Author Archives: Karrie-Ann

The Most Important Moments of my Life You’ll Never See on Social Media

I take a lot of photographs. I do. I always have. It started I way back when my Mom bought me a Disc Camera for my birthday. Do you remember those? I loved that camera.

It comes honestly though. One of the stories that is always told in my family ~ one that I clearly remember ~ is when we travelled across Canada and my Mom took like 6 photographs of the same Mountain in the Rockies. That doesn’t seem excessive today ~ but in the age of film I remember us all thinking it was.

So taking photographs is just a part of me. I take them of our travels and of our family and friends. I have cultivated beautiful galleries of them on my walls at home. Choosing my favourites ~ sometimes for memory and sometimes for composition. Often for both. They serve as a touchstone of who we are, where we have been, and how we define ourselves as a family and as individuals.

In our home we are surrounded by memories of the life we have created.

It is a conscious decision and one that fills me with joy.

But as I sit here looking at these walls, I realize hardly any of them ~ actually almost none of them ~ of my most prized and favourite ~ have ever been posted on social media.

I also sit here and realize that even with my passion for photography, so many ~ so very very many ~ of the most special moments of my life never even have a photograph to show for them.

For instance there was Monday night. My Mom and Dad came over for supper and stayed and talked and talked on the veranda on a perfect clear summer evening. Not a photo was taken.

As a matter of fact if you looked at my social media feed you would think these moments never happen ~ time with my parents. But they happen all of the time. They are one of the most significant parts of my life. We see each other all the time. We take adventures together and are a huge part of each other’s lives.

But they don’t like social media at all ~ like really really at all ~ so even the innumerable photographs I do have of them rarely get posted. I try to be ridiculously respectful of this with people. This is changing a little as they dip their toe into Facebook ~ but still I let them take the lead. Maybe you will see more of them if their comfort level changes. Maybe you never will. But it doesn’t mean they don’t exist or aren’t two of the most important people in my life.

The same is with Craig’s parents. To a tee. While they don’t disdain social media they simply choose not to be on any social media at all. So I post a rare moment here or there with them, but my social media feed isn’t close to indicative of who they are on our lives, how many moments we spend with them or how incredibly special they are to us.

Some of my favourite moments are getting together to celebrate birthdays and holidays with them all. Everyone comes and our evenings are so special around the table eating together, sharing stories, having drinks and opening presents. This happens atleast ten times a year. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at my feed.

But I post none of those photos. None.

This past Tuesday ~ a beautiful and leisurely evening with three of my favourite friends. The longest evening and the best of talks. Not one post.

The same goes with times when it’s just the four of us as a family. Some of our most important times together are at Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving.

I never post one family photograph of us on the actual holidays. Maybe before or after every once in awhile ~ but never ever on the actual day we are sharing together.

We have been going to PEI as a family for 20 years now. It has always been our sanctuary for one week of the summer. Always just the four of us.

Hundreds of photographs and hundreds more memories. Literally. Not one posted.

So what’s the difference between what I post and what I do? What’s the reasoning for not posting so many of my most favourite and most memorable moments?

Two things I think.

The first is one is balance. Balance because there are a lot of things I do enjoy sharing. I do enjoy memories popping up on Facebook of fun times I had, trips I took, things I did, places I’ve been and things I saw. Good times with friends as we share our times together and comment on this or that and it makes me smile and laugh as we do. I adore that and it’s such fun. There is so much I do enjoy posting. The back and forth with friends and acquaintances has made me laugh out loud and truly does enhance some really great times.

And photographs I take of scenery or places

I’ve been that I think are compositionally a good photograph. I’m sharing those more and more. I enjoy that.

That is one side of the scale.

But the other side ~ the side that is more private, the moments that truly mean something, the ones that are close to my heart, well somehow ~ even if I have a photograph of them ~ it would actually make it LESS special for me to share them.

I know we don’t really live in a world like that anymore. But for me it’s true.

If you look at my social media feed you will see lots of photos representing true and real and wonderful experiences of my life. Each one a beautiful memory and often representing such a fun and fulsome life.

But it’s the moments you don’t see that truly make up who I am. It’s the people you don’t see who are often the most important in my life. Because these times, these memories, these moments are our own to be treasured. Sharing those doesn’t make them better.

I’ll leave you with this:

My favourite photograph in the entire world ~ the photograph that I captured by chance, that has perfect composition and that represents somehow my whole world in one single moment, will never ever be seen by the public. It sits on my mantle at home. I see it every day. It fills me up. It is for me. No one else.

And that is enough.

