- 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.
- 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.