musings of an aquarian age counterculturist


Strength in Community

photo credit: google images

photo credit: google images

After viewing the film Food Matters, I started reading everything I could find on the subject of Orthomolecular Medicine.  Last week I attended a seminar rooted in that philosophy.  The topic was “Dietary and Supplemental Support for Stress, Anxiety and Depression.” Some of the information presented was new to me; other parts were review of nuggets I had previously stumbled across on my own.

The presentation was really interesting and reinforced many, if not all, of my personal beliefs surrounding the role of nutrition in achieving and maintaining vibrant health.  I attended this talk with certain filters in place, keeping in mind that as an ethical vegan, I often find myself on the sidelines of many discussions involving mainstream nutrition or flavour-of-the-month dietary fads .  As always, I had to remind myself going in that this was a generalized nutrition talk within the realm of “natural medicine”, meaning I would have to do “compassionate replacement therapy” in my head every time I heard the words “meat”, “protein” and/or “fish oil”, etc.  Gah!   Anyway.  By reminding myself that the animal protein bandwagon is firmly not an option for me, and that there are always compassionate alternatives available, I took in the information relevant to my situation and set aside everything else not in line with my personal ethics around food.

In the end, it was not the content of the talk that turned out to be a major revelation for me.  The light-bulb moment that evening occurred as I surveyed my surroundings.  Looking around, I was amazed to realize that the event was not simply well-attended, but brimming to capacity.  It was a full house:  standing room only.

At this realization, one thought dropped down in my mind like a tonne of bricks:  “A sold out seminar directed at those suffering from depression and anxiety.  This is a sign of the times.”

Every person in that room was touched in one way or another by ‘mental illness’ (a term I abhor, but have yet to hear another that everyone understands or accepts).

Every person in that room was someone, knew someone, or had heard of someone suffering with major depressive disorder, general/social anxiety, PTSD, bi-polar disorder or perhaps one of many other stress-related conditions.

Every person in that room was looking for answers, alternatives, ideas.

Every person in that room was hopeful.

Every person in that room was in community.

Perhaps it seems rather Pollyanna-ish to focus on hope in the face of the mind-boggling numbers of people struggling with the symptoms of this far-reaching spectrum of dis-ease.  But I sincerely believe that as long as people are seeking solutions there is hope.  That room was full of people seeking solutions.  Full to capacity.  Full of hope.

I believe depression can be overcome with time, patience and guidance.  And my heart is full.

I believe that suicide is not a foregone conclusion with respect to mental illness.  And my heart is full.

I believe there are antidotes to stress and anxiety available and possible.  And my heart is full.

I believe there is love and healing in community.  No matter what that community looks like.  And my heart is full.

It is my intention to incorporate orthomolecular medicine into my own experience of depression and anxiety in a way that works for me.  I am hopeful.  In community.

My heart is full.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
Marin Luther King, Jr



Mom 1968
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer as a young woman in her early 30’s.  I vividly recall her having the surgery which involved a lumpectomy and removal of the affected lymph nodes.  This was a highly progressive procedure in the day and age where standard operating procedure was complete mastectomy, no questions asked.

I remember my father taking my sister and I to visit her in the hospital afterward.  I remember the subsequent chemotherapy sessions.  I remember hearing that a classmate of my sister’s shared in “show and tell”, that our mom was dying of cancer.  When my father went to work to support us, I remember my mother driving herself back and forth to chemo sessions with kids in tow until the day came that she simply could not physically do it on her own anymore.  I remember witnessing her suffering through terrible nausea and vomiting nearing the end of that course of treatment.   Despite all of that, I remember our mother fighting to get well.  I also remember being completely confused by it all.  I was in Grade 5.

Fast forward 20-odd years from my mother’s initial breast cancer diagnosis and a lengthy period of clear clinical follow-ups.  After a time of feeling vaguely unwell and chronically exhausted, she was sent for a colonoscopy which resulted in a blood transfusion and diagnosis of colon cancer.

The news came as a complete shock.  I had just moved to Toronto a couple of months before.  I asked her if I should consider moving back to Manitoba.  She said, “Absolutely not.  It wouldn’t help anything and would only make me worry more.”

The months of treatment and recovery that followed were very difficult for her.  She endured it all quietly and stoically.  It is a testament to her strength and will to overcome that she lives to share her story.

