A year in review

You guys, 2018 sucked donkey balls. For me, I mean. It could have been the best year of your life, and if so, I am sincerely happy for you. But for me, it was dark, challenging (and not in the good way), long, lonely, stressful, daunting, frustrating and largely a year I was just trying to get to the end of without making a premature exit.

Lately, I have felt compelled to reflect, as many of us are wont to do when a new year begins. And in so doing, because I am ever the optimist, I didn’t want to only recall all the shitty, hard stuff. I wanted to remember and celebrate the good things, the highlights of an otherwise terrible year, the few rays of light that managed to emerge through the cracks in my windows this past year. And I wanted to write it down, put it out in the universe so that I could look back at this time, years from now, and marvel at the amazing things that happened during a very trying time in my life, and be proud of how far I’ve come.

The first thing that comes to mind is that I launched GenerationNEXT, an employee resource group at work. This little baby was a pure labour of love, something I poured myself into, and meticulously (a trait I’m not particularly known for) put the puzzle together of the people, support, marketing and as corny as it sounds, heart, to launch my little ERG-baby to the masses (and by masses, I mean my company). It is quite an extraordinary thing to work so hard on something you so fiercely believe in and watch as it unfolds before you in all the ways you imagined and more. I don’t mean to be overly effusive here, but the bottom line is that this was a big deal, and I did it! And ironically, the actual launch event (and all the work required to make that happen) was happening just as I was starting this journey with depression, and learning about my thyroid, and starting medications. So, looking back, that it even happened, let alone was the success it was, to me, is quite miraculous.

I travelled to New York City with my Cantores sisters (and a few of my besties in tow), and I sang on the stage of Carnegie Hall.

I did that! That is a thing that I did! Can you believe it?!?!

It’s a once in a lifetime experience that I will always cherish. I had a great time, got to work with Sir John Rutter himself, and had the opportunity to make musical magic with my sisters. That’s pretty damn amazing.

I moved. Sometimes a move is just a move. And sometimes, a move is a life-altering event. In my case, it was the latter. Moving, for me, was fraught with paralyzing fear, and the shedding of an old, dysfunctional, bleak and damaged life for a new one. I had to fight like hell to ultimately sign the lease on my apartment, and I’m practically bankrupt from what it has taken for me to set myself up for success in my new chapter, but it was totally worth it. I now have a home that I actually take pride in, a space that is all my own, one which reflects who I am, and one which feels like a hug every time I walk through the door.

I didn’t get here alone. I had exceptional support from all my friends, but my move would not have been possible were it not for my dear friend Josh. I like to lovingly refer to him as a tornado. He knows this, he knows it’s a term of endearment. He tornadoes around me, almost in a blur, just DOING. While I was struggling with preparing for the move, making decisions, paralyzed by the enormity of the task, it was Josh who swooped in and took the reins, purging my old place (almost too well – there are things he got rid of that I’m still discovering). He helped me pack, and forced (I mean, strongly encouraged) me to make decisions. He motivated me and kept reminding me that this is what I had been wanting and working toward for a very long time.

He knew I needed help, I couldn’t do it on my own. Moving is hard under the best of circumstances, and he knew that my circumstances were extenuating. He’s the Portuguese mama I never knew I needed. And he single-handedly moved me. I’m serious. I mean I was there, I did stuff, but let’s be honest, I’m pretty useless when it comes to these things. He and I moved me into my new place using just his car and a little dolly I had bought at Canadian Tire. I think we did it in three, maybe four trips on one of the hottest, most humid July Saturdays I can remember.

So, moving for me was a BIG deal. And even though it was hard, and exhausting both physically and emotionally, I view it as a huge highlight of the year. And I couldn’t have done it without Josh.

When I think about the entirety of 2018, I think the thing that provided the most light through the cracks was my birthday celebration. I love my birthday. I have always loved my birthday. But, as you can imagine, this year was different and I was sort of worried that the whole thing would be a disaster and forever scar me. So, I was wary.

I had been talking about my big 4-0 for a while with my friends and was very specific about what I envisioned, but honestly was expecting to settle for whatever was best for everyone else. I wanted a fancy dinner, preferably in a private room of a restaurant I’d never been to. I wanted just my closest friends there, people who were well aware of everything that was going on with me. I didn’t want to have to pretend, or put on a happy face or feel pressured to behave in a certain way. I wanted to dress up (and therefore I wanted everyone else to, obviously). I mean, no prom dresses or tuxes, but I wanted everyone to get all gussied up. And balloons! I wanted a lot of balloons. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have been mad if a prom dress had made an appearance.

Again, it was Josh who led the charge and made it happen. He delivered the birthday party of my dreams. Not only were all the criteria checked off the list, there was so much love in all the details. My favourite colours, carefully selected cocktails and appetizers, a custom designed menu, just for us. Our own sommelier. He even created a playlist of music that he knew I would like to be played for our background soundtrack. I mean COME ON!!

He thought of every single detail. There was so much love in that room, I felt so close to everyone there. Having never been a bride, I can’t say for certain, but it sure as shit felt like my wedding! It was my day. And I felt like a million bucks. Put quite simply, it was perfect.

