happiness

A little Russian with your chanting?

My grandmother wanted a hymn, the Song of Simeon the God-Bearer, to be sung at her burial by an all-male choir. When she told my uncle of this wish a few years back, he pointed out that in the Russian Orthodox Christian tradition, we do not sing hymns next to the casket, something my grandmother was well aware of. That ended the conversation.

Until, last week, when my uncle saw that she put the request in her will. #LOL

If that isn’t the perfect example of a pragmatic Russian Baboushka, I dunno what is.

But wait, you say. Isn’t that a rather risky request? It can’t be that easy to find an all-male choir that is available on short-notice to sing a hymn they may or may not know on a Tuesday mid-afternoon at a funeral. What about the cost? What if it just can’t be done. What a burden to impose on her children, the risk an unfulfilled request. How could she?!

Because she was Russian. Music is in our blood. All it takes at any Russian gathering is a few shots of vodka and copious amounts of wine, and heyooooo the singing starts. And that’s exactly what happened here. The night before the funeral, my father and my uncle and their cousin practiced the hymn a handful of times. No sweat.

It was a beautiful moment, the next day, at the funeral.

My father (left), my uncle (right), their cousin (middle). It’s a 4 part melody, so they adlibbed and improvised à trois. #nailedit.


My grandmother died on June 30th, 2018. She was 97.

It’s rather incredible, when you think about it. She was born 4 years after the Russian revolution, part of the massive exodus of Russians who fled and found security in France. She lived through WWII in Occupied France. She met my grandfather in Paris right after the war. The first time he saw her at a party, he told his cousin, “that’s the woman I am going to marry” and a few weeks later, he did. They had 3 boys together in 4 years, and in 1952, moved to North America, first to Long Island, NY and then after my grandfather retired, back to Ottawa, Canada.

  • She lived through the Kennedy years, and his assassination;
  • She lived through MLK; she saw the civil rights movement live;
  • She was in the USA when birth control was approved and feminism was born;
  • She lived through the Vietnam war, and the social turmoil it caused;
  • She was in the States when NASA put a man on the moon.
  • She was in Canada during the years when the first Trudeau was in power;
  • She maintained correspondence with her family in Russia throughout the Cold War;
  • She lived and visited Europe before it was the EU;
  • She lived most of her life in a world where internet did not yet exist – she wrote hand-written letters her whole life;
  • She never owned a cell-phone;
  • She never drove a car;
  • She could knit the most fantastic intricate outfits, masterpieces really;
  • Her husband was a proto-deacon, and her son, my father, became a priest, but her knowledge of liturgy and canon law was extensive without being academic;
  • She buried her brother, sister-in-law, husband and two of her daughters-in-law;
  • She met her great-grandchildren.

That’s a life.


I love this video so much. I’ve watched it possibly a hundred times. I’m so happy my uncle’s wife recognized the value of those moments and filmed them with her ipad.

Is it perfect? No.

Are they the best vocalists out there? No.

Is it sleek and professional and high def? No.

But is it it’s own form of beautiful and good? Yes. I posted it on my personal Facebook page. 89 likes. 5 shares. 1.4K views. 44 comments. People responded to this video. Friends and coworkers that are not of Russian descent, have never met my family, have no personal bias whatsoever that could cause them to react more favorably than warranted, wrote to me to say how lovely they found it.

It made me realize. Sometimes, I take certain aspects of my family and myself for granted. It is not everyone that can whip up on such short notice a nice rendition of a hymn to be performed publicly. This capacity to be the music is a talent and should be appreciated, even if the only form of expression it ever takes is in songs sung at family gatherings. It is not the size and scope of its impact that determines it’s goodness. It is that it is.

This made me question how I view myself. I often believe that because my blog has not achieved success or widespread readership, my writing is nothing special. But that is not true – I have a voice, and my voice does matter; it is better that I speak it than I remain silent. I definitely believe that because my dancing is not as good as so many others that I see around me and on the web, that it is worthless. But that is also not true. When I dance, truly, for myself, I radiate joy, and joy makes the world a happier place. It doesn’t matter that the rays of my joy only impact my partner at the moment and whoever happens to notice us on the dancefloor. What matters is that there was a moment of joy.

Joy is a form of beauty.

And beauty can save the world.

I think it is time I start searching for the little beauties in this world, in myself and those around me.


