Thursday, 31 October 2013

Weighing Things

I want to preface this by saying that it contains numbers - and as much as I want to avoid them it is not something I can do right now - so I am giving those with an active eating disorder the gentle advice not to trigger yourself by reading any further. If you don't fall in that category, well then you might not truly understand how to the disordered brain - numbers read like challenges - or some kind of universal permission to go lower than whatever plateau they may be hovering on. So when I went to see my doctor yesterday - she informed me when I was on the scale that I was almost ten pounds smaller than my last visit. Let's just say that it leaves me at the approximate body weight I was at when I was ten. It is a significant change - even for me - considering where I started - in a relatively short time. It helps explain why sitting or lying is becoming increasingly uncomfortable as I have lost much of the natural cushioning that protects me from feeling like even the sofa is a series of sharp angles. We are past the point, my doctor and I, where such news is treated as it might have been years ago. Where an in-patient stint or other limited option would be raised as she knows me so well and frankly has seen enough patients like me - who are no longer teenagers by a long-shot - that she knows what I am prepared for and capable of doing in response to this and frankly she knows it wouldn't make things better. So she asked me to step up my visits for a time as her biggest fear is how this may destabilize my kidneys. I honestly can't say whether the monumental stress and physically demanding work preparing and going though the process of selling our house has been a catalyst for this as I can't say - unlike many other times in my life - I was actively trying to land here - or whether this is just a by-product of my failing kidneys and the toxic blend that no longer gets filtered but sits in my system making the prospect of eating very un-appealing at times. In any event, my brain knows I am at a dangerous point - it knows that this could expedite an end to the relative stability of the very limited kidney functioning I have left. My doctor gently asked the question whether sub-consciously I was trying to hurry this along and that question sits with me now - like a lump in my throat that I cannot swallow. Do I just want this to be over?  Is my mind, as it feeds on itself, capable of finding a reason to try to extend my time - my voice - my love for the people who are closest to me? Or am I trying to spare them and myself any more of this? So for today I am counting my blessings - one by one by one...reminding myself there must be some reason my body has hung in this long with such neglectful tending - a reason hiding there somewhere - dying to come out.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

'Nailing' It...

I found myself again this morning evicted from my home with time to kill while yet another herd of strange feet wandered though our house - perusing the goods as it were. With several hours before I had to head to the doctor - I departed for the mall to wander - and on a whim, walked into a manicurists' storefront...deciding a manicure would surely pass the time. There were about five young Asian women hard at work and a slow parade of primarily white women being pampered. I will not tell you the name of the very young woman who served me but in the course of my visit I learned she had come to this country from Vietnam and had been here for about six months. She had left behind a husband and a son who was not even one year old. She told me she had one day off a week...and asked wistfully whether I had two. She told me it was her husband who looked after the baby in her home country and they that they both had to work "very hard". She also told me excitedly in her halting English that she was going back to Vietnam for two weeks to see her baby - more important than seeing her husband, with a small giggle. When I offered her what even I recognize as a massive tip - she exclaimed it was a lot of money for "someone like her". So it flashed in my head as I left the store - almost like a thunder-bolt - that there was no way that she could afford such a trip without the help of her employer and that it was entirely probable that the cost of that coveted ticket home would likely be deducted from her future earnings - some IOU for her continued loyalty. And I thought about the "First World" and the fact that this is Canada - where there are supposed to be such things as labour standards that protect people like this beautiful lonely girl - and the thousands like her - not in back alley operations - but right up front for all to a large mall with thousands of un-seeing eyes walking by with nails as sharp as talons.

