Just a girl, sitting quietly, releasing the pressure valve on her brain.

Here’s what I believe.

I believe that everything and everyone is connected.

I believe that we are distinct points that are joined together. The connections may be steel beams, or gossamer threads. It may look like a perfectly spun spider web, or like a bulletin board on a crime show with red yarn thumbtacked to suspect photos and pieces of evidence. It doesn’t really matter whether we like the things and the people we are joined to or not – we are all connected. I like to think it helps keep the universe intact(ish).

A couple of days ago my sister-in-law and I (steel beam, somewhat disorganized bond) were together, protesting a protest. The initial protest was a group of individuals (not sure of the consistency of their connections) who take issue with the schools teaching inclusivity and acceptance to kids, as they interpret that as pornographic and grooming and other ridiculously arbitrary things. The protest that my sister-in-law and I joined, was a protest of those protestors – we are in favour of teaching kids’ inclusivity and acceptance (one of many reasons why we have a steel beam). I’m not going to write about the opposing views, how damaging and destructive they are. Others who are much more articulate and eloquent than I have done that, and I don’t really have anything more to add.

But, while I was standing there, waving my rainbow scarf and dancing to the 2slgbtq protest playlist, I got to thinking about distinct points, and connections. And then I started thinking about the space between the distinct points, the spaces where the connections exist, and how it’s an emotional space. A political space. A psychological space. A spiritual space. And looking at the separation between our two protests, I got to thinking about how our humanness, our fear and anger, has created a no man’s land between us where we are afraid to tread and talk and examine our connections.

And then a woman from the “other side” approached my sister-in-law and myself. She was respectful and thoughtful, and asked if we could talk about her concerns and our perspective. She shared that she was anxious about her child being prematurely introduced to subjects that she felt he was unprepared for, and her concern about reading materials, and about how to keep her child safe.

We talked about suicide rates for trans youth and understanding that not all children identify with their assigned gender, and that keeping our children safe meant that we have to keep all children safe. We were joined in conversation by a person who shared their transition journey, and their experience in school. How inclusivity made them feel valued, and that it probably saved their life.

The discussion was calm and very civil. And maybe some change will result. Or maybe not. Maybe seeds were planted and will grow. Or maybe not, especially if my inability to garden is taken into consideration. Either way, I left with a good feeling. Not only has the thin connection that existed between all of us became somewhat more substantial, but we all stood in that no mans land, in a place of unease and awkwardness, and were able to, at least momentarily, create an atmosphere of understanding, support and kindness.

Today would have been mums 89th birthday. Funny story (of which I have minimal and incredibly vague information), for years as a child, mum celebrated her birthday on a date other than January 8. Well, one of her brothers (mum was the youngest of 7) returned from fighting overseas or in Israel (I guess), and told her that her birthdate was actually January 8th, and not whatever date she had thought. I guess my grandmother had some language issues, and generalized confusion – scrambling to survive can do that to a person. Whenever I hear people espousing on the validity of astrological signs, I think of that.

Anyway, mum’s new birthday was also the birthdate of Elvis which she loved, and would always mention it whenever anyone wished her a happy birthday. I don’t recall her being a huge Elvis fan, I mean, she liked him, but not crazy over the top or anything. To be honest though, we never really talked about him, so maybe she had a secret passion for him. I dunno.

Here we see mum, in what I guess is the late 70’s/early 80’s showing us her birthday cake. The thing is, mum was the one who baked the chocolate cakes, so I don’t know where this one came from. I think that maybe mum baked it and frosted it and then left it for us to decorate? That seems kind of strange, but also the kind of the thing she would do. I don’t know how old she would have been here, but she really didn’t age much, so it’s not all that important, at least to me.

So – today I’m gonna check my horoscope, make a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, swivel my hips and think about mum.

I always wanted a dog growing up. Like, really badly. I would ask my dad, and he would tell me to ask my mother. I would ask my mother, and she would say no. Absolutely not. They were too much work, would make a mess, and she suspected (knew) she would be the one to take care of it

So, I grew up thinking that mum didn’t like dogs until Shael and I asked her to babysit Freddie, Shael’s first dog. She loved Freddie, took her for walks, fed her treats, and felt bad that her bed was too high for her to jump up to, so she lifted Freddie onto her bed.


