Saturday, November 22, 2014

A lotta hype... a whole lotta no big deal....

It really wasn't that big a deal after all. My life is no worse, and it certainly isn't any better.
The self imposed dread and hype were all for nothing.

I turned 50 sitting a Russian vodka bar with Paul. I can't think of anyone more appropriate with whom to mark the milestone than someone who has known me since grade three.  We've had our ups and downs, jointly and separately, but there we were, sitting at the bar wondering how we arrived here so quickly.

When I woke up the next morning, there were no marching bands, nobody treated me any differently, and I just got on with my day. I didn't feel any different, physically. I'm not sure why the big 5-0 is made out to be such a big deal when in reality, the "second half of our lives" begins, for most of us, after 40.

But 50 is such a freaking big number! Seniors discounts are just around the corner, and I'm not even sure what I want to be when I grow up yet!

Of course, I wouldn't be writing this if there wasn't an "A-Ha" moment attached to it. I realized that I have no clue why I needed a milestone to decide who and what I want to be and take control of my life. There have been disappointments, and I have failed, in so many ways, myself and the people closest to me. I realize, after spending a lot of time pondering, a few truths which will, if I am smart enough not to let this moment pass, help me take control of and shape my own destiny and the legacy I leave to my children:

1. I cannot count on any other person for my happiness. I will find that within myself, and all the people in my life who bring me love, comfort and happiness are a big bonus.

2. I can no longer make excuses for today's failures by blaming them on the circumstances of the past. I can't move forward while obsessing over everything is see in the rear view mirror. The past needs to stay where it is. I can learn from it, but I need to leave it there because those are some pretty heavy bags to carry.

3. What other people think of me is none of my business. I read that one somewhere so I cannot take credit for it. But, oh, what truth! As long as I am being the best person I can be, I need to not care what anyone else thinks. This is my journey.

4. I will no longer emulate the Greek god Tantalus. There is absolutely nothing stopping me from achieving that which I long for, except myself. It is time to grow up and realize that no one gets ahead riding the "poor me" train.

I'll finish with a quote from my favourite book of all time, "Oh the Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss:
"'re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So..get on your way!"

I'm fastening my seat belt.....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A View From the Other Side of Popular Opinion

Q: When does a stigma become insignificant?
A: When it is associated with wealth, affluence and power.

Where does that leave the rest of us?

Over the past few years "mental health" issues have become the topic of many public awareness campaigns.  In and of itself this is a good thing. Canadian celebrities and media personalities such as Clara Hughes and Seamus O'Regan certainly do succeed in helping "average people" realize that mental illness does not discriminate based on affluence, education or achievements. And while I'm at it, kudos to Bell Canada for taking up the cause.

I have no intention of  speaking ill against any one's efforts to do good.

I just don't think it is enough, and I can't quite put my finger on the missing link.

Sure we've come along way from the institutionalization of people who have "gone mad" by throwing them in a large facility with largely untrained attendants where physical abuse and unspeakable experiments took place, but we have a long way to go still.

The recent death of Robin Williams by his own hand once again has the whole world talking. That he was kind, generous, sensitive and masked his illness very well is a given, for the purposes of this short dissertation. The point is, this tragedy will eventually fade into "oh yeah, remember when Robin Williams died" and the mental illness part of the conversation will also become but a distant memory.

Until the next one. At some point another prominent person will lose the battle and we'll all talk again and we'll all remember "Oh yeah, that happened to Robin Williams too." And once a year the "Let's Talk" campaign will highlight the issue for yet another few moments in the continuum.

The reality is that most of us who battle depression and other forms of mental illness do not feel empowered to "come out". There is a class system in play here and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. When Clara Hughes talks about her battles with debilitating depression, we all cheer at how she has overcome and managed to be an Olympic champion in spite of mental illness - as we well should. I admire her spirit, determination and her victories, and I aspire on a smaller scale to achieve the same.

When Joe Average can't get out of bed because the world is closing in around him, and, too ashamed to ask for help, he misses yet another day of work to pound  back a bottle of his poison of choice, no one cheers and waves flags when he finally gets back to work and manages to do his job with mere competence.

Intending no disrespect to those of a higher profile who have found the courage to make public their personal demons,  I would submit that there is a huge disconnect between them and us.

Why does a woman who take anti-depressant medication in order to function in the regular world still feel compelled to admit, with embarrassment, "ummmm, oh yeah, those are... ummm my happy pills".

