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When I was a kid I used to live on my bike all summer. Our neighbourhood was pretty safe, with paths and parks, we even lived down the block from the parkway they would shut down for Sunday bike days. My sister and I would meet up with friends and just take off.

At some point after I got to high school I just stopped. I started walking more and biking less. For a long time I didn’t have a bike at all.

And then a few years ago, after we moved into the new house, I got a cruiser. It was my first time on a bike in probably over a decade. While the old saying is true, you never forget how to ride a bike, you do lose some confidence. After a long period of time things seem a lot more wobbly. I also never did a lot of busy street riding, and in this neighbourhood it’s kind of unavoidable.

Meanwhile, we put the kid in Pedalheads bike camp (it’s awesome, kid loves it, they got her off training wheels the first day). She loves to bike. Every spring she’s desperate to get her bike out and get going. But still I haven’t been on my bike for a couple of years.

And so today I took my bike out. We went to the park and she played. We biked back. Even took a detour.

I’m not going to say it was easy, but it sure felt good. And I know that I can reasonably expect myself to bike up to the coffee shop or the drugstore. Or even to the gym – bike there, use the pool, bike back.

It’s all doable.

I’m a bit stuck.

I’ve been in bed most of the day because my tendonitis has reared its ugly head and my neck isn’t doing that great a job of supporting my head comfortably. Spending the day in bed was certainly not what I planned to do with my Saturday. More than that, I ended up not doing anything with my Saturday at all.

I barely got out of bed, I didn’t read, I didn’t write or draw, I got the tiniest bit of work done. I spent the day on my phone, looking at social media, trying to find a comfortable position. I did some meal planning on Pinterest, liked some photos on Instagram, read some rumours on reddit and otherwise completely wasted my time.

It felt like a culmination of all of the things I’ve been not doing over the course of the summer, and possibly even the year.

I’m stuck. I can’t get a move on.  I’m not doing a lot of the things I would usually be doing, nor am I doing the things I keep meaning to start doing. It’s quiet frustrating.

I lie here, wishing that I felt like baking. Wishing that I had kept up that journalling every day, wondering about doing some research, knitting something new, missing the bit of doodling I had myself doing every evening, wondering why I don’t just go our for a walk sometimes.

There is a long list of things that are good for me, that I know I would enjoy, that I’m just not doing right now.

I want to be better. I want to be on the other side of this, stronger. But the difficulty is weighing me down. Too much thinking, not enough doing. Too much overwhelm.

I need to get a move on again.

 

Last week I took a mental health day. I had been getting sick, I hadn’t slept well the night before, and I have discovered that parenting a 7-year-old is rather difficult.

I went back to bed for a while, then I watched some TV, and then I decided to get out of the house for a bit. I went for a drive by myself, stopped for some treats at Baker Bob’s in Almonte. And as I was driving back home I thought of the best thing I could do for myself. I would take my dog and go and visit my favourite place. The dog park.

I don’t know what exactly it is about it – being in nature, in amongst the trees, fresh air, watching my buddy be free, running around like his younger self, the exercise that I get, the quiet. Even when it’s busy you can walk through the woods and only occasionally meet someone else, there on a stroll with their best friend.

We’re all there, just being.

It’s there that I realize I need to walk more – maybe with some music playing – just walking and letting my brain roam to where it wants to be, or where it needs to focus.

I don’t often let myself do that – just think. I tend to distract myself with too many things, and when I finally lie down to sleep all the thoughts come at once. Or not at all, because I’ve exhausted myself avoiding sleep.

The dog park is a good reminder of all the things I can do for myself to avoid needing mental health days.

Two things came together in my various timelines today that made me think back.

The first was a reminder, on Facebook, that on this day six years ago Jack Layton held his final press conference. It is a day I remember vividly, as I had been planning to take it off, but I got a phone call from my boss telling me that she really needed me to be there. When I arrived, another boss came into my office and gave me my task for the morning – to watch carefully for leaks to the media before the press conference started. Memories are faulty, but I’m fairly certain that at that point I hadn’t been told what would leak if we had one, but since that was my job – to be at my desk, watching the news, watching Twitter, watching websites – it meant I was not in the big room where they gathered staff to tell them all at once that our dear leader had cancer again, and would be taking a break from leading the party.

