Monday, August 22, 2016


I just rode the Greyhound back tonight from five day's-worth of holidays in the Okanagan with family and friends. Appropriately enough, the sky grew dark and scary as we drove through the mountains, and rain hit the bus hard as the wipers flashed to keep the glass clean. After 5 days of hot sun, blue skies and dry nights, the rain signalled like nothing else that the party was Over.

I ate cheese curds on the bus, because I was hungry. Now I smell of dairy, and I feel queasy, in that will-it-pass-or-will-it-get-worse kind of way. It is midnight, and the Snack Of Regret is keeping me awake, because I'm afraid that if I sleep, I will wake up and have to barf. Don't eat cheese curds on the bus, people. Just don't. 

My cousin was visiting from England with his wife, which was the reason for my visit. Twenty years since we'd last met, so one of us was a child (him) and one of us was barely not-a-child (me) last time we set eyes on each other. Now he's married, with a job in IT. And a musician, and probably many other things I don't know about. We'd be walking around, or talking, or just hanging out, and I'd look at his face and see my own features looking back at me, and I would marvel. He looks more like me than my own brother. My father and his look remarkably alike, and this resemblance has been passed on to their children. Big eyes, wide cheekbones, thin lips, fine brown hair. Some of the same features I have already written about how I love/hate, and they're not just mine: they belong to my bloodline.

I never really understood about extended family. They were Over There and we were Over Here and that's just how it was. What IS family? For me, it was just the four of us. A few satellites: grandmas and grandpas would appear occasionally and then go home again. One grandma lived with us for a while, but I was a teenager, and too self-absorbed to really make her part of my life. The weight of Family and Blood sits so lightly on my shoulders. I really think that is a gift that my parents have given me, that lightness. Hundreds of boring family dinners and petty disagreements missed. The stale trap of life within a group you never had the luxury of choosing. But also: no cousins to grow up with. No connection to the people who came before me. No seeing my eyes and mouth in the people across the dinner table from me. 
My cousin, my dad, and me.

My people were all around me this week. My cousin and his wife chose to come here from the UK to spend their holiday with us. My brother and his wife took the time to show them around Vancouver. I gave them my room while they stayed here. Then we drove up to the Kelowna to spend time with my dad and his girlfriend, who welcomed all us overgrown kids: fed us, drove us around, bought us meals. My boyfriend and his mom spent hours driving me to and fro so that I could also visit with them in Penticton. I am lucky not only in my blood family but in my chosen family: my friends, my love, his relatives and friends.

 I walk into the tidy sewing room in the pleasant condo shared by a retired husband and wife in their seventies, and my heart misses a beat. There she is, smiling out from a photograph. My lover's long-dead girlfriend. Her parents have invited my boyfriend, his mother and I for a quick coffee; they haven't seen him in many years and they want to say hello. We are very Canadian: we are polite and friendly. There are no tears, and only the gentlest of reminiscences, although the way of her dying left a lot of pain behind. Mostly we talk of their present: retirement, quilting, grandchildren. I look around the table and sip my coffee and marvel at the strangeness of it. If she were alive I would not be here at this table, whether or not my love and I would have eventually found each other anyway. And yet although it is strange for me, and probably for them, I am glad to be here in this moment. I feel a little closer to the man I love and to his mother and also to his past. 

Social media is really great sometimes. It's made my family connection stronger, even with the great distance that separates us. We FaceTime and we FaceBook. The older generations have all died out now, and so far there are no children to follow us. But we are lucky. We feel that lightness, the freedom that comes with our generations, but we look at each other and say I choose you. To be family, yes, but also to be friends. My people.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Eye of the Beholder

I ran 10k today. Last time I did that was over 3 years ago, so it's kind of a big deal. 

Am I bragging? Hell yeah. Two months ago I wrote this on my other blog. I was overweight. I was eating any old thing I wanted. I was unhappy with how I looked and felt. Every day I started off with good intentions and every night I craved and caved and loathed myself for my lack of willpower. 

But I had a job coming up that I knew would be highly physical, so one day after I kind of hit bottom in terms of self-loathing, I got up just enough willpower to stop eating bread, pasta and desserts. I went on a few runs with my boyfriend, who likes to jog 2 to 3k to clear his head after working inside all day. 

A friend of mine was doing this and losing pounds, so I started doing it too. (Although I must say that my Bright Lines are a bit fuzzy 'round the edges at times, and I eat a few things that aren't approved in this plan.) I joined their Facebook page and I appreciate the support we all give each other. 

I moved to the prairies for 6 weeks and started bike-commuting every day. And running. And doing this very physical outdoor show. We built our set every night, did the show, took down the set again. I revelled in the heat of a Saskatchewan summer; kept biking, kept running. Kept eating well. 

I feel great. Dammit, I look great. I am so proud of myself. I can't wait to see where I'm at in another couple of months. 

And yet...

I shot a music video recently; or rather, I was in a music video for one of my songs. When I watch the rough cut I see my big eyes, my smile, my strong, sexy legs... And I see my flaws, over and over. Thin lips, short grey hair that never rippled or flowed down my back the way I wanted it to and when I cut it off this summer it felt like freedom but it also felt a little bit like failure. I see the weight I haven't yet lost, may never lose, because I am built to be short and curvy and I will not, will not starve myself, work out for hours, deny myself every last treat or cocktail just to attain that magical number on the scale. 

I know that my female friends will tell me how beautiful I am- and I will believe them- but when my male friends tell me I look good, I will feel more validated, because I am a hetero woman and I want to look good in men's eyes. Tell me you haven't felt that way; go on, tell me. 

I know that there are as many types of "beauty" as there are people on this planet, and yet I will always feel too short, too brunette, too plump, even though I know that even models are eaten up with self-loathing. 

I read, nightly, about rape, about abuse, about the ridiculous ways that female athletes at the olympics are treated in the media. I know people who can't run, can't exercise because of health issues, or abuse, or depression. Are their bodies any less lovely than mine because they don't have my good genes, or good fortune? 

I want to say that my decision to eat better and exercise more is an experiment in willpower- and it is- but it is also firmly rooted in a desire to look good, and not just for myself.

I can't tie this post up tidily at the end here; I have a few disjointed things to say and that's it:

When I work out, when I eat better, when I do yoga, I feel fierce and strong and self-confident. I am proud of what I can make my body do. As a musician and a writer, I see it as a strong example of what happens when you cultivate a daily practice. (Funnily enough, I have always been far more successful when it comes to exercising regularly than when it comes to playing music or writing on the daily.) I will not apologize for either my good genes or my good luck, but I will try to honour them by treating my body with love. In all its stages and levels of health.

I want to tell everyone- and especially anyone who's just feeling as if it's all totally beyond them- that it IS possible. You can make small changes in what you choose to eat. And then make bigger changes. If you are able to, you should do something physical. Because there are so many people who would kill to be able to do what you take for granted. (But if you can only handle one thing, change what you eat.) 

If you are a big, healthy, confident woman who revels in her sexy curves, then I salute you. I want to believe that I am as beautiful as you. And I know how hard you've worked to love yourself. If you're thin, tall, blond model-material who hates herself, I wish you peace and self-acceptance. 

For me, I just want more years of good health, more days of smart choices, more moments of happiness and confidence. I want to carve out some time for myself, even when things get hectic again this Fall, as they surely will. And I want that for you too, whoever and however and wherever you are.