So, in looking back at a really crappy year for me, the thing that stands out the most as the highlight, the BEST thing that happened in my life in 2018, was my 40th birthday, organized by my thoughtful, talented, devoted and extraordinarily loving friend Josh. I don’t think I have ever felt more loved in my life.

2019 is going to be good. It has to be. It can only go up from here. I came across a meme the other day which made me laugh really hard (probably inappropriately), but it sort of sums up the last year of my life quite perfectly, I think:

Apparently my rock bottom has a basement.

I discovered that basement this year, but the good news is, there’s nowhere else to go, but up.

Happy new year. May it be filled with more good than bad, more love than heartache, and more joy than sorrow.

The list

I’m a believer that two opposing ideas can both be true at the same time. To wit: I believe a person can be impulsive and responsible; spontaneous and pragmatic; strong and vulnerable; communicative and secretive. You see what I mean. I think there are all kinds of shades of grey when it comes to defining a person (as if they could actually ever be defined). Nothing is black and white, in my opinion. And maybe it’s the great quest in life to discern all those shades within ourselves and each other. It’s our job to reconcile these ostensibly opposing traits or facts about us that exist in tandem, despite our instinct to categorize them as being in different “columns.” And maybe they are truly in different columns, but my point is that two things can be true at once. There is rarely a definitive, absolute answer or explanation for anything.

Take for instance when we think about our identity – who we present ourselves to be, and in turn, who we are perceived to be (which, really, are enmeshed). I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately.

The following are some things, some facts about me that are very integral to my identity, to who I am, who I believe I am, and more importantly, who others perceive me to be.

I am short. Petite. Small. Little. Not tall (or even average height). This has always been true. I was a tiny baby. I was a tiny toddler and little girl (with a disproportionately large head). I was always in the front row of the class picture. I’m pretty sure I’m the same height I reached in grade six. That’s 11 years old. I haven’t grown since I was 11.

That I am short is simply a fact about me. But somehow, over the course of my life, it has morphed into a kind of character trait. My family and some of friends call me “Little One.” I mean, I am little: I’m little in stature, I have tiny feet and hands, I have a small head (I guess I just grew into that large melon from my childhood), so I look ridiculous in hats and sunglasses. But, I’m also what some would define as “full-figured.” I prefer the word voluptuous. Those with an inferior vocabulary might describe me as fat.

Whatever. I don’t care. I can’t control how others interpret my body, nor do I care to. After all, words are only as powerful as the meaning we give them.

But, my point is that the sheer physicality of my body has infiltrated my very being, and my height, my smallness comes up in conversations, inside jokes, teasing, nicknames and general perception of who I am. And I’m not mad at it one bit. The fact that I am both small and big simultaneously is the paradox I’m talking about here. Both are equally true.

I am smart. I don’t say that in a boastful way. Most people I know are smart. It’s a fact. But this is a fact about me that is rather defining. I speak and write articulately and eloquently. I am secretly really flattered when people comment on the words I use in everyday conversation, how I express myself, or ask me for help with grammar or re-wording something they’re writing.

Again, this is another fact about me that has, along the way, been absorbed in my personality, my identity. And, admittedly, I’ve clung onto this notion in times of insecurity.

I have musical talent. I used to be pretty serious about playing instruments and singing and once upon a time, imagined a career in the arts, perhaps playing in an orchestra, or the pit band of musicals, or even being on Broadway or being an Opera singer. Listen, with age, I have come to realize that that was probably not in the stars (or within reach) for me, but at my heart, I am a singer and a musician. I’ve written a lot about how important music and my choir is to me so it’s no secret how dear I hold the music that is in my life.

But, in addition to the organized singing I am a part of, I feel I really do have a talent. Let’s not get it twisted – I’m no Whitney, Celine or Mariah, but I really do LOVE to sing and, to be honest…I think I’m pretty good at it.

Sometimes I’ll be singing to myself, just in my apartment, and I finish and think to myself, “DAMN, I sound GOOD.” Haha.

Again, I’m not being a cocky asshole here (I’m sure there are many of you reading this who are better singers than me), but my point is that this particular talent sets me apart, and in so doing, is very much a part of my identity. I’m Ange, the singer. When I’m in a room full of people I’m usually the only one who possesses this talent, and honestly, if people were to ask me to sing something, I gladly would. They don’t tend to though. I presume it’s because when someone says, “Oh yeah, I sing,” one’s first inclination is to think, really? I bet you’re one of those people who thinks they can sing, and has clearly been enabled by the people around them their whole lives who have repeatedly lied to them and told them how talented they are, when really, you’re terrible and make people’s ears bleed, and if you sing something right now, you’re just going to embarrass yourself and make everyone uncomfortable. I get it. But, really, I have the goods, I promise.

I am a good friend. This one is something I’ve been told a lot, and to be honest, when I’m feeling confident and sure of myself, I agree. I put a lot of effort and thought into being a good friend. But, it’s also just the way I am, if that makes sense. I value my friends so much. And lately, especially, I’ve come to realize that my friends must value me too, because they have been so extraordinarily there for me in ways I never expected (and most of the time don’t feel I deserve – but I’m working on that).

