Thursday, September 17, 2009

I want to go to there...

It happened again today and it’s really just the sheer ridiculous number of times it’s happened that made me sit up and take notice and then of course to sit down again and write about it. Because of course – as should by now be crystal clear – once I’ve got one thought on the go, it’s never very long before another comes sidling along to keep it company and the tangentializing begins like that shampoo commercial where the girl told two friends… who told two friends… and so on and so on and so on.
So what happened again today (for the umpteenth time – an amount that’s situationally-dependent, but for the sake of argument lets say at least 20 times in the past month) was that someone came up and asked me for directions.
Nothing out of the ordinary, right? But then, mere moments later another strange somebody came up and asked me for a whole bunch more directions, which was obviously just apres him le deluge because before another ten minutes had passed a third person came up to me and asked for his very own set.
And it’s not like I was the lone potential directions-giver. This all occurred on a very congested bit of pavement at University and King on a Wednesday evening at about 6 PM. Total rush hour. The streets were clogged with traffic and the sidewalks were practically shoulder to shoulder with busy business men (and women) on the go. And each time the same thing happened: the direction-asker would sweep her (or his) eyes across the wall of humanity before bearing down on me with all the deliberate awkwardness of a drunk at a cocktail party.
And each time I had to smile and shake my head and tell them no – sorry, I have no idea where your there is.
But they keep asking.
Now by no means am I suggesting that being asked for directions makes me eligible for special notice – or in fact that in this instance or for any other reason I’m the least bit special at all – but it came hard on the heels of the day before where I was accosted at question point twice in one hour. See what I’m saying? It was the multiples that caused the notice, but even without the coincidence factor, I have always been vaguely aware that if someone is lost and I am in the vicinity, it is likely to me they will be turning. Bless them – bless them and their completely misbegotten faith in my directions-friendly face.
I don’t know why, but what I think it must mean is I’ve got the kind of face that looks as though it knows where it’s going and would be happy to let others know where they’re going too.
Sadly, those two truths remain eternally unconnected because though I would be perfectly content to share any bit of helpful information with anyone that asked, I almost never know where I’m going if it’s the slightest bit off my regular grid and unless people are asking me for directions to my actual home, I probably don’t know how to get them where they’re going either.
This is a lifelong issue. I am famed for my inability to find or follow directions. To apply a map with actual streets. To instinctively know east from west (west is the direction my friend lives in – east is on the way to that PetSmart off Laird) though I’ve got north and south nailed as up and down. Thank God. But even those simple compass points require constant, vigilant practice to make me feel comfortable relying on them as I can easily be bamboozled into turning the whole thing upside down or inside out and be completely lost in the rolling of an eye.
Just last week I was off to meet a friend for dinner (n.b. I am genius – read ‘adequate’ – with subways and streetcars) and after using up every drop of TTC available to me, hit the pavement and began the ordeal of finding her by going to completely the wrong location on the first try. Not just the wrong direction – totally and utterly not the place. I was canny enough to ask the host of the wrong restaurant where the right one was and he gave me very simple directions: return in the direction from which I came, walk until I hit Adelaide, then turn left and keep going until I either walked straight into or right past the place I intended to go.
What could be simpler? I knew the direction I had come from and I knew for sure without even thinking twice (one glance at the hand that holds the pencil was enough) which way was left. So why did I decide to turn left several blocks earlier than advised with an idea that I would then turn right and then left and (oh, jeez, who knows?) end up at the destination from my own trajectory. Why? Why did I think I knew better than the man who knew absolutely where I was going and the best way to get there? Why was I so sure I was clever enough to achieve this? Why – with years and years and years of personal experience and hard-won knowledge that I suck at going places - did I suddenly decide to become Direction Girl?
The answer remains unfathomable. I mean, even in these relatively few paragraphs (relatively few for me…) you must have grasped that when it comes to going places, there is where I am not. That striking off on my own is likely as foolhardy as my secret conviction I could do surgery if I tried.
But weirdly, I do this all the time. It’s as though I’m continually testing myself to see if I can suddenly start finding my way – as though I might wake up one morning miraculously equipped with some kind of mental GPS – without any effort on my part. As though finding places and reading maps is a state of mind that can change, perhaps when that particular state of mind has simply had enough of getting lost, or the loser gets bonked on the head or experiences an electric shock or has a piano dropped on them.
But each morning I awake, as determinedly geographically-challenged as the day before.
It’s ok. Eventually I get where I’m going.
I got to my dinner date not much more than half an hour late and my date was brilliantly forgiving and understanding. All the recriminations were going on inside my head between me and me – and that’s not an argument that’s going to end anytime soon.
But from now on I am committed to taking a cab when meetings are critical and destinations are unfamiliar. I will give myself extra time on the more casual occasions when I feel myself starting to feel quietly adventurous. I will listen more carefully, make more notes and repeat instructions as often as necessary to simply get the address correct. I will accept this handicap as is, admit I have a problem and not hope for a piano to fall on my head.
And as for where you’re going? Unless that’s a philosophical question, it’s probably best not to ask.
Remember, it’s not the destination – it’s the journey.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cry me a river

