40 is the new 40

Note: This was originally published on August 11, 2019.

I’ve never been a good judge of age. I feel incredibly uncomfortable when people do that thing where they encourage me to guess their age because the facts are that a) It doesn’t really matter to me and b) I’m going to be forced to guess some number lower than what I maybe think and whatever number I maybe think is vague at best, anyway, due to the first sentence in this paragraph.  I’m going to aim slightly lower than the age I think you might be because I’ve spent most of my life being a people-pleaser and in doing so I’m going to suffer feelings of being disingenuous and that always stresses me out. See? This is not a fun game.

The game is starting to shift, though, and it’s because I’m old enough to have grown tired of managing everyone else’s expectations and feelings at the cost of my own and that is what 40 is looking like, for me. In case this needs to be said, I’m not suggesting that I blow off responsibilities or put my feelings first in such a way that I think it’s okay to be hurtful to others. Neither of those things is remotely in line with my values or desires. Similarly, one of my values needs to be placing value in myself.

At some point within the last year I saw a tumblr post on one of those “best of” compilations that spoke to me, as follows:

I have spent nearly 40 years breaking myself into bite-sized pieces. I’ve worried that I’m too weird, I’m too nerdy, I’m too wordy, I’m too big, I’m too much. 40 changed that. 40 gave me permission to say that I’m tired of trying to please everyone. 40 gave me permission to say that this is who I am. 40 gave me permission to recognize that I will never be everyone’s cup of tea but that some people don’t like tea and, frankly, it’s not up to me to change their mind. 40 gave me permission to stop apologizing all the time for being myself. 40 gave me permission to be angry sometimes and it also gave me permission to be happy.

I fit many of the tropes about middle-aged women. I really do like the music they’re playing in the grocery stores. I actually can get pretty excited about a new kitchen gadget. I really do want a pumpkin-spice latte a couple times a year. So what? Excuse me for trying to find joy in a mundane chore like shopping, or wanting a gadget to make the endless meal prep a little easier, or for wanting a moment of warmth and comfort in a cup. The world so often tells women that the things they like, or want, or do are “trite”, or “cute”, or “unimportant” and many of us buy into that for a lot of years…far too many years (any number of years is too many). And then 40 comes along (or maybe it’s a different age for you) and you realize that the world is always going to ask you to make yourself smaller but that it will never matter how many times you try to fold yourself up or over because  the world will just keep asking.

The important part of the tumblr post isn’t the bit about letting people choke, though. I don’t want anyone to choke.  Rather, it’s that I’m tired of breaking myself into bite-sized pieces. Instead, it’s up to people not to bite off more than they can chew.


Note: This was originally published on March 30, 2020

I have a confession. My confession is that there are many ways that this self-isolation situation is having the exact opposite effect on me compared to many others. I have reduced anxiety about certain areas of my life, I am enjoying my workouts even more, my house is staying cleaner, and I feel like my body is being allowed to figure out its own rhythms right now. I don’t share this to be insensitive, because I am fully aware that things are bad, they’re going to get worse, and we’re all going to suffer in various ways (and that so many people are already suffering hugely).

I’m going to share some personal things and I want to be clear that my feelings might come across as insensitive but, in fact, I am deeply sensitive to the fact that my feelings are not like *most* people’s right now. People are feeling a lot of things in the midst of the panic and uncertainty surrounding Covid-19. All of those feelings, and many others, are valid responses. In fact, all emotions are valid, and I’m going to ask you to remember that as you continue reading this.

In the midst of people’s anxiety, now that I am able to work from home (therefore, reducing my exposure to large numbers of people) and practice clear physical distancing during the infrequent times that I have to leave for groceries or a prescription for me or someone in my family, I am incredibly calm. This is maybe the most calm I’ve been in 20 years. Maybe longer. Maybe ever.

