I think I had a vague plan earlier, but I can’t remember what it was, if anything.
It’s possible I pushed myself too hard yesterday, and so was dizzy and exhausted last night and today, which is making it more difficult for me to process the world and such right now.
Losing Ron Glass earlier this week was a blow, but I also relate to death differently than I used to, after Alysia died. Well…it started after Kate the kitten died, but definitely after Alysia. I feel it differently now.
And now, after already struggling to come to grips with the loss of Ron, someone I love has lost someone she loves even more – someone much closer to her and who she is – and I don’t know how to help her breathe through it. The first was difficult enough, but to lose this next one so soon after…I don’t know. I don’t know what to say or how to shoulder some of the pain, or how to help her to shoulder it herself.
I’ve been feeling helpless a lot lately, in trying to figure out how to help myself. This is helpless in a different way, in that I’m trying to figure out how to help someone else.
On another note, my creative partner let me know that he’s trying to set something up for us, which is great. He mentioned that he suggested a date that happens to already have off from work, which is great – for him. Ridiculous. Sometimes I just have to shake my head and dial down the rage.
So much to talk about, but not here.
I need to get to the Dodger soon, among other things.
Okay guys, I don’t have a lot of time, but figured I could get away with a quick post about my tiring but ultimately awesome day thus far!
So focusing on the awesome parts, met up with my mom and bro for a belated birthday lunch at one of our favourite places, the recently-opened second location of The Smoke in Vaughan. I haven’t been there too often yet, so am still working my way through different menu items each time, but damn…everything is SO GOOD!!! Today I had the W.B.B.T.L.C. (Wild Boar Bacon Tomato Lettuce Cheese…I think) with fries and tried the gravy for the first time and OH MY GOD!!! It was all I could do not to drink the rest of it after I ran out of fries.
We even had the smoke apple crisp after, despite the fact that I’d eaten myself into physical pain by that point.
Then we stood outside in the light rain so they could present me with my belated birthday present. My brother lifted the rear hatch of the van to reveal a sweet new Sharp HDTV! What?! Apparently my mom, brother, niece and nephews had gotten together to get me a TV I could use with the Blu-Ray player I’d gotten for free quite awhile ago when I had to use up my Airmiles and switch to Airmiles cash before they expired. Instead of slowly growing obsolete in its box, it’s now hooked up to this beauty TV, and now I can watch Netflix on it instead of my iPad Mini and I can watch the Shomi HD content and everything looks sooooo pretty!
Also, and this is bigger, it’s Brody’s 9th birthday today. I got him a marrow bone for dinner which he’s been working on for the past 2 hours. That boy’s mouth is going to be so sore. Bless.
His mama has been on my mind a lot lately, and I haven’t been sleeping very much and I feel like I have only been home to sleep.
I need a vacation from life.
But holy hell is he ever cute. He is the puppy I love most in the whole world, beyond all reason or measure. I tell him all the time. I love all the puppies – and there are a lot – but none more than him.
That munchkin is the greatest, and a bright shining light in my every day. Just like his mama was. ❤️
Had kind of a harrowing morning – not for me, but for others. Came the closest I think I ever have to watching not one, not two, but three squirrels get mowed down by vehicles while I was out with Brody. One was literally right next to us, but on the street instead of safely on the sidewalk. Luckily all of them escaped, but my heart did not. The drivers didn’t even slow down. There’s zero need to be driving that fast on a residential street, especially with a school right there. You can slow down enough to at least try and avoid taking a life. I mean – it’s life. If you can’t respect a life, then what else is there, really?
Then on the subway a woman next to me collapsed just after we left the station, so we had to wait until we got to the next station before the train could stop and someone could come take a look at her. I feel like that whole system is flawed. Everyone around her reacted appropriately – she was determined to get up so people helped her and got her into a seat while another person activated the emergency alarm after someone else said to. Part of me was thinking that it wasn’t really necessary – the woman insisted she was fine, although they did help her off the train once we got to the next station. And she said she didn’t need medical assistance, which – I don’t know if she ended up getting any, or not. But everyone in that part of the train reacted quickly to take care of her, which was great to witness.
