"Being bipolar is hard to explain. One the one side I can be over-enthusiastic about life. I can get so enthralled that my daily life becomes unorganized. But I see beauty in everything and I see every little detail in life as precious. There is inherent value and meaning in the world. That's the good part."

"And on the other side?"

"The worst part is the depression. My thoughts run me down and I get so disorganized that I start to lose my own identity. After an episode, I have to start over and re-establish who I am. And while I'm doing that I have to pick up the pieces of my daily life which I have left in shambles. It's exhausting - but beautiful too, because when I get out of my depression I become manic again. Again and again."
     "If I'm not creating, I'm not happy. If I'm not around plants, I'm not happy. Thankfully, I work as a floral designer."
     "Politics is my thing. And tango."
     Best. Shirt. Ever.

If he had told me no, I couldn't take a photo of him - I would have gotten on my knees and begged. Fortunately it didn't go down that way.
     Seen on Baker Street
     "I come to Nelson often. I participate in the Death Cafe here. Which is a place people come to talk about things - like death. Some of us have had near death experiences - and we talk about that."

"Have you had a near death experience then?"

"Yes, I have. In 1959. I was young and drunk - at a New Years party up on top of Hollyburn Mountain - which is called Cypress Mountain now. Anyways - I had a lot to drink. And just before midnight I went outside to get some fresh air. I wasn't dressed for the cold weather and in my drunkenness I fell down some stairs. I just laid there at the bottom of the steps, not feeling any pain, relaxed in fact. I remember hearing them all sing Auld Lang Syne inside. They didn't find my body until after 7am. 7 hours I was out in the cold - motionless. I remember hearing the voices talking around me. They were panicked but I was calm. A doctor was at the party and he checked for my pulse and couldn't find one. He held a mirror up to my nose and there was no condensation. I wasn't breathing. My eyes were open but had no response. I could hear them crying as the doctor said 'He's dead.' I couldn't move, but I didn't want to. It didn't even occur to me to try. I felt fine. They covered my body up and put it on one of those ski patrol boards. They strapped it to this old chair lift that brought me down the mountain. I could hear the clicks every time the chair passed a tower. Clickity-clack......clickity-clack. There was an ambulance waiting for me at the bottom. The two paramedics put my body in the back. I heard them talking. One said, 'What's wrong with this guy?'. The other replied, 'I don't know, but the doctor said he's dead. Let's have a look at him.' They were waiting for another person who had cut their face and needed stitches - in no rush for me because I was, well, already dead. Then the one said, 'Jesus Christ! This guy's alive!'  They threw on the sirens and the lights and raced me to the hospital. Two days later I was awake and conscious. The doctors tried to give me explanations for what might have happened - but they didn't really know. There was no spiritual awakening, no light, no voices. Just calm."

"Did that experience change your life?"

"I stopped drinking."
     Izzy on Baker Street
     I have seen this gentleman many times before around town. I used to pass him heading up and down Morgan St around Gyro bluff. We had never talked until I asked to take his photo on the street.

I told him that I've seen him a lot around town - and I was surprised when he remembered seeing me too. He seemed like one of those guys that knows everyone.

I told him about the Humans of Nelson project. And I've never seen someone respond so ecstatic about it. He thought it was just an awesome thing I was doing - taking photos of strangers and posting them online (which sounds weird to say it like that). Anyways - we had this great conversation about it and other things. 

In the end, I realized, his excitement and positivity really was more a reflection about who he is - and less about me and this project. And his energy was infectious.

Later on that evening, he passed me while I was shooting another person. I said "hi", and he looked at me and said, "You're just such a great guy."

Does it get any better?
     "Last spring I was working - then all of a sudden I was feeling terrible. My whole body got covered in little red dots, my heart rate shot up to 127, I had trouble breathing. Then I told my boss to touch my tongue - it felt like sandpaper. I was up on the mountain and was airlifted to the hospital. Turns out my blood-glucose level was 26.7 - where it should be between 4-7. And that's when I was diagnosed with diabetes. The doctors said I wouldn't had survived a ground transport to the hospital. Thankfully I can live with this - I just need to have two needles a day - everyday."

"Weren't you upset with the diagnosis?"

