Toulouse is curled up on the couch
nestled in-between the cushions, shaped like a heart.
He's snoring, and his toes and tail are twitching
his ears moving in his sleep.
I'm on the other couch, stretched out
enjoying the beam of sun on my feet
watching his tummy rise and fall
fast and slow
listening to the sounds of the afternoon
cars and bikes and kids playing outside
coming through a window that's blissfully
to the warm sunshine and refreshing breeze of spring.
I feel like my cat feels
safe and warm
and though it's tempting to lie here
basking in this quiet moment
enjoying the feeling of calm
Toulouse just stretched out again
begging for me to pester him and wake him up
and give him a little payback for this morning.
Image of these badass ladies + the Wolseley Elm via the U of M
It's busy in Wolseley
kids are getting picked up from daycare and preschool
or walking home from
Balmoral Hall and Laura Secord
it smells like bread on Sherbrook and Wesminster
where people are waiting for the bus with their groceries
or tying their dogs up next to corner stores
next to houses with dragons on their lawns
next to houses with rainbow fences
along streets lined with
porches and sunrooms and front steps
covered in the shade
of old Dutch elms that haven't succumbed to disease
standing guard over busy streets
filled with Moms and Dads in SUVs
heading home to dinner or soccer practice or dance class
or cyclists on their bikes
in their helmets and backpacks and reflective gear
and I'm in the street on my bike
at a four-way intersection managed by a blinking red light
waving at each other and smiling
and I'm waiting my turn
breathing in deep
trying to remember
the smell of fresh produce from the co-op
mixing with incense from Prairie Sky Books
and how the haze of the early evening light
that filters through the budding leaves
turns everything to gold.
Our story started before we met.
It started in the gyms and basements and concert halls where John played in his high school band, Sewing With Nancie.
It started when I took a job working at a McDonalds so my mom wouldn't throw me out of the house every day with nowhere to go.
It started when John moved here at 18 after meeting a cute girl on a school band trip.
It started when I met Peter, my shift supervisor, who spoke with a lisp like Homestarrunner
(which I thought - and still do think - is super charming)
who offered to give me a lift home and put a Sewing With Nancie CD in the car stereo.
"I love this band" he told me "my friends and I used to carpool around from Windsor, to Brantford, to London, and all over to see these guys play."
It started when I was in Peter's car on the Perimeter Highway listening to lo-fi punk songs like Dave Stieb and grimy covers of Time After Time.
Then our story didn't pick up again for several years.
When we did finally meet it was several years later, at a baby shower for a mutual friend. What I remember most about that day was
the brown sweater vest John was wearing
how good the snacks were
how huge John's mouth is when he smiles
and how much he made me laugh.
It was probably obvious to everyone around us how well we got along, how similar our interests were, and how well-suited to each other we were, which was complicated by the fact that we were both seeing other people
(if only love were an easy, straightforward thing)
but when a writer meets another writer who has a collection of books that rivals their own
well, what can you do
the heart wants what it wants.
Our story is told in an email filled with hopes, dreams, and an Oscar Wilde quote.
It's told in the lyrics of my favourite Royal Canoe song, which I listened to on a rainy, heartbroken walk home to close one chapter of my life and begin another filled with months of stress, anguish, and strain.
Our story through that time is told through the poems I wrote and burned, or tucked into John's pockets, or tore up to get caught by the wind over the Osborne Bridge where I'd trudged home in the rain, knowing what I needed to do the day that everything changed.
It continues to be told through the sayings and pictures and lore of our relationship, recorded in a series of notebooks and cards and scraps of paper with words or drawings on them.
Bears. A She. A He. The Twin Moons of the planet Bayor. The Üdavs!
It's told through the matching ink on our ribs, shaped like the Great Bear constellation. A permanent record of an incredible adventure that's just ours to share and hold and keep forever.
