A friend of mine sent me a message today about the steps to success; it’s filled with failures and littered with losses. As Winston Churchill said so eloquently, “success in not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” As usual, or so it seems, I’m once again butting heads with the patriarchy, in all it’s infinite power and self-righteous glory. Everywhere I turn in politics, in every party, I’m confronted by a sea of males who do not want to relinquish the overwhelming power they wield. They don’t want to talk about gender discrimination. It’s very frustrating when I’m communicating concerns about the entrenched sexism in a political institution, to a male, who was a friend, who has a position of power within that institution, and the response I get is, “I’m not going to apologize for being a man”, right off-the-bat. Instead of listening, this individual felt defensive (I wonder why?) and proceeded to offer the usual excuses. This individual is a member of the NB Masons, and he is steeped in patriarchal ideology. I’ve also been hit with, “well, it’s men that have put their names forward.” That’s great. Kudos tho those who care enough to selflessly offer up their life for service. What we need to ask ourselves, is why aren’t there more non-males and people of colour in the mix? Why? That is a question those who currently hold power need to ask of themselves. Why? What’s more concerning, is the number of men who hold positions of power in this institution. Former Executive Director: white male. Current Executive Director: white male. Former Interim Leader: white male. Current Interim Leader: white male. Treasurer: white male. Communications Director: white male. This is an institution that has embraced a culture of sexism and discrimination, whether intentional or unintentional. Good intentions or not, the end result is the same. People feel powerless. People feel alienated. People feel intimidated. People feel uncomfortable. People feel unseen. People feel unheard. Many of these individuals are females. Some are immigrants, some are non-binary, and some are ethnocultural or racial minorities. All are feeling like they are being shoved down. This is a problem. This is a problem that needs to be solved in a timely manner. This is a problem that requires acknowledgement. This is a problem that requires contrition. This is a problem that requires action. This is a problem that can be solved. Take heed:
The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.
Barrack Obama 2006
I have been lucky enough to find a circle of people who are very supportive. We have common goals. We also have common traumas. We have been drawn together because of our adversity. We share the pain of our horrific experiences with each other. We then bring more people into the fold. They share their pain and struggles with us. We bring more people into the fold. They teach us ways to overcome. We share our triumphs and our failures. We bring more people into the fold. We have a formidable coalition with great depth and diversity. Despite our combined education and vast experience, we are still faced with hitting a giant brick wall; patriarchy. I want to be very clear about something; it is not only men who are sexist; there are females who have benefited from and will benefit from patriarchy, and who are complicit in the discrimination of, and have participated, whether deliberately or inadvertently, in human right’s violations against other females. This is especially soul-crushing.
There are tools with which we can manage some of these crucial issues. There are principles we can adhere to, in order to have a conscious awareness of what is going on around us. These are situations in which we need to apply critical thinking. We need to ask ourselves, who, what, when, where, why, and how, we have arrived at this juncture. If we are forward-thinking we will see progress. If we keep clinging to the past, we will continue to foster intolerance in our environment. None of us have arrived at a place of perfection. I am an individual who has made many mistakes over the course of my life. Each time I have stumbled, I have recovered. It takes self-reflection, empathy, and humility, to put yourself in another’s shoes. Sometimes what we see is a reflection of our own doubts and insecurities, and we don’t like what we see, but we need to see it. We need to acknowledge it so that we can grow. We can’t just simply move on. We can’t. As much as we want closure, we can’t just close our eyes to the injustices that are taking place within our own establishment. We can set the way forward into the future. We can be a beacon of hope, instead of a well-guarded castle. We can use our failures and missteps to propel ourselves forward. Believe and be brave, but don’t be silent.
I was with my “partner”for 5 years. I’d had a crush on them for a few years before we got together, so naturally I was ecstatic when they finally asked me to get involved. I was completely enchanted. Did you ever believe in something so intrinsically that you would argue with anyone up and down, all day long, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Did you ever make excuses for some people, allow them to treat you badly, or speak to you with a threatening or intimidating tone, just to keep the peace? Of course you have, you’re a woman. Me too. I grew weary of being disappointed. I grew tired of giving myself endlessly to something that gave me nothing back. I showed loyalty above all else, and I got nothing. They knew I was proactive; a committed, hard worker. They knew I gave my all, and then some. It didn’t matter. I was disposable. My “partner” was my political party. I gave them the heave-ho. Yes, I am a former Liberal. Like many, I became disenchanted. I saw wrong being done and I refused to be a part of it. I refused to be quiet about It. I refused to be beaten down. I almost lost my life because of this party. They couldn’t beat me but they did knock me down. I got back up, dusted myself off, and became stronger. I have grown in the time since I left the Liberals. I honed my political skills any way I could. I stayed active. I helped write press releases for one party. I “dated” all parties. I was a campaign manager for one individual. I ended up running against this person and secured a second place finish in that election, our most recent snap election. An illegal election. A “fixed” election. The PC’s had every advantage. The rest of us had a level playing field with each other. For the rest of us, it was a fight for a second place finish. I won that battle. I came in second. I don’t care what anyone thinks or says, I’m very proud of that. I remained true to myself. I stayed honest. I stayed open. I was still battling mental illness while campaigning. I feel like I pulled off a small miracle, and so would most others, if they had any idea what I was going through.
She’s Going to Set you Free
.I’ve been trying to find a political “home” since leaving the Liberals. Getting into a new relationship is never easy. I considered my self a “free agent”. In some ways I still do. I think leaving a political party is like leaving a marriage. A part of it always remains with me. It is the experience in which I compare all others. If it weren’t for greed and ego, I’d probably still be with that party. When I go in, I go ALL in. Despite the perfect glove fit, my conscience wouldn’t let me abandon my principles; my integrity, my brutal honesty, and my impeccable work ethic. I was like the battered wife, I stayed as long as I could, to be as supportive as possible while they needed me, but then the threats came. I got backed into a corner. I fought my way out. It can come naturally to me, I’m a fighter. I had my disappear-bag packed and walked out the door, swinging at anyone who threatened me on the way out. I took a few hits but I also landed a few blows. It would make sense for one to think that this party is irrelevant to me now. They are and they aren’t. Things happened. Things I can’t erase. Things I can’t undo. Things I can’t ever forget. It is my experiences with this party that has shaped not only who I am as a politician, but who I am as a person. I may seem harsh and cold to some. I may seem appallingly know-it-all to others. Both are partly true. There’s good reason for that. I’ve had a lot of experience in the political arena, in many different areas. I’ve been a dedicated volunteer. I’ve given my time. Loads of it. I’ve given my hard-earned money. Too much of it. I’ve given my all, and lost myself in it. Each experience, and position I undertook taught me something; being a director of communications in a provincial leadership race, managing a campaign for a good candidate from a party in which I have little in common, knocking on endless doors, fundraising, coordinating volunteers, becoming a candidate and throwing my name and my life on a ballot. I’ve learned about the push and the pull. I’ve seen the grey in between the black and white. I’ve learned about compromise. I’ve learned humility. I’ve learned to listen, to really listen to what some people don’t say. Some of these experiences have taught me painful but valuable lessons. Some have been educational opportunities. Some have revealed things about myself that I didn’t recognize before. Some things I like. Some things, not so much, but it is all me. I love me. Part of growth is recognizing my own strengths and weaknesses. I am just like everyone else. I have both. My specialty is turning a perceived weakness into a strength; a negative into a positive, if you will. I do love a good challenge and I almost always favour the underdog. I’ll be making a move very soon, one way or the other. My passions take me where I need to be. My rallying cry will be heard by all. As I said previously, when I go in, I go all in, until I win.
I’ve made friends and forged alliances based on common ground. My friendships reach across every party line. I’m a firm believer that sometimes we need to be told exactly what we don’t want to hear. Nobody does that better than a friendly adversary. I’m very grateful for all the support I receive. It comes from many different directions. Right or left, it doesn’t matter to me what we call it. These labels are constructs that blur lines. What matters to me is that we move forward. What matters to me is that we write and support policies that progress the interests of every single New Brunswicker. What matters to me is breaking the stranglehold Irving has over our most precious natural resource. What matters to me is that all of us benefit from what is ours, not just one billionaire family and his friends. What matters to me is protecting our environment from corporations like Irving, who leave a lasting imprint on the biodiversity of our province, and not in a good way. What matters to me are human rights, healthcare, mental health help, equality, infrastructure, education, vision and dental care, just to name a few things. Call it what you will. What matters to me is that we respect and take care of each other. We are each other’s friends and neighbours. Be kind. Stay safe. Be well.
I am a bisexual woman. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. I am a politician. I am a strategist. I am a friend. I am a feminist. I am an ally. I am a matriarch. I am an activist. I am a collaborator. I am a host. I am a bridge-builder. I am a social justice warrior. I am an honest broker. I am a communications specialist. I am a leader. I am a truth-teller. I am a fighter. I am a force to be reckoned with; ask anyone. I know who I am and what I represent. What I am not, is a follower. What I am not is a person who allows wrong-doings to go unnoticed and unaccounted for. When I seek truth, I seek accountability and justice. I seek change. I take action. As I’ve already said, I’m a feminist, an inter-sectional feminist. I stand up for women, including trans and minority women. I fight for equality. That being said, there are women who lack the confidence to be an ally and a support for other women, for a multitude of reasons. I’d like to say that I don’t understand where these less-than-supportive women are coming from; unfortunately I do. I felt similar feelings when I was considerably younger and didn’t have the confidence and fortitude to recognize my strengths and talents. That can be chalked up to be sexually and physically abused. Nothing destroys self-worth quicker than being violated and made to not feel safe. Fast forward 15 years and I now know my place. I know my path. My leadership qualities have enabled me to be a mover and a shaker in a few areas, especially politically. I never back down. Politics in New Brunswick is a male-dominated institution. I was disappointed and very dismayed to discover when I was filling out my candidate papers to run for MLA in our recent snap election, all the wording on the forms are designed and worded in masculine language. It’s automatically assumed by our political institutions that the candidates will be male. That in itself sends a very sexist and discouraging message to would-be female politicians in New Brunswick. This is something that needs to be amended forthwith. Words matter. Women seeking a seat at the table is daunting enough in our patriarchal systems, we don’t need the extra discouragement.
Why I surround Myself With Supportive Women
I’ve had many naysayers in my life. These kinds of people project their own fear and insecurities onto us in the hopes of keeping us down; whether it be jealousy, lack of understanding, being close-minded, feeling threatened, or because of ambitions. The end result is the same. I found it very discouraging to have been initially told by a friend that she didn’t feel I would be accepted by a specific group. It weighed on my mind; not because I believed her, but because I couldn’t help but wonder why she would say such a thing. In short, I was led to believe I wasn’t good enough, or I was lacking in some way. I kept the conversation to myself for a time, to mull it over. I’m learning to respond, rather than react. I eventually discussed it with my friends and coalition members. They reminded me of of goals, of our mission. We help uplift and raise up other women. We support them in their endeavors, even politically. Two of us in our coalition ran for different parties. I still helped this woman, despite our different political banners, because it was the the right thing to do. There’s always a right thing to do. Don’t worry, I miss the mark sometimes too, but I own it.
Be You, Do You
I am well know for being fierce. I am also well known for being empathetic and kind. I am both of these women. I wear many hats. I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t need anyone’s approval. I don’t need anyone’s permission. I don’t need anyone’s guilt. I don’t need anyone’s negativity. I’ve been to hell and back but I survived. I didn’t just survive, I’ve thrived. I’ve had my moments of insecurity and doubts, we all do. Thankfully, I have the ability to reason, a support system I can rely on, and the respect of my peers. That does’t mean I don’t have adversary’s. I do. I’ve going to share a poem buy the Chartist poet, Charles Mackay.