People with a physical ailment can count on leagues of supporters to provide comfort, cooked meals, rides to the hospital and other manifestation of human kindness. When someone we know battles mental illness, we don't know what to say.

When the day finally arrives that Joe or Mary Average can publicly share his or her battle with depression without enduring sideways glances, subtle (and sometimes not) discrimination and awkward avoidance of the topic, I'll know we've arrived.

But please; long after we stop hearing on the news that "on this day X years ago Robin Williams died at his own hand after a long battle with depression", let's keep the conversation going until the stigma of mental illness stops those who are struggling feel empowered to find the help they need.

As for me, I'm merely a whisper away from proving that what is sometimes referred to as "The F*** Off Fifties" is indeed not a myth. I'm fortunate enough to have stopped caring, for the most part, what people think of me.

Grinning and full of hope and mischief as I sign off for today....

Monday, July 28, 2014

Beyond 40-something-Planning for the Fabulous Fifties

I am facing the fact that in three short months the tag line under this blog must change. And what a big change it is. Getting my head around no longer being 40-something is huge. Add to that the fact that I'm hoping to replace suburban with urban and you can imagine that there is a lot going on right now.

I'm curious about the psychology of change, and why it often ends up being connected to a milestone, such as a major birthday. Food for thought and likely the topic of a future post....

Today, I feel like crap and it is finally time to change that. Every time I undertake some grand exercise endeavour and "diet", it ends up failing. It is taking me years to figure out why, no matter what I do, I still end up overweight, unhealthy and as a result unhappy with my inability to get it together and stick with something. Living with chronic illness is no excuse. If anything, having Lupus means it is even more important to eat and live healthy. Of course, I have also come to realize that my inactivity due to the motorcycle accident back in April is now becoming a crutch - an excuse.  Even thought the injuries which I am still working on healing will limit my activity for a little longer, it doesn't mean that I can't do anything! Pity party over!

Inspired by my friend of quite a few years Janice Farmer (who is the hottest 40-someting I've ever met), I am going to begin effecting changes, one at a time, slowly, in order to begin a new life of health and wellness. I was following on Facebook how Janice gave up chocolate, as part of a larger goal to begin living a sugar free lifestyle. I was curious because that 3pm craving for a coffee and something sweet on the side has become a habit, and one that doesn't end up making me feel good. I'm tired of feeling bloated and weighed down.  I'm tired of carrying my weight in the middle and looking at those body type charts and being compared to an apple. I don't even like apples!

Now, this is not something I woke up and decided frivolously today. Over the past few weeks I have been reading about vegan, raw, sugar, gluten, caffeine and all kinds of things. Gluten free is a given since my diagnosis of celiac disease a few years back. But all of the other changes are overwhelming, and I also realized that trying to take on everything at once ensures that failure is all but certain.

In attempting to make one change at a time, I am also reading about how long it takes to enforce a new habit, or be rid of an old one.  I found a cool blog which I think will be helpful. So change number one is sugar. No chocolate bars for me. I'll start with that and see how it goes. I'll also start reading labels for all of the other foods I purchase. As I slowly begin to eliminate sugar from my diet it will be interesting to see how I feel. I am hoping it will be positive and that this one small improvement will inspire me to find another habit to change.

This blog will not only become the narration of my journey to health, it will also act as an accountability mechanism and enlist the help of some cheerleader. If you were sent this link by e-mail, it means that I hope you will be one of my cheerleaders. If you stumbled upon it, you are welcome to join in too.

Of course, my other random rantings about politics and life will not disappear, but  I hope you will follow this journey with me. You can encourage me, and maybe I can encourage you too!


Monday, August 12, 2013

10 days on the Road: Random Observations

It is true. Every word of it.  People from "down east" are the friendliest people in Canada. I'm certain also that with this fuzzy friendly warmth one enjoys little privacy at the same time.  We would be having a meal and planning out the next leg of the journey, only to be overheard and joined in our conversation whether or not we had asked for any advice. It is endearing and alarming at the same time.

We went to a McDonalds in Vermont to have a coffee. Every person in the building was morbidly obese except one really old man and a little boy who looked to be about 2. Those Big Macs looked so tiny being consumed by such large people. My body image and self esteem skyrocketed for about 15 minutes.

