Two cities. Two loves.

Two and a half years ago, I needed a change. I was tired of the story that I was telling about myself, and I needed to be challenged. I needed to grow. I uprooted my life in Vancouver, and without having ever been here, I moved to Toronto.

And I got what I was looking for. It’s really hard to convey how much things have changed for me since coming here.

In the past two and half years, I’ve taken over running a successful lecture series on creativity, left a job that I hated, and finally shifted sectors after years of waning, found the general direction I want to take with my life, rediscovered the real core of my athleticism, let go of family, solidified bonds with new family, started writing regularly again, and started a writing workshop series. It’s been a good couple of years. I love Toronto.

But here’s the thing – when I am here in Toronto, I miss Vancouver. The feeling of longing for the ocean, and the mountains, and cool clean forest air is buried deep in my bones. In moments of meditation, when I close my eyes, I am running down a soft wooded trail, trees overhead, making my way to the sea. My friends in Vancouver are old friends. They are the friends who know every one of my flaws; who have seen me at my very worst and most distressed; they are the friends who have become my family; they are the friends who are home. The love that I feel in Vancouver is a calm and comforting love. It eases me, and makes me feel safe and whole.

And then there’s Toronto. Still new. And honestly, I still feel pretty lonely here much of the time. I take a long time to feel comfortable in my skin with new people, and so most of my relationships here still feel like early days. That being said, Toronto has shown me a new love. Maybe it’s that sometimes you need to see yourself, or others need to see you, with new eyes to see your true potential. The communities that I have become a part of have pulled something out of me that I didn’t know was there. They’ve made me feel a lot more certain of my own capabilities; more sure of myself; stronger. In Toronto, I have met some of the most incredible women who I have ever known, who continuously inspire me to strive to be better. Not just in big ways, but in the small ways that I carry myself in daily life.

Two cities. Two loves. Two homes.

Can teleportation be a thing already?

Bravery takes time

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post about the lessons that I’ve learned from my negative relationship experiences. It took me a while to share this post on social media, partly because I was worried about coming across as damaged and bitter in some way, and partly because I was worried about how the people who I was friends with at the time of said relationships would judge me for sharing the information that I shared publicly. Then with a push from my friend, and fellow writer, Naben Ruthnum, I stopped worrying.

I tried to write a really honest account of some of my most painful mishaps and pitfalls, and how they helped me to learn and grow as a human. I was not prepared for the response that it elicited.  It didn’t GO VIRAL or anything, but it did receive over 500 more page views than any other thing that I had ever written, and I also received so many kind messages, or distressed messages, or thoughtful messages from different friends and acquaintances thanking me for writing it and telling me how much some of the things that I wrote had resonated with them.

One of the other things that people said to me was that I was brave for having written and shared this, which is such a nice thing to hear. Who doesn’t want to hear that they are brave and courageous? While I agree that it was a little bit brave – just like sharing anything personal and creative is brave – what I want to say about this is that all of the bravery in the world would not have mattered, if I hadn’t also done an incredible amount of work on myself over the past few years. This has involved therapy, yoga, meditation, forcing myself to do things that challenge me even if they are terrifying, and taking a really serious look at the behaviours and habits that have manifested unhealthy relationships in my life. And I’m still putting in more work all the time.

I grew up in an extremely unhealthy environment (which I’ll leave for a whole other series of blog posts, and likely one day a book), and it took so many years to even admit to myself how deeply this had impacted my ability to have real healthy intimate relationships with other humans. But more importantly, it has taken me even longer to recognize my own value in relationships with other humans. All of these steps and lessons learned from my marriage, and other relationships that followed, were actually steps along the path to believing that I was worth it. I sought out emotionally draining relationships with people who weren’t present or available, because I just did no believe that I deserved anything better. I threw myself into one-sided relationships in which my feelings were regularly undermined, because deep down I believed that if I could win the affections of someone who was largely uncaring, that this meant that I was finally enough. I didn’t have “daddy issues”, but I did (do…) have “family issues”. And these issues meant that the more I had to work to win over and woo someone who was emotionally distant, the more inherent value I had. I simply did not believe that an already whole, healthy, kind, creative, smart, attractive, ambitious person who I was really impressed by and swoony over would ever be able to show even a tiny glimmer of interest in me. So in order to find love, I would have to go through the back door; I’d have to wade through drama and damaging behaviour; I’d have to put in my time as non-girlfriend therapist. Only then, when I had paid my dues in some wreck of a relationship, would I finally have earned my keep. Because if I proved myself to that person at their worst, then I would have earned the value to be with them when they became their best. Only what if that person never became their best? Or what if they never would have been the best for you in the first place? Of what if they DID become their best, only I’d taught them for so long that I was not worth the time and respect to treat well, so that the closer they were to their best, the more likely they were to leave me behind?

