This deals with suicide ideation. Please take care of yourself.
The corporatization of mental health. Fuck that.
I'm standing with a growing number of brave people. Like Canadian journalist Jan Wong who uses her experience to call out Bell's hypocrisy (and The Globe and Mail), and Mat Izquierdo who gets right to the heart of the problem with the capitalist model of mental health care, and Anwar Knight who shared research on the predatory sales tactics used on people who post about the issues. Big respect also to comedian Darcy Michael.
Like you, I've struggled to get humane service from my telecommunication's provider. Even the smallest thing can turn into an ordeal.
I dread making those calls. The time suck on hold. 'Your call is important to us.'
The way they wheel and deal after a difficult service conversation. Trying to make up for the previous twenty minutes.
I'm one of many people turning inward. Trying to get right with the world.
The tabs in this book speak volumes. The green ones on top mark big ideas. The pink, blue, and orange tabs mark places in the text where I can see myself.
It could be the most important book I've read in the past year. And I read a lot.
I stumbled on Laurence Heller's work on YouTube. There are no coincidences.
People are doing beautiful work in the field of trauma: Gabor Maté, Bessel van der Kolk, and Dr. Han Ren on Instagram.
2021 was hard.
I spent a lot of it depressed, unable to do much of anything. The trajectory had been long. It started low-grade in May 2019. There was a catalyst. Someday I'll write that story.
Depression moves like a glacier at first. Then the world went black in November.
I was entertaining an exit strategy. Daily.
Here are a couple of my Instagram photos from that period. You'd never know.
I had a bottom-line. An agreement with myself.
If the impulse to act turned urgent, I would walk into emergency or call an ambulance. That helped.
Something let go inside. I couldn't take another morning waking up next to hopelessness.
I told a few people I trust.
They dropped what they were doing. Took it seriously. Met me for coffee. Went for walks. Talked on Zoom. Checked in regularly.
No one told me what to do. They listened. Sometimes said 'me too.'
One asked if I had thought about giving my cat away. I had.
They hugged me.
Our hearts overlapping.
Going months without human contact is painful. Not having someone put their arms around me. Hold me for a few minutes.
The mind and spirit are fragile. They need care.
Three hundred and sixty-five days a year.
What the pandemic has taught me.
This conversation's moved way past the corporation.
They need to clean house. Act, not talk.
Profiteering on people's vulnerability is loathsome. Who knows how the funds are dispersed?
Broken in places. Just like you.
Sharing it with others helps. So much.
A sign that hangs in some of my favourite rooms: 'You are no longer alone.'
I let friends in. They cherished me.
If you need help, reach out.
People are moving.
Jessica my ice cream buddy is doing it. She's on a plane next week.
Flying to paradise. To commune with the trees.
You can bet I'll visit. My idea of a good time is eating ice cream in new places.
This means I'm accepting applications for summer 2022. Someone needs to fill her shoes.
Eating ice cream alone is just okay.
Jessica's agreed to interview her replacement. She's special. Bright as a star.
I'm sending her off with gratitude.
In the spring of 2019, I pitched a story to the Washington Post on Iliana Regan's memoir, Burn The Place.
I thought I'd be writing about it from my desk in downtown Toronto. Then Joe Yonan asked me if I wanted to spend a weekend at Milkweed Inn. It was just opening.
My first big break. May I never forget it.
We started talking travel.
I was so broke. I couldn't afford a flight or a car rental. But I wasn't telling him that.
I kept pouring over the map. Hoping with everything the way would appear.
I told Jessica. She said, 'take my car.'
You know the golden starburst of stamens in an apple blossom? That's how it felt.
I had enough cash to cover gas and buy some Canadian snacks. All-Dressed Ruffles and Coffee Crisps—the best way to make friends in America.
Nineteen hundred kilometres. Three days.
In a car that had been barely outside Toronto city limits. A teal blue Nissan Micra.
Farther north on Highway One than I've been before (I need to get out more).
Through a velvet tunnel of tall pines and night sky. Crossing the border at Sault Ste. Marie. Into the wilds of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Chasing a story.
Good music. Free spirit. Is there anything better than a road trip?
The story landed 'above the fold,' on the cover of the Food section. Kendra Stanley Mills' stunning photographs. We worked as a team, and it showed. (I fed her children ants from Iliana's kitchen. All of us marvelling at how lemony they tasted.)
Without Jessica it wouldn't have happened. An unforgettable kindness.
A few weeks ago while we were out walking in High Park, she shared a lesson about writing. I made her repeat it so I could record it. I now have the pleasure of hearing Jessica tell it at any time.
I see lots more rum and raisin cones in our future.
Baby, life's what you make it
Nothing can change it
Life's what you make it
I played this song on an endless loop when it was released. I still love it.
This deals with the loss of babies. Please take care of yourself.
The middle sibling.
Born between two babies who passed.
My older brother Christopher died of sudden infant death syndrome at six weeks. Thursday, August 10, 1961.
My mom got up that morning and remembers thinking how quiet he was. How well he had slept.
She picked him up. That's where her memory ends.
Several years ago, my dad visited Christopher's grave at the cemetery in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.
To remember and tend to it.
I have photos. I know where my older brother is.
My dad told me this story. It left a big impression.
After losing Christopher they both wanted a baby. He’d come home on his motorcycle from a shift at Union Carbide in Welland and my mom would be waiting.
I was wanted.
And then Kathleen. Born February 6, 1964.
We shared a birthday. I was one.
I found the memorial card in my forties. A picture of Jesus with a shepherd's staff and a small flock of sheep at his feet.
I knew about my sister. Just not the date.