At one point in her healing journey, my mother discovered her tribe: a group of cancer survivors participating in a dragon boat team to support each other and raise awareness. Since joining the team called “Waves of Hope”, my mother has attended many festivals and events that help to educate others about prevention and early detection.

This is an aerial overview of the recent Dragon Boat Festival in Sarasota, Florida.

At the end, you will see a cluster of boats joined together.  Every person seated in the boats are cancer survivors.  And every single rose you see dropped into the water represents someone.  Someone who didn’t make it.

My mother was there, in Boat #5.

Blessed be the survivors in their unity above and beyond adversity.  May hope and healing continue to expand in their wake.


Seeking the ‘Good’ in Good-Bye: Part 2

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

A decision had been made.  Accompanying my parents on their road trip to Ontario in summer of 1994 was out of the question.  I was starting a new job that was financing my upcoming return to school and which prevented me from taking time off in time to go with them.

That in mind, I explained to my father in a telephone conversation that I wouldn’t be able to take vacation before August.  Agreeing that I would instead come to visit in Manitoba in early August before school started, my Dad said, “Sounds good.  See ya then.”  And we hung up the phone.

That moment in time replays in my mind, in my dreams, and in my heart to this day.  It was the last time I ever heard my father’s voice.

In the midst of all of that I booked my flight to Manitoba.  I was to arrive the day after my parents returned from their road trip to Ontario, intending to stay for a week.

The date of my arrival?  August 3, 1994.

On August 1, I moved into the Edmonton apartment that I would be staying in for the duration of school.  My husband was to commute from his work to the city, until I graduated.

August 2, the day before I was to leave for Manitoba, was filled with the usual pre-travel errands and arrangements.   A bit of shopping, un-packing from the move, cleaning, and packing for the trip.  I was exhausted from everything going on but excited about the impending visit.

In the early evening, I decided to have a bath and wash my hair so I could save some time in the morning and sleep a little later.  I took my time, turned on some music, lit a candle and relaxed.

Coming out of the bathroom, hair tied in a turban, I gasped in surprise as my husband walked into the apartment.  He wasn’t expected to arrive from work until the following morning, in time to take me to the airport.

I started to say “Hi, what are you doing here…?”  But I didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence.

His hands gripping my shoulders, eyes awash with tears and boring into mine, he said almost harshly, “Jill. Your Dad was killed in an accident today.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t want to be the one to tell you.”

My heart stopped.  The room started contracting.  My surroundings began to look like those old fun house mirrors where everything is real but grotesquely distorted in every imaginable way.

I slowly shook my head, incapable of acknowledging the life-altering words just spoken.

“There’s been a mistake”, I said firmly.  “It couldn’t be my Dad”.

My husband then squeezed me so tight I wondered if another breath would come.  He said urgently,”Please call your mother.”

With leaden feet I walked into the hallway, leaned my back on the wall and slid to the floor as my husband handed me the phone.

With shaking hands I dialed and as the ringing tone began, everything around me retreated into a tunnel I could not name.

Abruptly, my mother answered the phone.

I couldn’t think or breathe.  In a voice that to me sounded loud and crazed, these words rushed out of my mouth:  “WHAT HAPPENED???”

Answering me in a soft, shaky voice, my mother unleashed a litany that would alter my world on every level.  “The police came to the door when I came home from work today.  Your father bought a truck and he was going to pick it up and insure it in Brandon.  On his way home, just as he left the city, he was hit head on by an oncoming car swerving erratically into his lane.  Emergency crews were called to the scene but it was too late.  Dad died instantly.  So did the couple in the other car.  They were from New Jersey and it is suspected that the man who was driving had a heart attack.  I couldn’t bring myself to call you, so I asked your husband to drive in and tell you in person so you wouldn’t be alone when you heard the news.”

We talked a little while longer.  Shocked and in disbelief, and even in the face of confirmation from my mother, I still could not take it in.  We ended the call with hushed tones and tears, nonsensical ramblings in a nonsensical time.

That night I did not sleep.  I cried and tossed and turned and cried some more.  Arriving at the airport the next morning, I was completely unprepared for what lay ahead.

As I checked in at the airport, the absurdity of what was happening suddenly and furiously hit me:  I had turned down my father’s request to join his final road trip, thinking there would be lots of time to visit later in the summer.  To add insult to injury, I had pre-purchased an airline ticket to arrive the day after my father died.

I missed him by a day.  ONE. FUCKING. DAY.