Anyways… I guess what I am trying to say is thank-you, but also that bravery takes time to build. There were a million sappy sad sac blog posts before this one, and a million journal entries exploring my feelings, and a million lonely moments where I wished that there was someone out there who could tell me what was wrong with me. And so as a writer, I can’t not share. And if the response to my original blog post made one thing clear, it’s that we need more sharing like this happening all the time. Because it is too easy to feel so alone. And there’s no reason why we can’t feel and work through that aloneness together.

Learning to doubt the doubter

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Stop Worrying print by Sandi Falconer

I’m a self doubter. It’s what I do. Am I ready for this? Do I deserve that? Am I good enough?

I’ve worked really hard to overcome these doubts on both the career and friend fronts. And while I’m still not quite where I would like to be, I’m getting there. My outlook in these realms is immeasurably better than it would have been a few years ago, and I’m even starting to feel comfortable saying that I’m doing a good job (as a self judger/doubter, this is actually no easy task, let me tell you!).

For some reason though, the strides that I’ve made platonically and professionally have for the most part utterly failed to translate into the romantic areas of my life. For years and years, I have lamented, “Where do I meet the right person?! So many of the best dudes are in solid relationships already. Internet dating is terrible. I am not interested in the type of guy who is usually interested in me. I only ever have connections with people who are moving/dating someone else/living far away. Ugggggggh.” But the truth of the matter is that even if I did meet a person who possessed all of these qualities that I desire in a partner, and even if they did show interest in me, no relationship would come of it. Why? Because deep down (or shallowly down?), I just don’t believe that anyone who I really admire/desire/swoon over would ever have any interest in me whatsoever. I don’t think that I have enough value.

I recently went for a Tarot card reading (JUDGE AWAY. WHATEVEEEEEEEEEEEER) and one of the things that the cards said was that I, “desire a stable/secure relationship, but refuse to accept opportunity that arises”, and further that I, “fear what I cannot control about myself”. Oof. And honestly, I can’t say that any of this was at all surprising.

It’s true. When potential does come along, I work so hard to come across as though I’m as unaffected as possible. This is because 1) the person probably has no interest in me anyways, so DON’T PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE, ALTAIRA! YOU WILL BE REJECTED AND LOOK LIKE A DUMMY AND BE SAD; and 2) if I show any weakness, and not just strength and all of the good parts of myself, then they will definitely hate me forever, and not only that, they will tell everyone what a messed up horrible weirdo I am, and life will be a million times worse than if I had just kept my life to myself and never even tried at all. RIGHT?!?

So great. I know that I have work to do. The problem is that I am not entirely sure how to do the work that needs to be done? What steps do you take to make yourself really believe that you’re enough, and to stop thinking that you’re less than you are? How do you foster vulnerability? How do you master romantic confidence? How do you not just awkwardly avoid and run away as soon anything even remotely related to a romantic situation happens?

I do not know the answers to these questions, but I guess asking them at all is the first step? I’m starting a self directed practice of acceptance and commitment therapy, and I am confident that this will begin to lead me down the right path. It’s hard – changing the story that you’ve been telling yourself for so long. But hot damn, life’s too short not to try.


the 100 day project – day 75

So yesterday I wrote a post about the worst parts of mental health issues, and today I’m writing a post about some of the best things.

Today, I watched some of my fellow runners run a really hard race. But on top of just watching this, I watched Steven watch Preety run a really hard race. And let me tell you, there are no love eyes like this set of love eyes. I told Steven this afterwards, but this is what I aspire to. Because if my partner doesn’t look at me like he’s dying inside with love and pride whenever I race past him, then what is the fucking point. These two are the shit. They are the love.

I have several couples like this in my life – who make me feel all soft inside. And even though sometimes being single suuuuuuuuucks, it’s so so so nice to see people who you admire who are so fucking in love.

The end.

the 100 day project – 54-56

A few things this week:

1) This month was my first month hosting CMTO where I did not have a panic attack all week the week before. I owned it. I feel like I’m finally starting to hit my stride, and also dispel this horrible underlying feeling of impostor syndrome. I am starting to feel like Kyle made the right decision by handing over the chapter to me. And it feels really good.

2) This week, run days were really hot days. Part way through my runs, my shirt felt heavy and gross and sticky, and instead of enduring it, I took it off. Why? BECAUSE FUCK IT. Dudes take their shirts off all the god damn time, and I refuse to feel uncomfortable and too hot all summer long because as a woman I worry about my abs and love handles. Not that men don’t worry about those things too, but SO many of the dudes that I run with will take off their shirt on hot nights in the summer, and none of the women do. This summer, I am owning it. Instead of investing in whatever sports bras PLUS some technical tanks, it’s just cute sports bras all the way. It’s TITS OUT running this summer. (Not actually tits out, but you know what I mean).

