Friday, February 6, 2015

Five Years

The day will come, and the day will go. You likely won't find it any different than any other Friday...anxious for 5:00, excited for the weekend, happy to wind down from a tiring week and to shut off the stress.

For me, it will be somewhat different. It will mark a milestone of sorts. I will look across the canyon of 5 years, and see the life I once held as my own in the very far, smoggy distance. The life completely unprepared, the life immature to the swirl of grand, debilitating loss...the life before he died.

It's a lesson in humanity, to walk the shadowed path of grief. There is no packing and preparing for it. There isn't a list of recommended accessories to get through it, and there certainly isn't a clear way into breaking daylight.

In 5 years, I've learned about the power of choice and decision. I've learned that you can't love someone through or out of addiction. We are merely helpless spectators to someone else's self harm. I used to think it was as easy as offering support and unending love to an addict...

I was wrong.

Grief settles. It accompanies you through life like a quiet companion. The reminders are there everyday...lingering cigarette smoke, the end of a fateful song, the back of a person in the line at the grocery store who resembles the departed, and makes you wish....just for a moment. The edges come off... your breath becomes more steady, and the sun rises and sets everyday with your intentional admiration of it's beauty and impermanence.

There are quiet reflections on who he'd be now. Maybe happily married...maybe thriving in a job he loved, maybe rested and whole and at peace...maybe...maybe...maybe. The maybe's don't get under my skin anymore. I know the past couldn't have been different than it was. I know he wasn't fated to make it through. I know these things. And in the midst of knowing and accepting, and being conscious of the precious anguish he suffered, and that which he has caused, I can say this,

I loved my friend. In all of his broken humanity and frailty....I accept all truths of his existence.

There are many gifts out of grief. They are the kind that are only accessible when you're stripped bare of all you know, and only have one choice:


A new person awaits on the other side of grief. That person is someone you have yet to uncover, and thankfully, they're patient and wise and welcoming. The lessons from grief are singular and painstakingly your own. They dig out the ugliness of personal truths with an unforgiving, sharp brutality. At the same time offer the very raw experience of mirroring the potential we have to be better human beings on this remarkable journey called Life, and thus, challenge us to grow, and discover and become.

I'm eternally grateful that I wasn't spared knowing him. I will bear the pain of losing him for the rest of my life with the humble acknowledgement that knowing him was good. Knowing him changed me. Losing him changed me. Accepting him changed me, and changes me still.

Be well my friend, I know you're not far. xo

Friday, February 7, 2014

He was Loved

Olympians are bundled up in Sochi, Russia today. They've spent 4 intense years since their last attempts at Gold, Silver and Bronze- training- striving, breaking barriers and smashing personal bests. Most people when working towards something...a goal, a new way at approaching life, a medal...they visualize success in order to drive themselves towards their intended destination. They determine a timeline, they set markers for achievement, they celebrate in the journey and just what they've learned along the way. These Olympians have been visualizing success and the podium, and many of them will conclude their time in Russia, where the world watched champions.

This time of year, especially this particular February, stirs the embers of a life changing Saturday in February of 2010 for me. The Vancouver Winter Olympics had just started, and we as Canadians were more invested than ever. We were unabashedly proud. KD Lang sang Hallelujah, and the world fell silent to listen to the prairie girl with the wind swept angel voice.

 An unforgiving wind changed my course that day- and has yet to stop. I don't remember much about my life perspective before that...I feel like I was so much more naive about life, about people, and about what I thought was fair. I feel like my understanding of humanity and frailty was juvenile, basic and short.The grief journey was about to take me on a winding trail of life's majestic heights, and perilous lows to which I had only ever been an inattentive bystander.

You see, I lost a kindred friend. You see, My dear friend died. You see, my friend was a drug addict.

His journey was like that of the Olympian. He determined in his mind that he wanted to achieve something- he determined what his goal was. He collected the necessary tools and supports to be a success....things like a support system for when he was low,  new people who didn't know his past... a voracious coffee habit to offset the hunger, and a new life pretty damn unfamiliar to he, who had spent more than half his life in the grips of the demons hand.  He stepped into the future with uncertainty and trepidacious hope ..because the path he had been on was like a spinning chamber in suicide roulette.

