Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Unfriendly Skies

Fly By Night - Rush

"Fly the friendly skies" That's what United Airlines encourages us to do. But there are no guarantees and lately it seems less likely then ever to be true. The skies are decidedly unfriendly to the commercial airline these days. Not to mention the animosity toward paying passengers. It seems that between terrorism, weather, ineptness and stupidity buying a airline ticket to anywhere is akin to buying into the national lottery. You might win, but there is a cost and sometimes the price is too high.

internet find
"Experience the difference" boasts Sunwing, but each time I fly (which admittedly is not often) I find the difference to be more and more distasteful on all airlines. It's not just the food which is crap that they want too much extra money for. It's the cramped seats and lack of leg room. As humanity as a whole grows in width and height, the seats we must cram ourselves into on public transportation is shrinking. That's good news for the airlines for they are forcing many to purchase 2 seats instead of one just to experience a modicum of comfort. Plus they can fit more seat paying passengers onto each aircraft. Putting on the seat belt entails giving your seat mate a personal side massage. The armrest which barely fits one arm rests on your conjoined thighs. If you have a foot larger than a child, you will spend most of the flight trying to find somewhere to put it as your legs must be extended for the tray table to be level and off your knees. Feeling a bit like a t-rex with tiny arms stretched out directly in front, you finally get your tiny laptop set up on the table with the snack you brought along with you and try to pass some time in the capsule. And lo and behold the bathroom rush starts. Timing is critical, all seatmates must file into the aisle with their arms full of tray table possessions - holding steady with an elbow perched on an unsuspecting head rest (or head). You pray that you won't encounter any sudden turbulence as all bored passengers observe your juggling technique. Where is the serving cart that blocks all passage? In a rush, you hope you will you be able to contain yourself as you stand in the queue? Now add the free beer and smaller planes of Porter airlines to that mix and you are in for an entertaining journey. Enough beer and you might forget the discomfort - good planning Porter! But it does mean potentially more bathroom visits. Just don't disembark and drive! 

Carl Sagan
But we are willing to forgive and forget the discomfort and inconvenience of the flight itself as long as we get were we want to go - fast. That's the idea in theory. Not always in practice however. Consider last Christmas in southern Ontario. A freak ice storm turned every surface into glistening hockey rinks, effectively shutting down the airport services. Leaving many stranded. Hard earned vacation days were spent sitting at the airport instead of the beach. If you were lucky you managed to get on another flight and spend at least a couple of days on the beach with a voucher for 10% off your next flight. Some spent Christmas living at the airport like Tom Hanks in Terminal. It seems that any rights you have as a passenger who is inconvenienced is dependent on the airline itself. Two would-be passengers on the same flight may get very different levels of acceptable compensation. In one case, a flight to and from a sunny southern destination was delayed by approximately 12 hours. The people stuck at the holiday airport were given their entire flight costs back. The people in Canada were offered a percentage off their next flight with the company. Why the difference? Well, the company (Sunwing) stated that it was more of a hardship for the people stuck so far from home. The others were able to wait it out at home. Ummm...not everybody lives so close to the airport. In fact some people can travel (or fly) great distances to get to a major airport. They are not home! Personally speaking it is a hardship, getting a ride to the airport once...never mind it becoming a personal transit route. Inconvenience is inconvenience. I do not understand the federal politicians not wanting to support some type of "bill of passenger rights". Probably because their first class accommodations don't require any battles for inconvenient travel compensation. 

Earlier this year, Malaysian flight #MH370 vanished into thin air (or deep waters) with nearly 250 people aboard. There have been comparisons to Amelia Earharts' disappearance in 1937 which has also never been found. However in this day and age of high tech gadgetry it seems more unbelievable that this would even be possible. Commercial aircraft have locator beacons that can be used in such a case - but they can be disabled and have a limited period of usefulness if they are on. Why spend the money to install them if they won't help in such conditions? The search has long since been called off with no answers forthcoming. Meanwhile countless numbers of friends, family members have lost (in the true sense of the word) all knowledge of the whereabouts and well-being of people who mattered. 