That is everything.

My Son is Graduating Next Week. But Please Don’t Tell Me How Nice or Polite He Is.

It’s June 2021. Holy crap how did that happen? June is always an emotional and busy month but this particular June brings with it an important milestone – my 18 year old son is preparing to leave his childhood behind and walk across a stage into a new phase of his life.

As every parent would say, it happened both in the blink of an eye, and at the same time in hours and days and years that sometimes felt like they would never come to an end. I do believe the word bittersweet was created for times such as these.

Graduation is such a time of reflection.  Of celebration. Of reminiscing. Well wishers are all around and we welcome each and every congratulatory word.

Except maybe two.

‘Nice’ and ‘polite’.

And right now you may be thinking what in heavens name is she talking about? But bear with me.

To me, those two adjectives have become such broad, blanketing monikers ~ they have little meaning to me anymore. And perhaps that’s unfortunate.

But it seems that whenever I hear of over privileged, highly educated, narcissistic young males being held accountable for something inexcusable or appalling or even criminal they did, I always hear someone from the public stand up and say “But he is such a nice, polite young man. Think about his future.” (Anyone remember some of the male Dalhousie Dentistry Students’ behaviour a few years back that garnered some comments such as these when expulsion was raised?)

So instead of sharing what a nice polite young man my son is, instead maybe tell me one of the following:

Tell me how well rounded he is.  

Tell me he is an athlete who has never been the best, but is tenacious and never gives up on the court or on the field.

Tell me he cheers loudly for his teams and teammates, with vigour and encouragement.

Tell me he is imperfect.

Tell me how he is a gatherer. How it’s important to him to create experiences for him and his friends.

Tell me he is hard working.

Tell me he has jumped to conclusions.

Tell me he has always been full of school spirit and walks the hallways bouncing between clubs and activities.

Tell me about his work as Co-Chair of Respect for Diversity and for PLAYAS in his school. Tell me about the relationships he built and the behind the scenes work he did as part of a team to bring this work to the student body.

Tell me he has made mistakes.  Because he has.  Little ones and big ones.  At home, at school, with his friends. I am always amazed at people who say things like “my child would never”.  If we think our child ‘would never’ they probably ‘have’. Five times over. And if we raise our children to feel like the sun rises and sets on their perfectly coiffed heads, or maybe in fact raise them to not make any mistakes at all in the safety of our family nest – how will they learn to make mistakes out on their own? Yes my son has made mistakes.  He will make more. I just hope that the learnings he had while making them under our roof will carry him through to adulthood better for the world.

Tell me how he goes out of his way to speak to you when you come into his place of work.

Tell me he is kind. Kind is vastly different from nice. It is. Kind seeks you out. Nice placates you.

I really want to absorb that last sentence. I believe it so whole heartedly to be true.

Tell me he is generous.

Tell me you see that he values equity. 

Tell me how he anonymously sticks candy in his friends’ mailboxes who are having a hard time.

Tell me he has said ‘I’m sorry’ and also ‘I forgive you’ when he has had misunderstandings with people in his life. I’ve heard him.

But also tell me that for the bigger things, the real and deep things that affects how he feels valued by others, tell me that he does not forgive easily or quickly. It’s something he has to work on. (It’s actually something we both have to work on).

Tell me he made a difference in your life. 

Tell me he made you smile or laugh.

Tell me he stands up.

Tell me he is sensitive.

Tell me he is sometimes too quick to emotion and has lashed out when feeling hurt. None of us are just one thing.

Tell me he is incredibly diligent at keeping in touch with people who have moved away in his life.

Tell me he is often too sarcastic.

Tell me he is grateful. Not only that he ‘says thank you’ but that you can feel he is actually grateful.

Tell me he wants to be involved in everything.

Tell me he is flawed.

Tell me about his work with Childhood Cancer Canada.

Tell me he wants to make a difference.

Tell me he tries.

Tell me he talks to everyone.

Tell me things I don’t know about him.

Tell me about any and all of these attributes.

But please, again, don’t tell me he is nice and polite.

I have heard about those boys in the media. The boys that say and do all the ‘right’ things for their counterparts and people of authority to see.

I have also met those boys. I have seen how slick and aware they are of how others see them. I have seen them hide and be excused from behaviour that others wouldn’t be. I have heard the nicest and most polite young men say the meanest of things when they believed no one was listening. I have heard them tell of tactics to get popular, to get likes, to become top of the school social chain that makes me cringe and want to re-define what people think of as mean.

All while saying their pleases and thank you’s.

