Saturday, 28 September 2013

Happy Trails To You

Travelling anywhere is a gift and a luxury. As a dedicated people-watcher, there is simply no place better than the airport to imagine the stories of one's fellow adventurers - some seemingly immune to the wonder of it all and others tentative - overwhelmed by the spaces and unsure of their path. Boarding my flight to Toronto, all of the "business-class" seats were already occupied - each of the inhabitants forcefully avoiding the gaze of the minions who filed by - staring intently into their newspapers or lap-tops while we inched down the aisle en route to less comfortable quarters. The trick is no eye contact - the message being we are far too busy and important to pay attention to you people - and you are merely a nuisance - a horde of 'lesser-thans' who take too long to store their cheap luggage and strap themselves in. The entire illusion of separateness is reinforced every time the flight attendant decisively and repeatedly pulls the curtain shut - better that we not be reminded that were we in different circumstances - ample legroom would be all ours. There is something obnoxious about the whole scenario on an aircraft where the forced segregation implies the disinterested staff have no reason to pay any real attention to those with a lower credit limit and it shows in their faces as they dolefully, and somewhat resentfully, hand out the juice glasses while their lucky colleague in front has only the chosen few to dote on.

It had been ages since I got on a plane and in the row directly behind me was a young couple with a 10-month old baby girl. Some people might find the prospect of a wee one a hazard in such a confined space. Plane travel is not well suited for babies - with limited room to move around and few distractions to occupy them. But this couple valiantly and quietly tried everything to make her smile - and were remarkably successful for most of the flight. But there were moments in her frustration, that the beautiful little one just had to let it out - and I could feel the tension in the seats all around me - and the look of anxious discomfort on her mommy's face. But I drank in that sound...embraced it...listened carefully to everything that baby was trying to tell us. No audio-track on my head-phones could be so life-affirming. And when we landed I tapped her mom on the shoulder and told her what an amazing job they had done...they had been so patient and calm, riding out the bad times and showering her with kisses in between. She smiled and said she was so worried that the baby's noise was upsetting to her fellow passengers. Not at all, I told her, she was such a lovely wee girl. When we got to the baggage area, the mom was holding the baby and rocking her gently. As I walked by she gave me a shy smile and a little wave. Just a couple of strangers with unknown destinations, arms full of possibilities and miles to go before we slept.

Thursday, 26 September 2013


So for someone who hasn't had a great deal going on other than appointments and ER visits, this week ushers in a significant amount of new and pending developments. The first is (and I am serious this time) I am fleeing Victoria tomorrow to the shiny metropolis of Toronto for a quick visit with some of the people I love most. Second, we took the plunge and met with a realtor about finally putting our beloved house on the market - which could happen in less than a few weeks by the look of things. A necessary decision - but one that makes me emotional at the same time. I was a very late bloomer when it came to real estate and this is the second place we (and the bank!) have owned after years of schlepping from rental to rental. While Kirk had previously known the joy and pain of home ownership - it was all new to me. We started with a townhouse and then set our sites on a tucked-away, small house in James Bay at a moment when things were looking up and the market was at its peak. But time and circumstances have changed and making the shift to something more manageable is necessary now for all sorts of reasons. The prospect of moving on carries a lot of excitement mixed in, for me, with a little bit of sorrow. I resist change of all descriptions - I crave it constantly - but when it comes down to it, am either too afraid or too resigned to leap. I think about the fact that to our youngest dog-child - this is the only home she has ever known - and the prospect of taking both of our pups away from a neighbourhood they love makes me teary-eyed. And the fact is - this was so much more than a house to me - it has been my shelter and a symbol of everything I worked for and thought I needed to achieve. But as I started to load up my suitcase this morning, I started thinking about the things that are essential - the things we carry with us and those we leave behind. That when you get right down to it what we really need is so much smaller than what we think we want - and the baggage we can't let go of is so much bigger than our shoulders need to bear.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