“You have no enemies, you say? Alas! my friend, the boast is poor; He who has mingled in the fray of duty, that the brave endure, must have made foes! If you have none, small is the work that you’ve done. You’ve hit no traitor on the hip, you’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip, you’ve never turned the wrong to right, you’ve been a coward in the fight.”
Do not harm but take no sh*t. End of story. Be kind!
At one of my lowest points in my depression last year, I met a fabulous women who shared with me the most profound statement that has stuck with me since that day. She said, “Jen, you have a new tribe now.” It struck a cord with me, because, I had aligned myself with individuals and organizations with whom I had little in common. I always had to watch what I said and had to tow the line. I can’t express how grateful I am to have women and men with similar experiences, who back me up and support me. The incredible thing about these women is we have all faced our own hell and survived. We all came out the other side much stronger and with more determination than ever. We are so diverse and different that we mesh perfectly. We have similar aspirations and we are putting those ideas into action very soon. More will be revealed in a couple of days.
A Day At a Time
One of the things that has stood out to me throughout my life is, there’s always a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. I always aim to do the right thing. I have a big conscience and even bigger empathy. I’m still standing despite going through the horrific experiences I had last year. The most recent kick in the face I received was just a minor, temporary setback, if you could call it that. It was actually a stepping stone to bring to to avenues that align with my desire to help other women, especially minority women here in New Brunswick. There are more exiting things on the horizon for me and I intend on reaching out and grabbing them. If there’s one thing Covid 19 has taught me, it’s to live in the moment. I take nothing for granted. I use my struggles and my stories to help other women, to show them that they can get through whatever it is that is challenging them. I am powerful alone, but we are so much more powerful as a team. I’m exited about a new endeavor we have coming out through our Truth Movement NB, Women’s coalition. We will be announcing more about that in the coming days
Keep Holding On
I know we have every reason to feel positive here in New Brunswick, but we still have to be careful and not turn the inch we’ve been given into a yard. If we keep following the rules, we are going to come out of this. Lean on your friends, lean on your loved ones, and trust yourself that you will be able to get through this, stronger and more resilient than ever. I’m grateful for every day I get and the opportunity to help others. Be kind, be generous, be grateful, and be patient. We have better days ahead. Love ya’ll. Thanks for reading and for your support. feel free to leave a comment below. xoxo Jen
Our Peace and Serenity is Being Disturbed by Unimaginable Violence
A body was found in a dumpster in downtown Moncton recently. An angry man went on an unimaginable killing spree in Nova Scotia, taking with him not just human lives, but innocence forever lost by those left behind who are grieving and trying to make sense of the senseless. This is all taking place during the Covid 19 pandemic crisis. It is going to make it that much harder on the friends and loved ones of the deceased, because they won’t be able to gather together to mourn and grieve. This is heartbreaking. I hope somehow they find the love and comfort they need at this time to get through what’s sure to be extremely trying times ahead. Our hearts are with our neighbours, Nova Scotia.
It’s very hard to stay positive sometimes. Our lives are all different and we are all dealing with the stark reality that is Covid 19. I recently read an article on Facebook that stressed we are not all in the same boat. We are in different boats in the same storm because we can’t all get through this equally; not with the wealth disparity in New Brunswick. With every day that goes by that we don’t get to see our friends and loved ones, it gets that much more difficult, and the reality of this isolation sets in even harder. In light of recent traumatic events in the Maritimes, I’m sure it’s even much more difficult to focus on the positive. The thing is, where ever you are at emotionally in your head, that should determine what you need to do for you. If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the goings-on as of late, you might need to take a step back and refocus. As far as Covid 19 goes, we have reason to feel hopeful here in New Brunswick. A couple more weeks should have us a few more freedoms and fewer restrictions, as long as we keep doing what we need to do and STAY HOME.
Tie a knot and Hold On
I, like many others, have my good days and bad days during isolation. At times I feel so hopeful and though that feeling never leaves me, some days are harder to get through than others; not necessarily harder, but definitely longer. Some days I feel ambitious and accomplish many things, other days I feel the weight of being alone and laze about just passing the hours by, counting them down until a new day begins. Thankfully, new days bring new beginnings and I find my fire and my motivation to keep going. I bring myself back to taking small steps to get where I want to be, after isolation is over. I think this is very normal, I know I am not the only one who feels this way. We are going to have good days and bad days. Some people are having only bad days. My heart aches for those who are homeless or who do not have a good support system. I’d like to mention again, the Federal Government has set up a mental health help line directly related to Covid 19. If you should find yourself in a not-so-good-place, please reach out, to them or to someone else you can be safe with and whom you can trust. Just remember, if you are struggling, you are important, you matter, and please get help. Better days are coming. We are Canadians, we look out for one another.
There is Light at the end of the Tunnel
One of the most difficult things for me is not being able to see my kids or my granddaughter. We make the best of it with FaceTime, but it leaves more of a longing than satisfaction. I’m proud of my kids, my family, and most New Brunswicker’s for doing what we have to do to protect our most vulnerable. I’m very impressed when I am out and about for essentials, at how careful and how obedient everyone is with respect to social distancing. It’s very comforting to know that our small communities are doing their best to take of not only themselves and their family, but their communities as well. We all know what a resilient bunch New Brunswicker’s are, we don’t need anyone to tell us that. We know. With a few more weeks of isolation, we should see restrictions lifted. Premier Higgs has indicated a date of May 1st, 2020. I commend Premier Higgs for being an effective leader during this very difficult time for all of us. Are things going perfectly? No. Do I expect things to run perfectly? No. There are going to be mistakes made, there are going to be glitches, there is likely going to be some trepidation and confusion, but we will be okay. We are always going to be okay. We have each other, and we have a Federal and a Provincial government that are doing all they can do to ease the burden for our people. Thank you!
Worry Never Ends for Parents – Regardless of the age of the Child
We all have many worries, this is without a doubt hitting everyone we know pretty hard, Despite some rather negative things that happened to me recently, I still feel positive and I feel deep in my heart that things are going to work out. They always.do. My biggest worry now, is while my daughter is waiting for her lab to reopen at McGill, she is going to work in a Nursing Home in Montreal. I commend her for her compassion and her bravery, but as a mom, it’s going to make me worry just a little more. She’s smart and well-equipped with science, but the higher risk she’s going to be put under, will certainly weigh a little heavier on me in the near future.
Staying Home is Boring – Let’s face It
I know it as well as everyone else. Some days are better than others. It doesn’t matter how bored we get, or how much we miss our friends and loved ones, we need to remain vigilant for a little while longer. It’s so boring and there’s so little going on that I don’t have much to say, which is unusual for me. I just want to thank again all our first responders, our health professionals, and everyone out there working to make our lives seem semi-normal. We wouldn’t make it through this without your selfless giving and doing the right thing when called upon. We all owe you debts we will never be able to repay. Hang tight everyone. Stay home. Stay connected. Stay healthy. Stay well. – Love ya’ll Jen
It would come as no big surprise to some people that I get angry sometimes. I get angry at injustice. I get angry when I see unfairness. Yes, I know life is unfair sometimes. Someone just reminded me of that that miserable little fact recently. I know it true, but it doesn’t mean I have to just bend over. I can raise my fist in anger and spit fire. If I’m angry at dishonestly and injustice, I can accept it, but I’m going to get mouthy about it, especially if it’s the rich and/or powerful, who are screwing me over. I’m going to make a loud noise; because, you know why? I can. It’s okay for me to feel pissed off. It’s okay for me to feel used. It’s okay for me to feel frustrated. It’s okay for me to feel whatever the fuck it is I’m feeling. My feelings are real and nobody gets to deny me what I feel. Nobody. It’s the people in life who hold the power that very often make life unfair for us “ne’er do wells” in New Brunswick. I don’t know very many people who aren’t struggling right now with the social isolation, but I don’t know many rich, affluent people, so I’m not sure what their struggles are right now. I know what they are not worrying about; worrying about money like the rest of us. We all share the worry about our health, and the health of our friends and loved ones. That’s all we have in common during the Covid 19 crisis. The rich are still doing okay. They have everything they want and they need, minus the connections and closeness with their loved ones, which does suck and it’s something every single one of us has to endure. They have all kinds of food, they have lots of gas for vehicles, they have the money to buy all the supplies they would need to carry them through this devastating time. They don’t have to choose between eating or filling a prescription. They aren’t worried about how they are going to pay an exorbitant NB Power bill. They don’t worry about getting disconnected. I have no idea what that would be like, neither do most people I know. Most people I know are struggling right now. Not just with money. They are struggling with this new reality of having no physical contact. They are struggling with the reality of job losses, like me. They are struggling with finding the food to feed their children who are now home all day, every day. They are struggling with just finding a few minutes out of a day to grab for themselves. They are worrying about a recent cancer diagnosis. They are grieving the death of a loved one. They are worried about finding a drive to get to an appointment or to the grocery store, but also face getting a fine because they don’t own a vehicle and can’t afford to pay for a delivery. They are grieving the loss of a miscarriage, a love lost. They are worried about whether to stay home with their kids, or put themselves at risk by still going to work everyday, knowing they could be exposing their own little kids to whatever they unintentionally bring home from work. They worry because they have to work. They need to work to live. They need to keep risking their health and their lives because they have rent to pay, and car payments, and student loan payments, and day care, and insurance payments. All of these worries with Covid 19 hanging over us like a black cloud. I feel like I should be worrying more than I am. I’m either stunned or I’m blessed because I believe things always work out for me. I know they will this time. I feel like I’m in the middle of the curve. I have a home, I have a vehicle, and I have a little bit of money, not much. I have no job, and I have mounting debt. Despite this, my determination is strong, my words are honest, and my courage is my power and my truth.
My biggest worry, of course, is my kids. My daughter did not handle the isolation well in the beginning. She’s used to putting in 10-12 hour days at the lab doing research. This has been her life for the last 3 years, so it’s been an adjustment to say the least; to an overachiever and someone who is always on the go, planning, working, and moving forward, the stand-still is like hitting a brick wall. She’s managing better now, and she and her research team are staying in close contact with each other. She is an exceptionally strong woman, she didn’t skip a masters degree, and end up as a 3rd yr PhD student, in one of the most demanding and competitive fields, in a prestigious university, by resting on her laurels. I know she’s got this. She’s my kid. She’s always going to come out on top. It’s all she knows. For now, she wait’s, not-so-patiently.
My son I worry a little more for, not because he’s any less capable, because in some ways, he is much more capable than his sister. He’s older, he’s more out-going and easier to approach. He’s very kind and very friendly, and he looks it. He has been through different experiences than his sister, that have demanded strength from him; he pulled though in stunning fashion. I worry because of his health. He has a neurological disorder that makes him prone to having serious seizures, thankfully it has been a couple of years since the last one, so my mind has relaxed a bit. He has been working from home for weeks, so I know his risk of exposure has been decreased, which brings me relief. I worry because he has a little girl, my sweet Presley. He raises her by himself in another city. Normally, they come and visit every weekend or at least every other weekend. It has been more that a few weekends since I’ve had them home for a visit. He finds the strength and does what he has to do everyday to be a good father to Presley, and he is…the best. As a parent, I’m always going to worry, it’s my job. This pandemic just makes things that much worse because there are unknown variables that we have no control over. We can take precautions, sure, but that’s like counting on a condom not to break at it’s peak moment. All we can do is trust, hold on, and hope for the best.
The Balancing Act
Life is kind of complicated right now, for everyone. We still have our ups and downs, with Covid 19 hanging over our heads as an added bonus. Though I have yet to see the good from all of this. One good thing I see is that our earth is getting a much needed break. That has to be a good thing. It most households, both parents go to work everyday, we have to in this economy. It takes every thing we have sometimes just to get though normal live and face what it throws at us. Maybe this forced isolation is giving those who should have taken a break and made them do it. I know for certain, I will appreciate so much more, the physical contact I always took for granted. I’m sure most of us will. The balancing act right now is a delicate thing. We want to project an aura of peace and of being positive, but let’s face it. Some of us are bad liars and it shows. I’m one of them. Honestly, most of the time I’m okay, more than okay in fact; just like everyone else I have my moments of weakness. I have my moments of feeling lost and without direction. These are but fleeting moments and I ground myself back to reality. I’m a smart, kick-ass, fearless, fighter. I got this. I got whatever or whomever life throws at me! Bring it!