In my opinion, the nice and polite boys are sometimes the boys who become the over-privileged-take-what-I-want young men in this world. The ones people excuse with statements such as ‘boys will be boys’.

So no. “He is so nice and polite” means little to me.

Tell me all the other things. Both about my kid and about yours – the positives, the not-so positives, and the learnings.

Because we are sending them off into the world now. To find their way on their own. To be the men they are going to choose to be.

And nice and polite isn’t going to cut it.

Nor should we let it.

Too Much

For almost as long as I can remember I have felt like I am “too much” for most people. Maybe not most people, but many people. A great many people if I’m honest. 

And not the kind of too much that is seen as a good thing. Not like too much money or too much Swiss Chocolate.

I guess maybe I can’t really put my finger on the exact words for how I feel, but over time I keep coming back to those two words. “Too Much.”

Too opinionated.

Too loud.

Too passionate.

Too energetic.

Too type A.

Much too emotional.

Feel much too deeply.

A little too real.

Too honest.

Certainly too many expectations. Way too many expectations.

Too big to fit into that box.

Too small to fit into that one.

Cry too easily.

Too questioning. 

Too needy.

Too energetic.

Too optimistic.

Just. Too. Much.

I remember not very long ago at all really, a good friend of mine told me she overheard a couple of people chatting. She came up behind and beside them. They didn’t see her and maybe wouldn’t recognize her. Nothing bad was said at all. Truly nothing. Not a thing. But when she relayed the conversation she said “I cant quite put my finger on it, but I wanted you to know”. And it was true. Nothing derogatory to speak of at all. But I knew then, just like I knew when I was 8 or 14 or 21 or 34 or 42. I knew that what she was hearing at that moment in their conversation was that they felt just maybe I was “a little too much” at times.

It seems to be this theme in my life in many ways.

I remember at work doing one of those personality tests.  It sorted you into colors. Blue, Green, Orange and Gold.

Even then I remember feeling too blue.

(Blue had nothing to do with depression, it had to do with feelings).

Again.  Just. Too. Much.

But over time though I’ve truly learned to embrace my “too much”. I wouldn’t even necessarily say I argue with the validity of it. It’s a big part of who I am, and as I’ve grown older I’ve felt less need to try and change it or hide it.  My “too much” makes me who I am.

And its funny how sometimes we re-frame things in life through our experiences and as we age through our children. Because lately it occurred to me. 

Maybe it’s never been that I have been too much.

Maybe, its that sometimes others aren’t enough.

And I know that re-reading that it would be the perfect way to end a piece of writing.

It’s a powerful play on words.  

But it also sounds mean and that’s not at all how I intend it.

What I mean is this: maybe it’s not always me that needs to feel like I am “too” anything in this world that likes to put us in boxes … maybe, sometimes, the world could stand to have a little more “too” in it. A little more “much”.

Because sometimes there isn’t “enough” of all of those things I listed above. Maybe some of us have to bring a “little too much” to balance out the “sometimes not enough”.

Anyway.

I think that’s how I’ve learned to look at it.

Or atleast I’m trying.

The Voices in My Home

I holler down to the basement.

Warm brownies!

My son and a stampede of six additional footsteps race up the basement stairs as I walk back up to my bedroom. My back is to them on my way up and as each of the six pass into the kitchen they yell, separately, Thank You Karrie-Ann!

My heart always melts at these small gestures of appreciation. Each of them have been in my home time and time again – for seemingly forever. Some of them over a decade. I know them all so well.

But tonight with my back to them I realized something new. My breath catches in my throat. I don’t recognize their voices anymore. I really don’t. I know who has come – who is present – some of them were here just last week. But without seeing their faces I realize I don’t recognize these voices.

And it’s because these voices don’t belong to the boys that grew up here.

They belong to men.

And how lucky am I that as such, those voices still keep wanting to come back to be present in our home.

So. Freaking. Lucky.

Around the Corner

Today I’m on campus.  And by on campus I realize I mean two different things that are now forever intertwined.  First I am on my old campus – my alma mater – a place that holds four years of memories that certainly cannot be 27 years ago.  THAT would be crazy talk.

Secondly, I am on my son’s future campus.  He has chosen to attend Dalhousie University in September, following in both mine and Craig’s footsteps – even though I’m 99% confident ‘footsteps’ were not a factor in any of his decision making.

So here we are.  On campus. And all that it means. (There is an entire other blog post buried in those sentences, but that is not todays story).