So apparently, mum did like dogs. She would pet our dogs endlessly whenever she came over, would sneak them treats and generally indulge them.

I was sitting on the couch a few months ago, and Stella, our newest, smallest, and feistiest dog, decided to sit next to me. We adopted Stella right before mum was hospitalized, so the two of them never met. Anyway, this dog has no regard for personal boundaries, and her body temperature is warm. Really warm. We were sitting quietly, and I was petting her. And then I got teary. I could see my mum on the couch, exactly where I was sitting, with Stella sitting next to her. And I could hear my mum saying, “she’s so warm, she’s like a heating pad, it feels so nice” and then laughing, somehow surprised by the amount of affection that our dogs showed her. As if they were not like everyone else who knew her.

Grief can be such a complex emotion. Remembering things that happened, imagining things that didn’t, and feeling sad about both. And then laughing at both. And that’s what it was, that afternoon on the couch. Sitting, petting a very smelly, very warm, and very sweet dog. Remembering what was, and missing what never was.

I think that candid photographs can show you stuff you never would have noticed and catch moments of life that you may not have thought warranted a second glance. Posed portraits serve a purpose and have their own place and tell their own stories, but it’s the candid photos that can tell a story you didn’t even know was a story.

I feel there are layers and depths to photographs that aren’t necessarily found in digital images. Holding a photo by the edges, requires you to slow down and look and really focus on what you’re holding because if you touch the surface of the photo your dad will get annoyed at you and tell you to get your fingers off, because they will somehow ruin it.

And I get it. Photographs required a great deal of commitment. Buy the film, load the camera, take the photo, finish the roll, take them to be processed and printed, and then look through them hoping that at least some of them turned out. You only had one chance to get it right. You didn’t delete the ones that showed your red eyes, or double chin or blurry outlines. You kept them. For some reason, like throwing them out would invoke a curse of some sort. The symbolism was just too strong. So, you had to keep them. All in a shoe box, or in paper envelopes, or, as in my case now, photo albums that smell faintly of smoke and age and home.

I know I’ve already shared the profile photo of my dad barbecuing on a hibachi in the rain while holding an umbrella. Well, I recently found a second photo, the straight on view. These photos tell the story of “the damp hamburger buns and the fire that never lit”, which I didn’t even know was a story. Although, I suppose it really isn’t a story so much as a chapter in the epic book of Berman. An interesting read, subject to the interpretation of the reader.

Anyway, it’s been 30 years (and a day) that my dad has been gone. And although I don’t feel that he finished his roll of film, I love the stories that these photos tell.

Sadness has been visiting me a lot more in the last couple of years. I’m sure this is true for many people; sadness seems to be getting around quite a bit. Sadness usually ambles in, parks it’s ass on the couch next to me, and just sits quietly, inhaling and exhaling. Not really disruptive, but still, it’s there. Taking up some space, making it uncomfortable to stretch out, and a bit of a challenge for me to squeeze past when I get up to grab a snack (wine). But it’s ok. Eventually sadness heaves itself up and wanders off leaving behind crumbs, some loose change, and it’s ass imprint on the couch cushion. Totally bearable. Not the worst thing, but not the best thing either.

Sadness returned recently. It made its way to the couch, had a seat, and I figured ok, you were just here but maybe you forgot something, or your ride didn’t show up.  But this sadness was acting strange; it didn’t park itself on its regular seat on the couch, and I started to get a feeling that this sadness wasn’t the sadness I knew; this was like a cousin of sadness. It just felt different. Like when you put on someone else’s shoes that are the same brand as yours. They look the same, but as soon as you put your foot in, you know that it is not the same. They are not the ones you’ve been wearing for the past couple of years. The insole is shaped to someone else’s foot, and the wear patterns on the sole are completely different. You usually skip along, but these shoes have been dragged. The tread is gone, and you’re afraid you’re gonna slip.