There is "Something special in the air" according to American Airlines but that special something may be something that you don't want or expect. As you soar above the clouds it seems that in some parts of the world you may have missiles and radar signals aimed at the wide body jet poised to bring you down. That passenger next to you could be the kook that has smuggled a new weapon of mass destruction aboard. If you are lucky, your flight will be turned back and stormed by the SWAT team. It happened with a Sunwing flight that had just left Canadian airspace when someone made bomb threats aboard. Ironically passengers spoke more of the fear brought by the on-board siege by the police than by being blown out of the sky. Remember the concept of good guys vs bad guys, people?

"Live today. Tomorrow will cost more." But does Pan American World Airways tell you that the cost could be to live your last day in the air. Whatever was on the agenda for the nearly 300 passengers aboard Malaysian flight 17 I doubt "die today" was at the top. But as they cruised far above a war zone, they were still within striking distance of military fire power. And with no goodbyes...down they came and not at their intended destination. Panic ensued and flights in the area were cancelled for a couple of days and then returned to normal as the caskets bearing the dead were transported on their true final flight. 

Weather was the downfall of Taiwan's TransAsia Airways flight GE222 that took with it 47 souls, including at least one which wasn't even aboard the plane. Wrong place at the wrong time. Or someone playing a game of chance with the lives of others. 200 other flights had been cancelled in the area due to poor weather conditions.

Maybe the pilot of the Air Algerie flight should have turned back when encountering poor weather instead of just requesting a different flight plan. I doubt that the new flight plan including an unscheduled stop in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately it was a relatively quick "Find the needle in the haystack" game that led to the location of another 116 unsuspecting flyers. 

500 people plus another 250 lost souls in plane fatalities, has me for one, questioning the safety of flight. I've always been one of those that looks up to the sky and engineering be damned, planes don't belong up there. And there are so many of them. The fact that there aren't more ground or mid-air collisions boggles my mind. Flying is something I tolerate rather than enjoy. So much can go wrong and although fatalities are lessening, my fear increases. Stories about sub-standard parts and used parts going into planes makes me uneasy. Pilots with not enough experience or not enough sleep botching landings. To be fair, with the exception of this most recent rash of fatal airline accidents, safety has been increasing steadily. In the five years prior to 2013 there was an average of 1 fatal accident in 1.6 million flights. That increased to 1 in 1.9 million flights. Considering that air traffic has increased and continues on the upswing, it is still perceived to be safe - weather concerns and war-zones aside. 3 billion people on 36.4 million flights last year with less than 50 crashes in all. And fewer fatalities in the year than in the past couple of months.  

So what are the options. For the number of vehicles on our roads and driver error and distraction being key factors, cars remain the most dangerous mode of transportation. No argument here, but having survived my share of collisions, and with the improvements in the safety of vehicles, I believe that my chances of survival are greater than if I fall out of the sky in a metal bird. And fatal accidents are declining with the inclusion of airbags and other safety features. For comfort and a measure of control over my destiny, I will ride the asphalt freedom trail.

Buses are wonderful for inner city travel but long distance has all of the appeal of a port-a-potty without an air freshener. With seats slightly more comfortable than restrictive quarters of an aircraft but that snoring or loud or obnoxious or smelly seat mate will be by you side for potentially hours or days - depending on where you are going. There is no escape. A walk of the aisle will take you seconds. And frankly I will never be able to get on a long distance bus ride ever again without thinking of the young passenger who was be-headed by a passenger who was carrying the weapon to do the deed. Security is non-existent in an era where security of self is on the fore-front of everyone's mind. Fatalities on the road would be just as likely as for cars but with long hours behind the wheel, driver fatigue can be more of an issue.  

somewhere in the eastern provinces
view from the dome car
So train it is for me. Yes, trains have been known to fall off the tracks and cause some unbelievable natural disasters and even claim unsuspecting civilians in their wake. There is no denying that danger exists. But statistics show that in Canada, most rail fatalities occur to cars or pedestrians playing chicken with the train. Where a train has the right of way and the public chooses to ignore it. Internationally the fatality rate on the iron ribbons is 0.4 in ever one billion passenger kilometres. 