This Magic Moment

So I just have to share this while it is fresh in my mind and so I adequately document what might seem like a small moment - but has moved me beyond words. I had a message today from someone I had worked with back in 2003, who had read these pages and took the time to brighten my day with a note. It is actually hard for me to write this down - but I will persevere. She shared that way back in the day, when sadly her own dad was dying of lung cancer, I had stepped into her office and offered to grocery shop or do anything else she needed - a gesture that had in all honesty slipped from my woeful memory - but one that she had never forgotten. We didn't know one another well at the time - though she was always exceptionally kind and warm. You see this story and the purpose of telling you this is not about me or any reflection it might cast upon either one of us - but the tremendous impact of what we say or do not say in those hardest moments when someone is struggling and keeping up their very brave face in the midst of some personal turmoil. In putting my story out there for the world to see - warts and all - what I continue to be given are the most magical gifts - the surprising and often overwhelming disclosures from some very special people I have met on this journey. I could equally tell you a story of someone who might not remember me in such a fond fashion - and that is a burden I suspect we all have to carry. But for now - for today - I will take this gem and contemplate the power of a gesture - however small - and this new world of miracles that continues to knock on my door.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Pro-Choice (and no, it is not the topic you think)

Dr. Donald Low, a leading light in the field of public health, left an impassioned plea for physician-assisted suicide as part of his legacy in death. Dying of a brain tumour, he worried about the manner in which he would die - a feeling that I can certainly identify with at this stage of the game. My specialist and others have told me in many ways I am lucky - given many alternatives, they say dying of kidney failure is not particularly painful - they describe it almost like a descent into hibernation - you grow sleepier and sleepier, until the final deeper sleep. But I still feel the need to believe I will have some control over that - that we all deserve the opportunity to decide how the story ends. In saying this I know some people may have strong and valid arguments why this concept is untenable. For religious or other reasons that may include people taking advantage of this freedom to choose. I know for anyone who has followed this blog, my feelings on the topic are not a secret and yes, they are clouded by my own self-interest - but it shouldn't take the moment when a leading physician is staring death in the face - looking into it's cold eyes - to start waking up to this conversation. I know that I can have a care plan that lays out when and if medical intervention will take place - and maybe that sounds like expediting the process - but it is only focused on the extraordinary measures that would be taken to keep me alive - not those that might ease me into the light. Our discomfort with this topic is understandable - but I think it is all past time we got over it - and accepted that at a minimum, it is time to talk.

Forget Your Troubles, Come On Get Happy

I have had a lot of happy news lately. People in my life celebrating some of life's bigger moments...a former colleague who goes on maternity leave this week awaiting her first baby, another who just got engaged. My excitement over all of the upcoming events has me floating - brimming with the fullness of their joy. In my latest lab work, my numbers had perked up a bit - not better than when my kidney issues were first discovered - but better in some areas than they had been in a while. It is a mystery to me what I will discover each month when I go on-line and - eyes half-closed - peak at where I have landed. And I couldn't help thinking that this wave of events - the happiness I feel on their behalf - has had some influence. But again, in the interest of full disclosure, from the uncertain throne I now sit on - each piece of good news brings with it a twinge of something else - it is impossible now not to regard events that will occur in the future with a question mark, some sting of uncertainty about where I will be - what state I might find myself in when these happy occasions take place. It is also about acknowledging that life marches on - it doesn't stop to suit my mood or is in any way diminished by my standing still.  And for now all I want to do is focus on the forward movement - the fact I still have a front-row seat...not quite a participant, but an enthusiastic cheer-leader for the people I love - for their initiation into the next phase of their life and the new beginnings that peak around the next corner.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Hello (Exclamation Point)

I have a secret. Well, actually it is not such a secret to anyone who might have had occasion to read any of this. I am horrible at punctuation - there the secret is out! If a grade four teacher slapped a test in front of me and told me to put the commas in the right places, I would fail miserably. I over-use exclamation points, struggle with the semi-colon and employ heavy use of the dash. In short, "CP-style" is not my friend, in fact we are barely acquaintances. This is embarrassing on two counts - not the least of which is that I have spent most of my life joyfully writing and second, my sister was an English teacher for years before moving up the administrative ranks and it must cause her physical pain to read some of this. In my defence, when I worked in radio I started writing in a weird hybrid style - primarily to remind myself to breathe or pause when I was reading something on the air. Unfortunately, those habits failed to die as easily as the lessons I dutifully learned from my English teachers. So if you find it a distraction (!!!), my sincere apologies. In time I am sure I will find the appropriate support group, confess to the word police and move on - dashing all the way.