So, this being-a-good-friend thing has become a defining feature of my personality. As in, if someone were to ask me to describe myself in 3 words (or phrases), this would be one of them.

I am depressed. Capitol “D” depression, with a diagnosis, medication and therapy to back it up. Unlike all these other facts about me that I’ve listed here, I actually don’t want this one to define me. But maybe it’s too late for that.

The truth is, it is a part of me. It’s a part of my story now. In the same way that every triumph, every failure, every bad decision, every love lived and lost, every moment I wish I could re-live and every moment I wish I could re-do, is a part of my story. As I tried to articulate in my previous blog about my body, I am – we all are – the sum of our parts. We are complex individuals with stories and challenges and wins, and all kinds of experiences that get chucked into a proverbial pot and stirred up, and the end product is Ange (or insert your name here) soup. Perhaps this metaphor is getting away from me, but I’m sure you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, right?

The bottom line is that depression is a thing I’m currently experiencing, coping with, working through, resenting, hating, feeling defeated by, kind of maybe getting a handle on, determined to emerge a better person from and going to battle with every day. But, it is also part of my story and is something about which I refuse to be ashamed. I’ve carried enough shame for several lifetimes. It’s time to let all that go.


So, if at the end of my life, someone writes a list of all the things that make up who I am, I really do genuinely hope that depression will be there – but that it’s treated just the same as all the other, myriad, interesting, wonderful (and maybe some terrible) things that make up who I am, none more or less important than another.

And I hope it’s a really long list.


Thanks, Mom

Let your friends and family help you, let them love you, let them support you. That’s what my therapist tells me. I know he’s right. Of course I do. It’s hard, though. I can’t help but feel guilty that my friends and family worry about me, that they have spent their precious energy thinking about my wellbeing, that they have let their worry and concern for me distract them from their lives, their families…in any way.

It all comes back to this concept of worthiness. I don’t think I’m worthy of anyone’s worry or concern, or thoughts or compassion. I’m working on that. I have to say, it’s a challenging thing to try to undo a lifetime of mental and emotional reprimand. My own reprimand, that is. But, I’m working on it.

These last couple of weeks, I’ve been reduced to the little girl I was when I was six. I’ve needed my family in a way that I have never felt in my adult life. I needed my parents and siblings to know what I’ve been going through, and I wanted my mom to be here with me, literally, physically.

And so she was. My mom stayed with me for a week. She slept in my bed, next to me, her presence comforting me the way it did when I was a little girl and would wake up with a nightmare. Instead of letting me crawl into my parents’ bed between them, my mom would come and sleep with me in mine. I can still recall the warmth of her body next to mine, the sound of her heart beat, the security of knowing that Mom was with me, protecting me from whatever demons I conceived were haunting me. It was the best feeling in the world.


That feeling came back to me in waves these last couple of weeks. Quite simply, I needed my mommy. And she came. She dropped everything and came to Toronto to be with me. She entered into a situation with which she was unfamiliar, untrained, and probably very uncomfortable, with a full and open heart, ready to just…be here in whatever way I needed her to be. And she did just that.

Having my mom here meant waking at an hour I’m not used to seeing lately. It meant having breakfast, with actual protein and nutrients. It meant making a to-do list and executing on those items every day. It also meant spending concentrated time with my mom, who, of course I love and feel close to, and with whom I’ve had many, many, many great conversations over my life. But never about the things I need to talk about now.

My parents, much like the parents of my friends and people my age, come from a generation where things simply weren’t talked about. Things were famously swept under the rug. Depression, anxiety, and stress weren’t acknowledged, not given credence, ignored, “sucked up,” as it were. I get that. As my therapist says, you can only work with the tools you have, and my parents, and most people of their generation simply don’t have the tools to deal with depression that we do now.

But, I’m extraordinarily proud of my parents for being as open as they have been. I know it’s difficult for them to understand what depression even is, let alone, why and how it’s been debilitating for me. The one thing that has come through loud and clear though, despite their potential lack of understanding, is that they love me and they’re worried about me, and they want me to get better. And that’s all I want, really. They don’t need to understand the medical and psychological definitions of depression to know that I’m not myself and that I need help.

I’m grappling every day with the thought that the people I love are worried about me. It makes me feel guilty, or responsible in some way. I worry if my family is getting the support they need to process what is happening with me. And I can’t help but feel that I owe my friends. They have been so wonderful to me, jumping in during crisis, talking to each other, giving each other support and sharing, frankly, scary information about me and my self-destruction. I don’t know how to make sure that they all get the support they need. But, I’m trying to remind myself that if the situation was reversed, I would do the same thing. I’m trying to learn to accept the love that people are trying to give me.

This is a journey. Two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes it’s more than one step back…but I’m slowly moving forward. I’m vulnerable, but I think that’s okay. In vulnerability, comes strength. I’ve been told by a few people in the last couple of weeks that I am a strong woman. That warms my heart. I’m not sure I totally believe it, but the fact that others do, gives me confidence. My therapist told me today that he’s proud of me – for telling my secrets, for confiding in my family, and for getting out of bed every day determined to muster the motivation to fight. It’s hard. But, I want to get better. And I will, I know it. This is the fight of my life. But, I’m ready.

