When, not if

It’s a strange thing. In my old life, when I was still a good Christian woman(TM), we took it as an act of faith that Christian marriages did not end. Good marriages did not end. I remember telling someone that maybe when marriages ended the two people in the marriage hadn’t really ever given themselves over to the marriage. It wasn’t so much that the marriage failed as the fact it never took place.

I was wrong. I was married. I was married for almost 16 years. There is no way I didn’t give myself over to my marriage. I’m pretty sure he did as well. It was definitely a marriage. Sometimes it was even a good one. It just didn’t work. It couldn’t work. It was never, ever going to work. We were fundamentally different people to start with.  At some point, the chequing account of my marriage was so far in the red from the withdrawals of being different people that I simply wasn’t willing to believe that it could ever be brought to a zero balance.

Maybe I’ve never told you, but I finally realized that the reward for sticking it out wasn’t a gold star, wasn’t some sort of happy prize, it was however much longer of being miserable from a poorly conceived match. My promise of til death do us part wasn’t enough. I wasn’t willing to be miserable any longer. I broke my promise.

If you are me, who believes in loyalty and fidelity, who considers herself to be a romantic, this is a tough place to be. I believe part of what makes love works is a refusal to give up. I also gave up.

Which makes me wonder – should we be saying “and when you realize your relationship needs to end . . . ?

That’s not a romantic proposition. It’s definitely not the sort of proposition that most Christians are going to get behind.

It does feel a bit true though.

I wonder – if our conversations about relationships were based on the idea that they could end, maybe sometimes they should end, how would that change not just the ending of relationships, but the entire life span?

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Guilt and Sorrow and Reconciliation

The women in my family have told a story for generations. It’s a simple story:

At some point the Fort of York came under threat from the Iroquois, so the women and children were put on boats because the Fort was burning. My ancestor, who had come from England and now lived in this wild place, refused to get into the boat without her mother’s tea service. She was not leaving it behind to be burnt. Someone went and got her tea service, she got in the boat and everything was fine. Apparently, her diary is now at the ROM, and you can read these and other observations. 

It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s also about standing up for yourself, remembering where you come from and remaining connected to that. I don’t have the tea service from the story, but I do have a tea service. I use it, at least sometimes. The culture and the etiquette of tea is part of me, as much as being driven and determined.

I am sketchy about which female ancestor it was. There really is no one for me to ask, but maybe it was Simcoe’s wife. Could have been Prevost. To hear my mother’s family we are related to all the interesting people in Upper Canada’s history. It’s clear I tell half a story. I have tried to figure out the other half of the story. The more I tried to get to the full story, the more uncomfortable I became with the story. Why was it Iriquois? And why were they the bad guys?

What story would an Iroquois woman tell about that day*?

As Canada works through reconciliation, through the manifest ways our settler history deliberately destroyed the lives and cultures of indigenous people, I have thought of my half the story. Trying to get to the full story has been, at least in part, about me trying to understand reconciliation. For some, the sins of our settler forefathers can be removed. Not me, they can proclaim; my family didn’t steal indigenous lands. My faith didn’t put them in residential schools.

Even with half a story – yes me. My family did steal their lands. Oh, we talk of treaties, of being fair and how very much better than the American’s we were, but my ancestors wanted their land, so they took it. And my faith? The Anglican church ran three dozen residential schools. We too thought we could kill the Indian in the child.

More stories, and more half stories. My family would tell you of Simcoe’s good work. He’s the reason there was no slavery in Canada. It was outlawed here before it was outlawed in the British Empire, and long before it was outlawed in the US. My faith – it kept me upright during the worst periods of my life. It baptized me, married me – it carried my son home and told me he was safe away from me.

The tea service story.  I thought about just not telling it anymore. It’s only half a story and not a good one at that. Maybe it doesn’t matter? Maybe, given the ways it got history wrong, in the ways it ignored indigenous reality, maybe it wasn’t a good story to tell.

I don’t think that helps. I think there’s a better path to reconciliation. It’s where I tell half the story – acknowledging the gaps and the breaks and the hurts.

And I ask those who can fill in the gaps – those my ancestors hurt, and those I unknowingly continue to hurt – will you help me fill in the gaps? Will you tell me the parts I don’t know?

Together, can we make a full story? A true one at that?
*She wouldn’t, as it turns out. I started trying to match this story to history late last year. I suspect my story is from the Battle of York when York was actually burned. The Iroquois were not at the Battle of York. It was the American’s who burnt York.

