- by Alyson Shane
It's 2024 and a new year and I feel like I should have something profound to say here but I don't, really.
Life's good. Better than it was this time last year, at least.
This time last year I was prepping for Asia which but we were dealing with the falling-out of a friendship — one in a long line of 'em from the same social circle — except this one was more... personal? Hurtful?
I guess you could call it that.
We used to be friends with a couple and the husband kept getting wasted and groping me (including sucking on my face while I was sleeping) and when we asked that he go to AA or to therapy his wife called me, screamed at me, and told me I was a "bad friend" for saying that I wasn't comfortable being around him if he wasn't gonna take his behaviour seriously.
I've never been on the receiving end of victim-blaming for sexual assault before and it was a confusing and stressful time and we're not friends anymore as a result of it.
That's the TL;DR version, anyway.
Maybe I'll write about that in more detail here someday but today's not that day.
Today's about the new year. I have no set travel plans yet which compared to last year when we went away for 3 months to SE Asia feels weird and like there's a gap in my life
but at the same time it feels like a relief. Last year I travelled to:
which were all wonderful but the push-pull of prepping to leave and catching up upon getting back was A LOT to manage. I felt like I was always playing catch-up in my own life and not being in that tidal pull of Going Away and Coming Back has felt
like a relief, honestly.
Last year was hard in a lot of ways. My business has a lot of ups and downs which were amplified by my Going Away and Coming Back all the time, plus friend stuff mentioned above, plus general life stuff makes it hard to put a pin on 2023.
Was it a Good Year, a Bad Year, or something in-between?
I guess it was a mix of all three. Lots of emotional rollercoasters and stress but a lot if great experiences, too.
We hosted our friends from Japan and had our friends from Mexico stay with us
we lost two friends, sure, but we also gained a lot and reconnected with several who'd fallen away
we accomplished a lot and John and I became closer as a couple and as a team
we saw so much and I ate, danced, and sang my way through cities and countries I'd never been to before
my business grew and succeeded despite setbacks and my stressing about it WAY more than I should have
and I read a shit-ton of books and made a shit-ton of art.
I guess you could say that 2023 was pretty good despite some hiccups and a few losses here and there, which is more than what most people could ask for I suppose.
Fingers crossed that the new year has more good stuff in store.
- by Alyson Shane
I’m on my porch
the only light on a dark block
I’m sitting here, thinking of you
and you, and you, and you
the seasons we shared
the ways we populated
the seasons of each other’s lives.
Pulled each other up
nurtured our roots
or let them anguish
or put in effort in when
things were rotten from the start.
I breathe in
the empty night into my too-full heart
who I used to be
when we met
when we met
the days, long gone now
years and years
entire lifetimes ago.
Nobody tells you when you’re young that everybody changes.
Or maybe they
do but we think
Lovers for always.
Nothing changes until it does.
Someone told me once that you can’t take everyone with you and I didn’t believe them
Ubers pass on the street over
and I wonder if you’re in one
but you’re not
so I leave the lights on for you
and I make my way to bed
but just for the moment.
- by Alyson Shane
I’m writing this on a plane from Winnipeg to Toronto. We’re going to celebrate my Grandma’s 100th birthday and I’m thinking about death.
I’ve been reading Slaughterhouse Five despite my own efforts to distract myself from writing.
I start wanting to write as soon as I get on a plane. As soon as it starts to taxi, as soon as I see the tarmac beginning to move, that little voice in my head starts talking.
The voice has been with me for as long as I can remember. I think it’s how I knew I was supposed to be a writer: words flow through me and out of me whether I want them to or not.
I read somewhere once that a certain percentage of people don’t have inner monologues.
That sounds like a lonely existence if you ask me.
So here I am, sitting in a tube in the sky listening to the hum of the engines, reading a book about the war and thinking about death.
I’m thinking about the characters in Slaughterhouse Five, dying
about how, almost every time I talk to my Grandma who turns 100 tomorrow she says
“I wish I was dead”
and maybe that should upset me but it doesn’t. I get it. I understand her perspective.
She lived most of her life as an independent, able-bodied person who took care of herself and lived her life on her own terms, and as she’s gotten older and older she’s lost more and more of what made her feel like herself.
