(A portrait of a lady on her blog with a mug promoting her blog)
and it's weird to think about how much of my life has been chronicled here over the years. I started this iteration of this blog 13 years ago and if I go into my blog backend I can see posts that I wrote when I lived in other places, loved other people, and was
a different person in so many ways.
I've been publishing online since 2000 but jumped around to different hosting platforms as they came and went
at first I had a LiveJournal
then a DeadJournal
then I was on Blogger.com
then I was on WordPress
and now because I'm married to a software developer I use his custom CMS called Elefant and he maintains it for me
which is a huge relief because HTML and CSS were never my strong suit.
The other day I was talking to a student and mentioned that I've been blogging all this time and she said
"why? How do you still find stuff to talk about after all these years?"
and I said Well, I write about my life and I keep livin' it, so I keep writing.
How much I blog has ebbed and flowed over the years
there was a time when I blogged every single day and that was hard because sometimes it was a struggle to pull a thought or a story or a post out of the humdrum of day-to-day life
but it was rewarding because I got much, much better at my craft and found my voice in a new way because when you really think about it
this blog is an ongoing piece of art made of my words and thoughts
pixels on a screen organized into dates and timestamps that give me a sense of place and time and offer this strange little window in the things I was thinking, feeling, going through in that moment.
The posts on this blog feel like
puzzle pieces of my heart
of my soul
that I've worked on for years and years
creating a larger image that grows with me
a map of myself that I discover as I explore it in real-time.
Of course people have made fun of me for blogging over the years, rolled their eyes when I pulled out my camera to take a picture of dinner
(this was before iPhones and Instagram)
I've had people treat my blog like it isn't art
tell me it isn't "real" writing
or that it's not a serious form of self-expression
but yr art isn't for other people so it's cool if they don't understand it
or get jealous or petty when the thing you love to do and have done with love for years opens up opportunities for you.
Being known as a writer is why I have my company, why I've gotten speaking gigs and teaching jobs and been on committees and panels and been a spokesperson for causes I believe in
because Alyson Circa 2000 needed a place to put her feelings and stuck with it
despite dry spells
despite feeling dumb
despite feeling nervous, embarrassed, ashamed
this ever-evolving piece of art is something that never fails to make me
Yesterday I went to the launch of "Through Disassembled Houses of Perfect Stones"which is a thin, beautiful book of poetry by Manitoba poet David Yerex Williamson.
I met David a week ago today when John and I performed on Kelly Hughes Live! which is a live-broadcast variety show of sorts that's shot in The Valiant Theatre, which is actually an old church that's slowly (slowly) being transformed into a venue while Kelly lives in the back.
I'm not religious but there was something moving about being in that old church. The sweeping ceilings, the still-there pews, the stained glass windows and the shadows on the wall where old paintings and religious items used to hang.
Churches, for better or worse, are where so many people's lives start, end, and often where some of the most important moments happen. I don't believe in higher powers but "House of God" feels fitting for these quaint little spaces filled with memory and emotion.
(Unlike the "megachurches" popping up in affluent parts of town that seem out of step with what religion is supposed to mean for people, but what do I know I'm just a heathen atheist.)
When we played in the church it was part of a larger group of guests: there was J. Williamez, a local singer-songwriter who wrote a scathing series of songs about our previous monster of a Premier
(not to be confused with our current monster of a Premier)
Shelley Cook, a local journalist and writer who I feel like I've known my whole life at this point
us, Big Trouble in Little Wolseley, who provided musical entertainment,
and David Yerex Williamson, the poet.
I've always had a soft spot for poetry. I'm less partial to poems that rhyme — I don't usually rush to read Whitman or Chaucer even though I have a soft spot for Poe and Keats — because they tend to feel flowery. Too full of extra words just for the sake of completing the rhyme.
The poetry we heard last week, and that I heard again last night, didn't rhyme. Didn't feel like words or lines were stuffed-in for the sake of it.
These poems were raw. Strong, muscular words gathered together in sinewy bursts of idea and emotion.
