That time my life was a TLC song lyric

I have been struggling with body acceptance lately, but 2-3 weeks at the gym with Coach Dr. Booté and I feel a lot better about it. Do I wanna lose 10 lbs? Sure, and I probably will. But I can look at myself in the mirror and say to myself “not bad, you’ll do”. #progress

I went dancing this week for fun, not as part of the team or dance squad. I dressed up, because it is easier to let myself be vulnerable when I am not feeling insecure about my looks – putting my best foot forward. #immyfathersdaughter #badpunsareathinginmyfamily

I had a good night of dancing, with many partners, most of them excellent leads, and my capacity to relax into a state of vulnerability to achieve the necessary connection with my partners wasn’t terrible. #practicemakesperfect #dancingasacopingmechanismagainstmyshadow. While waiting for my Uber outside the club, a car drove past me, and guy leaned out of the passenger window and yelled, “GIIIIIIIRL! YOU HAVE ASS FOR DAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYSSSSSSSSS”.

Not gonna lie, I really enjoyed that. Both because as far as cat-calls go, it was well articulated, properly enunciated and grammatically correct, and because I never expected that my life would be a TLC lyric, incarnate:

A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging at the passenger side of his best friend’s ride
Trying to holler at me

That’s the second time I’ve been creatively cat-called on that same street corner. My new go-to location for an ego boost.

#itsthesmallthings

#hewouldhaveassfordaystooifhesquatted

#IcanintroducehimtoCoach

#backtobeingpromotionalmaterialforthegym

Google + bachelorette prep = unexpected results

Today is Allie’s bachelorette. I spent last night and all of this morning prepping for it. We will be playing the game “pin the dick on the groom”. I printed a 3’x5′ poster of the groom. Next step: I googled “dick pic” so as to have a visual for my artistic drawing of a dick & ballsack. My Google results were slight unexpected.

Behold the first FOUR screenshots of my Google results.

Andy Dick, Dick Cheney, an eggplant and a blurry pic of Trump

Wtf google. Those do not look like any dick pics I’ve ever gotten!

Why? I really have not googled Dick Cheney that often

Google apparently does not grasp the concept at hand


And in case y’all are wondering what my saved images are? I wondered myself, and it turns out, I have bland taste in saved pics

My full Google search results can be found here.

Clearly Google knows me too well when 99% of my search results = Dick Cheney and Andy Dick and NOT penises. #politicsoverporn

This is why they call me Vanilla.

Nevertheless, I successfully achieved my task at hand.

Things i never thought I would have to say: 

  1. do we have enough penises?
  2. should we let the girls bedazzle their penises?
  3. oh no, that’s waaaaay too big
  4. is my ratio of balls to dick accurate?
  5. I think I’m gonna adopt an impressionist approach to penis drawing
  6. how should I transport all these penises? I don’t want them to get damaged.

What a morning filled with good, wholesome fun. 

I swear. I SWEAR I do not have a Dick Cheney fetish.

Not my street cred: A story about livers and attitude

This is not my story. But it is a story, nonetheless.


Almost 2 years ago, I joined my current company. As part of the onboarding process, I was teamed with an “office mate”, a dude named CSD, to show me around, answer generic questions, be my go-to person about life at the office. He worked in Ops, was a manager and was chosen because he is “youngish, funny, outspoken, opinionated like you, Vanilla. Pretty sure you guys will really get along.” CSD quickly became my friend & my ally. Ops and Finance sometimes struggle to collaborate, so it was great having someone to keep me connected to the “real” world from up top in my ivory finance tower. CSD is super smart, efficient and pig-headed like me, but goes about office politics very differently from me. I value his opinion, and would often seek it out. We chatted almost every day.

About 9 months ago, CSD started missing work with semi-regular frequency, and working from home. I missed my buddy – who could I rant to, when I needed to say the things that I couldn’t, as a manager, say in front of my team? Why was CSD not in the office when I needed him? I didn’t pry, bc CSD has excellent work ethic, so his absences could only mean health issues, and that was none of my business. About 6 months ago, the frequency became almost weekly. I worried. But coworker-friends are different from non-coworker friends: privacy & boundaries are a thing. CSD eventually asked for my advice on how to broach a health update with senior management, because of my talent for writing: revealing enough to address their worries without over-sharing. That’s how I found out that CSD was up against a big-time health issue, not a small-time hypochondriac issue.