Today we are on a mission to get this young man some Birthday SWAG.  Now that he has made his decision, his Birthday Gift will be a Dal Hoodie – which of course Mom couldn’t possibly choose herself – so we are venturing down to the bookstore to browse and buy and walk away feeling equal emotions of ecstatic and surreal.

We chose today to come into the city and shop because we have another errand to run that is literally right around the corner from Dal.  A couple of months ago we had a standard pediatrician appointment that led to x that led to y that led to z, and eventually the need for an MRI at the IWK.

As a Momcologist, I have always held this theory about big tests. Or any doctor appointments for that matter. Its too long to go into here, but suffice to say in my gut – deep down – I wasn’t incredibly worried about this evenings appointment. (My theory has different parts to it, but you should know that it revolves around ‘a mother’s gut feeling not being a simple black or white issue’).

So after our SWAG shopping we meander away from this campus that was a second home to me for four years, to another place around the corner, that has been like a second home to my son for 14 years.

Life is just sometimes so weird.

We walk through the door of the hospital and it is a ghost town. We’ve been here during COVID before, so it’s not terribly surprising, but this is an evening appointment so it truly is a little eerie how few people are here.

An evening appointment for an MRI. I know. That’s where my brain starts to go a little wonky – but I chalk it up to catching up on a COVID backlog and onward we go.

We sit in the waiting room all alone. Just the two of us. I couldn’t count how many waiting rooms my son and I have sat in together. I really couldn’t. Still to this day it is not uncommon. Nor is it uncommon to have a big test or procedure in our lives. It happens roughly once every year or two I would say. Something shows up/comes up/reveals itself in bloodwork or a routine follow up and because of his history the Oncology Team pay close attention and off we go to get it checked out. Neuro, biopsy, echos, etc. It’s part of our lives.

So I’m still not worried. Really.

But.  

But usually it stops at an Xray or a DI. As I’m sitting here with little else to distract me I can’t help but think – hmmmm – MRI – it’s been a very long time since anyone felt he needed one of those.

And then the healthcare worker comes and grabs us and the thought gets put back into the very-well-used compartment of my brain and heart – a place where all too many of those things have lived over the years.

She brings out two clipboards and hands one to him and then asks me “Will you be coming in too?” I look over at him with raised eyebrows, holding my breath, and wait his response. He replies, in typical teenage nonchalant fashion, “Doesn’t matter”. This is my cue to say yes – for many reasons – but if for no other than soon he will be 18 and we may no longer be asked the question.

So in we go together.  Been here done this. Old hat. But only once before right?  Only once before have we needed an MRI.  When was it?  A very long time ago.  He was still on therapy I know that.  But my mind can’t place exactly when.  But I remember the process, so I’m not surprised by the steps we take. 

He gets changed into his Johnny Shirts and when he emerges from the dressing room a wave comes over me.  He is so tall.  The last time we did this he sat on my lap in his hospital gown as we waited.  That I do remember. I look at him and he looks like a giant.  And he has leg hair.  (I swear there will be people who ‘get’ this sentence and others who won’t.  And that’s ok.  But for those who do … I’m just sayin’!)

And I’m sitting and he is standing and he is so old and I FEEL so old and I have to say to myself – I’m not worried. 

We wait a long time. 

I’m not worried.

And then like before the healthcare worker comes and I stuff the feeling into the compartment. 

She starts going through all the prep – the prep before the procedure – and we keep busy doing the small things that need to be done. We are familiar with the routine and wearing that familiarity like a coat of … what? … honour … gratitude … knowledge?  I can’t place the word but damn can I ever place the feeling. It comes with every appointment we have here.

Our final part before going into the room is a spin on the metal detector, and then we are off.  

Into the room we go.  Again, he has been in the machine before, he knows what to expect.  So do I.  I’m not worried.

Mom sit in the rocking chair.  Kid, get in the massive machine. Lay still. Here’s your sheet. Knees bent over the knee bendy thing.  Put your head in here.  Squeeze the ball thingy if you need anything. All good.  I’m not worried. I remember it all.

And now the earplugs and the goggles.

The what? Huh? 

I forgot about those. 

They are the last things she does for him and as I look at him before he gets slid away into the machine my heart starts to beat a little faster. I don’t like not remembering things.  You see if I remember things, and they turned out ok, and then we have to do those things again – even if they are big things, and even if they are a decade later – well then in my head they will be ok this time too. 

I know. We Oncology Moms don’t think normally.

But I didn’t remember this. Those two little things. I didn’t remember.

