where’s my freaking silver lining?

MndfulBeath

I keep reading that people who have had cancer are now better people: they know what’s important in life, focus on the positive and appreciate every moment.

Here’s what cancer has done for me:  uncovered all my unresolved pain, given me a ball of anxiety that has set up permanent home in my stomach, caused me to waver in my confidence and made me feel even more vulnerable than I was before. (Recall, I am the person who transferred out of nursing because I wasn’t tough enough.  Plus, I’m a Pisces, astrology sign of the super-sensitive).

That’s some silver lining, cancer!  It is more like an ugly brown lining! Thanks a lot cancer!

Obviously I have a wee bit of personal work to do.  I remain shocked how cancer care in this province totally disassociates the mind from the body, and how mental health isn’t integrated into the medical care.  So I’m pretty much on my own with taking care of my mind.

Here’s one thing I’ve discovered that has helped so far:  breathing.

Meditation is a practice that can take a lifetime to master.  My sister-in-law referred me to The Calm Monkey right after my surgery.  I dragged myself to one of Wendy Quan’s sessions, sore and particularly raw.  I left feeling a bit better, with a couple of counting practices that I actually used under the radiation machine to calm the f*ck down.  I also attend the cancer agency’s weekly relaxation classes (Which I’m grateful for.  Please don’t cancel them!).  There I’ve learned you can trick your body into feeling like it isn’t under stress, even when it is, just by breathing.

I’m not into woo-woo stuff, but meditation has been scientifically proven to help with stress.  (Look, it is even sanctioned by the Mayo Clinic).  Mindfulness is a practice, so it takes practice.  I think of it as a little gift of self-compassion.   I’m such a newbie that I have no actual meditation advice to give.  But if you are feeling stressed and anxious for whatever reason, here are a few articles that have helped me:

Surely you have three minutes to spare?  Try this.

New York Times has a super Meditation for Real Life column.  How to be mindful with a barking dog!  How to be mindful while holding a baby!  These are sweet and easy to do.

My friend Louise Kinross has published a great interview in Bloom about how mindfulness helps with depression and stress in families who have adult children with disabilities.

The Calm Monkey’s blog posts have suggestions for beginners.

Now everybody does cancer differently.  Everybody does life differently, too.  But whatever you do, however you do it, my friends, don’t forget to breathe.  Inhale.  Exhale.  It is a good place to start.

learning to breathe again

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The Butterflies and Pebbles Instagram feed is the best.

Yesterday when I was at a local bakery, happily meeting a new friend and drinking tea, my phone rang. It was The BC Cancer people. I felt like yelling in the phone: STOP CALLING ME YOU CREEPS but then I remembered that I have cancer.

Over three months post diagnosis, I finally start radiation treatment on Friday at 8:15 am. They give you two days’ notice and it is at the worst possible time, as I have a kid to get to school for 8:50 am, but there was no negotiating with the person on the phone.  My whole life lately has been entirely at the mercy of booking clerks.

They (whoever ‘they’ are – I’m not even sure) dole out information into little tiny packages, only telling you the details of the very next step, which pushes you into even a more heightened state of anxiety because you don’t know what’s coming around the corner.  It turns people into wounded animals.

This makes it impossible to plan or even think about the future. Besides there is a version of the near future where I might be dead, so maybe it is best not to think about that anyhow. I suddenly understand the notion of living in the moment that everybody wiser than me keeps going on about.

At the therapist last week, I was jumping around topics like I was playing whack-a-mole and she finally said to me – after I spent 50 minutes splaying out my thoughts like machine gun bullets – why don’t you put both your feet on the ground and close your eyes? I did that and immediately I calmed down. We mutually decided that my one take-away task was to work on relaxation.

On Monday I nervously drove myself to a relaxation class at the cancer centre. Now being nervous going to a relaxation class is kind of stupid. But I there I was.

There were about seven people in the room, all women, who I presumed to be in treatment or post-treatment. It opened with a roundtable segment – the anticipation of which increased my wide-eyed nervousness. To my great relief, nobody introduced themselves by their diagnosis – instead we had to share an image that was calming to us. I didn’t have an image, but I did have an auditory memory: the sound of the croaking frogs outside our bedroom window that puts me to sleep when I go to bed, and then lulls me back to sleep when I wake up my typical five or six times during the night. (Thanks for the insomnia, Tamoxifen). The croaking frogs turn into singing birds when the sky lightens and even thinking about those sounds gives me a small zing of calm pleasure.