Americans, as it turns out, are pretty nice people. I have come to realize that it is not their fault that they are so ignorant about anything outside their own borders. I realize now that it is really the big American machine that I don't like: "We're the world's super power and we don't really have to care about anyone or anything else". That trickles down to everyone who lives there but has not had the benefit of an education about anything beyond who and what they are.  Sort of like brainwashing. It is actually quite sad. And while bigotry and hatred manage to exist everywhere, it is easy to see why it can be so prevalent in the absence of education. Just smile, wave the flag, sing God Bless America and DON'T ASK ANY QUESTIONS! All that said, it is too easy to mistake a $20 for a $1 because their money is all the same colo(u)r! It was fun, but I'm glad to be on my own side of the sandbox again.

Everybody thinks Quebec drivers are the worst.  I beg to differ.  When one is barrelling at crazy speeds along the highway on two wheels with nothing beyond a millimetre of leather for protection it is also true that one becomes hyper-aware of the actions of those on four wheels with whom we must share the road. Ten days, three States, four Provinces and 5,000 kilometres later and the verdict is in: Ontarians are the most selfish and narcissistic drivers I have seen on the roads anywhere. In the States, the Eastern Provinces and even Quebec for the most part, everyone drives in the right lane on a two lane highway, and they use the passing lane for... get this... PASSING! It is a thing of beauty to watch how smoothly traffic flows.  Return to Ontario and everything changes.  On a two lane highway, EVERYBODY sits in the passing lane, including the blissfully oblivious moron who is doing 90 in a 100 zone.  Everybody behind him is road raging and getting angry, riding up his tail perilously close, flashing high beams and I can feel the temperature rising on the pavement. Finally giving up, everyone screeches into the empty right lane, racing up a few car lengths and cutting someone off to get back in the passing lane. It is the whackiest phenomenon I have witnessed.  I think "Canada's Worst Driver" should focus on Ontario.  When there was road word and one lane was closed in Nova Scotia, everyone merged nicely, each one let one in and the delay was minimal. The same lane closure in Ontario has idiots racing up the shoulder to cut in, because god knows they had somewhere important to be that HAD to be more important than where everyone else was going.

The Cabot Trail is a completely disappointing experience on the back of someone else's motorcycle.  Now, I guess I should be grateful that I was able to see this stunning little corner of the earth, but I did not have the opportunity to experience it. Unless you're a motorcycle rider this probably won't make sense, but half of the joy of the journey is experiencing the curves and turns. As I sat on back and mostly looked at my own reflection on the back of a big black helmet, I imagined how awesome the riding must have been, but I didn't experience it.  All that way, and I did not get to ride the Cabot Trail. This will count as one of the biggest disappointments of 2013.  On the bright side, fresh lobster and crab was an amazing experience! Repairs to re-build a clutch are, apparently, universally expensive.

Restaurants are over rated. I love eating out when I've been cooking all week, but I couldn't eat out every day.  I like my food the way I like it. When I want it. In the quantity I want it.  And, I don't care if I don't have french fries for the foreseeable future. Talk about an over rated food group!

Waterproof and water resistant sound very similar.  They are not at all.

For all the beauty I witnessed in three States and four Provinces, it occurs to me that Ontario, when seen with the fresh eyes of someone who has been gone for over a week, is about as beautiful as any place I've been. However, Bradford is as dumpy looking as the day I left. What's with our downtown? Can't anyone afford a few cans of paint?

I'm glad to be home. Until I am restless again.....

Friday, June 14, 2013

Signing off....

I read some one's post on Facebook that Nelson Mandela died today. Hmm? Really? I mean, I'm pretty connected to the world by this iPhone of mine. Alerts sound when there is breaking news on CBC; I'm on twitter off an on all day... how could I possibly be so out of the loop?

OMG Nelson Mandela is dead, I said aloud sitting in the basement on the computer. Andrew, who spent some time in South Africa last fall, said "I have to call my friends there and see how they are". Lauren looked like she was going to cry.

But as soon as I said it I realized it didn't seem right.  So I checked I opened twitter. Nothing. I went back and found the link on FB and clicked on it. It lead to a retraction on the Deutsche Welle website.  "Retraction: Nelson Mandela 14.06.2013 - We regret that due to a technical error our report of Nelson Mandela's death was unintentionally published. It has now been taken down".

It had not really occurred to me, but I guess it makes sense that every media outlet on the planet has the story ready to go save and except the actual time of death.

As often occurs, this indent caught my attention in the quirky way that things do, and I 'googled' the phrase "reports of my death...." to discover the misquotation of Mark Twain:"the rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated", when in fact, he said, in response to the first inaccurate account of his demise in 1897: "the report of my death was an exaggeration". There would be a second report of his death in 1907, well in advance of his actual death in 1910. 