"Heck no. It is what it is. And with the needles, I can live a normal life. I appreciate the needles, I appreciate the helicopter."
     We talked for more than half an hour. We shared our stories. And by the end of it we were both almost in tears. I have 4 pages of notes from our conversation. But this is all I'm called to share:

"There's no shame in falling apart."
     "I kinda play dress up for my 5 year old self. I do it for her."
     "Oh I don't know. I don't have anything to share."

"Tell me something you are passionate about."

"I like to draw."

"And what do you draw?"

"Whatever the pencil tells me to. I just let it do what it wants. It almost always starts with an eye and then goes from there. Maybe it turns into a flower. Or into something else. I don't know why."

I offered her my notebook and pen that I always carry around with me. I asked if she could draw me something. The only room I had left was on the last page - which was ripped in half.  But somehow that felt like a great canvas - to me, anyways.

When she was finished I asked her to sign and date it. She looked at me like I was crazy and told me it was just a doodle and it wasn't very good. I told her that I loved it and I was very thankful that she took the time to make it for me.
     "Happiest moment? Well, I try to be happy all the time. I like to smile. I think it's neat that it can help make someones day. Like the other day I smiled at a stranger on the street. No reason. Just did it. But later that afternoon he saw me working at the Co-op and actually went out of his way to tell me that the smile I gave him earlier helped him form a positive impression of this town. That was pretty cool. From what I know - no harm can come from a smile."
     Unbelievably, these guys sounded even better than they looked.

The dude on the right was rockin' those spoons.
     "What's something you're struggling with?"

"Aw man. Life. Me. I can't put my finger on it. That's the problem."
     Her: "Before my son was born, my greatest fear was my own death. Now all I can think about is the little or big things that may happen to him."

Him: "I didn't grow up with a dad. I was in the foster care system. So I don't really have anyone to model as a parent. But I've got age, wisdom, and a wonderful partner.  So I know I'll do just fine.  Plus I definitely know what doesn't work - and I'll use that as my guide with him."
     "What is one of your happiest moments?"

"When I got 100% on my final art project. It was a huge notebook where I wrote about my creative process. The teacher had told the class that no one would get an 'A'. When he returned my notebook, he had written a thank you note inside and told me to get back in touch with him when I was published."
     "I'm working on being intimate and having a relationship with my whole world - not just one person."
     His English had a thick accent and he had to repeat himself several times. But his excitement came through loud and clear.

"I have a place in Croatia. It's right on the Adriatic Sea. You know there are thousands of kilometers of beautiful shore there.  I go visit and travel Europe every year. I just got back 3 months ago, and I'm going again in...let's see...November or December. I'm 82 and I never miss a year. I just wish I had some company to go with. I would love to show people all the things I've seen - like buildings that are a thousand years old! Just amazing things in Europe that are wonderful."
     "How did you guys meet?"

"We met on Kijiji. But we weren't on there to find a date. I wanted to do something for myself. And I had always wanted to learn how to play guitar. So I went on Kijiji looking for a guitar teacher. He had an ad. I showed up for my lesson. Then we started dating. It's kinda funny how I was trying to focus on me - but I ended up finding him."
     "I was just in the lake. I'm on the way to the bank."

At which point I imagined him walking into the bank, chin up and demanding to see a business account manager. He works out a business loan in his wet swim trunks and as he signs the final paperwork, water drips from his hair and smudges his signature.

But he probably just grabbed a $20 from the ATM.

Who knows.
     "What do you like most about your mom?"

"Her hugs."
     "I'm in love with a woman who's with another guy. But I found out this morning thats she's not with him any more."
     "We were living in Oregon. But even in a more left-wing "blue" State, the polarization of American politics was everywhere. We were just sick of it. And when our kid turned 5 we actually went travelling around B.C. to a bunch of cities and towns looking for the right school and environment to raise our family. We found the Waldorf school and Nelson. And even though it's not perfect, the issues here are ones I can live with."
     Though I usually save the "what advice would you give your younger self" question for the "older" subjects - I just had to share this answer:

"Travel now, get that degree later, take more risks, don't hold back, don't let go of life's opportunities, stop procrastinating, use more energy on your creativity and start right now, keep practicing that violin, trust your instincts, don't force, don't worry so much and get out of that head, be assertive, speak your mind more often, be more active, sleep more, save more, spend....a little less on beer, nick knacks and damn dresses. Ah bugger it! Do what you want, it is what it is. Don't waste your time on these regrets because you are exactly where you need to be. You are going to turn out just fine and you are going to have a blast!"
     Who needs a human? I got this...
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