I was the only ‘new’ person in the room and many of the ladies seemed to know each other. I also felt young, which doesn’t happen very often anymore. I’d describe many of the women there as sad. I am sad too.

The facilitator was a social worker and had a lovely way about her. I didn’t have my little notebook out, so I can’t remember much she said, except this: we can trick our bodies into feeling calm by breathing. If we take nice deep breaths, our bodies feel we are calm, even if we are not. This makes sense to me. Don’t forget to breathe, silly.

Later, we laid down on mats and were covered by blankets by volunteers and the facilitator walked about, giving a guided meditation made up of all the images we had shared with her. Then, oh my god, the volunteers came around and touched our heads and feet in a most therapeutic way and man did that feel good. This might sound weird but it really was the best thing. I realize how little we touch each other in this world, especially in health care environments. Most touch in the hospital involves inflicting  pain and this gentle touch is the perfect antidote to that. I think more healing touch could help make hospitals more human again.  (I have so many ideas to make this whole cancer experience better for patients, but nobody has bothered to ask me my opinion).

Afterwards, everybody packed up the mattresses and pillows like after a yoga class and we met back in the circle. At this point, nobody had spoken to each other directly. One woman leaned over and said to me: I like your nail polish. I smiled at her generous olive branch, tears threatening to spill behind my eyes.

I was happily and calmly heading back home when three of the older ladies said to me, ‘we meet up for coffee afterwards. Do you want to join us?’ Sure, I’ll just go to the washroom first, I said, overly enthusiastically. I went into the washroom, locked myself in the stall, and cried like I was a little girl again.

These women all knew what it felt like to be the new person. They hadn’t forgotten what it felt like to feel scared all the time. I felt on-my-knees grateful for this kindness.

Later, in the cafeteria, I found out little pieces of their own stories and I shared a bit of mine. When I confessed I only had stage one breast cancer, one woman admonished me: you don’t ever only have cancer, she said. You have cancer and that’s always a serious thing. Then they said, ‘watch out or we will mother you!’ I blinked back tears and nodded, biting my lip, starting to break open again. Being cared for is the one exact thing that I so desperately need.

Tomorrow morning, I will be at the cancer centre, wearing a thin hospital gown. When I’m laying at the mercy of the radiation machine, as they line up the punishing rays with the tattoos on my poor beleaguered left breast, I will close my eyes, remember to breathe, surrender and draw upon the spirits of the kind women who have gone before me.

Cue the frogs, my friends.  Namaste.

my monkey brain

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(Warning:  this post is a rambling mess, just like me).

The other day I spent the entire afternoon at the botanical gardens.  I had my Vancouver Trees book clutched in one hand and my umbrella in the other as I wandered around identifying flowering trees in the drippy rain.

In doing this, it struck me that since my diagnosis three months ago, my world has either gotten very small – say about 2.8 cm (the size of my tumour) – or very large.  I don’t know the answer to this, just like I don’t know the answer to anything anymore.

I typically write essays that have a definitive beginning, middle and end, like writers are supposed to do.  Marry that up with a couple of poignant life lessons, and voila:  there’s a tidy story I’m happy to slap my name on.  Lately, I don’t even think in complete thoughts, never mind poignant life lessons.  My mind jumps around like this:

-What did I do to deserve cancer?
-Is it going to rain today?
-Why is the cancer research building so fancy while the patient treatment centre is so shoddy?
-What should we have for dinner tonight?
-Why is the breast cancer world so polarized and politicized?
-How am I ever going to find a swimsuit now?
-Do people know how little of their breast cancer fundraising dollars go into services for actual patients?
-I feel guilty for not needing chemo.
-When can I go for a walk today?
-Why has this been such a shitty year?  Everybody told me when I had to leave my job that when one door closed, another door opened.  But that door wasn’t supposed to be CANCER!  It was supposed to be something BETTER NOT WORSE!  (I think this a lot).
-When is that booking clerk going to call me for my next appointment?
-How many days until I see my adult kids again?
-Why aren’t mental health services offered to newly diagnosed patients?
-Why are the Republicans so cruel?
-Why can’t I motivate myself to work on my book?
-Is the new episode of VEEP on?
-Why have so many of my so-called friends and family dumped me?
-How many steps have I taken today?
-I am over-sharing on my blog?
-Why are people with disabilities so devalued by society?
-Are the Oilers going to drop out of the playoffs so I can get my husband back again?
-How do I accept my new ‘sick person’ identity without getting stuck in being a cancer patient forever?
-When is Aaron going to finally get that sleep study?
-I need to calm the f*ck down.
-Should I delete my Facebook account?
-What’s with the war metaphors and cancer?
-Is radiation going to burn my skin?
-Where is the nest of the bald eagles that fly past our window?
-Is it too early in the day to have a drink?
-Is this Tamoxifen making me sad?  Or is this sadness just situational?
-Are the Liberals going to win our provincial election? (God, I hope not).

