Hard to say when exactly my mental health issues kicked in. I guess it came in stages. Below are some of the people, animals, and scenes from the better times in my life, in random order.
Ironically, I only have maybe 2-3 pics max of people who were my closest friends for years (and I be lucky if it’s a good photo). Clearly, I come from a different generation than Millenials etc — lol!!
And soon to come is a poorly recorded video of our high school pop band, Deep-Six, which I formed with my friend V.
A. at my going-away party. I was planning to work and travel my way around the world — until I learned just how difficult it is to get a work visa. (I actually cooked a decent meal for 10. Hasn’t happened since, lol.)
Time-out from a great learning event with E, S, R, P, and others.
C. and I
V. and I were ‘alter egos’ who spent every day together for 5 years of high school — sharing the same classes, eating lunch in our ‘niche’, hanging out after school, going to occasional concerts and clubbing, etc. V. and A. (above) were much more academically-oriented than me, though. I basically had to drop all streams, except English / Social Studies / Music; and by some miracle I made it through Gr. 13 French.
Our extra-curriculars kept us busy, too, with student committees, and playing in multiple bands. We also formed our own band, Deep-Six (name chosen by our lead singer, Alex), and performed at every school Assembly for several years. We received a spontaneous Standing Ovation from 200-plus people at our final performance. It was the single most fulfilling moment of my life. Everyone totally unified by music, for a brief time. Giving with your whole heart, and having it be received.
(I have so few pics of good friends, during this important time in my life.)
Devon, our 2nd dog, who was more my mother’s companion.
My Dad is a stereotypical engineer, and we often butt heads. This pic is from one of his summer jobs, before working at Ontario Hydro’s head office for 20-plus years (no pics).
(Although my dad worked for OH, he kept quite a few books on renewable energy since the 1960s-70s — eg, on hydropower, solar, wind, as well as on aquaculture and hydroponics. So often people get demonized, when they could be a good ally. And just to clarify, I don’t mention dates to show off so much as a defensive response to the kinds of attitudes/assumptions I have so often experienced from others.)
Below: My cousins and I, lol.
Above: D. and I were true-blue friends from Gr. 9 onward. One funny coincidence is, 10 years after graduating university, we both found ourselves working at Scotiabank Head Office – he as a chartered accountant, and me as a dishwasher in the cafeteria. I liked and appreciated my job, nevertheless, and was getting positive comments from managers; but once again, my complex PTSD and uncontrollable reactions towards people kicked in. (My supervisor confided in me that her first baby died from SIDS, and I just started to smile nervously. Ack! I got let go the next day.)
Anyway, D. married another of our close friends and started a family. Our friendship seemed timeless, until my eventual nervous breakdown, which coincided with their 2-year move to Vienna, Austria.
1) I worked and travelled in Asia after university, and these are some of the friends I made there — friends of the heart.
2) My mom, aunt, cousin and I. (I’m not a follower of Shiva; just thought it was an exquisite ￼cloth print.)
3) Halloween during frosh year at Western.
Pictured above is Kiran Bedi and my then-landlady, Mrs. S. Few people are fortunate enough to meet the folks they most admire in the world.
Bedi has a lifetime of outstanding achievements, including being India’s first woman police officer. A fearless leader, she eventually became Inspector General of the world’s largest jail in a democratic country (10,000-plus male and female inmates), transforming it from a brutal, corrupt, filthy ‘hell-hole’ into a socio-environmental nirvana. The prisoners engaged in yoga, meditation, language exchange, tree-planting, composting, bread-baking and fundraising for a prisoner’s family fund, etc. And the guards became guards — no longer tormentors, rapists, and pimps. It was a totally innovative and holistic transformation in just 2 years!
I could go on and on about what this incredible woman has accomplished in a seriously male-dominated culture. As a rookie cop, she even gave a parking ticket to the then-Prime Minister of India for being double-parked, lol. This, in a country where police are notoriously corrupt or apathetic, and the ‘little people’ can be punished – or worse – for the tiniest of slights. Talk about brave! You could even say, for awhile, Kiran Bedi single-handedly brought back the rule of law in a country desperately in need of a hero.
Above: My manual laundry washer and hand-wringer from a more eco-positive time (post-2001).
My strong-minded grandmother, on a family trip to Thailand.
She raised 4 children/teens, after my estranged grandfather deserted them all. And my father put himself and his 3 siblings through university.
When my Mama arrived in Canada in 1970, she immediately started taking ESL (in her 50s), and managed quite well. Yet, there was always a cultural and language gap between us, although I loved her dearly. What I came to appreciate later in life is how much she did for her family.