Cousin sadness sat, inhaling, and exhaling and expanding with every breath. It was taking up more space on the couch, and then the back of the couch, and then the ottoman, and then the floor. It became a kind of weighted blanket, draped over my shoulders. It wasn’t offering comfort and warmth. It wasn’t offering anything other than weight. It was making it hard to move around, and hard to get up out of bed. It covered my head, muffling my senses. I didn’t think it would smother me, but I wouldn’t guarantee it.

Cousin sadness was looking and feeling a lot like depression. I hadn’t met depression before, but I’ve seen it hanging around, and I know many people who have intimate knowledge of it.

Not good.


Depression also brought it’s good friend anxiety along to meet with me. They worked weirdly together, anxiety made it difficult to sleep, and depression made it difficult to get out of bed. I spent a lot of time in a supine purgatory of lying in bed, knowing I should get up, not feeling like I could get up, feeling guilty for not getting up, and then finally getting up but still feeling weighted down.

I figured at some point I would begin to feel better, but the longer it went on, the less convinced of that I grew. I wasn’t incapacitated, I was functioning, albeit a little more sluggishly, but I decided that I should perhaps do something about this before I wasn’t able to. I couldn’t get the fucking weighted blanket off of me, I simply couldn’t find the edge and pull.

I was growing concerned about it.

So were those around me.

I shared how I was doing with family (who knew) and friends (who suspected) and my doctor (who prescribed medication) and my therapist (who offered insight, coping tools and a different perspective).

I’m doing much better. Talking helped, therapy helped, medication definitely helped. The anxiety has eased so I can sleep better and the weighted blanket is folded up in the linen closet. But it’s still in the house. I can sense it being here. I’ve set up an emergency plan of sorts, for when I feel depression arriving again, a very specific plan for me. What I need to remember to do, what I need to focus on, what perspective I need to adjust. And what I need to do consistently when I’m well, so I have the resources needed when it’s go time.

Most importantly for me, I need to share how I’m doing with those around me. Because their support is an integral part of my plan.

Everyone should be so lucky.

Unless you are using both hands to defuse a bomb that you found in your breadbasket, there is no reason why you need to be on speakerphone in a restaurant.

There are two of you, so I’m not sure who’s phone it is, but both of you are lounging at your table, legs sprawled out, sipping your shitty $5 draft beer (with the singular tasting note of “cold urine”) on what barely passes as a patio, with a view of a parking lot and a permeating aroma of bad gastronomic choices. You are chatting up the waitress who has to serve little fucks like you every day – knowing that you will leave a shitty tip because even though you are sharing a plate of fries you seem to think that allows you to take up all of her time. My back is to her, and even I can see that she has no fucking interest in your pubescent flirting. Do you think she gives a shit that that you were having a great day until you got the phone call that the shitty apartment you rent at school was broken into? And that a TV was stolen? And that you don’t know which room it was stolen from because you have 2 TVs on every floor? Allow me to answer for her, because she has other tables of entitled fucks to deliver shitty beer to. No, she does not care. Not in the least. Not in any way, shape, or form. In fact, none of us care. Not one. No one sitting on this shitty patio drinking shitty $5 draft beer, gives a shit. In fact, I don’t think that any of the people that you called (both your moms, and a stepdad and 2 guys who are both named Braydon) seemed to give a shit. By the time you got to calling your cousin twice removed, I had already memorized your fucking script. That you were having a great day until you found out that your apartment at school (that I can almost guarantee your parents are paying the rent on), was broken into, and a TV was stolen, but you are not sure which of the TVs was stolen because you have 2 TVs on every floor. Personally, I’m going to put my money on the one that was mounted to the wall of the honorary Robin Thicke date night lounge and cigar bar “where consent is an afterthought”!

You are not as clever, or charming, or attractive, or as interesting as you think you are. You are not as anything as you think you are. There is nothing about you or your conversation that warrants the sheer amount of space you are taking up. You have filled this shitty patio with your entitlement and unearned self-importance. You are taking up my physical space, my auditory space, and my mental space.