For Everything...Darwin

There is someone whose life has somehow intersected with mine since I was a child. When I was small, I considered him among a pack of impish "bad" boys who might be the types to pull away your chair when you were about to sit down or park defiantly at the back of the classroom cracking private jokes while some random teacher droned on about historical facts and people like me covered their notebooks full of every useless utterance that emerged. They were cute and smart and funny - generally the kind of boys who would want nothing to do with people like me. He reminded me later in life that we once ran opposing campaigns for student council president - and defying all reason - I won - something that to this day I can not remember with any certainty. We were not friends, did not hang out together or really have much to do with one another - yet it is a fact in the smallish town where we grew up that you were never far from someone's orbit. Under normal circumstances after you grow up and escape that town...such people are no more than faces in a yearbook - and you might struggle to recall the name attached. But in this case, when I moved to Victoria - there he was - working for government and married to a beautiful woman I actually knew and had worked with for a short time. At one point he even became my boss - before his love of marketing took him in another direction. Our relationship had its ups and downs - which comes with the freedom you feel when you have watched someone's life over many years and you assume you have a license to speak up in ways you might not otherwise do had you not known them as a sullen teenager. Still over these many months since learning my kidneys are failing - he has been the one person who consistently and faithfully picks up the phone on a regular basis to see how I am doing and to fill me in on his life and his lovely daughters in a way that always helps takes the edge off my own circumstances. He has been a most amazing friend - an annoying little brother who evolved into an accomplished professional - husband and father - with a heart big enough to reach out to someone he once knew - from a place we both said good-bye to years ago - and let me know I am not forgotten.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Facing Facts

It takes a whole lot of time for things to sink in - for the truth to seep into your brain and once it is firmly lodged there - to face it. This is where I am now - ready to fill out endless forms and finally relenting to all of the necessary steps that must be taken - to sort out how I will carry on until the end. Pages and pages of them - as if one million years of official records and tax returns couldn't make the situation self-evident - I dutifully check off the boxes one by one.
I lived for many years with the luxury of a good job with all of the trappings of security that trails in its wake - yet I have always looked around me and at any given moment thought "there, but for the grace of God, go I" - in other words, I was terrified that blanket would be torn away and I would find myself in a place where everyday living felt like walking around with a begging bowl - back to the times when I was just getting started when I was less than self-sufficient. It will be a lost memory for some people whose parents, like mine, did not grow up in the long shadows of the Great Depression, carrying that unrelenting fear of want - and the fierce pride that makes any whisper of dependency unbearable. But now my frequent grand schemes to crawl back into the world of work - even temporarily - my denial about my physical capacity to contribute in that way - has been all but extinguished - flickering in the background but faintly in the sea of 'could have'...'should have'...
Formally ending my weak attempt at self employment by dissolving the wee consulting firm I half-heartedly embraced last year. Frankly such is my anxiety about this that one begins to calculate the financial advantage of not being here at all. It is down to that...the weighing of my liability - the cost of prolonging this. As a result of all this worry - the stress of the pending move - I have literally made myself sick - feverish - curled into a ball only to emerge momentarily for the endless cleaning that constitutes showing your sanctuary to potential buyers. Adages swim through my head about whatever morality tale is playing out - descending from more than enough to something that is still so much more than so many in this world enjoy. I blurt this out - over-share - as it is my way of taking these pieces and assembling them into some kind of shape I can hang onto - to assure myself this is not a dream - put it away - and create some space for hope to creep in.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