Let me be clear that my emotions still fluctuate. For example, sometimes I’m angry as all get out. I’m sick of people ignoring physical distancing rules, and people’s conspiracy theories about the media, and people being so completely selfish that they’re perfectly fine with putting others at risk. I’m downright pissed off, but my anger is mostly on behalf of others like our essential services workers and aging populations that we are putting at risk when we ignore science and common sense.

The calm is real, though, and is underlying everything. I know what this is, and I know that it’s partially a trauma response. I’m calm in a crisis. It’s in my training (I’m trained as both a social worker and an educator), it’s in my work experiences, and it’s in my personal experiences. You have to be calm in a crisis. To fall apart can put me or someone else in danger, and as someone who has been a facilitator and/or teacher for years, I am responsible for the room. It’s my job to stay calm for everyone. I’ve experienced plenty of my own trauma and I’ve also spent many years listening to and holding space for other people’s trauma. Remaining calm is the only option, but there is more to it than that.

I have anxiety. Over the years, it’s ranged from very mild to very severe, with more of it being on the mild end of the spectrum, and I’m lucky for that. In fact, for a long time, I didn’t recognise my anxiety for what it was. I thought it was drive and ambition. I’m always reaching for the next goal. Some people call this “destination happiness” as though it’s an official diagnosis in the DSM-V (it’s not), but for many of us that does not accurately describe our feelings and experiences at all. I’m happy where I am. I’ve been genuinely happy for years. But I’ve been living with a sense of urgency forever. It’s driven me to earn degrees, make moves that were good for my family, be a home owner from a young age, invest early, save, pick big goals and then reach them over and over again. Those things have been useful, and given me a lot of direction and purpose but, also, it’s been fucking exhausting.

For the first time in my life, all of the usual planning and questioning that goes on in my head (Where will I be in five years? Should we sell our house and move into a condo in the next two years? My current work position ends after this year—will I manage to find a job at the same institution or will I have to find something else yet again? Will my children ever be able to afford to move out in this economy? Will my auto-immune issues allow me to work until a reasonable retirement age? Am I investing/saving enough? Am I living my life the way I want to while I still have relative health?) doesn’t matter at all. Covid-19 is a game changer. It’s a horrible, terrible, unfortunate game changer. This situation has removed the possibility of me making any decisions right now, other than the decision to physically distance from people, help others when I can, and wash my hands constantly.

I can choose to be calm, and I am fully aware of the luxury in that. So many people are struggling. Some people don’t have nice homes to hunker down in, or food in the cupboards, or healthy relationships with the people that they have to self-isolate with. Every single day I know that I live with privilege, so please do not mistake my sense of calm for a lack of empathy, because I care very much about the safety and health of others. But I can’t help but feel these fluttery wings of relief in my chest that tell me it’s okay to just exist right now. I don’t have to grind. I don’t have to try to excel. I just have to be.

I don’t know how else to say this except to say that my body has been in crisis mode nearly every day of my life for the last few decades.  Some people are in major crisis mode right now. Some of us have been living with that for a long time, and I hate that anyone has to experience the fight-or-flight feeling in situations where it isn’t necessary or helpful. It’s hard, and I wish everyone was feeling healthy and safe right now and always.

I see memes going around that say things like “Check on your extroverted friends. We’re not okay right now.” and I get it, and I’m definitely checking in with my people but, the thing is, when this is over and things go back to something resembling *normal*, THAT is when some of us will be less okay and most of the world does not accommodate those feelings or the people that feel them.  I’m not asking you to check in with your introverted friends when this is over because that’s the last thing we want (hahaha) but, seriously, please try to be more patient and understanding about what it’s like to be introverted and/or have anxiety.  What you are feeling right now might be close to what someone feels about existing in the regular world on a daily basis.

If you’re feeling calm right now, too, it’s okay. It is okay not to feel guilty or weird for having a response that is outside of the *norm*. Our experiences are just as valid and important, even if they’re not as well documented or as widely shared.