I mean, this doesn’t even form an inkling of a well-constructed essay.  This are clearly signs of a ruminating monkey brain.

I am in the in-between days as I wait for radiation. (Teva Harrison eloquently termed the phrase ‘the in-between days’ in her book of the same name).  I am so far from having my shit together, I wonder if my old life was just a carefully curated illusion.  I fear this cancer has triggered a mid-life identity crisis.

On Wednesday, I finally saw a therapist at the cancer agency.  She gently suggested that maybe it is okay to allow myself to be stuck in the mud.  This kind permission helped, a lot.

So while I am stuck with no epiphanies in hand, I am eagerly gobbling up lessons from others further down the path.  Melissa McAllister wrote this fine piece for The Underbelly called Where Are All the Silver Linings four years after her own breast cancer diagnosis.  I lean on her wisdom:

You don’t get to step away from cancer and climb back into your old self. That person is gone in a lot of ways….the only way out is FORWARD. Remember that.

No wonder I feel as if I’ve been disappearing, invisibly inching along the side of the road while the world zooms past me.

Melissa also talks about the steps she has taken to make her feel good and right again.  I’ve only figured out these three things so far (I document these things often on my Instagram account):

1. Go for a walk to look for some beauty
2. Practice being still
3. Try to be kind to myself

Perhaps I have to be okay with not being okay.  Maybe that’s enough for now.  As the dearly-missed Lisa Bonchek Adams said:

Make the most of this day. Whatever that means to you, whatever you can do, no matter how small it seems.

I will endeavour to listen to all these beautiful women who have recently floated into my life.  For if we can’t learn from those who have stared at their own mortality, who can we learn from?

And now I will press publish on this messy, imperfect post. It isn’t that well-constructed and it doesn’t even have a proper ending – but then again, neither do I. xo.

It is what it is

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I breastfed my three kids for six years (not each, sillies…but all together) and naively thought that made me immune to breast cancer. This is an arrogant way to think: to be so pious to assume others with cancer brought it on themselves and you are somehow above that because you ran marathons or breastfed your babies or didn’t eat sugar.

Cancer doesn’t work that way. That’s the problem with risk factors – they are only factors, not absolutes. And even if this is all my fault, does that mean I deserve any less treatment or compassion? Think about that for a moment. If you believe that, I might be able to sell you a membership to the Republican party.

So when I felt a lump last October, I didn’t become alarmed until the lump resulted in a mammogram and then an ultrasound and then a long biopsy at the end of January. And then, sure enough, a diagnosis of breast cancer followed a week later.

(Note for my friends going through the same process: 80% of biopsies come back benign. If 1 in 9 Canadian women get breast cancer, consider me your ‘1’ out of 9 women you know, including yourself. I’m taking that ‘1’ for the team).

Believe me, I’ve heaped enough blame on myself: I’m soft as opposed to firm and I do enjoy a regular glass of wine. Both are risk factors that I calculated in my darkest hours probably wiped out any advantage from all that childbearing and subsequent breastfeeding.

Then I moved to blaming the environment – hormones in my food (but wait, this meant I didn’t make healthy food choices – damn) or growing up in oil-loving Alberta, with refinery dust settling on me as I biked to elementary school. Since my dad has had two different types of cancer and he worked at the oil refineries, my muddled brain attached itself to this explanation.

(Don’t fear, Alberta friends, this is made up in my head – see this Cancer Report from the Government of Canada for actual facts).

Of course, this is all speculation, also known as the blame part of grief. I went through the same process when my son was born with Down syndrome (My eggs are old and wrinkly! It was the refineries!) to no avail.

As far as a philosophy, my dad, in remission from both leukemia and prostate cancer, says simply, It is what it is. This seems useful.