I resent your taking up my space.

But what I resent more is that I let you.

Why did I give you permission to crowd me out? Why did I listen to that fucking annoying voice in my head, reminding me to behave myself. Why did I value your right to be heard over my own right to be heard (or to eat my meal in the relative peace of a parking lot).

Why didn’t I fight you for that space, and stand my ground? Because I should have. I most definitely should have.

Of course, there are a million reasons why we do, or don’t do things. Some combination of personal and societal crap, I suppose. Getting older, gaining weight, being female, becoming invisible, feeling invisible. But, while I value introspection and self-reflection as much as the next guy, I also want to just sit quietly and enjoy the pairing of exhaust fumes and deep-fried cheese sticks.

I know that it may seem surprising, but I tend to keep my rants on paper, or on this blog, or shared in person within a fairly small circle. But maybe I need to turn my rants into scripts. For plays. That I will publicly stage whenever and wherever I deem appropriate. On speakerphone in a restaurant? Well, I think I’ll perform scene 3 of “Get the fuck off your phone, asswipe”. Talking over me in a meeting? Brace yourself for my dramatic monologue “I’m not finished talking, you douchebag”. A condescending smile when I ask for clarification of something that you can’t believe I don’t’ know? Feel free to sing along to the rousing finale from my musical – “I’m gonna smack that smirk right off of your face!”

I’m probably not the only one who could use a script – there must be hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of us, quietly aging, kind of heavyset women, who have spent so much time and energy just smiling and nodding and trying to ignore the feeling of claustrophobia creeping up on us in our rapidly diminishing spaces.

You know what? Fuck that. Fuck all that. I give you my script, free and clear. No performance rights, no playwright notes, no stage directions. It can be a one woman show, or an ensemble piece, I don’t care.

All I ask is to make sure you are at centre stage.

Logic and emotion are kind of like two people on an elevator – existing in the same environment, but almost totally unconnected. Logic is a lawyer in a 3-piece suit, speaking rudely to whoever is on the other end of the fucking Bluetooth that’s clipped to her ear. Emotion is a sketchy looking bike courier, rummaging through her dirty messenger bag, with Bob Marley leaking out of her oversized headphones. All they seem to share is a space. Proximity and maybe their general direction. Up. Or down. Depending.

I had the sads a few days ago, complete with tears, listening to my husband having a conversation with his mom on speakerphone. I could have gone upstairs, I guess, but I really didn’t think anything of it until I started crying.  I don’t know why but for some reason, hearing my husband’s casual phone conversations with his mom, make me sad.

I didn’t say anything to my husband at the time, although obviously he knows now. I didn’t say anything to him because I didn’t know what to say. I don’t begrudge him his parents, I really don’t. I love my mother-in-law, and I have a really great relationship with her, separate from my husband. I have picked up the phone and called my mother-in-law so many times and have always had amazing discussions with her. I consider her one of my very good friends. She is there to support me, in every conceivable way. So, I’m not sure why it kind of bums me out. And like, what the fuck is my husband supposed to do with that? Nothing I guess, just maybe get all weirded out when he talks to his mother, or feel guilty about having a mother. Hide from me when he wants to call her? And what is she supposed to do? Not talk to her son? Try to support me more than she already does? She couldn’t possibly support me more than she already does.

It’s a bit of a conundrum.

I was trying to figure out what it was about the phone calls specifically that made me sad. Maybe it’s that I can’t pick up the phone and call my mum, but I don’t know – I don’t really think about picking up the phone and calling my mum (which is a bit fucked, but don’t worry, I’m earmarking it for a future spew – guilt; the double issue). I could have called mum whenever I wanted, but really, we spoke once a week, pretty much, and that was it. It was enough for me and I guess enough for her.

