highlights of 2020

In late 2019, my colleague and I were having a conversation about the year not being great for either of us and that 2020 would be better–it would be our year. At the time I was struggling to deal with broken trust and crossed boundaries in my relationships, so I was drinking a lot of alcohol to cope. I wasn’t handling things very well.

Despite a global pandemic, 2020 proved to be a far better year. Since my last full-time work contract ended in March, and my college classes ended in April, I had so much free time on my hands that I was able to simply be, not to mention process things I didn’t otherwise have the capacity for before. And thanks to CERB and Klinic’s post trauma counselling program, I had financial and mental health support and didn’t have to worry about finding work or risking my health for a paycheck.

To list some highlights in the bizarre year that was 2020:

Graduating from college and receiving my diploma in communications.

In 2015 I enrolled in the Creative Communications program at Red River College and was “supposed” to graduate in 2017. However, I had a lot of personal things going on during second year and components of my Independent Professional Project (IPP) did not work out the way I planned, so I took two years off and returned in the fall of 2019 to try again. Since the IPP was no longer part of the course, I took Writer’s Craft for two semesters with the other Public Relations specialists.

While the class of 2020 didn’t get to experience an in-person convocation, we were all mailed out a cute little graduation package that included our diploma. Mine is now framed and hanging in my living room above my beloved filing cabinet. I’m super proud of my younger self for deciding to go back to college and complete the program.

Writing, illustrating, and publishing a personal essay.

The Black Hole was my final CreComm product. It’s a creative non-fiction story about relationships, music, obsession, mental health, and abandonment trauma. It was both cathartic and anxiety-inducing to write, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to workshop my piece with a group of thoughtful, intelligent women, all while receiving support and feedback from two of my favourite instructors.

Riding my bike around Winnipeg and enjoying nature.

periwinkle lilac blossoms. May 30, 2020

Cycling around Winnipeg is one of my favourite pastimes, especially in the spring when all the cherry trees and lilac bushes are blooming. There’s so much freedom in biking, and with new bike lanes popping up, cycling is becoming a safer activity.

Last year in particular, the City of Winnipeg designated 10 streets to be open routes (which meant no vehicles were allowed to drive more than one block) in order to encourage folks to get outside and be active. I cruised down the majority of these open streets and found new routes and places to relax. One of my new fave spots to sit and watch the sunset is Lyndale Drive Park.

House sitting and taking care of two quirky, cuddly cats.

A friend went to visit her partner in another province and asked me to stay at her place to care for her two older cats, Slurpee and Jerome. It was my first experience with house sitting, and it felt nice that someone trusted me to watch over their cherished animal companions and their home.

Slurpee was a major suck and needed to sit on my lap at least twice a day, otherwise she would protest by chewing on my laptop cord. A couple of her favourite activities were chasing the laser pointer and play-scratching at the pink dining room chairs while lying on her back. Jerome was a bit more independent, but definitely got his share of snuggles when he was in the mood–usually right after eating or before bedtime. He was very chatty and loved to watch me eat food from near or far.

Even though I used to work close to Point Douglas, I had never stayed in the area for any extended amount of time. It was fun to explore the trails and local businesses in the neighbourhood, like Pollock’s Hardware Co-op and Gunn’s Bakery. It was also great to have friends over for one-on-one, physically distant backyard bonfires.

Strengthening my friendships.

Although my friends and I weren’t able to enjoy each other’s company as much as we would’ve liked to, our relationships deepened regardless. Whether by phone call or text message, there were many instances where we openly discussed conflict, addressed misunderstandings, and shared our fears. In other words, we practiced a lot of vulnerability.

For example, after responding to a concern I had, one of my confidants asked me, “How do you feel about this friendship?” It caught me off guard. No one had ever asked me that before. It takes a solid person with a healthy ego to ask that kind of question, be willing to hear feedback, and adjust–if necessary.

I’m very thankful for my close friends and our mutual willingness to say how we really feel. That may sound super basic, but as someone who grew up having their feelings consistently unacknowledged and dismissed, having friends who listen and validate without judgement is extremely healing.

Finishing a mosaic that I started five years ago.

Amsterdam mosaic. November 4, 2020

When I took a mosaic art class at the Winnipeg Art Gallery Studio, I became friends with the instructor, Dimitry Melman Komar, and helped him in assembling his installations for local schools and community organizations. Over the years, Dimitry has been kind enough to share his materials and let me use his home studio to make mosaics of my own.