Posted in Feats of Wonder, Learning Life | 1 Comment

In Humble Defence

Years ago I was sitting in a church service, and the pastor argued if you were going to marry someone, the best thing you could do was see that person in a very wide variety of situations before you decided to marry them.

Obviously, this was based on the idea that people really shouldn’t date (which meant giving your heart away to a variety of people, and horror of horrors, potentially have sex with people you weren’t married to) and the idea that marriage was permanent and forever and ever, regardless of whether or not it worked for you.

I still think there’s logic here, the idea that dating maybe isn’t the best or even the entire way to see who a person is. So, Costco, which is deeply practical, has at least some merit.

For the record, I did manage to sort out dinner and theatre reservations tonight. I’m not completely hopeless.

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At the start of March, I had to go back to Victoria for business. I’ve been back to Vic in the 2.5 years since I left my old employer, only it was for school, so a different part of the city. The trip went well, I got lots of stuff done. There will probably be a few more trips, which feels nice because Victoria is always a bit like coming home for me.

I was sitting in reception, waiting for a colleague I’ve never met. Old colleagues and clients are coming by. In the 15 minutes I waited, I had 4 people offer to let me in. It was like I left last week, not almost 3 years ago.

And there’s the catching up. Telling people what I’ve been doing. The travel routine hadn’t changed, but I have. Almost nothing about my life is the same. Different job, different employer, not married, have MS, have MBA.

A lot has changed. In the last three years, and also in the last 10.

Which is worth mentioning, because this blog turned 10 a few days ago.

And I wanted to say thanks for being here. In the middle of all the changes.

Posted in Learning Life | 2 Comments

What you Call Yourself

Last summer I had a very explosive fight with a friend, which effectively ended our friendship.  After doing what seemed like a somewhat chauvinist thing, my friend pointed out that he was a feminist. Actually, he insisted he was a feminist. The whole thing seemed a bit rich when the argument started with a defense of the Google Manifesto. Can you argue that there is a biological basis for women not being good at coding and still call yourself a feminist?

The whole discussion became a thing that I pulled out and thought about every so often, usually in those liminal minutes between wake and sleep. Sometimes over coffee or beer with a friend. I confess I hadn’t really gotten anywhere. What do you say when Sarah Palin and Ivanka Trump call themselves a feminist? Clearly, the definition is a bit muddy.

I had dinner with a business associate last week. He voted for Trump.

(And it’s worth an aside here. Partly we stay in contact because of the exigencies of work, but also because I find it helpful to remind myself that some people who voted for Trump have redeeming qualities as human beings. When I never talk to Trump voters, it’s easy for me to cast the entire lot as racist, misogynistic halfwits. It’s a bit harder when you know one. I will never agree with his vote, but reminding myself to humanize people seems like a better path forward.)

My business associate talked about how proud he was that Trump was upholding Christian values. I was perplexed because I don’t know my associate to be a Christian. In the 8 years I’ve known him, I’ve never heard him talk about going to church, reference reading the Bible, mention prayer. Why on earth would he care that Trump called it Christmas and was a Christian? Indeed, when I made reference to the “render unto Caesar”, my  associate had no idea what I was talking about. He’d literally never heard of the verse.

Mostly my liminal self-conversations have made me realize that anyone can call themselves anything. It’s not incredulity about what titles people give themselves. I’m past that.

My struggle is what to do with those titles.

It feels, well, it feels rude to look at someone and say “sorry if you don’t know basic scripture, you can’t call yourself a Christian.” More than that, it feels like a fight I can’t win. It seems like Jesus is going to be a better arbitrator of who gets to call themselves a Christian.

But I also confess to some frustration.

I used to be a Christian. I still am a feminist. Those words have meaning. They have requirements. They don’t belong to just anyone.

Posted in irrelevant reverence | 2 Comments

I like to think of this as progress

When I need to explain to people about how bad I am at dating, I tell them about the job interviewer who kissed me goodnight. (I may have missed something about why we were meeting for dinner)

Last night the accidental guy took me out for dinner. (I had, using the checklist, established that this was a date and not just dinner). He brought me the most beautiful roses. It’s progress that I identified it as a date. Before the date happened even.

I had a lot of fun. He really is fantastic.

Wanting to see him again, I asked if he wanted to go to Costco tonight.


That’s not quite right, is it?

(Also, could someone help me populate the checklist of what is supposed to come next?)

Posted in Adult Dating | 2 Comments

Actually, it’s the starting bit

They left out the starting bit and I am lost.

I have summarized the part at the end as having “happily ever after” in a heart. (I think there’s probably a bluebird in there too.) That’s what’s on the last page. Happily ever after isn’t actually the end of the story, but it serves as a relatively flexible yet still solid place marker. We know we got somewhere.