They Say It's Your Birthday

So on this day, some moons ago, May and Aubrey Mason welcomed what would be their final child into the world - lucky number nine of those who survived - Claude Selkirk Gordon Mason - referred to in these pages more commonly as 'Kirk' - a later-in-life addition to a very large brood. Growing up joyfully around the waters of Georgian Bay -  a "rink rat" in winter following in the hockey tradition of his dad - tearing off on his bike with his friends in the summer searching for fishing spots where the daily catch would be thrown on the fire for their supper - supplemented by the food his friends would lift from their dad's grocery store. Hitch-hiking his way from Ontario to Victoria to chase after his first love - beautiful, free spirited Joan - picking flowers for her in the garden of the Empress Hotel. Finding his way into radio and setting up life in Brockville - welcoming his first child Aaron...then moving to the wilds of Dawson Creek - the end of the relationship and the beginning of his second significant union with the lovely and gentle Linda - with whom he welcomed his sweet girl, Miranda - moving on to the Kootenays before they ultimately called it quits. His life then a circus between his work and chasing after moments with the kids - neither of whom ever lived in the same city. I came into the picture decades later - when most of the dust had settled but the moments of separation had taken their toll. But he and they survived it all - Aaron an amazing commercial photographer in Toronto and Miranda a PhD student in medical anthropology. I look at them both now and see their love for him - their acceptance over the things you have no control over when you are small - that there is nothing he would not try to do to support them in the only ways he knows how. He is rich with love for his job, his children and grandchildren - he is the guy who doesn't just throw change at someone on the street, but stops to chat - he is the journalist with the gumption not to repeat some inane political or entertainment tidbit clouding other airwaves - on principle. He is a man who has dutifully spent almost a year walking up the street every day to walk the dog of an infirm, widowed neighbour twice a day - just because no one - not even her own children were willing - and takes the time to listen to her stories when they get home because he knows her days are long and lonely. He is the guy who calls the plays in every sport he ever watches long before the colour commentator -cheering for his beloved Habs. Everything you ever need to know about what he's been through and what he has become - his kindness, patience - armed with his beloved mom's gentle spirit and his father's wit - makes me appreciate being a chapter in what was and is a very full life. So what can I possibly extend to him on this day except how much I appreciate the man he is, the courage in everything we are now facing and struggling to accept - and his willingness to find the good and hold on to it - not jaded by the scars he carries - but with all of the joy of that little boy running into the waves at Georgian Bay and feeling the last heat of the sun before hitting that icy water.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Give Me Shelter

If you stand in a particular spot on our front porch and strain your eyes through the trees, you will see just a sliver of the ocean. It is the closest to that body of water that I am likely to get from a home ownership perspective and the bonus of living where I do is that in less than a block I can stand and gaze at it to my heart's content or climb down on the rocks, sheltered from the tourists that pass by and write. But the sad truth is since we moved here, I have in no way taken advantage of this proximity. I have taken it for granted, sniffed at its beauty as if it was nothing - too familiar to stop and breathe and appreciate what I have had. Now, with the prospect of moving I know that while it will never be far away - it will not be quite as close as it is now - not close enough to touch, but near enough to feel the power of its breezes, the sweep of seagulls passing by.
There is something about preparing a house for sale that makes you fall in love with it again - the irony that comes with addressing all of the things you couldn't bring yourself to do when it was yours, but will willingly do for a complete stranger. Like pressing a re-start button, every angle of my view has changed, making me nostalgic about our wee magnolia tree in the front yard that began its life so tenuously when we moved in - and now erupts in the most brilliant and delicate white flowers in the spring...the wisteria that has been coaxed into a lush wig for the pergola in our driveway...the view of the foliage from the old trees lining the adjacent street through our front window...the independence of a real house - not a box in the sky smashed up against, above or below someone else's life. I never hoped to dream I would have something so beautiful - and while I know a house does not make a home, this is where my heart is - and I'm trying very hard to make myself believe that I am ready to accept some altered version, some paler version of what I couldn't really see until now.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Seeing the Finish Line

All the items on the list have been dutifully crossed off, one by painful one, and now just the last minute touches remain before we call this house done and the sale sign erected. Every single member of my family is wasted by the effort, particularly my Dad and Mom and it is hard for me to watch how much they want to take this away from me...all of the stress and the jobs that I don't have the energy for. They are not young and it seems so wrong - twisted around - to be this helpless. I can't say thank-you often enough - can't manage to convey what it means to me and at the same time can't bear a single second of it...watching everyone around me - my sister, her husband - well past exhaustion doing the tasks that I couldn't finish or couldn't even begin. Don't get me wrong, I have done an incredible amount of work myself  before I hit a wall - and my body said enough. It hits me over and over again - a rock-hard slap - what this really means. That my sense of urgency, my desperation to have this finished - is to try and spare Kirk the monumental task of figuring this out on his own. That may sound condescending - a suggestion that he would be incapable of sorting it - which is obviously far from the truth. He has worked incredibly hard - probably harder than anyone - in this process. But I guess I feel I know him so well that he would be too proud to ask for the things I have at least been able to contribute to in some small and large ways now - and that I know my family would willingly do - without hesitation - if he were able to bring himself to call on them. So we don't have time to waste...we are getting it done together and we all understand why it is necessary - why now is the time. It is a surrender - a waving white flag to what we have accepted - what we know will come. We all see the finish line clearly - we just don't know when it will be crossed.