I sit there watching him move in and out of the large machine that actually makes him look small.  And I spend the next hour wavering back and forth in my thoughts.  An hour!  I don’t remember it being an hour either. My gut says not to worry about this.  But look at this machine and what it does – they wouldn’t send him down here ‘just because’. But they are just being cautious because of his risk.  He has been off treatment forever. He is so ok.  Damn that machine is so loud. I forgot how loud it is too. Just when my heart settles the stupid thing sounds like there is an emergency. And was that screen always there counting down each “take”? I don’t remember that count down clock. I think it’s a good thing at first – we will know when it is over. But they keep resetting it over and over and over again. And most importantly how is he? How is he really? Is he doing ok? I hope he asks for help if he needs it. Teenagers. He is a teenager.  Almost a man. Where are his thoughts right now? 

Back and forth, back and forth go my thoughts and my heart. 

And then from somewhere … from nowhere … everything settles down inside me.

And suddenly all I feel is familiarity.  It all feels familiar again.  Because in that room, it’s only him and I. Just him and I.  Us. Together.  And we have done this before. So many times. And if we need to, we will do it again. And again and again and again. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.

But can I just say … can I just put out into this big wide amazing universe … I sure do hope he gets the privilege of being ‘around the corner’ in September … wearing that sweatshirt we just bought him two hours ago.

If he does, well I guess a side of MRI with the SWAG today was an ok price to pay.

** Note – I would never write this publicly without sharing that literally the day following the MRI we received a call from our long term follow up care coordinator saying that the results of the MRI were not related to the presence of cancer.**

**So around the corner he gets to go.**It’s a good day**

No Other Way

It’s 9:30 am and there are still no signs of life from the boys in my basement.

I’m sorry. Correct that.

The MEN in my basement.

Because that’s who they are now. Men. In age (some of them legally ~ some of them only a breath away), in physical stature, and in ability. And last night as they raided my kitchen for SuperBowl wings, pizza, dip and popcorn chicken there is nothing boyish about those appetites either.

But they will always ~ always ~ be boys to me.

That became crystal clear this morning as I awoke at 3am. I always sleep very lightly when my kids have friends over, but last night was a significant snow storm and my 3am wake-up was also due to howling winds from a vicious storm. My first thought before I even opened my eyes was “are they all ok”?

I’m past the point of being able to go to the basement to check in on them physically ~ but downstairs I go, taking care of them still, in whatever way I can.

I listen at the top of the basement stairs … and then wonder … what, exactly, in God’s name am I listening for?

Ofcourse they are ok Karrie-Ann. What logical reason would there be for them not to be ok? A rogue tree hasn’t made its way through the locked door onto the couches they are splayed out upon. A window hasn’t broken and let in an avalanche of snow.

And even if any of these things have indeed insanely happened, they are smart enough and strong enough to take care of it, roll over, and continue their carefree dreams with no need for any assistance from me.

But worry I still do as the snow piles up and the wind screeches.

So I pitter patter around the kitchen, tip toeing silently, not wanting to wake them, and I fill up more jugs of water, and top up the bathtub in case we lose power. Doing nothing really, but needing to do something.

As I’m doing all of this, I wonder if I will always worry about them in this way.

But it’s a stupid thing to wonder.

Whether they are men or whether they are boys, whether they are still in my life, or whether they have moved on, ofcourse I know the answer.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I’m Not An Exception”

My daughter turned 20 this weekend. For those of you who didn’t get the memo, birthdays are a big deal for the Wilkie/Robinson Clan. Handed down over the generations is an expectation that you deserve to celebrate, and be celebrated, on the day you were born ~ because the world is better for your presence.

This year because of the pandemic Megan is living at home. Two and a half hours away from her university campus ~ a campus that is barely (by the skin of her teeth BARELY) in another Province.

So as you can imagine 20th Birthday Plans have been in the works for a long time ~ especially because of the pandemic and not seeing everyone like usual. The party was planned (within the guidelines of 10 people) dinner reservations made, dresses tried on, drinks purchased, bags packed and surprise decorations apparently ready to be erected. Three nights and four days of being back together and celebrating. The group chat was blowing up with anticipation.

And then Thursday comes. At 4pm on Thursday we were having Megan’s Family Party before she left for Sackville. At 3:45 pm she gets a text that NB Zone 1 (which includes Sackville) is going to Orange Level. This means different things, but one thing it includes is no travel recommended in or out of the Zone.

Megan stoically smiles through the family party but it’s not until afterwards that we get a chance to talk about any of the developments.

The disappointment is so evident on her face ~ we talk about the horrible timing ~ about how she feeling ~ and about what decision she is going to make. She is, after all, 20 years old now.

