- by Alyson Shane
Plus a day, but who's counting.
By this time next week John and I will be in Belize, on our way to the island of Caye Caulker.
We've been there before
but this time we'll be joined by 34 of our nearest and dearest because omg we're finally getting married. I just finished writing my vows and
I think I nailed it.
Getting married has been a weird experience, because even though we're doing an unconventional destination wedding those "traditions" find a way of sneaking in and making me realize
oh, right, my father isn't walking me down the aisle
oh, right, I won't be needing photos with my relatives because none of them are coming
which makes me either really sad or really relieved, depending on how I'm feeling when it comes up.
On Sunday I'm writing letters to all my relatives who won't be there. My therapist suggested it as a way of "putting down" my feelings, so I'm gonna write a bunch of letters that I won't send, probably cry a lot, then run a bath and make chicken parm and watch a movie and take time to just
sit with these disappointed feelings for a while before letting them go
because there's so many positive things I want to focus on instead.
Like how seriously Adam is taking officiating our ceremony
how Katrina has put some much time and energy into sewing my wedding dress from scratch
the number of times Kim has checked in to see how I'm doing
all our friends and family who've messaged us to say how excited they are
how excited I am to share such an amazing, beautiful place with them
and how much lobster I'm gonna eat.
In a way if feels like I've been preparing for this moment for years. Readying myself for the day when I allow myself to be accepted into a family who want me, and love me, and who choose me just like I choose them.
A few weeks ago my little brother stopped by. We were talking about the wedding, and he said "as far as I'm concened, once you get married you're not one of us anymore"
which came across harsher than I think he meant, but it didn't hurt my feelings
because maybe he's right
and maybe that's not so bad, after all.
- by Alyson Shane
Recently I've been struggling to figure out what to write here.
When I was writing content specifically for my industry it was easy; I just picked a topic, found some supporting articles, and wrote to my heart's content. I'm good at breaking down complex ideas into easy to understand written documents, posts, or essays.
Writing has always been my superpower.
These days, though, it often feels like it fails me. Not because I don't have the words, but because I often worry about the repercussions of what will happen if I say anything. If I open myself up, again and again, as I examine new and old wounds, learn from my mistakes, reflect on the past, figure out who I want to be... all that good shit writing has always helped me do.
But I've been stifling myself recently because I've been trying to avoid instigating any contact from my family. My brother, in particular, tends to reach out every few months in some sort of angry, nasty, or passive-aggressive way. His words don't hurt, but it's difficult to know that he's clearly grappling with some narrative of what happened between my parents and I, and why I'm not in his life, than what actually happened.
So I'm just going to lay it out here, simply, and put it to pasture:
In February of 2014 I asked my parents for space from my mom for a while. I was starting therapy and my therapist suggested I put a some distance between my mom and myself while I started to unpack the abuse I'd experienced growing up, and the anxieties and issues I still experience as an adult as a result of what I went through.
My dad suggested I write my mom an email explaining my reasons, so I did. My mom never wrote back. My dad, when he did, told me to "have a nice life," and said he hoped I was never in a position where "I had to choose between my spouse and my child."
Since then I haven't spoken to my father. The only other time I've heard from my mom is when she left a series of comments here, on my blog, to let me know what a selfish person I am because I chose not to be present when my nephew was born.
(And really... oh well, if that's what she thinks. Not like I was ever winning her over, anyway.)
But my brother. The one who follows me online, reads my updates, and is clearly upset with me to the point of sending me multiple messages, comments, and tweets over the past few years. What does he want? An apology? Some sort of explanation?
Maybe he, too, is just trying to be heard in a family that doesn't actually listen to one another.
Sometimes I lie awake at night and I think about my siblings. So close, yet so far away from me. I say words, I type thoughts, but talking to them has always felt like I'm talking to a brick wall.
Like I'm shouting into the void.
It always has, honestly.
A few months after my parents stopped talking to me I received an email from my aunt in Toronto. She said "I would just have to say that it is extremely unfortunate that your distain for your mom has resulted in such complete alienation from the rest of the family" which came as a shock to me at the time because my aunt witnessed firsthand the abuse I experienced growing up.