When a top professional tells you your breasts are amazingly photogenic, you can rest assured you’re hearing it from someone who knows.

Of course when that professional is a medical imaging technician and the view she’s raving over is entirely internal, some of the pixie dust tends to dissipate. When you yourself get a gander at the captures and see nothing so much as a sort of fuzzy astronomical chart of the Milky Way, your confidence reverts to entirely pre-compliment status. But such was the opinion of the nice lady at Women’s College Hospital and such was all I was able to take away from my second mammogram.

Last time I endured the discomfort and indignity of a mammogram and breast ultrasound I took away a good deal more, from a personal insight, to an instant diagnosis, both of which I felt compelled to write about and gained the distinction of being the first writer ever to have the word “tits” published in the Globe and Mail. (Eulogy material! Score!)

There’s a PS to that story too (which I also wrote about; there was a time when I could hardly go to the bathroom without making, if you don’t mind me saying, a blog entry) whereby a woman who read the story contacted the Globe to get in touch with me. Seems she had also been moved by my experience… she had been reading my essay on the way to her own appointment with boobular destiny at the imaging clinic and took a special comfort in my personal happy ending. The surprise (even shock, she related) was that her name was Jane Wilson too. Imagine: it would be like coming across a secret letter from yourself to yourself, telling you everything was going to be alright.

But this time around I received no immediate answers – no publishable material – no distinctive anecdotes; just the remarkable experience of being treated like a human being in the often inhuman business of doctoring.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the medical world (I’ve always said that with a properly illustrated textbook and a sharp steak knife, I could take out an appendix. And really, I’m almost certain of this…) from volunteering at the Sick Kids, to supporting friends and loved ones unfortunately buried right up to their necks in it, for reasons less than desirable.

I suppose it began with my mother and her time(s) spent in hospital for treatment of, and then for dying of breast cancer, through my father and his time in hospital and in hospice before death, kindly at home, to my dear darling friend who has battled an absolute army of illness since I first met her more than 10 years ago. She’s had fully three different types of cancer, requiring surgery and chemotherapy and she battles on – with a few less bits and pieces (nothing she can’t live without) and a patience that’s starting to become just the faintest bit frayed around the edges as cancer has once again reared its hideous head to tease and taunt and terrify us all once more.

And in all those times and through all those experiences, I’m very sad to report that more often than not the treatments – and those who treated – were the worst part of the experience.

This is not in any way to suggest that overall, medical professionals are cold, emotionless automatons, bound and determined to make a bad time worse (or even like Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man, grim, determined, practiced sadists) just that in the most tender and terrifying moments, it is the rare professional who is able to make the worst moments better. Or even bearable. I am speaking of course of the highest ranks of medicine – the surgeons, internists and specialists – because with equally rare exception my experiences with nurses and GP’s have been nothing short of life-saving.