We talk about how grey things are – how travel is not ‘restricted’ but also how NB is only allowed one other household bubble now. How we aren’t in lockdown, how difficult it is to make these decisions, and how in reality she could probably get away with it.

But the thing that stands out to me most about the conversation are six little words she says to me as she is sitting on the stairs looking at me through frustrated tears.

“But Mom, I’m not an exception”.

And that’s it. That’s the hardest thing for each of us to truly understand and put into action. It’s so easy to preach about following public health directives until a situation directly affects YOU and YOUR plans and YOUR loved ones ~ and when you are faced with decisions that aren’t breaking any ‘restrictions’ … just ‘recommendations’.

We could all talk ourselves into being the exception ~ how our one little action won’t make things worse. We are just one person. We just want to do this one little thing.

But THIS is where the rubber meets the road.

And my daughters’ words really brought that home for me.

“I’m not an exception.”

As much as I respect Premier McNeil and Dr Strang’s need to identify where community spread is coming from – and boy do I ever – I hope they also remember there ARE young people out there making decisions that are thoughtful, empathetic, responsible and community driven.

They are making these decisions with sacrifice ~ and I know people may roll their eyes at that word sacrifice ~ not hosting parties isn’t much of a sacrifice ~ but remember what it’s like to be young ~ really try and remember.

So you’re right Megan. You may not be the exception in this circumstance. But you coming to that conclusion and putting it into action (or actually inaction) by staying home this weekend, sure does make you “exceptional” in my book.

My Non Personal Personal Decisions (and the struggle with my internal Gumby)

It’s November 2020 and we are marking roughly eight months into the Covid 19 pandemic.

Pandemic.

Do we go more than 48 hours anymore without saying this word out loud?

I know for a fact we don’t go more than 24 hours without hearing it or reading it ~ that’s for sure.

It has become our new normal (insert me cringing at buzz words) which actually makes me wonder if we know what the word normal even means anymore.

What I do know is that throughout these past eight months I have felt that I am constantly making internal declarations about where I stand at any given time on some sort of pandemic spectrum.

Firmly following public health guidelines was easy when we were locked down.

Ok. Maybe easy isn’t the right word. But I was confident and clear in my decisions. And the majority of people around me were making the same decisions.

And then June came, restrictions were lifted and a feeling of safety washed over us.

It was a window of opportunity. If I said these words once I said them 100 times, and we took advantage of them. The good weather, the low infection rate, the Atlantic bubble. I clung to it all and ate it up like candy.

Venturing back into society, rekindling in-person family adventures and friendship.

It was blissful, and if I listened closely I could hear a collective sigh.

But now we are at another precipice ~ the beginning of the second wave and the first signs of community spread in NS.

It is all a little less clear now. The waters are murky, everyone is tired and I don’t think things will be as straight forward as they were in March. There is fatigue and our comfort levels are all over the map for many reasons.

So I’m left to make decisions that seem to change not only daily, but hourly, in my mind.

I’m left with feelings of discomfort that are difficult to explain or put into words, and that others may or may not share ~ because it feels like now we are “navigating” rather than “following” and navigating is hard.

Navigating requires sorting through not only information and evidence, but also your heart, and making the best decisions based on everything from physical risk, mental health, connection and community health.

And so I’ve found myself navigating all of this since June (because again remember March to May were “easy” 😂) feeling like a Gumby Doll. One day I’m this, the other day I’m that.

The decisions keep getting harder. Do I do this? What about this? What about that? It’s outdoors with limited numbers. But I don’t have to. It’s not essential. What about that? Do I do that? I was comfortable with that yesterday ~ but now there’s new information.

But I guess in the end what I’ve realized is this:

Every decision I make ~ even when I’m feeling like Gumby changing my mind from one moment to the next ~ every decision I make comes from the most personal place ~ and that is to be able to be an active and physical presence in the lives of the people who matter most to me and who may be the most vulnerable (even if maybe everybody doesn’t know it)

So if I say yes to dinner one day and no the next, if I am suddenly uncomfortable riding in a car with you, if I don’t “like” your photos on social media because I’ve literally set insanely low screen limits for my own mental health, if I cancel plans that we made two weeks ago, if I go on a rant about the social determinants of health, if I hug you one day but not the other, if I say yes to having four boys over one day and no the next, if I balk at a weekend away I was excited about last month, if I insist on only eating on outdoor patios bundled up in blankets, if I remind you to wash your hands when you come into my home, if I take two steps back (figuratively) or one step back (literally) please try to remember … none of these decisions I’m making are personal toward you.