Much love to all! Thank you for your continued support. I appreciate every single one of you so much. We stay together by staying connected. Please feel free to leave a comment or share! – Love ya’ll – Jen
I woke up this morning and as usual lately, went right for my phone and checked out my FB news feed. I keep looking for inspiration, for answers, for unity, for signs of courage, and for hope. There is a lot there, god love ya’ll for trying so hard. It’s important. Social media is a main way for us to all stay connected to each other right now. Among all the positive posts, are the real ones. I read this morning, my lifetime neighbour, whom I watched grow up into a beautiful and sensitive young woman, just find out she has breast cancer. She just lost her mother, who was still my neighbour, last year. This is heart-wrenching news for her and her family and friends. Another friend, who is a selfie queen, just posted a selfie for the first time in almost 2 weeks. She hasn’t been dealing well with the isolation, something many of us also struggle with. She finally felt strong enough to post one. One of these issues is physical, the other is a mental health issue. One is no less serious than the other. While it might seem to some that not feeling like posting a selfie is probably a good thing, what you fail to understand, are the underlying reasons behind WHY this woman didn’t feel like taking a selfie. We all face adversity and trauma in different ways. We are social beings, we rely on it, and we need each other to survive. Being forced into isolation can certainly cause a situational depression. I have no idea if this woman had any previous mental health issues, but not having the wherewithal or the gumption to do the things you would normally do is depressing. The situation we all find ourselves in right now, is depressing. It’s tough. It doesn’st mean everyone is clinically depressed and should seek treatment, but traumatic events can certainly cause a chemical imbalance in the brain causing severe depression and/or anxiety; depending on the severity of the trauma, even PTSD. Make no mistake, these mental illnesses can kill you. They are as legitimate as a heart attack or having diabetes. Nobody chooses mental illness, in fact, I’d bet most of us would give our right arm to be rid of it. One thing I do know for a fact is, depression can be beaten. I’ve done it. I had severe depression all of 2019, literally, from January until December. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, there were very good reasons for the decline in my mental health. Loss of a job, then loss of support, isolation and and being ostracized by certain people in an association, who knew either nothing about mental illness, or didn’t care that their actions or in actions could cause more harm to someone they knew to be severely struggling, helped plummet me to rock bottom in depression. If mental health help and awareness had been recognized and available, I might have been able to avoid the inevitable crash landing. For whatever reason, things happened the way they did. I’ve come out the other side much stronger, and more resilient. I’ve become less trusting in some ways and more trusting in others. I’ve become more fiercely determined, a trait I’m happy to have, but I’ve also developed more sensitivity, which I’m not thrilled about. I’m a tough woman. Everyone knows that. It’s been my reputation for my whole life. I hardly ever cried. Now I cry easily and it pisses me off. I think I held back tears so long, and now that the pressure cooker has blown it’s lid, I’m destined to get teary-eyed sometimes. I’d caution anyone who thinks that that is a weakness. It’s exactly the opposite. if it comes to the point where I cry, there is a storm brewing inside me that is trying to escape. I am a passionate woman. I do express my feelings, whatever they are. I do communicate exactly what I think, in no uncertain terms. I am a lot. I talk a lot. I get angry at lot at injustice. I am, to quote Gina Hatzis, “Too Much Woman”. Too loud, too aggressive, too outspoken, too bold, just too much. Like Gina, I won’t be shamed, I won’t be silenced, I won’t be cast aside, and I won’t have my hand tied behind my back (unless I want them to be).
The fact is, when any woman acts different from how she is expected to act, whether is be socially or culturally, she is challenged. She is challenged by men who do not know how to handle a strong, intelligent, confidant woman. If you are an attractive woman, the problem goes much deeper. Men have all the positions of power that they have because patriarchy has afforded men to be powerful, just by the advantages in the system itself, and by them having a penis. Many powerful men do not know how to handle an attractive, powerful female. It threatens them. They are uncomfortable with the balance of power. The dynamic scares them, they are unaccustomed to it. The reason why? The #metoo movement. Men, who may have crossed boundaries with women in the workplace in the past, are now scared to death to have anything misconstrued as a sexual harassment. Even men who may not have intentionally crossed boundaries are scared. This is much more prevalent in some institutions more so than others, but it’s especially prevalent in male dominated fields, where I have the pleasure of working on two separate occasions. I can tell because I can see the discomfort. I can tell by how careful men are by what they say, and how quickly they correct a potential faux pas. I can tell by the way they look at me, and then quickly look down at the floor. Women can just tell. We are used to it. We see it all the time. We’ve been dealing with it all of our lives. Most of us are not worried about the small trivial things I assure you. We are concerned with the things that hold us back, and we are concerned with being treated unfairly because of our gender. We want our place at the table and were getting it, so get used to setting a place for us. Sure, we’ve made our gains, and we have broken into power positions but we are still desperately outnumbered by men. Women have come into our time. Our power is just a breath away, it won’t come to you, reach out and grab it with me!
“When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to push you aside, you will know we are here”
Jen Smith the WordSmith
Thanks so much to all of you who continue to support me and who follow my blog. Much love, Jen
I had a really big blow. Big. Life-changing big. Painful big. Unexpected but somehow I feel like I shouldn’t be surprised. My instincts were right on the money I must say. My gut was telling me something but I wasn’t listening. I was processing in my mind what was not being said, but ever the optimist, I pushed it aside. Somehow I knew deep inside the blow was coming because my anxiety kicked into high gear, and my Doctor decided to up my anti-depressant. Good thing. My head just took too long to catch up with what my gut was already telling me. Nothing is normal. Nothing is as it should be. I just had a friend ask me, “how long do you think this “covid thing” is going to last.? I regurgitate the usual response I hear, “months probably, maybe longer. It could be a year or longer before we get back to normal; if we get back to normal.” Then it dawned on me, maybe this is our new normal? That is a depressing thought so I shove it down without flaming that fire. The “kick in the teeth” I just received made my defense mechanisms kick in. I am by myself in this world. No one looks out for me but me. I’m single – long time single. My parents and one of my brothers are ill. My brother is very ill, so all energy is focused towards helping him for some time now as he goes for dialysis three times a week in Saint John. My other brother and I live close to each other but we are worlds apart. Religion divides us, and patriarchy. My kids both live in other cities. My daughter lives in another province. I try not to bother them with my problems, they have enough. We all do right now. It’s not like I can go to the friends that I do have for support that I really need right now. I have to be alone, as does everyone else. I got angry, I lashed out, and then hurt set in. Well, the hurt was obviously there first but I like to convert it to anger, it seems easier to deal with initially. I do not recommend that process, it’s just the way I operate. It’s the way I’ve always been. I’ve had to stick up for myself, nobody else is going to do it. I know a sham when I see one. I know when I’m being fed a story. I’m able to read between the lines,and I pay attention to subtleties some others don’t notice. Communications is my gift, not just a job. So, in the face of adversity, I’m again calling on myself to look for the good. To see beyond the hurt and invite opportunity. I’m so thankful for technology right now, because the only thing that is getting me through this, is the ability to FaceTime and stay virtually connected. It’s not enough, but it will have to do for now. I know I am not alone. We are all facing adversity right now. All we can do is give it our best each day. Some days, we don’t have our best to give, but we keep trying. We keep holding on. We keep listening. We keeping reaching out. We keep holding on to the simple things in life that we often take for granted. A lesson I learned from my special Aunt Cyn. Her simple way of thinking and living would be the greatest lesson for any one during this difficult time. I’m grateful I had her in my life for as long as I did.
Tie a Knot and Hold On
I am always open about mental illness because I know that keeping it a secret only breeds shame. It has been used against me, a couple of different times. The people who feign support for mental illness and act or do things in a way that is contradictory of being supportive are dangerous people. People are dying because of COVID 19. The virus has taken their lives. There are definitely more to come. This pandemic is also going to take lives of people who never had the physical virus in the first place. This social isolation is horrible for anyone, but it is especially terrible for those who are struggling everyday, just trying to hold on to a reason to live. We are going to lose more people to suicide, it’s inevitable. The resources just are not there to help everyone, and the physical distancing is wreaking havoc on those who depend on face-to-face therapy and the physical contact with others to keep them here, living and holding onto hope. All I can say to anyone who is feeling this way, is just keep holding on. Better days are coming. Better weather is coming. Better opportunities are coming. Bad days and bad times never last for long. We will persevere. Hold on to hope and don’t give in to the fear.
Back on the Tracks Again
I had a really scary ride last year with a major depression. When it hit me, it felt like a brick in the face. Logically, I knew something was going on, but losing control of my ability to control my emotions and my thoughts, (the effects of depression) left me in a constant state of having my mind spinning around all the time. I couldn’t focus easily. I needed help. My ride ended with my train going right of the rails and into a full-blown train wreck. Luckily I survived, and I am still here for a reason. I recovered. I got help. I got medication. I got therapy. The combination of these things saved my life. Thankfully, I’m in a good place. I felt the claws of depression, brought on by anxiety about work, trying to dig into me. I felt my anxiety increasing, so I called my doctor right away. Despite the rather horrible news I was recently given, I still feel hopeful. I still feel like somehow things will work out for me. They always do, I make sure of it. Isolation will take it’s toll on me sometimes, but it will not get the best of me. Nothing and nobody will, I make sure of it. Peace and love my friends. Stay connected, stay safe, and stay home. Thanks for your continued support. If anyone has any thoughts to share, please feel free to do so, and leave a comment.
I am a fighter. I was born one. It was reinforced by having two older brothers who made me a little rougher around the edges. I am surprisingly sensitive and empathetic, which may shock some who know me, but when I feel I’ve been wronged or if I haven’t been treated fairly, my fire bursts into an inferno. When I see other vulnerable people being mistreated, it lights my fire. My initial reaction is to cry. Go figure. This is never to be mistaken as a weakness. My fire soon follows. The tears are just a pressure release. They help heal me. So does standing up for myself and for others. I have another unexpected mountain to climb, blow up, or embrace. I always want to talk things out. I always try to conduct myself with honour, honesty, and integrity. The battle I’m in for myself right now is especially harsh in light of the COVID 19 crisis. It feels especially cold and thoughtless, but it is what it is. I never go down without a fight, especially when I have such a high stake in it, and most especially when I know I am in the right. Sometimes life isn’t fair. I accept that. I accept that sometimes I will lose, but I will never, ever go down without swinging back.
“I may not be a lion, but I am a lion’s cub, and I have a lion’s heart.”
Queen Elizabeth 1
I am a lioness. I’m a fierce defender of myself, my family, my team. I’m a staunch defender of an underdog and the vulnerable. I choose to be positive in the face of adversity. In the mean time, I’m staying connected and hanging onto my friends for support. I’m using the tools I learned and am keeping myself busy. I’ve been writing up a storm; between my blog and my novel, which I recently picked up to finish, my keyboard is always in use. I am encouraged constantly by the words and messages of support I have received. When people tell me they’ve been inspired by my words or my experiences, both men and women, it gives me the gumption I need to go on, to keep up the battle. I received a message just this morning from someone who said they love my blog because it reminds them they have strength, even when they don’t feel like they do. They told me I’m as powerful as a tank. I am. It’s a relief to know that when I do go into battle, I don’t go alone. I have a ton of support and I’m so grateful for each and every one of you, you fuel my fire. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I Won’t Back Down
Please take care of yourselves. We can only beat this or get out of lock-down if we listen. Stay home and keep your distance from others. Wash your hands all the time. This COVID 19 is especially hard on those who are already struggling with mental illness. Please keep this in mind and continue to reach out to those who are struggling. Stay safe and stay well my friends. Much Love!