I feel for that. I fear it.
So now I’m looking out the window at nothing and thinking about death and what I’ll say at her funeral.
I think it will go something like this:
“My Grandma was the only person I know who thought about death more than I do.
One of my first memories of her is standing on the back step of her house in the North End. I’m in kindergarten or one of these early grades, in elementary school for sure.
I’m looking at my Grandma’s feet, slacks, shoes, and she’s saying
“I’ll be dead before you graduate high school.”
As I got older she kept moving the goal posts on me:
“… by the time you graduate from university”
“… by the time you get married”
“… by the time you start a family”
I guess she figured that if she kept moving the deadline out into the future, some day she would be right.
When I went to visit my Grandma for her 100th birthday I read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut on the plane.
It’s an anti-war book and darkly funny in the way you’re not supposed to laugh at, but makes you want to anyway.
In the book the main character suffers a head injury and comes to believe that he was abducted by aliens who can see in four dimensions.
As a result, these aliens don’t perceive time the same way we do. They see a dead body as just a way that person is existing at that moment in time, but that person continues to exist in throughout all the other moments in time before, too.
So when someone dies they aren’t sad about it because that person isn’t really gone. They’re just not existing in that moment of time anymore.
They shrug and say: “So it goes.”
Which seems like a flippant thing to say but when I think about it, it’s true: the universe and time works in ways we don’t understand and even though Slaughterhouse Five is a story, I figure maybe those aliens who see in four dimensions may be onto something.
In some ways my Grandma isn’t really gone.
She won’t be in my present moving forward, but she’s in my memories and in moments of time in the past.
She’s still sitting in her sunroom on Mountain Ave with me on her lap as I eat an ice cream out of a crinkly plastic container with a wooden spoon.
She’s still buzzing around in her kitchen making me perogies for lunch when I’m a university student working on my bachelor’s degree.
She’s still walking around the basement of The Bay in her determined, thorough way, chatting with all the clerks who know her and talking about how much she likes having “the groceteria” so close to her apartment.
She’s still sitting across from me at The Paddlewheel Restaurant, picking away at a cheeseburger and saying “I’ve never been much of an eater”
(A sentiment I’ve never truly understood if I’m being honest.)
My Grandma is gone and I’m devastated. I have lost one of the only people who made space for me, listened to me, and made me feel seen and heard and loved when I didn’t feel like most people did.
Losing her feels like there’s a part of my that’s missing and that I won’t ever find again.
But my Grandma will always exist because she existed once, and she still continues to exist in those moments in time.
She continues to exist in our memories of her, which are also snippets of time.
She exists in my dad, my aunt, my brothers, and in all the lives of the people she touched.
She’s gone right now, but she isn’t really.
Time isn’t linear just because we perceive it that way. That’s just us, being humans, making sense of a universe that folds and expands and works in ways our mammal brains can’t comprehend.
That doesn’t make losing her any easier, but it does give me solace to think that she’s still around in the annals of time, watching baseball and Wheel of Fortune and wearing slacks with perfect creases in them.
But my Grandma won’t be around moving forward and I’ll miss her for the rest of my life.
So it goes.”
The pilot just announced that we’re starting our descent and now I’m back here up in the sky, thinking about death.
My Grandma is probably asleep right now, but in a few hours it’ll be her 100th birthday. I wonder what she’ll thinking about but I think I know.
I’m sure that tomorrow when we all get together she’ll find some way to slip it into the conversation. Remind us that life as a centennial may not always be what it’s cracked up to be.
She’ll say she’s ready. That she wants to go.
It will upset everyone but me and I’ll feel bad and guilty the same way as I do now, looking out the window for signs of the city and still seeing nothing but a red light blinking in the darkness, thinking about death and time.
So it goes.
- by Alyson Shane
(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
- by Alyson Shane
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.