It's Only Words

Words stick - they eat away at you...things that were said eons ago that still rise up, disturbing the still surface and taking away your peace. There is no re-set button - no opportunity to rewind the moment and start again. Depending on who is doing the talking, the weight of each sentence shifts and changes accordingly - but it doesn't necessarily have to be someone close to you to have a lasting impact. So if I gloss over certain moments - fail to record them exactly as they were - maybe it is because I can still feel the burning - the everlasting fire that some words bring. I understand how the stench of them can linger - long after you've walked away. They seem to stick far easier than the kind ones - recalled at a moment's notice when you need a crutch to drive the nail in deeper. Words were my business - as a journalist and then in communications - speeches and stories, news releases and features. How you told the story as essential as the story itself. But you can't sugar-coat the truth - somehow it always finds a way to shine through - illuminated regardless of the frilly dressing you put on top of it. I had a minister once who told me (through a third party - presumably he was too 'unavailable' to tell me to my face) that I hadn't tried hard enough to convince reporters he was "unavailable" as opposed to "refusing to comment". Two thoughts went through my head when I heard this - first, that I was his glorified messenger, not a magician and I didn't write the subsequent stories - what I said and how it was interpreted were not things I could change and second, I'd done a horrible job. What stuck was the second part - and though I was fortunate this was really the only minister I worked for who was anything less than kind (and I worked for many) and it certainly wasn't all a series of barbs - I think about that moment - which was pretty innocuous in the scheme of things - and how easy it is to be kicked to the curb, put in your place and how much power a few little words can have. But I have wielded that same power myself and I am sure my own words, poorly timed and badly executed, have had their own stinging impact. It is even easier to wield the knife through the immediacy of social media - slinging arrows that even a delete button can't fully erase. It is so easy to wound and so much harder to heal. Of course you can 'un-follow', 'un-friend' - but somehow that doesn't seem the point. I am trying so hard to be more mindful - to recognize the weight of what I say and if I can't say anything nice...well, you know how that story goes.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Working Man

It has occurred to me that while I have made many references to the loss of my dad to cancer, I have not shared much about the man who took the brave leap to actually take on the role of father to my sister and I. In fact just referring to him as my step-father is something I find almost impossible to do - because if the job of a parent is to always be there - worry constantly about your well-being - support you in all your mad-cap schemes - comfort you when things go awry...then he is simply my dad. Period. He has moved my not-so meagre belongings more times than I can count, built me furniture when I had none, taught me to drive (particularly painful!), supported me financially and has always been there to listen when times are tough. It can't have been easy for him - ever - filling the shoes of a ghost - knowing that he was competing in a race he might never win as it is so easy to subscribe perfection to someone you have loved and lost. Learning how to be a family can be painful and there were times when I am sure he felt it would be easier to call the whole thing off - and yet he never walked away from it - something I suspect must have occurred to him in moments where tensions were high. He worked (and still does) harder than anyone I know - has a miraculous aptitude to fix or build anything and everything - a 'do-it-yourselfer' where everything turns out beautifully and ten times better than had you hired someone to pull the load. When I was about ten - and fond of skating - he actually flooded the back-yard to create my own personal skating rink - a magical gesture that I will never forget. He just wanted to make me happy...and gliding along on the icy surface - round and round in the bitter cold - I'm sure I was oblivious to how much work he had invested, the toil and sacrifice on a rare day off from his very demanding and stressful job, all to make me smile.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Baby What A Big Surprise