Is it their job, you ask? Their job to comfort and support and empathize with people in extremis? It’s not written down anywhere, so I guess the answer is no. But surely it is the fundamental job of humans to make the plight of other humans easier to bear – and no more importantly than at the moment of a devastating diagnosis.

I can take my father out of this equation almost entirely. With the exception of a few of the very highest placed specialists (who were the most unpleasant of all the medical people I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet) he was surrounded by the support and even love of his GP and the professionals she guided him toward, to help guide him through his last weeks and days. As far as I can tell, she went out of her way – the infamous above and beyond – to gently lead him down the painful path of acceptance and then readiness for death. When he died at home late at night, she was standing by and came over past midnight to sign his death certificate and kiss his forehead before he was taken away by the funeral people.

(As he was removed from his lovely home, zipped up in a big black bag and rolled away on a gurney, my brother was amazed that a) it could even happen to this man who had loomed so large in all our lives, for all our lives, and, b) that it was he who was leaving and we who were staying.
“I get the feeling we should just all clear out and he should be bricked in with all his books and clocks and paintings. Nail boards over the door, seal the place right up and leave him here like a pharaoh in a pyramid.” I agreed. But it was a condominium and I knew even then there was no way we could have gotten the condo board to go along. They were, to a jaded soul, next to medical specialists, the most unromantic folks you could ever care to meet.)

But the story was very different for my mother. When she received her second (and last) diagnosis, telling her the cancer had returned, complete with the intelligence that there was no treatment, there was no cure, there was no hope, she, rather understandably, began to cry. She was told, abruptly and with neither preamble nor sympathy, to pull herself together and get out of her doctor’s office.

I always told myself this was because it was so long ago – in the 80’s – when bedside manner wasn’t taught at school along with injecting oranges and memorizing what the hipbone and everything else is connected to.
But honestly? I really don't think anything has changed.
For my friend… well, with her the story is different yet again. I hadn’t met her during her first bout with cancer, but have stood by her for most everything else over the last decade or so. Because I’m a freelancer, I’ve been able to accompany her to most of her appointments. I’m there to play cards, make jokes, suggest diversions, gossip and giggle and basically get her through the waiting period, before going into the examination room with her and remembering the questions she wants to ask when fear and anxiety have got the best of her for a few moments. (She also has an appalling memory. Mine is slightly less so.)
With her, I’ve gotten to know all the receptionists and nurses; we see each other every six months for routine checkups between shocking diagnoses, and we are for the most part all happy to see each other. Her oncologist (a very important one) and his interns are amongst the exceptions; they’re thoughtful and nice and patient. And hopeful – a quality I cannot laude highly enough.
But there are always a few wormy apples you have to brace yourself against. Take the young bottom-of-the-barrel doctor-ette who was filling in for the oncologist’s own intern one stressful day when my friend asked her how much longer before she’d be seen.
We’d already waited hours for what was supposed to be a quick appointment before we needed to high-tail it over to the hospital next door to be prepped for an unrelated surgery; the one we were waiting for was for lymphoma, the one we were on our way to was for colon cancer. (Did I mention how brave my friend is?) Anyway, we had a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity; if we waited much longer the surgery would have to be re-scheduled – an agony almost worse than the impending operation. What I’m saying, is we weren’t moaning for fear we’d miss our pedicure appointments. This woman, this fill-in intern, this creature took one look at my friend (who it should be noted was simply one of about 40 people with cancer waiting to see a doctor that day) blew out her cheeks in exasperation, and told her she didn’t know.
“It’s just that I have to be at Mount Sinai in half an hour,” says my lovely friend.
Oh cry me a river,” said this Satan in scrubs, and blew past her on her way to heaven (or hell) knows where.
Cry me a river. Right up there with the oncologist who recently told a chemotherapy patient asking for help with the side-effects: We don’t care.

I’ve got more stories, each more inexplicably chilling than the last. The surgeon who wanted a piece of my friend’s liver so badly, she didn’t want to wait for biopsy. “I’ll take about 40%; we’ll follow up with chemo. Look at the time – must run.” She was wrong. At that point the cancer had not progressed and the prognosis was good. We made all sorts of Chianti and fava beans jokes after that. What else was there to do? Then there was the post-op technician in the recovery room who told her to stop whining about her pain, before discovering the morphine drip had been pulled out of her vein and was soaking into the mattress.