The above mosaic of a street in Amsterdam was a piece I began in 2015, a couple of years after visiting the Netherlands. The mosaic sat on the shelf for years because I lost my motivation from having a lot of difficulty cutting the tiny window frames. But last year I chose to scrap the frames and finish the mosaic once and for all. It felt very satisfying to finally grout the piece and hang it up.

Volunteering with a local grassroots organization.

I joined local abolitionist group Winnipeg Police Cause Harm and have been learning so much about prisons, policing, disability justice, and sexual and gender-based violence. It’s a little overwhelming realizing how much I don’t actually know, but it’s been really great organizing with such passionate people. The group gives me a sense of community and belonging, which is so important and needed–not only because of the isolation, but also because of my recent exit from the local music community. (More on that later, perhaps?)

Abstaining from alcohol.

On December 30, 2019, I decided to take an indefinite break from drinking. I was spending too much money on booze and it was making me anxious, both financially and emotionally. According to my spending tracker, I spent a total of $1,563.36 on alcohol in 2019–enough for a small vacation!

But I didn’t spend a single penny on alcohol last year. I’m very proud of myself for this accomplishment considering how often I used to turn to drinking when I wanted to numb feelings or escape from problems.

Here’s to another year of art, friendship, community organizing, abstinence, and growth. 🤍

Reservations review

Yesterday evening, all of the first-year Creative Communications students went to see Reservations, written by Steven Ratzlaff. It’s a two-part play presented by Theatre Projects Manitoba that focuses on Indigenous themes, primarily reconciliation.

The first thing that stands out is the minimalist set. There is one backdrop and three 6 x 20 foot screens that projectors cast landscape imagery onto throughout the play. The props consist of a round wooden table and four wooden chairs. Although the set is minimal, the script and the acting is not.

The first part of the play is about a generous Albertan farmer, named Pete, who wants to give his land to the Siksika Nation. His privileged daughter, Anna, objects to this because she wants to inherit the land after her father’s death. Through their discussion, the characters share information about treaties and colonialism, revealing their ignorance and enlightenment. But there is no real resolution. We don’t know if Pete gives his land away, which feels unsatisfying.

The second part of the play is about a couple, Jenny and Mike, who foster three Indigenous children. Jenny doesn’t like the kids visiting the reserve and is afraid they’ll be taken away by CFS. The couple visit with an Indigenous social worker, Denise, who explains why visits to the reserve are necessary for the children. The acting is so good that I catch myself feeling anxious when Jenny is really worked up. We learn that the kids are taken away and Jenny is crushed.

The play ends with a lecture presented by Denise. She talks about German philosopher Martin Heidegger. I’m not familiar with his philosophy and it’s hot in the theatre, so I lose interest and wonder when it will be over so I can get some fresh air. But there is a question and answer session with the writer that follows the lecture. It seems like Ratzlaff is tired and hard of hearing. He doesn’t offer a lot of insight. Again, I lose interest.

Overall, I appreciated how the characters showed different perspectives and beliefs about Indigenous culture. It felt very real. But I would have liked to see some resolution instead of lots of back and forth fighting.

You can see Reservations at The Rachel Browne Theatre until March 20.

the art of relaxation

I deal with a pretty big amount of stress and anxiety. Right now, on top of all my school responsibilities, I’m in the midst of trying to find a new place to live by the first of May. I’ve already moved twice since CreComm started last September, and I’m so incredibly exhausted of the whole process. I’m also trying to look for a summer job so I can pay off my line of credit and get some work experience.

With all of these things going on, along with being an introvert, it can be really hard for me to relax and recharge. But I still try. Here are some activities I do to calm myself.

Do a guided meditation. At night, when I’m laying in bed and my head is spinning with all of the things I need to do, I will put on a guided meditation by Michael Sealey. He has an extremely soothing voice. Some of his videos include: releasing negativity, meeting your higher self, and many many more. Check out Michael’s YouTube channel.

Take a bath. There’s nothing that a warm bath won’t help, even just a little bit. I love turning off the lights and lounging in the tub with a few drops of lavender oil. I guess it sort of resembles being in the womb and not having any worries or responsibilities? Ha.

Stretch out. Sitting at school all day and carrying around a backpack really strains the muscles in my body and can cause some pretty nasty knots. It feels great to stretch and regain some flexibility and circulation in problem areas. I usually watch a video so I can follow along and not get distracted.

Make fresh ginger tea. Brewing up some ginger tea and adding honey is one of my favorite acts of self-care. There are so many benefits of fresh ginger tea: it stimulates appetite, relieves tired muscles, and helps to soothe a sore stomach. Ginger root is available at most grocery stores, and the tea itself is very easy to make.

What do you like to do to chill out? Comment and let me know!