So yesterday in the middle of a restless afternoon, I had a private message come through on my Twitter account. I have to confess I have a love/hate relationship with that particular medium. I find many of the voices tiresome - a broken record of shouting without hearing - entrenchment and bleating that never wavers from its one-way alley - just a steady stream of the same predictable responses from people I do not know but have already assessed and largely dismissed. I hover and when something strikes me as particularly egregious - madly start typing - cursing the character limits - and become just another decibel in the noisy landscape - full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. However, yesterday the message I received was from a reporter, one who worked at one of Vancouver's major dailies, but recently bravely took a leap away from that security and is pursuing her passions elsewhere. She was and is a fine reporter -the kind all journalists should aspire to be - fair, insightful, precise in her words - and knew her subject and beat better from the side-lines than many playing on the field. Anyway, we didn't have many occasions to connect in my former job but did interact from time to time depending on the issue du jour. Her mission in writing to me was to say she had been reading this blog and offered some very kind, touching words about what I have shared that warmed my heart. I thought about what it takes to actually take the time to extend yourself to a virtual stranger - to pass on something that might make them feel good, with no guarantee of reciprocation - to take that extra step to act on what might be swirling through your mind - some appreciation that we don't have the time or inclination to express. So it is the gesture, as much as the beautiful words, that stand out - fill my heart - blanket the ugly noise with something so much more sweet-sounding.

Friday, 20 September 2013

The Old Grey Mare She Ain't What She Used To Be...

I haven't gone out much lately - but when I found the walls closing in today I decided the only antidote was shopping. I'll admit I have always loved to shop - I am decisive about it - no dithering. I walk into a store, peruse as if I'm being timed in a road-race and know exactly with a glance what I like and don't like. I handle it like a recognizance mission, assess the territory and strike. But shopping feels different now - first, because I am increasingly conscious of my dwindling bank balance and second, because a part of me wonders why I would invest in a single new item when I literally have racks of clothes I do not wear anymore. The morbid part of me looks at it as one more piece of irrelevant merchandise that someone in my life will have to bag up and dispose of at some point - a thought I desperately tried to push from my mind as I drove. Also, the items I seek out are different now. I find myself searching for comfort - soft fabric that will not chafe - anything to bring me warmth. So I found myself under the unforgiving lights of a dressing room - forced to confront my own face in the mirror - still looking for signs that I may have missed before of my current state - signs that the bored sales-person might pick up on and look at me as something other than just another older woman trying on clothes that are likely too young for her. I don't know why I care - what I see is really no different than what I have ever seen - someone trying to play dress-up and be anyone else but who she is.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Love, Love, Love

I've been thinking a lot about love - sharing it, with-holding it, tossing the word around lightly. Since my diagnosis I realize I share that word a lot more - I say it with emphasis - a sense of urgency - like it is imperative people understand to the depth of their being, how much they mean to me. I find myself wanting to take people's hand - look them square in the eye - and not turn away from whatever response might lie there. There is still a sliver within me that balks at this new connectedness - something I actively steered clear of in the past. My instinct has always been to question - in the most cynical way - the intention behind the sentiment - instead of accepting it freely and purely for what it was. There is a part of me that understands on some level that the reaction to my current state creates some kind of false reality - where positive qualities are unnaturally heaped upon a deeply flawed and normal human life and perhaps the eyes that look at me now, having bared my soul, see only this new construct - this glass house I have created through the journey of the past few months. Yet I can't help feeling that I could have missed these gifts had things un-folded differently and that what I have been given from the people in my life who have reached out over and over in the last six months is something rare and precious - the gift of articulating directly what is in their hearts - and perhaps their motivation is less important than the glow they leave behind.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