And I know that there are people who will be reading this who have had marvelous, exceptional, joyful, even transcendent experiences – exciting satisfying adventures in medicine. More likely, there have been those of you who have had wonderfully unremarkable experiences. Or who can relate stories of pleasant, even caring salutations with those who are about to help you stop dying. We all have our anecdotes – these are just mine.

The day after tomorrow is another biopsy day for my pal. We gird our loins (or rather, I do – hers need to be sort of un-girded for the procedure) call on our reserves of charm (you’d be amazed at how important sucking up is – it’s saved us a time or two) and convince ourselves once more that this is just another predictable discomfort on the way to confounding them all again by surviving.

And my tits by the way, are okay. My humane and human specialist went above and beyond, and even to some trouble, to secure my old films to make double sure in a compare-and-contrast sort of way that the photogenic pair are here to stay that way.

And I appreciate the kindness almost more than the prognosis.

P.S. Having said all the preceding, I am still grateful beyond all measure that I actually have a health care system to bash...
P.P.S. The girlfriend is great - she had the liver resection, but it looks as though they got it all and she won't require chemo. It is the best possible outcome and we are all thrilled.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Speaking of cats

It's come to this.
I have crossed a line... or a bridge... or a Rubicon... or something you cross (time/space continuum?) and have arrived on the other side bewildered. And not entirely happy.
You think maybe it could happen some day; perhaps you've heard tell that it's happened to others - you might've read a book on the subject or shared a joke with your friends; but you just personally pray that that ignominious day will either a) never come, or b) come, but not make itself known, personally, to you, so you can fool yourself that that day, hasn't actually... er... come.
Essentially, I was called out.
Thinking about it isn't so bad - saying it out loud, slightly less than not bad - but hearing it... and hearing it in a sentence that is clearly directed at no one other than you - well, that's a whole 'nother proposition altogether. An entirely different kettle of worms.
Here's what happened:
I was on the subway, lateish - 9 or so - returning from an evening with friends. I was dressed against the inhospitably (some might say downright unfairly) inclement weather (covered up is what I'm saying) leaning in the doorway, just basically doodly-doo-ing in my head - counting stops, reading posters, checking out my cohorts on this journey... when I noticed one of my cohorts was similarly checking out me. Intently.
With purpose even.
Back to aggressive doodly-dooing... darting eyes re-recording what I've already exhaustively read poster-wise... studying the subway map as if I didn't know what comes after Summerhill and before Davisville... pretend-checking my purse for... what? (Keys, phone, wallet, gum... whatever...) and then one quick glance across the seats opposite me - and there he is again. staring... studying me like, well, like a subway poster.
He's 20-something-ish. Cute. Okay, very. Looks like Cat Stevens pre-Yusuf - all dark, shiny, curly hair, twinkly eyes (creepy-starer he may be, but credit where credit is due) and (as far as I can tell) sober.
Age him ten years or so and he's a dating trifecta.
But I'm shy. It's embarrassing being stared at - I'm deeply uncomfortable with it - and I just want it to stop. It stops. It stops when he gets up and walks straight toward me. And everyone is watching.
"Hey," he says, "I just wanted to tell you you look beautiful tonight." He growls it sort of, but it's an articulate growl.
I don't know where to look. My eyes do some more darting, blinking (plink, plink) before I face him. I take a deep breath.
"Thanks," I say, not burdened at that moment by a surfeit of articulateness. I think I touched my hair. Blushed.
He smiles. His eyes pierce me.
"So," he says, "I guess you're what they call a cougar, eh?"
Black. It all just went black. I'm pretty sure my mouth fell open. I know my pupils dilated. (I just know.)
"I beg your pardon," say I in a tone that begs nothing; as if by questioning it, I can somehow demand it be retrieved. A take-back... a cosmic do-over.
But it was done.
He looks at me, puzzled. I suspect he's familiar with the look of happy women, but at this moment he's face-to-face with the unfamiliar.
"But why," he asks. "What's the matter?"
"Let me give you a tip," I say to him as our subway car bursts back into the light and slows down as we prepare to stop at the place that lies between Summerhill and Davisville. "Take it from me: women don't like to be called 'cougars'. It's an insult."
"But why?" he asks again, genuinely surprised.
"Because it's a term whose implication suggests that older women prey on young men. It makes us sound like sex-mad predators," I tell him. "It's not the least bit flattering. It makes us sound desperate." I pause. "It makes us sound old."
The train stops. The doors judder open.
"But what am I going to call you that will get me a date," he asks, twinkle snapped miraculously back in place.
I am not moved this time. This time I have moved on.
I look straight at him.
"Nothing," I reply, and with the perfect timing for which I am not the least bit renowned, I step off the train and the doors slam shut.
I am a woman of a certain age. I am hanging onto that last frayed, split-ended, dangling piece of string that tethers me to the kite of the baby boomer generation. Minutes away really, if you want to stretch a point (let's) to that generation known as "X".
I look after myself, I look good for my age; I wear lipstick when I go out and high heels (virtually no matter the weather) and on a good day, I hold my own.
I am not a cougar.
And if you disagree with me - seriously - I'll scratch your eyes out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How lucky can you get?