I wonder if my grandmother realized what the legacy of her will would be. #wisdom

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Phase 7 feels like a reawakening

Friday evening, I landed in Montreal at 6pm. By 7pm, I was home. I weighed myself, and realized that my diet in Paris had been a tad too decadent, and there was no way I would fit into the dress I’d intended to wear to Dynamo’s sister’s (#family) wedding the next day, Saturday evening. Time for some impromptu shopping.

25 minutes, 1 store, 2nd dress I tried on, $100CAD (aka monopoly money), I was done. In bed by 9:45pm.

Y’all, the jet lag this time was no joke. I woke up at 10am on Saturday feeling concussed. I dragged myself to the nearest coffee shop by 11am, determined to pass the time vertically until my 2pm hair appointment. Not because I wanted to be vertical, but because I was pretty sure that sleeping 15 hours was not gonna help me recover from jet lag, nor was I certain I would be able to wake up again. My brain felt like it was cotton candy. I drank two lattes, and pinched myself to stay awake.

And I read.

One of the side effects of my depression has been an inability to concentrate. Brutal. For months, I couldn’t even bring myself to watch Netflix. I could only handle about 10 minutes at a time of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee or else RuPaul’s Drag Race (don’t ask – I hate reality TV. But those girls are just so shady and so funny and so real, you know? #goals). Movies? Forget about it. Poor DD. We used to go to movies on a bi-weekly basis. I think I’ve seen a total of 2 with her in 2018, the most recent one for her bday at the start of the month. Well. At the airport on the way to Paris, I spotted a new book by my favorite author, Susanna Kearsley (she’s Canadian, weeee). Figuring this was a good omen for the trip, I bought it. It was a good omen… but I didn’t read it while in Paris. Too busy seeing all the colors, which was most lovely and deserving of my full attention. But to come home and realize that those colors translated into a concrete improvement? The ability to read 30-40 pages in one sitting, despite a brain that desperately wanted a nap? SO EXCITING!!!!

I celebrated by getting myself a third latte and going to get my hair done for the wedding. Y’all. I’ve never done that. Never had hair long enough that I could do it, and never had an occasion where that seemed worthwhile. Some people do it for their annual Christmas party, but I’ve always been too much of a lazy tomboy to bother. Still, I knew what was expected of me for this wedding (Arab weddings are fancy, y’all).

After getting my hair teased and curled and pinned, no choice! Had to stay vertical up until the wedding time. So I went for a walk to buy some lacy undergarments (I do love me some lingerie!) and makeup. I then came home and, like Cher’s character in Moonstruck, reveled in the gradual and luxurious process of getting ready. I did my nails, slowly, while sipping on mimosas. I played classical music, loudly, on all the speakers in my home. I read some more. I did my make up bit by bit. With nice long rests in between each step, and a lot of boozy hydration. I was alone, and I really enjoyed my gradual transformation into a duchess for a day.

This past year stripped me of the energy or the resolve to take care of my appearance. As long as my body stayed relatively ok, I just couldn’t be bothered to try. Hair in a knot on the top of my head, no makeup, clothes that were clean and that were flattering, purchased back when I took pleasure in my appearance or could enter a store without anxiety or dread. With an overwhelming list of things draining me of my energy, I cut corners where I could, and that meant dispensing myself with the obligation to spend anything more than the bare minimum time required to shower on my appearance.

So, I’d forgotten. I forgotten that I quite enjoy feeling pretty. That I can feel pretty. That I like feeling pretty. That I like spending time on myself in order to feel pretty.

Remembering that was very satisfying.

And if I am gonna spend a few hours getting all glammed up… you know I am gonna knock it out of the park. #perfectionismevenwhendressingup

I’m loving these concrete indicators that I am doing better.

#allthecolors

#ifinishedthebookyesterdaymorning

#itwasakickasswedding


For a recap of this recent battle with depression, I have created a new page under the section Vulnerability – check it out: The Great Depression of 2017-2018.

All of the colors in Paris

Sunday. Landed in Paris, took a quick nap, then off I went for a little bit of solo-sightseeing. Y’all. There are SO many tourists in Paris during the summer months. No, I do not think of myself as a tourist. I am an invited guest. A wannabe Frenchie. Obvi.

ANYHOW.

I stopped by la Sainte Chapelle for the first time since 2012 to stare at the beautiful stained glass windows. Then I skipped over a few blocks to attend Mass at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. An organ. A skilled choir. Pomp and circumstance. Mozart! A very French archbishop cracking very French jokes that only a small percentage of attendees understood, because Mass at Notre-Dame is packed with hundreds of Christian tourists from every corner of the earth. During Mass, Notre-Dame is no longer a historical monument, but a living breathing space where people find solace from their grief and pray for salvation. There is something very humbling about uttering the same prayers that have been said by thousands of people for the past 7 centuries. The current emotions mingle with those that fill the walls of that sacred place.