- by Alyson Shane
As far as news consumption goes I guess you could say I obsess a little bit, but I'm a wonky person who likes to be well-informed and finds politics and rhetoric interesting and important and so I listen to multiple podcasts, like
What a Day
The New York Times Daily
The NPR Politics Podcast
Pod Save America
Pod Save the World
just to name a few
and every day I read articles from the New York Times, the CBC, The National Post, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, The Los Angeles Times
just to name a few
and as a Canadian who attended a Black Lives Matter protest that was 20,000 people strong and managed to go off peacefully and without a hitch being bombarded by media coverage of how badly things are going in America is
horrifying, to say the least
and this morning on NPR I heard about the 52-year old Navy vet named who showed up and was beaten by police for
literally just standing there
trying to talk to the officers
and that was scary and awful but then I came across a video of what happened on my Twitter feed and I wasn't prepared for what I saw
you don't have to watch the whole interview (though you should) but at least watch the part that starts around 1:00 where a federal officer just WAILS on him for several seconds before they douse HIS FACE in pepper spray
and yes I've read news reports and listened to pundits talk about it but somehow still wasn't prepared to see it play out on camera, and as I scrolled through the Portland news in my feed and watched videos of federal agents in riot gear shoving people and beating them up and barrelling into groups of moms peacefully protesting, tears started rolling down my face and I became a big, blubbering mess
because I'm terrified for the people in Portland and Chicago and Detroit and for
all of America, really
because this is what the slide into fascism looks like.
Being Canadian and watching this go down just south of the border is complicated because, on one hand, thank god that's not happening in my city, in my country, thank god I don't have to put on a helmet and a mask every night and go out and march until the morning light just to get police to stop killing black people
but on the other hand I can't do anything. All I can do is sit in front of my screen and cry and get upset and blog and hope against hope that things turn out ok in America
but I'm not holding my breath.
- by admin
I was standing in a back lane eating the tiniest radishes that I'd bought from a girl who grew them in her backyard and looking at hand-made soaps and someone started playing it on a boombox that they were carrying around with them like it was the 90's.
That summer I was living in my tiny one-bedroom apartment in Roslyn Manor and the next time I heard it was while drinking sangria in my claw-foot tub trying to fight off the sticky summer air.
My apartment overlooked a narrow courtyard and the apartment across the way was playing it with the windows open.
We all had our windows open that summer.
In the still-warm days of early fall I went camping at Grand Beach with a huge group of girls that I barely knew and in the evening we made spaghetti squash over the campfire and drank wine out of a bag and the next day we went to the nude beach and danced with nothing but sand on our bodies.
While we were dancing it came on the iPhone playlist we were listening to and I sang along through my wine-induced haze and ate cherries from the a picnic basket that also got covered in sand once the wind began to pick up.
I was single, then, and the autumn days were long and beautiful and the nights were longer and even more beautiful and as the winter came and I found myself in love and at the start of something new I heard it one last time at a bakery sharing a slice of key lime pie and drinking coffee.
We watched scattered snowflakes and I felt as though I was closing one book and opening another.
Hearing this song again today for the first time in years it's hard not to feel that way again.
Funny what music can stir in yr heart.
- by Alyson Shane
This morning I was having a dream about being in school, or on a campus of some sort. My dreams are typically pretty vivid and have been positive and adventurous recently, which I've enjoyed.
I was dreaming about sitting in a too-hot kiddie pool and talking to a boy named Eric that I went to high school with about politics when John slid back into bed and brought the cats with him.
We lay there for a long time pressing our bodies together and talking while the cats crawled over us. We talked about the future and our hopes and dreams, and when it got too hot and uncomfortable to lie in bed together we untangled ourselves and went upstairs.
John makes coffee every morning, and this morning while he was catching up with his mom on the phone I went into the sun room to spend some time reading.
I've just started a new Haruki Murakami novel and I'm already halfway through.
Not that I'm bragging or anything; the intro and story are 101 pages total and I can usually read 50-100 words in a sitting, so having started it yesterday and finished it today is pretty standard for me.
But then again I've always read quickly.
I'm reading Wind/Pinball, which is a collection of two of Murakami's first stories. Hear the Wind Sing is the first one, and Pinball is the second.
I like Murakami's novels because even though they explore themes like relationships and loneliness and loss, on the surface nothing much ever happens.
At least, not in the traditional narrative sense.
Humans like to read stories that have a complete narrative arc. We like beginnings, middles, and ends that arrive at conclusions that make us feel like everything's resolved.
