I Know What You Did Last Summer; We’ll Speak No Evil

No, I don’t really know what you did last summer nor the summer before. Not even the summer I originally wrote this, but although circumstances changed for some of us, I know it still speaks to what someone is enduring today. We all cope with painful events, but is it also necessary for them to be hidden, secreted away for whatever sake?

I live in an average nice community of nice families. We’re privileged to send our children to wonderful schools and numerous extracurricular activities.  We live in a flurry of motion around those needs, our work, and the occasional indulgences for grown-ups.  We live a life of wonderful.  At least, from all appearances that’s what it seems like.

The truth behind this peaceful picture is that life is really not unlike the quiet drama worthy of Wisteria Lane, the street belonging to the now defunct TV show Desperate Housewives.


Of our group of housewives, two have just got diagnoses for severe diseases. One is being supported ideally, the other enduring the painful lesson of learning who her real friends are and terribly embarrassed about it. One of us is managing stage 4 cancer. That’s dismal enough, but what’s not so well-known is that she is also enduring painful loneliness caused by friends too afraid to visit anymore. One of us left a husband who drank too much and another got away from her abusive husband. Of course, nobody would ever have guessed that about either of those husbands.

Still more, there are a few of us living in quiet desperation while trying to find ways to re-kindle the strength of our relationships, and there are at least five of us in serious financial jeopardy. Another, utterly crushed by the tragic news that her father, who was out on a stroll, was killed by a stranger for no apparent reason.  Another average year in the neighbourhood except that, unless you’re one of us directly involved, you wouldn’t know it.

We talk easily about certain subjects, other people who are fighting illnesses, etc., but there are other aspects even within that topic that aren’t talked about. These are the subjects that are too awful or too personal.  But what does too personal really mean?  Is ‘too personal’ a masked phrase for ‘must be kept quiet in order to preserve a comfortable, but false, image’?  What is the image? What is the reward for preserving it?

Over the years, life has progressively got just a little more real for many of us.  We all know that happens on an intellectual level, but when it happens to us, we aren’t comfortable talking about it. We may very selectively choose whomever to unburden ourselves to a point. The trials of something breaking down are uncomfortable, often thought to be some kind of failing.

We don’t talk about these ‘failings’ beyond a certain level because?  You fill in the blank, but I’d bet all the answers will boil down to the fear of being judged.  If it’s about inability to cope with discussion, that’s another story, but maybe that’s a walk down the same road too anyway.

All of the events I noted are supposedly out of the ordinary, but I’ve been reconsidering this idea because they are all circumstances that happen every day somewhere near and far. What isn’t obvious, because of pretenses, is that there is virtually no household that hasn’t, or isn’t dealing with something they don’t want the neighbours to know about.

That’s a whole lot of judgment to put to bed. That’s a whole lot of excellent support potential, and think of the amazing advice waiting to be shared. That’s a lot of unrealized hope.

I’m open about my own issues because I’ve been shown that my stories are not unique. My problems are not special, not even the very worst of them. My friends have heard loads about the divorce that never ends, and myriad woes before & since. Whatever feelings I may have had in fear of judgment were, and are, wasted heartache. Secrets degrade every level of our being. The shame and fear I once had, claimed far too much of the precious time I could have had learning and moving on.

I’m not the circumstances that I’m in at the moment.  I am an entire lifetime of experiences that contain many highs in the light with the lows in the dark and murky.  Which ones do you think I’ve learned the most from?

Maybe we need to take it to heart that, when life is getting real with us, we need to start getting real with it.  Let’s stop pretending that we are only as good as our image.  It’s a terribly weak foundation to learn from, or teach how to overcome struggles. We really are all in the same boat, and once in a while we have to share the rowing.

When we share our perceived weaknesses, we learn so much more than we can ever imagine in fear. As we become genuine, we end up twice as strong, and eventually life does become genuinely lighter for us, and in all the places that secrets diminish.

We shall overcome.  Together.

Incidentally, if I ever look like I’m in need of a soothing hot beverage, would you make it the kind over ice, with a twist? Then, let’s talk.