In the Still of the Night

It is my mom's birthday today. When the winds of fall creep around the corner, I know it is time to celebrate yet another milestone in her vibrant life. She was born in 1939 - so is forever connected in my mind to the war years - the second of four children and the only girl. She grew up on a farm near Killarney, Manitoba and her life's ambition was to be a nurse - one of few career options available to women at that time but I can't imagine a more fitting vocation for her kind heart. The other night she told me about one particular shift when she was a young nurse in the very small hospital in Pine Falls, Manitoba when she found herself the lone person on staff during the night-time hours - with not even an orderly to lend a hand. Unfortunately, expectant mothers don't often have the luxury of waiting for a more convenient time so my mom, who had only ever been on the sidelines for such an event, found herself delivering a baby alone. The stress she experienced was compounded by the fact there were other patients - including babies - who were in the hospital at the time but because she couldn't leave the delivery room, they were left to their own devices. She must have done a decent enough job as both the new mom and her little one were just fine. The doctor did eventually show up and observed that she appeared to have things under control. (Thanks for nothing, Dr. Whoever-You-Were!) Still, this was one of the events that stood out in a long and varied career. This story, which frankly she might have told me before but had slipped from my memory banks, falls into the category of the "things you didn't know about your parents, because you didn't take the time to hear". All little clues into the things that shaped them - that changed their little window on the world. She survived many things - a childhood with no money, a mom who was never really present due to her struggles with post-partum depression and treatment that left her incapable of dealing with the most pedestrian tasks in their home, losing her first husband to cancer while she was still in her twenties, a son with Down's Syndrome - many, many things that might have broken a person in two. On this, the anniversary of her birth, I celebrate not only her capacity to triumph but the many gifts she has given me - a love of reading, British sit-coms, and a heart that unlike the Grinch was never "two sizes too small". And I hope on this day, that baby born on that long ago night, understands how fortunate he or she was to be born into such tender, loving hands.

Monday, 16 September 2013

An Afternoon With the Past

Had an impromptu visit today with a former colleague from my days in health. Eryn caught me on a better day, while on a whirlwind trip to Victoria for her work and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to connect. Our lives have followed similar paths - she worked at one of the same radio stations I did (years after I left) and made the leap to communications in her adopted home town of Prince George - where she did amazing and tireless work with Northern Health for over six years. She has since moved on to an exciting new position in the field of emergency management and I could tell by the passion in her voice that they are fortunate indeed to have her. Like many of us, her early life story had its share of chaos and one with many hurdles to overcome. From a distance, I've watched her come full circle and in the last few years she has given up smoking, embraced running, taken her love of singing to the stage in a stand-out performance of Les Miserables, found a partner in life with very special step-kids and most importantly - given birth to a beautiful baby boy, Thomas. She is embracing life in a way that leaves me in awe and her energy could leave me buoyed for days. Seeing the sparkle in her eyes and having observed her capacity to embrace life without fear is inspirational in a way that is neither showy nor boastful - it is simply a fact.
For many years she was a voice on the end of the telephone - one of a cadre of men and women who I dealt with in my working life - at a time when many chickens in my world were coming home to roost...and not in a good way. I was frequently stressed - full of anxiety at letting the balls drop - and there were many moments when my patience left me and yet Eryn, ever the professional, was gracious and kind when she had every reason not to be. I will never be able to erase those difficult times nor adequately apologize to the people who endured me in those moments and taught me so much  - though I have had lots of time to reflect. But time and space have seen this seed of connection we had grow into something treasured and through the magic of social media I've been privileged to watch her grow both personally and professionally in a way that fills me with the deepest respect and pride. She is the living embodiment of courage and shouting yes to opportunity - a person you want to keep your eye on to see what possible new adventure she'll take on next knowing that for her - transformation is not only possible - it is her new calling and she wears it so very well. Cheers my beautiful, funny girl.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Tipping the Scales