She, more than probably anyone else in my life, should have been able to remember how things went down when I asked for space. She, of all people, should be able to look a lie in the face and say "no, that's not what happened." But she didn't, or couldn't.
And at that point I realized that, maybe there's just no going back.
I'm just never going to make any of them, my dad, my brothers, my aunt... any of them, see me for who I am. To them, I'm an idea of a person. A ghost version of myself who does and says things with a completely different set of morals and values than who I am.
The longer I keep my distance, the longer my mom has to gaslight, manipulate, and convince my family that I'm what she always told them I was: some selfish, horrible person who doesn't care about anyone but herself. The longer I'm away the easier it is for my brothers to believe it. It's easier for my aunt to believe that this is the way I wanted things to be. It's easier for my dad to believe it, and keep refusing to stand up and do what's right; to say "I'm sorry. I should have stood up for you."
Because at the end of the day all I've ever wanted is to be heard. To feel like my emotions, experiences, and thoughts have value. To not have to constantly battle against the false narrative that was created about me, and which persists to this day, stronger than ever, in my absence.
It's why I started writing.
It's also why I stopped. Or have mostly stopped.
I started feeling like here, too, anything I said was going to just get twisted around or misinterpreted. My blog, a place where I once felt I could be completely and utterly myself... became the void I've been afraid to look down into. To shout my thoughts and fears into.
But, y'know... fuck it. The truth, my subjective truth based on the actual facts and events that happened, is out there now. There's not much worse I can do to draw any ire than state the facts as plainly as I see them.
So now it's time to get back to the business of why I've always written: because it helps me as a person, and is something that I love, long for, and can't help but do.
I'm so ready, and happy, to get back to this place.
- by Alyson Shane
Yesterday was TEDxWinnipeg.
It was amazing. It was a whirlwind. It was so much more than my tired, fried-out brain can describe right now.
Instead, here's a photo essay:
Of course I woke up at 4:45AM
a full hour before my alarm was supposed to go off
as evidenced by my unimpressed post-shower face (was I even awake then?)
Does that look like the face of a girl who got 5hrs sleep? I hope not.
Luckily I was able to pull myself together within a reasonable time frame.
Winnipeg looked gorgeous during my bike ride to the convention centre, of course.
I left a bit early so I could bike there slowly and collect my thoughts and feelings
and to try and get in a little "me time" before a whirlwind day.
I got there for 7:15AM and the space was largely empty except for the volunteers and organizers running around getting everything ready.
We took a bunch of group shots of all the speakers, organizers, tech peeps, and etc before the crowds started milling in, and then it was ready to go!
There were a bunch of fun activities for guests to do, including this fun board which I kept coming back to look at throughout the day.
I was busy as heck, but I managed to squeeze in a few selfies with some lovely people before the day got started.
TEDxWinnipeg people unite!
This guy was an amazing support, of course.
Halfway through the morning Brent pulled me aside to let me know he had something for me:
It was a vintage AOL trial disc! Anyone remember these?
My talk touched on my high school years spent using the "Trial" button on our NetZero install because my parents refused to pay to get dial-up internet at home (don't even get me started on that gong show), so this little trinket was super thoughtful and hilarious. Thanks so much, Brent!
(Side note: I'm so thankful for high speed internet)
Then it was back into the swing of things.
I spent a lot of time in the green room backstage, but I made sure to make it into the crowd for Jon and Rana's talks. We'd spent so much time rehearsing together that I really needed to be in the crowd to experience their talks.
Spoiler alert: they both knocked it out of the park. I was in tears!
Before I knew it, it was my turn to present.
What can I say about speaking?
It was intense. It was exhilarating. It was fun and stressful and amazing.
I was nervous leading up to my talk and was so worried that I was going to forget something, or flub my lines, or, well... anything!
But I'm pleased to say that I nailed it. I did better than I could have expected and I'll be sharing more thoughts on my experience in an upcoming post for the TEDxWinnipeg website (so stay tuned for that).
Then it was over!
I posed for a few quick snaps at the end of the day (this is my speaker buddy, Amanda, who was an incredible help and support throughout the entire process) before heading out.
I was utterly wiped after such an emotional, busy, and exhilarating day.
