- by Alyson Shane
Happy belated birthday, Matt Good. Thanks for writing so many songs that somehow resonated with me even though we've never really met
(signing a CD on a tour bus after a show doesn't count, I don't think)
and for being the first musician to say something that moved me.
Matthew Good Band (MGB) played a lot on Much Music when I was a kid and like any good Canadian kid I owned and wore out the CDs for Beautiful Midnight, The Audio of Being (and the Raygun EP which is still a personal favourite.)
But as good as the alt-rock stylings of MGB were they didn't hit you. Never washed over you and made you go
In 2003 Avalanche, his first solo album, was released and though everyone went nuts for Weapon and In a World Called Catastrophe (a great song) I'd go nuts for Lullaby for the New World Order and While We Were Hunting Rabbits (which still gives me goosebumps every time I listen)
and, predictably, Avalanche.
Oh my god that song.
I self-harmed as a teenager and I'd sit in my bedroom and feel hopeless and cry and cut and silently scream along to that song. I was sad and I didn't understand why and there was something about that song that said
I know. I know. I know.
and I thought he knew. I felt like, in some abstract, messed-up way, Matt Good understood what it was like to feel alone and not understand how or why you felt so hopeless. So miserable.
And then Hospital Music came out.
This was in 2007 when I was living in Hamilton and was a hot, hot mess. I was in the wrong relationship and didn't feel like I had any supports and didn't know how to cope so I drank and got fat and would daydream about coming home to Winnipeg and getting wasted with my party crew because everything felt horrible and out of control and getting messed-up felt like the only way to smother those feelings.
And then this musician I'd admired and respected for years came out with an album he wrote as the result of a mental breakdown, suicide attempt, and his subsequent time in a psychiatric ward and I realized that he actually did know those hopeless feelings.
Someone else out there knew the profound, isolating sadness I'd been carrying around and didn't have the words to convey.
And of course that didn't magically make things better.
My bad relationship still fell apart.
I still had to move back to Winnipeg.
My home life was still a mess.
I was still miserable and confused.
But at least I could turn on my iPod and listen to songs like Champions of Nothing and 99% of Us Is Failure and lose myself in someone else's explorations of their own misery and confusion.
And this weird and foreign feeling that I wouldn't really discover or understand for another several years would wash over me. And for a few minutes, sometimes even just a few seconds
I'd feel like maybe things would eventually be okay.
In years to come I'd fall in love with the music of Leonard Cohen, John K. Samson, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and others, but Hospital Music stuck with me, even though I rarely listen to it these days.
Some albums are like that. They're for a specific time. Place. Feeling.
But sometimes, when no one's around, I'll pull out the Hospital Music vinyl and look at the familiar cover: blue with the orange and red and brown. Colours I've stared at so many times before.
I'll put it on the turntable
and I'll have a good cry to the soundtrack of my many heartbreaks.
- by Alyson Shane
It takes stones to ask the White House Press Secretary to leave your restaurant because her presence, and what she stands for
an administration that is systematically dismantling all of the progress that has been done in America over these last few generations
hates LGBTQ people
is racist and bigoted
promotes the kind of small-minded, partisan, xenophobic thinking that undoes the fabric of a national economy
undermines and attacks the CIA, FBI, and the Department of Justice
and works to systematically dismantle and disrupt global and unilateral organizations and treaties
rightfully made some of her staff upset.
It must have been a tough decision because to be honest Trump supporters are scary. They're like rabid dogs and will bite you and try to pass on their poisonous hate to anyone and anything they can sink their teeth into.
Not to mention the fact that the person who is supposed to be in charge of running one of the largest and most influential countries on the planet
(okay, maybe not that part anymore since they're basically abandoning the rest of the world)
is so thin-skinned and uninterested in focusing on governing effectively that he'll weigh in on anything that gets his political base fired up.
If I were you, my heart would have been pounding as I walked up to that table. I can't imagine having to put myself and my business which employs other people at risk because a woman who thinks lying to the American people every day is just part of the job decided to stop by for a cheese board.
But I completely agree with your decision (especially since you have several gay people on staff who I'm sure were uncomfortable with her presence) and when you said:
“this feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
Because we do. Maybe now more than ever.
And as business owners we have a responsibility to use our business to support and promote the values we believe in, even if that means taking a financial hit.