We’re mere days away from Superbowl XXQVCII. (Or something – seriously I have no idea which year this is; I was going to look it up, but really, why bother? If you care, you know… if like me you could go the rest of your life without ever hearing how much Pepsi is paying for a thirty second spot, or which inappropriate, non-football related pop star – Janet Jackson? Please. Jessica Simpson – umm whaa? - is going to perform at half time, then knowing how many years in Roman numerals this game has been going on is seriously more information than I could ever possibly wish to know…in whatever format you choose to announce it…)
So though I won’t be watching the game, one thing I’m unlikely to miss is the ever-popular aftermath sure to lead each and every newscast for the next 24 hour cycle, complete with coaches and players all praising the Almighty for making the unquestionably correct choice in awarding them the game ball. I don’t doubt there will be prayers prayed beforehand, during, and after – in grateful thanks, or in dazed, confused misery for how things could go so terribly, terribly wrong.
Personally, I don’t pray to God for things. I think it’s presumptuous, obnoxious and actually, completely inappropriate. I want all His energy directed toward the starving, the homeless, the diseased, the abused and the abandoned. And I don’t ever want to be in a position, quite frankly, where my problems are of a type critical enough to move up to a pre-eminent spot on His celestial agenda.
I don’t pray for things. I just… wish for them.
Like last Sunday. (And just to reiterate, God had nothing to do with it. I have it on the highest authority that on the day He was either in church or resting.) I was on my way to meet my friend Tom for coffee, scuffling along through the slush, day dreaming and dum-dee-dumming as one does. And I remember just one clear thought that day: gee – these socks are comfy!
The day before (also a busy day for Him – too busy by far to be keeping an eye on me) the same Tom and I had gone shopping at one of our favourite haunts – the Dollarama! What a place – a virtual Aladdin’s cave of treasures and trinkets – and all for one single dollar! Everything you could imagine – though perhaps not of strictly the highest possible quality – sitting out in huge piles, just begging to be taken home. I defy anyone to go into one of these places and not come out with something. Kitchenware, bathroom fixtures, soap, shampoo, pens, pencils, pads, erasers, reading glasses, make-up, pots, pans, toys, beads, placemats, gift bags… the list is endless.
(Like the poem about Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout – who "Would not take the garbage out". She would: “…boil the water and open the cans and scrub the pots and scour the pans and grate the cheese and shell the peas and mash the yams and spice the hams and make the jams, but though her daddy would scream and shout – she would not take the garbage out! ...And so it piled up to the ceilings, coffee grounds, potato peelings, mouldy bread and withered greens, olive pits and soggy beans, clamshells, eggshells, stale scones, sour milk and mushy plums, crumbly cake and cookie crumbs…” and so it goes – on and on and on. I don’t want to give anything away (spoiler alert) but things don’t end so well.)
Not that there’s anything remotely garbagey about the Dollarama – though you certainly can get garbage cans and garbage bags and environmentally friendly poop n’ scoop dog poo bags and rubber gloves and disinfectant and J Cloths and brooms and dustpans and even air fresheners, should the former somehow fail to address the issue, as well as food and snacks and candy and nuts and gum and ashtrays and lunchboxes and Tupperware and crayons and colouring books and hair elastics and underwear and (I swear, God help me – not literally though, you understand) even white and flesh-tone lift-and-separate brassieres for $1!