However, there’s also the delay to the entire line every time that alarm is activated. They have to stop and investigate, and the vast majority of the time the person isn’t in need of medical/fire/police intervention, so much as they just need some air. Which – don’t even get me started on how the transit system neglects to take into account the fact that we are all dressed for being outside, and therefore do not need the heat cranked when we step on board the train during the winter months. There’s not enough room for all those people AND their layers of clothing and outerwear once they’ve removed as much as possible to adapt to the sudden heat. It’s ridiculous. Just circulate the damn air, already.
Anyway, what was I trying to say? I know it’s unrealistic to expect people to wait a moment before activating the emergency alarm, to ensure that it’s actually an emergency that requires further intervention and assistance. But at the same time, activating it immediately didn’t make any difference. The train still had to proceed to the next station before anything could be done, and by then the woman was doing much better, and could have just gotten off at the next stop, anyway. I guess I just wish there was a way to alert the train operators to what was going on without having to hold up the whole line longer than necessary. I don’t know. I don’t really have any solutions. I just was thinking about it this morning after everything happened because it didn’t feel quite right to me, while also realizing I didn’t know how it could be better or more efficient.
Yesterday I wrote about the end of my first relationship, and actually still feel pretty good about the process of writing it all down. I wrote most of the words I didn’t want to write, and the few I left out actually weren’t required for getting the point across, so I call that a win. I wouldn’t say it was easy, at all, but it definitely wasn’t as difficult as I feared it would be. I also didn’t feel down after; my different mood and mindset since starting this little project has remained in effect, despite reliving some of the more heart-shattering moments from my little lesbian relationship journey. That process may also be somewhat responsible for the little crush I have going on lately, which I haven’t had for quite some time. Maybe it’s a coincidence and they aren’t at all related, but maybe it’s not. Either way, I intend to continue with both writing and crushing for the next little bit, at least, and see how things go. Like, for me, I mean. I don’t expect anything in my real life to change, but I am thus far noticing a change inside me – in terms of mood and state of mind, mostly – and so far it’s all positive, so I want to see if that continues at all, or if it’s just a temporary high brought on by alcohol and lack of sleep. Haha
Last night and today, I’ve been thinking a lot about Alysia. I realized that I am starting to forget things; about her, and about our friendship. She’s been gone, like, 2 and a half years now. That’s far longer than I knew her. We were friends for months, not years, and while the length of time has zero to do with how much I loved that kid (our connection wasn’t instant, but still pretty close), it came as a shock to realize not only how long it’s been already, but also how much longer there is to go without her being in my life. I’m starting to feel almost disconnected from her now. Not in an “I’m over it” kind of way, but rather in the sense that I can’t feel her as well anymore, her presence in my world. I’m forgetting little details, and I only have a small yet finite number of my own memories to draw from as it is. That I’ve known and loved her mom and brother so much longer than I knew her is…not wrong, exactly, but not right, either.
It’s hurting my heart and pissing me off at the same time.
The only upside is that it makes me want to just sit and hug Brody all the more right now. That much, at least, is never a bad thing.
Seriously, I’m just ranting – you don’t need to read this one. I feel like I say too much, but not nearly enough, and am just trying to get out of my head for a moment.
It’s okay to give this one a pass.
I’ll write something else later.
Either way, here goes nothing…
To say I am frustrated and disappointed with the Fire Marshal would be an understatement. There really are no words, yet at the same time, there will never be enough words. I can’t wrap my head around what appears to be a flippant dismissal of the loss of life, and responsibility, and justice…and while none of that can bring back those kids, I feel like a half-assed investigation only adds insult to injury. I mean, isn’t the main function of a Fire Marshal investigation to determine the cause of a fire? Not just call it inconclusive, sit on it for over two years and then say, “Oh, I don’t know, it was probably caused by (this first guess). Case closed.”
I don’t think a Coroner would just wave his or her hand and say, “I don’t know…the person probably died because of (this first guess). Case closed.”
Or maybe they would. I don’t know if anyone is doing their freaking job anymore. I have lost confidence in the people who hold such positions to carry their share of the responsibility in determining what happened, and how similar tragedies can be prevented in the future.
They didn’t even interview the lone survivor about that night, let alone any of the people who were at the apartment so often it was like a second home to them. Yet apparently felt it was fine to ask me questions through a friend. For the most part, though, they just made an assumption and called it a day. An assumption that was quite likely incorrect. Didn’t even look into anything else; any other possible cause.