Sunday, 13 October 2013


In the age of social media, you can't escape the barrage of holiday wishes - so many voices added to the cacophony that in some ways it seems to dampen the meaning somewhere around hour two. Being thankful is not reserved for a single day or weekend - though I suppose some of us need this fateful reminder - no matter how egregious the colonial origins of this holiday might be. For my family, these precious days have been a whirlwind of activity with last minute preparations to get our house on the market. Seeing them all pitching in, giving time they can ill-afford in their busy lives - has been humbling and filled me with guilt. My Dad - who has been tirelessly commuting almost every day from Duncan, sometimes with my Mom in tow - is not in perfect health right now himself - suffering a painful condition in his joints that makes each job a Herculean task. He has powered through the pain - all in an effort to do the things we simply don't have the skills to do. My mom has yanked every off-putting weed - or anything that resembles one - painfully all around the property and cleaned more surfaces than I can count. Then there are my nephews, Liam and Andrew, who in addition to volunteering their precious time to move furniture, haul boxes, power-wash a moss infestation off our driveway - have taken some time to chat - something we haven't done enough of in recent years. It is wonderful to rediscover just how much I appreciate them - their differences as pronounced as those their Mom and I uncovered when we were young. People assume that two kids raised in the same household will have some kind of sameness - something that denies just how unique our perspectives and experiences might be - how our natures could not be more separate and apart. Everything about my nephew's differences I appreciate - and I know they have had the benefit of the world's most supportive parents to foster their many shared traits - their empathy, their kindness, their incredible loyalty - which may not be so obvious to them from where they sit right now - two men at the very beginning of their adult lives - marching to their own tunes - and in a way that I honestly could not love more. So at the risk of redundancy - you can see how much I have to be thankful I swallow what is left of my pride and plead for help - they are there - 100 per cent - my beautiful, amazing, giving family.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

My Name is Michelle and I am Addicted to Househunters

HGTV is a scourge and a menace. Otherwise known as the Home and Garden channel - at least six times a day we are treated to Househunters - a show where couples (a significant proportion with seemingly sketchy employment and champagne dreams) dutifully pick apart three potential abodes before grudgingly selecting their dream home. Any one of them could be a poster child for the sub-prime mortgage collapse south of the border and often you are left wondering who the ninny was that approved their financing. According to our realtor, this show and others like it should prepare us for the disdain and general unhappiness of the new crop of potential buyers that may stumble through our door. Apparently I am not alone in my obsession with this show and now will have to face an assembly line of similar sour-pusses who after years of absorbing these miserable tours of the dissatisfied and the rock-bottom prices in the suburbs of Atlanta (where apparently 200 thousand buys you an over 28 hundred square foot mansion - that our buyers invariably complain is "too tight") will be poo-pooing any inkling of compromise and busily subtracting their granite counter-tops and stainless steel appliances from the purchase price. Househunters buyers invariably sneer at the size of walk-in closets larger than our home - have wish-lists that include "man-caves" and of course the popular "crafting room" and roll their eyes at anything less than a three-car garage. On a recent show, houses were dismissed on the basis the toilets weren't elongated enough..."too round". These are the terminally dissatisfied people who will invariably sniff at our offering, despite all of the de-cluttering, the scouring, the fix-ups - they want it all at bargain basement prices. After dutifully scrubbing inside every one of our kitchen cabinets I found a minute sliver of wood when I opened an empty drawer a day later and almost had heart failure. One must gird one's loins at the prospect of it all - the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune hunting - and the tribes of chronic dreamers who we need to convince that the house we love is worthy enough to call home.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

And the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature Goes To...