Items, places, moments in time. The sharp, biting feeling of loss and grief contrasted against descriptions of open, untouched natural spaces.
The poet has lived in Norway House, MB for 20 years and when asked about how the landscape influences his poetry he said
"A fish doesn't know it's wet until it isn't. That's how it feels to leave nature and come to the city — you don't realize how much it affects you until it isn't there."
(Spoken like a true poet.)
I went to the reading with Tineke and before the event we had dinner at the restaurant, Prairie Ink, that's attached to the bookstore. We ordered the same thing (blackened chicken clubs with french onion soup) and fancy coffees with whipped cream and we laughed and brainstormed and talked about all sorts of things. The hours slipped by the way they always do when you're spending them with someone who matters to you.
After we'd eaten and paid we shuffled into plastic chairs alongside a few dozen people, colleagues and teachers, family and friends, and watched the sun set through the two-storey windows as the poet we'd all came to see fed us slices of poetry like cake.
It felt good to support the arts again. Good to sit next to someone I love, surrounded by people supporting someone they love, letting the words wash over me
taking it in. Feeling normal.
Last Friday when I met David I told him I'd attend his book launch and he demurred the way we all do when a stranger offers to do something for us
"you don't have to"
"that's a nice offer, but unnecessary"
"I'd appreciate it, but I don't expect it"
which made me more determined to be there because that's what you do:
you show up when you say you will.
I didn't get the chance to talk to David after his reading but I hope he saw me in the crowd and could see how his words shifted things in me as he read them, just like they did last week and just like they will again when our copy of his book arrives
(we ordered it online last week so I couldn't get it signed yesterday; silly us)
but I was thankful to be there either way to sit with my friend, his friends, and feel like a community again.
(If you'd like to order a copy of David's book of poetry you can do that here.)
the window's open and I'm in a beam of sunlight drinking a coffee my man made for me and listening to Qveen Herby
last night I knocked out two pages in my art journal, one about some sad stuff and another about some feel-good shit
I made cardboard rollers and stamps and listened to Conan's podcast and giggled over dumb texts and jokes with friends.
The thing about being in a dark place for a long time is that you don't realize how low and sad you are until you start to pull out of it.
If you'd asked me in February I'd have said I was at my lowest in a long time, and I was, but now that I'm moving on from unhealthy relationships, patterns, and beliefs about myself I'm realizing that
no, I was doing badly for a long time before then.
In 2019 a thing happened — someone I cared about and trusted and was trying to help made fun of me behind my back on a secret Instagram account that several of my friends followed.
Probably unsurprisingly, that fucked with my head. I started to doubt if the people I surrounded myself with
cared about me
were laughing at me behind my back
thought I was
I lost myself in the worry and fear and anxiety of not knowing where I stood with people.
I slowly spiralled into a dark place where I doubted my ability to write, create, imagine
I stopped dressing up, felt guilty about wearing makeup and leaning into expressing myself
I tried to dim my light because it seemed to overwhelm people around me
and yet it never seemed to make a difference. I kept feeling like an outcast, a second-rate friend, and unimportant to the people I loved.
(If I post on social media that I'm struggling and you're my "friend" and you don't reach out are you even a friend?
How do I interpret getting messages of love and support from strangers when the people I used to hold closest to my heart avoid asking me how I'm doing?)
For a long time I turned those bad feelings in on myself
but lately those bad feelings have been slipping away though words, paper clippings, layers of paint and stitched-together ideas
laughs and good chats with friends, long hugs, tearful candid conversations
working out, eating better, drinking more water and less alcohol, doing yoga and sitting with my body
listening to podcasts and reading books about philosophy, mindfulness, and creative self-expression
watching movies and comedy specials that make my face hurt from laughing.
Maybe this is just the natural evolution of moving past something
shedding the skin of the sad, small, struggling person I was allowing myself to become
stepping out into something brighter, fuller, more me?
I couldn't tell you; I've never gone through something this dark and bad and hard before
but I feel like I'm moving past it
coming through slaughter
holding my treasured people close and laughing and smiling and leaning into the good parts of life
more than I have in a long, long time.