Sunday night, as is my habit, I went to the Louvre. The contrast of the modern art (pyramids) and the old grandeur is magical, preventing the Louvre from merely being a fancy building that hosts a vast quantity of antiques. It is anchored in our current day world.

That statue reminds me that this used to be a real palace with carriages and horses stomping their hooves impatiently amongst the bustling activity.

In case you are wondering, all the pics in this post were taken with my iPhone 8. And other than this pic and the next pic below, all pics in this post were taken solely by me. ICB helped me get the right composition for this one. Filters applied by me.

Usually, the passage way to the courtyard is deserted. On Sunday, there was a very talented cellist playing Bach’s cello suites. I stopped to listen for 15 minutes. The cello was my mother’s favorite instrument: my father’s wedding present to her was a cello + music lessons, which she never got to take advantage of because of her health that began to fail almost immediately after their marriage. It took her years to sell the cello. She liked looking at it, she said. What a mama. A mama that never got to see the Louvre. Who never got to see much, yet who gave me everything so that I could live my best life. Since her death, I’ve been sent to Paris 9 times for work. I felt so much joy and sorrow, standing in that courtyard, listening to that music, my heart tried to break through my body. Instead, I cried.

That is me, on the left, hiding behind the column. I didn’t want to distract the cellist with my tears. I was unaware that I was in ICB’s line of vision.

I’ve been listening to Elgar’s Enigma Variations on repeat this trip since Sunday night. #perfect #mood.


Monday, I stopped by the Jardins des Tuileries before (8:30pm) and after supper (10:00pm).

Unfortunately this pic doesn’t capture the brilliant blue skies, which I could barely see because of the bright sun.

Jardins des Tuileries is an oasis in the middle of Paris. Joggers at all hours, families with preschoolers, tourists, people taking naps in the lawn chairs around the fountain, business people taking a break for icecream, students reading books in the shade. These gardens are where Parisians find shelter from the hustle of the city. I’ve never seen it so quiet and peaceful as it was on Monday at 10:00pm.

That sky tho. NO FILTER. Let me write that one more time. NO. FILTER.

No filter AND so peaceful a pelican came and hung out with me.

Laters, dude. Also, would y’all LOOK at that sky.

As the pelican took flight to new discoveries, I decided it was time to lead ICB through Paris, to discover the Eiffel Tower. With the beautiful weather, and vivid skies, there would be many opportunities for spectacular pictures.


Spectacular doesn’t begin to cover it. It is a 40 minute walk from the Jardins des Tuileries to the Place Trocadero, according to Google. It took us over 2 hours because we kept stopping to take pictures. The number of times I heard ICB triumphantly exclaim, “That’s it! I am never taking a picture ever again in my life. Would you look at this shot? It is PERFECTION.”

That is Paris for ya. Perfection in beauty.

Oh hey, guess what. Yup. NO FILTER. Can you imagine walking by views like this daily?

As we walked, I talked. I told ICB of how Paris saved me following my mother’s death, when I was badly stuck in my grief. Of how I feel like I am coming home, every time I come to Paris. How I feel like I belong here, like a missing part of my identity is found as I walk through its streets.  How in Paris, I feel fully alive, being surrounded by such beauty encourages me to strive to find my own – because there is nothing more beautiful than being fully myself.

Paris is a CROWDED city. And yet, the power of it’s beauty is so strong that you just have to look around to see moments of peace and serenity.

We finally made it to Place Trocadero. We spent almost an hour there, in silence, soaking up the atmosphere. Sitting on the steps of the Place, listening to the talented street musicians sing pop songs in French accents, children laughing, adolescents flirting in the background. We ate box of macarons. ICB took 200 pictures of the Eiffel Tower, from every possible angle. As I sat back and watched him work, I felt deep contentment. Here I was, 24 hours from my birthday, seeing and feeling colors. All of the colors. What’s more, I’ve been feeling colors, intermittently but with increasing frequency, since beginning May. I am getting better. One year, day for day from the start of this vicious episode of depression, I am on my way to remission. I survived. Normally I feel depression strips me of so much of my life, time just slips through my helpless fingers, month after month, year after year. But as I watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle on Tuesday night, I felt gratitude. As Rainbow once told me, surviving deep pain and suffering opens us up to the capacity to see “all of the colors, so very brightly. It can be overwhelming sometimes, and tiring. But I wouldn’t trade the beauty that I can now see for anything.”

