Friday, February 29, 2008

end of the world

I lived with roommates for most of my twenties. On the day we were moving out of our apartment to go our individual adult ways, when I used the phrase, 'It's the end of the world as we know it', I think it annoyed my old roommates. I've always found most people don't like to have their world shift while they are looking at it in the face. They'd sooner pretend the transformation wasn't happening. I guess it's easier that way, to not see the end of an era, to look ahead, not around you in the moment and not back. To not see that your life is passing by. I have never been one of those people. For me pain and sadness is no easier to ignore than passion and beauty.

As I type this my good friends and colleagues with whom I have worked for several years are setting up a lunch for me in the boardroom down the hall. I am supposed to pretend I don't know this. And I savour these last two minutes and I put them down here because I am at the threshold of not being here anymore. Once the goodbyes have started, it is already over. It isn't the same-old anymore. There will be no more bored, everyday moments here with them. They will be here but I will be gone.

I am thankful to have had all of this.

Now I must go say some goodbyes and try not to be too sad that this is the end of the world as I know it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

it's always a gamble

When I woke up I knew it was too early. I kept my eyes closed and waited. I got a faint urge to pee and I weighed my options. If I go to the bathroom I may wake up more but if I try to ignore it now it won't be long before the urge to pee wakes me up again, that is if I manage to fall back asleep at all. It's always a gamble.

I got out of bed and limped to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet with my eyes closed, chin in my hands, elbows pressing into my knees.

Walking back to bed I opened my eyes a crack to check the clock.

Six AM. It's Saturday.

I got back into bed. I must have fallen asleep right away because the next thing I knew the alarm was going off and the radio played, set to flow 93.5 fm. I got out of bed, took my pill with a mouthful of water from the glass left on the counter the day before and I flipped on the kettle.

On the news they were still talking about the Queen Street fire. I heard it was huge. Still haven't had a chance to see it. I probably won't until I'm back.

I got up from the couch to make my coffee and I put a piece of bread in the toaster. I sliced up an apple and waited at the counter.

What am I going to do tonight, I wonder? I feel like going out. Already, this early in the morning, I wish there was something to do. Somewhere to go to have some red wine, to watch people. It's always when I'm in the mood that nothing is going on. And really, nothing is going on this weekend. Next weekend however, everything is going on.

I wonder if Andy is back from LA. We grew up together on the coast. He lives in Toronto now and he is always up for something. Mostly, I get the impression, he's up for me, although he's dating this girl from NYC now. Part of me wishes I felt something for him, but it wouldn't work.

I think I'm past proximity. At this point in my life, being nearby, nice, Jewish, and single doesn't do enough for me. What I'm looking for does not necessarily exist in these places. I want to be stimulated and to stimulate in all the ways that that word could be construed.

I'll call him later and find out if he wants to meet for drinks.

My toast pops. I spread a tablespoon of peanut butter on it and I slice a half a banana. I take it into the living room and sit down in front of the television.

They're doing sports. The leafs lost again, and now it looks like no play-offs. I remember so many spring nights spent cheering on the leafs after work at bars with my friends. I stopped watching hockey when they went on strike. That was too much for me. I just couldn't find it in my heart to have sympathy for them.

I think if I went back to hockey now I would return to the habs. I should never have strayed. The Montreal Canadians were my team growing up; Chris Chelios was my dream guy. I had a life-sized poster of him on the back of my bedroom door, the only spot I was allowed to decorate my own way. The whole door went to him rather than a collection of all of the other things that I loved back then, like The Cure, the Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd. The rest of my room was done impeccibly by my mother. Things were always done well in my house.

As I cleaned my dishes up from breakfast, a friend of mine from the university came by to borrow a pair of ski pants for her weekend in Collingwood. She recounted her irritability with people in the neighborhood that morning while she tried to get her errands done.

"I mean I know that this area is dog friendly, but to bring two golden retreivers into an organizational store—you know how narrow the aisles are there—"

I nodded.

"And this women and her daughter were practically standing at my cash while I was paying. I kept nudging the mother with my elbow while I signed my credit card. I just wanted to scream."

I invited her to stay for coffee but she said she had to get on the road and thanked me for the pants.

I closed and double bolted the door, stripped off my nightgown and got in the shower. Even though I was only going to the gym, I couldn't go with my hair dirty. I hate the feeling. I also wanted to be clean shaven because I had a massage appt after the gym.

I got to the gym with enough time to do 45 minutes on the treadmill before my personal trainer. Normally what I do, at least since I hurt my foot in October, is alternate running and walking. I'm trying to take it slow. I've been doing 5 minutes walk, 5 minutes run. I am aiming for a 10k charity run in the spring.