A week ago today I woke up and didn't need my glasses. I reached for them at first the same way I'd done every morning since I was 13, but they weren't there and I when I gave my eyes a second to settle I remembered that
I didn't need them anymore.
(That still doesn't feel real to say.)
I'd spent the day before at the LASIK clinic getting tested. Pre-pandemic I think this used to be two sessions: one to do the tests to determine yr candidacy, and another session to do the surgery, but now they've jammed it all together which freaked me out a bit since you go in and either
get the surgery, or
get turned away because you're not a candidate for one reason or another
and what a heartbreaking outcome that would have been.
I've needed corrective lenses since I was a teenager and I've always hated it. Since it was the early 2000's and I was getting glasses through my dad's benefits I got stuck with these ugly, round, metal frames.
I was embarrassed at how they made me look.
I felt unattractive and unpolished.
I felt ugly.
I spent all of high school feeling this way; the feeling compounding over the years along with other anxieties and feelings of low self-worth until I could barely look at myself in the mirror anymore. I felt embarrassed all the time.
I got older. I got contacts. I got new frames that were darker, heavier, and more my style.
But I still hated it.
Wearing contacts wasn't so bad but having something in my eye all the time meant that there was always a small part of my brain dedicated to thinking about it.
Were my eyes too dry to keep them in?
Were my eyes looking red and tired?
Did I have my glasses nearby in case I needed to take them out?
On and on and on at every party, show, music festival, or long day at a conference or event, there it was: that nagging, niggling thought in the back of my brain.
I think a part of me always planned to get surgery if I could. I got a breast reduction in my early 20's so I'm no stranger to elective surgeries and believe that if you can afford to do something that will make you feel
then you should get 'er done because we only live once and, damn it, we should enjoy our time while we're here as much as we can.
Which is why I spent all of last Wednesday sitting in a clinic "lubricating my eyes" in-between tests, making small talk with the optometrists and attendants
("omg I love your energy" they'd say
"you're so positive and funny"
and I'd say
"thanks, I appreciate it
I make dumb jokes when I'm nervous")
(Because I do.)
Then they'd say something like "why are you nervous? The surgery is going to be fine!" and I'd tell them that, Oh it's not the surgery I'm nervous about — I'm nervous that one of the tests is going to come back saying I'm not a candidate.
And one almost did: I had a 1/2000 deformity in a section of my cornea which meant that I was only a candidate for the most intense/laser-only/most expensive option
(the optometrist told me to tell people I got the "Canadian fighter pilot surgery" since I guess it's the one they use in the army)
and though I'd budgeted for the more expensive procedure and had actually planned to choose the most advanced option it still felt like a gut punch when the optometrist looked at the scans of my eye, pointed to a section, and said
"this area here is a little unusual..."
then he finished by saying "but you're still totally a candidate!"
I told him he needs to lead with the good part first next time, and he laughed even though I was being deadly serious (for once).
People had told me the surgery was scary. Intimidating. Overwhelming.
So I popped a Xanax (you can ask for them), kicked back, and laid on a table while a very qualified and nice surgeon had me stare at a green laser while it reshaped my eyes.
IMO it wasn't that bad. Maybe dealing with 8 years of intense orthodontics (a head brace, retainer, and braces, oooh yeah I was hot) primed me to just be cool with lying back while a skilled professional goes to town on part of my face
(or maybe it was the Xanax)
(maybe it was both)
but the only part that felt scary or weird was when I literally went blind when the doctor peeled back my cornea to do the procedure but everyone I'd talked to had warned me about it so when the moment came I laid there like
"all right, this is the part where I'm blind for a few minutes"
(ok it was definitely the Xanax.)
I went home, slept like crazy, and woke up groggy but with +20/20 vision.
Bless modern medicine.
Since then the thing that's surprised me the most is the number of people who've messaged or commented to say
"I always loved you in your glasses"
"You always looked so good in your glasses"
"Your glasses really suited you"
and while I'd like to say Thank You and Yes I Know... I'm so fucking thankful to not have to hear that again.