My depressions might steal from me the ability to see colors for long stretches of time… But my depressions make me kinder, more compassionate, and much more willing to take risks and live during those brief moments when my shadow is sleeping. Here I was in Paris, working at my dream job, accompanied by a guy I barely knew. Despite a bumpy start, we were having a total blast. I was enjoying every single moment without trying to determine anything about the future or what this means for “us” – who cares, really? This trip was a trip of memories and happiness, time well spent. I was taking the lessons I’d learned in Toulouse last year, and applying them in the best possible way.

I sat on those steps, under a sparkling Eiffel Tower, and cried tears of happiness and gratitude.


Yesterday was my birthday.

ICB surprised me with this present.

Vanilla, I know you slide into a world of no color, of black and white and grey. I know you find it hard, that it makes you suffer. Paris is your happy place, where you feel alive and see clearly. I want you to have this, so when things are not going well, you can look at it and remember those colors that you can and sometimes do see. I want you to remember the colors. I want you to see them.

Kindness, y’all. Wrecks me everytime.

There have been a lot of tears on this trip. For the first time in a long long time, these were the best kind of tears.

All of the colors.

All of them.


Previous Paris posts:

A Parisian pickle, ice cream melt and fatigued

ICB. Anyone who makes it past 3 dates gets his own page in the dating section of this blog. #doesnthappenfrequently

For 3rd year in a row, work is sending me to Paris for my birthday week. Yay! It just so happened ICB had a week off work at the same time, with no set plans. On a whim, I suggested he buy himself a plane ticket and join me. I didn’t think he’d do it, not really. He didn’t think he’d do it, not really. 3 weeks ago, he did it. We are leaving this Saturday. Imma work 12 hours a day, he will vacation 12 hours a day, and in the evenings we will meet up for a nice walkabout and a meal, and listen to each other’s stories.


Something is up with ICB. There’s been a sharp decrease in his texting over the past 2 weeks. I’d gotten used to his daily “Bon matin” texts, asking me how I’d slept. Last week he went 2.5 days without messaging me. I finally caved and asked him if he was ok. He had a lot going on he said, his silence was unintentional. 1-2 sentences later, he politely dismissed me. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is to never run after a guy. At best, they will allow the attention bc they are too lazy to refuse it (#freepussy #flattering); at worst, it will annoy them and they will ghost and whatever might have been is choked to death. So I accepted his dismissal and continued with my busy life. Friday, ICB called me at work to check up on me. Friday night, he asked to see me. We had a good time, although I did notice he was less chatty than before; he was tired from work, he said. Saturday, I told him how the silences of the week had made me feel – off balance, although I recognize he hates texting and has a lot going on. He agreed we’d find a better way. Ok. We would. Great.

Crickets this week. Unacknowledged messages of dancing events taking place in Paris. Hyperbolic delays in answering me. He’d warned me this would be a big week for him, but still. It’s hard to reconcile this version of ICB with the ICB who set an alarm for himself at 2:50am so he could call me to make sure I wouldn’t miss my 6am flight. My paranoid brain shakes herself awake. Reminds me of the time I convinced myself Beaut had a wife he kept hidden in his closet. Reminds me how it turns out I wasn’t far off. “Trust your gut” my paranoid brain whispers. I did tell ICB, in explicit detail, about my episodes of cognitive distortion. “Yes, yes it’s good you are so open about your mental health struggles. Best he find out now, so he can bail before either one of you gets attached. Because he will bail, it’s too much to handle.” I tell myself he can’t really be ghosting me – we are getting on the plane in 36 hours. “Yes well, now that he has gotten what he wanted out of you – a severely discounted trip to Paris, with a side dish of sex – why would he still pay attention to you? I thought you learned after the last dude that you shouldn’t try buy a dude’s affection. It never works.”