While it seems everyone else is counting the days that they have been in quarantine or in isolation, I, on the other hand, just let them pass by. I’m not keeping track. I’m just keeping busy. I’m not fixated on stats or numbers. I’m just living my life as simply as I can, filling my days by keeping in touch with family and friends, and writing. Writing is the only way that I feel I can stay in touch with where I’m at in my head and heart and it’s how I communicate what I’m feeling or what I’m going though. Throughout the process of writing, things are usually revealed to me. There is an astonishing connection between the mind and the “pen”, nowadays, a keyboard. My writing is a powerful tool that I usually put to good use. It helped me through my major depression last year. It connected me with other survivors of sexual abuse. It brought friends and allies to me, that I would have never considered, both men and women. My writing has been used to blow people up. It’s been used to hold people accountable, even myself. It’s an outlet. It’s a vibe. It’s a way of life for me. I found my tribe because of my writing. I found my tribe of females who have been though similar experiences, or those who just want to feel the connection of other women with a similar agenda. My writing has diversified my friendships. It has brought other women from other countries, religions, lifestyles, and cultures into my life. These minority women have taught me a great deal about my own privileged life, and about the additional barriers they face, in addition to being female. My writing has been my way out of isolation, and it will be again. There is nothing that can connect humans any better than feelings. We all have them. Sometimes we don’t know we are feeling an emotion until we read something that resonates and then we know; we know instinctively that we are never alone in our thoughts and our feelings. Whatever we are going through, someone else is too. You are not alone!
The Lighter Side of COVID 19 Life
It’s always nice to get a vacation from work, but this open-ended vacation was not what I had in mind, although It’s likely a good thing I don’t have to work right now because my attire has been bouncing between jogging pants, and leggings. My hair is out of control, my natural blonde and grey are in a battle against the dyed black hair, and they are winning. My hair fashion choices have been a bun or a ponytail. My eyebrows look like caterpillars; actually it looks like one caterpillar ate it’s sibling in a Darwinian-like fight for survival. I am so jealous of people who can do their own browns. I can’t nor should I ever try. I’m used to upkeep. Now I have to go and cut my own bangs just to hide my hideous eyebrows. Things could be worse I guess. COVID19 has also forced me to take a look at all the clutter around me. I Marie Kondo’d everything I could during the last how-ever-many-days-its-been. Thank god for my dog and my cat. They are by bff’s . I’m equally thankful to live in the country in an isolated spot. I only have a couple of neighbours that I never see. I like it that way. I like the privacy. I especially like it now that we are in a forced isolation. I have endless acres to explore with my dog, and my cat. Bear follows Achilles and me wherever we go on the property. I’m also glad I am single. It seems isolating with families with nowhere to go and little to do can be quite trying, according to all the fb posts I’m reading. Besides the lack of sex, thanks to COVID 19, being single is great. I have nobody to get on my nerves, besides myself. Maybe I’m getting on my dog’s nerves, who knows? I guess that’s our little secret. I’m just thankful to be getting all the puppy hugs and love that I am getting for now. Considering the circumstances, life is pretty good.
The Serious Side of COVID 19 Life
I am always going to find a lighter way of looking at things. I am the person who laughs at inappropriate moments. It’s a nervous laugh, and I really can’t help it. The more I try to control it, the harder I usually laugh. COVID 19 is no laughing matter. People are scared. People are sick. People are dying. That doesn’t mean we lose our heads. We need to keep things in perspective. We need to listen to our public health authorities. They know about what they are speaking. I keep hearing people say, “I feel fine”. Yes, moron, you may feel aces, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the virus. If you are carrying it and because you feel fine, and you go out about life like it’s normal, visiting and not listening, you’re a jerk. Stay home as much as possible. If you have to go out, keep your distance from people. Wash your hands all the time, and for god’s sake, don’t touch your face! The longer we don’t listen, the longer this will last, and the more people will get sick and potentially die. Just follow the advice of the experts, not Joe blow down the street who’s giving you the latest YouTube conspiracy theory. Fact check with known, approved sources. Stay safe and stay well my friends. We are going to get though this together. Much love to you all. Thanks for your continued support. – Jen
“When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to push you aside, you will know we are here”
It’s been two days since I have been sent home from work. Technically, I could’ve/should’ve stayed working for a couple of more days, but I am not ashamed to admit that it all got to me. Since our world, our country, and our province has been held under siege by COVID 19, my just-nicely-recovered brain and I have been in survival mode for the most part. I battled severe depression all last year. December 10th, 2019 was my rock bottom and subsequently, my turning point. I sought all the help I could get. I got professional help and I chose to take an antidepressant, recommended to me by my physician. A physical whom I trust, and who also trusts me. The benefit of being an upfront, honest person, is I am often given the benefit of the doubt. The reason for this is I am always honest about my short-comings, my mistakes, and my flaws. I am quick to acknowledge, admit, and apologize when I am wrong; and I have been wrong and have been required to apologize more often than I care to admit. Because of this COVID 19 crisis, I had to turn to my Dr this week. As soon as I felt familiar stirrings of my presently under-control-depression trying to sink its unforgiving claws in me, I didn’t withdrawal, but instead I reached out. I have no qualms about this. We are in a crisis right now, all of us. It’s depressing even for a person who isn’t clinically depressed. All of our regular routines interrupted for who knows how long. Going without seeing loved ones. Not being about to work. Not being about to hang out with friends. It sucks, hands down, sucks. Not only do we all have COVID 19 to worry about, life goes on amid this chaos. My dear friend just had a miscarriage. Another friend just lost a parent. Another lost a job. Several of my friend’s teenagers are really depressed. People don’t have enough food. People don’t have enough supplies. People are worried about power getting disconnected. People are losing income, that means even more people will have to decide between eating or taking prescribed medications. People are worried about their loved ones, especially their vulnerable loved ones. There is just so much to worry about right now. Guess what? We are going to be okay. We are going to make it through. We sacrifice in the short-term to gain in the long-term. We are going to be okay because we still have each other, maybe not in the same physical locality but we have each other in our minds, in our thoughts, and in our spirits. None of us are alone in this. We are going through this together, every one of us. Just like when Summer finally arrives, and we are all just killing it, enjoying every moment, and then it’s gone; so too will COVID 19. We will flatten the curve. We will do what we need to do to get through this, together.
What to Do,What To Do?
Anyone who knows me knows I am an individual who undertakes a lot. I work full time (until recently and for an unknown period of time). I am always on the go, often for political purposes, for one reason or another. I have spent a lot of my time volunteering for various politicians and their parties. I write a feminist blog. I co-founded a women’s coalition. I’ve helped write press releases and opt ed’s. My co-founders and I help everyone we can who reaches out to The Truth Movement.NB for help. Some we have been able to, some we were not. We spend our time uplifting other women. We spend our time raising the profiles of female or minority candidates running for office. We bring to light, tough issues, many don’t want to, or are afraid to talk about. We bring up women’s issues. We bring up women’s right’s. We bring up science. We bring up politics. We bring up homelessness and the unfair, unequal access to wealth in New Brunswick. These are passions of ours that feed our soul.
I have already announced my intentions to run as a Registered Independent Candidate for MLA in the New Maryland-Sunbury riding. This also takes up my time. One thing many of you may not know about me, is that I have been writing a novel for over 3 years. It hasn’t had as much attention as it surely deserves. I think while i’m on this forced down-time, I may delve back into it. I’m at an over 70 000 work count and just need to fill plot holes and finish the first draft. Those of you who know me well, would completely understand, if I don’t tame down the sex scenes, the only hope I would ever have in having it published, would be in an erotica genre…so back to the drawing board I go with my creativity.
The New Normal
As optimistic and positive thinking as I am, even I realize this isn’t going to end any time soon. There are so many people who put their lives on the line to keep us going. Believe me when I say I have extreme gratitude and respect for those working the front lines in the health fields, doctors, and the many friends I have who are nurses. Some of us get paid decent money to continue working. It’s not Irving-rich money, but by NB standards, our health care workers are paid well. Those in my mind the most right now are the kids and other poor people I see still working to bring us our creature comforts. Tim Horton’s workers, MacDonald’s workers, convenience store workers, Taxi drivers, Delivery Drivers etc.. It’s these low-income workers who are putting their lines on the line for a corporation who literally doesn’t care if an employee lives or dies. Production must continue. The bottom line is the bottom dollar. These kids wear no gloves. They are constantly exchanging cash with customers. Give me a frigging break. These are mostly minimum wage workers risking their lives to make us more comfortable. My hats goes off to every one of you. You are a brave lot, but I know that you are doing what you have to do to survive. You have no choice. I understand, and I’m so sorry. You’re not even well-compensated for all you are doing for us right now – helping us stay sane and the keeping up the appearance of “normal”. Thanks to all who are still working, everyone of you. Please be safe. Please keep your distance when out and about. Please wash your hands or sanitize like you’re getting paid to do it. Stay home if you can. As hard as it is, don’t go out visiting if possible. That being said, if any of you elite, well-stocked lot with loads of supplies, see us out and about more than once a week, mind your own damn business or offer help. Keep your judgement and big trap shut. Some are still surviving day to day.
Stay well, stay distanced, but stay connected. Social Media and good old-fashioned telephone calls are a life-saver right now. Cherish every moment. Tell everyone whom you care about that you love them. Reach out. Keep busy. Take care of yourself. Remember, you need to be well in order to help others. I was reminded of that last year by a person I very much respect and admire. My part of our collective journey to the unknown starts today. I am going to focus on my writing, and see were the day brings me. All I know I know is I am ready to lend a hand, or throw hands, whatever the situation calls for; after all, I am a proud #GearyGirl.
When this story first broke, our immediate futures still seemed so bright and positive. Although there were Canadians affected, it was on the other side of the world. Even I wasn’t really worried in the beginning; I should’ve known better. I, like the rest of us, assumed our health authorities and our elected officials were going to take every precaution to protect our province and our public health. This situation brings to mind Education Minister, Dominic Cardy’s, vaccination bill. Our admin, Courtney L.Smith, a medicinal chemist and a 3rd year PhD pharmacology candidate at McGill University, wrote an open letter, not so long ago, to our MLA’s, providing fact-based, verifiable, scientific information, with references provided. We pleaded with them to listen to the expertise of the scientists, and the reliability of the research, rather than the understandably, gut-wrenching, anecdotal, stories of parents’ of children with an unexplained illness. One of the questions I specifically asked our elected MLA’s in that open letter was, “is it going to take a epidemic of mass proportions to get you to reaffirm you belief in hard science?”
Funny enough, that’s exactly what it took for our party leaders to work together for the welfare of our people. They are finally listening to the public health experts. It took COVID 19 to open their eyes. I hope they remain open as we face these uncertain times, and that they keep putting their party and personal agendas by the wayside when it comes to the safety and well-being of our public health. Listen to the experts. As it turns out, our future is uncertain. It always was. None of us know when we are going to “bite it”. COVID 19 is like a lottery, and I’m not a gambler. I just batted my own mind last year and won, so I like my chances, no mater what happens, I’m going to make it.
