- 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.
- by Alyson Shane
The weird and scary thing about relationships is that they're really just based on a few things:
like when you start dating someone you're essentially taking a gamble with yr heart and hoping that one of a million things doesn't happen to mess it up, and if you start messing these up or slacking in these areas then you can basically kiss yr relationship goodbye.
(No pressure or anything.)
When John and I started dating four years ago I sucked at all of the things on that list.
I was in a super duper dark place emotionally and felt very trapped and afraid of my life and future.
I had unaddressed and unresolved trust issues which caused me to keep my thoughts and feelings from my partners and friends.
A lack of trust meant that I was never really honest with anyone.
And even though I could bare my soul here on the internet I wasn't taught the emotional language to express how I felt to my partner in healthy ways. So I didn't.
(I feel bad for my past boyfriends. But maybe that's normal.)
The last part is luck and I don't just mean "omg we're so lucky we found each other"
For some weird reason the universe sent me a human whose personality, values, motivations, and communication style are all compatible with my own. For whatever reason, even though we grew up in different places with very different influences, we somehow became people who work well together and can work together towards our shared goals.
That's what I mean by luck. This shit's rare.
(Believe me, I've been looking for a while.)
Of course our relationship has challenges.
We both work a lot and sometimes our businesses are the main priority.
John can be too severe when he's upset and is so, so stubborn.
I still struggle not to stonewall and be snarky when I feel overwhelmed or attacked.
We miscommunicate and misinterpret each other's intentions.
But those conflicts become fewer and farther-between the longer we've been together, and it's because we don't let each other sweep stuff under the rug, or avoid talking about how we feel.
In fact the few times we have conflicts these days is usually because one of us had some negative feelings building that we didn't address (or recognize) until we were already mid-conflict.
Like I said: we're working on it and I'm okay with that because day-to-day life is pretty swell.
It's nice to be in a relationship with a fellow business owner who understands the crazy roller coaster that is entrepreneurship, closing deals, hiring and firing, and everything in-between.
It's nice to be in a relationship with someone who can make me laugh until my face and sides hurt and my eyes start tearing up.
It's nice to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't take my shit and keeps me accountable (even when I wish he wouldn't.)
It's nice to be in a relationship with my best friend.
At the start of this post I talked about how luck plays a big role in successful relationships, but I kinda think the idea that luck is a thing that happens to you is kinda is B.S.
Life presents you with opportunities, and "lucky people" are just the ones who are ready / brave / stupid / enough to go for it.
Which is what we did.
And here we are, four years strong.
I couldn't be more happy about it.
(Miss you, Bear.)
- by Alyson Shane
Followers of this blog will know that recently I started learning to drive for real and it's been an interesting experience to say the least. Not bad per-se, but driving definitely isn't my favourite activity as I've mentioned earlier.
It's also a weird experience to learn to do something that almost everyone else around you already knows how to do, and has been doing for years and even decades at this point. It's hard not to judge yrself because omg I really don't know how to parallel park and definitely need to practice taking tighter turns, but it's also been a good exercise in trying to be more 'zen' about things.
Which is hard for an anxious, excitable Scorpio with heaps of emotional baggage like yours truly.
But somehow I've been managing and it's been pretty cool, but I guess that when life is generally going in a good direction it's easy to feel zen a lot of the time.
The business is good.
Love life is good.
Relationships are good.
Physical and mental health is good.
Things generally seem to be moving in a really positive direction and it's partly amazing and wonderful and also partly terrifying because we all know good things don't last forever, amirite?
Kinda like how the smell of campfire smoke only smells charming a few days after camping before it starts to stink, good things only last so long and it can either be a source of stress or be a reason to learn to try and let go a little bit.
Maybe like The Oatmeal says, we shouldn't expect to feel "happy" all the time.
Maybe that's not the point.
Maybe the point is to learn to enjoy the quiet moments of stillness in yr life when everything's coming up Milhouse and just be cool with how things are at the moment.
Not worry so damn much about what could happen tomorrow or next Tuesday or a month from now.
For right now, I'm just enjoying things as they are and doing my best to be chill about things while things are chill. I'm totally going to let myself off the hook for getting a little overwhelmed at trying to learn a new life skill today because until now I've been doing great.
Next week I'll show that curb whose boss and not hit it.
And if not, try, try again.
(See? Zen af.)
(At least, I'm kinda getting there.)
- by Alyson Shane
Alyson Shane is an idea of a person that I got from my parents, originally. I was almost a Jennifer (thanks for nixing that one, Dad) but instead I got an unusual name with a "y" in it which has served me well because Alyson Shane works well together and people notice when your name is spelled differently.