Our story is told through the video of our engagement
(which I just re-watched, and cried all the way through)
where John surprised me on my 30th birthday in front of all our friends, and where I (ever the classy dame) blurted out "oh for fuck's sake" as soon as he dropped down on one knee
and in the email where he wrote his proposal, mirroring that life-changing email that he sent
five years ago today.
I couldn't have imagined, then, that we would be where we are now.
Our story isn't an easy one: it's one filled with doubt and anxiety and discovery and lots of change. It's been a roller coaster of businesses and projects and family and self-discovery.
But the best stories aren't the boring stories, anyway.
The best stories are the ones about overcoming obstacles, and challenges, and growth. The best stories are about taking risks and doing the scary things and
following your heart
even when that means changing your whole life to do it.
(The heart wants what it wants, after all.)
It's only in looking back that we can see how the little things
a band trip
a temporary job
a CD in someone's stereo
a baby shower
string together like words on a page.
When I collect all these stories, scoop them up in my arms and bind them together into a weighty tome of jokes, hopes, dreams, fears, and friendship and hold them close to my chest, pressed against my heart
it reminds me that the stories we tell are all we really have of the people we love.
I clutch at these stories because I know my time with this incredible, strange specimen of a man is fleeting, and has already slipped through my fingers in a blur of weekdays and Saturday mornings and festivals and trips
faster than I could have expected.
Years of our lives, though spent together, are gone, and all I can do is keep these memories safe and protected.
To not take them for granted, or allow details to get lost in the fuzzy haze of history.
To record Our Story as diligently and truthfully as I can.
To honour the story of Bears. Of John Luxford and Alyson Shane.
The most important story I know.
These are the words on the little box of chocolates sitting in front of me.
I bought the box of chocolates at Shoppers before realizing 1) it was Mother's Day chocolate and 2) it said
I felt awkward buying it. I was probably acting frazzled at the checkout, but I couldn't stop feeling like a fraud because I don't celebrate Mother's Day and I don't love my Mom, and I felt like the very nice cashier knew I was going to come home and put the box on my desk and
stare at it
thinking about those words.
It's been a long time since I've said, or thought, or felt those things, which is okay. It's a weight off my shoulders, but being able to rationalize it and feel good about it doesn't make it less weird.
Especially when there's a day once a year dedicated to how amazing and caring and great Moms are.
Mother's Day is hard because it highlights all the things my mom isn't, and that our relationship will never be. We're not bffs, and I don't confide in her, or spend time with her, or buy her cute little pink boxes of chocolate that say
Quite the opposite.
Standing there holding that small, unassuming box of chocolates brought back uncomfortable memories. Scenes from childhood that I'd rather forget. Betrayals and let-downs. Things that can't be taken back.
Words and actions that gaslit my reality the point where I doubted my own perceptions of what was going on around me. That made me feel stupid, and worthless, and small. That told me I was a bad person who didn't deserve to be happy, or loved, or successful.
I felt awkward holding something that expressed a sentiment I didn't feel about someone who made me feel horrible on purpose for so long.
It made my cheeks burn and my heart pound.
It burned a hole in my backpack while I shopped for fruit at DeLuca's and I after I got home I unpacked my groceries and sat and stared at it for a long while.
Then I thought about how far I've come in spite of her
and I ate the damn chocolates.
They were delicious.
Last Tuesday Colin and I were having a beer at The Yellow Dog and we were talking about the recent uproar in the city over the new $5 charge to attend the hockey playoff street party.
100% of the proceeds from ticket sales are going to fund the United Way's homeless, mental illness, and addictions programs in the city
which, I dunno, seems like a pretty OK thing to do with the money if you ask me
especially considering that one of the major complaints suburbanites have about downtown is that it's filled with drunk homeless people messed up on drugs
People were posting about this new $5 charge all over the place, and we were talking about how most of them are forgetting that a downtown street party closes several major roads, impacts nearby businesses and services, and requires additional policing, among other things, and paying $5 to support our homeless population isn't really a big ask if you think about it.