At the three minute mark, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, my trainer Isabelle, who has a very feminine name but in fact looks like a boy with her mannerisms and her very short hair. She was stretching someone on a mat. Her client was a chunky middle age women with a bright red face.

I bumped up the pace to a run early, after only three minutes. When I'd been running for a bit I realized my motive. I think I was trying to impress Isabelle. It was in the same way I might push myself harder when there's a cute guy next to me, or when I practically ran double time all summer with Harry along the beltline [which I now blame for my foot issues]. It reminded me of gym class in grade seven, when we were doing time trials. I was pretty fast at step-ups on a bench and I wanted to show-off in front of the teacher who was timing me and counting. I broke my ankle.

My need to impress has caused problems for me in the past, yet there I was, trying to impress the boys...and girls.

Not only did I start running sooner, I didn't stop for my usual five minute intervals. I didn't stop until I hit 30 minutes. I guess I'm just human, and that part of me doesn't discriminate.

She is kind of cute, in a male sort of way, I thought a few minutes later when she came over to get me for my session. If only she had a penis...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

breaking buildings

Only on the coldest winter nights
-10 degrees or less
From deep in the cement structure of my building
Comes a sporadic loud crack.
I worry the whole building will break in half.
I resent that I live in a place that gets that cold.
I long for hot summer nights.

How cold it is tonight.
I feel sorry for the bicycle on my balcony
Protected only by a thin blue tarp
And a couple of badly placed bungee cords.
The wind throws it around with impunity.
It's been at it for months.

And this is how I know
Nothing and no one
Can save me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Who would have thought that February, the cruelest and most desolate of months would bring such a gust of good in my life? I have been waiting to make sure it all came through in a pinch-myself sort of way before I said anything, but just before I left for London, on my last day of work, something happened that didn't really surprise me, yet was what I needed to make a decision. I won't go into what it was, but suffice it to say my boss went one step too far and I decided I no longer needed to be there and that this person would no longer continue to benefit from my skills.

I had been keeping an eye open for new work for over a year but I just didn't have it in me to put myself out there and prepare for interviews. All of that takes energy. But what happened before I left was the fuel that I needed to make a move and for that I am grateful.

I applied for about five positions I had been eyeing. When I returned in January I got three calls, all within two days. I interviewed for all three, but was quite taken with the first. I turned down one second interview and accepted the other two.

I was offered the job I wanted and exactly what I wanted. Of course I am still taking a huge leap of faith. I am so used to sticking with the devil I know. It is scary moving into the unknown, but even if it isn't the best thing that ever happened to me, at least it is something happening and I am so excited about it. It is a position that incorporates research and clinical work in a good hospital. It is a well-respected interdisciplinary centre working with an interesting patient population. It is going to challenge me in so many ways.

So this week, after seven years, I quit my job.

I gave my supervisor notice and told my part-time hospital gig that for now I would like to continue there but would only be able to work once in a while.

On top of that, I decided to take a couple of weeks off in between jobs because I still had a number of weeks vacation left. Funny enough, as soon as I was offered the position I was no longer desperate to go south the way I was before. I think the obsessive searching for good vacation deals was a throwback to my 1-800-holiday days; a self-soothing escape.

But then a twist of fate suddenly left Lana with a need to take [or lose] some of her vacation and so I said I would look one more time and see if there were any last minute deals, not expecting to find much given the time of year, with spring break and march break. But the next thing you know I found an incredibly good price for a week in Cuba, in a resort on a white sand beach with tennis courts and swim up bars. An hour later we were booked. I leave in a couple of weeks!

Then just a few weeks later I am going to NYC for a girl’s weekend. By then there will be blossoms on the trees and the weight of the winter will be lifting. Turns out the weight hasn't been so unbearable this year, unless you count my body weight; the 6 pounds I gained after I hurt my foot, couldn't exercise for two months, and went on a lasagna and chocolate chip diet.

But that brings me to the next thing on the list. I got a great deal on a personal trainer for three sessions.

In a few minutes I leave to get my eyebrows waxed [sounds like no big deal but I swear it is like a new beginning for us girls], do my cardio, and then meet the trainer.

It's a three-day weekend. The sun is shining and even though it is -8 degrees Celsius you can tell the sun is warming up.

Sometimes you go through dark spots where you know there is 'probably' a light at the end of the tunnel or at least you hope, with all of your heart, there is one, but I see it clearly now. I am in it.

In the past I think I have been hesitant to take these happy moments and dwell on them for fear they will slip out of my hands like a bar of soap.

And they will, but so what? I am going to dwell.

I am dwelling.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I used to hide out in the den at my father's teak desk, transfixed by the globe. After choosing the most exotic spot I could find I would pull the phone close and dial the toll free Holiday Inn number from the commercial; the one where they said they have locations all over the world.