3) I FINALLY got around to taking care of most of the little details that were making my room still feel un put together and look shabby. I made it out to IKEA for more curtains, got my copper curtain rods cut to proper length, and found some bench storage for my bay window. PHEW. Now I just need to set up my desk in one of the house office areas, and I’ll be good. We also had our housewarming this weekend, which was super fun and lovely. Hurray!

Vancouver pals would hate to hear me say this, but Toronto is really feeling like home these days. The kitties are settled. I love my house and roommates. I have a few amazing communities that I’m really a part of. And I’m getting to know my new neighbourhood. Once this job situation is tackled, I’m golden.

<3 <3

The end.

the 100 day project – day 31

I thought that I had missed another day, but NO it’s just past midnight.

Another good night of running. Another good night of Parkdale and pals. Another good night. I’m reaching towards a new level of athletisism and running this year, but also just reaching a new level of community. Not only are the folks I run with at Parkdale fast, and strong, and encouraging. They are also smart, and interesting, and beautiful, and fun. So really, it’s a full package deal. Again, I knoooooow all of my posts lately are all OMG RUNNING IS THE BEST. But it’s really been my anchor these past few months. The focus of this blog will eventually turn back to other things, but or the moment it’s mainly running and how that community has affected me.

It’s making me feel more secure in my skin. It’s helping me to learn to take a compliment instead of deflecting. It’s giving me a lot of positive things in my life, including drinking less, and taking care of myself more. i eat more vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I loooooove croissants. And cheese. And I eat them a lot. But lately, I would equally eat a giant veggie and fruit platter for dinner. This isn’t a conscious change. I wasn’t like, HEAAAAAALTH. LET’S GO PALLLEOOOOO (ps. the concept of the paleo diet is a bunch of awful bullshit, and I would never do that. Also, I don’t believe that it’s actually healthy, but I just needed a loud health nut example, alright?!? ALRIGHT.)

Health follows health. And so on this journey to become the best version of myself, while some aspects of this best self are extraordinarily hard won, others happen almost without thinking at all.

If you’d told me last year, that this was where I’d be a year from then, I never would have believed you.

The end.

the 100 day project – day 7 – weird confidence

This is going to seem silly. Maybe very silly. But I severely lack confidence.

While professionally, I have very good sense of my capabilities, and boundaries, and what I deserve, both personally and romantically I know very well that I do not. I don’t know why. I’m working on it. But at the moment, I shy away from any person who I see shining too brightly. On a friend level, all that this means is that it takes me a very long time to develop deep friendships, but on a romantic level, it means that I am forever missing out. I am forever too bashful. How do I find the balance between shyness and aloofness? How do I manage to show interest without humiliation> I suppose that all humans suffer this, but maybe some are just more sensitive than others.

Thinking about Companion Animals

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Day two of #the100dayproject. Thinking about companion animals.

I had numerous family pets as a child, and had always thought of myself as a dog person (WUT) until one summer I had a boyfriend with a cat. Don’t get me wrong; dogs are wonderful and I love them, but for me nothing compares to the companionship of a kitty.

photo 1The first cat that I had of my very own was Hunter. He was white with grey spots, and PAINFULLY anxious and shy in the weeks following his adoption. But it wasn’t long before he began to let his guard down, and soon we we became the best of friends. He kept my shoulders warm on long late nights while I pounded out the last papers of my undergraduate degree, and kept my heart safe while I cried through the most torturous breakup of my adult life.

What I didn’t know at the time was that while my little kittenphoto 3 friend was helping me to heal only the way a kitten  can do, his own body was fiercely attacking him in the form of the Feline Leukaemia Virus. Within only a few short weeks of his diagnosis, Hunter had lost almost half of his body weight, and with a heavy heart, I carried him for one last ride around the neighbourhood in my purse and took him to the vet, where I laid his tiny soul to rest. It is, to this day, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and to be honest, I’m still overwhelmed with emotion every time I think about it. That cat gave me comfort in a horrible time in my life like nothing and noone could. I loved him fiercely, and will remember him fondly for the rest of my days.

EMOTIONS! Holy moly. I didn’t start off this post thinking that I’d write about Hunter much at all.

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I have two new cats now, Rosemary and Thomas, who have lived with me for the past seven years. They are skittish, but loving, and I am happy every day that I decided to bring them across the country with me to Toronto instead of finding a different human for them to live with in Vancouver. Companion animals are lovely and strange, and it’s incredible how attached we get to these tiny creatures that live in our homes, and the funny habits they posses.