(But not too tired to go for pizza and drinks at my favourite local pizza joint Super Deluxe Pizza.)
Now if you'll excuse me I need to go and sleep for a week.
Want more info about my TEDxWinnipeg expeirence? Check out my blog post series on the TEDxWinnipeg website what it was like to be selected as a speaker, and preparing to present my talk.
Update: the TEDxWinnipeg live stream is still up! My talk is around 3:20:10 in the 'Afternoon Talks' section.
- by Alyson Shane
Life is good.
I feel so thankful for my friends, the plethora of people who make me smile and touch my life in so many ways. Being able to watch the people I care about grow and create their futures is amazing to watch, and something that I feel fortunate to be able to share with them.
And for John, my partner through everything, who reminds me every day what it is to devote yourself to the things you love, and to always strive to do good, and to act with kindness and sincerity. I love him more than I can describe, and am so thankful for the time we have together.
The life I have now, where I get to wake up to my best friend every morning, spend my days doing work that I love, and experience the (slightly terrifying) adventure that is running a business, is one I wouldn't trade for anything in the world.
Earlier this year, as part of my efforts to heal and grow, I asked my parents for some space while I started going to therapy. Their reaction was painful to accept: my mom simply didn't respond or acknowledge the email I wrote to her explaining how I felt, and my dad told me to "have a nice life." When confronted with a reality that they didn't like, they decided to gloss over it by simply not dealing with it and hoping it would go away.
I can't describe to you how awful it feels to have your parents disregard your feeling and experiences this way. It's devastating, and it hurts every time I think about it.
However, it was an eye-opening experience for me. I'd grown up believing that behaviour like this was commonplace and acceptable, but talking to a professional helped me understand that this isn't. It's not normal for parents to cut their children out, or punish them with a wall of silence when confronted with something that upsets them, or makes them uncomfortable.
I started realizing that a lot of the behaviours I was working to get rid of: anxiety attacks, crippling fear of failure, feeling like I'm never good enough, were largely the result of my relationship with my parents, and that their decision to cut me out entirely was a blessing in disguise. In the last ten months I've come to have a much deeper understanding of who I am, and what my values are, and what I want from my life than I've ever had before.
Sure, part of that is likely just a result of growing up and the normal maturing process, but not having to defend my actions constantly, or try to find love and approval that didn't come with strings and expectations attached, has made such a tremendous difference in my life.
I haven't talked about this too much because I don't want to air too much of my family's dirty laundry. However, I do feel obligated to touch on it and share it with you, because it's been an important part of my growing process, and because nobody, not even a family member, has the right to treat you badly.
Without a doubt, running my business full-time has been the biggest and most important change in the past year. Honestly, I'm still not used to it. There are days when I find myself walking around in the middle of the day, maybe on the way to a meeting, or doing some errands while the stores are empty, and think "I can do whatever I want today." That's pretty fucking empowering.
I like being one of those people who get excited to talk about work, and it's been an interesting transition to stop thinking of work as something taboo, or something I'd rather not think about or discuss outside of "regular working hours" to something that I love enough to talk about pretty much constantly.
Of course, it's not all roses and fat stacks; running your own business is scary. There's no guaranteed monthly salary, no pension plan, and no benefits. Everything I do, I have to do for myself. But having to depend on myself (and some advice from much-appreciated mentors and colleagues) has given me confidence and helped me discover so much about myself, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.
For the first time in my adult life I feel excited about what's to come.
This is new for me. For most of my life I felt directionless; unsure of what I wanted, where I'd go, what I would do with myself. I took jobs I didn't like, hung around with people I didn't much care for (and who didn't really care about me in return), and made decisions based on fear.
I was a scared, insecure, and anxious person.
These days I feel different. Sure, I still get anxious, or stressed, or have moments of doubt, but I've been learning to handle them a lot better, and those paralyzing moments are becoming fewer and farther between.
I truly feel like this was the year where I came into my own, and I'm so excited to see where I'm going to go.
As always, thank you for sharing this journey with me.
yr girl Shaner
- by Alyson Shane
Yesterday I spent my Thanksgiving surrounded by some of the people who matter most to me. We made dinner, had drinks, shared stories, and otherwise enjoyed each other's company. It was a terrific way to wrap up the long weekend, and I'm still glowing just thinking about how much fun it was.