It helps you stand out.
My last name, Shane, doesn't tie me to any historical significance. Beyond a few other people who share it we have no collective family history, no looking back on forefathers. No great-great-great grandsomethings. It was a name someone chose, or was chosen for us, when a generation once or twice removed came to Canada.
So that's out.
I can call myself a lot of things:
But none of those things actually apply to me. Those are things I do. Ways I spend my time and energy. How I make a living. The stuff I do in my free time. The ways I direct my energy.
Sometimes I look at my cat and I think What are you to you? Do you self-identify? What do you think about?
And while my cat's thought process is probably something like: food food food water sleep sleep pets pets pets jealousy jealousy jealousy pets pets pets sleep sleep sleep
it's probably happening in the weird nonverbal ways our bodies tell us to go to bed or that it's time to have a snack. My cat doesn't have a sense of self or an identity to speak of. He wants food and pets and doesn't think about his religion (or lack thereof) or which type of bread he prefers (sourdough) or the stuff he likes to do in his spare time (write, paint, garden, cycle.)
Homeboy just hangs out.
But us weird humans, we layer on all these meanings and ascribe all this significance to things that, at the end of the day, are just ideas and labels.
My business could fold. My partner could leave me. I could lose both my hands in a freak laundry accident and never write or blog again.
Stripping away the labels I apply to myself or have had applied to me is scary because when you stop identifying with labels and actions you get left with... what?
Your weird, messy insides.
Your meat sack that carries around all these ideas that have been assigned to you, or that you've applied to yourself, or that you continue to carry around and identify with because it makes things a little less scary.
Which is why taking the time to create art and amplify yr creative output are so important.
Real creative output can bypass all the bullshit ideas and labels and just put yr shit out there, the real, inside-out fear and stress and struggle and joy stuff.
So like Jim Carrey says "you just play your part as best you can" and go about your day trying to shape the ideas you have about yourself and create stuff whenever possible without getting too wrapped in your self-judgment, idea-based BS.
For me that's writing a blog post about the ideas that make up who we are as people and how much it freaks me out
and not worrying about the end result feels like.
- by Alyson Shane
And if you didn't know that - surprise! - I've never taken a road test to receive my full license.
But since I'm 30 and it's a useful skill to have I figured I should probably start pulling my weight and learn to drive so I can pay people back for all the times they've dd'ed my around.
And if I'm being totally honest with you I really don't get the hype.
But I've never been a "car person" if I'm being honest.
One time when I was 17 or so my friend Nat and I took the bus to Polo Park which was was over two hours away from our house in the dumb suburbs on the bus.
(Probably still is, too, given at the rate our transit has improved. Geez.)
And we took the bus and went to the mall and had what I thought was a good time hanging out to and from the mall. But when we got off the bus back in our suburb she told me
"That was the worst experience. I'm never taking the bus to the mall again. From now I'm only going to drive to the mall."
And I remember thinking girl we just spent the last several hours hanging out and you're saying they sucked because you had to sit on the bus? And that made me feel like trash, because I'd thought we'd had a good time hanging out and not having to pay attention to the road or other drivers. We'd actually hung out with each other.
It was around then I decided that driving turns a lot of people into assholes.
It was also around then that I decided that I didn't want to risk becoming one of those assholes so I moved downtown and never got around to getting my license as a result. It's a surprisingly easy thing to put off doing when you can walk, bike, or take public transit anywhere you need to go.
Besides once you hit 21 or 22 everyone else around you has their license, so even if you moved downtown and didn't actually need a car like I did, I still knew someone with access to one in case I ever needed a ride or help getting something from IKEA.
But it's prudent to have yr license in the event of an emergency, and if I ever have kids I'm sure I'd want to have a car around and not wait on a cab or Uber or whatever if we need to get to a hospital asap.
So I've been driving here and there and everywhere and while it's not the worst thing it's still not this omg thing that people seem to love.
People tell me that it'll get better when handling the car is just muscle memory but
I don't want to start feeling like driving a car is routine and boring because that's how accidents happen. I've never been in a car accident and I'd prefer to keep it that way thank you very much.
Gotta stay sharp af behind that wheel.
Wish me luck, folks!
- by Alyson Shane
We've been together for almost four years but we've actually known each other a lot longer. 2010, I think, back when we were dating other people. We met at a baby shower for a mutual friend and he was wearing a sweater vest. I thought he looked sharp.