There are times in a relationship when the balance tips - when a certain dependence creeps in, the ground shifts and new roles have to be forged. Every petty frustration or resentment you've experienced in the context of sharing your life with someone pales in comparison to this new emotional territory. When you are accustomed to grabbing the reins, giving up the power to steer - the blessing or curse of control - is a painstaking process. When you are not responsible, you lose the right to criticize - or so the sentiment goes - but in practice this is not so easy to achieve. I know that sometimes it feels like you should just wander off like a wounded animal, curl up into a ball and let the herd carry on without you. These are the places my mind goes when I am brutally honest - days when the business of not carrying the load becomes too big a weight to bear and the apologies for this fact seem hollow. Then a good day comes when it is almost possible to believe this chasm does not exist - that you can feel your own power and a glimpse of what you had shines through. An imperfect picture but preferable to this new normal seeping in...this limping gait that I just can't get the hang of.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Dear Shae Alosius Montgomery Greenfield

It is with a full heart and a few tears that I congratulate you for your courage and good sense in proposing to the ravishing, intelligent and amazing Miss Sara Michelle. The fact you chose September 12th is significant - not just because it is one of those rare days that is not an official Jewish holiday - but because it is the day:
- Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning (How do I love thee?)
- John F. Kennedy wed Jackie in Rhode Island (Let's focus on the love story part of that...)
- the first married couple were launched into space on the Space Shuttle Endeavour (one assumes they were still together at the landing) and,
- there were monster sightings in West Virginia (of course it is probable that happens on a daily basis).
Your courtship bears striking similarities to Elizabeth and Robert in that it started out as a long-distance affair (though Sara is not an invalid, thank God, and you Shae, are no poet!) and quickly became a love story for the ages -  a communion of two people that is epic in its strength and surrounded by a halo of hope and light. There is a moment when you see two people together and something beyond chemistry tells you that the union is just right, no re-assembly required, and that is precisely how I felt when I saw you together for the first time. Frankly, I didn't know if Shae could possibly find someone with as vibrant a spirit and as generous a heart as he has - and yet he found you, Sara. I longed for this day not just because you both mean so much to me - but because a connection like yours is so precious in the universe - it demands to be held close, revered and celebrated with all of the pageantry that our little lives allow. Congratulations on this beautiful day...I love you both more than I can say....

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

I Wish I Had a River I Could Skate Away On

When I hear Joni Mitchell sing those words, to borrow her own lyrics, I feel weak in the knees. I know it is a cold weather kind of song, but for some reason it sprang into my head today while I was paying my first visit to the acupuncturist. I have never really had occasion to explore complementary medicine, but I am making up for it now. With my face squished into the donut-like pillow waiting for the magic to happen I was trying desperately to still my thoughts and be peaceful but I find that a challenge at the best of times. Still, the relief was immediate and striking - even if my mind didn't really want to cooperate. I find myself so grateful that I can pursue some of these options - even for a short time. The business of appointments and the search for something resembling healing is a taxing one and you never really know what you will find. When it works it is like some kind of miracle. Yet still sometimes all you really want to do is skate away to some other place and time - to escape the need to heal and to feel the same relief in the mind as in the body.

Nine to Five

It is a common enough question, "Where do you work?". Since I was fifteen I always had an answer to that. My first official job was as a hostess at a Chinese restaurant where the kitchen staff only spoke Cantonese and the waitresses were surly and complained bitterly when I sat some hungry family in their section. As a bonus they let me take home the broken fortune cookies for free. Now in this time, simple things like being asked for my phone number at work inspires something akin to panic. What if this complete stranger finds out I have no position and heaps all sorts of judgements upon me as it is clear, I believe, from looking at me that I am not an heiress nor do I possess that haughty air of the independently wealthy. If work defines us, as it so often does in our society, who are we when we are not gainfully employed? What are we but a drain on an otherwise productive landscape where everyone is busily getting ahead. Struggling to identify what remains when that critical piece of our identity is shelved is a puzzle I continue to try and piece together for myself all the while wistfully dreaming I might return to that place of certainty - that costume that may be ill-fitting, but familiar nonetheless.

