Sleep Out

OMGGGGG, it’s ANOTHER SELF REFLECTIVE BLOG POST. This will be a recurring theme very heavily this year, but also probably for my entire life.

This post will be a bit about my youth, my family’s youth, and my participation in Covenant House’s Sleep Out program taking place on April 7th. (Find my donation page here)

To give a little more context on the Sleep Out program, here’s a short blurb from the Covenant House website:

As Canada’s largest homeless youth agency, Covenant House Toronto changes lives by providing the widest range of services and support under one roof. A national leader, we educate and advocate for change to help at-risk, homeless and trafficked youth by influencing public policy and delivering prevention and awareness programs. By participating in this event I am doing my small part to make sure the doors stay open for all who need them. 

I think that this is a really amazing cause, and I could really REALLY use your support.  Even if it’s just a two dollar donation. Every bit helps.

While this is a great cause just out there in the world, it also holds meaning for me personally, and here’s why.

I am the very youngest in a family with two children. My older brother is 7 years older than me. I don’t know much about the specifics of early family life for my parents, or how and why they got married. But I do know that my mother was an extremely broken woman who I recently realized has very serious Borderline Personality Disorder, and my father was a seriously troubled, ragey alcoholic. MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN.

My father was less violent by the time we were old enough to walk and talk, but that being said, my earliest memory is still him pulling a full pot of hot chilli off the stove, and pouring it directly on my mom’s head. I was probably 4. I jumped up on my chair and screamed at him – “don’t you hurt my mommy”. And thank the lord for my being female, because I’m sure that only his weird sense of misogyny kept him hitting a tiny girl. This was our family dynamic.

Though early on my parents made a lot of money, the brokenness of themselves, and their marriage precluded them from using said funds to help create any sort of stable home. We lived in a god damn trailer, and my brother actually slept in a camper van beside the trailer.

So when he reached teenage-hood, it’s not hard to see why he would also turn to growing and selling weed, why he would fail at school, why he would have a warped sense of manhood, and why he would often get in trouble with the police in our small town.

I’m not sure if my brother ever actually ran away, but he did spend much of his time staying with friends. He never finished high school. And in a lot of ways just never gained any sense of footing in the world.

For my own part, I joined every curricular activity imaginable, and finished school graduating as the top science student in my class; my way of coping was over-achieving. But this didn’t mean that I hadn’t come close to going the other way. In 10th grade, I missed something like 200 classes – my guidance counsellor and basketball coach, who I’d known since 3rd grade pulled me into the hall one day, and said that he was worried because this was a pivotal time for struggling youth and the decisions they made at this age determined whether they finished school or not. I brushed him off at the time, but I also stopped cutting class.

I never ran away from home, but not for lack of wanting. While my parents had finally split up, I was now the only one for my mother to take out her obsessive BPD behaviour on. She would regularly start fights with me before breakfast, telling me what a horrible selfish daughter I was until I began to cry, and then refusing to drive me to school. Once, she tried to hit me in the head with a marble lamp base. The summer after grade 12, she kicked me out of the house, and told me that I should go on welfare to support myself. I doubt she even remembers this. I went to live at my high school boyfriend’s parents’ house until university in the fall.

The point of all of this is to say, that while I didn’t use services like the ones offered by Covenant House, it’s only the concern of high school science teachers, coaches, and friends’ parents that kept this from being so. I truly believe that without this outside support I could have easily ended up on the street. And maybe if our social supports for youth from broken homes were stronger, then their lives might have taken very different paths.

So this is the personal connection to this program for me, and why I am asking for your support.

Everyone deserves a safe place to live, where they’re encouraged to thrive and grow. But children most especially.

THE END.

 

 

 

the 100 day project – day 14 – keep on running

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Photo by Jess Baumung (www.jessbaumung.com)

Yes, it’s another running post. As previously mentioned, running seems to be becoming a larger and larger part of my life at the moment. And so there will be more and more posts about running.

photo (16)Today was the Toronto Yonge Street 10K, and it was great. I did not have a goal time in mind, and until the starting line, wasn’t even sure that I was going to push myself at all. I went to find the bathroom with a few run crew ladies just before start time, and we were heading back to the corral looking for the rest of our crew; unsure if we would find anyone, we then stumbled upon a big group of pals, and snapped this quick shot just as we began walking up towards the start line.

At the last minute, I decided to do my best to keep up with Mark Sawh (far left) for as long as I possibly could, and take things from there.

I stuck with him for the first KM, and then kept his hat in view up ahead until about the 5K point, and then it was just me and the course. I didn’t have headphones in like last year, and I wasn’t paying attention to my pace at all, and it was strange to have no real idea of how I was doing – hoping that I was running at a good pace, but also accepting that it might just feel that way.

ANYWAYS. Like last year, around the 7K mark, I started to falter a bit, but then I tried something that is going to sound suuuuuper cheesy in order to keep pushing. I imagined being out on a Tuesday night crew run. I recently ran an easy breezy 10K run with the group that felt effortless and light. So instead of thinking of being in this race, and the space left ahead of me, I pictured being light on my feet wolf packing through the nighttime streets with the Parkdale Roadrunners crew. And it worked. I suddenly had a smile on my face, and felt less effort as my feet hit the pavement. Despite being by myself on the course, I was not alone.

I don’t know why it surprised me that this worked so well, since visualization is consistently a tool that coaches, and just successful people in general say to use. Sooooo… use it. It works.

As I hit 9K, knowing that the cheer squad was coming up ahead carried me home. I cannot describe the feeling of rounding that last race corner, and having a whole crew of people who you’ve been training with for months and months, all cheering and giving you high fives, and showering you with confetti. It’s fucking magic. I kind of want to cry just thinking about it.

My favourite part of races is, and always has been, that last sprint to the finish line where you push yourself until you feel like your lungs might break, flying by waves of other runners who are too spent to kick it one gear higher for that tiny home stretch.

It was a good run.

photo (1)I missed sub 50 for the course by TWO SECONDS, but still PB’d my 10K time by just over a minute (the actual course is 10.2K).  It felt good.

Just past the finish line, it was amazing to look around and see other PDRR folks who had finished either just before or just after me, and to feel the love of the community, as we congratulated each other on PBs and first races, and giving it our best. I feel like that sounds too self congratulatory. But WHATEVER. It’s awesome.

We slowly made our way back to the cheer squad station to say hello and thank-you, and to cheer on those remaining, and talk about our races with those who finished before us.

Then slowly trickled out to little pockets of team brunches, and then finally home.

Today’s race made me realize that with a little pushing, a little speed work, and a little more cross training (and maybe a speedier than me pace buddy?) that next year’s TYS10K could be much MUCH faster. I can’t freaking wait.

Good job out there today, everyone. You’re the best.

High Anxiety

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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.

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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