And socks. Lovely, lovely, squishy, teddy bear textured, terry towel inspired, colourful, delicious, impossibly kitten-soft socks. For a dollar. I bought two pair.
And I was wearing one of those pairs on Sunday – my Sunday-go-to-coffee socks – enjoying their unmatched comfort so much so that I actually thought to myself: “I wish I had a hundred dollars so I could buy 100 pairs of these fabulous socks and never, ever wear any other kind ever, ever again.”
On my honour, that was my wish. And an original one too; I never have wished - and likely never will again - for $100.
Moments later I was in the coffee shop and there was Tom, over at the cash register, picking up his mug of tea (Tom obviously isn’t entirely clear on the inherent purpose and point of the coffee date. No matter – he’s great with so much else) when he saw me and called out: “What do you want?”
“One hundred dollars!” I called back, only to see his face go white. Really. White.
“Say that again,” says Tom, in a voice that I would soon come to associate with incredulousness.
“I said, ‘I wish I had one hundred dollars!’” says I, absolutely mystified at his wide-eyed (incredulous) stare.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a 100 dollar bill.
“This is yours,” he said. “You won the lottery.”
Reader, I swear every word of this is true.
You see, Tom and I had also called in at a Loblaws on our way home the day before to each pick up a few groceries. On the way out, Tom insisted we stop so he could purchase a lottery ticket, and on the spur of the moment, I decided to get one too.
(Normally I never indulge; my father let me in on a secret many years back - the purpose of the lottery he explained, in the hushed tones of one sharing at the very least the key to the ancient riddle of the sphinx, is basically the following: you're meant to lose. Practically guaranteed. When viewed from that perspective, I sort of lost permanent interest in the lottery. And though I will waste money on many, many (many) things, since that day I find it difficult to buy lottery tickets – I hate to spend my money on something that’s pretty much taking my cash in exchange for nothing more than the faintest of faint hopes. It doesn't feel like a very good bargain is all I'm saying - and just a shade magic-beanie if you know what I mean.)
As soon as the tickets were purchased, Tom suggested we agree to share the imaginary millions if we won and I readily agreed. Why not? Even the bare bones of shared hope is infinitely more enjoyable than the lonely, pinched, personal variety.
And Tom’s ticket won. $200 and change. And he couldn’t get down to the coffee shop fast enough to give me my half.
And further, let me be clear on this point: neither Tom nor I are completely rolling in it these days, if you get my drift. Even with Tom quitting smoking and me cutting my own hair (cheap – or just plain canny? I ask you…) we’re still watching our bank balances very, very closely and not in that chortling, hand-rubbing, miserly way of totting up our respective fortunes. More like gauging the rubbery-ness of each and every cheque endorsed. The truth is - I swear, okay, to God - that I wouldn't have faulted him for a moment if he'd chosen to hang on to the whole 200 bucks. It was a casual agreement - we neither of us expected to win - and we both of us could have used every penny of the full amount.
For perhaps 5 seconds I cursed myself for wishing for $100 when $1 million would have been so much more… useful. But the truth is in one moment I had wished for $100 dollars, and no more than one moment later I received exactly that: $100. And I was over the moon.
Coincidence? Maybe. Luck? Unquestionably. Gift from God? Not a chance.
I didn’t pray to God for that money – I just wished for it.

