Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chris Cornell

I'm surprised by how deeply I've been affected by Chris Cornell's death on Thursday. I didn't follow Soundgarden's career. I knew some of their songs, obviously, and I liked them but I wasn't an avid, die-hard fan.
When it came to the exquisite musical artistry that was Chris Cornell, I came late to the party. I arrived five years ago. Whitney Houston had just died. There was a benefit of some sort and on stage was Chris Cornell - this grunge rocker holding his guitar, his curly hair hanging in his face. Here was a man much older and more seasoned than the strapping young rockstar we knew from the '90s. After a few songs, he leaned into the microphone to chat with the audience while he set up his instrument. He began to strum his guitar and he launched into one of the most astonishing renditions of "I Will Always Love You" that I have ever heard. It was extraordinary, his range. I can barely listen to it now without choking up.
What struck me back then as I listened to him sing was the soul of both the performer and the moment. From a genre perspective, Chris Cornell and Whitney Houston seemed worlds apart. There was a kind of unfathomable beauty in his singing for her. But it wasn't just beautiful because he was a grunge rocker paying tribute to a gospel, pop artist diva. It was beautiful because he was one addict paying reverence and respect to another.
I don't think I understood that part of the beauty back then. I wouldn't understand it until years later when my Dad, who was a highly skilled musician and a long suffering addict, died alone in his sleep, deeply entrenched in the isolation that consistently accompanied him and his disease.
I had been out of contact with my Dad for the eight years that preceded his death. I didn't understand addiction. I wouldn't learn, until it was too late, that it was possible to strike a balance between safeguarding my own wellness while still letting my Dad know that he was loved. I didn't know that option was available until my Dad died and the knowledge that had previously eluded me came rushing in to every part of my psyche in the form of an undeniable wisdom that sometimes only comes to us the hard way.
When I think back to the performance Chris Cornell gave five years ago, I feel like he was foreshadowing a moment in time that would come to pass for my Dad and me. I didn't know this at the time, of course, but looking back from my vantage point now, I see that Chris Cornell not only sang his heart out for another musician who had for years been descending into the deep dark lows of her own addiction. I can see looking back that with every note he sang that night, he was telling her with grace, power and compassion that he could see her through the disease.
It's beyond heartbreaking that the world lost him. But I dearly hope we have not lost what he could see.
There is so much about suicide we don't know. But there's a lot we can learn. I hope we learn it quickly and with grace. There are many who pay the price when we learn the hard way; those who die by suicide and those left behind.
Before Chris Cornell sang that night for Whitney Houston, he apologized to the audience.
He said, "I just learned this so when I mess it up, forgive me."
To all those we didn't understand until it was too late, please forgive us.
We're just learning too. 

"I Will Always Love You"

Much love,
The Happiness Detective 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Addiction

So this guy walks into a bar. Orders a shot. Slams it back. Orders another one. Slams that one back. Keeps drinking until the bartender cuts him off. He goes home and repeatedly drinks himself into oblivion. He passes out, wakes, lashes out in drunken stupors, loses job after job, loses his family and everything he holds dear then spends the rest of his life alone until he dies of natural causes by himself at the age of 61 in a small cluttered bedroom in the tiny apartment he shares with a roommate nobody knows. 

This is the least funny joke I have ever told. It's not funny cause it's true. 

My Dad died last Saturday. He was an alcoholic. I had ended my relationship with him eight years ago in a conversation without malice on my part. My last words to him then were spoken with love and grace. I had reached my own rock bottom with his addiction and in order to preserve my emotional wellness, I needed to sever all ties with him.  I felt at peace in doing so. And I knew this day would come. But I had no idea it would rock me to my core. 

Garry Law was technically my Step-Dad but because I grew up having had no contact with my absentee biological father, I knew Garry only as my Dad. He married my Mom when they were both very young. They had my brother when my Mother was twenty years old, my Dad was twenty-one, and I was a toddler. They divorced not long afterward and my Dad moved to Alberta to be with another woman. He went through that marriage in short order and before I was a teenager he married my Step-Mom, Sue, who remains in my life to this day. 