It’s no secret that the Qc healthcare system has not been good to my family (Exhibit A: my mom. Exhibit B: my youth, how I was branded a cripple before I turned 12. Exhibit C: my difficulty finding a GP). So when CSD’s health issues proved to be complicated to diagnose, I mourned, anticipating another life derailed by Fate and our bureaucratic, incompetent, healthcare system. It seemed so unfair: CSD was young, took care of himself, ate healthily, exercised regularly. Pretty sure he recycled.

Last week, CSD underwent a successful liver transplant, necessary to save his life. Chatting with him via Messenger, 24 hours after surgery:

Holy shit I’m kicking some ass and taking names! Vanilla, I’ve set 3 hospital records already. What did I tell you about that attitude, lol? I woke up today and demanded the ventilator be removed. I was eating solids and walking less than 24hours after the op. (Side note: that alone BLOWS MY MIND. In each of my surgeries requiring a general anesthetic, I was puking my guts out for almost 2-3 days, so violently did my body reject those drugs.) How? Well, I’m a bit of an animal. I hate hospitals. And I have a tenacious attitude to get the fuck out. I gave myself a goal: I get a new tv and PS4 pro if I can get released for home. Then in 6months a 2week vacation down south, and in 1year a 2week trip to Greece with the fam.

Here’s my philosophy: I don’t know what’s in front of me but I know I have to jump off the deep end and just keep swimming. Can’t turn around, just keep moving no matter how fast the current. (*)


I sat with a goofy, teary smile plastered on my face for an hour after getting the news his surgery was successful. My relief was so profound. I realized that for all these months, I’d assumed that his would not be a happy ending. That’s a pretty fucked up attitude to have. Maybe my friend is not wrong when she suggests I have room for improvement in my optimistic outlook on life. I marvel at CSD’s messages immediately post-op. That would not be my attitude. I am not sure I am even capable of that attitude (**). I do know that no matter what life throws at me, no matter how deep my despair, I have this seemingly endless capacity to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when I can’t see my way forward – that is what makes this battle with my shadow so exhausting, but is also, as my therapist reminds me, what stops me from being suicidal, so “count your blessings Vanilla!

Still, I can draw certain parallels btn CSD’s approach to life, and my own. We both believe in investing in one’s health on a regular, preventive basis. His habit of regular exercise and mostly healthy diet is a huge factor in his supersonic recovery. Most of my therapy sessions are not covered by my insurance, because mental health is still taboo, and psychologists do not enrich Big Pharma and the economy, so insurance companies do not typically cover more than a handful of therapy sessions. I calculate that between my previous 20month therapy stint, and my current one, I’ve paid $10K out of pocket. This funk might be a bad one, but those $10K have given me a toolbox to help me put the breaks on this funk’s attempt to spiral into something much worse. Then I wonder if maybe we both are kidding ourselves: if Fate really wanted to fuck shit up, there is nothing anyone could do to prevent it.

I’m so happy Fate decided not to fuck shit up this time. And I’m so so happy that CSD’s story has a happy ending. 


This is the Facebook post CSD made public yesterday, which I share with y’all to raise awareness of both the medical condition and the organizations in our province and country that work to bridge the gaps in our healthcare system, and because I can’t possibly do a better job than he at conveying his inspiring attitude.

As many of you may not be aware today is the one week anniversary since I was the recipient of an orthotopic liver transplant. This emergency and life saving operation was required due to a very rare genetic blood disorder known as Budd-Chiari Syndrome and without it, I would have been lucky to have made it to my birthday next month.

Because things have been going quite well and (fingers crossed) I’m on my way to a successful recovery, today I finally felt comfortable to publicly start sharing a few photos of my story as well as take this opportunity to draw some much needed attention to highlight a few of the many, many amazing people and organizations that make life saving transplantation in Canada possible.

Firstly, I want to share my thanks to the selfless and incredible work of the nursing and support staff from the ICU and transplantation units at the MUHC Royal Victoria Hospital. Without them none of this would have been possible and I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the incredible quality of care. They, along with the doctors, have been the highlight of this whole experience. We are very fortunate in this country to have these men and women dedicated to our healthcare and make no mistake, they need our support. So especially if you’re a resident of Quebec, please take the time to become informed on the funding current situation. Our nurses and doctors deserve better.