As this realization came over me, in front of a ticket agent in a major airport and all in sundry, I began to sob uncontrollably.  My knees buckled.  I could not see.  Not knowing what else to do with my sorry ass, the agent (bless her) came around the counter and gave me a huge hug, essentially holding me upright.  She whispered:  okay sweetie, let’s get this done quickly.  Hold on to me and I’ll get you where you need to go.

And so she did.  I don’t think I could have taken a step further without her.  In hindsight, I wish I had asked for her name.  Because her kindness will live with me forever.  So wherever you are compassionate airline ticket agent:  thank you.

On August 3, 1994, I boarded a plane to Winnipeg.

Not to visit my family as originally planned.

No.  I was about to attend my father’s funeral.



Writing 101:
Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t anymore.




Excuse Me While I Make Myself a Little More Uncomfortable.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.
–Mark Twain

As I’ve written about here before, there have been a lot of big changes going on in my life over the last year.  So many in fact that my head spins when I stop to consider it all.

My circumstances could certainly be classified as one of those situations where some pretty miserable experiences turned out to be in my best interest.  Not that there is any way in hell I could have been able to recognize the larger picture while it was all happening .  Fighting to stay afloat in a slew of emotional pain doesn’t exactly allow for broader philosophical-based thinking.

In the midst of a relentless shitstorm, it seemed that all I could really do is put my head down and ride it out until it passed.  And in time, it did pass.  Slowly and steadily some semblance of calmness and insight crept in, and with a lot of love and support from people who genuinely cared, I was eventually able to breathe again without the sensation of a crushing weight on my heart.

Arising from a place of immobility, I finally surrendered to the changes that were occurring spontaneously all around me from that point on.  Looking at my life now, I can’t believe everything that has happened from that moment to this.  There are times I don’t recognize myself anymore.  I’ve decided to accept this as a good sign.

Yes, what a difference a year makes.  Whispers of struggle remain, but I am in such a different place than I was a year ago.  A far more peaceful, sweeter, loving place.  But by no means am I feeling comfortable.   This is not a bad thing.

For the first time in a long while I’m feeling optimistic in the present moment and excited about the future.  Amongst many other things going on, I am leaving behind a 20+ year career that was a self-made prison, otherwise known as my “Comfort Zone”.   While I’m grateful for the experience I gained and the skills I now carry with me, I realize that world no longer fits who I am or where I’m going.  And so a new adventure begins.  I am in the early stages of carving out a freelancing business and narrowing down the services I am planning to offer.  All I know for certain is that I am being called to do my own thing, in whatever way it manifests.

As exciting as it is, there is a lot of fear rising up inside about my ability to make this happen.  Despite that, I am not allowing fear to prevent me from moving forward.  I have so much to learn but I’m ready to take a leap into the unknown.  It is time to follow the dream unfolding before me by creating space to follow my intuition and allow new ideas to inspire me.  In the end, I’m determined that if it doesn’t work out, it won’t be because I didn’t give it my best shot.

So excuse me while I make myself a little more uncomfortable.  Right now, it is the best feeling in the world.



A Love Letter To My Heart

To My Heart:

You are the hardest worker I know. Pumping oxygen rich blood to all my cells, keeping me alive and whole, you perform your task unfailingly.  Conducting operations primarily undercover, you beat the drum of my life with precision and persistence.  Until you skip a beat in excitement or pound with fear, your efforts escape my notice.

Broken, bruised and battered last year, you took on a lot of additional responsibility for my well-being.  You cracked in half.  Contracted in pain.  Squeezed until there was nothing left inside to compress.

Then gradually, moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month, you ever so gently began to expand again.  The wound progressively mending, new tissue emerging.  Old pain dissolving.  New life beginning.  I did not witness your handiwork.  I felt no immediate effects.  No, your craft is far too subtle and deep to ever be a big showy production in full view of the conscious mind.

It is true that you bear a scar where that deep cut used to be, but rather than an unsightly reminder, it is beautiful to behold.  Because it is the mark of healing.  A testament to what it means to overcome.

Yes, the scar still hurts sometimes in the tender spots, but those moments of pain are less intense and far more fleeting.  Love, patience and hope massage the remaining aches away.

I look at you in wonder now:  resilient, strong, loving and open once again.  A force to be reckoned with.

You are a miracle.

I bow in gratitude.

To My Heart.