Hope is Always Stronger than Fear
I love seeing my fb friends posting positive and funny memes. We need the laughs, at least I know I do. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t getting to me. My naturally optimistic personality is being challenged by “what if”, and the “what am I going to do?”. I’m trying to let go of it and just live in the moment, the thing is, this is easier said than done sometimes. The bomb I’ve been waiting for since this virus hit New Brunswick, dropped today. I got sent home from work. I knew it was coming. I thought I was mentally prepared, but I found myself unable to control my emotions today. It got to me. COVID 19 didn’t get me, but the far-reaching ramifications of it did. The isolation from friends and family sucks, that’s all there is to it. Not being able to work, for an undetermined time, is very anxiety-provoking. Worrying about money is stressful. Worrying about how I’ll make ends meet is stressful. Worrying about how I will help my daughter, now stuck in Montreal is stressful. Worrying about my son, who is a single father to my granddaughter, living alone in a another city, is stressful. Life is not normal right now. It’s not fun. It’s not a comfortable feeling; something feels just off-kilter. I know I am not alone in my feelings. Sometimes I feel like we are in the eye of the storm and the worst is yet to come, but I truly believe if we follow what we are advised to do by the experts, we will persevere. We won’t only persevere, we will come out the other side much stronger. What I’m trying to say is, don’t be fooled by the either the humdrum or the constant barrage of positive posts you see constantly on fb. All these people have weak moments too, believe me. We all do…every single one of us. You are not alone. It’s better to spread love and hope than hate and fear. We are all trying our very best to survive, thriving will come soon enough. I chose to hold on to the positive. Now is the time to be strong, for myself and for others. I have my weak moments too, but I always bounce back. We can choose to be positive, we can choose to be kind. We can choose to think of others less fortunate. We can choose to do better.
I have been very open about my struggles with depression last year, for a couple of different reasons: 1. I’ve lost count of the people (men and women) who have reached out to me because they felt hopeful or inspired by my story. 2. I will hold accountable, the individuals who helped harm me, to ensure it never happens to another person ever again. 3. Keeping my struggles a secret only helps perpetuate the shame and stigma associated with mental illness. I refuse to be a part of that. I refuse to feel the shame. I refuse to feel less-than, which incidentally, a politician recently tried hard to make me feel. I own this! I am this! I kick the shit out of mental illness because I use the resources and tools provided to me by health professionals. My mind is vigilant, and very attuned to any similarities, feelings, or thoughts that might lead me down a road I never want to travel again. Since this virus has upset, not just my world, but the world around me, I found myself having to push out thoughts that weren’t conducive to my recovery. I also found myself wanting to pull back from everyone and everything. Now, most of you would say, that’s just what we need to do right now, and I agree. For me, that can be a slippery slope of isolation, and not the healthy kind. l pulled myself back in. I called my Dr and she subsequently decided to increase the dose of my antidepressant. Even though I didn’t feel like it, I called my loved ones. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to them, it’s that I felt the hook trying to bring me down. I will not withdraw into myself again. I didn’t. I fought it, and took the necessary steps to regain track of what I am meant to do, and where I am meant to be.
As I had briefly mentioned above, I had a conversation with a politician recently. It was a private conversation. We disagreed about something, no biggie. I made a comment, that I absolutely feel, by the literal definition, to be one hundred percent truth. I didn’t mean it offensively, I just meant it as a point of fact, which it is. I would not be afraid to divulge the entire conversation, but I have a feeling this individual would prefer it remain between us. I have two reasons for bringing this up. 1. It’s important for me to be upfront and honest all the time. I don’t hide what I say, or what I’ve ever said. I don’t have to put on airs or pretend to be somebody I’m not. I don’t have to impress anybody. I am blunt and straightforward always. I act the same way with everyone I meet and everyone I talk to. 2. This politician used very cruel words to try to make me feel bad about myself. They used the words, “Frig you”, “People a lot better than you”, “stupidity like yours”, “Frig you” x2, and “you have a lot of jealousy and bitterness”. These words don’t even remotely hurt my feelings, but they were meant to. I assure you, that most of you would be shocked to know who this person is. Some of you wouldn’t be. This individual seemed to be taken back by the fact that I “dared question them or that I dared to speak my truth to them”. I think a lot, if not most, of our politicians are that way; they plaster on a smile and say all the right things when they are out in public and in the media. Get them back in the vehicles, or behind closed doors, or in a private conversation, and this is where you are going to see the real person, hiding behind the persona of a nice politician. If this individual, or any other politician, or political operative, needs to be reminded who I am; I’m Jen Fucking Smith, and don’t ever forget it. Peace and love to all. Stay safe my friends.
“When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to push you aside, you will know we are here.”
Some may find my attitude a little flippant, but if there’s one thing I like to do, it’s speak bluntly. Social isolation is about as bad as it could be for someone who relies on social contact for sexual encounters. Everybody in relationships are isolating together, so much so, that I’ve been hearing people joking about a baby boom in 9 months. I predict the same, or a hella lot more divorces. Time will tell. Well, a few weeks ago, Jen here was all ready to get my groove on and have some fun, or weekend sexcapades, as I like to call them. Mother nature had different plans for me; she got me really sick, with pneumonia as an added measure to keep me down and quiet. So quiet I stayed, at home and rested as much as possible, alone. I kept my plans to travel to Montreal to see my daughter, a PhD candidate at McGill. When I left Montreal, I was feeling like I was back to my pre-sick self, so when I returned home to New Brunswick, I was ready to let loose again. Surprise!!! Nope. Mother nature thwarted me yet again by interrupting my plans with an unexpected shark week. So, taking my cue from nature, I again took it easy for another week, eagerly anticipating my return to “normal life”. This was not to be because in the cruelest twist of fate, or one f’d up sense of humour by good ol’ mama nature, she unleashed a corona virus, COVID 19, which in effect, has again circumvented my efforts to have some fun. I don’t know what kind of a sick sense of humor mother nature has, but right now I’m not very appreciative of it; then again, maybe this is her way of protecting me from catching the virus, who knows. The point is, as much as it sucks, and it does suck, I am paying attention and I am listening to the experts. This virus is nothing to fool around with. We need to take this seriously. I am taking this seriously. I am not having any fun. Zero fun. I’ll live. We need the rest of ya’ll to take this seriously too.
What I realize, which a lot of politicians and some elite do not, is that so many people in New Brunswick have a hard time making ends meet. Many don’t have supplies stockpiled for two days, never mind two weeks. It’s easy for those who have everything they need, with lots of money, and resources to make sure they and their friends and families are okay, but there are too many Nber’s who are struggling. We need to keep reminding our politicians and our elite, that we are the poorest province in Canada. Many of our people are not doing well. They already have food insecurities, and the greediness of some people buying up everything they can, adds more needless anxiety to those who are poor or for those who are waiting to get paid. If you have weeks worth of supplies to carry you through, that’s great. I’m happy for you. Just get off your well-stocked, high horse towards others who do not have the luxury or the financial capabilities to take care of themselves the way the elite suggests. “Just isolate”, “get what you need ahead of time and stay home”, “don’t go to work, are you crazy”, or one of the best ones I’ve heard yet is, ” there’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t have 3 weeks worth of supplies built up in case of emergency”. I’ve heard these things from people in whom I have great respect. They don’t mean any harm. They just don’t recognize their own privileged position in life. What I find disappointing about it is, just how out of touch these people are with just how poor a lot of our people are. They are out of touch with the fact that people choose food over medications they need to take; sometimes that is life-saving medication. I started writing this blog post with a little lightheartedness because I think it’s important we keep our senses of humour, and god knows we could all use a break from the ominous seriousness that is COVID 19.
The long and short of it is, we are going to be okay. We will come together in spirit, rather than in person, and collectively knock the hell out of COVID 19. If there’s one thing NBer’s are known for, it’s being a strong and resilient bunch. We will see this through. Though this is a very anxiety-provoking situation we find ourselves in, we can alleviate these feelings by staying in touch with our support systems via social media or other mediums that don’t require close physical contact. Share the negative or depressing feelings with those in whom you feel safe and are able to trust. Don’t bottle things up. If you need help, ask for it. It’s when everything seems like it’s going wrong, that you may feel like you are coming to the end of your rope. if this happens, tie a knot and hold on for dear life. This will not last forever, and neither will your bad feelings or your bad day. Hang in there folks. This will all be over before we know it, and we will, I hope, have learned some valuable lessons. See ya’ll after isolation ends. Jen Smith
I grew up about ten minutes from, Oromocto, in the middle of the woods; one of the last, sparsely, spaced houses at the end of a dead-end road. In the country, in the middle of nowhere, Geary. I’ve always loved where I lived, I still do to this day. It’s a very different life than growing up in the city. Each way of life has its advantages and disadvantages. I learned things at which some city girls would be aghast. That’s okay though. We are all meant to be different and we all have our own strengths. I’ve always been one to do things on my own, but during the past year, I have been learning to ask for help. It’s getting a little easier now. Humility is a wonderful lesson. We all have something to be grateful for. I can’t help but reflect on the reasons why I love my community so much. Everything that I have learned, I learned country-style.
I was brought up in the seventies and eighties. It wasn’t just a different time. It was a different planet, in a different universe, compared to how things are now. My father worked for the government, so he was home most evening and weekends. I followed him around outdoors, instead of helping my mother with indoor chores. They probably wanted me outside so I could burn off excess energy, and I had plenty of it. There was no such thing as an ADHD diagnosis back in those days. No, I was labelled hyperactive and henceforth on, was put on a more restrive diet. The number one thing to go from my meal repertoire was sugar, in any shape or form. I’m thankful I had friends to help me out by sharing their chocolate bars, or treats with me. This usually ended up with me “acting out”. I’d talk incessently, and get myself and whomever I was “pestering” in trouble for talking during class hours. Weekends were a mixed blessing. It was awesome to be out of school but Saturday’s in my house growing up were work days. That’s when we got all the chores done, the extra chores. We went out in our wood lot and cut down trees for the wood stove. This meant splitting the wood, loading it in trailers, unloading in our yard and tossing it in basement , just to get ranked again. I followed my father around and watched him work on cars, change tires, and other general duties required to maintain a home and yard. I learned that work comes first and play comes after the job is done. Any job doing is worth doing well. I learned to use tools, and drive tractors. I helped build fences, barns, and decks. I dug for worms. I baited my own hook. I learned to fish. I learned to tie flys. I learned to flyfish. I learned from a young age how to handle guns properly and responsibly. I knew to always assume a weapon was loaded. I knew never to point a gun at anyone, ever. I shot skeet and trap. I learned to how to track and how to hunt.
I learned about gardening and growing food. I learned about caring for animals. I learned about having a sense of community spirit. I learned about death, and the pain that comes with it after losing the treasured pets and farm animals we had over the years.
I learned that no matter how many hours and days you spend picking rocks out of the ground to help grow a nice lawn, the rocks always “grow” back. I learned to appreciate being able to see every star in the night’s sky. I learned to identify various bird calls. I listened to the screams of fox at and howls of coyotes from my bedroom window. I learned about respecting our forests from our wood lot. I learned to start fires. I learned to ride bikes, sleds, wheelers, tractors, and any truck. I learned to climb trees and make tree forts. I learned how to ford small brooks and streams. I learned how to read a compass. I learned about wildlife all around me. I learned how to take care of farm animals. I rode horses. I played softball. I hung out with friends from the community. Everybody knew everybody back in those days. Those days are long gone. It’s okay. Time always marches on, with or without us. The important thing is that we learn. We learn to live, we learn to love, and we learn to laugh. We also learn from out mistakes. The most important thing I learned growing up is there is nothing that life can throw at me that I can’t handle. .
Despite my father’s efforts to make me well-rounded and independant, i had a strict, religious, grandmother. Our family matriarch since I was a small child. She was a teacher, an English Teacher. She taught me how to be a lady. She is ultimately responsible for my exceptional communication skils. The rest of what she tried to impress upon me is still there, it’s just that I don’t call it up for action that often. My grandmother and I were very different people, and that’s okay. She gave me one of the greatest gift’s life has given me, my love of the English language.