A friend, who has had a lot of shit happen in her life, says equally profoundly, Shit happens.

Even Science magazine chimes in, saying, “66 per cent of mutations that contribute to cancer are due to unavoidable DNA-replication mistakes.”

Now I have a son with three copies of his 21st chromosome and I’d never consider him a mistake. I have always felt he has a chromosomal difference, not a disorder, and that he is a part of the natural human fabric just like everybody else. Me with my cell-mutation – well, true, it will kill me if I don’t treat it, so that’s a problem. But these things happen.

But in order to inch towards acceptance, I’m going to conclude that shit happens and it is what it is so that I can shut off my monkey brain and sleep at night. In this pre-treatment time, I am attempting to be as kind to myself as possible in order to find a little peace in my heart. I have a sense that I’m going to need to draw upon this peace for some dark days ahead.

leaning out

…or the work-life balance and how I’m totally faking it all the time.

I’ve never struggled this much to prepare a presentation.  I was asked to speak to the Rare Disease Foundation‘s parent support group in Vancouver on the topic of work-life balance.  I pulled some quotes.  Wrote speaking notes.  Created some questions.  The presentation was last night and still I floundered.  I have no definitive solution to how to achieve work-life balance, especially if you have a kid with a disability, like I do.

How do you balance work and life?  I have no freakin’ idea.  I didn’t know how to do it when I had two typically-developing kids in the 1990’s, and I most certainly don’t know how to do it now, with my remaining complicated kid in my nest.

I called my talk Leaning Out to temper Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Leaning In.  Her book is described as ‘compelling women to reach their full potential at work.’ Well, in November, I had to resign from my job because I couldn’t figure out how to be available to my kid and to keep working in a staff position.  So I’ve leaned out.  Way out.

I used to believe that you can have it all, but not all at the same time.  My youngest son has taught me that having it all is overrated – what is this ‘all’ anyhow?  A big house, full-time job, annual tropical vacations?  I think we’ve been sold a big fat lie about what’s really important in life.

My talk was a jumble of what I’ve learned over the past 23 years of motherhood.  In the paid work world, I’ve worked full-time, part-time, on contract and as a freelancer.  Other times I’ve immersed myself in unpaid work.  Some days I fill with grocery shopping and sitting on a log, watching the dogs at Kitsilano dog beach.  In leaning out, I’ve been humbled about how much I don’t know.  It was so easy to adopt an identity when I had a job – it was handed to me in a position description. Now, I’m making it up as I go along.

Here is some inspiration that I lean on instead to find my way.  As Ian Brown says, having a kid with a disability means recalibrating all the time.   Most of this is not in your control. In redefining my own identity, these three philosophies help.

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1. Reject the Perfect
Brene Brown describes this best in her TEDTalk, The Power of Vulnerability. She says, “imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.” We must stop pretending everything is okay all the time and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  To do this, we have to find safe places to let our guards down to stop being ‘special needs mom’ cheerleaders – like with other moms over coffee or Facebook and in support groups like one I spoke to last night.  It is so important to find people who demonstrate that they’ve got your back, no matter what.  (That, and never clean your house before another mom comes over – this sets a really bad precedent).

 

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2.  Embrace the Slow 
Having a kid with a difference forces you to get off the ‘regular person’ treadmill of life.  Life is busy, yes, but in a different way.  You get transported to a different planet that you never bought a ticket to – one with great frustrations with hospitals, society, social services and education systems.  There are times of great slowness – while helping a child get dressed, or waiting for a whole sentence to come out, or summoning all your patience for a kid to finish their meal.  In these slow times, it is so important to embrace the small joy, as Lisa Bonchek Adams gently reminded us.

I’m also fond of this New York Times Essay by Tim Kreider called The Busy Trap.  In it, he says, “busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day”.  Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slow book and movement also offers similar sage guidance.

 

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3.  Remember that unpaid work is work too.
Finally, I suggested banning the words ‘just a mom’ and ‘volunteering’ from your vocabulary.  Work is work is work.  We focus so much on what we do and how we do it, we forget about the why, as Simon Sinek reminds us.  Caring for another vulnerable human being is the most important work there is.  It is what makes our world go round. Our society doesn’t value unpaid work, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t value work that doesn’t come with a paycheque.  Think about writing a Mom Resume that outlines all the skills you’ve acquired since your child was born.  Writing it down gives it power and makes it real.