Sunrise view from the train
But in truth, I like the train not because of the survival rate but because of the experience. Earlier this year I boarded a train for a 30+ hour ride through eastern Canada. It was a glorious experience. I first met Oliver, who was a charming young man originally from New Zealand and very knowledgeable on a variety of subjects. I admire intelligence and we spent many hours as seat mates, chatting about the world, Canada etc. Fascinating! We became friends and watched out for each other. I sure hope that everything works out for him and his cross-Canada relationships. In need of a first responder, I would call on Oliver first. There was a comedian in the dining car that had us all in stitches, there was the dome car where you could wander to take in the beauty as the countryside zipped past. I had meals with passengers that I got to know and enjoy when we moved into the bar car for a few beverages for dessert afterwards. You could walk around anywhere and stretch you legs or meet new people. Sabrina was my childrens' age and had many Nova Scotia friends in common with them. And did I mention the live entertainment? Yes, indeed a passenger was travelling with her harp and treated a gathered audience for an impromptu concert. Those kind of relationships just aren't formed on a "get me there quick" anonymous plane ride. 

Whether you are ensconced in metal or fibre-glass or a composite your chances of survival or minimal injuries is still far greater than if you are on two-wheels (motorized or not) or two-feet. Especially it seems in Halifax! Let's keep our eyes open out there. 

Be as safe as you can where ever you may go!

credit where credit is due:
Aviation Safety by the Numbers
Think slogans
Is it safer to fly, drive or take the train

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On the Choppy Seas

Unwell - Matchbox 20
(love his t-shirt)

On this voyage of self-discovery, I am learning things about me that I am not entirely sure I even want to know. It takes my belief system puts it in a jar and shakes it up. I don't know which way is up and I'm not convinced that I even like the new structure.
from the internet

I understand the basis of my failed relationships of the past and why I made some of the choices that I did. But it means that relationships I have today are built of false pretenses and are doomed to fail. That hurts a lot to know that. I hold some of them very dear and they mean a lot to me. So on this beautiful summer day I am mourning yet another loss...because I feel so damned alone. I don't understand what is wrong with me. 

And I am so afraid to meet anyone new because failure means more loss and I really don't know how much more I can take. I don't have the fight or the strength! But this isn't about one person - it never really is - unless that one person is me. But that is one of those things you learn about yourself that is very hard to come to terms with. Maybe it is me? Maybe I am flawed in too many ways to fit anywhere?


The above paragraphs were written sometime ago but I think they still have relevance today. And so I include them here


It starts all rather gradually and then hits me in the face like a ton of bricks one at a time. I can't dodge them all and I'm tired of trying. I didn't even realize I was on the slide until I fell at the bottom. There are signs, the bricks I dodge are signs. But in my attempts to avoid confrontation I am vulnerable to attack. I don't know how to deal with it and I fall before I know I am slipping beneath the waves of despair. 

Hindsight is 20/20 they say. Today I can look back on the past few weeks and see the exact point the decline started. I thought that the acknowledgement of that event and how it made me feel was enough to keep me strong. But like the nearly 10 year struggle with being bullied by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, I just pushed the incident into the recesses of my mind where I thought it couldn't hurt. 

from the Bully Project
It started as a friendly conversation but something was said in a manner that can only be described as demeaning. I thought I brushed it off. It wasn't until much later in the day when I realized that from the moment of that comment I never looked at her again. I still spoke but although we conversed, I looked down at the table when I spoke. I couldn't tell you her name or her hair colour. That realization reminded me of being a weak peon at the hands of my superiors in the School Board. Being spoken to like I didn't have a single thought to call my own. Many meetings in that board room, and the only thing I remember is the surface of the table. And one who chastised me in front of a group of 8-10 by saying "Look at me when I talk to you!" I felt like a 4 year old - although I never spoke to anyone (not even a child) like that myself. 

I really believed that by making that connection to the past trauma I had let the recent events go. Apparently not. Band-aids once again graced my fingers like so many rings. Nights became dreamless with constant periods of wakefullness. Turmoil was the prevailing sentiment based on the condition of the bed coverings. Motivation went out the window and unless there was a specific appointment to dress for and attend, I only saw the sunshine from the security of my balcony. My mind was becoming shrouded in a blanket of persistent fog. I had to read a passage several times to have it register or give up. Days became like the nights, dreamless with occasional periods of wakefullness. 

Now I see what was happening. Then I didn't. It hit me when someone casual said "How was your week?", and I couldn't remember having done anything of significance. Alone, the tears began to flow. I couldn't breath. By the morning the events of the past few weeks became clear as another journey downwards. The tears, the elephant parked on my chest and the fog enveloping my mind, I didn't know where to turn. 

from the internet
Like an angel sent from the heavens someone called...just because. Not the first time that she has called at exactly the time I needed it although she is many miles away - she senses? I hung up with her and dialed for professional help. I can't do this alone anymore. The demons are too strong for me to fight alone. 

