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The DIOP Circle V.11

September 1st, 2019


Duncan Armstrong

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, Duncan Armstrong is taking over. The 586th person to wear DIOP, he thinks Cashew doesn't get enough appreciation as a pattern. And he's going to tell us how his experiences shape his art.

Somewhere in twelve-step literature, it says one will have “a happy and purposeful life” as a result of recovery.

For many years I thought “purposeful” meant goal-driven and that “happy” was goal-accomplished. Yet, as I accomplished many of them, I only felt driven to set new goals. My sense of purpose was never being fulfilled. What was “purpose”?

In mediation, I realized my purpose was to be my sober self as an example of what was possible- a sort of testimony of survival as opposed to one of glamor or even attention.

My clothes reflect my recovery. I have no fear of color or pattern. I’ve been told by many that I dress with optimism and that it makes them feel more positive about themselves and what recovery can bring into their lives.

I bring this same sense of testimony in my writing and performing. I’m very active with Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam; a collective of mostly young, LGBT+ spoken word artists who need a safe space to explore the intersection of race, gender and sexuality.

I’m at an age where I am one of the “elders”, one who has passed through what many of them are newly experiencing.

I never pretend to understand their experiences but reassure them that they will survive and that writing is one way to save their own lives in the face of a future that often wants to deny them the right to an identity. A purpose I can happily fulfill, sometimes by merely being present as my self.

I grew up in a culture in which masculinity equaled violence. Boys proved their masculinity by being bullies, excelling at sports, and sexual conquest of women among other things. Those that didn’t were losers and thus not real men. Fighting, sports, women were never a part of who I was and as a result, I felt I was at fault.

As an adult I see that I wasn’t at fault but my culture was. Now a part of my purpose is, in my quiet way, to dismantle that bully mentality still embraced by our culture.

When I started my blog TOpoet.ca several years ago I read that including photos would make it more appealing. I got my first digital camera and started taking pictures. I’m a point and click guy.

My eye was attracted to things like boxes of cast-off books, shoes, bins of toys in the trash, doors, the list goes on. Things people discard yet played a role in their lives.

As a writer who thought publishing was the goal, seeing so many unwanted books at curbsides made me realize that those books were the goal some other writer’s years of sweat and toil. My purpose as a writer was to write without that goal. That’s very liberating.

Currently, I’m finishing the edits on “Coal Dusters”, a historical romance in which two miners develop an emotional and physical attachment for each other, set against the background of bitter strikes by coal miners in Cape Breton, in the mid-1920’s.

I wanted to explore a time when men had no real language for what we have too much language for today. I’ve been posting chapters on my blog every Tuesday to fairly good reception.

One of the things I’ve realized is that I can’t control how people respond. What I say, or photograph, is often not what people hear or see. A photo of discarded shoes, to me, is how we learn to let go of what no longer serves us, while to others it is a picture of how our culture wastes its resources.

Knowing what I cannot control frees me of the need to satisfy anyone. It’s why I have the mantra “I want you to like me but I’m not here to please you.”


The DIOP Circle V.11

September 1st, 2019


Duncan Armstrong

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, Duncan Armstrong is taking over. The 586th person to wear DIOP, he thinks Cashew doesn't get enough appreciation as a pattern. And he's going to tell us how his experiences shape his art.

Somewhere in twelve-step literature, it says one will have “a happy and purposeful life” as a result of recovery.

For many years I thought “purposeful” meant goal-driven and that “happy” was goal-accomplished. Yet, as I accomplished many of them, I only felt driven to set new goals. My sense of purpose was never being fulfilled. What was “purpose”?

In mediation, I realized my purpose was to be my sober self as an example of what was possible- a sort of testimony of survival as opposed to one of glamor or even attention.

My clothes reflect my recovery. I have no fear of color or pattern. I’ve been told by many that I dress with optimism and that it makes them feel more positive about themselves and what recovery can bring into their lives.

I bring this same sense of testimony in my writing and performing. I’m very active with Hot Damn! It’s A Queer Slam; a collective of mostly young, LGBT+ spoken word artists who need a safe space to explore the intersection of race, gender and sexuality.

I’m at an age where I am one of the “elders”, one who has passed through what many of them are newly experiencing.

I never pretend to understand their experiences but reassure them that they will survive and that writing is one way to save their own lives in the face of a future that often wants to deny them the right to an identity. A purpose I can happily fulfill, sometimes by merely being present as my self.

I grew up in a culture in which masculinity equaled violence. Boys proved their masculinity by being bullies, excelling at sports, and sexual conquest of women among other things. Those that didn’t were losers and thus not real men. Fighting, sports, women were never a part of who I was and as a result, I felt I was at fault.

As an adult I see that I wasn’t at fault but my culture was. Now a part of my purpose is, in my quiet way, to dismantle that bully mentality still embraced by our culture.

When I started my blog TOpoet.ca several years ago I read that including photos would make it more appealing. I got my first digital camera and started taking pictures. I’m a point and click guy.

My eye was attracted to things like boxes of cast-off books, shoes, bins of toys in the trash, doors, the list goes on. Things people discard yet played a role in their lives.

As a writer who thought publishing was the goal, seeing so many unwanted books at curbsides made me realize that those books were the goal some other writer’s years of sweat and toil. My purpose as a writer was to write without that goal. That’s very liberating.

Currently, I’m finishing the edits on “Coal Dusters”, a historical romance in which two miners develop an emotional and physical attachment for each other, set against the background of bitter strikes by coal miners in Cape Breton, in the mid-1920’s.

I wanted to explore a time when men had no real language for what we have too much language for today. I’ve been posting chapters on my blog every Tuesday to fairly good reception.

One of the things I’ve realized is that I can’t control how people respond. What I say, or photograph, is often not what people hear or see. A photo of discarded shoes, to me, is how we learn to let go of what no longer serves us, while to others it is a picture of how our culture wastes its resources.

Knowing what I cannot control frees me of the need to satisfy anyone. It’s why I have the mantra “I want you to like me but I’m not here to please you.”


By Duncan Armstrong

See more of Duncan's work at topoet.ca

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


- Duncan Armstrong


See more of Duncan's work at topoet.ca

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.