The training was hard. He was frustrated, he was exhilarated, he was painfully lonely, and he was the exact shadow of the man he used to be. It was all coming into focus- the  rewards for his efforts, the attempts to be a better man, the esteem of peers and those people he saw as gamechangers in our world...

and one night the switch night the pressure to keep trying was extinguished, one night it was all too much, and that night, he died.

I love my friend in the wake of 4 years. I love the complex, funny, irreverant and inappropriate ways he built his human experience. I love that there wasn't a single thing he wouldn't share about his journey and how he got to be where he was right in that moment- usually with a cigarette hanging out of his half-cocked grin and a large triple/triple coffee in his hand. I love what he taught me about compassion and second chances. I love that I knew him with faults branded onto his history, and in a perfect time and place when I needed to understand more about loving people for where they are right now, in both the beautiful and  unforgivingly cruel moments in life.

Now, as I see the actor addict who dies alone, and as I love the addict in my everyday life...I remember my friends words, "you can't want it for them...". I don't like that answer, and I don't have to. But I accept that none of us will save another without their permission- famous, or otherwise. The choice remains to love more, pray more, and to accept more than ever that our lives are all bisecting for a million spoken and unspoken reasons. The ripple effects outlast life...and they step out of death everyday into the present with lessons and reminders.

My friend was a great man. He was flawed. He wasn't a quitter. He made a million mistakes like you and I do everyday. But firstly, and most importantly- He Was Loved.

Miss you much Michael. xo

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Little Impressions

She knows. Far too early, much too soon...right now, a breath between now and her 5th birthday, she exclaims matter of factly,

"I have fat legs and a big bum".

I am sad. I don't want her or them, the little ones to know that this world hurls opinions and expectations at women, girls...little girls...about who they should be, and how the puzzle piece of their life fits into this world.

I want to stand between her and the ugliness of conformity- I want to stand on guard as a 37 year old woman who dealt with ridicule and relentless teasing. I want to be armour, I want to be a wall, I want to be shelter. I want to be inpenetrable, because I can wade through the reason and the cause...I can be teflon, and I know where worth lies.

I think about the lessons of growing up different...I think about the challenges of not being the smartest and nowhere on the spectrum of pretty. I think about not having all of the trendy touch stones that somehow qualified worth in those school time years, and I know that nothing material would have appeased my asymmetry to the middle and the norm anyway. I think on my learnings about people and kindness and acceptance and embracing the beauty of nonconformity...and I know that my hard won psuedo wisdom was preserved for moments like this.

The building of a girl is directly related to a blueprint -  and to the character of the women in her life. Her influencers...her models...the ones who live life in front of her, and what they hold important.

To grow a self confident, unapologetic, self accepting game changing little girl, I believe she must have role models who are fearless in their own lives. She must observe on a daily basis, women who are embracing themselves fully...spiritually, emotionally, physically. She must look upward to women who keep trying, keep loving, keep failing, and keep getting up. Her little eyes must watch women who love themselves, her little hands need the assured grasp of the confident, and her little feet must charge into the future in the clear tracks of those who have blazed a clear trail.

Surely she is more. More than her appearance, more than her physical presence. She is smart. She is funny. She is strong, and silly and all things lovable. What she thinks matters. What she feels is real. And all of those things, as a woman who is around her? They MATTER to me. They matter deeply. They matter more than anything else on this earth, because she is the future.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it- is simple:

Keep trying to be the one that shows her how it's done. After all, everything you are, is who she will be in the future.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Memory Quilt

I have a carefully folded tower of clothing sitting at the whitewashed doorway of my bedroom. It was marked for a second hand shop, after doing a closet purge once upon a time. That leaning tower has sat at the door much longer than I care to admit. Those garments that once covered me and shielded my nakedness for a certain time in life, were nearly destined for a new life in someone else's closet, and a quiet and safe corner of my memories.