There is a website which lists premature obituaries and there are quite a few! Many people I have never heard of have apparently died before they died. As well, George H.W. Bush, Joe DiMaggio, Fidel Castro, Dick Cheney and Barrack Obama must have just about choked on their morning coffee when reading the paper only to discover they were, apparently, dead.

The most amusing to me was reading that text messages circulating of Baroness Thatcher's death almost had Prime Minister Harper issuing a statement of condolence, only to discover that  Baroness Thatcher was Minister John Baird's cat.  Lady Thatcher did not leave us until 8th of April this year.

So off my mind goes, taking this in two completely different directions:

First: It is obvious but bears repeating. Do not believe everything you read on the Internet.

Second: (This is the big one). Not that I'm well known, but in the event that my obituary was being written in advance, ready to go live on the Internet at the moment of my death, what would it say? In other words, am I living a life that I am content not to have to defend -  because I really can't  -  when I'm gone? Can I stand behind every word and every action? Was I true to myself? Did I have integrity? Lord knows I have not led a perfect life, and I have no illusions that there will be people who say "Oh my god, she's dead - that's terrible" as well as "Oh my god she's dead; hmmm what should we watch on TV tonight?"  If I wrote my own obituary and tucked it away to be found after my death, would anyone recognize me through my words? Or would my self perception be out to lunch? I have written about this from a slightly different perspective a while back, and it is amusing to me how the lessons I need to learn most keep making themselves obvious to me in the most roundabout of ways.

Self examination: It seems to happen every time I feel changes coming. It's almost like I have to keep checking on myself so that when the page turns to the next chapter, I have it all together and I move forward as a whole person, with determination and a clear mind. I have no idea what it is, but I feel it and it leaves me edgy, and needing to re-group.

When Nelson Mandela does finally leave us, the world will be a different place. It will be sadder, but better because he was here.

Will the world be a better place because I was here?

Friday, May 10, 2013

It has been a while....

I just realized that I have not written a blog entry for over a year. No wonder I'm messed up! I'm happiest when I'm creating and somehow, somewhere along the way, part of my creative being has atrophied for lack of use.  This isn't good. It must be addressed.
The challenge is that I'm sitting here staring at the ugly blank screen and I can't think of a single thing about which to pontificate in the way I love to do.
In the meantime, I'll just rant for a few minutes, perhaps inspiring me to come up with something worthy of the energy.
One of my greatest fears: atrophy - of my mind, my spirit and my soul.  I need to find passion again. I'll be back, better than ever. And then beware.
In the meantime, at least I got the juices flowing again.
Sooner than later.. may it be so ;)

Monday, February 20, 2012


Monday, February 20th. "Family Day" in Ontario. Another excuse for Civil Servants, Teachers and Bankers to have a paid day off.  Whatever. My family decided to go skiing today, and I gladly arose at 6:30 this morning to help them get out the door by 7:00. As for me, the human accident looking for a place to happen - they know me by name at Southlake's fracture clinic so I think I'll take a miss.
Then I crawled back into bed.  Something startled me - probably the bizarre dream in which I was  saving the world. It was 10:45. I fell in and out of consciousness and when the news came on at noon, I dragged myself to the kitchen to find something to eat, heated a bowl of last night's pasta and took it back to my room.  Oops there's spaghetti sauce on the newly washed sheets.  Oh well, I don't do laundry - wipe it up, keep eating, put the bowl on the floor. And fall asleep.

The phone's not really ringing today, and I can't think of a soul for whom I have the energy or interest to have a conversation.  I'm just fine with my own company thank you very much. I awaken and it is 1:30. I'm forced to channel surf because the most ridiculously stupid waste of television air time happens to be on - I thought most of the soap operas had been killed off - do people still really watch that stuff? Wow, no kidding huh?
I find a talk show re-run. And doze off.
I've been feeling guilty off and on about accomplishing nothing today, but obviously not guilty enough to do anything about it. Going full tilt 7 days a week can take its toll.  It was kind of nice to regroup, re-energize, and have no one looking for me. Who is really going ot notice if I don't save the world today - they're all goofing off too!
Tomorrow the war begins again, the battle against time to accomplish so much with so little of it. The demands, the phone calls, the making everyone happy.
But today was about me. I accomplished zilch. Zero.  Nada. Nothing. Guilt be damned. I had a great time!
I fluttered some more in and  out of consciousness. But now, it is suddenly 3:45. The family will be home soon and I promised them my famous meatloaf for dinner.
And so it begins again *sigh*... but it was fun for a while........