One smoke detector had no battery, the other was probably not working – they’re not sure. Just that everyone reported that no smoke detectors were going off when the fire was discovered. One was located above the stove in the kitchen, and one outside the boys’ bedrooms at the front. So…I guess the one in the kitchen also served as the regulated-by-law smoke detector that is supposed to be outside of the girls’ sleeping areas, as well? A little double duty from over the stove in the kitchen?
That both exits were on the same side of the building doesn’t seem to have raised any concerns about the apartment being up to code, nor the fact that walls were added to turn the space into a 4-bedroom instead of two. I have a screen shot of the rental ad – well, a rental ad for that apartment. Not necessarily the one the kids answered when they found the place. But basically the same. It wasn’t turned into a makeshift 4-bedroom for them specifically. It was advertised as such. Are two smoke detectors really enough for a 4-bedroom when one of them is in the kitchen area? Above the stove, for Pete’s sake?
That the landlord is not legally responsible for maintaining the smoke detectors is frustrating. Apparently we as a society feel it is up to a group of kids in their early 20’s to dutifully check to ensure everything is in proper working order when they move in, rather than the owner dude renting the space to them in the first place. I didn’t check mine until this all happened, because I know that the landlord checks them regularly, but when I found that things like this can not only happen, but also be my fault, I became a little more paranoid than I was before (and I was already really paranoid). I am not in my early 20’s, though. Not on my own for the first time. I was 41 when I started testing my smoke detectors more often than the landlord was doing it.
The kids’ landlord didn’t do it at all. Not in the time that they lived there, at least.
And apparently the Fire Marshal doesn’t deem that an important factor, either. Doesn’t think any of it is, really. So what if three kids and a little kitten lost their lives? No one need speak for them. No one need determine the reason how any of it happened. I used to believe people in those positions would fight to do their jobs to the very best of their abilities. That not knowing wasn’t a suitable answer. That guessing was never the way.
Which means I watch too much TV. Turns out to real people, it’s just a day job, and then they go home, without giving another thought to those who will never get to go home again.
I get that everyone’s just doing the minimum required. I get that nothing can change what happened, no matter how much investigation is done. I understand (almost) all of it on a reasonable level, but that doesn’t change my frustration and sadness and disappointment and anger and hurt and…just…overall upset-ness. The minimum effort raises more questions than it answers, and those kids deserve more. The families deserve more. Ethan deserves more. He at least deserves the chance to fill in some of the blanks for those investigating what happened. He was there, after all, and he’s the one who has to live with those memories for the rest of his life. At least ask his side of it, if it’s your job to determine what happened. To me, that actually falls under the bare minimum, but then again, I’m not the Fire Marshal. Just someone who, on some level, will never really understand any of it at all.
I go over that night in my head constantly, you know. Constantly. I wasn’t there. I’d never been inside the apartment until after everything had been taken out. I didn’t even know any of them but Alysia. But I picture it over and over; my mind is full of unanswered questions about how everything happened, trying to fill in the many, many blanks. I feel like if any one thing had gone differently that night, they would all still be alive.
If even just one smoke detector had gone off, for example.
I had a dream last night that I was choosing between…like, it had something to do with Spanish, even though I don’t speak it. But essentially, I had to choose whether I would learn to help Spanish-speaking people in a legal forum, or a musical one. I know. But hey, music speaks, too. I had the impression that either I would be working for people’s rights – the rights of those who could not communicate effectively due to the language barrier – or if I would help in a more spiritual/emotional way through the implementation of music and dance programs.
I chose law, and even in the dream I couldn’t believe I was picking the more difficult road.
I just felt it would be the one where I could be most effective and make the most difference.
I chose to speak for those who could not speak for themselves.
I think I’ve decided on my next tattoo. Possibly my next two, as both are on the smaller – and thus more affordable – side. Logic tells me to wait until at least the end of summer, so that I can worry less about preventing early fading in the sun, and put finances toward other things coming up in the meantime.
But I’m also not really the patient type.
The first one feels pretty perfect, and that makes it harder to wait for, too. All of my tattoos thus far have been pretty personal, and these next ones are no different. The second one is becoming more and more perfect the more I think about it, too; a combination of two things that actually go together in ways I only just considered this morning as it all fell into place. I’m even thinking of getting one of my favoUrite people to sketch it for me, since there’s already a part of her in it, as well. It’d be amazing to have that extra little personal touch added in. Trust me, guys – I won’t go into detail right now, but it’s a pretty amazing idea, and very me. It would be the tattoo that’s most from inside me, actually. Only slightly more personal than the wee Kate one I just got. I’m ridiculously excited for it.