They aren’t personal at all.

Truly.

And yet ~ they are the most personal decisions I will ever make ~ because they are built completely around those who matter most to me. To those who raised me ~ to those I am raising ~ and to those who don’t share my blood but who I share a life with. Keeping them healthy. Keeping myself healthy so I can be available and present for them.

They are ~ at their very core ~ decisions based wholly in love.

And it’s then that my Gumby feelings fade away and become much more resolute ~ because I know in my heart there is nothing more important than that.

It’s Not Who Stands by you in the Worst of Times

There is a very common saying in the world that goes something like “You know who your real friends are by who stands by you in the worst of times”.

While I understand where that sentiment is coming from, I have to say that I have never found it has been true for me. Atleast maybe not in the way I perceive it.

Like all of us, my family and I have seen some pretty crappy times over the course of our lives. And we have also seen some pretty euphoric times as well. Both of these ends of the spectrum are just that really.

Ends of a spectrum.

And here’s the thing. For me, the breadth and depth of that spectrum ~ the length of it ~ that middle ~ well that’s in truth where most of my life is lived.

It’s there where the every-day lies.

It’s there where the mundane and boring and middle ground is found.

It’s there in the middle where we go to school and work and participate in clubs and sports and projects and meetings and conferences.

Its there in the middle where we get up every Monday and put the week on repeat until Friday.

It’s there where we make the majority of our decisions, and there where we choose what action we will or will not take in life on a daily basis.

It’s there where my family honestly lives a good 75% of our lives.

This middle is by no means horrible or sad or negative.

But neither is it necessarily exciting, unique and joyous.

It is just … well … everyday life.

It’s the sitting on the porch drinking coffee, reading a book, playing video games, texting, walking around campus, talking with friends, biking, hiking, hanging in the school cafeteria, endless work meetings, sharing small parts of every day life.

It’s the middle.

It’s the somewhat mundane.

And I believe it’s here where we find out who our friends are.

Not in the worst of times.

My experience during the worst of times has been that I sometimes am literally surrounded by people ~ both friends and strangers ~ and people maybe wanting to be my friend.

When tragedy strikes or bad news arrives, it’s been my experience that people want to come together and help.

It’s a wonderful and overwhelming feeling.

It is most often genuine and selfless and a true testament to the greatness life has to offer.

And I have been so thankful for it.

But if I’m being honest, and I know this isn’t the part I’m supposed to say out loud, it also can provide people with a sense of being on the inside of something greater. There is a strong and wonderful pull in human nature to be a part of something. This, as with all things, can be beautiful or it can be challenging.

When bad news arrives, we can sometimes find our lives surrounded by so many people who want to help.

I’m thankful for each of them.

But in that sea of people, during the worst of times, I am very aware, and I try to make my children aware, that there in that moment is honestly not where you “find out who your friends are”.

Maybe it’s where you find out what beautiful large hearts people have. But if you are speaking of the true definition of friendship ~ where there is a different level of being valued by someone ~ maybe it’s not there you find your actual friends.

Instead you find your actual friends in the middle. In the mundane. You find them not in the highs of the best or the lows of the worst.

Your friends are the people who are consistent and present in your life. They are the people who have put in the time ~ and especially the balance ~ during that entire middle part of the spectrum.

You find them in the people who still want to be with you during that “middle” period of life.

For when tragedy strikes, I don’t turn to the person who suddenly shows up.

I turn to the people who have always been there. Slugging it out with me in life. Making me a priority even when it’s just a boring old Wednesday.

It’s these people I have built a true relationship with. It’s these people who I have built up trust and history and confidence with. It’s these people who have reached out to me, and I to them, during plain old regular days.

They have been by my side even if I’m not trendy.

They have reached out to me for no reason at all except to say “Hey. How are you on this every-day-nothing-special-day? I’m thinking of you. Just because. Wanna get together?”

It’s this balance and effort during those times ~ the middle times ~ the boring times ~ that does, has, and I know will continue to, sustain me during the worst ones.

I try hard to remember, and I try so very very hard to teach my kids, that no, maybe you don’t find out who your friends are during the worst of times.

Maybe in fact and instead, you actually find out who your real friends are during the boring, every-day mundane times.

Look around you then.

Look around you during “the middle”.

Those are your people.

I know for sure they’re mine.

Interviewing Anger during a Pandemic

Anger what are you doing here? It’s not your turn. Fear was supposed to be next.

 

I skipped the line. 

 

Again?

 

Yes. Again! What are you going to do about it?!