It wasn't very crowded in the bar and as we were talking a dude kept looking over at us, and at first I thought he was agreeing with what we were saying because he just sat there and smiled and nodded along, but as we were getting up to pay he turned to me and said:
"Hey, I heard you guys talking about the Whiteout Party tickets. I think that's bullshit, man, that shit should be free!"
So I explained my points about the homeless and street closures and extra policing, and he got this funny look on his face which made me hope that he was going to give me a thoughtful response.
But then he said
"Fuck that, we don't need extra police. Do you know how many tickets you could pay for with a cop's salary?! What do they make, $100,000 a year? JUST FIRE A COP!"
Now generally I try to be considerate of other people's opinions, but that has to be one of the most profoundly stupid things I've ever heard
and I just stood there for a second with a blank look on my face. Then I said "OK cool, enjoy the game" and left, because what do you even say to that?
He clearly has no respect for people who put their lives on the line to keep us safe, and there's no point in trying to reason with someone who has such a loose grasp on how the world works.
Besides, that guy wasn't there to have a real discussion. He was there to wear his Jets jersey, go drink more beer with his buddies at the street party, and enjoy the benefits of a downtown that he clearly has no interest in supporting.
He just comes downtown to party, man.
Which makes him a lot like all the other people who voted 2-1 against allowing pedestrians to cross a street in our downtown
who are suddenly now OK with people getting wasted and stumbling around downtown near high-traffic intersections while disrupting the normal flow of traffic
as long as they're the ones doing it
and as long as they aren't forced to donate five bucks to help the homeless.
But hey, who knows.
Maybe that dude's onto something.
I bet we could fill a lot of potholes with those cop salaries.
I wasn't at my best over the weekend.
I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and from the minute I got up everything felt overwhelming, negative, and frustrating. I snapped at John and I snapped at my friends and I posted some dumb shit to Twitter that I later deleted because I looked at what I'd said and realized that even though it felt good to call out some shitty behaviour I'd been made aware of in the moment, imitating that toxic behaviour didn't actually make me feel any better or help the situation at all.
We were planning to go to Electric Six on Sunday night and I spent most of the day in an anxious panic worrying that I wouldn't be able to handle being in a crowded public space trying to focus on a band I like and would spend the whole time
standing with that tingling, tight feeling in my face and stomach and throat
kind of like the numbness that hits you just before you throw up or when you get some really bad news
and I kept saying "I can't, I can't, I can't" because I believed it.
Luckily John is an understanding and patient person and he said "babe if you need to stay home that's okay, but I want you to know I was really looking forward to seeing the show together"
which was hard for me to accept because of the baggage I have from years of having my feelings and needs invalidated and thrown in my face
but I wanted to try
so I said "let's go to dinner instead of hanging around the house" and we went to Elephant & Castle and I had a really good burger with bacon and BBQ sauce and we laughed and talked about our super-secret project over pints of Guinness.
We talked to some ladies in town from Calgary sat down next to us and started chatting with us which seems to happen every time John and I go somewhere
and I deleted all the dumb shit I said online and reflected on it publicly
(because it's good to 'fess up to when you're being a tit, I think, which I was)
and maybe it was the beer or maybe the music but when I started dancing in the crowd at Electric Six the numb feeling that was sitting in my gut and throat and face started to melt away, and it was nice to have a break from that feeling for a little while.
I've been working for nearly 10 hours so to mellow I was sitting on the couch watching a video by my favourite ASMR artist
(look it up)
where she's walking around her studio showing people the process and setup she uses to create ASMR videos and I keep thinking
"This girl has 1.5 million subscribers and makes a living creating these videos"
which literally involve creating fake scenes and talking/whispering gently at people to help them relax, go to sleep, or just feel nice.
And yes, okay, it's not a perfect system and video creators have to work a crazy grind to beat the algorithm and generate enough ad revenue
but it's still kinda nuts that this is the thing she does to make money, don't you think?
