- by Alyson Shane
It doesn't seem like 2019 was the best year for a lot of people and even though by and large I'd say it was pretty okay, especially between the spring and summer, around the start of early fall a bunch of things happened that just started to
grind me down.
John's grandpa passed away
I dealt with losing a friend to suicide for the first time and had to navigate a very public crisis both personally and professionally
I had a falling out with my aunt that dragged on for weeks
John lost a friend to suicide
I lost another friend to suicide
we learned some scary news about someone else we love
all while running both of our companies
starting another business together
planning our wedding
and generally trying to just
keep everything from falling apart around us.
Sometimes I worry that getting older is just learning to move from one emotional crisis to the next without letting shit get to you as much.
We just get more weathered, like Clint Eastwood's face.
I've never gone through this much heartache and disappointment at once and in such quick succession but even though it's been a crash course in
communicating my needs
managing grief and loss
struggling with a lack of control
it's over and it happened, and while I'm not happy it happened
at least I can understand that it's making me
which maybe is all we can hope for, sometimes.
I hope 2020 is better for all of us.
- by Alyson Shane
so now I officially own two businesses.
Or will soon, I guess.
We're building a company that does a really cool, unique thing and people are excited about it. Last week during a meeting with a beta tester they told me
"what you're building is wildly important"
which was a bit overwhelming but also...
I agree. It is an important idea.
I like solving problems (it's what I like about business) and lately I've been spending a lot of time working on a tool that solves a very specific problem in a really creative and useful way.
Best of all: it's efficient.
(I love efficiency.)
What I love more is working on something that makes people excited, and happy. Running a marketing agency is great, but solves different kinds of problem-solving than a piece of software and even though it makes me feel like I'm juggling a dozen balls at once
it's pretty effing exhilarating.
Wish us luck!
- by Alyson Shane
The wedding was was funny and unique and weird and wonderful, just like them.
I was happy to be there even though my purse broke and my romper's zipper broke and my hair didn't hold all the nice curls Katrina did for me
oh and I left my dumb, broken purse (with my phone in it) at the venue.
But it was one of those blurry evenings spent staying up way too late drinking and celebrating with people you love that makes the next day's hangover
so worth it.
It moves me to see other people who love each other and compliment each other so well
and who appreciate and promote each other's weirdness
and I feel so lucky to not just be their friend, but to have been invited to share in their special day with them.
Congrats again, Adam and Brittany
thank you for throwing a baller party, and for being in our lives
and for hanging onto my dumb, broken purse when I left it at the venue.
You guys are the real MVPs.
- by Alyson Shane
It's raining and we've been inside for most of the day except the part where we wandered around the garden to check on our tiny tomatoes and baby peppers and little sprouts.
The cats are snoring.
I took a long nap this afternoon.
After being sick earlier this week and busy every night/day for weeks
it's been nice to take it slow and have nowhere to be.
We made breakfast. We made tacos.
John made of cups of boozy coffee with vanilla.
We did a crossword puzzle together and I played some Zelda.
It's damp and grey and smells like it, and the rain mixing with the incense I'm burning that I bought at the hippie shop up the street
along with a vegan recipe book (naturally)
is soothing and making me drowsy.
I know our bedroom is going to be dark and cool and smell like earth when we curl up together.
I hope we set aside some time to read our bedtime book together. John reads to be me sometimes before we go to sleep, and we're halfway through Life of Pi right now.
I've read it before - it's one of my favourite books - but it's a slow read aloud and we've been so busy that we've been falling right to sleep most nights.
But tonight feels perfect for it.
- by Alyson Shane
I've always been a "good sleeper". I usually don't have trouble falling, or staying, asleep as long as I'm in my own bed and am not in the throes of some anxiety attack or panic-inducing situation.
I also have really vivid and interesting dreams, which helps.
The last few years though, I've been getting more into early starts.
Part of it is that I don't party as much as I used to. When you're awake for days doing bad things to yr body, yr body needs to crash and reset and it does so through sleep.
I also like being awake more. In my pre-therapy days, lots of days felt like I was just trying to muddle through until I could crawl back into the safety of my bed and my dreams.
Sleep was more like an escape.
But in the last few years that has changed a lot. I still love sleeping, but if I could go without sleep for several days just so I could be productive and also do all the things I want to do, then I would.
I still want to stay up for days on end, but for different reasons.
I haven't been able to stay up for days per-se, but lately our jet lag has me waking up at 2 - 3AM most mornings, and passing out before 8PM. It's been weird, and is kinda like getting the flu at the end of your day because yr body is super confused internally.