Her style - so deceptively simple. Reeling you in and knocking you to the ground so swiftly that all you can do is lie there and absorb the blow. Ordinary lives unravelled in their mystifying, messy, horrifying, nuanced, beautiful truth. Every awkward humiliation, unrequited longing - the restraints that shackle our expectations of what women should be, what we dared hope to be - as crippling as bound feet - climbing into our heads and uttering the thoughts we simply can't speak out loud - her books among the few I can't let go of - the mighty, the masterful, the incomparable Alice Munro.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

$69.7 Billion Worth of Misery

An organization referred to as the National Eating Disorder Collaboration in Australia produced an info-graphic which showed the estimated total social and economic cost of eating disorders in that country to be 69.7 billion in 2012. I can't speak to how this dollar value was derived or its accuracy - but suffice it to say there's a whole lotta' misery going on. Let's consider that price-tag for a moment - that is more than four times the value of the total BC health budget. I have tried not to harp on this issue - instead dwelling rather annoyingly on my failing kidneys - and that should be an indication of the shame associated with this topic for me. But I have been thinking lately that I would be abundantly annoyed if at some point my passing is described on an official document like a death certificate, as a product of a faulty organ - and I am telling you here and now - that will by no measure be the reason why. I suspect it won't make any difference - and I won't be around to argue about it - but it is suddenly important to me that the facts are straight. I won't get into the details of where I currently am as I know numbers and talk of the specifics can be incredibly triggering to someone who is suffering - but I will say that even the prospect of death hasn't warmed its icy grip. Rock bottom after rock bottom and still...But this, despite the uncomfortably personal nature of what I have shared, is not about me - it is about the prospect of shaking some anonymous someone who has a son or daughter, friend or acquaintance in danger of falling down this rabbit-hole. You may not be able to stop them - but maybe you can cushion their fall.
I know that people in all sorts of desperate circumstances find hope - in circumstances far more despairing than my own and I really do want the glass to be half full. But I am trying so hard to speak the truth - to call a spade a spade as if it really matters. This is one of those times when this blog is equivalent to a confessional - where the penance is the incredible risk of being written off as just another nutty nobody who lacked gumption. And that is where I sit - perched on the precipice of being entirely dismissed by trying to tell you just how real this can be and the dollar value of this lost cause? Priceless...

Everything Must Go

So a virtual parade of my former belongings have left the building. Aside from a few items that remain to be sorted, some other souls will scroll through the pages of most of my well-loved books, a treasure trove of barely used handbags will sway on the arms of people who do not happen to be me - and the shoes and boots? Well, they might land anywhere really - trotting to the base of the Himalayas, traversing the Great Wall, shuffling through downtown Sooke - it is really anybody's guess. I am not suggesting we were hoarders, but the weight of the boxes and bags and other goodies that were taken away has left an emptiness that feels almost like freedom. I now find myself eyeing anything and everything that remains and wondering if perhaps we can take this further - who needs pots and pans anyway? The mind boggles with the possibilities. My nephew Liam and his partner Amber got well-acquainted with our stairs, volunteering to deposit items in their final resting place. All of the odd jobs, in my Dad's able hands, are getting knocked off the to-do list one by one, while my Mom wrestles screens from their moorings - a whirling dervish with a Windex bottle - valiantly and tirelessly doing everything they can to help. Of all of my many moves - this one feels different - like we are finally facing up to what we value and in the process knowing some strangers out there may have a need that we can fill. It is all rather invigorating really - pushing me past what I've lost to what may be acquired treasure to somebody else - coming full circle to a new place other than our own that feels like home.