One thing I have realized is that when I reach out there are some who are willing to be there. They don't have to do anything, the knowledge and feeling that I am not alone is enough. Messages of concern prevailed and although I questioned reaching out so publicly - I am grateful that I did. 

I am beginning to recognize these tell-tale sign of the choppy seas on the horizon and I hope that I can come to a point where I can reverse the negative tide. Time will tell I suppose. But lack of self-care is leading to some unmistakable bouts of serious dehydration. Awareness is a key to help. 

I can't make any promises about tomorrow but today, I'll be okay. Last night I dreamed again. For when my mind is at peace I can enjoy the love and compassion in my subconscious. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Drumstick Between My Toes

I Will Remember You - Sarah McLachlan

Losing my marbles is probably a bigger daily fear than getting cancer. That's a pretty bold statement, however there is some logic behind it. A diagnosis of cancer brings with it much dread but often hope as well. There are treatments, sometimes cures or even remission; on the other end of the spectrum, it could be a death sentence. But even in that case, you have something to work with. You can plan, say goodbye, put your affairs in order and enjoy the last days with the ones you love making treasured memories.

Dementia is quite different. People you love are forgotten, things that may have brought you joy at one time are distant memories. Yesterday is a lost moment. There aren't any cures, no remission, very little treatment and no hope for future wellness. Instead of being surround by love, you are surrounded by strangers in a nursing home or people who have become strangers to you. Family begins to resent you and you are more a burden than a pleasure.

I helped a friend move her mom in with her as they began a life of coping with her progression into the depths of Alzheimer's. It was hard to watch her mom deteriorate along with their relationship. Roles were reversed and the caregiver became the needy. And the demands took a toll as if an infant was in the house. Measures had to be put in place for her safety and well-being, day care was arranged as well as after care because she couldn't be left alone. It's like having a newborn baby at a time when we think that we have finished our child rearing days. 

And it seems that our government would rather heap this responsibility for care on the families at a cost that can sometimes be ill-afforded. Suddenly becoming responsible for the life of another is not always in our plans and resentment can rear it's ugly head. Where the elderly in our life had a joyful purpose, it is frustrating to be on call 24-7 to fill their needs. Yes, it's selfish I know. But like it or not, it's also reality. 

At 50, we think we are done with our family responsibility. Kids are grown and it's "me time". Time to work on personal relationships. We just never stopped to put caring for elderly parents on our To Do List. Not as another full time job at least. Visits and help with shopping and appointments is one thing, arranging or taking care of the personal needs of a resentful and formerly independent adult is quite another.

Nobody wants to see their parents become someone else entirely. Dementia does that. The mind goes. The love is forgotten. Affection is a thing of the past. Conversation is difficult. And it gets worse, not better. Years and years of watching our parents/grandparents becoming strangers. 

For people dealing with it in their own home, I would encourage ensuring that adequate supports are in place in your community before undertaking this drastic life change. Keeping in mind of course that the disease is progressive. All those stairs will become a danger and challenge, medical equipment may be required to assist daily living. Probably the best scenario I have ever come across was the family that turned their garage into a self-contained apartment for an elderly mother. A breezeway connected the living quarters but lives could be lived separately and conjoined at the same time. Visits back and forth were easy at all times of the day and in all types of weather and therefore put minds at ease concerning well-being and social interaction. As abilities deteriorated, the fuse was removed from the stove and dinners were shared in the main house or brought over if personal space was needed. But that doesn't work for everyone. 

Rest Homes are the other option. But of course this is a very expensive form of accommodation and care, that could continue for decades and past the financial capabilities of the family, especially if both parents are housed thus. And to complicate matters, when is the right time to remove the last vestige of autonomy from our parents. Not a welcome prospect for majority of us. Loss of freedom.

But it is the violence in these care homes that is the most disturbing. All the money in the world will not necessarily keep our seniors safe. It stands to reason that if you take a (large) group of dissimilar characters and strip away their independence you will end up with at least one or two angry souls. Personality clashes and differences coupled with health problems and dementia is a heated pot of water waiting to boil over. 