Because I don't care how "good" I looked or how much they "suited" me
they never felt like me
and finally, miraculously, amazingly, for the first time since I was 13 years old
I feel like myself again.
Sometimes at the end of my work day or early in the morning
I sit and listen to the house
the hiss of the rads
the wind on the old window panes
the creaky floors that shift when the cats walk around
the small sounds that fill the silence.
I used to hate it.
I hated how it filled my ears and made space for thoughts that I didn't wanna think about
anxieties, stresses, the usual bs
when I was younger I got a cassette player and then a discman and then a bunch of variations of iPods
and all through that time I'd walk around with my earphones in whenever I could
blocking out the silence and all the sad, stressful thoughts that came with it
at one point it got so bad that I hated even taking my earphones out while I was getting changed at the gym.
I'd do these weird contortions with my clothes and my body and my earphone cables so I didn't interrupt the constant stream of
that filled my ears and didn't leave space for anything else.
I did this for years, decades even, until I started going to therapy and my therapist was like
"did it never occur to you that this is an avoidance technique?
That when you listen to music or podcasts all the time you're literally blocking out thoughts and feelings that you don't wanna hear?"
and what's funny about someone saying something like that is that it's so obvious when they say it but until they do
until the words are out there and you can't avoid them with
suddenly what you've been doing becomes painfully obvious.
I'd like to say that it flipped a switch in me. That when I suddenly became aware of it I was able to sit in silence in my house, on the bus, at the gym
but I'm a human being and not a light switch, so it didn't work that way.
As it turned out it took concerted effort and several years of working at home by myself to get used to
the small sounds that fill it
how it sometimes makes my thoughts feel
because of it
there's a clarity that can be found in the lack of noise that can be deafening, sometimes.
I've noticed it most when I'm going through something hard.
The earbuds go back in. Podcasts get ramped up. Music blares 24/7.
It's like I can't leave space for my thoughts because it feels like, if I do
I'll fall apart.
Lately I've been wearing my earbuds a lot.
There's scary shit happening in the world, life's been stressful, and tbh I've needed a GD break from everything so I've been indulging in this habit a little more than usual, or than I'd usually feel comfortable doing now that I know this is a coping mechanism.
But the other day I was up early and walked around, listening to the house and feeling ok
and yesterday, and today, and the day before that I was able to do the same
and though the world still feels like it's on fire and there's still stresses in daily life
it's nice to feel like I can make space for my thoughts in the silence again.
Is the name of a really good book I read a few years ago while we were in Thailand. This post isn't about that book, but the title really struck me and is a phrase I've been finding myself coming back to a lot lately.
The line in the book that the title comes from goes like this:
"He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart”
and that's how things have felt lately. There's been a knife taken to the things that held my life together and I'm trying
desperately, some days it feels
to put things back together again. Maybe not exactly as they were, but trying to find new ways to connect things that were once held so tightly together.
But the more I tried to fight for it and stand up for myself and make my
valid feelings and perspectives heard and understood
the less it worked. I've had to come to terms with the fact that the version of me that some people choose to believe
(or in some cases were told they should believe)
isn't who I know myself to be.
And I know who I am. I've spent the last several years digging deeper into
than most of the people I know, so when I'm not able to make myself understood because
someone doesn't want to hear it
or doesn't want to change their mind
or has already decided what they want to think
it's hard to let go and not dwell because
I know I'm not like that.
Another book I've been reading lately is "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius, which is a book of ancient Roman philosophy (Stoicism) that I bought because, well
things have been falling apart.
Or at least it feels that way. It's hard not to let setbacks and challenges and hurt pile up to the point where you feel like nothing is right anymore. Like nothing you knew to be true, is true.
People don't live up to who you thought they were
or they pass away unexpectedly and leave you grasping
or they make a mistake and you're stuck picking up the pieces
and my natural reaction to all of this is to turn in on myself.
I stop taking care of myself, get lost in negative thought spirals, obsess over a word, a thought, a feeling, turning it over and over again until that sharp thought becomes like a smooth rock that I can put in my pocket and carry around with me
weighing me down as I go about my life.