 

Well I’m not sure it’s the time for you.

 

You’re wrong KA. It is the time for me. Now is the only time for me. If you wait it will be too late.

 

Sigh. You know what Anger? You really drive me up a wall sometimes. Let me check in with everyone else. Hang here a sec. 

 

Ok. For once they all agree, it is time for you. Let’s do it then. You’re up.

 

Actually, when I think about it it’s very predictable that you would cut the line. 

 

Ya. I’m like that. You never know where I’m going to pop up or when.

 

Tell me about it.

 

But Anger, I’d honestly argue that about any of you. Joy, Fear, Sadness – they are all around any corner – when we least expect them. But you certainly are the loudest vocally, I’ll give you that!

 

So. How are you doing today?

 

I’m mad! I’m mad I’m mad I’m mad.  No. Strike that. I’m pissed!

 

But Anger, be honest.  Don’t you kind of feel that’s your default? I mean really. You’re always mad about something.

 

Well sure – you have a point – but KA I really have something to say here.

 

Ok. And what is that Anger?

 

Well people don’t like to leave any space for me. They leave space for everyone else, but never me. A lot of people say I’m supposed to stay bottled up inside.

 

Well, I know it’s not healthy to stay bottled up, but a lot of the time you come out in unmitigated and unproductive ways that can be very hurtful.  That’s what happens when you explode all over everyone all the time.  And there are keys to that sentence anger – unmitigated, unproductive and all the time.  

 

What do you mean?

 

Well, I personally agree with you Anger, that much of the time people don’t leave any space for you.  You are a very polarizing and scary emotion.  But I also feel that much change in the world has come from a place of anger. Anger is a very strong emotion and sometimes a strong emotion is needed in order to make change. Anger can actually be a very intense motivator for change.

 

 

We would never be where we are with AIDS treatments had a small group of men not gotten a little bit angry and insisted their voices be heard. And this turned into a large group of many and changed everything.

 

A small group of workers became angry about their treatment and unions were born.

 

A small group of women became angry and a movement was born. 

 

A small group of educators voiced their anger at the system and education became better for it.

 

All of these things happened because people saw something happening in the world, got angry about it and change happened.  They weren’t afraid to express it and give voice to it and ensure they were heard.  BUT they also didn’t make it their default.  They used that anger to be heard and then moved forward with 100 other emotions built into their arsenal.  

 

Yes, yes, yes!  That’s what I’m trying to say!

 

I do know that Anger, but with you, to be honest, often it is the only emotion we see from you.  If you are nothing but angry all of the time how does anyone know when to sit up and really listen to you? It’s like the boy that cried wolf.

 

Huh?

 

Well.  Let me give you an example that happened to me recently. I felt very strongly about something. Something that made me angry.  And I decided to express that anger publicly.  But the thing is – I feel people stood up and took notice from me when I did it, (more than from you), because it is a rare emotion for me to show. So, the decision to do it was based in something very strongly that I felt rather than a default emotion.

 

And how did that work for you? 

 

Well.  First, I would say that as a woman I’ve been conditioned not to be angry. Certainly not to express it or give it a voice.  People don’t like it when I show anger. When WE show anger. I really can’t emphasize this enough. It’s a conversation for another time but let me tell you it’s a big one.

 

And secondly, for me personally, people are used to me generally expressing one of two emotions. Gratitude or Joy. Karrie-Ann usually fits pretty neatly into a box people are very comfortable with and generally like.  

 

But this wasn’t something I was willing to keep in a box. I felt it was too important. I FEEL it’s too important. Over the course of two weeks I’ve chosen to have a voice in a conversation. Having a voice isn’t easy. Those voices I’ve shared publicly have had a wide range from empathy, humour, caring, gratitude, wisdom in experience and yes anger. I’m very ok with that. I have not been one thing and I am not one thing. I have felt that this is too important for one emotion. And it’s too big to not speak what I believe – and yes that sometimes means I speak with anger. And I know that makes many very uncomfortable. Most of the time its all the other emotions, but yes, I’m also ok with anger sometimes.

 

Whoa.  That’s a lot KA

 

I know right?  This whole thing is a lot.  It’s a lot of emotions to process and it can be really easy to push others aside. But we need all of you to get through this – we all have to work together and talk to each other.  And that includes you too Anger.

 

It does?

 

It does.

 

But ….

 

But?

 

But if I see you are nothing but Angry all the time and not leaving space for everyone else … well … to be honest I won’t be listening to you very much.

 

Even if its always about anger towards Trump?

 

Even then Anger. Even then.

😉