Y’all. I just wanted a fun trip to Paris. I don’t know how to raise this without sounding SO lame. “Hi, I know you dropped $700 to come hang out in Paris, but ummm, you don’t say Hi or pay enough attention to me.” I beg my brain to ease up just a few more days – I just wanted a fun trip. That’s all. One fun trip. I’ve been looking forward to sharing the anticipation of this trip with ICB. Watching his excitement of discovering a new city, my favorite city. Instead, we haven’t even discussed the logistics of getting to the airport tomorrow. At this point, I’m ready to sit back and see just how far he can take this. We each take our own taxi? Cross paths at the airport? Tempted to call the hotel and switch the reservation to 2 single beds. Then I feel bad: while this is the most extreme episode of shitty texting I’ve witnessed from him, he has always called or resurfaced. Maybe he is just busy. Maybe silence doesn’t mean an absence of thought about me – he can’t have forgotten about Paris, at very least. My paranoid brain smirks. “That is true. He cannot have forgotten about Paris. His silence means you are unimportant to him. Annoying. Just accept it. Your days of smiling are over.”

Seems like a reasonable approach to me.

OR… it could just be the FIFA world cup that is the issue.


I’ve struggled with my birthday for a long time. Adulting isn’t easy.

While I’ve always enjoyed being the center of attention, the past few birthdays have been very bittersweet, starting with my 25th birthday. Every birthday felt like a day of reckoning, where I realized just how far I was from achieving my dreams. With every additional year of reckoning, I felt increasingly stuck by how unsatisfactory my life had become. Sure – I had moments of happiness, but the weeks leading up to each birthday were filled with shame and regrets, as I accumulated years without any significant life events to validate that I was living life to the fullest.

Add to that the guilt and remorse I feel every year since my mother’s death:

My birthday and my mother’s death are forevermore linked in my mind, because on my 28th birthday, I couldn’t be bothered to find time to see my mother – I barely managed to squeeze in a phone call. She died unexpectedly 11 days later, on the day we were supposed to FINALLY see each other. I’m hoping that I’ll one day forgive myself for that. So yeah, the weeks leading up to my bday are also a period where I brace myself for the recurring wave of grief, of which my birthday is merely a foreshadow. It gets stronger the days following my bday, up until the anniversary of her death.

I can feel the increased volatility in my emotions lately, the familiar dread. Yes, spending my bday week in Paris has been a nice distraction these past few years, but the complicated emotions are still running in the background. It doesn’t help that my trip to France last summer was the catalyst to my slide into depression, that got progressively worse throughout the 2nd half of 2017. I am anxious to go back. I have many demons to face. I am hoping that by going to Paris I can close out the chapter of another year of my life stolen from me by my mental health. I want to start fresh. I want to celebrate. I want to hope that I can and will see life in color again, after living in a desaturated reality for the past 12 months.


At work, I’ve noticed a certain rigidity and intensity in my reactions. I am stressed, I am having trouble quietening my mind enough to be productive. I feel a little overwhelmed by my to do list. I am not remotely as prepared for my work trip as I should be and am behind on my Montreal deliverables. My boss has been checking in very frequently, asking me how I am doing and feeling. She typically only does that when she has reason to believe I am not ok. My little GAB sent me an email on Tuesday, asking if I was ok. I wasn’t – I was having a meltdown in the parking lot, hidden away, my favorite place to cry in summer months. GAB admitted to me yesterday that she could tell immediately on Monday morning that I was off, but generously suggested I seemed to be doing a bit better? Yeah, I suppose I am, but that is because I’ve lost the battle against procrastination. #cantwinthemall. I worry that the ppl in my life, professionally and personally, have to pay the price of my unstable mental health, which is unfair. I worry I am slipping back into my bad space of Oct-November. I tell myself that no, it is just a reasonable increase in stress from the fact that I am leveling up, getting better, and taking on more. This is the consequence of being healthier, my ability to take on more. And then I reread my post from December, and I worry. Maybe I bit off more than I could chew?


This is a lot to process. I need a lot of energy to handle all of these emotions. I need to give everything I’ve got.

I’m tired. So very tired.


Previous Paris posts:

Accounting: my passion, it turns out. Who knew?

A little context of my journey to becoming an accountant:

I failed out of engineering in 2004. I chose to put myself back through school in 2007, in night school for a whole year as an independent student to get my GPA up from the 1.wtv it was after engineering. Graduated top of my class in 2010, and the rest is history.

But why accounting? My mother burst out laughing when I told her. She thought it was a practical joke, no way somebody as creative as me could go into accounting. So why?