He's a very silly person and I've always liked being around people who can laugh at themselves and who can take a joke. Ribbing people as a form of endearment is one of my favourite past times and it's always nice to encounter another fellow pest in the wild. I always liked having him around.
One of the things you should know about John is that he will always keep you honest. He's very blunt and to-the-point which can really rub some people the wrong way. Heck, it rubs me the wrong way sometimes but I know he means well so I let it go.
There are worse things in life than your partner being as honest with you as they can, I figure.
That unflinching honesty has helped me grow a lot as a person which is something I think we should look for in a long-term partner. If you're going to be with someone for as long as you can you don't want them to stay the exact same, right?
It's also super inspiring to be around someone who works as hard as he does. Dude is super-motivated and lives and breathes whatever he's into.
Sometimes it can be exhausting but honestly I envy his ability to sink suuuper deep down into a problem and really lose himself in solving it. I need to get up and stretch and pee and take coffee breaks and pet the cats too often. I write in lots of short, intense bursts of a few hours max but John can put his head down and work all day and just give 'er.
He works super hard and really believes in what he's doing and it's honestly the coolest thing to be able to spend my time hanging out with someone who is so motivated.
He makes me want to do good stuff, and in turn I do good stuff, too.
He also pushes himself to try new things and not turn down an adventure. Because of him I've held a crab at the ocean floor, climbed to the top of a Mayan pyramid, taken busses across foreign countries in the night, and pushed myself mentally and emotionally farther than I wanted or expected to could go.
It's pretty crazy to think of the impact that someone can have on your life if you think about it.
Honestly though, I just feel thankful that he wants to spend his free time hanging out with me even though I'm moody and difficult and I always drink the last sip of club soda when we're sharing. It's nice to spend your days with your best friend, and to continue to be best friends after all these weird, wild years.
He also calls his mom a lot and tells her he loves her, which is another a sign he's a super-solid dude.
Happy birthday to John, my super solid dude <3
- by Alyson Shane
a high school kid asked me that when I was speaking to his class the other day.
It's been a while since I've been in a high school or even around a lot of teenagers at once, and I was impressed by how smart and thoughtful they all were because I remember most of us being stupid af back in high school.
I was in there to talk to a senior math class about how I use math in my work which was weird to me at first because if there's one thing I really hate, it's math.
But when the math you do is wrapped up in something else that you like to do it's not so bad.
I spend a lot of time calculating acronyms like ROI and CAC and CPC and CLV and it's not my favourite thing but it helps me make informed decisions and become better at what I do.
And it's probably good to hear about math in a real-world context vs. only using it in school like most of us did growing up.
So yr girl put some slides together and we talked about the wonderful world of marketing formulas, which wound up getting more laughs than I'd expected, but not for the reasons that I'd anticipated.
But overall it went well and when we'd wrapped the presentation we did a Q&A session. They asked me about my career, my degree, my plans for the future. One kid asked me how much I made which I sidestepped because it's none of his dang business.
But I did tell him that being a business owner has changed my earning potential, and that not relying on a single job snd paycheque wasn't as scary as I used to think it would be.
Which I hope some of them really heard, because I could have used hearing something like that at their age.
Mostly though we just talked about social media.
None of the kids use Facebook. Hardly anyone's on Twitter. Instagram is huge. Snapchat is dead
(and if high school kids are saying it, you know it must be true)
but everyone knows about LinkedIn all of a sudden even though it "used to be super lame" before.
They like the idea of using Vero but are worried that it's going to go the route of every social network and become monetized and ruined by changes to their algorithm, and then they'll have to move on to the next new app or social platform and go through it all over again.
Told you they're smart.
A few of them like writing but don't know how to be writers for a living, so I told them that in the age of the internet there are more ways to be a writer than being a journalist or trying to be the next Stephen King. We talked about copywriting and how my company works, what we do, how we help our clients.
I talked about how much I loved writing, and blogging, and rhetoric, and I feel super duper lucky that I stumbled my way into doing something for a living that allows me to do all of those things and then some.
And when that boy asked me what my favourite part about my job was it felt really nice to say
"doing stuff like this. Talking to you guys."
Because it's true.
- by Alyson Shane
I'm on a flight right now.
Sitting in a middle seat between a quiet dude and a lady with a baby with big brown eyes. The baby keeps grabbing my hair a bit and pulling, which hurts but not too much, so I'm not too bothered.
We've been in the air for a few hours and I've finished reading The Handmaid's Tale, which is the book I brought for the trip. I've read it before, but it's been nice to revisit it given the current political climate and recent tv series starring Elizabeth Moss.
