose to pay attention to, what we choose to take on, and 
disregard, grow into, and shed, as belief systems and world views: 
mindset. Ms Dweck has articulated it beautifully (below) I might need 
to buy her book. 

"A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, 
and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any 
meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent 
intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against 
an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure 
at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or 
skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge 
and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening 
springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities."
-Carol Dweck, Ph.D


Because I have known…



Because I have known heart-breaking loneliness,
I know and crave, the bliss of solitude.

Because I have known spirit-crushing abuse,
I know and love, with compassion and empathy.

Because I have known mind-boggling ignorance,
I know and seek, emotional and intellectual intelligence.

Because I have known self-stifling entrapment,
I know and revel in, autonomy and freedom and self.

Because I have known trust-shattering dishonesty,
I know and live, truth and fielty.

Because I have known soul-ripping harshness,
I know and pursue, a softer side of being - me.

Because I have known gut-wrenching hatred,
I know and endeavor, to default to love.

~Marcela: knowing… but not all… never all…
June 09, 2021


For the 215 Indigenous Children found in a mass grave in Kamloops… and those in all the world’s unmarked graves…



May the sun warm the earth,
that your tiny bodies were so unceremoniously buried in...

May the cool, clear waters of these, your islands and coastlines,
act as salve on the aching hearts of your families and communities...

May the trees and stones and creatures,
of these, your unceded territories, finally guide you home.

And may you know, that you were always missed, never forgotten,
and that you are loved, and grieved, then, and in the here and now... your families, by your communities,
and by those of us clad in the unearned privilege, of lily-white skins,
who know, what we have done.

With all the love and humility I have,


May 31, 2021



Eight Thousand Four Hundred and One, Days…


23 years

276 months

1199.29 weeks

8401 days

201624 hours

12,097,440 minutes

725,846,400 seconds, and counting…

These are the numbers representing the back-to-back time I have spent living in my own skin, for better or worse, without the bullet-proof shield of substances to kill the pain, kill the pain, kill the pain; or at the very least, obscure it some, so that I didn’t take myself off the planet.

I am not you, and you are not me, so what is painful to me, may not be to you, and vice-versa, though the experiences I speak of here, are in my personal and professional experience, a source of great pain for many, if not most. We all deal, or don’t, with these things, anything, in different ways, and many folks have barriers that the rest of us will never know about to accessing support, and/or, like me, have experienced more pain, in the pursuit of said support.

So please, read MY (abridged) list of pain, with an open mind, but more than that, use, hone the skill of critical thinking, listen with an open heart, and try not to paint my experience with the tainted and dirty brush, of yours, or others’. For when we do that, we inadvertently, or purposefully, judge another’s pain, measure it, against our own. But when we open our hearts, minds, and eyes to another’s context, the possibility that even the very same experience can be perceived and experienced very differently by different humans, we cannot help but have empathy for any given soul, no matter their circumstance or the ‘choices’ they have made; because choice theory, while a very useful tool, is limited, often severely so, but that is a digression I have neither the time nor inclination to pursue in any depth here. My point: we are not all born, raised, gifted with, the same set of choices, abilities, and ‘fairness,’ is a great theory, but an ill-fitting concept and rarely to never doable in practice, in far too many situations.

I wielded my shield to protect myself from these pains:

-The pain of losing my extended family and the most important pieces of my cultural heritage, to the Soviet invasion of my original home and native land in 1968, becoming refugees

-The pain of losing my hero just two short years into our new life as immigrants in Canada, and by direct extension, any remnants of a childhood

-The pain of watching my mother and barely older brother, take on the gargantuan task before them: leading our little family of 3 in this brave new world, with no money, little to no language, no extended family to speak of, and little to no hope

-The pain of watching a man take advantage of my mother’s position, and when she had had enough and sent him packing, the pain of losing everything we owned, because in vengeance, he set our home on fire

-The pain and guilt I watched her writhe in because she hadn’t understood a detail about our insurance, and we were uninsured

-The pain, the exhaustion, of constantly trying to fill the void, the one that only got deeper as I got older

-The pain of filling the void with boys, and later men, who looked only to their own wants, discarding me by the wayside like so much trash on the bottom of their often ‘well-heeled’ feet