Because I wanted a job security, even in the worst of recessions or during wartime (granddaughter of WWII survivors). I wanted qualifications that were recognized across the country and easily harmonized in the US. I wanted a career that I could scale up or down, depending on my family situation, and when my husband would ditch me for a younger model, I’d be able to continue providing my children the standard of life that they were accustomed to. I wanted financial independence. The only career I could identify that met all those criteria was accounting, so without further ado, accounting was my career of choice. It never occurred to me to question whether or not I’d enjoy it. I had a goal and I was gonna achieve it. Which I did.


I interned at a mid-sized accounting firm in 2008-2009. I hated it. Everybody was so stiff. The drudgery of the work, the hours (little did I know! lol, such #innocence), the black and grey poorly cut suits. I felt trapped, having chosen a career that didn’t suit me, but I felt too old (LOL!!! little did I know!!!!) to start over AGAIN, so I kept at it, miserable.

After one 60 hour week during tax season, I brought my hundreth personal tax return to the head partner for review. He had some questions about some of the data. I explained that the client was unresponsive, the government unhelpful, so I just winged it, a reasonable wild-ass guess, an example of “creative accounting”. The partner took off his glasses,

Vanilla, don’t ever use those words creative accounting ever again. We are professionals. People rely on us. Our clients trust us. What we do matters. We aren’t saving lives, we are helping these individuals make the best decisions so as to maximize the returns on their hard-earned money. That money that pays for their children’s education, sick parents’ hospital bills and their nice vacations which is their just reward after working HARD to reach their level of success. We safeguard the results of their hard work. We free them up to make the best decisions, while protecting them from making mistakes. They trust us to watch out for them. It is our responsibility to always do the best job we can, so as to be worthy of that trust. That is all we can be. Every day. With every action we do. It is no easy task being worthy of trust.

I left his office, shaken.


I recently became a CPA mentor. In this capacity, I have the duty to monitor, guide, advise and shape CPA candidates throughout their 2 years of required experience for their professional title. My first mentee? My adorable little GAB (mentioned here and here. And here. Oh and, sassily… here.) She flip-flopped a lot before committing to accounting. She told me that if she could “become anything closely resembling” me, she was pretty sure she wouldn’t regret her career path.

My team has seen me stressed out of my mind. Laughing hysterically, swearing loudly, crying tears of doubt and insecurity. I am messy and myself. I let them know what parts of my behaviour they should NOT emulate in order to be successful. I’ve never been someone’s inspiration before.

They trust us to watch out for them.


I recently helped a friend clear up the last 4 years of undeclared tax returns, as a self-employed individual. It was frustrating, painstaking and there were moments where I feared I wouldn’t be able to sort through his mess of missing information. I developed multiple scenarios, read up on tax credits I’d never heard of before, and after 3 weeks and 100+ hours, I finally got him to file all 8 tax returns (provincial and federal), mere hours before the deadline. I was exhausted, fed up, and wanted to take a 3 day nap.

My friend hugged me, right after filing and paying. He had tears in his eyes, so grateful was he to have finally discharged his debt to the country that has been so very good to him since he immigrated a few years ago, coming from a place of poverty and violence. “I could never do what you do for a living, I would kill myself, I’d hate it so much. But I am so very grateful you do it, as well as you do. I am free, now. That is priceless. Thank you.”

We free them up to make the best decisions, while we protect them from making mistakes.


On my recent trip to Oregon, one of my coworkers told me that she had been very nervous to meet me, because “we work so hard here, and we didn’t want you to find us inadequate, or not understand what we do, and maybe get us in trouble.” I tried to explain, I do not have that kind of power within the company, and besides, my job is not to get people into trouble. It is to understand what we do as a company, find ways to do things a bit better, and to protect us against risk. My job is to make sure that the people who work on the front lines, in Sales and Operations, can be free to do what they do best, because behind the scenes, I’m making sure that we are properly guarded against human error and fraud. All it takes is 1 big error or 1 dishonest person to wipe out everyone’s hard work. Our bonuses, our reputations, our value on the market, gone. It’s my job to protect all the time, money, effort, teamwork that goes into making our company great.

It is no easy task being worthy of trust.


We published our financial statements on Thursday, following a few days of chaos. I cried 3x on Wednesday, convinced I wouldn’t make our May 31 deadline. Thursday was intense. I felt like I was flying, my mind working in overdrive, pulling everything together, and then suddenly at 6pm, there I was, holding signed financial statements. A year’s work, told in a numerical story. It seems miraculous, that I can summarize one year of operational struggles, wins and loss, mistakes and inspired decisions, hundreds of employees clocking into work day in and day out, late nights in the office and emergencies, promotions, and new hires, into a few dozen pages.