Stages of Life
I heard a story recently of a woman who's husband of 30+ years often kicked her out of the marital bed because she was a stranger. What would he do waking up in a ward of 3-5 real strangers, as he suffered the indignation by being told when and what to eat? We don't usually have a choice of roommate in care facilities. Even in our post-secondary days we had some choice of who to live with. Matching similar personality/nationalities/preferences is unlikely in overcrowded rest homes. The baby-boomer are filling up the rooms at a staggering pace and the chance of married persons staying together is more a dream than reality.

There is hope for those adult children who are facing the prospect and guilt associated with placing our aging parents into appropriate facilities where they will be cared for and valued. Nothing is perfect and that includes the scenario of moving our parents into our own home. There is one place I recently heard about that gave me some hope for my own "silver" years. 

It is called the Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. There is no guarantee of a violent and aggressive-free environment but there is an operating philosophy of care that limits the likelihood of it. They call it the Eden Philosophy and you can read about it on the website. But the essence is that it is patient-directed care. If a resident wants to sleep in or skip a meal, they are allowed to do that. If they don't want their bed made that's okay. Those that are able are given chores to do, a purpose, a task, a hobby. The staff aren't working in a home of seniors, they are working in the seniors home. Respect for the elderly and infirm is as important as respect for space and property. 

No means no! We repeat this mantra to our teens and live by it ourselves but forget when it comes to the elderly. How many times I have seen the frail being made to stand, move, sit or do when they didn't want to, I can't even count. The No was clear, but ignored. Because it was time to bathe/eat/sleep/watch tv/go out. All activities directed by people who know better. Give me freedom of choice or give me death I say! Many of our current and recently passed seniors fought for this very concept of freedom only to have the next generation rip it away from them.

So we put ourselves in their shoes. We all hate being told what to do! It was a day of rejoicing when we could embark into the world on our own and leaving the rules and restrictions of our parents in the rear-view. Why would we go back? Why would we expect that our parents would do it after a half-century or more of freedom? Not knowing what to do but wanting the best for our parents, we make decisions for them. We leave them in the care of others and walk away with our heads hanging with the weight of guilt for making the decision. 

from facebook post

People who feel vulnerable will try to protect themselves. And who wouldn't feel vulnerable when they are taken from everything they know and feel comfortable with and moved to a strange and different environment? The confusion intensifies. And when they insist that they want to go home, the well-intentioned tell them they are home. But with a few marbles still rolling around the warped floor of the attic, the senior knows it's not true. So all you have done is succeeded in making them feel foolish and stupid. They may correct you and their voice and/or actions may betray the fragility of their physical form.

Suddenly I understand the plight of seniors suffering dementia and I apologize to the senior that I belittled with the best of intentions, forgetting that she didn't need the help I wanted to give. As we remind Alzheimer's patients about appointments, medications, events, their family we are deeming them with kindness of our heart. No one likes to be corrected, especially when they are struggling to understand or hear. We feel bad when we sense the frustration of those around us and get angry at ourselves for not getting it. We feel insulted for being made to feel foolish and can often lash out in anger. Sometimes we use our voice, sometimes we use our physical power. And like the bully in the playground, if we can't attack our tormentor, we will find someone weaker where we have a chance of winning the fight. Sad but true. Once a bully always a bully. When violence is used to solve problems in youth, it remains a tactic throughout our life.


In the meantime...what do we do? Can we do anything to stop the ravaging of our mind? Well brain training is supposed to be one thing. Like a muscle that needs to be worked out to stay strong. So I learned how to do Sudoku and I try every day to do the Cricklers puzzle. Cricklers are crossword type puzzles passed on daily events - a little bonus learning. And I drink caffeine, which I learned from my Cricklers that caffeine supposedly hampers the production of protein plaques that are a prominent precursor to Alzheimer's. I've heard that 5 cups a day can actually reverse memory problems...but then you run the risk of other issues. I guess for that I will stick to the old stand-by of writing it down and then tying a string around my finger to try and remember where the paper is that I wrote it on. It seems that the string there has some scientific validity. There are nerves in the index fingers that lead right to the hippocampus which is the part of the brain responsible for memory. The string becomes a constant stimulator of those nerves keeping that part of the brain in heightened activity mode. Hmmm...I wonder if my permanently bent index finger is the reason I can't remember? Or maybe I can blame the master of forgetfulness, my own Mother and heredity. 