What we had in common was shocking.
She came into the world a perfect soft, pink, tiny human smelling yeasty like champagne.
Then they took her to the nursery.
And she never came back.
An autopsy revealed she had a quarter of a heart. The doctor was surprised she survived her long birth.
I like to think she wanted to be held by my mom and dad.
If only once.
My mom was put into a private room. Sheltering the new mothers on the ward from her loss.
My dad went home. Probably to work the next day.
Both alone that first night.
I was with Theo and Harry.
When I was about seven or eight, I remember my parents going off in a hurry one evening to see a couple at a hospital in Burlington.
Another couple told me once how much it meant to them when my father visited the hospital after they lost a child.
Walking with others in the darkness.
My mom picked the music. It's a piece that's always brought her comfort.
I'll soon be 59. My mom's 82. This week we talked and cried about all of it.
Grief. I knew it early.
My 15-year-old fantasy.
I’d grown up.
I spent a six-year period from 1974 to 1980 living in Goderich. Hard years in my family history.
Looked good on the outside. The beautiful house on Wilson Street—one street from the lake and a block from the lighthouse.
Directly across Lake Huron was Windsor, gateway to Detroit.
I’d drift to sleep at night listening to the radio—CKLW out of Windsor.
My love for Bob Seger happened in the front yard of my dreams. Through the gate in the picket fence of consciousness.
He’s a poet—like John Fogerty, Tom Petty, Nathaniel Radcliffe…I could go on.
Deciding on a song was hard. There are so many I love.
Beautiful Loser. Night Moves.
“I woke last night to the sound of thunder.
How far off I sat and wondered?”
It’s around that age that a man really showed me where things were at in the sheets. The bar was set high early.
Some might say too early. But being sexually active was normal.
Best One-Night Stand.
I knew the potential. Could measure performance.
To this day I'm grateful.
The important stuff about him: he was curious about women, an admirable quality in a man.
He also taught me that nice surprises sometimes come wrapped in plain paper.
I'm eighteen in the photo.
Beautiful...having fun. As it should be.
Even in an era of women's liberation, our pleasure was mostly taboo.
Maybe I'd read some things in "Our Bodies, Ourselves." That book looked like a Harrowsmith manual.
I was afraid. Kept part of me hidden.
Feels like freedom to talk about it now.
Men in chef whites—sexiest thing alive.
Women, not so much.
I had a stunning cooking career. I did things. Big things.
Worked hard. Paid the price. Made like it was okay.
Neutered myself sexually speaking. Safety first.
In 1988, I went for an interview at Centro with Raffaello Ferrari. In the wine cellar basement. Just him and I at a table. He asked me how I would handle all the horny men working in the kitchen. His coke habit was in full swing, if that's not obvious.
All I wanted was to get out of there.
I'd come from André Donnet in Hamilton. A gentleman.
I didn't not get hired. Things work out for the best.
Lonely at work. Lonely at home.
Some of that's mine to own.
A vibrant and gifted woman. Something special.
Longing to be seen. Not erased.
Put on either of these songs and I'm going to like you.
Look at this live television performance. This Ebet Roberts' photo for Rolling Stone:
My young heart beating.
"Ain't good looking, but you know I ain't shy
Ain't afraid to look it girl, hey hear me out
So if you need some lovin', and you need it right away
Take a little time out, and maybe I'll stay"
Some of the words, music, and art that kept me nourished (and sane) in 2021
I'm living with limits this year and am not a paid subscriber to all the newsletters I list here. I hope that changes, soon.
Story Club with George Saunders
“But I also have to admit that this is what I crave from the writers I love. I want to hear how they wrote a particular story. Not so much what they think the story means, but how it actually came about. What I’d really love is a keystroke-capture recreation, that I could watch to see how the thing grew along the way – like one of those fast-motion films of the lifespan of a tree.”
The Red Hand Files (Nick Cave)
"You will discover that love, radical love, is a kind of supercharged aliveness, and all that is of true value in the world is animated by it. And, yes, heartache awaits love’s end, but you find in time that this too is a gift — this little death — from which you are reborn, time and again." What can you tell me about love
"What I was trying to highlight, and what the podcast made a great case for, is that we need more intellectual provocations that prepare us for the inevitable changes to come. Regardless of your views on degrowth, I think most of us can agree that GDP growth is a dismally blunt tool to measure the good life." Issue #168
“I used to steal magazines from a store on Genesee Street, in Waukegan, and read them and then steal them back on the racks again. That way I took the print off with my eyeballs and stayed honest. I didn’t want to be a permanent thief, and I was very careful to wash my hands before I read them.” —Ray Bradbury Lifted Type Collages
From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
"The way we think of abundance in the United States has nothing to do with banana trees that bear fruit and edible flowers. It has to do with how much is in the supermarket, how much false choice there is between the products of just a few agribusiness conglomerates. This is an obvious statement, of course, but it’s worth repeating that the ways of eating in the U.S. are against nature—meaning actively working to destroy nature—and for capital." On Abundance
This has been the year of short sentences. Stitching three or four words together—working on cadence—what pleasure. No Masterclass required. Writing a poem a day in long hand has helped. Poem of the Day.
The music I use for 'today' is drawn from a messy and meandering playlist. Listen on shuffle. There are bonafide gems here. Remember, I was the girl who hung out by the stereo at parties. Deborah's 2021 playlist.
A few of the poets, painters, potters, photographers, writers, and cooks who inspire me.
Watch Tom Petty at work: Somewhere You Feel Free. The Making of Wildflowers
"And it's wake up time
Time to open your eyes
And rise and shine"