Falling Through the Safety Net

Maybe it is because we are an unofficial tribe now, but for various reasons I seem to know many people dealing with the politics of medical disability. It is a tremendous privilege in the public service  to have this safety net - but the politics around it can be less than straightforward.  It is not something that I have faced because I quit my position nine months before I discovered my kidneys were failing.   Had the timing been different I likely would have continued to collect a percentage of my salary each month...but for those who faced significant challenges while still on the job - their dealings with the insurance companies (as opposed to their employers) have in some cases taken on a life of their own - and the long, often trying battles they face seem the heart of cruelty when someone is trying to cope with their medical demons - an added indignity and stress-inducer they could dearly do without. I know the prevailing sentiment is that such safety valves are open for abuse - but sometimes the effort to prove legitimacy seems incredibly onerous - even when copious and emphatic evidence is provided by specialists. In many ways while I miss the security of a monthly cheque - there is a reason things happened when they did in my case - and the notion of any kind of dependency - particular with taxpayer's money - is a difficult one for me. Frankly in many ways it is a dance I am very relieved not to be a part of - as fearful as I am of some of the financial decisions we will be forced to make. There is always a need for checks and balances - but at the same time employees pay dearly for the privilege and at a when they legitimately need it - adding to their distress is hard for me to fathom. I know at the same time even having this battle to fight is something legions of workers do not enjoy - and when tragedy strikes they are left with whatever paltry sum the federal government might offer when their circumstances haven't allowed them to save for a cloudy day, let alone a rainy one. What we earn and what we are owed, if anything, are never easy concepts to reconcile...let alone what every human being deserves and who we allow to be the judge and jury when need strikes.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Dear Body

I am begging you now, please try and cooperate. You are behaving like a petulant child, defiantly flopping off in every direction and defying any effort I seem to make to follow the specialists's advice and get out into the world and do things "while you still can". I am beginning to hate that sentiment - the notion that there is yet another list of things I have to do in order to say that I am following the process like I should. I keep telling myself there must be some purpose to this - some lesson in patience, humility or acceptance that I need to learn. My mind keeps making plans - some simple or grand schemes - and my body will have none of it. I guess as rules go, I punished it and it is punishing me right back. But the fact it is shifting my focus elsewhere must be necessary - because feeling the pain is one way not to let my mind wander to the myriad of places it can't stay away from and the questions that no one can answer with any certainty. Instead of jumping ahead to one million different scenarios around how the future will unfold - it grounds me here, in this place, gingerly contemplating the best way to get up from a chair with the least physical discomfort. Forces me to see things that I could not see and appreciate how far people have been willing to extend themselves to help me - and to will me good things even if those good things do not come. It is enough to make me want to rip up the pity party favours that I have so amply handed myself, stop making plans I can't pursue and just lean into this life I have which for now has to be enough - and is in so many ways, more than I ever expected.

Friday, 6 September 2013


There are times I think there are things I just shouldn't share as it doesn't exactly cast me in a favourable light, but it is all part of the human experience so onward I go. Yesterday, in an effort to get out of the house, decided to take a quick trip to the store. Suffice it to say the driveway was wet and my stupid foot shot out from under me, ankle bashed car on the way down, scraped a large patch on my arm and worst, I landed on my hip bone - where I have a growing welt and have wrenched the same twisted part of my back that was trying to heal. When it happened I just laid there like an idiot on the pavement in the driveway in shock before hobbling up and back to the house. I then confess I cried like a baby a) because it hurt like hell and b) because I had been walking around so gingerly all week, trying so hard to be okay and c) I am supposed to be leaving tomorrow morning for my first weekend out of town since well before my diagnosis. I am beyond questioning why these things are happening when I was trying so hard to stay on track. You see the last time we had planned such a weekend getaway, was two days before I landed in the hospital and had to cancel everything. So I was determined nothing would mar this and there is nothing left now but to try and have faith that I can push through. Was it self-sabotage or just a klutzy moment that could happen to anyone? It doesn't really matter has happened and I have about 24 hours to try and get past this. More than anything I feel bad for Kirk, who needed a drama-free escape as much or more than I do and all of my apologies can't take away the fact the we have added a little un-welcome weight to our shoulders at a time when we really could do without it. I think as tests go, this is a painful one but it is surprising what we are learning to endure to find some kind of peace.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Close Encounters