My Dad was a musician all his adult life. In the '80s, when I was a kid, he belonged to an Edmonton band called Darkroom. They released a single called Pressure. It never took off but I thought it was the best song ever written. As a kid, I told all my friends about it. I showed them pictures of the band and pointed out my Dad who was adorned in tight leather pants, his eyes smudged with black liner. Stylistically, he was the Ewan McGregor of the Edmonton music scene. I never missed an opportunity to nonchalantly point out to my friends that my Dad was a "rock and roll star". I tried to be a cool character when describing him to my friends but my preteen attempts at fashionable aloofness failed, my massive pride in him poorly concealed, simmering just below the surface. 

I might not have fully understood his issues as a kid. I loved him so much. But looking back through time and space through the lens of my life now, I can see how early things went off the rails back then. My earliest memories are ones of violence. My Dad was shockingly physical with my Mom and I witnessed that as a very small person. Witnessing those kinds of outbursts as a tiny being colors the way you view the world as you grow up into it. To this day, there is a small part of me that expects to be smacked around and, as a grown woman, I can become quickly filled with rage at the injustice, toward the act itself and my expectation of it.  I think my parents' divorce was a blessing because it gave my Mom a chance to hold her ground in safety as they fought long distance over the phone. 

After my Mom died, nearly sixteen years ago, my Dad apologized to me for those early assaults. And he meant it. He had made peace with my Mom in later years and he very much wished he had done things differently as a young man. And while I cannot rewrite history here (the truth is my Mom did all the heavy lifting), my Dad loved my brother and me dearly. He brought us out to Edmonton for visits, introduced us to his second wife, her family and the culinary delights of the Spanish rice he made for us which we gobbled up while watching Family Ties on TV. There was talk for a time of having us go and live with him for a while. The pressures of being an impoverished single parent were wearing so thoroughly on my Mom that she needed a break to mourn through the agonies of her life in order to get herself back on solid footing again. But that was not to be. We did not go live with my Dad and his new wife. They divorced and for a time, it seemed, my Dad dropped off the face of the earth. When we finally heard from him again, it was with the news that he had married someone else. A lady named Sue. I was eleven. My brother was eight. We hadn't been invited to the wedding. My Dad thought we would be too angry with him for having disappeared, I guess. So he waited until after the wedding to introduce us to his new bride. 

I could tell right from the minute I laid eyes on her, that this one was a keeper. She was so profoundly kind, loving and even keeled. Even as a kid, I could see that she would be very good for my Dad. And for a long time, I think they were happy together. I remember them being a constant presence in my and my brother's life, even from two provinces away. There were no more disappearing acts. There were trips out west, phone calls and letters, fatherly embraces of consolation - in person - when my boyfriend broke my heart as a teenager. My Dad was at my high school graduation and partied with me at the dry grad and the boozed filled festivities that followed. I even lived with my Dad and Step-Mom during my first year in college in Calgary when their son, my little brother, was just over a year old. I saw them regularly after the birth of my baby sister when my second semester was wrapping up. 

We were a family. A big, messy, motley convoluted crew with lots of parents and siblings. Once, after my Mom and younger sister moved to Calgary from Manitoba, we all enjoyed a Christmas together which was weird and wonderful at the same time. There were camping trips and fishing trips and backyard BBQs. My Dad was a cook by trade. He worked in the kitchen of the local juvenile penitentiary for years. His culinary skills extended to his own kitchen and I watched him whip up some of the most delicious dishes I had ever tasted. There were times my Mom enjoyed the remnants of his feasts when I was sent home with leftovers for her and my sister from the dinners at my Dad and Sue's table.

It's hard to remember exactly when the drinking took hold. My Dad could always hold his own with a bottle of whiskey. But his spiral began at some point in the late '90s. At least, that's when I noticed it. I would be over for dinner and remember thinking it strange that as soon as he got home from work, he would slam back a couple shots of whiskey before he started cooking. I rarely drank in my 20s. The thought of drinking alcohol straight like that seemed to me like pouring turpentine down your throat. Since it wasn't my thing, I chalked his shot consumption up to the equivalent of maybe having a cocktail after work. 