Growing up in rural New Brunswick taught me things not every little girl grows up to learn. I grew accustomed to certain ways of life being a country girl. It’s a little more rough-and-tumble where I come from, a little rough-around-the-edges to some. I had two older brothers; one was just a year older than me. I learned to fight. I had to. They made me tough. We watched out for each other. The whole community watched out for each other’s kids. It was a different time but I don’t love it any less. I am not afraid of change. I welcome it. I think we’ve been stuck in the past in New Brunswick for way to long. The past is a nice place to visit, to reminisce, but we desperately need to move forward into the future. We need to make some serious changes if we don’t want to see the same thing over and over again. United we stand, divided we fall. We have community. We have hope. We have each other.
It’s no big secret that I have been struggling for a few months. I only recognized the signs of my own depression in the middle of June this year. In hindsight, I can clearly see the signs I was exhibiting, which started sometime in January. I went down hill from there. I went downhill, because I wasn’t aware. I went downhill because, initially, the people around me either weren’t aware or they didn’t care. Either way, this is unacceptable. Whether it was from lack of education on how to treat someone with mental illness or whether actions were knowingly taken to undermine and cause further harm, the obligation is on the organization to implement the laws that govern the responsibilities which institutions are required to undertake and adhere to . This institution has a legal requirement not to discriminate, neither overtly nor non-overtly, against an individual with mental illness. When the very people and the institutions that are responsible for governing us, that write legislation, and approve funding, have zero awareness or empathy for their own people who are struggling with mental illness, where does that leave everyone else, given the prevalence of mental illness in New Brunswick? It leaves everyone out in the cold. It leaves them alone to struggle, to play Russian roulette with their lives. It leaves those who are struggling to function everyday, alone and afraid to reach out for help; it isn’t there anyways, so who are they reaching out to? It leaves out the families and friends of those who are suicidal, desperate to find help, compassion, and understanding. It leaves them out in the cold, with no one to reach out to for help. It isn’t there. Mental illness is not taken seriously by our elected officials. It’s an uncomfortable topic. People don’t like to talk about things that make them uncomfortable. We have people of all ages, all backgrounds, all socioeconomic statuses, and educational accomplishments, who complete suicide everyday. We all heard about the very tragic, public suicide in our province recently. We’ve all had a chance to hear other people’s stories, about the desperation felt by those struggling, and by the friends and the family members who are desperate to find them help, only to discover it isn’t there. My family has experienced two suicides in recent years; both beautiful women.One of them very young, with hardly an opportunity to experience life; the other, an educated, accomplished, woman, who had every reason to be proud of herself. My own depression has brought me to a surprising place on two different occasions. I had never before experienced what I have gone through in recent months. I couldn’t have fathomed it until I personally experienced it. I took all the necessary steps to recover. I did everything I could to pull myself out of the deep state I was in. It lasted…for a while. Another fall was inevitable. It was inevitable because I wasn’t being honest with myself. I wasn’t thinking of my own goals, my own passions, my own fire. I couldn’t work towards getting better because I was still feeling conflicted. I was still feeding the anger. I was pushing things I didn’t want to think about aside. I was unable to make a decision. I was being pulled in so many different directions, it made me struggle with my inability to see a clear path. It hit me, very suddenly, dead in the face, just the other day. When it did, an instant calmness and acceptance washed over me. The light finally came on, and I was able to make a decision. I felt at peace with it. I still do. I’m doing what’s best for me and channeling my sense of purpose into areas that ignite the inferno in my soul. I know what I need to focus on, and my intensity and passions will take me where I need to be, where I belong. I found the courage I had all along, it was just steamrolled out of me temporarily. It made me falter. It shook my confidence. It was like taking a bat to the knees. It brought me down, but I have been slowly crawling my way back up to a standing position, gloves up, chin protected. Sharing my vulnerability has given me so much strength. I faced my fears and chased down my demons, exposing all the things about myself that I perceived as weakness, I tossed these painful truths out at the world, and I felt immediate connections with others who reached out to me; some to offer strength and support, other’s to share their pain and struggles. Each one of these people, played a crucial part in keeping me here in this world, at a time when I didn’t feel worthy enough to be a part of it; they helped me see my story isn’t over yet.
“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”Steve Jobs
Mental Illness Affects More People Than You Might Think
The thing about depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, is they are much more prevalent than some might think. It dramatically increases in those over age forty. The fear of stigma and judgement usually keeps those who are suffering from asking for help. Tell your story. It might just be the lifeline someone else clings to that offers them a sliver of hope. You are not alone. Share your story. It will get better.
My life-long anxiety made me more vulnerable to the depression that hit me this summer. I experienced a dramatic shift in my thinking over the winter. People I had put blind faith in, and gave automatic trust to, were not deserving of it. Lesson learned. Always lessons to be learned, and I often learn them the hard way. I tried to hold on as long as I could considering the circumstances. I’ve had to forgive myself for feeling the failure of not being able to live up to the commitments that I had made. The reasons were twofold. First, there was the moral dilemma I was facing, the personal inner turmoil of knowing something had been done wrong, and my complicity by remaining in my position. Secondly, my mental health had reached a critical point, due to my anxiety and depression, exacerbated by the actions of others. I had no choice but to resign and to leave. To a person who feels a strong sense of loyalty, duty, and dedication, setting those principles by the wayside is extremely difficulty to do at the best of times; when caught in the unyielding grip of anxiety and depression, faced with alienation and isolation from those around you, it’s potentially deadly. I’ve had to forgive those who don’t think they’ve done me wrong. They don’t even know they’ve done others wrong. I can’t change that. I’ve had to forgive myself, for the anger and frustrations I expressed when I was ready to give up hope. I’m trying to forgive myself for my high expectations, of myself and of those around me, for harsh judgement of myself, and for turning my back on something I believed in, right to my very core. I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. There is nothing wrong with leaving a situation or leaving people when things don’t feel right to you anymore. If you can’t be your authentic self, and you can’t be honest or respected by those with whom you are associated, it’s time to move on. That isn’t to say that moving on is easy. It never is, for anyone. As always, I see things in others easier than I do in myself. It’s a lot harder to acknowledge and recognize my own short comings. I recently heard the phrase, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” I heard this from people who embody and exemplify principles like honour, and doing the right thing. It was at that exact moment that I knew wholeheartedly, I had done the right thing months ago. You owe it to yourself to be honest. It’s expected. There’s always a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. I couldn’t in good conscience, as a human being, turn my head and look the other way. Doing the right thing often difficult. When I come to those many forks in the road, as we all must do, I may debate and struggle momentary on the cusp of a decision, I will instinctively weigh the cost or the benefits of my actions; inevitably I listen to my gut instinct, and to that mantra in my head, ingrained in my psyche since I was a child; my father’s voice, “there’s always a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do.” Do the right thing.That doesn’t always mean I get it right. Sometimes I get it wrong, but I always try, and I admit and own up to my mistakes. I am not perfect, I have much to learn. I also have much to offer. It took me way to long to realize this, but it’s something I will never allow myself to forget. I have many friends who keep reminding me. I can only live my truth, and spend my time and energy where it is best served, where my strengths are; with writing and fighting for women’s rightsand equality for all.
Coming Full Circle
Life is funny sometimes. I find it odd how lessons are delivered to me at times. Sometimes I don’t even realize it’s a lesson until I’ve had time to reflect. That’s life. Nobody has the handbook on how to live life perfectly, although lots of people think they have the formula figured out. The high volume of self-help books and how-to books confirm this. The truth is, nobody has everything figured out. We all stumble around sometimes, unsure of what to do, cruising along on autopilot, just putting the days in. Other times, we’re at a high altitude, reveling in the glory that is life. If we are lucky enough, we will find our calling, our purpose. It took me a long time to find my purpose. The traumas I experienced throughout my life, sidetracked my goals, and made my vision cloudy. It was when my kids moved out and went to university that I finally found the time, and the chance to delve into what would rapidly light my fire. My natural protective instincts led me to champion for women’s rights. At the time, I was already on board with the Liberals, but Brian Gallant’s stance with ammending the 84-20 regulation, was in my opinion, and many others, not enough. This inspired a call to action for me and for my daughter. We found ourselves protesting the Gallant government at the legislature for their failure not to extend public funding to private clinics.The following year, my support for the Liberals was cemented by Justin Trudeau’s declaration of support for women’s rights, among other policies that I was happy at the time to get on board with. The point is, women’s rights were what sparked my fire and drew me to the Liberal party. Somewhere along the line over the last four years, I lost sight of what inspired me in the first place; equality and social justice. Temporary people taught me permanent lessons. The time has come around again for me to invest in my own growth. See you in the ring…
When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to shove you aside, you will know we are here.”
No one is born with confidence. It’s something that’s developped over time, with age and learned knowledge. It means believing in yourself, in your talents and abilities. It’s having a skill-set, and the wherewithal to apply it in everyday life. Unfortunately, confidence seems to be ever-elusive for too many women. Media, especially in western society, has dictitated the stereotypical notion of what a confident woman shoud look like; from hair length, style, cut, and colour, to what colour and how much make-up to wear, to what is considered a desirable height and weight, to how much muscle is too much to be still considered feminine. Then there’s the fake eyelashes, eyebrows, lips, eyecolour, haircolour, breast size, butt size, waist size, skin colour, and so on. The beauty industry has an eternal grip on the well-being of women. This industry has in recent years branched out; it has targeted the previously unknown and untapped revenue stream from the insecurity of men, with skin care and hair care regimens. As a lot of us have discovered as we age, physical beauty is a fleeting thing. In my youth, like a lot of young women, I relied heavily on my appearance and tied it directly to my self-worth. Fortunately, I was also an athlete, so I was able to build more confidence and self-esteem by competing fairly and squarely. Each win inspired a competative drive to want to win more. Each stinging loss taught me the value of needing more practice, finding the determination to work harder, swearing to myself to be more perseverant, and most imortantly, the ability to visualize that win. There are many factors that come into play for each individual when it comes to self-confidence. Education, a good support system, a balanced work-home life, good friends, good health, and financial security are just a few things that come to mind as traditional “recipies” to follow in order to have a fullfilling life. But what about the unkempt middle-aged guy who labours hard all day, has a big-beer-belly, sports the swagger of a MMA fighter, and has no problem approaching a woman that others might view as being beneath him? Where does his killer confidence come ? Why can’t a woman with a baby belly feel as confient? What is the dividing line? Why do men get more distinguished with wrinkles, age, and grey hair? Why is the same thing for women considered unbecoming? Why is is okay for men to be open and honest about sex and sexuality, but for women, it’s frowned upon, undignified even? The answers to these questions are going to vary from individual to individual because we don’t all value the same things. If we were luckly enough, and I was, we had parents who instilled the values we hold true to ourselves today. Of course, times change, but traditional values like honesty, dependability, and integrity, have not changed with time. They remain steadfast in many of us today.
I have found it especially difficult in certain situations, to remain true to myself and my beliefs. Not that I find being honest and forthright difficult, far from it, but it’s the inevitable conflict that arises when dealing with individuals who like to blur the lines between what is right and what is wrong. A friend of mind, a medical Dr., recently recounted to me, “in order to be successful in politics, you need to be okay with getting into bed with some bad men.” (side note: her statement also reflects the dismal fact that men still dominate most aspects of the political arena) Almost sounds fun, but it’s not. I’ve dealt with these people. I’m sure I’ll be dealing with them again, but from now on the blinders will be off, along with the rose-coloured glasses. I haven’t lost my voice, I’ve been channeling my efforts into healing myself and learning. I’m always learning. I’ve learned some valuable lessons over the past six months. I do not let any lesson go to waste; these lessons will be incorporated into my interactions whenever I’m dealing with ANYONE involved in politics.