Which makes it even harder to wait. I mean, seriously, I should probably get one now-ish, and then get the other at the end of the summer, right? Haha
So little patience. For some things, anyway. For others, I seem to have a lot. I remember when I was young I built a house of cards, and my mom said something about how it had taken a lot of patience for me to sit there and move slowly enough that I didn’t spill the whole thing over a bunch of times while trying to build it. I think that was more a zone-out scenario than a patience one, though. Sometimes I just like to empty my mind and perform some small task, usually involving my hands. I like doing dishes, for example. I like making things clean and shiny – especially knives (so shiny), but even more I like the process. It requires almost no thought, and is kind of comforting, in a way. It’s like a reset sometimes.
Not sure what it is about tattoos that keeps me coming back, my mind always turning on the next way to display another small part of myself to the world. Or, actually, not the world so much as my own self. So far all of my ink is easily visible, and the next two will be as well (I of course already know where they will each go). And I love being able to see them. I love going about my day and catching a glimpse unexpectedly, or purposefully looking at them just because it makes me feel so happy when I do. Like a little momentary break from the routine – some longer than others, naturally.
I once tried to describe them as being something I thought was beautiful, and that they are a part of me. So I think parts of me are beautiful now, where I never really did before. Each one is deeply personal, and all capture some part of my personality or identity or…some other word that I can’t quite think of… The ones I have so far honour relationships that changed me and caused me to grow in particular ways, and at the same time honour the qualities in me that I like, which also grew out of those relationships. In essence, they are little parts of myself that I actually like and wish to hold on to. They are things about me that I think are beautiful.
Besides, if my greatest concern when I am older is the appearance of my tattoos, then I’ll call that a huge win. I am okay with them lasting the rest of my life.
The next two – if I stick to that same order – will be just as personal, and honour just as much truth and growth and identity as the rest. Maybe even more, in the one case.
It seems, too, like every time I get one, I’m already planning the next in my mind. And so far the one I thought I’d get first, is still being shoved further back in line, in favour of the ones that are more expressive of who I am; the ones which serve to remind me of something I don’t wish to ever forget. I’m not even sure if I’ll ever actually get that first one, but if I do, it’ll be after the other ones. I’m still saving the spot for it, though, just in case.
My real first one ended up being Hudson the polar bear I love, because of how knowing him changed the way I look at non-humans and thus how I relate to the world around me. I always got a little rush – a quickening of the heart – whenever I looked at him, and I feel the exact same when I look at this piece on my shoulder. He watches my back, and stands guard over the xoAly tag of my friend, Alysia. She actually was helping me plan the Hudson tattoo before she passed away, and I feel like that happened right as our friendship took a turn toward being even closer than we already were. We’d just started to go from being work friends to actual friends, I think, and while I think all of us who knew her will always feel despairingly robbed, our brief friendship changed me for the better, and I’m honoured to carry her with me always.
My second one that I just got a few weeks ago is to honour my cat, Kate. She was the first pet I had as an adult; the first who was my responsibility alone. We went through a lot together, and I’ll always wish she could know what it’s like to have me as her person now, because I didn’t know anything then and we learned as we went. She’d be crazy spoiled now, even more than she was. There’s a lot I would have done differently if I could go back.
But regardless, Kate was the one who made me a mom, and she will always be my most special girl. A mini-Kate now sits on my forearm, one wee paw reaching up toward me, as she always did. My girl. ❤
The next two will both have a couple of different levels in their meanings, but the second one, especially. If I can get it to work out the way I want it to, a simple little design will hold SO MUCH of my story inside of it. Even the location I’ve chosen for it; it all just fits. I can’t wait.
Two years ago today – March 7th, 2014 – I had the day off work. It was a Friday, and while there was a very busy Mind Reels weekend lined up (Canadian Screen Awards broadcast gala and, I believe, Toronto Comicon, as well), I’d decided to go to the zoo for a while, before things really kicked into high gear. It was a nice day, and not only was there a handsome polar bear cub named Humphrey I wanted to visit, but there had also been a tiny gorilla baby born recently, and while I’d seen the top of her head, or a limb, and several photos of her, I’d not yet gotten a good look at her in person. I thought I’d give my luck another try that day.