But his battle with the bottle soon began to wreak havoc. The abuses my Dad suffered as a child became demons for him as an adult and he drank to keep them at bay. He proceeded down a precarious path upon which he drank his life away. He was charged with a DUI (or more), fell into drunken comas, lost job after job, neglected his children and sent his family into financial ruin. It was agonizing watching him destroy his marriage to a woman who deserved only the best in life. He stole money, failed to pay child support and disappeared relentlessly on all of us. Sometimes, we didn't know if he was dead or alive. There were many, many times we tried to reach out. I've lost track of the amount of conversations I've had with my Dad about his drinking, his sadness, his failures, his low opinion of himself and my belief that if he went to AA and counseling that he could get better and save his family. But he could not right himself. And, with the exception of a single family member, one by one, we all ended contact with him.

A few years before my last conversation with my Dad, in an attempt to connect with him, I decided I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. It was his instrument and I thought it was the perfect way to bond with him. It was so much fun shopping with my Dad for that guitar. He seemed sober then. And proud of me too, I think. Up until then, my Dad's musical influence played out only in the world of my imagination. I was the rock star in my mind that I thought my Dad was when I was a kid. When I clean the kitchen, it is not uncommon to tuck my iPod nano into my apron, like a badass, and blast into my ear the deliciously strident tones of Axl Rose.  I am Slash playing the shit out of the guitar solo in November Rain to a stadium filled with thousands. Sometimes (read: most times) when I drive my super-fly base model Toyota Corolla, I crank Led Zeppelin and at 5:35 into Stairway to Heaven, when Jimmy Page is about to take off, I step into his place on my imaginary stage in my tight leather pants and I think of my Dad as I wow the crowd with my musical stylings. 

In real life, I took lessons for maybe half a year and learned the beginnings of some of my favorite songs but before too long, my enthusiasm for playing lessened as did my Dad's brief spurts with sobriety. I can't remember a single chord I learned back then. Not even music with all its infinite, melodious power could keep my Dad and me together.  Like a kid bored with a new instrument, I relegated the thing in its case somewhere to the back of my closet where it has remained ever since with its broken strings, covered in a blanket of dust. 

For me, the final straw came when my first son was a few months old. My Dad had just hit a spectacular low of squandering a windfall on booze, engaging in theft and abandonment. As a result, he missed the birth of my first child entirely.  I knew I didn't want for my son the rocky road I had travelled with my father. When he finally did call, with as much love and kindness as I could muster, I told him I couldn't do this anymore; that I wished him well but that our relationship was over. And I never spoke to him again.

When my Mom died, we were all there at her bedside, including my Dad who was getting sober that very week after yet another drunken coma from a few days before. Alongside all of us, he held her hand before she passed. He white knuckled his way through her death and made dinner for my friends that weekend when they came to console me. He even poured out the mickey of vodka he had stashed in his jacket pocket in the parking lot on the way into the funeral. He was determined to be there for us and he tried his very best to give all his kids his sobriety at a time when we were falling apart and needed it most.

But when my Dad died, no one was there for him. He was alone, surrounded by his pictures, his vinyl and the dust that blanketed the evidence of a life that passed him by. If I could go back and change it, I would. I would find a way to protect my sanity in the face of his alcoholism and tell him that he was loved. I didn't know until the day he died that was even an option. I thought it was all or nothing. I used to think I understood addiction. But it turns out I don't understand it all. I used to think, well, he did X, Y and Z, he'll never change and now I must do 1, 2 and 3 - plunking in a permanent consequence to this sad sequence as if my relationship with my Dad was some sort of mathematical equation. But there's no math that adds up to a world in which I let my father die alone. I denied him the sacred ending he rightly deserved in spite of his misery. At the time of this writing, I haven't even told a single friend that he died. Not because I'm ashamed of my father. But because of the remorse I feel at not picking up the phone at least one more time to say, "I love you Dad."