The second was on my Pinterest, a simple message someone saved about leadership. When I talk to leaders I get the feeling that I am important. And I remember. When Jack was my boss more than once he called a meeting with the staff of the whole leader’s office, usually at the end of a sitting, and he asked us what we thought. He legitimately asked us what we thought of how the session had gone and how the party was doing, and then he sat there and listened. He made you feel like he was listening to you and that he cared what you had to say.

I say he made you feel that way, I know a lot of things in politics are fake, but I still believe that he did care. That’s why I loved working for him, and I think that’s why when people ask who I worked for and I tell them they usually put a hand over their heart and say “ah.”

I know that other people feel that way about our current Prime Minister. I have met him a few times and he has that same aura about him. When he’s shaking your hand or taking a picture, it feels as though he’s right there, listening to you.

In the event that I ever become a boss or a mentor, I hope that this is the type of leadership I can provide. It has meant so much to me.

I’m holding on

July 20th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Health | Issues | Personal - (Comments Off on I’m holding on)

When  I was 17 or 18 my father turned to me after a dinner at his house and asked me, point blank: “When was the last time you thought about killing yourself?”

I was shocked into just answering, honestly. It had been about a year before.

By the time he asked I was over that particular hump, but my depression has ebbed and flowed for years. The very, very worst was when I was in my early 20s, having graduated at or near the top of my class and managed to only one job – a terrible one that I left after just a few months when the paper shut down.

I felt as though I had made all the wrong choices and it was just going to keep going that way. I would collapse in tears, sleep all day, hope that somebody could offer me a better solution that just disappearing. But I’m still ebbing and flowing. It’s been much better and at its worst.

It does not surprise me that people like Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington suffered from depression. There is a reason that I connected to their music. There is a reason that driving around with the windows down blasting Hybrid Theory and singing along made me feel better – like someone understood.

What surprises me is that they couldn’t beat it, in the end.

 

Because why me. Why could I fight back against that demon and these artists, these successful people, these respected people, couldn’t?

Does this mean that there are no answers, no solutions, no magic potion to make the darkness disappear. Does this mean that to be a great artist, you really do have to descend into that darkness? Can I never be my most creative self AND be taking the anti-depressants that keep me level?

And I drive myself crazy.

Last weekend I was in Montreal. I had arranged to go for work, and then for my family to join me, specifically so I could be there for Montreal Comiccon. I have never gone to a con outside my own city before, never even really considered it, but there was a draw I could not escape.

David Tennant, the tenth Doctor, would be there.

It was his first con in Canada and while it is possible that he will come back, and maybe even come to Ottawa someday, I decided it was worth the small expense to see him this time. For he is my Doctor. Everyone has their favourite, and Tennant is mine.

(Squee)

Now, this does not mean that I don’t like other regenerations. After Eccleston I was sure I would have trouble getting comfortable with Tennant (nope), and when Tennant left I was positive I would never like Matt Smith for the simple fact that he had replaced 10, but he grew on me. I am actually shocked at how much I like Capaldi. I find his humour pretty great. On my shelf of Whos I even found space for the War Doctor.

And now, just a few days after I met my favourite Doctor the show is making news – Jodie Whittaker has been cast as the first female Doctor.

We knew the announcement was coming. Capaldi had already said he would leave after this year’s Christmas special. Twitter was buzzing yesterday morning as people waited for the BBC to tell us, finally, who would be number 13. And I knew in the back of my mind that if it was another white man I would be disappointed. It would feel like a missed opportunity. There have been growing calls for a person of colour or a woman to take on the role. Names from Idris Elba to Tilda Swinton had been mentioned, although both of those actors might be too big for the show.

Finally they posted the video, a figure in dark clothing walking through a forest. A hand reaches out. A shot of part of the face. And it was a woman. It was a WOMAN!

I may have actually whooped for joy. I could not contain my excitement. Eventually there were tears. I didn’t know it mattered so much until I had it, there in front of me.

Of course there was backlash. Of course. White men who have had something that they’ve always had taken away from them. People saying that this destroys the show, that they won’t watch, that a female Doctor just can’t be.