Monday, 7 October 2013

I'm Your Handy-Man

So yesterday I had to fire the handy-man. Well, technically he hadn't even begun the few odd jobs we had enlisted him to do to prepare our house for the legions who we expect will file through it looking for signs of abuse - and no papers had been signed - just a walk-through of the problem areas and a pleasant enough conversation. He had been recommended by an acquaintance and while I am sure he would have been fine - a Google search uncovered his major claim to fame was writing a book about his memories in his mother's womb. (He hails from a Maritime province - I don't know if that is a "thing" offence to those from the Maritimes!) How this qualified him to repair our broken tap I do not know - so honestly we went off him a bit, not to mention the time and cost estimate seemed a little excessive - except, of course, if you were a Saudi Prince or a Kardashian. So I went back begging to the one person who I know can accomplish these tasks in his sleep - a master craftsman with rock-bottom prices whose previous jobs are too many to list - my dad. If, like me, you are neither handsome nor handy, it is best to rely on the professionals.

Sunday, 6 October 2013


I apologize in advance for belabouring this moving thing but tackling my clothes closet has been more of an emotional roller-coaster than I anticipated. I have taken items in and out of the donate bag dozens of times, before steeling myself to finally and eternally let them go. And all the while, rolling through the back of my mind is the central gnawing thought that this is about something more than moving onto a different place. I am literally doing the job someone else would surely be tasked to do at some point sooner than I anticipated, of painfully sorting through these pieces of fabric without me. Try as I might to push these thoughts away - my tired body won't allow it tonight - it wants to feel sad, leaking eyes and all - and I suppose that is just the way it will have to be. It seems like such a ridiculous thing to consider this gluttony of goods a problem or give them any meaning at all - but I keep stumbling across items long Papa's crucifix that was passed onto me when he died years ago, pictures of my nephews when they were babies, ticket stubs from concerts I barely remember attending, cards full of messages from colleagues from several of my many good-byes...they stop me in my tracks - force me to pause mid-motion and consider where I've been, what I can't bear to part with, what I will leave behind when I go.

Diary of a Bleeding Heart

Wearing your heart on your sleeve - leading with your heart - breaking your heart - dwelling in the land of the under-dogs who can't even find their boot-straps, let alone pick themselves up with them. This is the world I live in - the narrow scrap of landscape that has always shaped my perspective. In the political spectrum - where I have deliberately tried to never pick a side -and in my work (through several administrations) I preferred to focus on individual ministers and staff for whom I had the privilege to work - their values, integrity, their strength in the face of pressure. People like to think of health care as altruistic - nothing but caring saints who perform daily miracles tending to the vulnerable and infirm. As a patient, I have more than experienced that side - but it is also a business worth billions, consumes more tax dollars than any other ministry, escalates many times the percentage of population growth each year and as the crop of baby boomers succumb to all of the physical joys that aging brings - the pain is only just beginning. As the Americans fight their battles over offering a shred of health care protection to the millions of the un-insured - we continue to whine and complain about what we largely take for granted. But it is not perfect. Huge swaths of rural areas and small towns are finding out where simple demographics have been leading us for some time now - that the imbalance between the numbers of people entering the healing professions and willing to ply their trade in more remote areas is dwindling while the numbers of the needy continues to grow. The infrastructure, left un-tended for many years - is in need of expensive overhaul in many communities. There are no easy answers but it is important to pay attention to who is pulling the strings - what vision we want for the future and what we are willing to give up and pay for in the name of "universal" health care. It will never be all things to all people - and frankly it wasn't when Medicare was hatched. Long-term care wasn't even part of the equation in the beginning - ditto the now common and growing number of technological advances and diagnostic tools we now can't live without. In my own mind, prevention (in all of its forms), harm reduction, and long overdue action on dying with dignity are three of the least expensive and appropriate places to start. But then again, I have a bleeding heart.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

This is the Sound of One Voice (Part Two)