I am fortunate enough to say that I have killer confidence. I own my flaws and my faults, I own my analytical and strategic abilities, I own my frustrations and anger, I own my beauty and my sensuality, I own my good communications skills and my strong work ethic. Like the plethora of women now shouting out all over the world, I too will be heard. I thought I belong to a group that embraced diversity, and promoted inclusion, but I was proven sadly wrong from too many individuals that held executive positions, so I now know better. I could have belonged; I did belong, as long as I towed the line, and didn’t offer up any other opinion. In other words, just sit there and look pretty, but don’t question. Just nod your head in agreement or prepare for a barage of subtle but very incidious ways and means that will be used to drive you out. They aren’t monsters though, don’t get me wrong, they will give you a chance to mend your ways, by sending some trusty delegates to “have a talk with you”, under the guise of being your friend; or they may have different delegates send you messages or call you. The long and short of it is, belonging to something means having a seat at the table and having your voice be heard, and not just heard, listened to. My voice was stomped on, discouraged, met with scowls, laughter, and judgement; in spite of this, I did use my voice, loudly and often. This is why I’m no longer affiliated with that association. They leaned on me, and leaned on me, knowing I was in a very anxious, upset state, fighting off a serious depression. I fought them off for 6 long months all by myself. They tried to kill my confidence, but they only temporarily succeeded. I dusted off my knees and bounced right back. I am just one woman with a torch, but this torch will always be lit, guiding the way for anyone that wants to join me, or follow behind. I am but one match, but I will make an enormous explosion.
Life thew me a few curve balls this year. 2019 has been a challenge for me from the get-go. Some challenges were whipped at me, some were lobbed, but all came at me steadily. As issues arose, I did my best to knock them out of the park. Either way, I stayed in the game. I stayed in the fight. Yes, I eventually got knocked down, it happens to the best of us. I got sucker-punched by those I thought I could count on and trust; make no mistake, I can take a hit and get back up again. I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t hurt. It hurt me really bad. It felt every cut very deeply. It may give those that tried hard to hurt me, some satisfaction to know that they at least partially succeeded, but that’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m healing. Like a lioness injured in a hunt on the Savannah, I had to run off and lick my wounds, alone. I had to get out of the game for a little while. Self-care is a priority for me right now. I had to remove all people and all ties that bound me to the association, from my life. I had to create a safe space. I had to reach out to and rely on my friends. I had to do things that made me happy, that made me feel whole. I started thinking about myself for a change instead of so many others. i have been putting my own needs first, and with each passing day, I allow the hurt to come, and feel it. I feel it and accept it, and put it in its proper place. I don’t try to suppress it and make it go away. Only an idiot would do that. I know that if I push this aside, it will only come back to knock me out later. This is simple psychology.
I’ve been in a weird spot lately. Everything that has been steady and consistent in my life has taken a new direction. My job, my friends, my political interests. Most importantly, how I decide to spend my time, who I decide to give my energy to, how invested I get, and who I am able to trust has changed dramatically over the past few months. I’ve been pressed to make a decision. It’s not like i’m in a hurry. I have been in the process of talking to as many people as possible and gathering as much information as possible. I like to make an informed decision. The thing is, all those years ago, when I felt the calling to join the Liberal party, and exhaust my efforts for my MP and the various MLA’s whom I supported, I didn’t have an exceptionally high level of trust then either. I keep asking myself, why I would allow things to get a bad as they did? Why was I so naive and trusting with people whom I should have known better than to give any trust to at all? It’s because I gave a little bit more of myself to these people with each day that passed. Each call bank I participated in, each day of action when we knocked on doors, each lawn sign I put up, each member I signed up personally, was done out of a deep belief and conviction. I allowed myself to be convinced that we were a solid team, that we were a big family, that we were friends, that we were doing something together to make a difference, that we had similar goals and aspirations for the people of New Brunswick. I thought that I was dealing with people that were honest and that had integrity. Don’t get me wrong, lots do; probably most of them. I had the misfortune of dealing with and choosing to believe in people I should’t have, because we wore the same political stripe. Most of the fault lies with me. I let myself get hoodwinked over the years. I saw things wearing red-tinted glasses. It was fun and it was fine as long as I agreed with everything, and didn’t question anyone. The moment I started veering off the beaten path, my days were numbered there. I knew it deep down. I was getting more audacious with each passing day, while simultaneously willing the turmoil in my mind to go away. As much as it hurt me, I know the loss is their’s, not mine to bear. This fiasco has forced me to look at myself and those around me differently. Nothing is inherently going to change about me, other than I’m going to listen more to my gut instinct, and my trust will never just be given away ever again in the political arena. From now on, my trust will be earned. I’m left with not having a home politically and not feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere else…yet. For now, I’m going to remain neutral. I know myself too well. I can’t party-jump because I need to know what exactly I’m jumping into. I need something that is a good fit for me. I need something to inspire me, something to grab hold and ignite my passion. As of today, I’m just not feeling it at all; so I wait. I keep talking and observing. I keep holding people to account that need to be. I continue to express my opinions, for what they are worth. I will continue to enjoy my life and live freely with no pretensions or worries about who I am. I know who I am, and what I have to offer. So do the multitudes of people who support me. I am lucky and I am grateful to every one of you. The day will come, in the not-so-distant-future, when I will meet face-to-face, those that intentionally tried to do me harm. They will feel the scorch of my fire; I will remind them that I am a force to be reckoned with. That day of reckoning is coming.
When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to shove you aside, you will know we are here.
I am so excited to see what Matt will continue to do for our Fredericton riding over the next few years. Proud to be a small part of it! His youthful exuberance can’t be replicated, or faked! It’s refreshing to have someone respresent all of us, no matter what. Most importantly, Matt cares about women’s rights and our youth. Help re-elect him!!
It’s been a little while since I felt like I was in the right head space to be able to blog. Technically, it wasn’t as much about the head space I was in, as much as it was NOT being able to write freely about what it is that has been troubling my mind as of late. Actually, I still can’t. My hands are tied, at least for the time being. It’s not like anyone tied them. I bound them myself with my unwavering loyalty and a sense of duty that I cannot shake. The words come to me so easily yet I find myself having to keep hitting that backspace bar routinely, because as I have often had to remind myself every time I tried to put pen to paper lately, “you can’t write that.” Let’s not forget what is important right now. There are dirty little secrets people don’t want spilled. Secrets that would cast them in a very negative light, not to mention the bad publicity that would soon follow. Tsk Tsk. No worries! Your secrets are safe with me. I like having aces up my sleeve! Being part of a team means being conscious of those around me and what their needs are. I respect my team. It’s for them that I am holding onto these shameful goings-on. The day and time will come when you will have to answer for these actions; if not from someone else, then definitely from me, when the time is right. I’m like an elephant; I NEVER forget.
It’s been a revealing time; a learning experience. I hardly remember feeling such harsh disappointment like I have felt in recent months, not only in some people who I previously held in the highest esteem, but mostly in the ideals and values that I thought we stood for. At the same time, I have felt such elation after having jumped every single hurdle or smashed apart each obstacle placed in my path. Things that were meant to wear me down instead gave me power. I may have, at times, had to slow down and catch my breath, but only temporarily, and never for long. Throughout the mental exhaustion, I never gave up. It’s just not in me to do that. I will fight for what I believe in until i take my last breath. There have been both good and bad experiences. I have learned that some people I thought were my friends, are not, but I have also made new friendships that have been built on blood, sweat, and tears while trying to achieve a common goal. These friendships are the best kind. I am grateful for all of them. I have seen people in positions of power, use their authority in the most sneaky, dirty, underhanded ways. These people use their power to crush those beneath them. What these people will find out, if they haven’t already, is, I am NOT so easy to crush. I am not intimidated. I never back down. I willingly accept the challenge. I will not go quietly or gently into the night, I will take some along with me for that ride. I mean, literally, I am a survivor! #metoo
I just want all of you to know that I deeply appreciate every word of encouragement, every message of support, and every kind gesture that so many of you sent my way. I even want to thank those that have taught me valuable lessons. I absorbed it all. There are no bad lessons. Just lessons well learned. I took one on the chin a few months ago, for something I believed in. I still believe in it or I wouldn’t be here. I just pulled my head out of the sand and chose to see the reality around me instead of the yarn that was being spun. It was like I was lost in the desert staring at a mirage. The image i was clinging to inevitably ebbed away. I’m staring back at a place that holds no sustenance, and if I don’t start moving I will slowly die waiting for it to come to me.
You may hurt me but you will never define who I am or what I stand for. Every struggle I have faced has made me stronger, smarter, and more resilient as a woman. I did not break. I will never break. I have the strength of too many women behind me to not carry on and move forward. I have many male friends and allies that I can count on to support me when I need it. I thank every one of you.
I know I may have taken some people by surprise, that’s why I’m a wild card. I can honestly say that it shouldn’t have come as a shock. I felt like I got backed into a corner. This requires a defensive play. I was not disillusioned. I knew what I was up against; patriarchy. Again, I was defeated by power, money, and an unfair system. That’s alright though. I learn something new every…single…time, and throw in my own spin just for fun. I accept all challenges head-on, and i am eagerly looking forward to the next one that comes my way.
Ladies, just remember we are as powerful, intelligent, and as calculating as any man on the planet. We are a force to be reckoned with, especially when we stick together. Remember that.
Four years ago I felt compelled to get involved in national politics in my local riding in New Brunswick. I always paid attention to the goings-on in the world, but from a safe place sitting on the sidelines. My passion for women’s equality, coupled with a drive to do something to make a difference in my community, my province, and my country, spurred me to randomly hit a volunteer button on a Facebook page one day while I was scrolling through my news feed. It was a political candidate page for Fredericton MP Matt DeCourcey. I knew nothing about Matt prior to stumbling upon his advertisement to recruit volunteers. After reading up on who he was and the objectives he set out to accomplish, I listened to my gut instinct and delved in further. Something made me press that button that day. I had never done anything of the like before. I honestly thought that my name would be one along side many, and that I would likely never be contacted. Instead, twenty minutes later I received a call from his volunteer coordinator asking me to get on board. I reluctantly said “yes.” Much to my surprise, she asked me if I could meet them that evening and join Matt going door-to-door to talk to residents in the riding. That day was a significant turning point in my life. It ignited the spark that was lying in wait. Matt was someone I could easily get behind, and the ideologies of the party lined up almost perfectly with my own sense of what is right and what is wrong. The spark that was ignited that day has turned into a raging fire. It’s an inferno I am not able to extinguish. I have been actively involved in volunteering for Matt’s team every time I am asked, no matter what the request is, unless I am working, injured, or travelling. This is a party for which I feel immense affiliation and loyalty. There have been some mistakes made along the way, we are not perfect, but overall I am happy with our party, and our vision of what Canada is, and should be. You see, I was raised by an educated, community-involved, socially concious family. There are many snippets of wisdom I can recall my father imparting on me when I was a youth as I was on my way out the door to hang out with friends. “Keep your head on straight” was something I frequently heard. Another, oft-repeated lesson he impressed upon me was, “there is a right thing to do, and a wrong thing to do.” At the time it seemed fluffy and philosophical; it didn’t impact my way of thinking immediately. I was a teenager, I had bigger things to worry about. As I aged and made mistakes, especially colossal ones, those expressions my father recounted to me when I was young would spin around in my mind like a neon sign, reminding me of my roots, reminding me of the values they instilled in me; values that grabbed a firm hold inside and grew exponentially through every difficult situation and moral equivocation I have ever had to consider. It is what made me sit for months every day with my developmentally challenged aunt while she was dying of brain cancer, despite the initial instinct to want to protect my own mental health with physical distance. It is what demanded me to take on a corporate giant all alone for ignoring discriminating practices in the work place against women… and win. It is what made me sit for over an hour on the side of a dark, deserted highway with a young girl that slid in the ditch, waiting for her parents to arrive, because I couldn’t leave her alone and vulnerable. There is ALWAYS a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do.