My husband and my mother-in-law call each other to tell each other things. Not just checking in, but like, “I saw this… whatever and it reminded me of you” or “did you read that article in the Star” or “what did you think about… whatever” they always have these sometimes meaningful and sometimes meaningless conversations. I didn’t really have that kind of relationship with my mum though, the kind that my husband has with his. So maybe that was it. Maybe I wanted to have that relationship with my mum, where we had unscheduled meaningless and meaningful conversations. But I think that our relationship was as good as it could be. Which sounds like maybe it was kind of crappy, but I don’t mean it in the crappy way. We had a strong, loving relationship. It was our relationship. It worked for us. We liked it. I guess.

So, I don’t know why I got sad at an overheard phone conversation.

 For the most part, I think we look to solve problems – to feel like we have some control over shit. But I don’t know how to solve this problem though, because I don’t really know why it is a problem, I don’t know the root cause. I can’t solve it until I know exactly what it is.  

So I kept thinking about it and thinking around it and I came to the conclusion that feeling sad isn’t a problem. Neither is feeling happy, or grumpy or any of the other dwarfs.

Sad is an emotion, and it’s ok that it exists, and it’s ok that I have it sometimes and it’s ok that I don’t exactly know why I have it. But maybe with sad, I can just let it sit a bit, let it settle in. Share a coffee with it, or a glass of wine. Maybe I just let my sad be sad. Give it some time and room to breathe and hopefully it will slowly wander off on its own like a bear lumbering off to hibernate. Maybe I just need to stop picking at sad. To just fucking leave it alone.

And if feeling sad isn’t a problem, then there is no problem to solve. It doesn’t matter why I’m sad, I just am and there is nothing to figure out.  Maybe I don’t have to be the 3-pc suit, totally in control, trying to make sense of things. Maybe I can just be the courier, chilling in the elevator, grooving to Marley and smelling of dank weed and sweat.


Just a girl, sitting quietly, releasing the pressure valve on her brain

It’s been a year of loss and grief.  And I know we are all having a rough go of it, but I’m talking about me. My year. My loss. My grief. We can talk about your stuff later if you want – just shoot me a text.

My mum died last year. She was 87 and healthy-ish until the 3 weeks before she died. She lived her life the way she wanted even thought it was not the way I wanted her to. She also died the way she wanted, which was also the way I wanted for her. Quickly, quietly, and painlessly (for her at least) slowing down until she simply just stopped. Her life was good, and long and how could I have wanted anything other than that for her, or for me, or for anyone. I am sad, but not incapacitated. I miss her deeply, but I’m not heartbroken. I’ve cried and smiled at the same memories, and I don’t even feel guilty for being ok, which is odd because I feel guilt for so many things. It was and is, a predictable grief. It was not unexpected, or tragic, or anything other than the natural order of things. At her end, I told her I would be ok, and that I would take care of things. And I am, and I did.

Now, you may not know that I’m adopted. Ruth and Martin Berman adopted me when I was an infant, 10 days old to be precise. They loved me and cherished me and did all the right things (pretty much) to ensure I became a functioning member of society which I am (pretty much). As far as adoptions go, it was a success story. And yes, I know that a fair number of serial killers were adopted. Those would be the unsuccessful adoption stories.

I met my biological mother years ago and had a wonderful relationship with her. She is living with Alzheimer’s, and I haven’t seen her in a long time. This is one of those things that I sometimes feel guilty about, but that’s a big spew for another day.

But my biological father – all I knew about him was his name, that he was in a band, and that he had nice brown eyes. Not a lot to go on. I sent my DNA to be tested, so that it would be easy for Bill Gates to track me, and I found 3 first cousins. Their mom and my biological father were siblings. My biological fathers’ name was Rick, and he played the organ, and by all accounts was a fantastic musician. He played in bands, toured around, hung out with Crowbar and Ronnie Hawkins in the 1970’s in Toronto. And he was dead. He died in 1976. He jumped off a building. Because he was high on angel dust. So yeah. That’s… something. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn’t that.

I feel the loss of him. Acutely. Viscerally.  The death of a guy 44 years ago has struck me. Hard. And although I cried when my mom died, and have cried about her death since, I’ve also cried about Rick.

In fact, I have probably cried about Rick almost as much as I’ve cried about my mom.