I started this blog with the words in this title. This blog is my voice, my dying breath, my outlet and my escape. So to be honest, I thought I was done with a subject I started a few days ago but I have been forced to dig a little deeper. You see for many years, I worked in health communications - which to many is as loathsome a profession as one could possibly pick - the "dark side", the "spin-doctor"...a massive step-down from the ethical high horse I sat on when I called myself a journalist in earlier years. I know the values I carried with me, the battles I fought internally, the principles I strived for in my work - but all of that is immaterial to anyone who looked at me from the outside with a snort of derision. You see my mom is worried that what I wrote may hurt the career of the man I talked about in these pages - and though I could have been describing any number of travellers that day and tried as much as possible to take out specific identifying information - I know there is likely a grain of truth in that. And who am I to judge - particularly from where I come from - what he did or didn't do in the name of his employer. But something about my own failing health has emboldened me to speak up - in a way I never dared to do in my working life. Something more powerful than my twinges of guilt is telling me I have a right to cry foul - that being silent has gotten me nowhere and that it is the principle of the thing - not the individual - that is most galling to me as a patient, as a tax-payer and as a human being. I am not a powerful person - I have no voice with the masses and no power to change my own life - let alone somebody else's. But I do have a story. It is hard to feel like you need permission to tell it - and not exactly comfortable or soothing when you do.

The Bare Necessities

De-cluttering is not for the feint of heart. It requires a kind of grit and determination employed, I assume, primarily by those brave souls who enter Iron-Man competitions or give birth. Yet I find myself wearily walking by my closet several times a day, peeking to see if by some miracle the contents have sorted themselves out - before facing the realization that no, it is all still there - mountains of items that at one time I just "had to have" in random retail outlets and which have hung there un-worn and un-loved for months and in some cases, years. Yesterday I filled three huge bags full of items to be donated and barely made a dent. What is wrong with this picture? Ditto for our kitchen with shelves lined with items for the entertaining we rarely do or the crawl space which has boxes full of items that have not seen the light of day since the day we moved into this place - the random miscellaneous mountains of material we have carried with us from place to place. The sad thing is we are people who have regularly and routinely been the types who put our items out for collection when groups like the Diabetes Association come around - and so this current mass of merchandise is but a fraction of what we have already discarded. And I vow with this move - as with every move - things will be different. We will be ruthless, emotionally detached - singing "you can't take it with you" as we go...drawer by drawer...closet by closet...until nothing but what really matters, remains.

Friday, 4 October 2013

The Good with the Bad

Feels like I have a couple of more things left unsaid with respect to the kerfuffle I seem to have caused yesterday. On the most positive note, it gave me an opportunity to connect with someone I had worked closely with in my previous job but hadn't spoken to in well over a year. It gave me a chance to apologize for the manner and speed of my departure - something that felt long overdue. When you work with people as closely as I did - you get to know things over time about what they go home to each night - their relationships, their kids, their struggles - and if you have a shred of compassion, you can't simply turn off that tap - even when you are away you will think about and worry about the things that may still be troubling or whether they have found their way through. So if nothing else came of this moment, that would be enough.
Second, and on a more serious note, I had to question my motivation for writing about this incident in the first place. I hope and believe through my writing, my passion for the public health care system comes through. In communications, I was on the other side of many targeted campaigns against government over the years when policy changes were proposed. It is all too familiar ground for me and I know first-hand about the power of the drug companies and many other interest groups in the politics of health care - something which we all know is playing out with a vengeance south of the border. But all of that said, what struck me most of all was what it feels like to be dismissed - to be literally talked over by someone with whom you inspire so little regard that they are emboldened to carry on as if you do not exist. When it comes down to it - all the brash talk and the familiar tactics mean less to me than the feeling that in that moment - in that crowded airport - I was not worth any thought or consideration - that everything I was or thought I had been had vanished and in its place was some lesser ghost. It is my own morality tale to remind me of the times I have dismissed other people, made flash judgments that deny someone their dignity and their story. Something for me to ponder as I bring this little chapter to a long overdue end.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Update to My Previous Post

So I just deleted the first negative comment in response to one of my blog posts. In a nutshell, "Anonymous" described me as "classless" for describing what I wrote on my blog, particularly when I had worked in the communications industry so long. As I have an end-stage illness you will forgive me for not being tolerant of such a remark. Nor with my experience do I feel even a little bit sorry for describing this event. Further, and for complete clarity, I was stuck in the middle of a lengthy single-file security line-up and was not "eavesdropping" (the description used by "Anonymous") and I told him directly when I had the opportunity - who I was. I was in front of someone who was completely indifferent to the fact he was having a private conversation in close proximity to dozens of people talking in a loud voice with no attempt at discretion. There was no indication whatsoever the ministry or government were bending to his views - and he said very clearly at the beginning that he was in a public place - so he knew very well it was risky. I am no one's judge and jury and have been more than forthcoming about my own mistakes - as regular readers of this blog know all too well.