Margaret Atwood manages to be so quietly sinister in her writing. I forgot how upsetting this book was.
But now that I'm done I have nothing to do, so I'm writing this and looking over the dude's shoulder out the window.
(I covet window seats, but I didn't book these so it wasn't up to me.)
We're descending into Pearson Airport right now and I can see Toronto in the distance. The sun is setting and it's misty. I can see the dim outline of the CN Tower against the misty lake.
There's a big, wide highway that leads from a suburb
(Mississauga? Brampton? Oakville?)
into the heart of the city. Like a big, thick vein.
An artery for cars.
I used to know the names of these streets, once. I pored over Google Maps, memorizing the streets and picturing myself walking down their sidewalks.
Once upon a time I daydreamed about disappearing into this big, noisy metropolis. Forgetting my name, history, family.
All the things I knew or believed about myself.
Every city has that appeal for someone, I suppose. People looking to start over. For an opportunity. A big break. A culture shock.
Or just to get out of their own damn hometown.
Toronto used to be that to me, once. I was obnoxious with how much I wanted to live there. How I compared it - unfairly, of course - to Winnipeg.
(How annoying I must have been.)
It's weird to see it now and feel that same familiar pull. Like a fish hook in my navel, pulling me towards those towers of glass. The possibilities.
But we're about to land and if I'm being honest I can't wait to get back to Winnipeg.
I miss home.
- by Alyson Shane
On our second-last night on the island we finally decided to go to Pippy's restaurant.
Pippy (pronounced Pépe) spends his days hanging out in front of one of the Chinese grocery stores with a menu in his hand heckling people to go eat at the restaurant where he works, telling them about the day's specials.
It was getting dark and we'd just finished watching the tarpin over by Tarpin Watch, which is a dock on one end of the island where a bunch of huge tarpin congregate
where you can buy bags of anchovies for a few bucks and when you pinch them between your thumb and forefinger and hang your hand over the dock the wild fish will jump up and take it from your hand
and I was ready to eat, so when we walked by Pippy and he hollered at us about the conch soup we were like
"fine, okay. Take us to the restaurant."
He starts walking us down a residential street with no restaurant signs to be seen and it's getting dark and I'm wondering where the heck this restaurant is
and we round a corner and find a picnic shelter with a few picnic tables and some rowdy folks enjoying some amazing-smelling food.
They were finishing up but stayed around to chat for a bit. Their names were Jen, Brian, Zane, Nick, and I think we also met another Jen and Shawn that evening, and an older lady named Kale and her husband Ricky Lee, and we all bonded over being from cold places.
Jen and Brian were on the island to get married and invited us to their wedding the next day which of course we agreed to. They went on their way and we stayed at Meldy's (the restaurant's name) to finish eating some of the best damn curry shrimp I've ever had.
Afterward we were treated to a series of rum punch drinks courtesy of a young Belgian couple we ran into while buying beer from the store. Her nipple piercing was infected (!!!) and we helped them buy Hydrogen Peroxide so they made us drinks as a "thank you"
(people are so nice on vacation!)
But after a few of those I was feeling tipsy and needed a snack so we walked up Front St to a street vendor selling the best damn burrito you'll ever eat, and a golf cart pulls up and we hear
"Hey John and Alyson!"
and it's Jen and Brian and Nick and Zane on the golf cart and Pippy's on the back and we hop on and go up to the street and party with them all night. Pippy rapped and we did way too many shots and had the blurriest night filled with so many laughs.
The next morning we slept through as much of our hangover as possible and spent the day wandering around the island, soaking up our last day and hunting for lobster to eat.
At 5pm we walked to The Split where the wedding was supposed to start and noticed some local police officers driving up on a golf cart behind us. Over by the bar were all the friends we'd made the night before, as well as some of the locals from the island and some of the expats Jen and Brian had met during their stay.
It felt like a weird, beautiful culmination of many of the faces that had started to feel familiar over the last few weeks. Even Thug Taxi was there!
We grabbed beers and waited for Jen and Brian to arrive and since the weather was getting dark and the wind was picking up Nick decided to get things underway.
I took video and John snapped photos and everyone formed a semi-circle around the couple as Nick officiated. One of the police officers on the island, Lieutenant (or was it Constable?) Terrance played Charlie Pride and George Jones.
Pippy, the unsuspecting catalyst for all of these amazing memories and new friendships was Brian's best man.