This is my pattern.
The hardest part is letting go. I struggle with forgiving people for being shitty, or selfish, or manipulative, or neglectful. I want them to be the versions of themselves that I believed them to be, or thought they could become.
But that's not people, and no matter what I do there's nothing I can do to stop people from being
shitty, or selfish, or manipulative, or neglectful
which is why I'm reading this book on stoic philosophy right now: to help me find a better perspective in all of this
and there's a comfort in reading words that were written 2000 years ago and in knowing that people grappled with the same let-downs, conflicts, losses, and personal struggles as someone living in an icy cold city reading in a beam of sunlight
waiting for things to get better, trying to find a healthy way to manage things, and trying to forgive people who have shown a lack of compassion for me as I've navigated a time of tremendous personal struggle and loss.
Some days I wonder how I'll get through it.
Who I'll be on the other side of this dark and difficult time.
But earlier today I was sitting in my icy city, thousands of years after a Roman emperor wrote down his thoughts on coping when things fall apart, I read a line from his book that makes me cry just to look at:
"The best revenge is not to be like that"
so that's what I'm going to do.
Today is a day to celebrate love, and to honour that I'm gonna dedicate this post to two of my favourite things:
John, and quizzes that remind me of being back on LiveJournal in 2002.
I saw this quiz as a post my friend Donna shared on Facebook and it brought back memories of mooning over boys (literal boys, I was a teenager in 2002) and sharing random quizzes on our blogs even though everyone in my blogroll knew each other so well that we didn't really need to read each other's answers, but we did anyway because what good is a personal blog if you don't share random stuff on it every once in a while?
So without further ado, a lil backstory about us to celebrate V-Day 2022:
How did you meet? At a baby shower for a mutual friend. John was telling some hilarious story and I noticed him right away.
First Date? Cousin's diner (RIP) — we sat at a small table tucked away in a back corner and ate knish while holding hands.
How long have you been together? Almost 9 years
Married? Two years as of January 25th!
Age difference? 6.5 years
Who was interested first? Not sure, but I think we both started making googly eyes at each other pretty much right away.
Who is taller? John, by like almost a foot I think
Who said I love you first? John did.
Most impatient? Me for sure.
Most sensitive? Also me.
Who is the loudest? We're both pretty loud and energetic people but I probably take the cake here.
Most stubborn? John, but (as he said to me in a letter he wrote to me when we first got together) "is always willing to change his mind if shown a better way." That sentence still stands out as something that made me want to be with him.
Falls asleep first? Me, almost always.
Cooks better? I tend to take the lead and make more things/suggest more meals, but we're both pretty adept in the kitchen.
Better morning person? John for sure. I'm grumpy and groggy a lot longer after I wake up.
Most competitive? Me; John's pretty chill about most things.
Funniest? John for sure. He makes me laugh until my face hurts and drops dad jokes on me daily.
Where do you eat out most as a couple? It's a toss up between The Yellow Dog and The Nook.
Who is more social? Me in terms of planning hangs and social activities, but John is a true social butterfly once you get him around other people.
Who is the neat freak? Me FOR SURE.
Who initiated your first kiss? John's ex-girlfriend. We were all partying at Folk Fest and she insisted that John "kiss Alyson just to see what it's like" and we were both so anxious about it that he bashed my lip with his tooth. AWKWARD.
How long did it take to get serious? We'd known each other for years so as soon as we (finally) got together is was a serious thing.
Who picks where you go to for dinner? We usually decide together, but I probably lead with more ideas and suggestions.
Who is the first one to admit when they're wrong? Depends on the conflict, but we're both pretty good at coming back to the table and apologizing (couple's therapy helped a lot with this).
Who has more tattoos? John, he's got three and I have two.
Who sings better? John! But he always encourages me to sing and I have the best time being in our band Big Trouble in Little Wolseley with him.
Hogs the remote? Neither? We don't watch cable so the remote usually just sits on the coffee table until we need to select the next episode or whatever.