Yesterday and today I woke up at 5:30AM and it was great.
Turns out I can get a lot done super duper early in the morning, and since I'm one of those people who are very very on and clear-headed and productive right after waking up these early-morning hours have been great.
I'm not going to miss falling asleep sitting up at 8PM, but y'know
- by Alyson Shane
Yesterday as I was on my way to a meeting my toque blew off my head because it was windy af and I had to chase it down the street like a chump
which wouldn't have been so bad, except as it was blowing away my toque blew into some dude's legs as he was also crossing the street, and you know what he did?
He laughed and kicked my toque off his leg and I swear I could have chewed him out for being a tool right then and there but I was worrying about catching up with my toque and also getting my hair, scarf, and glasses which slipped off my face as I was hustling in place
(I must have looked like a hot mess)
then as I was bending down to snatch up my hat my phone went flying out of my pocket and wouldn't you know it
the damn thing hit the pavement and the screen shattered into a bazillion horrible and depressing shards.
It was heartbreaking.
But I had to go to a meeting with a new client and my account manager so I had to keep my shit together even though I was freaking out internally because now I needed to get a new phone. There was no way I could use this broken POS. Ugh.
So after my meeting wrapped I headed to my friendly neighbourhood Rogers kiosk to get it replaced. As I was going through the transaction I mentioned that I was heading to Thailand in a few months and the dude said
oh no way, I just got back from Thailand and Indonesia!
and gave me a ton of tips and tricks to traveling through Thailand including making sure we do some scuba diving off the islands on the southern part of the country
(which we were planning to do)
and also to take as many night trains as possible since they're affordable and beautiful and offer lots of chances to actually interact with real Thai folks and not just dumb tourists like us.
(we're now booked on a night train to Chiang Mai which I am PUMPED about)
"Sorry about this" he said "but it's gonna be $300 to buy out of your contract and get a new phone" and I said well, that sucks but OK. I'm not a baller but my corporation can afford it so I'll just buy it now and get money back on my taxes since it's a business expense.
And he said, oh you run a business, what do you do?
And I said I run a digital marketing agency blah blah and he said are you looking for copywriters?
And I said, why yes I am
and he told me his gf was a CreComm grad and is a copywriter and is looking for more work and I thought THIS IS PERFECT because I have lots of work I need done and I'd rather pay someone to do it than do it myself because yr girl is busy af
so I left him my card and have a potential new hire without doing any work.
What's weird about that whole exchange is that if I hadn't been chatty and pleasant and probably bordered on over-sharing what my company does, what our Thailand plans are, etc.
(luckily for me I live in a city where everyone is unusually nice and talkative with strangers)
I might not have gotten those travel protips or had the potential to meet a new person who can help me grow my company and do good work for my clients.
The moral of the story I think is: be chatty and pleasant and good things will come to you.
It always seems to work out that way for me, anyway.
- by Alyson Shane
I'm sitting at the Fyxx on Broadway and eating lunch: Tandoori's Box sandwich (pretty good) and some chicken gumbo soup (very good) and a glass of water because I have a thermos of coffee in my bag that John made for me this morning before I left the house.
He makes coffee in a Chemex during the weekdays and has a system of pouring the water, waiting, and pouring that it part Chemex-specific, and part his own process.
On the weekends he makes coffee using the Aeropress but the coffee also includes tasty stuff like a shot of Jameson's or Baileys or Kahlua if we're craving something sweet.
John's coffee is one of the highlights of my day-to-day and I will be the first to admit that I am completely spoiled in this regard.
I only make my own coffees when he's travelling for work or out of town and I can tell you that even though it's hard to fuck up coffee, whatever I make isn't nearly as good.
Back when I worked in an office he would make me a big thermos to take with me so I didn't have to drink the Maxwell House that every office seems to defer to.
(We do not drink Maxwell House. We drink fair trade coffee from our local coffee shops like Thom Bargen and sometimes Parlour Coffee or Little Sister).
(Though we often cut our fancy beans with flavoured beans from Bulk Barn which means my coffee is half French Vanilla or Hazelnut or whatever, which is isn't as fancy but is way more delicious).
When I started running Starling a few years back I switched from going into an office every day to working from home and I'd assumed for some reason that my thermos of coffee would go away
after all, if I'm at home with all the coffee stuff why would John bother making extra for me?
But every day for the past three-plus years John has not only made me a thermos of coffee every weekday
but he brews it, mixes it, and drops it off at my desk in the morning before he leaves for the office
so by the time I'm finished getting ready I have a cozy office with a big 'ol thermos of coffee waiting for me on my desk.