When I recently heard about leadership candidates rumoured to be running in New Brunswick for my party, I decided to look into things a little further. I had been hearing conjecture up until that point without any evidence, so I started scrolling through Facebook to glean some information. Like that day four years ago, I felt something I couldn’t explain. I felt nervous, if not somewhat unsubstantiated apprehension about one possible candidate. The other candidate gave me a good feeling, but I still didn’t know enough. I messaged several candidates and asked pointed questions. Just to be clear about something, I am not a person that gets a “gut feeling” very often. I believe in science-based evidence and reasonable conclusions based on logical hypotheses. Almost every gut feeling I have ever had has been related to a man. Perhaps my past childhood trauma, inflicted by a man who had power over me, forced me to consider subtleties very closely. I know I am not the only woman who experiences this. After a few weeks of talking to random people about the candidates, comments about one candidate, such as, “a black man will never win” started to make my stomach clinch. I knew that we were openly racist years ago. I thought we were over that kind of thinking, other than the pockets of knuckle-draggers that embrace overt racist ideology. I really thought the general population of New Brunswick had grown over the years and embraced diversity. We talk about it all the time. We espouse it in our advertisements, in our language, and in our schools. We all say the right things at the appropriate times; but when it comes right down to it, we all still hold onto our prejudice. If we confirm these biases with the language we use, are we not embracing racist ideology? By saying, and agreeing with, “a black man will never get elected in NB”, we are giving weight to and instilling that very concept. A concept that states, it’s okay to be a person of colour and live here; live here and contribute to our economy, pay taxes and help us build, but for God sakes do not for one minute think about leading our white province. No Way. If you have deceived yourself into thinking, “it’s not me that thinks that way, it’s everybody else. It’s just the way it is”, then I have some questions for you. How do you think others came to this conclusion? Did you take a poll? Did you talk to every New Brunswicker? Was there a news story I missed that addressed these issues then came up with this conclusion? People have reached this conclusion because they have discussed it. They have discussed it, and are okay with it. They have accepted this way of thinking as being okay. It’s not. It’s far from okay. It’s downright embarrassing and disappointing. I do not want to leave our children with a province that is known to be racist. We are better than that. We are New Brunswickers. We are Maritimers. We are supposed to be the most friendly and welcoming people in all of Canada. We can’t just give the best opportunities to white people. We can not afford to stick our head in the sand about this isuue any longer. I thought I had a good handle on our provincial “temperature.” I thought we were inclusive and accepting; until I started to “unofficially” help a black political candidate. My reality was shaken to it’s core; it was a direct assault to my senses. Every politician of every political stripe knows how badly we need immigration to help build our population, our economy, and our province. Why would others want to come here if they are going to be treated differently? How can we invite other people to live here, and then treat them like the enemy when we do? Maybe more people would settle here if they felt welcome, and included, and accepted, not judged.
I agonized for weeks over whether to assist a candidate with a campaign. Initially I had no reservations, but after hearing so many negative comments because of the colour of his skin(even one from my own family), I felt inner turmoil. I was told not to waste my time. I was told a black man won’t win. I was told to wait and get on board with the “winning” team. I was told that New Brunswick was just racist and not to stress myself out by giving too much thought to it. I felt the barrier like it was a tangible thing; like it was a WALL. I was comfortable with my decision initially because I was woefully ignorant about how we really think in New Brunswick. I had my head in the sand. When I first saw this candidate I didn’t even give a thought to what colour his skin was or where he was born. I looked at his education, experience, qualifications, and his level of compassion and dedication towards those that are disadvantaged and less fortunate. I saw a person that demonstratively cares about the little person and felt good about that; then others started filling my head with doubt and comments that caused me anxiety. It was only a few days ago that I realized the source of my anxiety. My granddaughter is a visible minority with brown skin.
I suddenly made the connection. She was going to face the same kinds of awful things other non-white people do who live here in New Brunswick. This realization hit me like a brick in the face, and triggered a primal, maternal instinct in me that is an incredibly inexplicable, powerful force. This is now personal. The internal struggle that was fiercely battling inside me ended the moment I realized I was fighting for the future of my grandaughter and others like her. The values my family instilled in me demand I live up to the those expectations left with me. Everything changed for me a few years ago, the moment I realized I would be leaving this legacy to my own children. I have to show them and my granddaughter that doing the right thing is hard sometimes. It can be isolating, and can leave you feeling vulnerable. I’ll be perfectly honest, up until I realized what was at stake for my granddaughter’s future, there was a part of me that wanted to give in to the external pressures I had been facing; to make life easier for myself. Herein lies my dilemma; do the easy thing, or do the right thing. I know I’m facing an uphill battle but it’s one I will gladly climb for the sake of my children, my granddaughter, and for the future of New Brunswick. I’d rather take the loss than live with the regret; otherwise I’m rejecting the very same values that I, and those I hold most dearly, treasure the most. Win, lose, or draw I am on #teamwinner. I choose the side of right over might.
This is by far one of the trickiest posts I have attempted to write; mostly because I feel like I have to tread lightly here, and I don’t like that feeling. It’s like walking on egg shells. I refuse to be intimidated or non-overtly bullied. I’ve never allowed it since I was a kid; I’m not about to start now. I make a consious effort to be open-minded, and to consider all perspectives. I often land somewhere in the grey area between the black and white. There are; however, lines drawn in the sand for one or two specific issues. These are lines that I don’t cross. Some people are trying to put their foot down on that line. I’m not afraid to tell you it really hurts my heart. There are some things that need to be said, about who we are, about what we represent, about the ideals we embrace, and about how we think and act towards others. Especially towards others that look different, or have different cultures or customs than we do in our homonogeously white province.
I heard racial comments about a candidate running in a leadership race when I was out and about recently. The candidate is a man of colour. I’m positive my mouth dropped opened and I know my eyes were surely as wide as saucers. I wear my heart on my face not on my sleeve. It’s called resting-bitch-face for a reason. I did not say anything. I let it slide. I made excuses. I kept the peace. Days later I noticed this candidate’s face on my profile when I was scrolling through Facebook. I took some time to do a little research about what this candidate could offer. I was impressed with some aspects about this candidate but there was an area of concern. I always exercise due diligence and seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as can. I analyse everything from every conceivable avenue so that I can make a fact-based decision. Part of my research was talking to random people I knew from different backgrounds and socio-economic classes. The first time someone actually said to me, “NB will never elect a black man“, there is no way possible I could impress upon you the superhuman effort it took for me not to bite this person’s head off, figuratively speaking. I thought maybe it was an anomaly. I was sadly proven wrong the days following the first incident. Pretty soon, no matter who I asked, the response was, “We are not ready to elect a black man yet. It’s not me that thinks that. We are just not ready.” I lost count of how many people told me various versions of the same thing. So, I have some questions:
When will we be ready?
You see, I have been squashing my feelings about this every single time someone has said words to me about this candidate, this man of colour. I have a precious, beautiful, smarter-than-your-average-bear granddaughter. She is almost 3 years old. She is aboriginal. She is a person of colour. The message I’m receiving is this: it sucks that parts of, or lots of people in NB are so racist, but… it is what it is. Translated: my granddaughter, a person of colour, has no hope in hell of every considering running for political office in NB. Two strikes against her right off the bat; her skin colour and her gender. I will say this much. Like I did for my children, I will do everything in my power to ensure this astounding little girl, and others like her, will have every opportunity available. I do not accept willful ignorance about racism. I do not accept that this is the way it will always be. We can do better and we have to do better. We can’t keep teaching the younger generations that this is the way things should be. Racism isn’t born, it is taught.
Like everyone else, I take on issues that are near and dear to my heart. I’m a women who has experienced unfair practices at work because of my gender. I don’t think there’s a woman alive that hasn’t felt the sting of discrimination. We’ve been made to feel less than, or out of place and uncomfortable in certain situations. If there is a woman that has been unscathed by aspects of discrimination, I’d like to talk to her and find out what her secret is. We all feel it. We either let it bounce off or take it to heart and let it spur a call to action within ourselves. I have done both. It’s important to pick our battles. I can’t fight every cause out there, although I feel very strongly about many of them. I can only speak about my own experiences and of those whom I’ve witnessed enduring frustrating accepted practices while trying to break down barriers. Some of us are killing it, some of us are coasting, and some of us are barely making it. The fact that women still face discrimination in the work force is common knowledge. Women facing discrimination in STEM fields is not as commonly discussed. These are areas that have been, and still are, dominated my men. These are very competitive fields that require a significant commitment to years of education, time, and research. My daughter is a women of science, educated in medicinal chemistry; a second year PhD candidate in the very competitive field of pharmacology. She’s more than half way up that mountain. This is her Everest. She’s planned each moment down to every last detail.
For clarification purposes, pharmacology is not the same as pharmacy. Pharmacy briefly defined is: a profession in which a licensed Pharmacist dispenses, monitors, administers, and counsels about prescription drugs and overall well-being.
My daughter first experienced discrimination when she was in high school. As a top honours student, she took education very seriously. She knew the goals she had in mind and focused like a lion bearing down on it’s prey. Suddenly she was struggling. She was having a hard time in a relatively easy class. It was a male teacher. She felt creeped out by him. This teacher was very flirty and had leering eyes. My daughter’s friend had no issue being that “teacher’s pet.” My daughter had a huge issue. This teacher had the perfect set up for having complete power and control over whomever he wanted. There were no tests. There were no exams. There were no definitive ways to demonstrate knowledge learned. My daughter had to rely on a man she felt uncomfortable around, in a course that she needed, with a marking scheme over which she had no control. When she finally told me, I approached the school like a mother bear protecting her cub. The administration did a great job at two things; keeping it quiet and doing as little as possible to help my daughter. Long story short, the teacher was very calculating and raised her marks just enough to give her a 94.4% final average. Great mark! Not good enough for the biggest scholarship prizes. She still received decent scholarships, enough that she had very little to no debt throughout her undergrad years. An interesting point about this is; the teacher’s pet who won the huge scholarships, dropped out of sciences in university. My daughter pressed on with nothing but her end goal in mind.
While she was an undergrad she did a biophysical chemistry internship at an Ivy league school. This is where she found herself in a position of having to endure discrimination yet again in order to get ahead. All the men at this world class research facility were allowed to wear shorts; not women. Men could wear sandals; not women. Women couldn’t show any leg or ankle in the lab but for men it was tolerated. The last issue for my daughter was dealing with her own feelings about how women feel they need to portray themselves to get ahead or to be taken seriously. When she applied for grad school she had a series of Skype interviews that determined, in part, whether or not she would be accepted into this very prestigious, very competitive program. When I saw her right before her interview, I noticed how dressed down she was, and how she wore no make up. I questioned her about this. Her reply was, “I don’t want to look too pretty.” A little part of me died inside hearing this. Not just because she felt that way, but because society still puts such huge pressure on women to look one way or another for certain roles. One thing is for sure; forging ahead facing unique challenges in life is certain to test the will and strength of any woman. I’m happy to say that my daughter, who sacrificed so much to be where she is today, is settled and knows where she is going. The rigid demands of applying for funding, doing research, getting published, and going to classes are offset by intermittent visits home and letting loose with friends; sporting the confidence of an educated, worldly young woman.
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I can not accept.” ~ Angela Davis
Allow Yourself To Have Fun
My daughter has subscribed to the high performance pressure that has been put on the women in our family for a long time. Her accomplishments are great and I’m obviously fiercely proud. What makes me happier lately is knowing that she has learned to let her hair down and have fun. This is very important for somebody who has tunnel vision with an unyielding dedication to her education. She’s learning that it’s not just about reaching the summit. It’s the climb.
Suicide has affected my family on two separate occasions. It’s the people we would sometimes least expect that opt out. It’s important to pay attention to those around you. Isolation is one of the biggest factors of mental illness.
Somebody is always there at the other end of the phone, or computer; whatever is more comfortable.