Either way, as I'm watching this video she starts talking about how she looks "deep into the eye of the camera" so she can create a more intimate experience for the viewer, and how before she creates her videos she'll meditate, or read messages from a "Gratitude Folder"
which is a folder she has filled with messages people have sent her thanking her for her videos, or saying kind things about them, or telling her about how her videos helped them through a really tough time
and it occurred to me
this woman making ASMR videos on YouTube for a living has probably touched more people's lives than a lot of us ever will.
Not only that, but she also clearly really enjoys what she does, and can see real-life examples of how her work has value and contributes to the world around her.
So maybe it's a grind and absolutely we need to push for fair treatment for creators, but it's still a living and people in startups and small businesses have to grind and hustle, too
so we can make money doing something we enjoy
and while it's a tough slog and sometimes feels unrewarding, for some of us it's the very best thing in the world
getting to do the thing we love for a living
and it's pretty cool that we live in a time where that's possible.
which is a weird thing to ask someone who just publicly admitted to being depressed but what else do you ask someone in my position?
"Hey, still feeling like a human dumpster fire today?" isn't a great opening line.
The answer is Fine, I Guess.
As Fine as I can be, I suppose.
I saw a new therapist last week and she's very into these visualization techniques that psychotherapists use to help people who have experienced traumas like PTSD overcome their issues, which I'm down to try but to be honest makes me feel a bit silly.
She had me picture a jar with a lid and had me describe the jar in crazy detail, then she told me to talk about an upsetting experience I'd had recently and how it made me feel, and to feel my feelings and allow myself to cry, which I did.
Then she told me Put your feelings in that jar and close the lid so you can't feel them anymore. So I did.
And you know what. I felt better.
Not one hundred percent better, but a bit better.
That's how it works, my therapist said.
So there's that and we'll see how it goes.
I spent the weekend taking it easy and working a bit and last night John and I went to this dive bar in our neighbourhood and ordered some local craft beer and a slice of lasagna to share
and we talked about the future and the things we wanted and the people we know and the things we're hopeful for, and the place was bathed in the glow of some hockey game on TV nobody was actually watching and everyone was wearing toques and comfortable sweaters and looking very Canadian.
It was very familiar and comforting and it was nice to feel that way.
We stayed for two beers and burnt our mouths a little on the hot cheese because we can never wait for the lasagna to cool, and today we spent some time planning the garden and working on projects, and I've been trying to catch up on the mountain of emails and DMs and text messages I've been receiving since Thursday.
It's been humbling and strange to receive such an outpouring of support and what's funny is that for a person who never shuts up and writes for a living, figuring out what to say back is really hard
so if I haven't replied to you I'm sorry and I'm working on it
but I see you and I appreciate you
and I appreciate that you keep asking.
I've been staring at this blank screen like a page waiting to be filled and I have this pit in my stomach, round like an avocado pit and heavy-feeling, dragging me down into my chair and the floor and the ground. I wish the earth would swallow me whole.
People ask me to talk and I have nothing to say. My words are like ash in my mouth and they feel caked on my tongue. Nothing I say has value. Makes a difference. Matters.
I wake up in the morning and I want to go back to sleep so I don't have to feel this way and so I don't have to fake being happy and smile and be loud and enthusiastic and pretend like I don't have this
hole in me
that keeps growing larger no matter what I do.
It got real bad after VoteOpen but this lack of feeling has been there for a while, or maybe it never really went away and I was just covering it up. Like a hole in the floor that you put a piece of wood over, and then you put a really thick rug on the wood so when you walk over it you don't feel the emptiness underneath your feet. Or at least you pretend you don't.
I regret being involved with that campaign. The city ground me down and I saw an ugly side of it that I can't unsee and I don't know how to love the place that I used to love
anymore because I don't feel connected to it. I've lost my sense of place, and with it a portion of my identity that was so, so important to me, and it feels like that hole is getting bigger and deeper and more complex and I'm losing myself in it more every day.