-The pain of Lou, the wealthy ‘hobby pimp,’ with no actual need for the money, who professed to love me by turning me out and then kicking me out at the age of 18, because in his words to my brother, I was “all used up.” I had to force those words out of my brother’s mouth;  he did not want to tell me, to slay me with those words, and they did, slay me. Lou, at the time 32, didn’t possess enough man-balls to kick me out himself, so he summoned my brother to collect my things, but not many of the fancy things that stayed in his penthouse, payed for with my body. He loaded my brother’s valiant and sent him to my ‘day job,’ in a nail salon he (Lou) owned, to have my brother “let me know” that it was over. Chew on all that for a minute or two and imagine what it may have done to a hurt, already lost soul of 18. I was a hurtin’ little girl before I met this man, in one of his salons, getting my nails done, by a friend, who he had turned out… this series of events set the stage for years of choices, which for several decades I did not understand, did not recognize as being related more to Lou’s actions, and what happened in the course of my sex-work career, than to anything I had experienced previous to him. This is the Reader’s Digest version of less than 2 deeply and profoundly impactful years of my life, that unbeknownst to me, would serve as the fuel for too many years of suffering; suffering I acted upon, in a myriad of ways that simply caused more pain, to me and everyone I cared about, everyone who (truly) cared about me.

-The pain of violence; of physical, sexualized, verbal, emotional, psychological, intellectual, and financial violence. Vile and deliberate violences perpetrated against my person by various individuals, including some I loved, trusted, individuals who purported to ‘love’ me, who demonstrated their ‘love,’ returned mine, with vileness and violence.

-The pain of violence perpetrated against my person by individuals in the systems and groups I reached out to for support

-The pain of being pathologized, for THEIR violence and bad behaviour

-The pain of being patronized, invalidated, belittled, subjected to too many indignities, and victim-blamed and shamed, for my pain

-The pain of never being ‘enough,’ for anyone, least of all myself

-The pain of being ‘too much,’ for everyone, and conflicted about it, within myself

-The pain of doing the bidding of other’s dreams for me, rather than my own

-The pain of running, back and forth across several countries on two continents, only to find that where ever I went there I was, and there it was, the pain.

-The pain of a large, intensely wild, creative spirit, wounded, broken, silenced.

These are the primary reasons, I say primary because they all had extensions, nuances, bred offshoots, but I digress, how odd… these are the primary reasons I needed a shield. The shield’s chemical make-up and methods of delivery to my traumatized brain and spirit, changed as my needs did, depending on the circumstances of the physical and psychological spaces and places I occupied. The chemical make-up and methods of delivery encompassed an ever broader spectrum, ranging from mild, to wow and fun to holy fuck and almost lethal. All of it, did what I intended for a while, saved my life, and believe it or not, in some ways my sanity. Because the only other choice I felt I had at various points in my life, was to end it.

And at some point in 1997, I stopped making decisions that were related to anything but the procurement and use of the shield, any shield, and my coping strategy, my survival mechanism, my best friend, became my worst enemy, took the meager remnants I had left, of me, and every.single.human I loved in the world, every.single.human who loved and needed, the me now buried so far below the detritus of the pain, that the void had swallowed me up.

Fast forward to September, October, and December 1997, several stays in detox, and a 16 week residential treatment program. And then, April 22nd, 1998, I picked up and wielded that shield for the last time. In the course of those detox stays, and a fairly brutal treatment program (now there’s another story), I had experienced tiny fragments of myself, real hope around becoming a mother again to my child, and at least enough belief in myself that I could build some kind of life for us, to start over yet again, so on April 25th, 1998, I started counting days, and have not stopped since.