In fact, if I’m being totally honest, which is the goal of this fucking blog, I have probably cried about a man I never met, the same amount that I cried over my mother who raised me and loved me for 52 years.

You know when you’ve moved into a new place and your boxes are stacked everywhere, piled up in the kitchen and bedrooms and hallways.  I have these big emotional packing boxes of Rick that I keep tripping over and banging into. I have to keep moving them from place to place because they’re in my way, I keep cracking my shins and stubbing my toes on them. And that shit hurts. They take up so much space, so much more space than the shit that’s inside of them does. Like an Amazon box the size of a Shetland pony, but all that’s inside is a pair of weird leggings and an insulated coffee mug. I need to unpack the boxes and put the stuff where it goes. The problem is that I’m not sure exactly where everything belongs, so I’m spending a lot of time moving decorative vases from the end table to the bookshelf to the mantel. It’s a bit of a fucking mess at the moment.  Eventually all the Rick stuff will meld with all the Sharon stuff (that you all know and love so much) and the thought of him jumping off a building will not stop me in my tracks like a kick to the stomach, the way it does now.

I’m trying to get to know him, talking to old bandmates and extended family members. It’s a slow process, but that’s ok. I need him to be more than what I know. I don’t know enough yet. I don’t know what he was thinking or feeling. I don’t know why he made the choices he made, or if they were even choices. I wish that I did though. I wish that I’d known him. I wish that I could have heard him play. I wish that I knew what happened to a nice guy who was an amazing organ player and had really nice brown eyes.

Take your pivoting, and your puzzles and your sourdough starter, and shove them up your ass. And then take your upbeat attitude and your side business selling homemade masks, and your righteous indignation, and shove that up your ass too. Take your meditations and your mantras and your Pollyanna memes and, yes, you guessed it. Shove ‘em up your ass. Let’s take all that crap, all that shit that we are using to keep ourselves sane, or so we think, and shove it up our collective asses. All of our distractions, and our work arounds and our endless walks. That’s what I’m doing. It’s all going up there. Good thing my ass has quadrupled in size since last year.

Because right now, I’m throwing a pity party. A big fucking pity party. A good old Dionysian feast. Everyone is welcome, wine is flowing, beers on tap and there are hor’s dourves as far as the eye can see (don’t worry, I’m having it catered).

I don’t know why pity parties get such a bad rap. Maybe it’s because you never know how many people will be showing up. Or maybe it’s because the decorations are so tacky. I don’t fucking know.

But the thing is, like all parties, a pity party will end. Eventually the guests make their way home to sleep it off, or pass out on your sofa, or pool table, or bathroom floor. You wake up in the morning, nursing your hangover, and pull out a garbage bag and start cleaning up. You wonder who got into your good scotch, how those footprints got on the ceiling, and why is the dog covered in glitter.

So please, come join me.

I hate this. I hate all of it. I hate the masks, and the mask culture. I hate social distancing; I hate hand sanitizer. I hate being afraid of walking the wrong way in a store. I hate that I can’t hug people, that I don’t know how to interact with people. I hate that I don’t know what the hell is going on, that I don’t know how many people I can hang out with so better to just not hang out at all. I hate that video is a poor replacement for live action. I hate pretending I’m on board with our new normal. I hate that I can’t comfort people around me, and that I’m terrified of making my immunocompromised friend sick, and I hate that I can’t hold her hand.  I miss everything. Everything.

I know why we need to do this. I know I’m lucky. I know I’m privileged and that so many have it so much worse. But at this moment, I don’t really give a shit about that, at least not at my party. It’s my party, and I’m going to sit, and mope and sleep and cry and eat and allow myself to do all that for as long as I need to do all that.

And then, at some point, I will be done. I will have emptied my self-pity bladder.  I will have made space in my being for optimism and light and happiness. Because honestly, that really is my natural state of being. I know it seems like it isn’t, but it really is. But when my self-pity bladder gets full, I need to empty it before it explodes. Because it will. And I will need a hazmat team to clean it up.

Alright. Party’s over. Hand me the broom.


Just a girl, sitting quietly, releasing the pressure valve on her brain.