We're lucky enough to be in a position where we can channel our passions into something that adds to our communities and makes the world we live in a better place, and sometimes that means making hard decisions so we don't compromise our morals.
Stick to your guns, girl. You'll get through this.
And, for what it's worth, you just made me into a lifelong customer.
- by Alyson Shane
The easy answer is: everyone.
But humans are trash sometimes, and we don't always think that way.
Mostly because a lot of people lack empathy, especially when it applies to people we don't know, or people we have beef with, or people who have hurt us.
Empathy means you give a shit about other people. You care about their life experience, how they feel, what they care about and what motivates them.
Loving someone is just empathy amplified.
Because when you really love someone - I mean really love someone - then you start to act weird. You put their needs and wants before your own. You start making changes in yr own life because you care so much about their wants, needs, and ambitions.
You're willing to look at yr own behaviours and go
"shit, are the things I'm saying/doing negatively impacting the person I care about?"
and if the answer is 'yes' then you try and correct course to the best of your ability. Because that's what you do when you love someone. Even though it can be tough to put down your pride, prejudice, or assumptions about that person, you do yr best and try to act with empathy.
And if we're willing to do that with people we care about, why is it so hard to extend that same caring and thoughtfulness to other people
even if they look
or act differently than we do?
It seems obvious if you ask me. Empathy can heal our broken society.
Maybe not everyone thinks this way. But maybe we should.
Maybe the world would be a little nicer if we did.
- by Alyson Shane
Because on one hand there are so many things I want to say about my father.
Some good. Most not-so-good.
It used to be the other way around, but the distance and time has highlighted the ways in which I compensated for his failures in my own mind. How I built up this image of a person, some broken-down dude who was just trying his best in an unhealthy marriage, to fill in the space created by two individual parents who fundamentally weren't any good at what they were doing.
Deconstructing that idea has been the hardest part of the last few years.
Thank god for therapy, loving relationships, and good friends.
Growing up I spent a lot of time in my Dad's office for a lot of reasons. Sometimes waiting. Sometimes crying. Sometimes just hanging out because I had nowhere else to go.
During those times I always seemed to find myself staring at one little print-out on his wall in particular. It went something like this:
"Kid, age 3: My daddy can do anything!
Kid, age 9: Dad? Oh, he knows some things I guess.
Kid, age 16: My dad doesn't understand anything that I'm going through!
Kid, age 25: My dad knows some stuff, sure. He's got some good advice.
Kid, age 45: Let's ask the Old Man for his thoughts on this one.
Kid, age 65: I wish I could still ask Dad about this."
At the time I'd read it and it would make me think about the fleeting nature of our relationships. How quickly we grow and change, and how soon my dad would be gone, and how important it was to make the most of the time we both had together as parent and child.
I don't know what he thought when he saw that poster, day in and day out.
I don't know if his thoughts about it changed as his kids got older.
As he got older.
After he told his oldest child and only daughter to "have a nice life."
On Father's Day I think of that poster, and of my dad.
I wonder what he would ask me, if he could.
Because I have a laundry list of things that I'd ask him.
Every year on Mother's and Father's Days I make a donation to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Winnipeg. If you also have family issues that get you down, or if you feel like your parents failed you and wished you'd had some better role models growing up, please consider donating.
- by Alyson Shane
Mostly because it scares people.
They don't know what to say, do, how to react to the reality that someone they love and care about has seriously considered removing themselves from existence because
the weight of the world is just too much to bear, sometimes.
And if you're not the kind of person who can look at suicide and say
"yeah, that makes sense. I can see how that can feel like an option."
Then it can be hard to understand where those feelings come from.
For me, suicidal feelings have come and gone like the tide. Sometimes they're stronger; when the tide is in. When the tide's out, they're just a nagging thought in the back of my head. My darkest fears are out to sea.
But, like the ocean, they're always there.
John and I talked about Kate Spade last night, and this morning as we were talking about the news of Anthony Bourdain's suicide, and how the news made me feel, and he said:
I think your suicidal thoughts are a holdover from your family. You went through a lot of trauma and you can learn to put these thoughts and feelings down, just like you've put so much of your trauma down in the last few years.