Dear Dan Fogelman…

**WARNING: This post may contain spoilers for “This is Us”.

I have a request of Dan Fogelman and all the writers of the hit show “This is Us”. Viewers have seen the flash-forward that reveals that Rebecca is not well, and the family is gathering around her to prepare for her end. Kate has been absent, strategically we assume, from that flash-forward. There is plenty of viewer speculation all over the internet about what has become of Kate and, while I don’t have any speculation as to her fate, I do have that request I mentioned in my opening sentence. Please, let Kate remain fat.

Let Kate remain fat so that we can see a ground-breaking example that reminds us to stop romanticizing thinness or weight-loss as though it’s the only worthwhile outcome.  Maybe future Kate is happy, maybe she’s not, but that isn’t really the point because people who are fat have complex lives too. We are more than just the stereotypes and tropes that exist about us. Sure, for a lot of people who are fat, focusing on diet and lifestyle changes are an on-going part of life, but also we are dynamic people. We’re educated, we have careers, we have relationships of all types, we raise families, we battle illnesses the same way people who are not labelled as obese do. We have bad days, and good days, and everything in between.

I know that you and the writers understand this, because Kate is more than just a fat woman on your show. She’s complex, she’s talented, she’s sweet, and sometimes she’s naive and she struggles, because we’re meant to believe that this character, Kate, is a real person. The reality is that people who are fat often never become thin. Sure, some people become less fat, and some even do become thin, but most people who are fat will continue to be considered overweight by the medical community and by society for their whole lives. Everyone needs to get over this notion that weight is simply about will power, or exercise, or any other single thing. It is so very complicated and many people could only ever be thin through illness or other detrimental means that should never be promoted.

While I’m asking for things, I have a second request. Some of the speculation around Kate is that people wonder if she’s even still alive. I suspect (hope) you’re not going to kill off Kate, and I’m asking that you don’t, for many of the same reasons as above. Please don’t make Kate a cautionary tale about dying of obesity. So many people live with obesity, and they often live to old age. Let Kate be fat and let Kate be alive. Don’t do it because I asked you to. Do it because it’s the most likely reality for Kate. Having body fat is not a death sentence. Help those who don’t already understand to realize that obesity isn’t a word that defines a person, the same way any other single aspect of a person doesn’t have to define them. I know that you understand the complexity of people and their lives. I see it when you address addictions on the show, I watch it when you explore PTSD. I see it in the ways you portray family members who fall out and then forgive.

I know that it’s not your job to take a stand against misinformation, social stigma, or negative stereotypes, but I’m asking you to do it anyway, because representation matters. Body positivity and/or neutrality is not about promoting obesity; it’s about recognizing that all bodies are worthy, but also coming to the realization that outer beauty should not be the feature that defines us. No one owes it to anyone else to look a certain way, but I do think we owe it to each other to be kind when we can, to influence positive change when we have the power to do so, and to help create dialogue that changes the negative narrative about specific groups of people in society.

Kate’s fate matters, not just to the show but to people who are fat, because This is Us.

In Our Nature

Recently, I’ve had to complete three months of weekly sessions with a social worker to prepare for upcoming bariatric surgery. As part of the process, we talked about activities that I can commit to doing that keep my hands and mind busy. During those three months I saw something on Facebook; it was a post about an upcoming, local short story competition. I’ve had an idea for a short story swirling around in my brain since late summer (a confluence of things I’d heard or seen, and the resulting thoughts and feelings) and I considered submitting it. It’s not that I think I would have any chance of winning it but I wanted to do it as a challenge. There are so many ways in which I’m comfortable “putting myself out there”, but there are a few that are very uncomfortable for me and I’m trying to learn to face those. Sharing a story or a poem makes me feel much more vulnerable than sharing how I’m feeling. I decided not to enter the competition for no other reason than not wanting to deal with the entrance paperwork and fees right now. I’m learning not to take on too much when I’m feeling overwhelmed. For me, the real “win” would have been to face the fear of sharing it, so I decided I could do that right here. So, if you’re reading this (and, subsequently, the following story) then you are helping me overcome one of my fears. Thank you for supporting me in that way.


“Don’t play too near to the shore”,  Ceta’s mother, Kohola,  warned as Ceta finished her milk. “I want you back before sunset so we can enjoy dinner together”.  Kohola watched Ceta go, wary of letting her young daughter play on her own,  and she gave her a long wave to let Ceta know she’d be watching her from a distance.  “Be safe, little one”, Kohola called after her in a soft voice. Ceta was thrilled at the opportunity to explore the coastline near her family’s summer home in the Pacific Northwest of British Columbia. The summer home had been in Ceta’s family for generations but it was her first time visiting and she planned to explore every bit of it.

Near to the shore she found the ocean was teeming with life. There were starfish, and all kinds of seaweed, and plenty of little creatures with hard shells that would scurry around at her presence.  Ceta was gentle with them, for her mother had taught her to be respectful of all living things. “But, Momma”, Ceta had wondered out loud to Kohola recently, “If we respect all living creatures why do we eat some of them?”. “It is in our nature, Ceta”, Kohola answered patiently, never seeming to tire of Ceta’s demanding thirst for knowledge. “Everything gives life to something else. The cost of every living thing comes at the expense of something else. There is no escaping this truth, and so we must do our best to respect all living things as our equals, and be thankful for our full bellies”. Ceta wasn’t always entirely satisfied with the answers that Kohola provided, but Ceta had inherited her mother’s patience and so she learned to accept the answers knowing that she’d understand more about the world when she was older.

Ceta spotted a sea gull circling overhead. It called out and Ceta thought maybe the gull was talking to her, but she knew it was probably calling to its friends about some delicacy it had spotted. Ceta wished she could talk “sea gull”, but she couldn’t easily mimic the screeching cries of the gull with her sweet, young voice so she whispered songs to herself instead. Ceta loved music and her mother told her she inherited that from her father, Chord. Ceta had no reason not to believe Kohola, but Ceta hadn’t seen her father in months, and she could barely remember the sound of his voice. Ceta had only her mother’s word as proof but that was the soundest proof of all, really.

Ceta’s parents met in Hawaii. Kohola would spend the winters entertaining passengers on cruise ships. The passengers clapped and cheered at the enthralling ways in which she could move her strong body in a display of dance. On days when the ships were docked, Kohola would explore around the islands and it was on one of those days that she met Chord. He was immediately taken with her.  He would sing to her in that slow, low voice of his and she would sway her splendid body to the music that came from some profound place inside of him. They would scout the shorelines together, sunning their backs and enjoying the warmth on their bellies as they swam in the salty water. But love is like salt; sometimes salt preserves but sometimes it erodes even the strongest of foundations. By the time Kohola realized she was pregnant, Chord had disappeared for the season and it wasn’t until nearly a year later that she saw him again.

When Kohola presented Ceta to Chord he showed little interest in either of them but Kohola softened the blow by filling Ceta’s world with love and tender care. Once, Kohola took Ceta to hear Chord sing. Even from a distance, Ceta could hear her father’s voice wash over her in warm waves that made her feel drowsy and wistful. “Why doesn’t dad want to know me?”, Ceta  whispered to  Kohola. “It’s in his nature”, Kohola said, which was a phrase she used often but that was the first time she’d said it to Ceta and it confused her with its newness. Ceta tried to press Kohola for more, but Kohola told her to be grateful for the love in her life. “Be grateful for your Aunties. Be grateful for your cousin, Nova. Be grateful for the light of the full moon”.  Ceta wanted practical answers, but she sensed that maybe the not-knowing that hurt her also hurt Kohola so, instead, she whispered to her mother in the dark about how much she loved her cousin Nova, and her Aunties, and most especially how much she loved Kohola.

Something about Chord’s song sounded simpler the last time Kohola heard it. She didn’t know whether his songs had changed or she had. Maybe it was both. Kohola tried not to think about it. Instead, she busied herself with raising her daughter and being grateful that she was so close to her own sisters and niece. She would never be truly alone or without love because she was surrounded by other strong females–family that would love her, protect her, help her raise her daughter just as she helped raise and love her niece. It was better to focus on the daily moments of joy.

Kohola waved to Ceta as way of checking in. Ceta waved back, happily splashing and exploring. The noise of a nearby speed boat startled them both but it quickly veered off in a different direction and soon the only sounds were ocean sounds again and Kohola and Ceta were content to enjoy the warmth of the sun. Kohola was glad to have this special place that she could bring Ceta so that she could enjoy the same sights, and exploration, and food that Kohola had enjoyed when she was young. Kohola noticed the changes in this special place, though. Every year there was more garbage bobbing around in the ocean and littering the beaches. The temperatures were changing and some of her favourite types of seafood were becoming scarce. Kohola didn’t mind so much for herself—she had faced change and loss before–but she sometimes worried about what the future would hold for Ceta and Nova. Would they continue to spend summers here in the future? Would they bring their own sons and daughters here? Kohola’s thoughts were interrupted by Ceta who had returned to her and was full of whispers and giggles about all of the things she had seen that day. As always, Ceta was hungry.

Soon, Ceta’s aunts and cousin would join her and Kohola for an evening meal. It was such a pleasure to be together at this time of day with the sun low in the sky and reflecting off the water in great orange waves of light like ribbons rippling out to sea.  Kohola lifted a flipper and waved Ceta closer, inviting her to nurse. She arched her long back so that her dorsal fin glistened in the sun. As Ceta drank, Kohola continued to ponder change, and the future, and her blessings.

Sushi Q (West Kelowna)

Admittedly, I normally go to a sushi place that is closer to my house but my usual place is closed on Mondays and sometimes I really need some Monday sushi after running morning errands. A quick google search showed some positive reviews about Sushi Q so I decided to pop in and grab some lunch to take home.

Here are the accessibility things of note:

  • Parking isn’t difficult to find on this street (just off Main St.) and it’s directly outside the restaurant.
  • There is a large curb to step up onto in order to get to the restaurant from the parking area. You could go over to where the crosswalk that is parallel to Main St. runs and access the sidewalk that way if you are in a wheelchair or other mobility device.
  • All of the chairs and tables can be moved around inside. That said, all of the chairs have metal arms and I found them to be quite uncomfortable in terms of pinching my hips (I sat in one while I waited for my to-go order). The décor is very understated and sort of feels like being in a cafeteria, though I’m always more impressed with good food than with flashy décor.
  • The woman who took my order was wonderful. She was welcoming, friendly and genuinely warm, and she was singing to herself as she worked in a way that indicated she is a happy person who enjoys her day.  For me, how comfortable I feel with the servers in a place will greatly influence whether or not I return.

I was craving some nigiri so that’s exactly what I ordered. I had tuna nigiri, salmon nigiri, tobiko nigiri, and tamago nigiri. Most of the nigiri was excellent. The fish was perfect and practically melted in my mouth. I will definitely order the tuna and salmon from Sushi Q again! The tobiko was exactly what you’d expect—salty little orbs of tastiness. The only small complaint I have is about the tamago. It was just slightly dry and rubbery. It was certainly edible, but I wouldn’t order it again. I understand it may be an infrequently ordered item and you certainly can’t make it fresh for every order so I give them a pass on this, especially considering just how perfect the tuna and salmon nigiri tasted.

I haven’t tried their tuna tataki, and it’s one of my favourite foods, so I’ll have to try that another time! While it’s not the most easily accessible of places in certain ways it’s clear that they know their way around customer service and seafood.