I think that it's more a question of priorities. We remember what we believe to be most important to remember. With all the passwords, PIN's and gadgets we need to keep track of, it's no wonder our minds are bogged down with struggling memories. Add aluminium and all the other environmental factors affecting our health and well-being and it's a wonder we aren't all wandering the streets with blank gazes and straight jackets. 

There is some additional hope for me personally. Music. Music is the life that runs through the cobwebs of my brain and stimulates memories and emotions. And it's always playing. Not loud but always audible. I may be on to something, for it seems that within the Aging and Dementia Care community, the notion of Music Therapy is gaining an audience. Music doesn't need to be cognitively evaluated. Music can change moods, reduce stress and even help with pain management. And the best part is that in cases of dementia, the part of the brain that processes music and our responses to it stay intact the longest as the disease progresses. So when you see my foot taping away like I have drumsticks between my toes, don't worry, I'm just staving off Alzheimer's.  

It's probably far from scientific but it is fun. An alleged test for determining your likelihood of getting Alzheimer's/Dementia that was passed along to me via email. How strong is your brain? Try reading this...

Good example of a Brain Study: If you can read this OUT LOUDyou have a strong mind.And better than that: Alzheimer's is a long long, way down the road before it ever gets anywhere near you. 
7H15       M3554G3 
53RV35       7O    PR0V3 
H0W      0UR  M1ND5    C4N 
D0       4M4Z1NG    7H1NG5! 
1MPR3551V3          7H1NG5! 
1N       7H3    B3G1NN1NG 
17      WA5  H4RD    BU7 
N0W,      0N  7H15    LIN3 
Y0UR      M1ND  1S 
R34D1NG      17 
W17H      0U7  3V3N 
7H1NK1NG       4B0U7    17, 
B3      PROUD!  0NLY 
C3R741N       P30PL3    C4N 
R3AD      7H15. 
PL3453       F0RW4RD    1F 
U      C4N  R34D    7H15.

credit where credit is due:
Nature of Things
Sherbrooke Community Centre
Music Therapy
Yahoo Answers

Friday, July 04, 2014

The Lost Girl

Nothing More - The Alternate Routes

The lost girl is someone I know well. She used to be me. She still is.

It is both a blessing and a curse that I have written diaries during some of the most critical times of my life. Re-reading them now in my advanced years, allows me to relive the joy and lost memories of my family which is the blessing. The curse is feeling very sorry for that girl I once was. 

I am understanding that our memory and brain functions are amazing in their ability to block painful and sad memories that no longer serve useful purposes in remembering. I have often been told that I have a remarkable memory for small details of events that occurred in the past. For me memories are often triggered and stored with musical accompaniment. To be fair I have the added benefit of my written words to jog said memory as well. I don't remember names and dates, they are written down :) 

But I would have to clarify that astounding ability for recollection. Traumatic events I remember with such vividness it sometimes seems like it just happened. My brothers passing and the accident that annihilated the majority of my family are two examples of that 20/20 vision that persists throughout the passing of time. Ask me how old I am, and I will give you a rough idea at best. I could do the math but don't really care. I was married, I can't tell you the month or even year it happened. A civil ceremony with no pomp and circumstance. 

Anger, desperation, loneliness and frustration are all found in varying circumstances in my books of thoughts. I didn't know how starved for love and acceptance I was - how used and emotionally abused by people that I thought cared. And I never spoke up and defended myself, ever! I wrote it, forget it and forgave. That mentality and ability that served me well as a child and young adult would nearly destroy me as a career woman.

Jump forward to the beginning of the new century and I saw a woman who became a mother and loved herself and her children and fought off all demons that tried to bring her down. Until she could fight no more. Still starved for love and acceptance as a woman and human being, I was used and emotionally abused by people I thought cared as they hid under the cloak of Catholicity. Hypocrites! I wrote it, forgot it and let it go. No forgiveness is in the horizon at this point. Ten years of journals are safe in my care and still too painful to read and remember the trauma endured.

This is the lost girl. She wants and needs that love and acceptance so desperately that it takes all her strength to like herself when at the same time she feels that she isn't good enough for anyone. So, when confronted with new people (who could be potential threats) a wall goes up to protect the fragile girl and a "strong" persona comes out and deflects attention away. Creating a coat of armour through which no one can penetrate. People see her as brusque and teeming with confidence. When nothing could be further from the truth. Those who take the time to know, will find a shy, insecure, frightened girl. She wants you to be a part of her world for she has an unending compassion for people in the human race but she is so afraid of getting hurt that she may not let you in. But she doesn't want to be alone any more. 