I can change


Doubt casts a long shadow

It whispers dirty lies in my ear

I won’t let fear break my heart tonight

But I’m scared that I won’t get it right

I can trace the patterns from where I am

And where I want to be

The storm is still warring

And my armor is thin

The battles are long

And I don’t think I’ll win

But I can change

I can still change

The tale of the purse-snatcher who made my friend a legend and my birthday unforgettable

Friends, let me tell you a story. It’s a true story, not a made-up fable to scare you into paranoia, or an allegory about the dangers of big city living. It’s a true story, no exaggeration, no hyperbole. I know, because I was there.

Picture it – it’s a warm, end-of-summer  September Friday, the 14th to be exact: my birthday. After a wonderful day of shopping and hanging with friends (and not working), I meet up with my dear friend, one of my favourite people in the world, for a fancy birthday dinner at The Keg. My friend – let’s call her “Cheryl” – and I arrive at the restaurant within minutes of one another. We decide to dine in the bar area, because it’s a bit cozier, and has a more interesting vibe. Cheryl and I are all about the vibes. We’re seated at a round table for four, so we sit beside each other (not in that creepy way some couples do when they sit on the same side of the booth – I hate that!), but the table is big, and it’s kind of loud and we want to be able to hear each other when we talk.

And TALK we do! We have a beautiful meal; delicious food, great martinis, a nice bottle of wine. We chat and laugh and have a truly engrossing and lovely time. After our meal is done, still chatting away, contemplating ordering another cocktail, Cheryl suddenly gets this look of disgust on her face and says to me “ughhhh, can you smell that?” I can’t smell anything discernably disgusting, but do notice a very slight, kind of odd looking man seating himself at the table next to us. Cheryl is distracted by the stench, I (thankfully – sorry Cheryl!), am not, as I’m just far enough away from him to avoid the sensory assault.


Cheryl and I continue talking, occasionally interrupted by Cheryl’s comments about the stench of the sketchy man in our periphery. Because of the way we’re sitting, I can see the man at his seat. His back is to us. He is fidgety, he moves his table and chair back a few inches, towards our table. Even though it’s really warm out, he has a jacket with him, which he very awkwardly drapes over the back of his chair. He knocks the salt shaker off the table and bends down to pick it up. I’m a little distracted, but alarm bells are not ringing in my head.

After a few minutes, the man gets up to leave, draping his jacket over his arm. Cheryl and I immediately breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that we’ll be able to continue our evening without the distraction. As we’re kind of watching him leave the restaurant, Cheryl (instinctively, perhaps?) reaches down to her purse which had been sitting under the table, at her feet.

The purse wasn’t there.

Cheryl looks at me, eyes wide, and says “where’s my purse? What did I do with my purse? Did that guy just take my purse???”

In what felt like a flash, she was up and out of her seat asking me if she should run after him. A girl sitting near us (with her dud of a boyfriend who barely shrugged when all this was going down, by the way), overhearing our alarmed conversation chimes in and says that she thinks he did take Cheryl’s purse, because she’s pretty sure he’s the same guy who stole a purse from her restaurant a few days before.


Cheryl quickly runs out of the restaurant, chasing the thief down York Street, yelling obscenities at him, looking like a streak of black and glitter in her micro-mini and healed booties. She catches up to him (with ease, I might add, she is after all, an Orangetheory enthusiast). She grabs his jacket off his arm, telling him that she knows he stole her purse, and lo and behold, the purse just drops to the ground, like a prize out of one of those claw machines. The would-be thief, turns on his heals apologizing, running away, while Cheryl checks inside her purse to make sure nothing is missing. She quickly grabs her phone and takes a picture of the guy running away. Sadly, it’s blurry, but at least she gets a picture.

In the meantime, the girl who warned us about the stinky thief has run outside to make sure Cheryl is OK or assist her in any way. I, if you’re wondering, am still sitting at the table, paralyzed with indecision about what I should do – should I call the police? Should I get the manager? Should I run after Cheryl too? Clearly, I’m not the best person to have around in such a crisis.

Cheryl hurries back into the restaurant, having walked through a whole crowd of completely oblivious bystanders outside the restaurant on the sidewalk who barely looked up from their phones to notice the screaming blonde woman on a foot chase, but, whatever.

Victorious in her purse-retrieval and burgle-thwarting, Cheryl and the anonymous good citizen come strutting back into the restaurant with huge smiles. My heart stops fluttering – I’m so happy she’s OK!

Cheryl and I thank the girl profusely for warning us about the thief (her boyfriend sits in his seat, not looking at us or participating in the conversation. What a loser). We tell our server the saga and he immediately runs to get his manager. The manager comes over and sits down with us for a bit. We (mostly Cheryl) tell the tale again, partly still in shock and disbelief, partly with excited adrenaline, and partly with pride at her badassary.

After telling the story in detail, me providing a very good physical description of the perp and the manager encouraging Cheryl to file a police report, we pause and look at each other, reading each other’s minds. Cheryl says to the manager “so…I think we’re gonna need another cocktail.”