I did so with the help of a number of counsellors, a compassionately brutal and very effective day treatment program which went to heart of the matter, the traumas listed above;  went to my very core, helped me start the arduous process of resurrecting a Marcela I could not only live with, but one who would eventually stop caring, so much, about what anyone else thought about her. It was a ground-breaking program really, in its time, pre- the joke that has so sadly become most trauma-informed practice in the ‘helping world, which unless used with the greatest of care and attention to language and human dignity, does nothing but ladle a bunch of pathological symptomology onto people who have been violated in the most horrific ways, and attempts to ‘treat’ them, coming full circle to: it’s on you/me. Watch The Keepers, in its entirety, if you want a painful look-see at an example of that… but there I go, digress again, look, shiny-shiny Unicorns… stop! Revise: I digress because nothing, nothing about any of this, for me, for the women I once mentored in the BaNAclub, for the humans I have supported in the course of my work, for the countless humans struggling with all manner of trauma today, and its related responses (read: coping mechanisms, survival strategies), nothing, nothing at all, about it, is straight forward, no matter its roots and causes.

I did so, kept counting the days, primarily with the support of a group of people I have lovingly called the BaNAna club. I did so by attending countless meetings, and with very deep involvement in its service structure, thousands of hours of volunteer work sitting on committees, supporting people in various institutions, mentoring other women, and a handful of gay men.

And as the years wore on, I did so while trying to remain loyal to some of the individuals responsible for some of the pain, and living, trying to stay ‘part of,’ with an ever increasing, ever more disquieting discomfort, with most of the club’s basic tenets, principles, and a constant push to believe in something I cannot, have not, since I was a small child. Though in all fairness, I tried, really really hard, for many, too many years. False loyalty has been an Achilles’ heel, a constant companion, in the complexity that is I.

And then at some point, I just kept counting them without significant involvement in the club, but for too long, with the ever-present internal struggle of false loyalty, and more and more harmful (to me), attempts to maintain my ‘membership.’  I kept counting the days not because the club told me I had to, not because I believed the rhetoric that I would re-erect the shield if I didn’t practice what had become stifling rote, and an act of psychological and spiritual violence against self, every time I crossed the threshold into one of ‘the rooms,’ every time I heard myself or someone else repeat the tenets.

I kept counting because somewhere along the way, I had come to the conclusion that I did not wish to ‘filter’ my life, my view, my experience of what Salty likes to call ‘damned reality,’ had no desire to filter me, with anything, least of all with the shield, any shield.

I could not, knowing everything I know about my life, about myself, and a great deal about the lives of others, buy into something which insists that I view myself as someone with “defects of character,” as “powerless,” and as “self-centered” to the core. I cannot buy into a disease model of substance use or the contradictions in the club’s literature about our ability to recover but to never be cured, healed. I cannot stomach any longer, the notion that I do not have enough power to make decisions for myself, as related to a resurrection of the shield, or maintaining my back-to-back count, and I cannot, will not, have the entirety of my person and the entirety of my life, defined by something that I stopped doing 23 years ago. For that matter, I will not have it define any part of my life, prior to, or following April 25th 1998. I will not define myself, the entirety of my wildly creative spirit and my 19 lives in one skin, by any one aspect of my life, any more than I allow Lyme disease to define all of these things about me. I don’t call myself a ‘Lymie,’ I abhor terms like ‘survivor,’ and the word ‘victim’ has been hijacked for purposes of judgement, so I will not use that one, either. I will not label myself an addict for doing something that saved my life, for as long as something like the shield can, before it turns and consumes one’s life and being.

It comes as no surprise to me that the very thing I relied on to ‘save’ myself, ended up turning on me at some point, too, at least it felt that way. Although when I really think about it, I find that it simply reached the end of its utility for me, and I could no longer ignore the contradictions inherent to it. And it began, at some point, to stunt my growth. I know for certain that it began to harm me long before I walked away, but I believe I was a bit trapped, by the previously noted false loyalty, and by fear.

And that, is what I believe to be at the core of my disengagement from ‘the program’ and most of its members. It, they, limited me to living in fear, which is completely contradictory to that which I believe for myself, have demonstrated over and over again, prior to, during, and post, the BaNAna club years: I have long chosen faith, in my ability, with the help of others I choose to have in my life, when needed, to figure shit out; without having to dig the shield out of its musty, dusty closet. I am quite happy for it to stay there, with the other skeletons I have picked through ad nauseam, and chucked back in to rest in their jagged, now useless to me pieces. For I categorically refuse, to keep flogging the rotting flesh of long dead horses.