My Dad did so many things wrong. But my greatest failing was that I couldn't see the man through the disease. They became intertwined for me. I bore him no ill will but my will, nevertheless, was impenetrable. I was so certain about my choice to cut my Dad out of my life. But I can tell you my absolutes bring me very little comfort today. Conversely, in spite of all the heartache he caused, he was unwavering in his love for us. When they charged his cell phone after he died, they didn't find a picture of an empty bottle of vodka as his screensaver. They found a picture of his family instead. 

If you have an addict in your life and you can exercise your boundaries while sending a note of love, I encourage you to do so.  I didn't do that for my father and that contributed to a reality where he had no one to hold his hand and ease him sacredly through his exit from this life.  

Now I am left with the confusion and comfort of serendipities. Three days after he died, I auditioned for a character in a movie - a therapist - who tells her adult patient to end all contact with her father. She actually says, "Your father will never change." The day after that, I auditioned for a character who consoles another character on the death of a family member, offering compassion and sympathies in the face of strange circumstances. But perhaps the most poignant serendipity since Saturday came the day after my Dad's death. Bryce and I had been lazy in our grocery shopping and had nothing planned for dinner that night. My husband is a much better cook than me and has made many a meal in our time together. Out of the blue that day, he suggested he make beef stroganoff. He killed it, as per usual. The smell wafted through the house and we were all salivating by the time it was served. It's worth noting that he has never made this dish for me, not once in our ten years together. I was looking forward to it, immensely. As we sat down and I tasted my first delicious mouthful, a memory came flooding back to me and it stilled the energy of the room. It was of the first meal my Dad and Sue made for me after they were married. Beef stroganoff. I put my fork down. I couldn't eat for a while. It felt like my Dad was somehow there with me. And it brought me a measure of peace. I may be uncertain about so much regarding my Dad's disease. But I do know that in that moment, for the first time in a long time, I pulled out a chair and I set a place for my father at my table.  

In a few hours, I'll board a plane and go to Calgary to be with my family. We'll assist each other through our remorse, each of us swimming in a sea of our own regrets and we will pull together to figure out what comes next. In all the confusion and complicated feelings, what we know for certain is that one of the things our Dad did right was that, many years ago, he brought this remarkable family together. And together, we will journey to his favorite fishing spot, scatter his ashes and release his agony from this world. In spite of my own failing, that's one thing I know I can do right.

When I get back, I think I'll dust off the guitar I bought with my Dad all those years ago and learn to play again. See if I can bring the best part of him back to life. The first song I (sort of) learned back then was probably a bit of a clich├ęd choice for new students but I don't care. I loved it. I still do. It's a song that reminds me so much of my Dad right now; Of his demons, his struggles, his anguish and my hope that all of those things have somehow been liberated from this earth with his passing. To me, it's a song that speaks to light and letting go. And when I hear it, I am filled with hope. 

I hope more than anything that my Dad knows I loved him. And that wherever he is, he's free. 

Xo,
Enid-Raye Adams,
The Happiness Detective 

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night. 
Take these broken wings and learn to fly. 
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night. 
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly.
Blackbird fly.
Into the light of the dark black night..."



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

No One

Now more than ever, it seems the good in life is being overshadowed by the loudest among us. I am continually shocked by the growing, rageful influence of the world's loudest carnival barkers. Their noise can be deafening; their message a sucker punch to the rest of us seeking a better life for our children and for future generations. Sometimes, in my attempt to salve the wound caused by those who would send us back in time with their hateful rhetoric, I seek humour to offset the negativity of our current circumstances. Other times, I am moved by good old fashioned sentimentality; by the power of a beautiful piece of music.

This song by Alicia Keys is originally about romantic love. But to me it also speaks to another kind of love - the love we seek for ourselves as individuals through our connection to the greater collective. This connection keeps the beat of our drum moving us forward to a time when we will love ourselves so much that we won't seek to fill the void with hatred and violence. We will treat our brothers and sisters in this beautiful human family as equals.

This song reminds me that even though the world might be telling us one story, we can effect great change by reflecting back another. Whether we wear our hearts on our sleeves or a powerful message on a dress calling for the removal of a hateful flag; whether we share a meal with the homeless among us or welcome displaced refugees to our shores; whether we insist upon equal pay for equal work or demand answers on behalf of countless indigenous women who should never have gone missing - this song reminds me not to be overwhelmed. It reminds me to know what I know right down to my Ukrainian bones: That when we work together and allow our choices to be motivated from a place of love, no one can stop us.

