A definite must-see! (just 3 mins.) Was directed to this in 2020, so definitely post-2001; but kindly read below.
Didn’t realize this page was supposed to be a memoir. Anyway, 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 poor quality video of our high school pop band, Deep-Six, which I formed with my friend V. Kindly filmed by dear friend D.
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.
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.
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.)
[Actually, the surveillance and harassment were well underway, by that point, and I was a person on the edge.]
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.
(I have so few pics of good friends, during this important time in my life. I tried to spread out my photos in random order, but for the past 20 or so years, I’m finding it’s impossible to please everyone.)
C. and I
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 had books on renewable energy dating back to the 60s — hydropower, solar, wind, as well as books on aquaculture and hydroponics. Too often, people get demonized, when they could be an ally — especially in pursuit of a healthy green and blue planet, something everyone needs to care about, eventually. Note: I foreground dates sometimes w.r.t. environmentalism, because of t attitudes I so often have experienced from others. I know; I may not always DO (often due to many factors or good reasons), but I do understand.)
Below: My cousins and I, lol.
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 abusers, rapists, and pimps. It was a totally innovative and holistic transformation in just 2 years!
I could go 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.
(I don’t like to dishonour any religion and have nothing but respect for the truly devout in any spiritual practice; but I was having a hard time deciding which pictures to include here, so deleted one (the first one has both Balaram and Radhika with Lord Krsna). Been trying to repost for days; now, they appear shrunken and blurry, below. Been having digital hacking since March 31/22 to present, May 2/22. Even the photos and videos my friend texts to me are the same way — basically, unviewable.)
India is the birthplace of so many things, including several religions. There are many things out of Hinduism (which includes Shivaism ), for example, that spoke to me in my spiritual searchings overseas. These ideas were mainly introduced to me through New Age concepts and, later, the Hare Krsna — frankly, I believe they are universal to all religions, for the most part. For example: 1) there being a creator(s), protector and transformer of the universe; 2) the concept of Shakti or creative life force energy; 3) Parvati, a wife and complementary, equal partner to the creator Shiva (masculine and feminine divine forces); 4) an Atman, or one’s primal self, a pure consciousness that is unchanging in the universe, and which exists separate from mind-body-ego; 5) the notion of a supreme consciousness greater than we humans; 6) the idea that demons and evil do exist; 7) the power of the lingam, and so on.
However, post-2001, Judaism and particularly the Kabbalah, plus the Tree of Life, have totally opened my eyes spiritually in a very systematic way, with empirical truths and knowledge that were seemingly all-powerful — ie, they reverberated simultaneously here on earth and in the heavens beyond. I cannot explain further. To the tiny extent I’ve been exposed, I’ve had first-hand knowings or experiences that truly all life here on earth is integrally linked to all things in the multiverse — literally every atom, or “mote of dust”, every thought, penstroke, letter or character you write, touchscreen app pixel — EVERYTHING IS INTERCONNECTED. It’s so awesome as to be overwhelming. Astrophysicist Carl Sagan and others have been so right. Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” video is a must-see!
Above: My manual laundry washer and hand-wringer from a more eco-positive time (post-2001).
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.
FYI – I never had a fight or serious disagreement with my mother until I was 18 (when she felt stressed by the pressures of parenting alone, as my father had gone off to Thailand to help his estranged father run his business — although not very successfully, I’m afraid). Nowadays, she and I and my father bicker quite often — for a lot of different reasons, but mostly financial issues. Ooh, that’s a whole long story I would love to tell in its entirety about how companies, organizations and institutions may actively defraud people. Why? Because they can and do. Nothing else better to do, apparently.
3) Halloween during frosh year at Western.
My strong-minded grandmother, on a family trip to Thailand. (She spent the last years of her life there, with my dad and 2 of his siblings. A phenomenal country!!)
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.
Unfortunately, I had a garfuffle with Grandpa O. towards the end of his life (it’s complicated, and I was not in the best mind space; my overall energies and boundaries have been an issue since the mid-90’s, which both my persecutors and my psychiatrist have done nothing to help with — the former exacerbated my conditions to the point of trauma and abuse; and the latter has rendered me totally incompetent in the eyes of society and the law, and there’s more). Most heartbreaking to me is Grandpa O. had written a letter to my mother and I, and had I known, I would’ve taken that opportunity to tell him how sorry I was. I didn’t have his contact info, and my mom didn’t mention the letter until after he passed. I’ve since sent him good prayers and many thoughts of appreciation, wishing him well wherever he may be.
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 Joseph) 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).
Above: S., another uni roommate for a short time.
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.
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 the five dearest friends I’ve had the blessings to know in this 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. I lived in various places in HK — including with J, who was my longest-standing 26-year friendship, until last year (2021), when he simply cut ties (note: he prefers to limit his online footprint, hence, no pics). Yet, my best overall living situation was definitely on car-free Lamma Island, with the sisters and other friends. Lamma Is. has 2 fishing villages, 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: no expectations, contrived scenarios, or conditions. They truly and unselfishly wished well for me – in this life and beyond.
Above: My dear friend S. and Hare Krishna devotees in the Yamuna River, India.
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!
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.
(Not to bring up petty and negative details, but since so many seem freely enabled to take potshots, I’d like to clarify that the company news article was written by the winner of the other prize, and somehow (?) they conveniently misquoted everything I had said. Many people push each other down. In any case, it’s all a wash. You can read my post on the subject to get the full back story of how I panicked and Gavin did not get his full and equal credit, or public recognition. Although he rightly surmised what I had not even considered — that as a published and gifted author / artist, he would naturally be seen as having virtually created everything: slogan, visuals, style, the overall ad, the multisensory aspect, and the various extras I had submitted — like ideas for creating corporate gifts and promotional merchandise, including a colour t-shirt graphic of a heart interlinked with the earth, etc (which was eye-catching for clothing, yet less of a billboard-style ad, as above). As I was an employee, and Gavin was not, we agreed to submit it under my name — not realizing how much of a stir our submissions would cause. I knew we would win; yet, I did not foresee us claiming both Best Slogan and Most Creative, and thereby winning 2 trips, for example. Nor did I expect it to be in the company paper. What then happened is perhaps unusual: they said each vacation prize is for just one person; so, by having won two prizes, it then becomes travel for 2. So nice. Yep, yet another company shafting the little folks. As I’ve watched all this “surveillance capitalism” in action for almost 22 years, and perhaps been its catalyst — the original little lab rat who could. To sum up, Gavin came up with the play on words; I came up with the slogan. He is the graphic artist; yet I was in various ways the creative director (asking how we make the ‘H’ fly through the air, and how to turn a heart into a planet — so both graphics were my idea, and the notion of using the company colours, branding, calligraphy brushstroke style — and even to use a heart and planet, at all, frankly. That’s how the final results were achieved: a totally 50/50 effort of combined talents.)
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)