This is the first Thanksgiving I've had without my family in a long time, and as we move into a season where, traditionally, we spend more time with our families, I wanted to talk a little bit about creating a Family of Choice, and how it's helped me.
For those of you new to this blog, I haven't communicated with my parents since last winter. Shortly after the new year I decided to seek out therapy and to start to work through a variety of anxieties and issues related to self-worth that were the result of my relationship with my mom, and one of the things my therapist suggested was to take some space from my mom while I focused on healing.
Needless to say asking for space didn't go over very well, and the fallout was that now neither of my parents speak to me. As a result I don't really speak to any of my extended family, and have very limited contact with my two younger siblings.
I don't talk about it very often because it's a difficult topic to discuss; most people have pretty solid relationships with their families, and even the ones who have rocky ones generally maintain some level of contact with their families despite regular drama and other issues that families deal with.
On being 'No-Contact'
I think that one of the hardest things that adults face is whether or not we should keep negative people in our lives. For many of us, there's that one relationship that we know we shouldn't maintain, but we do so because (often) we feel guilty about not maintaining it.
Think about that one "friend" who you don't really like, but always get invited around because they've always been there, or that family member who you despise but still invite to Christmas because you "have to."
Stop the madness! You never "have to" do anything that upsets you or makes you feel uncomfortable.
If someone is making you feel bad, guilting you, or otherwise upsetting you on a regular basis, you don't have to include them in your life. Getting to be a part of your life is a privilege, not a right.
For example, I have a family member whose way of "helping" was to challenge me on every single thing I did - I shudder to think about the hours I spent defending all of my decisions, from who I was dating, to my career choice, to where I wanted to go on vacation. It was insanity! I'd see their name pop up and my blood pressure would rise just thinking about the argument that was going to ensue.
If someone in your life is making you feel this way -your parent, friend, colleague, whatever- you have a right to ask them to stop. If they respect you, they will. If not, then it's okay to not politely explain why they don't get to be privy to your life and decisions anymore.
Creating a Family of Choice
"Family of Choice" is just what it sounds like: the people you choose to have around you in your life, and who are close to you. These people differ from your "Family of Origin" which are your blood relatives; mum, dad, siblings, etc.
I've heard lots of people make comments like "friends aren't the same as family" which I think is total BS. I really feel like many of us use "they're family" as an excuse to put up with meddling, guilt, and other nonsense that we wouldn't otherwise put up with from anyone else. How insane is that?
Being blood relatives doesn't (and shouldn't) make maintaining one relationship more important than maintaining others, and just because someone isn't related to you by blood, that shouldn't diminish the importance of the relationship.
Being close to your Family of Choice is just as good as being close to your Family of Origin, if your situation permits it - there's no law stating that just because you weren't born into the same family, that you can't care about someone the same way you would a blood relative.
Creating and cultivating my Family of Choice has been a really important part of navigating this whole No-Contact experience for me. Knowing that I have a handful of close friends whom I can turn to in a crisis helps alleviate feelings of loneliness or isolation which I occasionally feel when thinking about my present circumstances.
In addition to being a support system, a healthy Family of Choice can also serve as a benchmark for other relationships in our lives. Why would we want to spend time talking to or putting up with people who make us feel bad, or tear us down, when we have a support system of great people we can reach out to instead?
Why does all of this matter?
It matters because we have a right to be happy, and to surround ourselves with kind, positive people who care about us and want to see us succeed.
Most of the time this is pretty easy to do; lots of us are lucky enough to have defaulted into families who are supportive, and manage to find great friends, partners and colleagues whom we care about, and who want the best for us, as well.
However, it's easy to start to fall into the habit of allowing negative people to start to infiltrate our lives, and to start giving them too much weight and authority over our thoughts and our actions. This can be especially true if we've grown up in a family, or have that one family member, who makes us feel like shit. We put up with it because we're used to it.
Creating a Family of Choice means that you get to choose the people you want to share your life and experiences with. It means taking control over your own happiness, and ensuring that everyone who touches your life does so in meaningful and positive ways.