Spends the most? Me, but that's because I handle buying groceries, stuff for the house, etc.
Did you go to the same school? Nope — John was already graduated (and living in Winnipeg, I think?) by the time I'd graduated from high school.
John and I got married right before the pandemic hit, back when you could hug people and hang in crowded bars and scream into karaoke mics at the janky nightclub just off of Front Street in Caye Caulker, Belize, where we got married, without worrying about getting sick.
We talked about "the Coronavirus" breakout in China with strangers on the day of our wedding.
I remember listening to reports on NPR about it while we were in Toronto on our way home
hoping it wouldn't hit Pearson until we were back in Winnipeg aka flyover country.
We got lucky. So so so lucky.
We managed to get 36 people down to a tiny island off the coast of Belize for 10 glorious days of
drinking beers on the beach
lounging in the ocean at the Sip N Dip
and eating waaaaaay too much seafood
right before the world fell apart.
We've talked about that a lot since then, while we've been cooped up in our house for
months on end
talking about The Wedding as if it was some big, beautiful dream.
Which in a way, it was.
We knew that, for most of the people coming, our wedding would be either
their first trip outside of Canada/the States
their first trip to a tropical place
their first trip to Belize
their first trip off-resort, or
in some cases
a blend of some or all of the above.
Weddings are special and all, but we didn't want our wedding to be "just another day" or "just another trip to Windsor/Winnipeg"
we wanted something weird, special, and memorable
and by some weird, fucked-up stroke of luck, that's what we got.
The perfect trip. The perfect wedding. The perfect reminder that we're so lucky to have the friends and family that we do.
People who trust us enough to follow us on an adventure
who dress up like 18th century monks and write rap songs about us
whose laughs we could hear echoing down the street as we walked to meet them
(the thought of it makes me teary-eyed)
a lot of whom we haven't had the chance to see since the pandemic started.
These past two years have made me realize how lucky I am to have married John.
Locking down was one of the easiest parts about the pandemic because I spent all my time around my best friend
(who drives me crazy less often than I would have guessed)
but it's still been weird having most of our marriage defined by this thing that happened
right as it started
and that's still affecting it, two years in.
Still, some of the best parts of the last two years (and being married so far)
have been the times we've spent at home together.
Two years of planning and saving and strategizing
writing silly songs and practicing epic covers
planning outdoor hangs and DnD campaigns on Zoom
cooking amazing food and making fancy cocktails for ourselves
making art, writing, sprucing up the new homestead.
Somehow we always seem to find a way to make the most of the situation we're in.
Lately, since the latest round of Covid cases has had us staying home as much as we can
we've been listening to records when we make dinner and play games in the dining room
Motown, old rock n roll, blues, you name it
these daily moments of intimacy feel like a break from the rest of the world.
A world that feels crazy and scary sometimes
that feels overwhelming and unmanageable
that feels frustrating and unfair and upsetting
these feelings fade away with the smell of something cooking and the sound of vinyl crackling.
The other night while Elvis was on I said to John
"dance with me"
so he did
taking my hand in his and putting the other on the small of my back
holding me close.
We swayed slowly as the music played, singing the words softly, my head on his shoulder
wishing I could stay there forever but knowing that as soon as the song ended
we're right back to facing the world together
the crazy highs, the toughest lows
making magic and memories
and turning everything into an adventure
this year, and every year ahead.
I hope we get many more of them to share.
Lately I've been having the nicest nights.
One of the best glow-ups about our new house is that the kitchen is approximately 294755859 times bigger than our old kitchen
so instead of tryna make space in a weird corner to roll out some dough or chop veggies on a table that's probably too wobbly to be using a knife anywhere near it
John and I have been able to really collaborate in the kitchen together
which if you follow my Insta Stories you'll know is one of my fav things to do.
Another "new house glow-up" is that our den where the TV and sectional and record player all live is right next to the kitchen
in fact, one of the doorways into the kitchen
(not the one with the fancy double-acting door, but the other one)
opens right up into the part of the kitchen where all the action is, so it's easy to pop into the den and, say, flip the record or choose another vinyl to put on.