But sadly for last night’s audience, I had no real wisdom, no solutions, no fixes, no way to achieve this elusive work-life balance. I mostly talked out of my butt, and used other people’s words as inspiration.  I was pleased to spark conversation, and it was heartening that others felt safe enough to open up about their own struggles.

Accept that recalibrating is okay and to be expected.  Talk about your imperfect life in safe spaces.  And value the work you do, even if others don’t.  As I seek acceptance of my current messy life so I can find peace in my heart, I hope you can too – in your own way and in your own time. xo.

 

what inclusion means to me

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I’ve been agonizing over preparing a presentation all week.  For creating a talk is like crafting a story – it is carefully pieced together to engage the audience early on, to create a safe space for listening, to allow them to feel.  This is trickier than you might think.  I say this from hard-fought experience of crashing and burning onstage – misreading your audience is the absolutely worst thing you can do when you are behind a podium.  I live in fear of it.  This is a hell of a way to make a living.

I was asked to speak to all the teachers at my son’s high school about What Inclusion Means to Me.  There would be about one hundred educators in the audience on their Pro-D day.  I sweated out my approach, talking to the teacher in the Access Program (Burnaby’s special ed) who had kindly recommended me, the physics teacher who was the organizer, and many families who had kids with differences in schools across the provinces.  I was desperate to understand my audience, to not misstep, to represent other families well, for I had a lot of skin in the game.  This is the high school where Aaron would be for the next six years.  I could not screw this up.

I had spoken once before to a teacher/parent audience on this same subject, almost three years ago in Alberta.  My stumble then was not to include any research about the other kids in the school – the ‘typically developing’ kids, many of whom were travelling on a strong academic path.  One mom had angrily protested from the back of the room:  your kid is taking away from my kid’s teaching time!  I have recognized over the years that it is crucial to address barriers and concerns that the audience is holding early on in the presentation, for if you don’t, they hang onto those concerns during the entire talk, and this is a barrier to the listening.

This time I was more grizzled and wiser (but alas, still not perfect – is there really such a thing?).  I drew upon others for expertise in my talk.  I don’t know one thing about adapting or modifying curriculum, so I showed Shelley Moore’s great bowling video.  I leaned on Ian Brown’s wisdom about the value of people with disabilities.  The moms from my Family Inclusion Group Facebook page kindly offered up some wonderful quotes about our kids being brave, and presuming competence.  I remembered the young man, Ryan, who has autism and graduated with my daughter three years ago, and read that little essay.  Two local family leaders, Karen Copeland and Suzanne Perrault, helped me immensely with pep talks and information. I was very aware of not being self-serving – not only concerning myself with my own son’s experience, but with his colleagues’ experiences, too:  those who used wheelchairs, those who were non-verbal, those identified with ‘behaviour’ challenges.   I had many people behind me in spirit for this extraordinary opportunity:  for a mom taking up a morning in a high school’s Pro-D day is a rare sight indeed.

And what does inclusion mean to me?  In the end, I talked about our journey with Aaron – from when he was first diagnosed (the baby we expected was not the baby we got) to my struggles with my own fears about people with disabilities when Aaron was born, embedded in my head from my junior high days in 1974 (if you are going to have a stereotype, at least have an up-to-date stereotype).  I acknowledged the good work teachers do – how busy and exhausted they are too, and asked them to reflect on their why – why they chose teaching.  I talked about how inclusion was so much more than academic inclusion inside a classroom, how it was about inclusion in the hallways, at lunchtime, at school events, in sports, in extra-curricular activities.  I invited the audience to think of one way educators and the other students could include the kids from the Access Program in the school, no matter how simple:  learning the kids’ names, giving high fives, starting up a Buddy program, picking one thing from their class lesson to teach them each day.

My goodness, as I write this out, I realized I covered a lot of ground.  I’d had better practice what I preach about presentations, and that is:  Identify your intention.  Pick three key messages.  Know thy audience.

My intention was to touch hearts to change minds.  My key messages were about the value of children with disabilities (the disabled do the work of love, says Ian Brown), expanding the definition of diversity to include different abilities, and to point out how we are not preparing the high-achieving students for the real world if they do not know people who are ‘the other.’

I had to pause a few times during the talk to catch myself from crying.  This topic is deeply personal to me, as Aaron’s school experience is everything to us.  We chose to live in Burnaby based on the school district.  We bought a condo close to the school.  I resigned from my job to be more visible and available to support his school experience.