I didn't write this post to encourage you to cut out your family or anything like that, but I wanted to write something to let you know that we can look to outside sources (friends, partners, colleagues, mentors, etc) to help us feel fulfilled and loved. It's hard, and it's a weird process, but it does work and it's worth doing if you aren't getting the supports that you need from your Family of Origin.
We all have the tools at our disposal to build the kind of families and lifestyles that we want to have - what that looks like is entirely up to you.
Have you ever struggled with letting go of a difficult relationship? Was it a friend, family, or loved one? Tell me in the comments, or if it's too personal, send me an email - I'm always available to chat.
- by admin
who I haven't talked to in years, which is cray
and embarrassing, because she's blood and family and all that jazz
but life happens and people drift apart
and sometimes we have to take steps to get back together.
I wrote to her today and told her about my life. My friends, my loves, my family, my interests, my failures, my regrets
and she wrote back and said
Alyson, everyone makes mistakes.
which is true and good to remember sometimes. Especially when we're thinking about the mistakes that others have made.
It's easy to forget that we often make them, ourselves, and it's good to be reminded that we all fuck up
we all make mistakes
and that it's okay. As long as we learn from them.
- by admin
"what are you up to tonight? Want to grab a beer?"
which seemed like a perfectly reasonable request to meet me to drink beer and probably eat greasy appetizers at The Toad or maybe Cornerstone since he doesn't get out of the suburbs all that often.
Which apparently it isn't.
Later on, while on the phone with my mum and after a hilariously frustrating conversation about
how to use her call waiting
when is the appropriate time to use call waiting
that she does in fact know how to use her call waiting but likes to be difficult
(typical Mum behaviour for which I both tease & love her endlessly)
I mentioned that I had texted my bro and she said
"oh yes, he called and mentioned that he'd seen your messages"
to which I said
"why didn't he respond to me?"
to which she said
"because you didn't ask him to call you, or to text you back"
Bless my family, who are permanently stuck in the Dark Ages.
- by admin
"be at yr house right away, we're by the art gallery"
and I said
CALL ME WHEN YOU ARE ACTUALLY HERE, MUM. GAWD.
(but I still love her)
- by adminFrom someone I haven't talked to in a long time.
Someone who used to be a big part of my life and influenced me in many ways.
Looking back I can safely say these experiences (in the long run) taught me the kind of person I'd rather not be
fixated on money
the list goes on
and we had a huge falling out a few years ago due to a sketchy and poorly handled situation.
I blew up.
I told them how I felt and left it at that. In the years since I haven't thought much about them
and when I do, it's through the grapevine and usually a story so ridiculous that I sigh, roll my eyes and think
thank god I don't talk to them anymore!
But I've been sitting here for the past hour or so staring at my screen
trying to figure out how to say what I want to say without sounding
and downright mean
because in the end, as it turns out
letting go is harder than I thought.
- by admin
with my arm wrapped around Tyrone
(mostly for warmth but also for love)
in my little apartment with the leaves turning red outside the window.
Ford was in the window but wouldn't come post for the picture so that's okay.
You know he was around
being difficult in his kitty way.
Yesterday we had brunch with Ty's family
at his sister's super cute new place
and I realized how much they've all come to mean to me
as we drove home down the highway and I looked out at all the
red and yellow fields and the big blue prairie sky.
(Also living in the prairies. I love it here)
Almost every day I'm reminded somehow of how lucky I am to have the friends that I do
(honestly, I really know the best people
who are hilarious, smart, creative, outrageous, and largely inappropriate)
but on Friday night we played Catan with two of the people I've known the longest
since I was
13, 14? Something like that.
Which reminded me of how much my friends mean to me
and how far some of us have come together.
Tonight I'll call up my Mum
tell 'er I love'r
talk to my dad who will undoubtedly tell me some crazy story
and keep me on the phone for way too long.
I love them despite their craziness
but it doesn't need to be Thanksgiving for that to be obvious.
who I'm thankful for every god damn day
for more reasons than I can and should list here
like hugs, inside jokes, long drives, morning runs, his beard and moustache
always having fun even when doing the most boring, mundane stuff
but especially the eggs benedict that he just made for me.
happy Thanksgiving kids, be thankful for what ya got!
I sure as hell am.