There is a whole book or play which comes before the happily ever after lines. That’s all the bits about where the girl falls in love and then out of love and there are diverse alarums and mistaken identities (Maybe that’s only in Shakespeare?) I know this part exists because a zillion dollar entertainment business exists to make the movies and publish the books.

You know what is absent? The starting bit. There are zero dollars given to detailing the starting bit. I am starting to think the starting bit is inherently problematic.

Consider. I am going on a date tonight. I know that it is a date because I am being picked up, he has a plan and he’s buying my dinner. (Please also consider that I am the sort of woman who uses yes/no elements to figure out what constitutes a date.)

This date was planned, well at least the location was chosen, on an earlier date. So, that’s actually two dates. There is also a date planned for next week. In a grammatical sense, I am dating this guy. We cover every tense of the verb date. Even I am confident that one does not use participles to define dating.

It’s all a bit fuzzy. I mean it’s me and dating, so there’s a level of fuzzy that exists (and this is why I have checklists), but also he was a friend and he’s still a friend, and now he’s a friend I go on dates with. I should tell you he’s working hard to make friends with my dog and he petted one of my cats.

So, we have the end bit (with the bluebird). We have the middle bit, with the falling in and out of love and mistaken identity (or maybe that’s just Shakespeare). But, before you get to the middle, long before there is any sort of end (which could just as easily involve sobbing into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream) there has to be a starting point.

There’s somewhere beyond the part where he unexpectedly kisses me in the middle of a TV show we were both watching; somewhere around the time he tries to make friends with my dog (I’m waiting to see how long it takes him to just buy dog bones) and before any of the bits about telling your friends or showing up to work functions together and making plans for three months from now. There’s a whole starting bit. And it’s missing.

And it’s confusing.

Really, I can’t think of why Shakespeare couldn’t work this in.


Posted in Adult Dating | 1 Comment


I finally have words.

My mum used to say that your goals must slightly exceed your grasp, or what is a heaven for?

For 610 days I worked on my MBA. I wrote papers, I worked with teams, I read stacks of journal articles. It wasn’t life-changing like it was for many of my classmates.  It was a job. I’m good at jobs. You figure out what needs to be done and you grind it out.

I was so very melancholy.

I crept out during the final event; everyone was celebrating and I didn’t feel like I belonged. I caught the last ferry out of Victoria. I told them I just needed to go home; really, I needed to understand. I drove through the night, through a blizzard; searching for answers and trying to find words. I’ve held myself together for two weeks,  telling myself that I would find the words.

And I have.

I wanted my effort to slightly exceed my grasp. That’s what makes my life worth living. Not just doing the job but the moment when I make that really big stretch and grab hold. The moment when I stand a bit taller because of the stretch.

Those are the moments that change me, transform me.

For two years I put in time and effort, but there was never a stretch.

I won’t be standing taller.

Posted in Grad Student | 1 Comment

Wearing Birkenstocks with a Suit

At the University of Alberta, you could say that the Faculties of Business and Arts are connected by a hallway*. You might also say they are divided by a canyon. Next week I am going to cross the canyon.

I understand how I got to this point. My boss asked if someone would go talk to a group of business students about technology and business. I volunteered. I don’t mind public speaking. Well, to be honest, I like it. It’s a chance to organize and present my thoughts. Sometimes people even have other thoughts.

Back in 1997, when I started my undergrad degree, I almost crossed the canyon. In those days, you had to do your first year in some other faculty and then you could apply.  Midway through my first year, I realized that business students wore suits to class. I liked wearing band t-shirts and plaid shirts and my birks with wool socks.  I stuck to theories of social justice and economics and a love of Marxism. I have a degree in arts.

Somehow it worked out well. I work in technology, I do management consulting and you may have heard that I went back to school to get an MBA. I have the credentials to talk to them.

I’m still, well, I’m still kinda giggling about it. 20 years after I decided not to join the faculty of business, I’ll walk into the business building, into a classroom and I’ll lecture.

My topic? The virtues of being a polymath. In other words, I’m going to tell a bunch of business students to spend less time thinking about business.

*Actually, it’s an atrium but that sounds less poetic.

Posted in Learning Life | 2 Comments

One Hundred Thousand Words

I did some summing up yesterday. To get my MBA I have written about 100,000 words.

I’m reasonably adept at this whole “using my words” thing. I’m not bad at the summing thing either.

Which is why it is such a surprise that I have started no less than 6 blog posts trying to sum up how I feel about finishing my MBA.

I got. . .


But, I’m done.

Thought I should tell you that.

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