"Holiday Inn, how may I help you?"

"Hi, do you have a hotel in Mozambique?", I would ask trying to sound adult-like.

"Yes, we do. It's in Maputo."

"Perfect. I was wondering how much it costs a night to stay there?"

"What day are you arriving?"

"Oh, I'm not sure exactly. It's all still up in the air." I was proud of myself for that line. It sounded just like something my mother would say.


"Ah, the beginning of April? I just want to get an idea of how much money it will be."

"Alright, let me check on that for you."

As I waited I would try to imagine what the hotel would be like in whatever place I was calling about. For Mozambique I envisioned burgundy and gold drapes, palm trees, air thick with spices. I wondered if there would be an outdoor pool. Of course there would be, I decided.

"Ok, the cost for a standard double occupany room for April 1st is $169.00 per night."

"169..." I pretended to contemplate the price. "Ok, well I will have to get back to you with my final decision."

"Ok, thank you for calling the holiday inn", the man said on the other end and then cleared his throat. "Have a nice day ma'am."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

expectant care

I stumbled across it
Talking about job interviews
And how I struggled to get away from the office
Without raising red flags
In a sea of red flags.
And then of my patients waiting
In pale green rooms.
And how I do the best I can.

It came in images
And I drew him the outline
With clumsy but sure words.
This time I did not need his help.
His eloquence, or his impeccable memory.

I figured out what it is
That pulls my skin along the asphalt
Like a car accident and the stomach flu
Or airplanes,
Long metal cylinders
With human vessels piled inside,
Hopeful faces in oval windows
Going places.
Humans with their body fluids
Held back by an impartial membrane;
Bodies filled with all that we are made of
But hold back and call dignity.

The opposite of dignity is shame.
And while it is inevitably leeched out in the dirt
So often it is stripped against our will
Leaving us naked,
Outside the showers,
Smelling of fear and bowels.

I discovered this and let him have it
And it floated between us in the room
And as ugly as it was,
Settling there at our feet
On a cold February night,
He took it like a gift.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

too much time alone with the media

Not helping me want to get on a plane again. It is like someone read all of the transcripts of every therapy session I have ever had, boiled, diffused, and captured the essence de la Rachel and wrote it into a news segment.


Pilots are supposed to be the ones who have it all under control. How is it that this pilot managed to get ready for work, say goodbye to his family, find his way to the airport, get through security, get on the plane, greet the crew, study the maps [or whatever they do to plan their route], discuss it with the co-pilot, only then to go completely ravagingly insane over the Atlantic???

Then it got me to thinking, what does one do when one is a pilot and one has a nervous breakdown in the air? The only thing I can think of is that he was probably trying to take the plane down. I hear he was screaming that he wanted to talk to G-D. That would be one way to do it. So terribly frightening.

We were just hit with the "Godzilla" of snow storms, as dubbed by the media. It looks quite lovely out there for now, and the temperature is mild, so I do not really mind. Still rather be on a beach.

I have been sick this week. Just a cold, but it meant that I spent some quality time on my couch watching television.

The other day I saw a stupid talk show on the debate on men who wear baggy pants; like the kind that go halfway down your ass and your boxers hang out the top. It was treated as a serious debate. What a ridiculous and a collosal waste of time. Who cares?

In Toronto the other day they were voting on passing a law in city council banning flip flops, short skirts, muscle t-shirts [do these still even exist] and a bunch of other kinds of clothing. Stop wasting time and personnel on this shit! I mean seriously, if you dress unprofessionally, sure that may hamper your career growth, but let things evolve on their own. There are so many other problems in the city and the world. People should be ashamed for wasting their time on these ridiculous debates. They are a bunch of angry disatisfied drones projecting their own shit on the people around them.

Then a more important, but as I see it, misguided debate, was the afro-centric school debate in Toronto. The vote was close, but the decision came down that there will be an "afro-centric" public school in the city.

I have a problem with this in the same way I have a problem with the many public Catholic schools in the city. Public schools should be for everyone. If you want to send your kid to a special school you should have to pay for that. It should be a private school as it is for the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim communities.

If the city is going to fund an afro-centric school on the premise that the community is in need, they should probably do the same for aboriginal people, and then maybe the tamil community and, while I have not conducted any official needs assessment, I imagine the list goes on.

Instead of a "black" school, there should be a school for populations in need with extra services that meet the specific needs of each community. I can promise you that in this very multi-cultural city there are a number of poor communities that would benefit from extra services and programs. And more money should go into after school programs where kids in need can be exposed to strong adult mentors who value education and have the time to spend with them. There are lots of black kids with these needs, but I would be willing to bet there are lots of kids of all kinds of cultures that need it too.