Snakes on a Plane

What if you were a traveller standing impatiently in an airport security line-up with hundreds of other restless and weary souls? What if, as you snaked your way slowly toward the end, an individual directly behind you in the line, who you believed was crowding you with his presence, picked up his cell phone and started talking? What if, when you could feel his breath on your neck for the 10th time, in your irritation, you glanced halfway behind you and noticed a man, business attire and case, very tall, shifting from foot to foot? What if that man started talking very loudly, noting he was in a public place but he worked for a very large drug store chain and how they were planning a major media campaign to fight some regulatory change that would ultimately mean less money for their burgeoning profits and he was sure they could round up some patients to prove their point? What if that same man started name-dropping almost every person you had ever worked with at the most senior levels of the health ministry and government in this province - and how they might prepare a draft press release to show the officials just how hard the ball was that they were preparing to throw in their direction - but was a little reluctant to put it in writing? What if he also loudly stated he had been at a reception with the leader of the province in Toronto the night before and had had an audience with one of her officials? And what if the woman standing in front of him, who was not in business attire and therefore of no importance to him...absorbed every word and every name that rolled off his tongue? And what if that same woman, who he had so summarily dismissed as unimportant and incapable of grasping what he was saying, tapped him on the shoulder as his call ended and she was about to step through the machine and said she thought he should know she worked in health communications for many years and she heard every word? And what if the look on his face defied description and he scrambled to think of something to say? And what if the woman spent the next five hours on the same flight as him - watching episodes of House of Cards...and being reminded of the fight over "Obamacare" in the US, the horrible tentacles and power of the drug companies and others in that country who opposed health insurance for all, and the danger of dismissing some innocuous lady in a line-up...who will bite you back? What if all that really happened? That would be funny.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

It Was the Best Of Times

In many ways, these posts are my alternative to real life. The chatter in my head that couldn't escape in the months that I have been living this "interim life". So I have found myself for the last five days in Toronto - days filled of activity and laughter - a respite from the cloudy shapes that represent my health or lack thereof, on any given day. This trip was the first in well over a year - a spur of the moment decision prompted by my desire to be a part of a dear friend's engagement celebration. It meant dressing up - mingling in one of many tall stone houses that lined a beautiful street where one imagines trouble would escape you and the people behind those solid doors have some key that you could never find - a stranger in rooms full of the connected - nursing a glass of champagne that arrived on a silver tray and imagining for a moment that it was possible to belong there in that tony neighbourhood where even the trees stood taller. But there was no coldness there - just the warm glow of a family expanding into two in a home filled with treasures and art and love. Magic.
But most of this visit was spent connecting with my partner's kids and their families. It is hard for me to try and describe the nature of my relationship to Miranda and Aaron. They have both been a part of my life for fifteen years and were obviously younger adults when we first met. So defining what place I have in their world is difficult for me as I can take no credit for the people they are or were before. When you meet someone with older kids you have no real are hoisted into their world by default - yet there are very few moments where I didn't feel there was at least a little room for me within a complicated web of people who share parts of Aaron's and Miranda's lives. For someone who never had children of her own - finding myself with these connections was unexpected - and over time their partners, Nathan and Shannon have expanded the circle further. Like everyone else in my life - my new status has broken our equilibrium - heightened our awareness of what we have become to one another. For lack of another name, I am "Nana" to Aaron and Shannon's kids...and someday there may be a better understanding for them about why I was in the picture at all...but for now I am going home with my own picture, drawn carefully by their five-year-old of a bunny house that he said was for me. It is folded carefully to be placed in a spot of honour on my fridge to remind me that regardless of what comes - these lines have already been drawn and I may be on the periphery but I am here.