And last night it occurred to me, very peacefully. If you think that having a female Doctor ruins the show for you, then you never understood the show in the first place. Of course the Doctor could be a woman. Of course a woman Doctor will have the same gravitas as a male one. She’s THE DOCTOR.

I’ve gone through this with so many things now – When Rey was the lead in the new Star Wars, when they made an all-female Ghostbusters. Why can’t you let us have something? Why? Why can’t women (and men!) be excited about these things without having idiots declare that it’s not fair or not right or whatever else they are butt hurt about.

Today I have my nails painted Tardis blue, I am wearing one of my Who shirts, I am ready and willing to buy all the 13 merch. Because when I told my daughter that the new Doctor was a woman she was excited too.

 

I have a very great desire right now to read all the things.

I have so many books on my shelf that I want to get to. Some have been sitting there for years and some are brand new.

I’m currently reading three books and I want to be reading more. I want to have read them. I want to dive in and experience them all. Now.

This is made more difficult by the fact that I am currently re-reading my favourite series, which consists of seven books. I actually mentioned this to a lady at Mill Street Books in Almonte – where I always, always find something to read, and usually something for the kid too – and she said that she never re-reads books, because there are just too many new books out there.

But I have found, in my life, that there are books I enjoy but will never read again – books that can only surprise you once – and there are books I hold onto as dear friends. There are books I want to read at different stages of my life, to see different perspectives on the characters and events.

I even have books that I may never read again, but they will forever stay on my shelves as fond memories.

Not just fiction either. Lately I have found that I have a great desire to study, to learn, to analyze. I’ve been reading memoirs and textbooks, biographies and essays. I want to know everything. Or at least as much as possible. I want to consider opinions. I want to read about experiences that are vastly different from my own. I want to know more history.

I want to have read things and remember them so that I can use that knowledge when I learn about even more stuff.

Perhaps it’s because I’m now in a place in my life when I know how much I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I have this small twinkle that might just grow into a full blown PhD application. Perhaps it’s because there is so much going on in the world that I want to gather all the information I can to form my own opinions, and be able to back them up. I want to be able to reference things. If I hadn’t slacked off in my first round of undergrad, I’d be ahead of the game at this point.

But then there is fiction. Glorious literature. I want to know stories and language and characterization. Not only because my brain craves it, but because I want to get better at it myself, and there is no better way than to read. Everything.

 

I experienced a little loss today, unexpectedly. I bought some carpenters pencils, excited to use them in some kind of creativity. I used to sketch all the time – my grandfather taught me. He taught me about the best paper, the best pencils, the best erasers. Never colour. Pure sketching that his father taught him.

And I knew when I bought them that they don’t fit into pencil sharpeners and the best way to sharpen them is with a pen knife. Which my grandfather used to always do for me.

Gramps carried – always – a Swiss Army Knife in his pocket. And when pencils needed sharpening he pulled it out and cut away at the wood. It left behind beautiful shapes and a perfect pencil tip for sketching.

And I never asked him to show me how.

Gramps turns 97 at the end of the month. He’s lost dexterity in his hands. When we moved him into the facility he’s in now I found that knife among other things in his desk and I had an immediate emotional reaction. This is a small thing so connected to my memory of my grandfather and something small he did for me.

I had a similar emotional reaction today when I realized that in order to use these pencils and practice the creativity he taught me to express, I will have to teach myself this small thing.

So, Canada celebrated 150 since since confederation last weekend. Living in the capital, this is something we’ve been talking about for YEARS and I had gotten a little tired of it all. (Especially since, in my opinion, if your going to celebrate 150 years for a whole year, at least start on July 1 and end on July 1).

I love this country, I am proud and glad to have been born here. I believe in this country, and I also know that she has many failings and has made outrageous mistakes. I am of the mind that I can celebrate the good and criticize the bad without giving up one iota of my patriotism.

And it occurred to me today, after watching the pros and cons of Canada being debated all weekend, after watching Indigenous peoples stand up and say that this country is NOT okay, that they have NOT been treated fairly, that they and their children are suffering the consequences of these 150 years, that the best way for me to quietly celebrate my Canada is to lift up those voices, and other Canadian voices. To listen.