Our server delivers our Negronis and with what I would call an air of delight, tells us that he’s been telling all his co-workers about “the girl who chased down the guy who stole her purse” and that she is now a LEGEND at The Keg on York Street.

Moral of the story: don’t leave your purse on the back of your chair or on the floor, at your feet when you’re dining out. You never know what sneaky, desperate people will do. People can’t be trusted, and unless you’re super fit like my girl Cheryl, and you can guarantee that the bandit in question is not a threat (which of course, you never can), it’s generally not advisable to chase people down in the street, regardless of how much you want your stuff back.

But also, another moral of the story: my friend Cheryl IS a legend. She’s lucky she’s OK and the guy was harmless but, she’s also a total badass BOSS lady and you’d be well-advised not to mess with her. I will forever remember the image of her running down the street in her micro-mini, yelling at the guy who took her purse.

Thanks, Cheryl, for giving me the most memorable birthday dinner ever. If that’s a sign of the kind of year I’m going to have, I think I’m in for the ride of a lifetime!

Strange Single Behaviour

Do you have any SSBs? Strange Single Behaviours, that is. I do. I mean, I think I do. I’ve lived alone and been single for so long now, I think I’ve developed some habits and things that I like to do alone that I suspect others would think are a little strange.

For instance, I like to sing when I’m on the toilet. I mean, I’m already in the bathroom, the room with the best acoustics, I might as well sing a song, right? Every. Single. Time. And I usually sound great.

I also talk to myself a lot. Not like, full-on conversations, but I’ll talk myself through my agenda for the day (or whatever), remind myself to do things, ask myself questions. I laugh out loud if I remember something funny that someone said to me. If I drop something, I’ve noticed lately that I say “whoopsie daisy” a lot. That’s a little weird, right?


I watch a lot of YouTube. Which in and of itself is not strange, but if I imagine living with someone and them taking notice of what I’m watching, what I invest a lot of time and sometimes thought and emotion in, they would probably think I’m a bit of a weirdo.

I don’t shut any doors. Perhaps this one isn’t that strange, but because I’m by myself, I leave the bathroom door open when I’m showering, etc., and I leave my bedroom door open when I go to sleep at night. I don’t know why, I guess it’s because the whole space is mine, and I don’t need to “claim space” from someone else, so I like to keep it all open? That sounds right.

I’ve been known to take my bra off while watching TV, leaving it on the couch, often forgetting about it being there, and then awkwardly having to grab it when someone comes over unexpectedly.

I get naked a lot. It’s my preferred state. I walk around, watch TV, read, and generally putter around in the buff. A couple of times I’ve had to remind myself to throw something on before going out on the balcony, lest I give the neighbourhood a show. I usually do this out loud. Naturally.

I tend to pour several and various drinks for myself, never finishing any of them, leaving a trail of half-empty (or half-full??) cups all over my apartment. I feel like that’s not so much strange as it is annoying, and if I ever live with someone, I’ll probably have to curb that habit.

I started thinking about this because a friend of mine whose partner went away for a week was telling me how strange it was to be on his own in their place, how he felt all discombobulated and kind of bored. He remarked that he “doesn’t know how I do what I do,” being on my own all the time. It was meant as a compliment, and I took it that way. As I always say, if you don’t like hanging out with you, how can you expect someone else to? But, it did get me thinking.

What if I’ve passed the point of no return and I’m not able to live with someone harmoniously? What if I’m so entrenched in my routines and ways of doing things, that I’ve lost the ability to be flexible with someone else in my space? I’m so used to doing my own thing, not having to consider anyone else in my day-to-day existence in my home, what if I can’t do it?

If I don’t feel like doing the dishes until the next day, then I don’t do them until the next day. And you know what? No one dies, there are no consequences for me not doing the dishes right away. That’s the thing: there’s no one to answer to, no one to be accountable to, no one to judge my strange single behaviour.

I’m not even sure how I’d go about trying to watch TV with someone. What if we wanted to watch different things? What if my future partner doesn’t like that I walk around naked all the time? What if he wants me to shut the door when I go to the bathroom and take a shower? Will I have to watch my YouTube vlogs in secret and stop singing on the toilet? Oh God, what if end up with a morning person!?!?!?

Of course, none of this deal-breaker material, nor is it something I won’t be able to work through, but it’s something to think about, for sure. I guess I just hope that I end up living with someone who appreciates (or even loves) my weird habits.

Or, perhaps I’ll be on my own forever, in which case, this is all moot, and I’ve just let hundreds of people in on my strange inner-world, where there’s lots of singing, not so many clothes, and where “whoopsie daisies” abound.


Confessions of a girl in transition

I don’t know much about fung shui, and I’m not an interior decorator by any means, but I do think I have good taste when it comes to general aesthetics, clothes, style and colours (especially lipstick!). I must say, there is something to be said for creating a living space that is conducive to health and happiness. I didn’t quite realize this until recently.

I’m in the process of moving. It’s exhilarating and thrilling but it’s also exhausting and overwhelming. I think these are totally typical emotions for anyone moving. I read a statistic recently that moving is just as stressful as death and divorce. Well, that makes a lot of sense.