No one.

My friends, join the chorus and dance to the beat of the glorious Ms. Keys.

Yours in the quest for bliss,

Enid-Raye Adams
The Happiness Detective

Monday, November 23, 2015

Open Letter To Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re: TPP

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Like many Canadians, I have been encouraged by the inclusive tone you've set as Prime Minister; the cabinet you put together comprised equally of highly qualified women and men; the call for a national inquiry for the 1200 + missing and murdered indigenous women; the accessibility you've reinstated to scientists as well as accessibility for us to your government in order that we may enjoy an open discourse as citizens of this country.

I've lost track of the amount of times I've applauded your inspirational sentiments since the election. I high-fived you from Vancouver when you held a press conference in the National Press Gallery Theatre, which hadn’t been used by the previous government since 2009. I was incredibly heartened that you insisted we would continue with the plan to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees in the face of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. I've burst into tears either from unmitigated joy or sheer relief that my country is finally back after having been lost to a strangely dark time in our recent history. I am filled with hope for this country, for my children and for the new direction we are at long last taking. Based on what you’ve communicated to Canadians, you have a regard for all this country’s citizens regardless of their level of financial wealth and, indeed, you seem to want to help make life better for everyone.

So I'm sitting here, Mr. Prime Minister, scratching my head as to why in the world you would agree to promote the TPP. Entrepreneurs, politicians and environmentalists alike say this is a very bad deal for Canada. They say it’s NAFTA on steroids. It reads as a manifesto for corporate control, allowing corporations the ability to sue us – by tribunal in secret – if we set policies that prevent them from making more money. The TPP holds us accountable to the standards of other countries, also represented in the deal, and will prevent us from enjoying and improving our quality of life here in Canada. If that quality of life interferes in any way with corporations’ ability to make top dollar, corporations will sue us to the point that we will stop trying to improve life in this country altogether.  It may destroy many of the things you said you wanted to achieve for Canadians during your campaign and since taking office.

Any goal you set at the end of this month in Paris to address climate change? Forget about it. If that goal prevents a corporation from making money, we'll be sued for trying to achieve it. Try to raise the minimum wage for low income earners or take any much needed action to strengthen this country's Universal Health Care system? Forget about it. We'll be sued for that too. (Under the terms of NAFTA, Canada is currently being sued by American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly for $500 million because our courts invalidated two of their patents. If these are the kinds of lawsuits we can expect under NAFTA, I shudder to think what awaits us under the TPP.)

Mr. Prime Minister, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate corporations. There are some good ones out there and I get to decide which of them to support as a consumer. I just don’t believe any given corporation should be able to dictate to me every single aspect of my life, my children’s lives and the lives of future generations. 

As a parent to two little boys, my biggest concern is how the TPP will interfere with my children’s access to a quality education. There's been a huge push all over the world by big business to change the face of public education as we know it. It's happening right now in British Columbia, where I live. I have watched for years as the provincial government has starved the school system of necessary funding, slowly but surely paving the road to privatizing education. In 2014, as part of that process, Premier Christie Clark announced B.C. would reformat public education to encourage children from kindergarten to grade 12 to work in the liquefied natural gas industry.

You read that right, Mr. Prime Minister: The provincial government is changing the school system to get kids to work in the LNG. Can you believe that??

To me, public education isn’t about training children to become workers. It’s about educating students to become citizens. It’s also one of the last great equalizers we have left in the world.  As a former teacher (and a very good one from what I hear), I'm sure you can appreciate that, when properly funded, a quality education gives all of us an equal start in life, regardless of our socio economic backgrounds. But if you continue to promote the TPP as you told Japan you would, you will be opening the door even wider to corporate involvement in our school system. If we ever were to have a provincial government properly fund the school system, we’d be sued by corporations for doing so. Corporations will have a stronger influence on setting curriculum to suit their own interests and education will suffer as a result. If parents can't get a quality education for their children in public schools, they'll be forced to pay for it privately. And I assure you, Mr. Prime Minister, that is a cost most families simply can't afford.