And one of my favourite ways to listen is through the written word. So here I will share books that I have read, and books that I know I should read – and will read, hopefully by the end of this year.

Great Books I have read, so see these as recommendations:

  • Fall On Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald (when I started reading, I was unprepared for the story and the beauty of it)
  • An Inconvenient Indian, Thomas King (Humour surrounding a history lesson and a serious issue)
  • Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood (One of the first Atwood’s that I read, and my lasting favourite)
  • The Underpainter, Jane Urquhart (I read this years ago, and sometimes still think about it)
  • The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill (Just a harrowing journey)
  • Birdie, Tracey Lindberg
  • Essex County, Jeff Lemire
  • The Right to be Cold, Sheila Watt-Cloutier
  • The Promise of Canada, Charlotte Gray
  • The Game, Ken Dryden
  • The Birth House, or virtually anything else by Ami McKay, even books she hasn’t written yet

Books for Young Canadians, which Canada does so well

  • The Macdonald Hall series by Gordon Korman (I have already bought the full set for my daughter)
  • The Anne series by LM Montgomery (Rilla of Ingleside being my personal favourite, with Anne of the Island a close second)
  • Any and all things Munsch
  • The Beaver, Moose and Bear books by Nicholas Oldland
  • The Hockey Sweater, Roch Carrier (but really the NFB short)
  • Spork, Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault
  • Different Dragons and Mine for Keeps by Jean Little (I read both multiple times. Jean Little has a way of making you feel less alone)
  • All Marie-Louise Gay’s Stella books, but particularly When Stella was Very, Very Small
  • Red is Best, Kathy Stinson

Great Canadian Books I Must Read

  • The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields
  • The Diviners, Margaret Laurence
  • Indian Horse, Richard Wagamese
  • The Cat’s Table, Michael Ondaatje
  • The Break, Katherena Vermette
  • Two Solitudes, Hugh McLennan, and also probably Barometre Rising
  • The War That Ended Peace, Margaret MacMillan

If you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to add to my list. More fiction, history, biographies, I’ll read it all.

I’ve got a blank space baby

July 4th, 2017 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Personal - (Comments Off on I’ve got a blank space baby)

I was reading a long post last night about how keeping a journal can “change your life.”

I am a lifelong diarist. Since I could write, misspellings be damned, I have kept some sort of journal. Even when I blog, I usually have a notebook. Pen on paper is never quite matched by a keyboard. When I was in high school I would take one notebook with me everywhere and it was a mishmash of short stories, doodles, hockey scores and free-flowing thoughts. I still have them.

This article recommends journalling first thing in the morning – 30 minutes before you do anything else. It’s the best way to release all that your subconscious mind was working hard on while you slept, the author says.

I have heard of morning pages before. I know great writers force themselves to sit down for 10, 15, 30 minutes or until they have written a certain number of words every morning. I have wanted to do this, to unleash my creativity and get out the book I still feel is inside me. But morning pages has never been the thing for me. Now more than ever, really.

As the mother of a young child I very rarely get to decide what the first thing I do in the morning will be. She generally wants to chat for a bit, needs help with her breakfast, wants me to do her hair or to help her pick out her outfit. Then the dog needs to go out, and we need to get to the bus, which means I need to get dressed.

And then, once I have waved her off, I get my coffee and sit down to work, whatever I learned while asleep utterly lost, I guess.

There are suggestions that I wake up earlier than her, get my time in before she gets up. But the idea of waking up at 4:30 am is not that appetizing. Especially as I would then lose my evenings. I don’t even know how early I would have to go to bed to wake up and fell human at 4:30 am. I am and have always been a night owl. My brain really starts working around 10 or 11 pm. My ideal wake up time would be more like 9 am, maybe 10.

Even if I did wake up at 4:30 and try to make a morning person out of myself, the first thing I always want to do is tidy my desk, fill my coffee, read the news, make a to do list. I have great difficulty just diving in to what I need to do. First I need to prepare myself for the dive. Only when things are tidy, when I have an idea of what I need to get done, when the kid is occupied or out the door, when my coffee cup is filled, then I can start staring at the blank page.

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