For me, this move is very important. I keep using the phrase “game changer” or “just the change I need” or “a very welcome change” and those are all true, of course they are. But, it’s more than that for me. Without putting too fine a point on it, I think this move is both life-changing for me, and also life-saving.

As I’ve shared before, I’ve been struggling with depression and hypothyroidism. This is all new to me. But, like every challenge I have faced in my life, I’m tackling it head-on. Or, rather I’m doing my best to confront it and manage it. I’m very good at that. If you give me a challenge, I’m going to meet it head on and succeed. At least that’s always been my M.O.

I’m seeing my family doctor and am taking medication for my thyroid, as well as an anti-depressant. I’m seeing a therapist, and just recently began working with a naturopath to support my thyroid health, help with my headaches and migraines and basically help heal my body. This is all very positive, and I know it’s all helping. I’m feeling better, more like myself, I have more energy, I’m happier, and a little bit more in control of my life.

But, as with everything, there are ebbs and flows, and the stress of this move, the logistics of it, the timing of it, in addition to all the organizational changes going on at work right now, the fact that I’ve been hemorrhaging money lately and have been essentially a zombie, is wearing on me.

I was at my old place last night to clean and put out the 4,000 bags of garbage I had accumulated in purging. It was hot, it was the end of a long day, I didn’t want to go in the first place and I was headachey from the cleaning fumes.

I had a meltdown, guys. I cried, I may have thrown some things, I screamed and swore a little bit. I cursed my old landlord (f-ing bastard), I cursed the place itself, its bad energy, the shitty situation that I had allowed myself to endure for far too long. I cursed myself for being so blind to how sick I’ve been, how long I had been living in darkness and didn’t realize it. I know that sounds impossible, like how could a person be so unhappy, so unhealthy, so outside of themselves and not realize it? That’s depression. I guess. I’m learning too.

There was a point when I just didn’t want to go on. I sat down in my chair in my old, dusty, bleak living room, and just wept. I just wanted to transport myself to my new place, I wanted to go home. But even that is up in the air because there’s a problem with the lease and the property management company that I’m still working through. I’m in a state of limbo, I’m not settled, I can’t quite get my bearings. I’ve had two migraines in the last two weeks. That is unusual. I mean, I’ve always suffered migraines and headaches, but they’re usually not that frequent. I think it’s the stress.

So, this week has not been stellar. I can feel myself slipping. But I don’t want to! I want to continue to feel better and make progress. I also want everything with my lease to be settled and finally, fully move into my new, beautiful, spacious, light-filled, clean and stylish apartment. But, we can’t always get what we want, right?

Over the course of this week, I’ve been slowly chipping away at emptying boxes and finding a home for all my belongings in my new place. Josh and James were over on Sunday and they put my new bookshelves together for me. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, because I’m a book nerd, but as soon as those babies were up, and I started to unearth my books from their boxes, I felt a wave of comfort. I’ve been taking my time filling the shelves with all my book-babies, carefully arranging and rearranging them, making it just so. Last night when I finally got home and after I had a hot shower to rinse off the day, I sat in my new chair and just looked at my glorious books, nestled in their new cases, and I felt calm.

Ebbs and flows, ebbs and flows.

An incident, an epiphany, and a lesson

When I woke up this morning, I was in a good mood. This is significant because I haven’t felt that way in a long, long time. I had an early meeting, so I jumped on the call from home, and then finished getting ready for work. I was having a good hair day, I loved my outfit, I was wearing a new necklace which I’m quite in love with. In short, I was feeling myself. And I can’t underscore this enough, I was feeling good mostly because feeling good has been somewhat unfamiliar to me lately.

And then it happened. I got on the streetcar, as I do every day, and within minutes, found myself the target of someone’s wrath. I don’t know for sure, but I would suspect this young man was mentally ill, high, or both. He was clearly disturbed and muttering profanities under his breath, until he caught my eye, and proceeded to direct all that anger and nastiness to me, specifically. He came near me, stood quite close to me and started hurling every imaginable insult you could think of at me. He told me I was a slut, a disgusting fat hoe, a whore, a bitch, a cunt, and that I should get raped.

He kept banging on the streetcar pole I was hanging on to and towering over me. I just stood there, trying not to make eye contact, reminding myself not to engage because who knows what could happen and I didn’t want to escalate the situation. It didn’t take long for people around us to notice what was happening and intervene. Thank goodness. Someone told the streetcar driver and he stopped the streetcar and got the man off without incident. I stood there, stunned and humiliated, crying.

I know, rationally, that that had nothing to do with me. I just happened to be the target of his rage, and it quite literally could have been anyone else on that streetcar this morning. But, I can’t help it, I’m human, and maybe a little extra delicate these days, and I felt utterly mortified, shaken, defeated and beaten down.

I got to work, said my usual “good mornings” and when my colleagues asked me how I was, I looked at them and started crying again, recounting the story. They were wonderful and supportive, reminding me that it had nothing to do with me, and that I did the right thing by not trying to talk back to him, etc.