In the winter I needed to hustle so I could take time off so I barely had time to acknowledge it. I poured myself into my work and hauled ass and accomplished a lot but I did it so I could have an escape from my life and pretend like I was fine for a little while
and I felt fine in Thailand. Most of the time, anyway.
But then we came back and at first I tried to chalk it up to being incredibly jet-lagged, then being incredibly sick, then one thing and another thing and then another thing but the truth of the matter is that
I don't feel much of anything these days.
Just a hollow ashy feeling in-between bouts of profound sadness and red-hot anger. I yo-yo between being angry at everything and everyone, to feeling so sad I can barely get out of bed, and in-between I feel numb. I walk and I talk and I feel myself going through the motions of living my life but it's like watching a movie because the things that are happening have no meaning. They just happen. They don't matter.
John asked today me if I was excited about anything. Folk Fest. Rainbow Trout. Summer and gardening and riding our bikes. Our wedding. Any of the dozens of things going on in my life that I ought to be excited and happy about.
But I'm not. There's that hole in my chest where my feelings should be and it's deep and dark and grey and it feels like if I stare into it for too long I may lose myself and fall in and never come out. I could get lost in it like a series of hallways that lead nowhere but go on forever, empty and dark and endless.
If I were someone else I'd tell me to talk to someone. Anyone. That's what John tells me to do.
"See a therapist" he says "get some help."
So I'm getting help.
Tomorrow I'm seeing a new therapist and maybe that will make a difference but I'm nervous and scared, because the last time I saw a therapist it was to manage the emotional baggage I was carrying around from my relationship with my parents and for some reason I'm okay being a victim of abuse but I'm absolutely terrified of being depressed even though that must be what this is, right?
Is this what depression feels like?
Am I depressed?
I don't want to be. I want to be someone who overcame some shit and maybe still has some anxiety, but is pretty okay now and working on it but can do normal things like talk to their friends and partner about their feelings and get excited about getting married and the future and all the amazing, positive, special things in my life that should be making me feel anything but exactly how I feel right now.
But I'm not okay
and I need to do something about it before this hole in me eats me up and there's nothing left.
Wish me luck.
Lately I've been really into this guy called Pete Buttigieg.
Who goes by "Mayor Pete" most of the time because 1. before announcing that he was going to run for President he served as the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana and 2. because "Buttigieg" is one of the most unfortunate last names you could have in contemporary North American politics, I think.
I first heard about Mayor Pete on the Pod Save America podcast (which is one of the best no-bullshit political podcasts out there)
where I believe they were commenting on his last name
and how a religious, gay Millennial who was previously the mayor of a small town in a conservative midwestern state was running for President
which got me all fired up, let me tell you.
Then I listened to his interview and was really impressed by his direct approach, thoughtful comments, and his policies. Dude reminds me of Obama a bit.
Oh, and did I mention that he went to Harvard and Oxford and fought in the War in Afghanistan?
Then we watched the CNN town hall where he blew everyone away and was happy to see that not only can he string a nice couple of words together, but he can also do it in a way that makes you go
that's just plain common sense
like, there's a climate crisis and we need to stop pretending there isn't
automation is coming for millions of jobs that will never come back
we need to re-think the definition of "work" to include things like caring for family
nobody should worry about having to go bankrupt if they get sick
and as he's explaining his views he keeps repeating "I'm part of the generation that has to deal with these issues," and it's SO REFRESHING to hear a Millennial stating facts and being listened to at a federal level, holy shit.
He's still a long shot candidate at the moment, but he's been getting tons of press and was in Esquire, and apparently his campaign raised over $600 K in the 24 hours since the CNN interview.
It's so refreshing to see young political leaders with a strong message
working hard to craft forward-thinking policies that connect with younger voters
and pushing the needle on issues like automation and environmentalism as key policies
if only we had a party who could do something like that here in Canada