Scanning the audience, I knew others were crying too.  Maybe they had someone with a difference in their family.  Maybe they were remembering the feeling of being left out.  Maybe they were triggered to recall why they chose teaching.  At the end, the applause was more than polite, and I had a patient line of teachers waiting to chat with me.  It tears me up to think about how much these educators want to reach all children, but sometimes they just don’t know how.  This desire is everything.  Change happens with just one step at a time – the first step is the most important one.   This is the beginning of belonging, one high five at a time.

Inclusion to me means finding love + belonging.  It means taking the time to understand another person’s perspective, to feel empathy, to demonstrate compassion.  These are the exact same messages I share with health care audiences, as I’ve realized that these concepts are deeply universal.

In the end, for me, everything always circles back to Raymond Carver:

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Beloved on this earth.  That’s what I want for my children, for myself, and for you too.  xo.

the ‘others’

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Happily waiting in a farmer’s field in Virginia, circa November 2008.

In 2008, I travelled to Washington DC to campaign for a young long-shot presidential candidate named Barack Obama.  I joined my American friends to go door to door in Virginia to identified Democrat households.  We were tasked with reminding folks to vote and seeing if they needed a ride to the polling station on Election Day.  Some people said Canadians had no business being in the US for the campaign, and maybe that’s true.

But I was there because I believed in Obama. I believed in his great American story, I believed in his offer of change for America, which would – and did – have vicarious ripple effects in my own country.  I remember walking between the sprawling mansions and the tightly packed town homes in Virginia, marvelling at the two contrasts over a few short blocks. At one rickety house, we memorably danced with some older ladies on their front porch – they were giddy at the very prospect of a President Barack Obama. Later, we joined one hundred thousand people packed into a Virginia farmer’s field, patiently waiting for Obama’s last campaign speech. He arrived late and tired, sorrowful about his beloved grandma’s recent death. He did what he had to do and still fired up the crowd to get out to vote.  And vote they did.

The next night, I was privileged enough to attend an election party in DC.  Once CNN announced that Obama had won Virginia, the election was over.  Strangers whooped and hugged each other and burst onto the streets, unable to be contained inside.  In DC, the bluest of all of America, people were laughing and dancing, spilling onto the road with the honking cars, so hopeful for their futures. America was now everybody’s America, which is what this beautiful photo by White House photographer Pete Souza captures so well.  This little boy could be president one day.  That shining star entered his reality on Tuesday November 4, 2008.

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Eight years later, I have no clever commentary about last Tuesday’s election results. This time I had more skin in this race. Earlier this month, my eldest son received his American green card to solidify his life in the US with his new wife, who is Mexican American. I now feel only a chill of fear for their future.

Zoom to a few days later. Just for fun (and in the disability world, what we call respite for beleaguered parents) my husband and I bought tickets for a Funk and Soul Dance night.  The dance floor was tightly packed with a whole world of people:  suburban 50-ish white people (wait, that was us), old Italian nonnas, gaggles of young Asian girls, and yes, many black people too. The crowd was a cross section of the diversity that is our planet Earth – old/young, fat/thin, rich/poor.  At that point our differences didn’t matter.  We were all laughing and dancing together, the music helping us forget, all as one for a few hours deep into the rainy night.

Moving slowly the next day, I felt another wash of melancholy. From my throne of white liberal Canadian privilege, I recognized what I was mourning. The US election had unearthed a profound fear of ‘the other’ – which I now realize had been there all along – I was just sheltered and naive enough not to see it.  Millions of people voted (and not voted) to slide backwards towards a more homogenous, less tolerant nation.  Every day, I am reminded that my youngest son is an ‘other’ too, and I also fear for him in this (not) brave new world.

In Canada we must be vigilant to ensure more intolerance and hate does not bleed across our borders.  Do not think that it cannot happen here, for it already has:  in how we treat our Indigenous peoples, in the rising force of people like Kellie Leitch and her ‘Canadian values’ movement.  Do not be fooled.

I oscillate wildly between preaching love + kindness for one’s neighbour and vibrating with white hot outrage at the injustices that litter our world. Now is the time for us all to be wary my friends, and to stay alert – as others have been doing while I’ve stupidly had my head in the sand.

We are all one.  We all belong. Do not allow anyone to tell you any different.