A while back we had a big fight in the morning before work.
I forget what it was about, but it was one of those stupid fights where you're probably too emotionally volatile (and fully not awake yet) so everything is a problem and the other person makes you so mad you could spit.
I said to John "just go away. I'll see you later" and I started getting ready like I usually do
and that wonderful man, you know what he did?
He went upstairs and made me my usual thermos of coffee
and then he dropped it off in my office as usual
even though we were in the middle of a fight and I was, in hindsight, probably not being my best self
(I'm not a morning person)
he still went out of his way to be kind to me.
Later in the day after we'd calmed down and had a chat and things were back to normal I said
"why did you still make me coffee this morning?"
and he said
"just because we're fighting doesn't mean I get to be a dick about things. I love you."
Thank god I'm marrying that man.
- by Alyson Shane
It was at the Cinématheque down in The Exchange District and it was the first movie I've seen there in a long time. We ordered popcorn and an Orange Jones Soda, which is my favourite, and a bag of Skittles which are also my favourite.
Luckily for me John's favourite is popcorn so going to the movies together is always an easy experience since we never disagree on what to get. We sat in the second row which didn't matter much since the cinema is so small that there's no bad seats, really.
The movie was Won't You Be My Neighbor? and it was a documentary about Fred Rogers, who most people over 30 will recognize as Mister Rogers of the iconic children's program Mister Rogers Neighbourhood.
He was the guy who talked to you about divorce when your parents were trying to keep you in the dark. He was the adult who explained what it meant to die when everyone around you was saying "Grandma went to sleep forever." He was the adult who said "I like you just the way you are" to a lot of kids who needed to hear it. Me included.
I wore my glasses because I knew I was going to cry at least once, and I did but only a little. I heard a lot of other people sniffling though, so there were at least a few other misty-eyed viewers in the room.
It was weird to get emotional to clips of an old man telling us he liked us just the way we were.
Think about that: a whole room full of people, sniffling and trying to hold back tears, getting emotional about a man who went out of his way to tell them that they're special and deserve to be loved no matter what.
What an incredible impact to be able to have on people.
And how heartbreaking that so many of us still needed to hear it.
I still needed to hear it.
At the end of the film his wife and some of the other interviewees said that Mister Rogers struggled to believe that his show had made a meaningful impact on the world at large.
How he spent his career trying to heal a broken world that seemed to be getting worse, not better, and doubted whether his voice and message had any value in modern society.
Which was the most heartbreaking thing of all if you ask me.
- by Alyson Shane
I first moved into Spence St with Gordon. I needed a place to live that was closer to the University of Winnipeg and also that didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Until then I'd been living in a tiny and beautiful but wildly overpriced one-bedroom apartment in The Roslyn in Osborne Village, and I had to worry about putting myself through university so my gorgeous apartment had to go.
I moved in with Gordon and promptly realized that while he was a wonderful and charming human he was also a bit of a hot mess. Which isn't saying much, because I was also a hot mess at the time.
Inevitably our hot-mess-ness (especially me; I was a horrible, anxious mess at this point) spilled over and our brief, dramatic, sometimes wonderful but mostly stressful time together came to an end.
Then Ty moved in and the place I lived became my home. It was our home for a while and I made some of my best memories there.
I loved the gymnasium flooring that was beat to shit but still beautiful. Especially around the doorway to the living room where the wood had seen the most wear and tear. It showed the signs of lives lived there, moving in and out.
The vines grew over the bedroom window during the summertime and I loved how bright and green the room was on the weekend mornings when I'd sit in bed with a coffee and the front page of The Washington Post in my laptop.
The day we brought Toulouse home. He and our other cat, Ford, didn't get along at first, but his dopey and persistent personality won through and they became bros in the end. Eventually I wound up with T. and Ty took Ford when we split, but in the end I think it was for the best since Toulouse was always my baby, anyway.
That April day when I spent a spring day in-between university exams listening to NPR and painting the kitchen. Those old walls were so beat-up and stained. I must have painted for over eight hours to get it all done.
One time during a horrible winter blizzard we spent the weekend huddled inside playing Final Fantasy IX, eating grilled cheese sandwiches and drinking spiked hot chocolate.
I miss how the street looked as the seasons changed. The way the canopy of leaves looked over the street in the summertime. I loved learning the patterns of the neighbours, the cars, the people.
I had a raised bed in the community garden behind my building. I gardened there the first summer John and I were together and he biked over from his house in Wolseley with a bunch of gardening supplies hanging from his handlebars for me.