Which is what we've been doing lately and omg
it's been so lovely.
John inherited a bunch of vinyl so he has this huuuuge collection of classic rock and pop and Motown and old country and
all these musicians The Algorithm probably wouldn't ever show us if we were using a music-streaming app, like
Jerry Lee Lewis
Diana Ross and The Supremes
Gladys Knight & The Pips
and, of course
the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald.
I dunno why but I've always liked listening to records
thumbing through the vinyl jackets feeling the old, worn cardboard
(or paperboard, or whatever it is)
thinking of all the people and places and times where someone else did the exact same thing:
putting on a record and having a Really Nice Time.
It's kinda like when you find a well-worn book and you think about how many times the book was
putting our old records on feels a lot like that.
You feel the thing that's playing the music for you, treating it with care
taking a second to stop drinking, or shooting the shit
or in our case chopping veggies or sautéing something or other
to hold the music in yr hands and make it a meaningful part of whatever you're doing
instead of it blending into the background, unnoticed and unimportant.
So we've been listening to old vinyl instead of Hot Hot Hits or more 90's R&B playlists
(which I'll never knock but yr girl can't listen to Biggie and Pac all the time y'know?)
and we've been belting songs out and dancing around as we make food together
reminiscing about songs we know
surprising ourselves with ones we'd forgotten until now, songs we'd heard
here and there, on the radio, in movies, in our parents' cars growing up
old memories brought back by the sound of the music
helping us make new memories in a space all our own.
It's the end of another year. I just finished cleaning the house (a New Years' ritual), showered, and I'm about to get down to making some food and bevvies with John,
but before I do that
you know I gotta blog a bit.
I know it's cool to dunk on this year and there's lots of reason to do that for sure
but this isn't a post about all the dumb
and in some cases, downright scary
shit that's going on right now.
I wanna list some of the good stuff 2021 brought into my life. Sometimes when I look back on old (old) blog posts I read 'em and go
god what the hell was I writing
the best times
I read a post or two and I think to myself
"Damn, what a life I've led"
and I feel good about it.
So since I know I'll be reading this post again in years to come I don't wanna just focus on the stuff that was hard, or frustrating, or made me feel anxious or unsettled
instead I wanna talk about the parts of the year that make me go
so here's a few:
2021 was the year I stood in the middle of a lake.
At the start of the year John and I rented a cabin at Falcon Lake and spent a week (mostly) unplugged from the world.
We ate tons of good food, went on long hikes, and dreamed about the future while drinking wine in the outdoor hot tub while it was -25 C
(which is more refreshing than it sounds for my non-Canadian readers)
At a few points we walked across the frozen lake to explore islands that are only accessible by boat in the summer and I kept stopping between the shore and the islands to look around.
It felt surreal and made me feel small compared to the might of nature that can freeze and thaw this big, deep lake every year.
Like when you look up at the night sky and see the Milky Way and realize yr just a tiny speck and life is just what you make of it before yr gone forever.
That's how standing in the middle of the lake made me feel.
(me, getting some sick air while jumping on the ice in the middle of the lake)
2021 was the year I reconnected with my parents.
This spring I spent an awkward and emotional few hours sitting outside socially distanced in a park across from my parents who I hadn't talked to in six or seven years at that point.
We talked about a lot of things and I got stuff off my chest and they listened and I felt heard and we decided to figure something out because if there's anything this pandemic has taught me
it's that you never know what's going to come next
so even if you need to have healthy boundaries with people, there's still no sense in being a dick about it.
I get the sense that I drive them a little crazy and I think that's ok because the older I get the more it seems that's what families are supposed to do to each other
(hopefully in a loving way)
and though I still catch myself at arms' length sometimes I love the time I spend with them and my brothers. It feels good to be a part of a family again after feeling like I had to be on my own for so long.
2021 was the year I became a homeowner.
We didn't plan to buy a house this year. Not by a long shot.
But half of life is being prepared and the other half is saying "yes" to an opportunity when you see one, and luckily for me we were both prepared and equally in a position where we could say
to buying the house right across the street from our old rental.