Rosemary, for instance, looooooooooooves running back and forth between a few different cardboard boxes in my apartment. I keep what is essentially garbage lying around my home, because she loves it so. I can’t get out the door to work in the morning unless I have spent a good ten minutes running back and forth between these boxes with her, playing a hybrid form of cat hide-and-seek meets tag. She will meow at me vexingly, and without end, while I am getting ready if I don’t.

Though Thomas is more stand-offish than Rosemary, he is not happy unless I scoop him up in my arms as soon as I get home and hold him tightly in a bear hug for a minute or two before he remembers his skittishness and runs back to my room to hide under the covers.

I love these funny cat rituals that we share, and I hope that I am making their little cat lives more enjoyable and comfortable, the way that they have added joy and comfort to mine.

the end.

High Anxiety



Two weeks ago I had the worst panic attack of my life. THE WORST. IN LIFE.

I woke up early, because unlike my usual lazy Sunday, today I was pulling a volunteer shift for Doors Open Toronto. I was a teeny tiny bit hungover, but this would not normally be a problem. It should not have been a problem.

Today though, the combination of tiny hangover, the lack of sleep and mild social anxiety, and the added minor stress of dealing with the public were apparently too much for my little heart to take.

Over the course of the day, the gap in my chest deepened. It filled with adrenaline and insecurity and doubt.

I don’t know if you’ve experienced an anxiety attack before, or if you’ve ever been an anxious person. I am currently a mildly anxious person, who used to be an exceedingly anxious person. When I was in my early 20s, I went through a few years there where I was borderline agoraphobic, and it would take me about an hour of getting dressed and re-dressed before leaving the house just because I was so sure that if I wasn’t wearing the perfect thing that everyone I ran into on the street, and all of my friends would judge me and hate me forever. I would cry in public because I was terrified of life. It’s ridiculous, yes. But everything about anxiety is ridiculous. It is not a rational beast.  At one point, I checked myself into therapy, because I knew that living life as I had been would just not do. It was too exhausting. I later took up smoking (and quit), and then yoga, and running and writing help. It’s mostly under control, but whenever the anxiety rears its head, I become momentarily terrified that it’s back for good. And this time was horrifying.

I went home after my Doors Open shift, and slinked into my couch. I put on Netflix and ate snacks and texted friends, and still the panic attack lingered. I lay there, wide-eyed, hoping with each passing hour of mindless programming that the panic would subside. But instead it grew. At 3 am, despite my open chest, I forced myself to bed and lay there in the dark taking deep breaths and reminding myself that “this too shall pass”. I downloaded a “chakra tuner”. Eventually I fell asleep at least being comforted that in the morning, this feeling would be gone.

I woke up Monday morning, and to my horror, the pit in my chest remained. It did not subside while I stood under the stream of hot water in the shower, or while I ate breakfast on my back deck, or on my bike ride to work. It stayed while I sat in meetings, and answered emails, and biked home, and made dinner. The panic set up shop in my heart, and pumped through my veins, and pulsed through my muscles and into every ounce of my being.

Eventually. EVENTUALLY. Sometime Tuesday afternoon, it was gone. And thank THE LORD (disclaimer – I like to talk like a grandma sometime, but I am not for reals religious) it has not returned.

ANYWAYS. The reason that I am writing this post today is not actually to talk about horrible raging anxiety. This post today was inspired by having the loveliest, nicest day, and by encouraging words from a kind friend.


On Tuesday, I broke a couple of personal bests on my crew run, and received so many supportive kind words of encouragement from some truly inspiring women on my running crew. Then today was the first day of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association conference, and was also a day where I got a lot done, had a coffee shop date with a friend, rode my bike, sublet my apartment, and one of my best best BEST friends in the world and his incredible wife went into labour (I should mention that she is also now one of my closest friends; these people are basically my family).

And on top of all of these lovely things, a friend who I have not seen in so very long sent me some really lovely messages:

“I’ve been following your move and I have to say: go you lady pants. You’re an inspiration.”; and “But in all seriousness – you look fantastic. And I’m jealous of your drive and ability to jump into running and the social scene and know I’m cheering for you.”

As someone who often judges myself, and feels like a failure, and worries too much, this reminder sometimes that how I see myself is not how others see me is such an incredible comfort to my heart, and I wish that there was a way to express how much it means to me.

So the message I am trying to give here is not about how horrible anxiety is,  but rather that even on your worst days, it’s important to remember that it really will get better. But even more importantly, never ever ever be afraid to tell someone how wonderful you think they are, and never underestimate the power of a kind word. It might be just what a tired heart needs. <3