It did make me feel better, but man alive! What’s that saying? Two steps forward, one step back? That’s how it feels. I went to the bathroom to collect myself and try to reset for the day, and as I was looking in the mirror, I began to think that perhaps my hair didn’t really look as good as I had first thought, that my outfit is cute, but I wished I’d worn a different bra with this shirt, and that I should have shaved my legs today. I was allowing those dark and insidious feelings of failure and of not being good enough creep back into the well-worn pathways in my brain, undoing a lot of the work I’ve done to change those pathways over the last few months. And as I was staring at my reflection, mentally dressing myself down, I stopped myself. I stopped myself because I can’t let the randomness of that person’s rage (or illness) get to me. He didn’t care about (or even know) what he was saying to me, so why should I let it hold such importance to me?

In an effort to remain productive all day and, admittedly, distract myself from this morning’s events, I started to clean out folders on my desktop. In doing so, I stumbled upon something I had written to myself (I do this a lot, not sure if I’m alone in that) last year when I ran into an ex who had seemingly moved on with his life and is now married, with a baby. I guess I was feeling down about that. Here’s what I wrote to myself:

When you see or talk to someone who was in your life for a time, and you see that their life has changed, or moved in a certain way, by comparison, it can feel like you’ve been standing still.

But, that’s just perspective. And one’s life moving or changing in a certain way, during a certain period of time, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s positive or a move forward.

We have no idea what really goes on in people’s lives, you know? And comparison, while sometimes hard (or impossible) to resist, really isn’t very productive or healthy.

If it makes you stop and think for a minute about your own life and maybe evaluate certain aspects of it, that can be a wonderful thing. But, when we let it get us down, it becomes poison. I think it’s better to look inward and tally up all the great things I love about my life and be in the moment to appreciate that I am where I’m supposed to be.

Sounds a little Oprahesque, (she’s my girl though!), but I truly believe it. And I just wanted to share my thoughts with you to maybe, perhaps, just a little, steer you to more positive, encouraging and empowering thoughts about yourself and your life.

Obviously, they are completely different situations, but I think I was on to something. Reject the poisonous thoughts, embrace what’s good about you, and be thankful to be where you are in your life seem to be pretty solid rules to live by. And worth remembering when you’re randomly harassed on public transit.

As my dad always says: smile, sunshine’s good for your teeth!

The cult of busy

How many times a week do you find yourself responding to the question “How are you?” with “Good! Busy, but good!”

For me, it’s almost every single time I’m asked the question. And it’s not that it’s my automatic, rote response. I am being sincere when I exclaim (or sometimes just state, matter-of-factly), that I am, indeed, a very busy person.

But, what does that mean exactly? Busy compared to what? Or whom? Isn’t it all kind of relative anyway? I wonder if the feeling of being busy is actually just a symptom of poor time management. I also wonder if we, as a culture, conflate activity and productivity? If we’re constantly doing things, filling our time with doing, even if we’re not accomplishing anything, can we call that busy?


Here’s the thing; somewhere along the way (I’m not sure when or how, but it’s been a progressive evolution), people have gradually lost time in their days. Days aren’t shorter, the last time I checked, there’s still 24 hours in each one. I think the loss, or feeling loss of time is partly that we work longer hours, we have longer commutes, we drive our kids everywhere, and go further afield as we navigate urban sprawl to get places. We pack our kids’ weeks with lessons and classes and play dates and birthday parties (which all, inexplicably to me, must be chaperoned by a parent), and spend an inordinate amount of time in the car, shuffling children to and fro.

For singles, especially in a big metropolis with lots to offer, we fill our time with work, undoubtedly, which often bleeds into our social lives – I have so many work friends! We log volunteer hours (which is a worthy use of time, in my opinion) and go on dates (for some of us, that takes up the time of – and feels as arduous as – a second job). And more to the point, we join groups, we chair committees, we write blogs (ha!), we plan weekend getaways with friends, and we go to events.

The point is, my friends, not that we fill our time with these wonderful, varied and worthy things which amount to us being busy, but that somewhere along the way, being busy itself became an accomplishment, a badge of honour, a bragging right, something of which to be proud, and to which to aspire.

That’s the thing I’m interested in – I don’t really care how you fill your time outside of your core life responsibilities, I just hope everyone is happy exploring the things and endeavors which sustain them and bring them joy. I’m interested in the psychology behind why we, as a whole, seem compelled to let everyone know how busy we are. It’s become a stick by which to measure our worthiness, I think. It’s subtle, and mostly subconscious, but it’s pervasive. It’s like we’ve all collectively agreed that we’re in a competition and whoever is the busiest gets the prize.

And I’m certainly guilty of it. Maybe it comes from a deep, dark place where my insecurities live, and I imbue all the things I do, the ways in which I like to keep busy, with (perhaps) undue importance, to subconsciously compensate for the fact that I don’t have a family (of my own) to keep me busy. I’ve never really thought about it in those terms before. Hmmm, methinks I might be on to something…

Or not. I mean, I’ve always been this way. I’ve always been a joiner, a doer. I like being a part of things, I like exploring parts of myself through social interactions, volunteering and educational pursuits, and I’m not particularly fond of routine. My mom always tells me “you’d be bored if you weren’t busy” and she’s right. And boredom, for me, as it turns out is perilous to my mental health. I know that now. My mom is always worried that I’m burning the candle at both ends though, and she signs off almost every conversation we have on the phone by telling me to eat something, go to bed early and not to work too hard. I love it, it’s endearing, because what she’s really saying is “I love you,” so I always answer, “yes mom, I will, you’re right I should, and I’ll try not to.”