Monday Blues and Champagne

Monday Blues 1-1
…And so I got a little bit drunk on a Monday afternoon….
It was just a little bit too much to deal with, all the bad news of the fall…
It was just a little bit too much.
No, I don’t do this often… I don’t do it often at all actually,
But today, I did
Because the sound of silence was not a comfort today.
Today the silence threatened to silence, even me.
A little champagne with the omelette,
To dampen despondency … to throw a block at that insidious intrusion sneaking in …
The judge that reminds me of my failures, blames me for my losses, wants to decline my sense of safe esteem.
I did get a little bit drunk
To evade the judgement that sentences me to self-recriminating hell for losing to the merely inane.
I got a little bit drunk this afternoon,
When all the meditation in the world wasn’t enough.
So I could instead turn to only the encouragement of lovely, thinking people.
So I could feel the comfort of gorgeous words that were written to assuage my fears.
So, I could remember that these people matter, and to know that the insidious, more than anything,  especially on Mondays, could use … a little champagne.



There are no words worthy of the gratitude I feel toward the people who champion me in the hard times as much as during the laughs. I raise my glass to the ones who prod me to carry on, and carry on with my words even within my fears that I will give away too much.

To the ones whose own words speak so directly to my heart that they give me a strength they can’t possibly imagine – thank you… thank you… thank you…

To the women who worked so efficiently to enlighten me about what is, thank you.

Photo Credit: Darren Quarin, Quarin Photography, “A Glimmer of Hope”

The Question That Changed My Entire Life

I was twenty-nine and about to enter my second mid-life crisis, (the first one was at twenty-one – but that’s another story). As I took stock of my life I knew I was free-falling into the stereotypical void of meaninglessness.  My world was focused on making money and projecting the right image.

At the time I was working in the finance industry as a finance broker; it left a lot to be desired in the soul side of life.  While I enjoyed the benefits of decent pay, and a closet full of great shoes, it didn’t fill much in the fulfillment soles. (Ya see what I did there?)

How things looked was a top priority for the industry goals. It was fairly regularly preached that the need to look successful was imperative. The required image included  job title, personal appearance, home, and contacts.

I remember one well-meaning colleague seriously imploring me to buy a car that was, at a minimum, the oldest model of a Mercedes that I could afford rather than a brand new Toyota.  That was far more conducive to achieving that highly desired image.  Pointing out the obvious differences in comfort levels for me netted a baleful stare of incredulous disbelief in my sanity.  That was pretty much as deep as life was.

Falling Girl, by Scott Sona Snibbe

It was about that time that I really started to question the point of life and my purpose within it.  Not long after, I came across a magazine article that lit an inner spark.  Considering the importance it was to play in my life, I can’t believe the title escapes me. Anyway, it was about the question, the one that literally began the turn-over of  my life:

“When you die, what do you want people to say about you at the service”?

I sat back and sifted through all the tributes I could remember.  The ones that I recalled most were those folks who were spoken about with great respect and even reverence for what they gave to the world, and the grace with which they lived.  That’s how I wanted to be remembered too.

Then the next sentence simply said, “Now go make those words real”.

It gave me immediate focus.  What I at least realized then, was that what I wanted to be became less important than what kind of person did I want to be. It was a general goal, but it offered seemingly thousands of possibilities. A huge weight of dejection was replaced with a huge light of hope.

It led me to know that I had finally found my soul, but I was in an industry that didn’t have one.  I knew it would soon be time to move on. My questions of how were answered as my perception and approaches evolved. Many opportunities came my way as a result.

My eventual path started, and startled, with a variety of unexpected voluntary roles from ambulance attendant (never saw that coming),  to board director for policing support. I got the chance to write for pay, and eventually, ran a fundraising foundation for a regional cancer research and treatment centre  (worst job ever, but that’s another story).

The point is that it doesn’t matter where you start from, you only need to change how you see things. Look inward and around at what you have at hand.  Be thankful for at least that much, then look for ways that it can be used to help someone or something else – especially at those times when you feel least able. I can only ask you to trust me on that, but it would be more useful for you to try it once or twice.

I’ve seen it start out in simple ways like the guy finally able to say the words, “I was wrong”, and another who started a food bank drive at the company she worked for.

I can see it being things like starting a business or charity to help whatever need in your heart, or a finance industry that encourages genuine savings by offering genuinely decent saving account interest rates.  It’s never too late to change direction, after all, all it is, is changing your mind about what you need.

R.I.P. Me

R.I.P. becomes Live more in Peace

How do we want to be remembered?  The advice was simple, on the face of it, but the results took me to wondrous places that I had no idea I wanted to be. It’s a bit scary for me to try to imagine now what my world might have been if I hadn’t had that magazine intervention.

One last word on this advice, a meaningful life isn’t perfect either – far from it.  The only perfect expectation is embracing the knowledge that our best work is about giving the best we have at the moment.

So think about your end for a bit, and then go live up to your service.  Works for me so far. Usually.


Written in reply to the WordPress weekly writing challenge: What’s the best, or worst, piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?