Healing Heart

Photo credit: Google Images/Creator Unknown

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The Art of Moving On

Over the years I’ve become a seasoned expert in the art of transient living.  Or as the uninitiated might phrase it:  moving.

I am gradually making my way from room to room sorting through belongings.  Inventory time.  What will stay with me and what will go?  This pile for packing.  That pile for charity.  A pile here for selling.  A pile there for recycling.

Rule #1 for a frequent mover is to maintain a firm non-pack-rat-itis policy.  Collecting too much stuff or becoming overly attached to material things is danger zone territory.  Avoiding this trap makes it that much easier to part company with the goods when the time comes.  Even then, a certain level of ruthlessness is required when sorting through everything that originally passed the keeper litmus test.  After pile decisions are made, the lovely lightness of being that generally accompanies the liberation from unnecessary crap makes it all worthwhile.

This move is decidedly different.  This time, I’m struggling.  Deciding what goes has been painstaking.  I’m resistant to sealing up boxes in case I change my mind.  I feel unsteady and unsure.  Certainly not my usual characteristically focused self when it comes to changing residences and today I was reminded in a forceful way of why that is.

The person I expected to share my life with snuck up on me.  As I opened an envelope in a shoebox, I came face to face with forgotten photographs taken during the first year we were married.  Smiling, happy, shiny faces – his and mine.  Arms wrapped around each other, heads magnetically leaning in, expressions reflecting a moment that could not possibly be any better than it already was.  Photos of us together, with family, alone and smiling into the camera for one another.

I sat down on the floor with those images held close to my heart and cried for a very long time.  Who were those glowingly contented looking people?  Was that joy genuine and consistent, or simply a snapshot capturing a fleeting moment in time?  What did they really mean to each other?  I don’t know the answers and must accept that it is unlikely I ever will.

Yes, this move is different.  I am not merely swapping one address for another.  I am leaving behind all the hopes and dreams that were kept alive in this home for those two shiny, happy people who existed in those photographs but not real time.   A future dreamed, never to be realized.

This move means so much more than adopting a new postal code.   It marks my stepping forward into a brand new life.  Different dreams and uncharted terrain await.

In the leaving, I am taking a gigantic leap of faith into the unknown.  Letting go of old stuff.  Letting go of all the parts of myself that no longer fit. Letting go of the dreams that died within these walls.  Letting go.

It is time to take new photographs.

paparazzi sis

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

Resistance is Futile

Hello again lovelies!

I have been silent on the blog lately, but behind the scenes it has been anything but sedate.  It is continuously astounding to me how much can change in the space of a few short weeks.  Or, for that matter, in the blink of an eye.

My New York journey was a resounding success.  I spent a great deal of time exploring, writing old-school style in a notebook, attending classes, walking neighborhoods, reconnecting with old friends, discovering wonderful new ones.  My days were beyond busy and my heart was overflowingly full.  When moments of uncertainty or pain resurfaced and threatened to overwhelm, I fully experienced the feelings, uncomfortable or otherwise, and allowed them to pass through.  Good days or bad days, I was never alone.  I experienced every possible emotion on any given day.  I was happy.  I was sad.  I was excited.  I was angry.  I was tired.  I was rejuvenated.  But most consistently?  I was alive.  ALIVE!!!  I embraced it all.

This was more than a trip to a special place.  It was a journey to myself.  Something irrevocably changed inside me.  I accepted the idea that it is not only okay, but critically important at this juncture to move forward.  I gave myself permission to dream again.  I made room for hope.  The essence of who I am remains the same but my perception has altered.  The main difference is that I am ruthlessly kicking that which no longer serves to the curb.  I am embarking on a life more in alignment with what feels right and true for me.  It no longer matters whether it is by choice or by design.  Resistance is futile and I understand that there is no turning back.

It is true that fear is a great motivator and it definitely plays a role here.  The last year has brought a lot of change already, welcome or not, and to actively court more requires courage.  The thing is that staying the same, not moving, being stuck scares me more than jumping into the unknown ever could.

I am here to tell you that I have officially  jumped off the cliff in more ways than I can get into now.  The power of non-resistance is more relevant than ever.  A decision has been made and now it is time to let go and allow.  Please wish this recovering Type A much luck with that.

The next few weeks are filled with craziness:  moving, applying for school, attending counseling, filing papers for Stage 2 of Divorce, buying smaller pants.

Updates to follow.  Stay tuned!

resistance is futile

Photo credit: Google Images/Creator Unknown