Side note – I will be writing about my experiences in an upcoming op-ed in the coming weeks as I’ve had the chance to hear many, many of their stories. And, after spending a number of weeks deeply imbedded in the public healthcare environment, I’ve become a very strong advocate for a patient-specific healthcare system in this country.

Finally, I would like to draw attention to a number of the organizations that raise awareness, funding and provide support for transplantation in Canada. Please consider donating. Without them, many of our fellow Canadians would not be with us today.
The Canadian Transplant Association (CTA), is a registered charitable organization founded to enrich and celebrate life while promoting organ and tissue donation across Canada.
The Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) is devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease.
CORD is Canada’s national network for organizations representing all those with rare disorders. CORD works with governments, researchers, clinicians and industry to promote research, diagnosis, treatment and services for all rare disorders in Canada.

Thanks, and look forward to sharing more of my story as I continue down the path towards better health and a full recovery.


Disclaimer: I requested, and received, CSD’s full permission to share his story on my blog. This is one of those rare times where I write about a coworker on my blog – mainly because this story is far bigger than the restrictive label “coworker”.

(*) CSD would like it to be known that he was high off morphine when he wrote that. While he stands by the content, he wishes to clarify that his normal writing style is mildly less grandiose.

(**) CSD also would like to point out that he played an 18-hole round of golf after getting the phone call that he’d been matched to a liver, and was to show up to the hospital the next morning for the transplant operation. I am definitely not capable of that attitude. 

Who knew M&Ms could wrap?

While in Toulouse, FroMan invited me to join him and his friends for supper. I had a great time. Somehow, while discussing Ramadan, multiculturalism and the pros/cons of accommodating vs assimilating vs integrating minorities into society, CAD vs Southern French weather, Trump, kizomba, sleep patterns, work, hair styling, annoying neighbors, I found myself on a rant about how Eminem is the greatest rapper of all time. Yes, Kendrick Lamar is an artiste, but Eminem! Eminem is just in a different class. True, he does not speak to the struggle and plight of a specific demographic; rather, he owns the individuality of his emotions, which can broaden his audience because emotions are universal and do not depend on specific circumstances. His lyrics are a form of vulnerability, and while he can be ugly, shocking, so angry and violent, his honesty is refreshing and is what allows his auditors to relate so strongly to him. His musicality is not lesser than Kendrick’s and… and somewhere after the 5th minute of my monologue, I noticed a blank look around the table.

Tentatively, I asked… y’all DO know Eminem, right? Oui, bien sûr. M&Ms. No. Eminem, bro, the rapper. You guys know who he is, in France, right?! Oui, we call him M&Ms here. M&Ms… as in the candy? Oui.

FroMan continued, “He’s the dude that sang, I’m Slim Shady yes I’m the real Shady all you other Slim Shadies are just imitating…” No. NON. Arrête. STOP IT. THAT is what you associate with Eminem? Not Rap God, where he raps 1560 words within 6:04 minutes, averaging 4.28 words per second? Not “mom’s spaghetti”, the lyric that spawned some of the most ludicrous memes ever, and is the reason why he won an Oscar? Not Love the Way You Lie, a song so powerful that even though radios overplayed it more than Despacito, it never got ruined and was a catalyst in lessening the taboo around domestic abuse, bringing that important topic out into the open?  Not any of his early underground freestyle rapping? Not that he is the only person in the world that can rhyme “orange” with “porridge”? Like seriously, watch this:

Y’all. Eminem is a wordsmith. A modern day poet. A genius.

FroMan listened to my outraged exclamations in silence for several seconds. Possibly a full minute.

Tu réalises qu’il rap en anglais, oui? On ne comprend pas ce qu’il dit.

You do realize he raps in English, yes? We don’t understand what he’s saying.

So, I asked, how do you distinguish good music from bad? You guys are French! The epitome of good taste! If you don’t understand the lyrics, what do you do? Just listen to the beat, the groove and the melody? WAIT, YOU GUYS DON’T THINK JUSTIN BIEBER IS GOOD MUSIC, DO YOU?! “En fait, il n’est vraiment pas si pire, le petit Bieber. Son album est très propre./ Actually, he really isn’t that bad, that little Bieberito. His album is quite on point.”

OMG.

OH MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

I cannot live in a world where Eminem is less appreciated than Bieber.

It occurred to me to suggest FroMan use Google Translate, much like I did to understand how ridiculously over-the-top kizomba lyrics can be (for a prime example,  check out this music video of one of my favourite songs, Vai by Calema. Stirring music, heartbreak, but whyyyyyyyy must he flop about like a goldfish in a puddle of mud? That won’t make her come back to you, bro, and significantly decreases your odds of landing yourself a rebound chick.) But Google’s habit of mildly inaccurate translations (“Pinch me now, yes/ Good afternoon, no/ You are very crazy/ Kiss me in the mouth“) can’t do justice to Eminem’s wordplay. The site Genius is the way to go… but even so, Eminem’s greatness is rather dependent on one’s fluency in English.

How sad. How very sad. FroMan’s life, and that of most of the world’s population, is incomplete.

#noiamnotbeingadramaqueenATM

#Eminemisbae

#andthisiswhytravelisimportant #myhorizonsjustgotexpandedAF

 

Coloring when colorblind

My current funk is a pretty bad one. Crying at work in the bathroom, feeling fragile. Obvi, my concentration is shit, trying to focus through this fog. A lot of effort is being spent appearing normal, and I am not quite sure I am succeeding. Given the gravity of the situation, I have been resorting to some pretty extreme measures:

  • Forced social time with ppl I feel safe with –> bc my shadow’s #1 goal is to isolate me and drown my emotional brain with narratives that imply I am unlovable. As my grasp on reality weakens, there remains certain ppl I know love me unconditionally, with whom I can be my unwell self without judgment. Dynamo. My cousins. Allie.
  • Lots and lots of downtime, to recover from the strain of socializing with those people –> It feels embarrassing to require 1 hour of alone time for every hour spent in public, but so it is right now. I NEED the time-out, without it I am filled with despair. I need to recharge from the effort of appearing normal, a Herculean task.
  • Exercising with Coach 3 times a week until my mental health stabilizes –> No bailing, under any circumstances. That means skipping dancing on Tuesdays, getting my shit together at work to leave “early” at 6pm on Thursdays, and setting my alarm on Saturday mornings.

This weekend, I went to the gym and as expected, almost died during Coach’s workout. That gym really is my happy place.

Everyone who walks into the gym is looking for an escape from the outside world. Yes, the same can be true of a yoga studio. But here, people are looking for a reprieve from the tangle of thoughts, emotions, and frustrations that is a necessary by-product of being alive through the action of hitting an inanimate punching bag over and over again. It’s a safe haven that allows a person to work through whatever they need to work through, surrounded by people doing the exact same thing. The particulars of each individual’s tangled mess is irrelevant; everyone has preoccupations, and the gym is our way to work through our shit. People who walk through the door are looking for the freedom of a few hours when socially acceptable constraints are no longer required. The punching bags become the recipient for every harsh word that was bitten back through the day, every slight that was received, every injustice, every worry. For a few hours, the world stops pushing, and we can push back as hard as we want, without any consequences. Bliss.

I hadn’t realized how corrosive the dance environment can be for my body-image: my team-mates describing me factually, never meanly, as “too heavy for so-and-so, well of course you are tired, you partnered with Vanilla, you are used to dancing with Blonde, she’s light as a feather, watch your back, don’t get injured. I hadn’t noticed how often now I scrutinize my appearance wondering if I really DO look that much bigger than all the other girls, maybe I am in denial, maybe I am wrong for thinking I am healthy. Dance IS an aesthetics based art. There are norms, the audience must find the dancers appealing etc. At social events, guys ask the girls they find most attractive to dance, until a girl earns herself a reputation for being a fantastic follower – and even then, looks factor heavily in the balance. That is all understandable. It just fucks with my mind. I need the counter-narrative provided by my gym, where skinny is NOT good, and muscles are celebrated: when I, or any of the girls, lift as much as some of the guys, it is praised, by Coach AND the other guys. One of the best boxers at the gym is an Olympian and two-time Worlds medalist: the male boxers boast if they survive a round of sparring with her, “Yo man, her hooks to the body! Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick, I need to find a way to generate as much power as her. Wow, she’s amazing!” A strong body is a sexy body. Strong body, strong woman, fuck aesthetics, own your power, be an Amazon. That’s the vision celebrated by Coach & the guys at the gym.

On the way home from the gym, I stopped at my favorite place in Montreal, Park Lafontaine. Just to feel the sun on my face, enjoy my feet in the cool water of the lake and sit. Doing nothing. Taking a breather. A time out.