Somehow, in the middle of one of our busiest summers ever, we bought our house and spent 8-12 hours almost every day throughout August repainting it and replacing things and literally throwing out soooooo much garbage that the previous owners left behind
(if you need a hookup on a junk bin rental hmu)
and when we finished the move at the start of September and at first it didn't feel real.
Like I was a kid living in some other adult's house.
Sometimes it still feels that way.
Every time I go up to our third-floor bedroom and see the sunlight streaming in over the big, bright room I stop and think
"holy shit this is where I live"
and part of me hopes that I never stop being in awe of the beautiful space John and I are creating together.
2021 was the year I explored my beautiful province.
West Hawk Lake was our first "big" social outing since getting fully vaccinated in the summertime.
As we drove down Osborne and out of the city I felt like a weight I'd been carrying around for months lifted off my chest.
The first night was just a few of us who had all been in Belize together for our wedding so we picked up some jumbo shrimp, scallops, and lobster to fry up on the grill and talked about how long a year apart can feel.
We hiked up a mountain and swam in a lake created by a meteor impact and had ice cream and listened to metal covers of punk songs
(which everyone hated but not as much as Luke did)
and kicked off an amazing summer of sunshine, grilled food, squeaky air mattresses, guitar sing-alongs, and getting to know Manitoba a heck of a lot better.
We braved multiple bear "incidents" and jumped off of cliffs and stayed up into the early hours of the morning laughing together with our friends and it was the perfect remedy to (almost) a year apart.
(A bunch of cool kids having a laugh after waaaaay too many months apart)
2021 was the year I refined my relationships.
A lot of this past year was defined by a falling-out I had with someone I was close to. It was unexpected, hurtful, and made even worse by the amount of
and straight-up gaslighting I dealt with
as I tried to navigate a redefined set of social situations
without getting the closure or even basic acknowledgment of my feelings that I was
(and still am)
has been a hard pill to swallow, especially as someone who craves closure to any kind of emotional situation.
But that experience gave me the chance to look critically at the people in my life and who I made space for. It helped me realize that I have a bad habit of trying to make relationships with toxic people work because I want to be the
bigger, better, kinder person
when the right thing all along would have been to put my foot down and walk away.
I spent a lot of this year reflecting on that and re-committing myself to putting the work into relationships with people who bring joy and light to my life instead.
2021 was my best year professionally.
Starling Social had our best year ever. I worked on banner projects with big, influential clients, gave over a dozen talks, brought on several new people to the team
and somehow, thankfully, managed to do it while maintaining a decent work-life balance.
(Which is one of the things I'm most proud of, tbh.)
2021 was the year I learned to say "no".
"No" to commitments that I didn't feel passionate about
that weren't the right fit
that felt too time-consuming,
not worth it
not a positive use of my time.
As an over-achiever A-type personality this has been hard as hell. I love to say "yes" to new opportunities and love the feeling of having lots of events and goals to work towards.
But this year forced me to take a step back and re-assess where my energy should go, which leads me to my last point...
2021 was the year I slowed down.
It was the year where I learned to sit still, to be at peace with myself.
To take deep breaths, unstick my tongue from the top of my mouth
(which is a common thing anxious people like me do without realizing it)
and take a step back from a situation and ask
"how am I feeling in this moment?"
Sometimes I didn't like the answer
(maybe that's the point?)
but the more often I did it the more I could confidently and clearly answer myself.
"I feel overwhelmed"
"I feel excited"
"I feel at peace"
And at the end of it all, after 365 days of ups and downs, looking back the feeling I felt the most this year was happy and grateful
grateful for the business I've built that affords me this wonderful life
grateful for my partner, friends, and family who make my life richer
grateful to have opportunities to grow and explore and shape myself
falling constantly into my lap.
Life can be hard, and it is.
2021 wasn't a cakewalk by a long fucking shot.
But looking back it was mostly
kinda/sorta, if you squint real hard
despite everything we've all gone through
and I can't wait to see what next year brings for all of us.
All my love in 2022!