I don’t think I’m going to stop keeping myself busy. It’s just who I am, and what fuels me and brings me joy. I think I will, however, try to be a bit more conscious of how much of my worth I’m gleaning from how busy I am. When people ask me how I am, I’m going to start answering the question a bit more genuinely, and resist the urge to declare with pride all the things I have going on in my life, because that’s not really an answer, is it?

I’m off to New York City tomorrow for a few days to sing at Carnegie Hall with my choir. I’m very excited. A few of my best friends are coming along for the trip (and to support me, of course), and we have some touristy things planned. But, I’m going to focus on enjoying myself, being in the moment, and relishing this once in a lifetime opportunity to sing on that stage under the baton of John Rutter. I’m going to slow down, take it all in, and not for one second, worry about how many things I can pack into the days I’ll be there. I don’t want this trip to be a whirlwind, I want to savour it, and for once in my life, not be busy.

Back from the dead

Of course, I wasn’t actually dead. I just felt like I was. Which seems quite hyperbolic as I write it now, but if we’re being metaphorical, (and we are because obviously I don’t know what it feels like to be dead) because I’ve never been dead before (or have I? Who knows!?!), I would liken what I’ve been experiencing lately to what I imagine feels like coming back from the dead.

Depression is no joke. We talk all the time about working to erase the stigma of mental illness, and I suppose that’s what my underlying intention is here, because this certainly isn’t easy for me to share. But it’s necessary, I think. The truth is, guys, that I’ve been struggling lately. A lot. In a way that I’ve never struggled before, which is saying a lot, because I’ve been through some shit.

I’m not sure when this all started, but I suspect that it’s been lying in wait for quite some time. My doctor suggests that it was actually a series of triggers that for whatever reason, as I experienced them in succession, resulted in severe depression. I’ve also learned that my depression is exacerbated by my newly-discovered Hypothyroidism. Or it was the Hypothyroidism that incited the depression. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, really, and I don’t think we’ll ever really know for certain. So, there’s a lot going on, a lot to unpack, and it’s really just the beginning.

6157935293_5318232873_zYou know that saying “you must know the darkness before you can appreciate the light” (or something like that)? That’s the kind of…awakening I’ve been experiencing lately. Now that I’m taking medication and seeing a therapist and working on my self-care, I’m beginning to feel much better. But, the surprising thing is that I didn’t know how crappy I was feeling until I started to feel better. I was buried so deeply in the darkness that I didn’t even realize it until I started to see some light trickle in. That’s the thing about depression, it sneaks up on you.

I can feel a boost in my energy, although I’m still struggling with fatigue and exhaustion. But, it’s getting better. I’ve noticed that my legs and feet don’t hurt as much as they used to, I’m not as stiff and inflexible as I was, and it doesn’t hurt as much to go up and down stairs. I’m laughing more, I’m not canceling plans as often as I was to just stay home on my couch. I’m slowly becoming more engaged with my life again. I can feel that I’m able to focus more, my memory is better, I’m less distracted. It’s like I’ve been living in a fog for the last couple of years (if I’m being honest) but had no idea. Depression just seeped into my life, like the insidious disruptor that it is, and I was oblivious. Until I wasn’t.

I’m lucky though. I’m lucky that I had a specific incident that made me realize something was really wrong. If that hadn’t happened, who knows how much longer I would have continued to numbly stumble through my life, thinking everything was my fault and shortcoming, until something very terrible happened?

I’m lucky that I’m a grown woman with well-developed and solid life skills to manage myself through this. Once I realized that something was very wrong with me, I made an appointment with my doctor and sought counseling. If I was younger, or perhaps just a different, less experienced person, I’m not sure I would have made those decisions so quickly and easily. If I was a person who was caught up in the stigma of mental illness, I might have tried to hide what I was experiencing. And if I hadn’t gone to the doctor and suggested to her that I get blood work done just to rule anything out, I would never have known that my Thyroid was practically non-functioning and making me ill.

I’m lucky that I work for a company with excellent benefits across the board, but particularly for mental health. Whether I could afford medication or therapy didn’t even cross my mind. All I had to worry about was getting the help I need.

And I’m lucky because I have wonderful friends. I mean really, truly the best. If I have ever doubted for even a second (which I thankfully never have) that my friends love me and want the best for me, this ordeal has only cemented for me the knowledge that I have surrounded myself with the most caring, loving and supportive friends a girl could ask for. And ditto for my family, boss and colleagues.

I’m clawing my way out of this. I want to feel better, I don’t want to live in a foggy, hazy world where everything is distorted through a grim, hopeless lens. I want to emerge from the dark and not only find the light again, I want to be the light again. I was, once. I think I can get back there. I just have to continue to ask for help, focus on self-care and health, and remember that there are others who aren’t as lucky as I am. There are lots of people who live in darkness every day, struggling to let the light trickle in.

Be kind to one another, be the light.