It is probably inevitable that because my house and the nearest grocery store/drug store/coffee shop are within walking distance of the Legislature that I run into people from my former life, both people I worked with at one time or knew as an acquaintance. Some ignore me entirely - purposefully or not - while others are generally friendly and invariably ask how I am doing. It is expected now for some part of these exchanges to include some sizing up - which is likely not unusual knowing how far news about my health situation spread - their eyes summing up my current physical state. It is very much part of a normal human response to be curious when you meet a person like me in the flesh - if you have any idea what I have been dealing with. It fills me with such a nervous, self-conscious feeling - so bad that if I have the energy I'll drive for miles to a drug store where such an encounter is less probable. I know it is silly to feel so undone and of course there are faces I miss and it is not that I am not genuinely happy to see them, but what I am afraid of is the feeling they are seeing something my eyes will not let me see...some visible decay that careful preparation can not hide. It is not that they would say it - but I would know it instinctively from the look in their eyes, the tilt of their heads, the discomfort it might inspire. But I am genuinely trying to push past this knowing we all have our good and bad days...the times we might prefer not to be seen - and to focus on the caring, not the curiosity, that might lie behind the smile - to recall what I appreciated about that person who inhabits a world I used to dwell in in my working life, but where I no longer live.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

'Golden Rule Days...'

Even those of us who don't have kids can't help but feel a little pang on the first day back to school. No matter how old I get, watching the little ones weighed down by back-packs and the anticipation (or dread) of letting go of summer and settling back into an old routine - or perhaps a new experience they are learning for the first time - makes me anxious on their behalf and a wee bit wistful. Will they like their teachers? Will they find a friend? Will new cliques have formed over the summer months - ones they are no longer welcomed into? So much to cope with - adjusting to the social order that school invariably entails which is its own challenging curriculum. The moms I know write anxiously about their hopes for their little ones understanding inherently from their own experiences - the land-mines that can go off, the hurts and scars - fears and insecurities that they cannot shield them from regardless of how carefully they have prepared. Even stronger feelings seem to accompany those moms with older children - heading off to middle school or high school for the first time with the many layers of drama those pre-teen/teenage years can bring - knowing time moves so much more slowly from the eyes of youth and mistakes feel that much weightier when perspective hasn't softened the view. Still there is an air of excitement, even hope, on the first day when nothing is too taxing and the real work is yet to begin - a communion of new beginnings and a blank slate ready to be filled.

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Ties That Bind

I had an opportunity today to share some time with one of my mom's brothers, Richard and his lovely wife Donna. They live in Winnipeg and were passing through Victoria before heading on a road trip down to San Francisco. As visits go it was very brief - but just seeing their faces, having an opportunity to give a hug - has a different kind of meaning to me now. They shared that they have been following this blog and that my sweet Aunt Monique in Ontario has been printing out the posts and saving them. I was very touched but couldn't help but be struck by the fact that while we have lived such separate lives - as a result of this blog they and other members of my family know so much about the person I have become - good and bad - in a way that I couldn't possibly communicate in the brief visits we've shared over the years. It is like the balance has tipped in some ways - and while I am not exactly regretful they know these things - I am also mindful that for them the experience of reading this does not represent a casual observance nor do they look at this with the curiosity of someone with whom there is no expectation of some kind of intimacy. For them, the person behind these words is family - with all that the word entails. Regardless, when I see Richard's smile it is like stepping into a familiar place with someone you may not know well, but who has been a constant in my life and someone who I can genuinely say I have always loved. He has a strength that I don't even think he realizes, a beautiful family that he has shepherded through many challenges and a kindness and humour that I have always appreciated. Sometimes family are the people you choose and sometimes they are people who share more direct ties - where some kind of closeness is not necessarily a given - but very much treasured when it is found.