When the ceremony was over we saw Jen and Brian off in their "chariot"
(a golf cart with a plastic cover to guard from the rain)
with beers in hand and walked up Front St. to a restaurant called Hibiscus where we drank martinis and ate amazing food and laughed until our throats felt raw.
It was a nice reminder that weddings don't have to be a big hoopla.
That they can be about you and a couple of people you love and some random people you invited into your life.
That it can be a chance to make new friends and help other make great memories, too.
Honestly that wedding was the best possible way to end our trip.
P.S. Hi Jen, Brian, Nick and Zane!
- by Alyson Shane
For most of our stay we rented an AirBnB in a place called The Bahia which is a thirty minute walk or so from the village of Caye Caulker.
When we arrived on the island it was after dark and the golf cart taxi that we caught at the water ferry dock almost got lost because he took the long way around, which didn't have street lights or signs.
As we pulled up to the big yard the security lights came on and three friendly dogs came running up to us. These dogs would become good friends in the coming weeks, despite one of them chewing up one of John's shoes when I moved them outside to sweep.
Our AirBnB host was waiting to walk us through our space: two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and two-tier deck that we would call home for the next 10 days.
I'm surprised in retrospect how easily we settled into quiet days in our house.
Most mornings the sunlight and heat would wake me up before 7AM and I'd spend quiet mornings on the couch working, or laying in the hammock with a book and petting the dogs while John snoozed.
Waking up and standing on the deck and looking at the ocean while I sipped my coffee filled me with a sense of contentedness that I don't often feel.
It's surprising how at peace one can feel when close to water, or the ocean.
On the first day we biked into town and got breakfast, but in the following days we ate most of our breakfasts at home. John would make eggs and sausage and I cut up fresh tomatoes, papaya, and slices of thick cheese. We ate sitting across from each other, our legs brushing under the table.
The AirBnB came with two cruiser bikes and most days we rode our bikes into the village in the morning and rode them back in the early afternoon after we'd gone swimming, kayaking, or scuba diving.
In the evenings we would shower and walk back on foot to get dinner somewhere, dodging potholes and petting the various dogs that lived in the neighbourhood.
At night we'd walk home or catch a golf cart taxi if it was raining, or if we were too tired. Whenever we came home the dogs would be there to meet us, running up to our bikes or jumping onto the back of the taxi to say "welcome back!" when we arrived.
One night when it was storming we retreated to our little home and listened to music and talked and drank beer as the rain pelted the house. I spotted two geckos on the walls that night.
The following morning I woke up and there was a man breaking up seashells and debris in our yard using a machete. I watched him for a bit from inside and we waved at each other when I stepped outside to set up the hammock. He had two little boys with him, one of which was his son, and I enjoyed watching them chase the dogs around the yard while he worked.
Since The Bahia is still in development - there are several streets that are planned, but not built, and the area is undergoing a surge with new houses and AirBnBs bleeding into the area - it was far enough from the village that most of the people around weren't tourists.
Around 8AM every morning one of our neighbours - I use this term loosely because there were several feet of swampy mangrove roots in-between our houses - would start playing music. Loudly. Usually it was some sort of salsa or Spanish fusion.
Within a few hours one of our other neighbours - this one was further up the street, I think - would start blaring his music (usually Top 40's hip hop) and the two of them would wage a war of attrition against one another all day. Each one slowly turning up his or her music to drown the other out.
I found this exchange to be particularly hilarious coming from our stuffy North American "too polite" standards.
Heaven forbid someone else hears your music!
In the mornings when I would stand on the deck the construction workers across the street would wave at me and shout "good morning!" and I enjoyed watching them get deliveries of sandwiches and Fanta throughout the day.
At night we would walk home and pass people's houses with doors wide open, usually with the TV on or sometimes playing the radio. We experimented with different streets to see which way was the most efficient (and had the fewest potholes), and got to know all the local landmarks which helped us find our way home in the dark, or the rain, or after a few drinks.
Our location allowed us to immerse ourselves in island life in a way that isn't available with a hotel or resort.
There's an ebb and flow to neighbourhoods and cities, and I deeply miss the early mornings, busy days, and quiet nights that we experienced in The Bahia.
One night we were hanging out at the Windsor pizza place and the guy managing the restaurant decided to bike home with us as we walked. We passed by the convenience store with its bright, fluorescent lights cutting through the darkness and he pointed at one of the wooden houses on stilts across the street:
"See that place?" he said "that's my home. I own that place! I moved here from Belize City and now I own my own home on this beautiful island. I'm living the dream."
And I realized: maybe he actually is.