It is our responsibility to always do the best job we can, so as to be worthy of that trust. That is all we can be. Every day.


I love what I do. I am so very very grateful that my cynical decision in 2007 has granted me a life of satisfaction and purpose.

Little gifts

In March I attended MTC’s birthday house party. I was too exhausted for socializing, but I forced myself to go. She lives a 15 minute walk from my place, so I negotiated with myself that I would show up for 1.5-2 hours and then if necessary, I could make a quick getaway. I like MTC, and I knew everyone who would be attending: over the years her friends have become my own, thanks to her 2-3x annual get-togethers. Hers is a low stress, safe environment and I’d be able to fulfill my obligation as a friend.

I had a low-key good time, catching up with DD and a couple of other friends I hadn’t seen in a while. 1.5 hours elapsed and as I got ready to take my leave, one of MTC’s besties, Bloggerina, pulled me aside. I steeled myself for a well-meaning but tiring inquiry into my mental health. Instead, Bloggerina hugged me,

Vanilla, I’m so proud of you, of what you are doing for mental health. You might not realize it, but you are making a difference. I have a close friend who suffers from depression, he’s thought of ending his life before, and I didn’t know how to be there for him. We’ve had much better conversations since I read your blog. I tell him that I might not live through depression, but I read the words of someone who does, so I sorta get it. He has read your blog on some of his really bad days, and it helps. He feels less alone because you say the things that many people can’t. You share your struggle, you speak up, even when it can impact your career. Vanilla, don’t stop writing. You are making a difference. You are doing so much to counter mental health stigma. It doesn’t matter if your audience is small, every person in that audience is benefiting, which means they can have a positive impact in the lives of the people in their network. That is huge. You are changing lives and you don’t even know it. I know it’s hard for you right now. But I wanted you to know that your voice fucking matters. Who cares if you can’t write as much as before? Take your time. When you do manage to write, what you produce is amazing. Just keep writing as much as you can, when you can. I am so proud of you.


In beginning of May, I met up with a long-time reader of my blog and follower on Instagram. Rainbow was introduced to my blog through one of my cousins. Over the past year or so, she has DMd me a few times when a blog or IG post particularly resonated with her. She confessed to a conviction that had we lived in the same city, we’d be friends. When Rainbow realized she would be passing through Montreal, she wrote to me to suggest that we meet up. I agreed. That is how I found myself on a blind-date a few hours before my infamous ice cream evening with ICB.

I was nervous, a little. The interweb is a curious place. I’ve forged 2-3 virtual friendships with fellow bloggers, one of whom has repeatedly invited me to come visit her city. I’ve met up with one long-time reader 2 years ago, when I happened to be traveling to his city for work. It is very odd meeting someone who already knows so much about me, without actually knowing me. But it is also kinda wonderful.

 

Y’all. We had a fantastic time. 3 hours of raw, authentic, deep conversation. Rainbow was right. Had we lived in the same city, we definitely would be firm friends. She lives life the way I wish I could, if I didn’t have depression. She feels so much, the highs and the lows. “It’s like seeing all the colors, so brightly. Max saturation. It’s a little overwhelming sometimes, but so beautiful.” Yasss girl, #goals. Several times during our supper, I was amazed that such a vibrant woman could relate so strongly to my words, when most of my reality is opposite to hers: numb, muted, color blind. Then I understood: she could relate to my pain. Vibrant people all know pain, it is by embracing it that they develop their deep capacity for joy. And boy, did Rainbow ever emanate joy! In her presence I began to see the world in shades of color, for the first time in a long long time.

I came out of that encounter feeling deep gratitude. I will never forget that evening.


I share a considerable social circle with Kiddo. Kiddo is extremely private about his mental health, but having read my blog for the past 4 years, he has occasionally confided some of his social struggles to me. My openness of my (relatively mild) conditions has encouraged him to adopt a more transparent approach with some key figures in his life. He has been checking in on me as I struggled through the worst of my episode in Nov-Jan and encouraging me as I put up with the interminable waiting list for a psychiatrist, sharing some of his coping mechanisms from when he had found himself in a similar situation. Last week, Kiddo wrote to me to admit that he was once again having suicidal thoughts following a change in his medication. Not because he wanted me to intervene, but because voicing that was a necessary part of his acknowledgment the situation that he was doing everything he needed to do to address. A moment of vulnerability.