I could never have guessed how impactful that day at the zoo would be for me, and in how many different ways my life would change – was, in fact, changed before I even left my apartment.
I think that was one of the first times I went to the zoo alone. I know the very first time was for Hudson’s birthday, because he was my bear and I wasn’t about to miss his first birthday, especially given that he almost didn’t live long enough to have it. But while I’d made my way out to the zoo on March 7th by myself, I did manage to meet up with a couple of people I’d recently befriended via our mutual love for the zoo and everybody in it. So there was that. I wasn’t completely alone.
I visited with Humphrey for awhile – and Steve, one of my new friends – and though I don’t remember much else from the first part of that day, I know I eventually made my way over to hang out with the gorilla troop. My other new friend, Laurel, was there, too, and because of her, I had the great honour that day of meeting Johari, the gorilla I’d seen as a baby on Zoo Diaries, but whom I couldn’t yet tell apart from others in the troop. I knew Charles the silverback, and Nassir (because he’s smaller than the rest), and Ngozi because she had a baby riding around with her all the time at that point. I was pretty sure I could tell Josephine from the others, but Sadiki and Johari in particular, I kept getting mixed up. I’d really wanted to meet Johari in person, so was thrilled when Laurel introduced us. As soon as I said her name, her beautiful eyes fixed on mine and I was in love.
Even though I still get her mixed up sometimes. Sorry Johari – I’m learning, I promise!
A couple of weird things had happened that morning, as well. A friend texted me out of the blue asking if I’d “heard about Alysia”, one of our coworkers, and one of my favourite people on the planet. My platonic girlfriend, we’d decided once day. I’d been texting with her the night before a bit as we sent each other selfies that our cats had taken with the Cat Snaps phone app her mom had discovered. After that text, though, I had a bit of an uneasy feeling, like maybe Alysia been fired, or something. I texted back that no, I hadn’t heard anything, what was going on?
When I didn’t get a response after a period of time had gone by, I decided to just go to the source, so I texted Alysia herself.
“Are you okay? Is something going on?”
No response from that, either, which was extra weird, because she’d know I’d start to worry if I didn’t hear back from her. My uneasy feeling grew, but I pushed it aside. I was being paranoid, and I was at the zoo, so I turned my attention back to the present moment. I knew I’d be there for Alysia, whenever and whatever she needed.
So, as if getting to interact with Johari a bit wasn’t enough, I also finally got my wish of getting a better view of baby Nneka for the first time! Ngozi brought her over closer to the window while I was there, and despite some little kids being in the way, I still got to look on her adorable wee face for a few moments before moving out of the way. I went off to the side then, used my zoom lens, and caught a couple of sweet pics of the little one lifting her head up and looking around a bit more than she had before. Once again, I was in love.
Then my phone rang.
It was Tim. I figured he’d forgotten that I was at the zoo, and wanted to go over our plan of attack for the weekend, or something, so I answered.
It wasn’t what I thought. At all.
After some back and forth about whether or not I should sit down, he finally got it out: there’d been a huge fire. He didn’t need to say any more. My stomach dropped, and I spoke her name aloud.
In that moment I knew, and my heart exploded. She was gone.
A lot happened after that, but I don’t remember most of the details. Some I remember very clearly, but most not.
I told Laurel, and she hugged me and cried with me. She’d heard about the fire on the news earlier, and agreed that the kitten wouldn’t have made it, either. It was all too overwhelming to really take in. I texted Steve to tell him, and by then I was feeling really confused as to what I should do next, so when he offered to drive me home, I agreed. He asked if I wanted to leave right then, and I didn’t know. He asked if I wanted to see Humphrey again before we left, because the area had cleared out a bit since I’d been there earlier. I pictured the little furball in my mind and said yes. Yes, I want to be around him again for a few minutes.
I couldn’t breathe very well, and there seemed to be a huge hole in my chest that no one else could see, but it was hurting. A lot.
I got lost in the African Pavilion, and fought panic as I tried to find my way outside. I eventually did, and gulped air while taking stock of where the hell I was, and where the hell I needed to go to get back to the polar bear cub.
I finally got sorted out and headed in the right direction. My mind was spinning the whole time, trying to figure out how what I knew to be true could possibly BE true. I’d just been talking to her the night before. I’d hugged her goodbye when we’d parted ways on the subway, and told her to get home safe. Maybe there’d been some kind of mistake. But there wasn’t. I consoled myself with the idea that maybe they’d all slept through the whole thing; that the smoke had taken them before they could wake up.
That turned out to not be true, either, and it wasn’t really much comfort even when I hoped it was, anyway. I cried off and on the whole way back to the Tundra Trek, and as I got closer, a flash of colour out of the corner of my eye. A red-tailed hawk flew by, low, not much higher than I stood.
“Alysia…” I whispered her name into the breeze and started to cry again.
Just then, the Arctic Wolves began to howl – the whole pack. It felt like they were giving voice to my shattered heart, and I stopped to listen to them a moment, waiting for the tears to take another break.
I continued on my way.
I found Steve, and moments later, young Humphrey wandered over, stood up and put his front paws on the fence, and just looked up at us for a few moments. Then he started to play, as though he knew being his entertaining self was exactly what was needed. It fixed nothing, changed nothing, but it did make me smile.
That day, the day the whole world changed, is now two years passed, and the Earth has continued spinning the whole time. The sun still rises and sets, I get up and come to work, I pay bills, I watch TV, I go out and laugh and have a good time. To all outward appearances, everything has carried on much as it did before.
But it’s not the same. The hole in my chest has taken up permanent residency, and while it’s settled into a general ache most of the time, there are still those moments that it blows wide open again, as though to remind me that it’s still there. Alysia’s dog, Brody, lives with me now, and is a bright shining light in my everyday life, just as she was. Her family feels like my family now, too. Her friends feel like my friends.
I’m sorry that I never met Jordan, Katie, little Frankie the kitten before they were taken in the fire, too. I’m sorry that I didn’t know Ethan before his world fell out from under him. I’m sorry that I didn’t know the Grahams or the Boyers as families before they were torn apart and forever changed by their unfathomable loss. I would have liked them, seeing them together, knowing who they were before this.
But I’m not sorry to know them now. I’m not sorry to love them now. And though I hate how I feel now, I’m not sorry I got to know Alysia as much as I did, even for as short a time as it was. Knowing her changed me a little, for the better. Loving her did, too. Losing her forever altered me in ways I still haven’t figured out yet. And as much as it’s a constant ache that I don’t think will ever go away, in a way, I embrace that, too. It means she’s a part of me, even now. Maybe especially now. And if getting rid of the pain means forgetting I ever knew her, then I vote no. Absolutely not. My pain and I shall remain forever entwined as I forge ahead through the world as this new me, whoever that is, and whoever that will be.
So, this coming Monday is the start of Canadian Screen Week, which has quickly settled into position as my new favourite event of the year. On the whole, Canada has never been very vocal about its own awesomeness, so to have a week-long celebration of the Canadian film and television industry is a huge step in recognizing some of the things we do really well. Patting ourselves on the back isn’t something we do very often, and I’m finding that it’s not only fun to do, but also something we have earned the right to do once in awhile.
Plus, I have friends in the nominee list each year, and that tickles me some. I am proud of them.
This year, The Mind Reels will be covering Canadian Screen Week – and especially the big awards ceremony broadcast gala next Sunday – with a larger presence than we ever have before. We’re adding a few new elements to our coverage, and continuing on with the tried and true things we’ve done before.
As crazy excited as I am about it, though, all of it also comes tied intrinsically to memories of losing one my closest friends (and Brody’s momma), Alysia Graham, in the #JAKEhouse fire during this week two years ago.
On this particular day in 2014, I was nervous about covering a non-broadcast gala by myself for the first time. Tim wasn’t able to make it, but I felt The Mind Reels needed to continue our presence at the events, at least in some form, as a sort of thank you to Touchwood PR for allowing us to participate as much as they do. I never want to give the impression that we are any less grateful than we are for all the support we receive from those amazing Touchwood peeps!
I knew I wouldn’t be doing any interviews that night, because it seemed weird to do it without Tim, and besides that, I really was nervous as hell. I remember trying to figure out how much beer I could pound to calm my nerves but not be THAT girl in the press room. But aside from beer, what actually ended up being my saving grace that night?