And though he meant well, I felt like I was hitting the same wall that so many people who struggle with these feelings come up against: the people we love rationalizing away our irrational feelings for us because they love us, and because they're scared.
Telling us that suicide is cheap, cowardly, and selfish.
That the people who take their own lives have no regard for how it impacts other people.
That we should want to cling as desperately to life as they think we should.
That if we just worked a little harder, tried a little more... then we wouldn't feel this way.
And maybe they're right. I don't know.
But hearing those things doesn't make me want to reach out. It makes me want to retreat further into myself. To not confide.
Because hearing someone - anyone - say "you can get rid of those thoughts if you just worked harder" makes me feel like a failure.
Because hearing someone - anyone - say "your life is so good, though. You have no reason to feel that way" makes me feel like I don't deserve what I have.
Because hearing someone - anyone - say "suicide is a cowardly move that doesn't take how other people feel into consideration" makes me feel like - well, I'm guess I'm a coward for feeling this way, so what does it matter?
Which, I assume, is how people like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, who were so famous, so loved, so admired, and so cherished by thousands, maybe even millions of people
could feel so profoundly alone and misunderstood
to the point where they made that final decision.
It's got me thinking that maybe addressing suicidal thoughts isn't about "fixing" people. Maybe the people who have suicidal thoughts aren't "broken people" who need to be "fixed."
Maybe they're just other people who are wired a bit differently, and who need our support.
Just like our society is working to support people with other types of mental illness, LGBTQ people, and people with mental and physical disabilities, maybe it's time we started working to just support the people who struggle with suicidal thoughts.
Not fix them. Not make them better.
But just accept that some of us just are this way. This is our reality.
It doesn't make us bad people
or cowardly people
or selfish people.
At least, not any more so than the average person.
When we reach out we're not asking for someone to solve our problems.
Hell, we're often not even looking to "solve" it, ourselves.
We just need a life raft when the high tide comes in.
If you're feeling suicidal, please talk to someone. Call your mom, your boyfriend, your best friend, or, if you're feeling too overwhelmed, the Manitoba Suicide Line at 1-877-435-7170 or call any of the other 24-hour crisis hotlines to get help.
- by Alyson Shane
and when I was talking to the radio host he mentioned this 'lil blog here, and a couple of posts, specifically, and it threw me a bit because blogging is dead and also because most people these days know me from Twitter, or my business, or my TEDxWinnipeg talk
not the weird little blog I've been running for like a decade now that is actually just a continuation of a multitude of other blogs I've had over the years
because sometimes I forget that people I don't know still read this thing
so if that's you, hello!
and it reminded me that not only is this a place to share my thoughts about my city and the things that matter to me, but also to use it as a place to highlight some of the really cool and interesting things that I somehow wind up getting to do in this weirdly charmed life of mine
The other week I discovered one of the coolest gems in our city: the RTMF bike jam, which is actually a testament to how un-cool I actually am because this thing has been going for a few years now and I only just got around to going
(thanks Carlene for the reminder)
but holy hell guys are bike jams ever the best thing ever.
Not only does it involve one of the best activities ever - riding yr bike - but you get to do it as part iof a massive group of people who are all slightly buzzed, listening to music which is pumping from a bike with speakers attached to it, and riding super duper slow so you can take selfies and laugh at dumb jokes with yr friends.
We met at the muster point in Central Park before the jam kicked off and we met a dude whose name I forget, but he was riding a pink child's bike that said "Cream Soda" on it and was giving out handfuls of cotton candy
which was a bit soggy and gross from the humidity
obviously we had some, and participated in yelling "CREAM SODAAAA" whenever he drove by and pumped his fist and yelled his bike jam chant because that's what one does when one is bike jamming.
Because when you attend weird, fun, interesting events you get to meet all the weird, fun, interesting people that make the place you live something special.
And take it from me: the RTMF bike jam is one of those things that makes Winnipeg really special.
Even though there was a vendor stop around midnight and we grabbed a few more road rockets John an I were exhausted by the time we got to the final party location which was some random side street in The Exchange District
where a DJ and a hot dog stand were waiting for all the partygoers
but instead of partying until dawn John and I rode our bikes to Johnny G's and devoured a plate of chicken fingers and shoestring fries before taking a slow, safe bike ride home
because life's about balance, after all..