It is important for me to articulate that I have the deepest gratitude for some of the people I have crossed paths with in the course of my involvement in the BaNAna club, and for its utility in helping me find enough of myself, to help me figure out that the way, for me, is about healing my wounds, both self and other inflicted, and for moving on. It does not mean that I don’t continue to support people looking to find and heal themselves, it does not mean that I actively dissuade others from trying/using ‘the program(s),’ it does not mean that I stop my own personal work, and it most certainly does not mean that I’m going to run out tomorrow, or the next day, or when Bitch-Slappy decides to deliver her next blow, because she slaps whether or not I am a member, to pick up the shield, it never means that, unless I choose, decide, that it means that. And whether I choose to or not, at the end of the day, there exists no permanent affliction, in any event.

So I continue to count days, because I am loyal to myself, and to a decision I made 23 years ago today, to refrain from picking up the shield, no matter what. At this juncture, that choice is a subconscious one most days, but it is a choice, and despite feeling very limited in the choices I had, and they all felt equally shitty, it is a choice exactly as it was to wield a shield, in the first place.

And if I should choose to pick up any of the legal and/or illegal substances I have long put down, it is because I made a decision to do so, and not for a lack of gratitude or a lack of tenets and dogma in my life, any dogma.  And certainly not for a lack of some of the people who populate the rooms of the program(s).

Francis Mallman is one of my food and philosophical heros, and I’ve had the hots for him for a good long time now. If you watch the episode of Chef’s Table that tells his story, you will understand more about why this me, in so many ways, and you will understand my break-out of many boxes, including the relationship (any relationship) box I lived in for way too long, and you will understand why me and the Sailor… all that said, one of the unequivocally most beautiful things about growing (up), without constraints, into my own skin, is that I no longer need any of you, to understand any of it; though in all honesty, it is still heart-warming when you do. So thank you for the souvenirs and most especially for the deep and lasting bonds that continue to flourish in my life. I am acutely aware that they would not have occurred, without my membership in the BaNAna club.

“I can’t spend time with people I don’t enjoy. I can’t do it anymore as theater. I make choices, and that’s a beautiful thing about growing up, learning to say no, in a nice way, just say no. I have this friend…we just went different ways in life. Once he came to me and said, “Francis, you don’t like me anymore.” and I said “No, it’s not that I don’t like you, we’ve chosen different styles of life. I still have beautiful souvenirs of all the things we did together and how close we were, but the truth is it’s not that you bore me, but I don’t enjoy talking to you anymore and I don’t want to fight with you but there’s nothing in common between your life and mine nowadays.”  I would have never said that but he asked me. So what could I say? I said the truth. Growing up has a bit to do with that, to be able to tell the truth, to show who you are, even if it hurts.”― Francis Mallmann

With all the love I have, and a wish for smoother sailing for all of us, here’s to the next 365, of whatever we are counting, or not…

~Marcela: still counting…

April 25, 2021

Writing and Photo: All Rights Reserved, because sharing is great, plagiarism is not. Things like quotation marks and attribution, are a great way to avoid that…


Oh those Russians…

I think Mr. Chekov’s words are more relevant than ever, with all the airy-fairy, faux enlightenment we are encouraged to pursue in this culture of every-thing-is-a-business, including health (care) and spiritual practices.
Industries like ‘health food,’ ‘wellness,’ and yoga also come to mind… but there are so many others…
Oh those Russians… ;)
“”Do silly things. Foolishness is a great deal more vital and healthy than our straining and striving after a meaningful life.”
-Anton Chekhov


I am not content


, ,

I am not content to fall,
any deeper,  
into the hole in my soul,
which was once occupied by the relationship with you,
my only child.

I am not content to dwell,
any longer,
on that which has befallen us,
my dearest friend.

I am not content to remain,
in a robotic survival,
originating in the grotesque realities of this life and world,
yours, mine or ours.

I am intent,
on creating something,
other than:

black holes
broken hearts
and trudge.

I may not know, may not see, yet,
this new future,
but I am fervently and passionately,
on creating it.


I am not content;
I am intent. 

~Marcela: moving toward that which has eluded me most of my life, 
one well-shod step at a time.

February 20, 2021

Photo and writing: All Rights Reserved.