Tomorrow morning though, I'm going to make a quilt. I'm not going shopping for remnants of fabric, or brightly coloured, pre-determined and perfectly cut squares. I am going to sew together the memories of my nearly passed on threads, and reposition them in my life. Those fibres after all, hold as much sentiment and reminiscence as any round edged memory. Seams may be frayed, and brilliance of colour may have faded through wear, love, and time, but the breadth of their value to me in those past moments cannot be measured. They, for a time, were a part of me.

There was a swirling September night when the the covering of innocence tore- and the world forever changed for my dearly kindred friend...and a family I love very deeply. The rawness stripped like the edge of an unguarded blade... the world was quieted and shouting all at once. The silence felt deafening, and the noise seemed sharply numbing. For a long time, those memories have served as a reminder...a blanket if you will, of just how quickly it can all change...the "it" being everything that is, and everything that life seemed to be headed towards.

That canopy came off. That shelter from the elements of this world seemingly blew away while the world slept. The less familiar our world became and becomes 17 years later, the more I try to piece together the remaining precious, dearly loved, closely worn memories of a boy who was incredible. Incredibly funny. Incredibly smart. So incredibly special... inextinguishable, and insurmountably loved.

The piecing together of what still remains physically here, feels right. My foot bears a tattoo memory of a childhood friend who left this world much too early. I took her hand written, left handed message in my grade 8 autograph book, and inked it on top of every right foot step in my life.  I finally feel like she's really with me now that I can look down and see her name everyday. That outside marking of the 15 year old girl I carry in my heart, somehow acts as a small patch of mental fabric when it comes to the protection of my memories of her.

 I'll carefully piece a dear friends faded, blue checked American Eagle shirt into my quilt- right down to the buttons, wrist cuffs and the label. My grandma's paisley kerchief will find its spot amongst the less sentimental pieces, and a pale green sweatshirt sent to me a lifetime and a heartbreak ago..they'll all become a part of my hopeful masterpiece.

The combined value of each memory stamped garment, will contribute to a covering of recognition, gratitude, and peace. After all, those I love are still very much with me...and what's left now still has the very real ability to warm me and speak softly alongside my listening heart,

 "We're all around you. We'll hold shelter over you. Always".

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Signal Your Intent

Roundabouts are quite new to Canada. They don't put me off or confuse me as I have spent considerable time in countries that use them on their roadways as a way of keeping traffic moving, and eliminating stop lights.

The newest roundabout has just opened in my city, and it's the biggest one in the area. Upon approach, there is a flashing sign for the newbies:


I read it, and clearly knew what it meant- but somehow, it spoke to me on another level.

Instead of driving forward in life, at a speed sometimes too accelerated...with inertia directing at its whim, maybe life is more intentional and more focused if, we signal our intent.

I sometimes feel adrift...dizzy with the pace of life, but seemingly without a determined destination. The "getting there" is less important than the "getting through." I feel sometimes like there is a revolving door that I'm stuck in, and somehow, I am always being tossed out at the beginning of the next school year, or the next first snowfall.'s another year later, the landscape of my life is morphed into a hybrid of the year before...and the year before that...and so on.

I've always found that writing things down makes things come alive. It brings my lifes dreams out of that fairy land of wispy make belief into tangible, attainable, in my face realities. Those times that I have signaled my intent have been the most rewarding, concrete and measurable seasons of being on this human journey.

I dream of living far away, and have for a long time...I've been afraid to write it down. Writing it down has meant that I am accountable. Now, today in fact, a dear friend has returned home to Australia after a year of great adventure here in my beautiful Canada, and another kindred friend will step into a new life in 12 days as she hops across the pond to England. I love and admire their bravery- and I hope someday to be in their shoes. So, I am writing it here...for me, and for you, and for the world to take notice of...Hey, I want to move somewhere new and exciting. Someday...tomorrow, next week, next year...20 years from now. I am signaling my intent...I am letting the universe know it has a job to do.

Maybe think about it. Writing down the things in your life that your heart wants. It teaches you so's a beautiful and fragile expression of honesty between you and destiny.


Friday, June 28, 2013

We Are...