My adopted grandparents, Grandpa and Grandma O, at their 50th wedding anniversary. Growing up, their sense of humour and respect for personal autonomy, individuality, privacy, etc — plus self-sufficiency and love of the great outdoors — all made a deep impression upon my young self.
Above: My parents, Aunt Winnie, her friend, and the O’s, before I was born. My Dad boarded with the O’s when he was studying at Queen’s Uni (1958-61), and they quickly became like family.
I also have a pic of my maternal grandfather and I, which I must find. He’s extremely dear to me, and in a more natural, less duty-bound way. His lack of favouritism among his 6 children, and his total love for and devotion towards his mentally-handicapped son (my Uncle J.) has always touched and inspired me.
Until I reached adulthood, my family on both sides were never physically demonstrative. So when my grandfather was nearing the end, I kissed him on the forehead for the first time in my life, and such a look of peace came over him, before he drifted off to sleep. Sometimes, it’s those little moments that we carry in our hearts forever.
Below: My uni roommates (S, L).
S., the first guy I felt totally myself with!
I enjoyed playing soccer for 16 fun years –yet the best times were definitely after I became legal! I lost my favourite team pic, unfortunately.
Below: Another uni roommate, for a short time (S).
Above: A display case that a friend, Joanne, and I put together to promote our high school Spring Formal; just a small part of the overall preparations we did.
Hairstyle evolution: Two of my 3 faves, lol!
Above: One of my two dearest friends in the world (another picture to come). When I first met these two sisters in HK, they had arrived as total British hipsters — clubbing till dawn, with at least 3-4 guys chasing after them. We each￼ changed a￼ lot, and bonded through our shared spiritual experiences. Our time together was precious on car-free Lamma Island, a fishing village with sandy beaches and a global melting pot of residents (plus, a coal-fired power plant, unfortunately). Though time and distance may now separate us (Ireland, Australia/India?, Canada), I will be forever grateful for their profound friendship. They truly and unselfishly wished well for me – in this life and beyond.
S. and Jacob, my favourite dog of 4. I had found him abandoned on an aboriginal reserve. He and I went through hell together, due to 7 dreadful weeks of extremely hardy mites / scabies. Jacob also gave me my first and last taste of motherhood, by having to wake up every 2 hours to feed him, lol.
NOTE: I love our current dog Kira dearly, but she’s a little more aloof. Whereas Jacob and I had a bond: he was my son, and I was his mother.
Sylvester — the friendliest, most healing cat I ever met.
The lovely nuns of Tien Bao Temple, Vietnam.
(I have pics of other countries I travelled to, including from 2 trips to Europe, but they’re not very good, unfortunately. Plus, gotta dig them out. So old school, lol.)
The W’s (plus C., above) were like a second family to me. I spent happy childhood summers in their small town of Frankford (pop. 5,000). We’d swim daily in the Trent River for hours; then, go berry-picking, or swim some more in a neighbour’s pool, etc. They also included me on their road trip to the Maritimes, in a GMC Jimmy (back when there were no rear-seatbelt laws, lol). Good times!
Above: My dear friend S. and Hare Krishna devotees in the Yamuna River, India.
My aunt’s good friend, Betty, an activist Indigenous woman and her granddaughter F. at Waterton Lakes, Alberta.
A little guesthouse in Vietnam.
My grandmother’s sister had married and had children, but eventually renounced the world and became a Buddhist nun. Her mini-temple was an unbelievable off-grid bamboo forest oasis, bounded by towering skyscrapers. I’m not a follower of Buddhism personally, yet I do appreciate some of their practices, like vegetarianism, respect for sentient life, and trying to cultivate both inner and outer peace.
The ads above were created for an eco-slogan contest, and are designed around a former employer’s corporate theme. My friend Gavin came up with the brilliant play on words; I came up with the slogan. We collaborated on the visuals, except for the second one, which is my mine (done after the contest). I made some t-shirt designs, as well, and used scratch ‘n’ sniff crayons (pine, rose, snow) on all the visuals, though multi-sensory marketing wasn’t really a thing, back then. The ads were eventually done up for public use.
A poem I wrote in high school:
Hope to touch your gilded wings
Hope to see the light of things.
The bird of peace’s endless flight
Upon soldiers’ tombs she did alight.
Softly she did cry for those
Whose foolish war had brought their woes.
Senseless pain from loved ones wrought
Freedom, for their deaths, was bought.
Helpless tears their families cried
In pure vain, their children died.
Hope that someday wisdom will shine
Hope that peace will be yours and mine.
(LC, January 1986)