Saturday, I wanted to go dancing. Bc of the team, and all the practices and shows, I no longer go dancing often for dancing’s sake. I felt dread at the prospect of strangers, proximity, connection, uuuuuugh. So I applied one of my new rules: spend time with someone I feel safe with. Blonde on my team makes me feel safe.  I do not feel judged when I am with her. She encouraged me to attend the dance event, so I did. I felt bloated and gross, and multiple partners told me I was too stiff, to relax. I was not having fun, always irritated with my partners, and frustrated with myself. Blonde pumped me with shots of alcohol and encouraged me to keep trying, and by the last hour of the night, I found myself smiling while dancing. It took me 4 hours to get to that space of openness & vulnerability required for dancing, but I made it! #smallvictories

Sunday, I spent the morning with Dynamo and his wife. I love them so. But 3 hours of love and brunch wiped me out. I sought refuge chez moi, and spent the afternoon coloring.

Overall, this weekend did me good. It was hard, at times, so hard. EXHAUSTING. But I did what needed to be done to manage my shadow, and found moments of contentment. Contentment is not the same thing as joy, my IG Crema filter is still firmly in place, but this weekend, and all it’s small victories, gave me enough ammunition to stop my shadow from changing the filter to Moon (black & white).

Right now, that’s worth celebrating.


Recap of the current funk:

When a post about toolboxes turns into a post about constipation

Step 1 to fighting my shadow is always going back to Coach and his workouts at the gym. His nick-name is Dr. Booté (as explained here and here) because he is “good for the booty and good for the soul.” Which is 100% true. How many ppl do you know who have this much fun while suffering?

 

I went once last week. I felt immediately more stable. That gym tho. It truly is a remarkable place. A safe haven.

I went on Tuesday, where we lifted very heavy shit, and did a circuit to end all circuits.

I went yesterday. I had a knot in my left thigh. Coach massaged it, I did squats, and felt a 2nd knot forming. By the end of the workout (which included another circuit to end all circuits – Coach is extremely creative in his methods to make us suffer and sweat!), I was pretty sure my leg had transformed itself into one giant knot. No muscle, no fat, no bone, just knot. Today, I woke up and apparently I’ve put on 5lbs overnight: water retention, my body’s usual reaction to brutal workouts as it attempts to heal itself. Also? I’ve been constipated for the past 3 days, my body’s usual reaction to extreme stress. Am I stressed at work? Yeah kinda, but really? my body is stressed because IT THINKS I AM DYING FROM BRUTAL PHYSICAL ASSAULT.

Who said going to the gym was good for you? I am a bloated, constipated cripple.

Yet…

I really do feel better. While I’ve been abiding by my therapist’s orders to move almost every day for at least 30mins, bc of all my dancing, I now realize that isn’t enough. I need the next level release of endorphins which come from Coach’s brutal workouts. The fact that those workouts come with friends and a lot of laughter? Can’t hurt. Except for the extreme muscle soreness. That part hurts a lot.

So yeah. My body feels like it has the flu, but my mind feels better.

Also? I discovered adult coloring books.

 

My shadow is a worthy opponent, but it ain’t gonna beat me this time. Coach + coloring books. I’m all set, apparently.

Now about this constipation… How can I convince my body I am not dying, I put myself through those hellfire workouts on purpose?

#thestruggleisreal

 

Toddlers are so cute. Especially virtual ones.

My blog is 3 years old!!!!!!!

This blog means so much to me. It changed my life, proving to me that I have a voice. It is my baby, my virtual darling.

To celebrate, I spent way too much time re-reading my posts (#modest), reminiscing about the good times and bad. Behold, my favorite 10 posts: a motley crew of smiles and feels from the past 3 years.

  1. That time I had a real boxing fight
  2. Microsoft Paint is required for this story
  3. It’s like a Kinder surprise, but without the Kinder
  4. Mr. T has nothing on this guy
  5. My street cred: that time my bedroom radiator decided to take me down
  6. Clair de lune
  7. That time Vanilla tried to be sexy
  8. The Dynamo trip: bow ties and feelings
  9. All I’ve done is eat, chat and watch ppl smoke shisha
  10. My facial expressions are not correlated to my happiness levels

Thank you to everyone who takes time out of their busy days to read my words.

Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for caring.

Thank you.

And thank your mama too.