I read a book in university called The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell about this exact topic, and he says:
“The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It's usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.
I've read several of Murakami's novels now, including:
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
- Kafka on the Shore
and my favourite Norwegian Wood
and can say that generally speaking the stories in his novels don't follow this arc.
Most of Murakami's stories are about a series of normal and benign things that happen to people (usually men) peppered with strange details, made-up references, or the occasional quote so striking that you have to go back and re-read it a few times.
Things happen, and characters explore their feelings and experiences, but his novels feel subdued and introspective and placid in a way that makes him inaccessible for a lot people, I think.
I'm the only person I know who has read any of his work, come to think of it.
Lately I've been trying to do as much of my reading in the sunroom as I can.
Our sunroom is walled-in, but has several large windows that we keep open spring, summer, and fall, but close when it gets too cold in the winter.
I like to work there, or sit and read, and listen to the sounds of the neighbourhood go by.
Today, after I finished reading Hear the Wind Sing, I sat in the sunroom in a beam of light, sipping the coffee John made for me and watching the neighbourhood come to life. A dog was barking down the street. Kids were playing in the front yard across the road.
In front of my house a man walked by pushing with stroller with a small baby tucked up inside of it. He had on sandals, jean shorts, a band tank top, Ray Bans, a man-bun, and was holding a coffee from a trendy little shop up the road.
His other child, a boy of one or two, toddled along ahead of the stroller, teetering on his newly-found legs and feet.
The dad watched after his older son, balancing the coffee cup on the handle of the stroller as he pulled the shade down over his infant's eyes, protecting his infant from the brightness and heat.
He couldn't have been any older than I am.
Watching him reminded me that in a few months I'll be married. Moving into the phase of life dedicated to homes and kids and parenting.
No more lazy Sundays spent sipping fancy coffee with whisky in it watching the neighbourhood come alive through a beam of sunlight in yr sunroom.
Nothing makes you feel older than being around other people.
In the story I was reading Murakami says: “all things pass. None of us can manage to hold on to anything. In that way, we live our lives."
I think he's right.
- by Alyson Shane
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.
- by Alyson Shane
One of the things I'm worst at is living in the present moment.
Which sounds hippy-dippy and something you'd interpret from a tarot card reading, maybe, but taking a few moments to really sink into what yr experiencing is a good thing to do from time to time.
Maybe that's what meditation is. I don't know because I've never really gotten past the point where everything is itchy and distracting.
When we were in Thailand I realized I was suffering from this problem because I was constantly feeling pressure to get out there and do something.
John got a throat infection which kept him in bed for several days while we were in Koh Tao and I got really stressed because I felt like we were "wasting our vacation" relaxing at the AirBnB rather than being out and about 24/7.
This pressure, to be doing something all the time, is a leftover from my super-anxious days when I would judge myself for taking downtime, or for not filling every minute of every day with some task or to-do.
I know that, but I'm not always great at recognizing it in the moment. Which can really suck because, okay, we were just hanging out at an AirBnB
but we were also spending time in a new place on the other side of the planet, still getting street food and enjoying the warm weather even if we weren't hiking up to see wats every damn day.
What I should have been doing in that moment was soaking it up with my partner, not worrying about when we could get back to filling our vacation time with stuff.
Lesson learned, and luckily I figured that lesson out early enough on in our trip that I was able to chill out for the rest of it.
(Okay, most of it.)
And I'm glad I did because I was able to enjoy my vacation with my partner while I was there instead of glossing over it because I was busy thinking and worrying about who knows what.
I need to bring more of that into my day-to-day because worrying about stuff removes me from enjoying what I have while I have it.
Being "fully present" means I can soak up the good, bad, and in-between feelings and create more vivid memories of things that are, in reality,
Because each new day runs the risk of being the last of something.
It's scary to think about which is why I think most people don't, but it's true.
This could be the last day you see the person you love.
This could be the last day you talk to yr mom or dad or awkward great-uncle.
This could be the last day you walk into a job you've had for 20 years.
This could be the last day you eat at your fav sushi place before they close.
Nothing stays the same.
Things Fall Apart.
So enjoy what you got while you go it.