In reading these diaries, I learn that I feel more compassion and empathy for that lost girl then I have ever had for anyone else in my life. Like Baby Jessica stuck in the well, but nobody ever tried to rescue her, because they didn't know she was there. But, I like her! And more importantly today - after walking away from the source of my most trying and difficult trauma (the staff and administration of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board) - I respect her. She may be vulnerable but she is valuable!

She is not strong, she is resilient and stubborn. I am in a place now where I feel safe once again. I am in a place of peace. I am in a place where acceptance isn't just a catch phrase but a way of life. And I am healing...again.

I went on a visit back to visit my children and those I love and something remarkable happened to raise my self-awareness. During the day, most people still had jobs to attend to so I took the time to explore the city of Toronto like I never could before. And while mostly positive experiences came from it, I did notice something disturbing. There was an underlying tension that invaded my soul for when I boarded the train and began putting the city behind me, I felt a release. A weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I was going home. I was going to be safe again. For it seems that as long as I am in the GTA (greater Toronto area) there is a chance that I will come upon one of my tormentors or worse bystanders (who saw the injustice and turned away). I knew that this was precisely the reason I refuse to go back to the community I lived even though I own property there. It's a painful reminder of the events that nearly killed me. As long as I am there I am not safe. It is my war zone. Landmines are everywhere.

So what now? I am aware of what is happening and what is causing my anxiety but what now? A former therapist insisted that I should become that fake persona that is outwardly strong and learn to defend myself. Do away with the lost girl. But that is not what is in my heart. I am a non-confrontational, non-combative person and I like that. I don't want to be someone because there are people who want to hurt me. I don't want to live in fear of the monsters. I want the monsters to leave me alone. I want to live in peace and love. 

I have found that acceptance here and for now there is no one who can rain on my parade. I won't allow it. I am afraid that if I am hurt again I won't be able to heal. There is only so much bouncing back a person can do. I feel I have reached my limit.


The other day the news coverage was all about the crazy lady who is now engaged to murderer and rapist Paul Bernardo. The very name makes me cringe as I remember well the search for Leslie Mahaffy when she disappeared in Burlington, Ontario. Kristin French was found close to the remains of Mahaffy in the spring of 1992. The ensuing trial and fiasco that surrounded Bernardo and his wife Karla Homolka infuriated most of the the country. And still does. The media is trying to help us understand the madness in this woman's actions.

Segue to the marriage I glossed over so briefly and that almost no one knows about. Not a shining moment in my history but I understand myself and my actions a little more because of this news story. This mystery woman in love with the notorious killer is me on a grander scale. She began a relationship with Bernardo at a time of personal vulnerability and during a transitional phase of her life. Typically with low self-esteem and a desire for unconditional love, these lost souls are drawn to the only people they feel with take the time for them - the ones that many in society have discarded. They feel discarded themselves and in their hopefulness think that they can find the good beneath the bad. For deep down they think they have some good beneath the bad everyone is highlighting about them also. Forgive and you shall be forgiven and redeemed also. 

And this was precisely me. I ran from the maltreatment of my grandmother who was supposed to love me unconditionally to the arms of a man who used me and was never able to give me the love I needed so desperately. While I was in his fold, I continued to search for that love outside of his perimeter. But I couldn't let him go even though in some ways I knew he wasn't my forever. I couldn't see the negatives for what they were in my life, despite I was aware of them and even wrote about them, still I married him. It was the best I thought I could do. And he was far from a Bernardo. 

And when this revelation all came together like a perfectly created puzzle, I realized that in an almost identical set of circumstances I married again. This time I was lost and lonely looking for love after the loss of my brother. The last person from who I had unconditional love. And I was blinded by the alpha male that promised me the world and ended up taking more than he gave. Except in the end I won, for I got what he never could get. Love from two of the most special human being in the world. My children. They are a part of him and I will forever be grateful for that, but he wasn't man enough for me or for them in the end.


credit where credit is due:
- References to news stories including Baby Jessica, Kristin French, Lesley Mahaffy, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka are recollections of my memory but can be googled for more information
- Paul Bernardo engagement