We’d joked about trying to sneak her in with me AS Tim, but in reality, that girl gave up a few hours of her night at home to text me constant support as I tried to settle into my place in the press room on my own. Thanks to her – her support, her humour, and her ability to seem present even from across the city – I was able to calm down enough to figure out a kind of perfect (for me) plan of attack.
Part of my luck was in the fact that my nominated friends ended up freaking winning in their categories! The winners were brought back to a red carpet area in the press room, where photos could be taken and quick interviews could be had. Rather than setting myself up there, though, I hung back a bit, and as they left the red carpet, I grabbed a few seconds for hugs, handshakes and a quick silly selfie. I had the idea because I thought it would be fun to send them to Alysia as I took them. As well, however, I realized that I could Instagram them and share to social media in real time, using all the appropriate tags, and it would make for a rather fun and unique bit of coverage for the event as a whole.
Thanks to that kiddo’s generosity with her time that night, I not only got past my nerves enough to survive the night, but I also stumbled across what’s become a bit of a Mind Reels staple moving forward, and had a great time doing it.
Little did I know – in no way could anyone know – that just 2 days later, that vibrant young girl would be gone, and the world forever changed as a result. I think even now there is a part of me that still can’t understand how someone so present could suddenly just not be here anymore. My mind railed against it for a long time after, so I think true grieving for me didn’t begin until I let myself accept it. Until I let myself feel it, and stopped trying to control it or compare it to what anyone else was feeling.
Grief is a weird thing, isn’t it? We all go through it, many times, over the course of our lives. To varying degrees, sure, but we all have to live with it. And yet it’s so different for everyone. There’s no right or wrong way to navigate grief. There’s no guidebook or manual to show you how to get through it. I’m not even sure anyone CAN get through grief. I think you just learn to live with it, and it becomes a part of a new you.
It’s kind of painfully ironic to me that my brief friendship with Alysia could have me feeling more like myself, but that then losing her so suddenly could change me so much more. If I thought it was confusing before, trying to figure myself out, it became infinitely more so after. The world turned upside down and inside out and fell off its axis and my emotions became so raw I not only didn’t know how to express them, but I also stopped being able to contain or monitor or edit them. Sometimes, things just come out now; still now. And most of the time, I don’t know why, nor what to do with any of it.
By this time last year, I was consumed with dread over the pending first anniversary of the fire. I was having regular panic attacks and had no idea how to face it or get through it to the following day. I didn’t know how to help her family and friends, who had quickly become my family and friends, too, because it was the only way I felt like I could keep her close. To keep her people close, and help take care of them for her, as best I could. If I could at all. And part of that fear, I think, was not only surrounding that first anniversary, but also in the vast of uncertainty of…what next? What about March 8th? What the fuck would any of us do then? When the year of firsts is over, what are we supposed to do in the days that follow?
What happens when there are no more firsts?
My terror was that focus might then revert to lasts. And I wasn’t sure how to move forward into a life of lasts, let alone how to be a useful support to those who’d lost her more than I.
This year is a little different. Not more or less difficult, but different nonetheless. The panic and dread is not as overwhelming, I think because we have gotten through March 7th, March 8th, and almost an entire year after that. And the focus has not changed to lasts, as I’d feared. I’m actually scheduled to work on March 7th, which I’m not sure was the best idea ever, but hopefully it will at least be distracting to a point.
Hopefully. I’m a bit worried about it, actually. Maybe I can meet up with people after work for a bit, just to mark the day together, or something. We’ll see.
As for March 8th, I have THAT day off, and unintentionally filled it with things I can look forward to. An appointment with my neurologist in the morning (okay I look forward to that less, but it’s good to have someone keeping an eye on my health), a trip to the zoo to – among other things – meet some baby panda cubs for the first time (and maybe with luck a baby rhino dude), then back home and downtown to cover the first awards gala of Canadian Screen Week 2016!
I think the new me – the one I am still trying to figure out as I navigate through daily life now – will always consider this a difficult and bittersweet time of year; a time of ups and downs and memories both amazing and horrible.
But I’m learning to accept that this, too, is a part of who I am now.
And in all of the things I am learning about the process of grief- for me – one of the smallest has turned out to represent one of the biggest achievements.
Like it or not, for better or for worse, I now know I can still find a way to make it to March 8th.