It has been hard, lately, to keep blogging. I’m more aware of the possible consequences, how intense my blog can appear to anyone who stumbles upon it. I’m more aware of the stigma of mental health on my career and dating prospects. I am exhausted always, so voluntarily choosing to be vulnerable on my blog seems like a Sisyphean feat. My sick brain whispers to me that I should just be quiet, to give up, my voice doesn’t matter. Except it does. I don’t quite understand how or why. But people read my blog and my words make a difference in their lives.

So even though all I wanna do is take a nap, imma kindly tell my brain to fuck off, and keep on writing.


Recap of this recent battle with depression:

Phase 5 feels like accountability

On Monday I had a series of doctors appointments.

I got bitched out by a nurse at one point, “Oh, so you know about the importance of exercise when it comes to mental health? Yet you are only exercising 1x a week? I see. And you know about the link of sugar and carbs on someone with your condition? Yet you tell me at least 20%-50% of your diet is processed carbs? Okay. Well. You should know that many therapists in the private sector refuse to take on mental health patients until the basics have been handled. You are very lucky that your GP has put you into the public healthcare stream. (*)”

Thanks for that, lady. Really, you are gonna give my sick brain ammunition to help it convince me that this is all my own fault? That if I just tried harder, I wouldn’t be in this mess, I wouldn’t be so unhappy? Only thoughts that spin through my head everysecondofeveryday, you, as a health care professional, you are gonna give credence to that corrosive narrative? Merci beaucoup. I needed that. On top of me having to handle my sick brain, you are now gonna suggest this is, at least partially, my own fault? Fan-fucking-tastic. It wasn’t hard enough already. News flash: If I am only working out 1x a week, it is because I can’t get my shit together to workout more often, despite knowing how much good it does me.

In the moment, I was too stunned to respond. I was angry, very very angry, but didn’t want to make a scene. Finished my appointments. Made it to the office 3 hours later than expected, cried from stress the entire commute at the office, cried when my boss asked me if I was ok, cried when my GAB gave me a cookie she’d set aside for me to make sure our coworkers didn’t eat everything before I got in. Worked for 3-4 hours, went home, and cried some more.

Yes, I know about diet and nutrition. They are the staples of my toolbox. As I wrote back in June 2016, all still true except for the Concerta which I’ve updated:

  • Concerta. For my ADD, but it is also an upper, and since going back on it since Feb, I’ve noticed a sight moderation in the potency of my mood swings.
  • Exercise. My therapist told me to never go more than 2 days without exercising – to view it as seriously as medication, that without it I would eventually need to medicate my brain’s inability to keep my emotions in check. Funny that when I need exercise the most, I feel like doing it the least. I get paralyzed by all that I have to do at work, and working out feels like a vanity. I blink, and 3 hours have gone by with nothing to show for it other than crippling anxiety about my unproductivity, and I stay late at the office to try make up for it, and skip my workout.
  • Diet. A well regulated diet, without too much sugar, helps keep my mood swings at bay. Like any female, anywhere, when I am emotional, I live off of bread, chocolate, and alcohol. Not because that is healthy, but because my soul demands it in exchange for not burning the world to the ground.
  • Friends. When I get into my funk, the last thing I want to do is to inflict my moodiness on any of my friends – besides, they are all so busy with their lives, they don’t have time for this.
  • Writing. I have writer’s block.
  • Sleep. Anxiety takes care of that, real good. I flip-flop between insomnia and overwhelming fatigue, and needing 12 hours a night.

Tuesday morning, late for work, but I packed my gym bag. Made it to the gym. Coach was very surprised to see me, because my weekly visit to the gym has typically been on Saturdays, if at all. I told him, outraged, the nurse’s comments. “Now that’s a lady who gets shit done. Yes! She did! I mean, you are here, aren’t you?! When was the last time you were here on a Tuesday. What’s that? November 2017? I thought so. She got shit done, alright. She played you just right.”

Coach, y’all. I love him, but damn, does he ever piss me off sometimes.

I renewed my membership on Tuesday. I made it to the gym on Thursday. 200% improvement. Coach smiled. He remains, as ever, Coach, the puppeteer.

So yeah. Apparently Imma be working out a helluva more often now. Time to try beat this shadow to the ground.

(*) “lucky” is a very relative term. The public healthcare system in Quebec is free (don’t get me started on our taxation model). And like in all things, what you pay is what you get. A waiting list of 6 months to see a psychiatrist because I am not deemed an emergency, since I am still employed and don’t have any physical self-harm tendencies.


Recap of this recent battle with depression: