Saturday, July 14, 2018


John died about three weeks ago.  I didn't really know John, although I considered him a nemesis of sorts.  We were briefly engaged in a battle over the devotion of about twenty-five seventeen year-olds when I was hired to do his job in 2008, while he was recovering from an illness.  Who won that battle is unclear; perhaps it was a draw.  When he did not come back to work, and I kept the job, that was when the tide turned in my favour and that crop of kids graduated and took their I HEART JOHN t-shirts with them.  I was hired because he was sick, and yet I always felt there was some animosity between us as though I had pushed him out.  He kept in touch with the kids while I was teaching them and encouraged them not to connect with me because he would be back soon.  This turned out not to be the case, but his poison was still semi-effective.  There was a group I could never reach.

I only met John once, and he was pleasant enough that day.  He told me he intended to sleep on the floor of our shared office during his spare block.  He told me he was lucky to have the right kind of insurance that allowed him to work part time but be paid full time.  I cannot say he made a good impression on me.  Fortunately he ended up not coming back to work at my school after all, and therefore I never had to step over his sleeping body to get to my books, nor hear anything else about his finances.  He was pleasant enough.  Most of my understanding of him was developed through the words of others: staff members who told me how obnoxious he was to work with, and kids who told me he'd messaged them on Facebook to tell them to tell me what plays he would prefer I not teach.  I had a low key hatred for him that may or may not have been accurately rooted in reality.

Now John has died of a heart attack, which apparently was not a surprise to anyone.  It is interesting to see what people write about him now he is gone.  It is almost as though their words erase the reality of a perfectly imperfect human being, it is almost as though they intentionally choose words that reflect the opposite.

It makes me think about what I would want for myself if I was to die all of a sudden at the age of forty-eight.  I would not want to canonized on social media, nor in person.  As a theatre major, I know my most interesting qualities are my flaws - and I suspect John knew this too.  I would hate for anyone to proclaim me to be "principled" and "devoted" and "adored" when we all know damn well that I'm awesome only until I'm not.

The best funeral I ever went to was for Carol, a secretary from my first school.  Carol was a fiesty old lady who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and sassed everyone who got thinking they were too important.  Her family recognized her for her true self in that service, and told hilarious stories that reflected her comic genius and her true character.  And then they invited us to come up and share our stories too.  I laughed a lot at the funeral and left feeling like I knew her better, and loving her all the more.  That is how I want to be remembered, by people who really know me, and aren't afraid to point out my flaws and laugh at them with me.

Poor John.  He died very young.  I'm not afraid to say he was probably a narcissistic, insecure fuck who was taking advantage of his union.  I wouldn't put it his obituary, nor post it on his Facebook wall, but let's laugh about it here.  And let's also recognize that my information has been filtered through other opinionated people, and my eulogy of John may say more about me and them than it does about him.  Amen.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

I've missed what could have been

When I read The Scarlet Ibis in tenth grade I overidentified with Brother, and it made me ill.  I was mean to my sister in childhood just as he was mean to his brother.  There were times I wanted to leave her behind, gasping for air, so I could keep up with my friends and not have everyone see my damaged sister lagging behind.  There were times I did leave her to die.  (There was that one time when she actually died.)  The story has always been my most and least favourite.

(The other day J came home from her internship at the hospital, telling me about a baby who was born in a caul.  I do not think she read The Scarlet Ibis in her English class in high school.  Her English teachers were my colleagues.  Neither of them, in my opinion, would have had the fortitude to tackle James Hurst.)

Sometimes, in high school, I would discuss literature with my mother.  In fact it was the only conversation we could safely have.  She knew The Scarlet Ibis well, and she also had a brother who was damaged.  The difference was (is) that her brother did not die, strangled by the knot of cruelty that is perhaps, genetic.  Her brother is still alive today, and she claims to have been kind to him when they were children.  Perhaps she was.  He does not refute it.  My mother may have recognized, briefly, the way the story was striking me. But my sister was alive when we had these conversations; perhaps my mother could still look at my sister then without seeing gravestones.  Regardless, we agreed, at a time in our lives when we agreed on nearly nothing, that The Scarlet Ibis was a brilliant illustration of the complexity of sibling relationships and of human nature.

Sometimes I try to pick at the knot of cruelty, even try to pick it apart it just a little, but it is a tighter knot than one might expect. Being small it is easy to miss.  But there are times it nearly stops me from breathing.  It would be, wouldn't it, the ultimate justice if the knot strangled its owner instead of someone else?


When I started writing this, I meant it to be about the ways in which I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to stifle the urge to sabotage CC.  I have spent absurd amounts of time on self-reflection asking myself why I want to destroy her, and the answer is unclear.  She is shallow.  Is that enough of a reason?  Why does that mean I should be engaged in a perpetual battle with myself to smother my desire to undo her work, hide her belongings, discredit her with our colleagues?  Why do I hate her so fervently, why?  If I thought I could get away with more active displays of my distaste for her, I would not hold back as much as I do.  As it stands, I simply disclude her as much as possible, and I recognize that this is mean, old school mean, like a jealous sixteen year old lashing out, but I have spent time with this problem.  It isn't jealousy.  It's something else, something far more complex.

It is, like James Hurst's character Brother, me picking up on a weakness, a social mismatch, and instead of nurturing her, I want to exploit that weakness and make her face her imperfection and rue it properly and thoroughly, and concede that she is less able to chameleon herself in socially desirable ways.  Basically, I want to destroy her.  And this is twisted.  My entire career is based upon nurturing misfits and helping them find their niche outside the mainstream, embracing their true quirky selves, and I do this with genuine love and compassion.  It doesn't make sense that this one person activates such primal ugliness in me.  It makes me question whether I have capacity for sociopathy.  Does thinking such things qualify one for the diagnosis, or does one have to act upon those thoughts?  It's a fine line, isn't it.


Friday, June 01, 2018

what did you order?

I am becoming suspicious that R may have an alcohol problem.  Yesterday when I stepped into his office to borrow his address stamp, the office smelled of alcohol.  I could be wrong about this.  But that's what I think.


I gave R permission to go windsurfing with the Outdoor Ed class today instead of working in the counselling office.  I did this for a couple of reasons:  I believe in supporting other departments where we can, and the O.E. department needed another chaperone; I believe in the counselling value of quality time spent with our kids outside of our offices; but mostly, I like it when M comes back to work on Monday and has to do her own work because R wasn't there to do it for her.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018


It is roadkill season.  Which I will not write about because it (seriously) bothers me.  A lot.


The former student, kid but not kid, adult manchild - who contacted me on New Year's Eve to tell me his mother had died - was lying.  That's fucked up, right?  He was lying to me.  Why?


Mediation fascinates me.  When I meet the first person, I always find myself taken with their story, ready to align myself (secretly) against the other person.  And then the second person comes in and woos me over to their side and I find myself completely torn.  I think this is exactly the way it should be, that I should find myself on side with both people - because that means I want what is best for both of them.  Because it means I am motivated to help them find a solution that makes them both happy.

The first woman today was warm and bubbly and funny, wept openly and wore her heart on her sleeve.  I was completely charmed.  She was exactly the sort of woman I am always friends with, the extroverted mama type who folds me up in her arms and makes me feel loved.  Like T.  I liked her immediately.

And then the second woman told her story and I over-identified with her to a degree that I was stunned by it.  Stunned because her friend described her as cold and rigid and inflexible.  And stunned because she, herself, told me she could not tolerate weakness in herself or others.  And I wanted to ask her about her overly critical mother, because obviously she has one of those, and I wanted to tell her that she can soften a little without losing control, but I didn't say that because I'm not a counsellor in this situation.  But really.  She was me, just a bit more sure of her me-ness than I am.

Tomorrow we have the part where we all meet and try to generate solutions to the problem.  Clearly the T-Doppelganger will cry, and apologize, and over-own the problem.  And extend herself to do what she can to make things better.  And the Me will not cry with all her might, and will say she needs nothing from this mediation, nothing other than to be left alone with herself.  She is a rock, she is an island.  And in the end, will they find a resolution to their dispute?  I do hope so.


Monday, May 28, 2018


I am booked the next two days to facilitate a mediation between two elementary teachers who are embroiled in a dispute.  Apparently they both applied for the same job, and since one got it and the other didn't, they have been fighting at work.  Yelling.  Harassing.  This sort of behaviour.  This kind of thing blows my mind, which I guess isn't appropriate for a mediator to say, but it really does.  Although I do not have the most effective filter when I am out in the wilds (especially while consuming wine), my filter at work is strong and effective.  I cannot fathom yelling at a co-worker - although imagining it is delicious.  If yelling at co-workers was an option, there are a number of people upon whom I would unleash my wrath --  and it would be satisfying.  (But why do people think they can do this??)


We are closing in on the end of the school year and I am hopeful that I have cleared the biggest of the hurdles to be faced.  D, of course, has been my most time-consuming and heart-wrenching investment.  I feel he is in a good place, as good as he can be.   Next year I will have my EMDR license and I see him at the top of my list of people who would benefit.  He has PTSD, for certain.  Meanwhile, his foster mother has formed a beautiful bond with him, enough so that he has decided to forego independent living and stay with her until he turns 19.  I see this as an incredible development.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

first a look at our top stories

Why do newscasters deliver the news as though it is happening in the present rather than the past?  "Next up, a man startles a woman by getting into her car with her while she is having a nap in the parking lot behind the grocery store!"  The immediacy of it makes it seem even more alarming.  But it happened yesterday.  The woman is okay.  The man is in custody.  It's past.  (It's still super weird though.  Who has a nap in their car in the middle of the day?)


Sunday, May 20, 2018


I had planned to decline going on the next trip with RW.  It was a back-and-forth internal debate, but I could not get past the negatives, until LM decided to come with us, which is a game changer.  She makes everything more tolerable, even the sound of RW chewing, snoring, and talking incessantly.  It changes everything.  So I told RW I would go; Germany (again), Austria, Switzerland.