But I do thank God every day for a friend like Tom.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Blogging is like virtually any other activity that takes practice and time – fall out of the habit and you fall out of the rhythm, the swing and even the need to blog.
The last time I wrote was February of last year and come to think of it (as if I didn’t know) that’s when so much else changed as well.
I lost my little life companion, the ridiculous Lily. At the age of 15 and suffering an untold number of conditions, ailments, illnesses and just plain old age, I was with her when she died in the midst of a snowstorm on a terrible day that even now I steel myself from thinking about. She was just so tiny, so elderly, and even with me there beside her, so very alone when she died. Barely six pounds at the end, and moments before in deep distress, when she died her eyes remained open and the tip of her little pink tongue was left hanging down on her greying bib of her now scant hair. I had her cremated, and the ashes and dust and detritus that remain of her now remain with a friend. I can’t bear the finality of that tiny urn. I’m just not ready.
I started work on a long-term project that turned my life upside down as I changed from a stay-at-home freelancer, to a fulltime, riding the streetcar, going to the office career-type gal. Quelle change. I haven’t worked all in a row, every day, in an office (with the exception of much shorter contracts: a month here or there) since 1990. Seventeen years.
But I surprised myself by loving it. I loved the interaction with the others I worked with, the purposefulness of working on an intriguing project every day, the routine it created even as the routine of the job itself changed virtually daily.
I who love being alone so much was absolutely smitten with the idea of working as a team. I became closer with the people I already knew and welcomed whole-heartedly (open arm-edly!) the new friendships with others.
The project is a TV series – 25 short documentaries about people who are changing the world by the way they lead their lives. Big-time philanthropists cheek-by-jowl with little-time, nearly invisible regular folks who are changing their own personal routines to make the world a better place. To say it was inspiring is as clich├ęd as it was true. It consumed my life for months. Long months. Good months. A couple of them great.
The series also supports a dedicated website designed to turn the inspiration of the stories into action, linking people up to a social network-cum-clearinghouse of life-changing ideas as well as action-oriented volunteer opportunities. I was involved with creating that too – and I enjoyed turning my mind to a different sort of creative vision, the sort that required big picture planning and a specific sort of imagining. I find I like “imagining” as an actual work-related activity. I find I’m good at it too.
And the project created friendships and purpose with it. I’m now volunteering with an organization headed up by one of our profilees. I’m mentoring a just-turned 9 year old boy, helping him choose a ‘goal of contribution’ and helping him follow through on it too. I have so many young girls in my life I thought it was time I tried a relationship with a boy and I found, to my delight, a little guy just as quirky, as complex and as lovable as any little girl I’ve ever known.
I found a new life-companion too. The equally ridiculous, (as Lily) Charlotte. A rescue Pekingese (see photo above) with a host of medical and physical issues that only serve to make me adore her and want to comfort her more. (My friend Tom found her on a rescue dog site on the internet – “She's such a loser,” he said. “She’s got you written all over her.”) I was sure when I entered into the arrangement on my birthday back in June that I was essentially signing on for a load of problems, but her history made me want to help. Imagine my surprise when it turned out that far from being an angry, nippy, put-upon victim of years (8) of abuse and neglect, Charlotte was (is) an absolute joy to hold and behold. She’s kind and shy and just wants her belly rubbed and to be given treats once in a while and to lie beside me anyplace I choose to lie down. With the exception of the belly rub part (I prefer a back massage) we’re very much alike.
And I traveled too. To Miami, Nassau and Vancouver Island. Trips with friends, holidays with family, a little time out of mind that deepened my affections and lightened my stress.
But now that stress is back with a vengeance. The brutal economic conditions that have dealt the world such a resounding blow have dealt me a blow as well. Funds for my project have dried up as well and as of now (this minute, this second) there are only vague whispers of possible, potential work. I’m scared. Really scared – as I haven’t been for a long time. Along with everyone else my resources have dwindled – some have out-right disappeared – and as of now (this minute, this second) I don’t know how I’m going to survive.
But at least now I have time to blog.
So I've got that going for me.