I remember putting together IKEA furniture on the floor in the living room. John and I drank caesars and listened to Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect by The Decemberists and I think I cried.
I must have cried.
Because just like the neighbourhood, my apartment on Spence Street changed.
Ty moved out and I went back to having a roommate. Jamie moved into our old bedroom and I moved into our old office down the hall; my old room when Gordon and I had lived together. I felt like I'd come "full circle" in my strange, old little space.
At this point my memories of Spence Street started to change.
What stands out to me most now is the way the wind blew through the window next to the bed, and how it smelled at night before we went to sleep.
John read to me before we went to sleep at night and we read a devastating book called Reunion by Alan Lightman. I started re-reading Cities of the Interior by Anaïs Nin, but got weary with her flowery prose and started reading Hemingway instead.
Jamie and I had opposite schedules so most of our interactions were comings and goings. A wave in the hallway. A "good morning" as I left for work. A few sessions spent binge-watching The Knick on the couch in the living room.
I gardened throughout the summer, had friends over as usual, and ate too many samosas from the Rubbermaid Tote that usually sat on the checkout counter at the sketchy corner store.
But I didn't live on Spence Street much longer after that.
Eventually it became apparent that the amount of time we were spending together didn't warrant the commute between our homes, so I moved in with John and we've lived together here ever since.
I love living here in our hippy neighbourhood, with our garden and our bedroom and our sunroom and our mornings spent singing songs and cooking breakfast together in the kitchen on the weekends. I wouldn't trade this for the world.
Yet every time I walk by Spence Street I feel a tug in my heart. Sometimes I walk by my old building just to feel the familiar pull of home.
It's still a little strange to look up to see the living room light on and know it's not mine.
- by Alyson Shane
(me, a few days after changing my life)
which is a weird thing to say, when you think about it. There aren't a ton of opportunities for us to point back at and say "that was a thing I did that fundamentally changed my life forever," but I'm lucky enough to have accumulated a few by this point.
One of those times was seven years ago when I got my breast reduction.
Which means my breast reduction is old enough to be in the 1st grade.
You know what's also weird? Going for elective surgery, which was also free because I live in Canada and my huge boobs were causing me a lot of mental and physical strain
(I still have back problems and am very careful about my posture)
is super, duper weird.
Because we always think of going for surgery as this big, scary thing. Usually if we're going for surgery there's something wrong with us. We have cancer. We had a heart attack. We fell off our bike and our Fibula is sticking out of our leg.
Gross, awful, not-pleasant times.
But going for elective surgery is FUN. You get to have something done to yr body that's going to enhance your life experience, and you get to get loopy on some crazy drugs in a safe, controlled environment. It's actually a pretty sweet deal assuming everything goes according to plan, which in my case it did and I'm forever thankful for it.
After it was over and I was finally able to walk to and from the bathroom and pee by myself (which the metric they use to determine if you're okay to go home, I guess) I went home, and the guy I was seeing at the time (bless his heart) got me a bunch of Double Cheeseburgers from McDonalds and I lay on the couch in our living room in a Fentanyl-induced haze slowly mowing down DCB after DCB.
It was so gross and glorious at the same time.
And then just like that my life changed.
Over the years I'd become accustomed to just being a pair of tits because that's how most people treated me. Strangers would comment on the size of my chest. Other women would ask probing questions like
"omg, what cup size do you wear?"
(38HH most of the time, but nothing really fit properly)
"you must get SO much attention from guys!"
(Yes, I did. A lot. It sucked. Being objectified is even worse when it's about a part of your body that you don't like.)
"don't those things make your back hurt?"
(Yes, they did. I still have back and neck problems, and am very careful about my posture because I used to slouch my shoulders pretty badly because of the weight.)
Calling them "those things" always felt appropriate though, since I guess that's actually how I felt about them. Like they were these things attached to the rest of me that I didn't identify with, or want. They didn't make me feel the way women are told our breasts are supposed to make us feel: empowered, beautiful, and feminine.
And to be honest for a long time I still didn't think that way.
I don't think I've really become comfortable with myself and my body until the last few years or so, so it's not like I can point at my breast reduction and say
omg my breast reduction completely changed my life!
because that wouldn't be entirely true. But I can say:
I'm glad I did it because it gave me a sense of control over my body, and that it encouraged me to make more choices that made me feel empowered in the years to come.
It was one step of many
but dang if it wasn't a big step.
R.I.P. old boobs. You won't be missed.