It quietly, and stoically stands. It's dignified, strong, and confident. It doesn't draw unnecessary attention to itself - but it will be me, by we - those far away, and those safely within the borders - we will think of all it is to be Canadian.

It's Wheat Kings, and pretty things.
It's skyscraper sized white icebergs drifting in the North Atlantic.
It's small towns and big cities, the corner store, and the CN Tower.
It's mountain air, and campfires...stargazing and satellite spotting over a Great Lake.
It's a hybrid North American- less fearful, more self assured.

It's a blazing red maple leaf in October.
It's poutine in Montreal.
It's a quiet and brash government- from Chretien to Trudeau.
It's standing on the top of Grouse Mountain- and looking out over tree tops to a twinkling Vancouver.

We are First Nations and the Quebecois, cowboys and fishermen.
We are a society of the unarmed...and the disarming.
We are the Tim Horton's nation- double double loving, maple dip ordering, and "keep the change" kind of folks.
We are Thank You and Sorry, we are You're Welcome, and No Problem.
We are clothes sunning and bleaching on a line between July and September.

We are hockey lovers with hope- every season...every year, on the asphalt or an arena.
We are Yonge St. and Robson St. and George St. and Rue St. Catherine.
We are an Okanagan vineyard, and Molson Canadian, and Mill St.Organic Beer.
We are The Hudson's Bay Company's blue, yellow, red and green stripes... 1670 to now.
We are the mosaic- and you are welcome to live here.

We believe that rights are streamlined- from gay marriage to health care.
We believe in music- from dive bar indy cover bands, to a lesbian prairie girl with the voice of an angel.
We believe in Christian values...and Buddhist values...and Muslim values, and Be a Good Person values.
We believe in a greater connection- and that if we can just take care of each other- we'll all be good.
We believe in our own contribution to the world- without attitude..but also without apology.

Ask me what I am proudest of being- and there could be so many answers I boomerang back to you. But now, at this time of year, where we swell with the pride of being in this corner of the world...and belonging here, I will tell you,

                                                                I. AM. CANADIAN.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013


My phone battery is always depleting at a very rapid rate.

 It's annoying.

 I can unplug it in the morning before swinging at the day, and usually by mid afternoon it needs a plug in. All of those things running in the background- apps, programs....they're slowly and silently draining it's ability to perform.

We are the same. I am the same. A billion obligations, commitments, stresses and ways we're stretched beyond our personal limits...and the next thing we know...we are running close to the red line of empty.

Figuring life out is an interesting project. Committing to happiness and completeness and peace isn't popular, because, after all, we are supposed to be living up to "her" trip to Italy, and "his" new shiny car..."their" monster house, that strangers beautiful....whatever. Whatever it is...we're focusing on the highlight reel of others lives, and benchmarking our humdrum everyday against it. And as we whip around quickly, and catch a glimpse of our life right's just not good enough. So we try...and we diminish...and we run out.

I was in BC last October...I went to Whistler on my own and had 36 hours of quiet. It wasn't what I thought it would be. I enjoyed the moments of "doing"...and cringed at the moments of trying to turn my mind off. I had nowhere to be...I was at the base of the most beautiful mountains in the world on a glorious Fall day...and I felt like I had to get going. I had to keep moving, keep busy...and get out of there. The thought of being still and soaking it all felt wrong and entirely too indulgent. So I forced myself to sit cross legged in a daffodil yellow Muskoka chair...and to breathe. To absorb. To be present in the warmth of the sunshine....and unapologetic about the choice. The apology felt like it should be from me.

Jenn, I'm sorry for polluting your mind with a loop of inadequacy and sadness. Jenn, I am sorry for stretching you to accept those moments of untruth to yourself and your future. Jenn, I promise I will be kinder, more real and less critical. I promise that if you wouldn't say it to someone you love...that I'll try not to say it to you.

Shut off the background. be fully charged, and do things that increase energy. Be surrounded by people who feed positivity and vision. Create. Love. Don't let others tap into the energy without permission.

Be here. Fully. Because any other way is a disservice.