Like all families, my husband and I want to give our kids every possible opportunity in life. We're trying to figure out how to put them through university in a province with a grotesquely underfunded public school system, in a city where it costs $2 million to buy an average house we’ll never be able to afford while also trying to set aside enough money for retirement. (This just in: I'll be working until I'm 80.) We've got a lot on our plates, Mr. Prime Minister. If you sign this trade agreement, you won't be helping the middle class or low-income earners. In fact, you'll be making it much more expensive for all of us who aren’t millionaires. You will be selling our children's education to the highest bidder in a deal that is designed to benefit big business at the expense of the human beings in this country who need you to advocate on their behalf, rather than on behalf of the TPP.

This deal sucks Mr. Prime Minister. Say no to it. I don't want big business to decide what my children are taught in school. I want educators to do that. I want my children to have all options available to them, not just the ones that benefit certain CEOs and shareholders in one particular industry.

I want my children to grow up to be as proud of Canada as I am. I don't want them to look back to this agreement as the moment they stopped living in a country and started living in a corporation.

Sincerely,

Enid-Raye Adams

Mom, Actor, Concerned Citizen

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Canada's Son

Pierre Elliot Trudeau died three and a half months after my Mom died. In those early times, I remember being immersed in a grief that was desperate and lonely, filled with a kind of anguish I couldn't describe if I tried.
I was alone in my apartment, watching on TV as Justin Trudeau gave the eulogy at his father's funeral. As I listened to him deliver a beautiful, heartfelt and at times genuinely funny speech, I remember feeling comforted and less alone. I remember feeling connected to others who were experiencing, across the country, what I was going through as an individual. I remember feeling my grief lift somewhat and in its place there appeared the understanding of a simple truth that impacted me then and which has stayed with me until this day: We all matter. 
My Mom wasn't a Prime Minister. She wasn't a statesman, nor was she renowned the world over. She was a single Mom who worked two or three jobs at any given time to put food on the table for her three kids. She did everything she could to give us a better life than the one she had. One with Christmases and magic; theatre and poetry; hockey and dance lessons; art and community. No one outside our family or our circle of friends knew her name. But in my eyes, she was a giant and she was every bit as powerful to me as Pierre Trudeau was to his son. 
I remember sometime in the 80s, years before she died, there was a terrible hurricane in Jamaica. People lost their lives, their loved ones and their homes. My sister is Jamaican and my Mom wanted to do something to help the people who shared my sister's heritage. So she organized a donation drop off at a huge warehouse that wasn't being used at the time. She got the space for free so that the people of Portage la Prairie, where I grew up, could come and donate clothing items and blankets that would then be packed up and shipped off to those in need. She wanted the people of Jamaica to know that the people of Canada had their backs. 
My Mom didn't proselytize to me about this. She didn't get on her soapbox and do it for the attention or the credit. She just went on about her business as a single parent, raising her kids, working her jobs while, somehow finding the time to help people in another part of the world that she had never even met. She did it to let those people know that they mattered too. And in doing so, she quietly taught me by example the power held in a simple act of kindness.
In the first couple months after she died, I remember feeling so angry that no one in Vancouver knew her name. This woman who was so important to me. The woman in whose eyes I could see my home. She had so little, yet she was so generous to others. How could no one know her name? Or who she was? Or that I could barely stomach the thought of eating or laughing or experiencing joy in a world without her in it?
The sting of those unanswered questions lessened over time as a result of a variety of different things, most of which had to do with the love and kindness extended to me by others. (Some I had never even met.) Justin Trudeau's eulogy for his Dad was also a bit of a turning point for me. I remember resonating specifically with the words he spoke about his father reminding us all what we're capable of. And that, in his absence, it would be up to us now to realize and fulfill that potential. 
I don't know what it was about those particular words over and above any other of the wise words I had heard in those early months after my Mom died. Perhaps it was the moment of national mourning which had tapped into my singular experience of loss. But there was something about those words he spoke. A magic. A grace. A kindness. Hearing those words helped pull the deep, heavy curtain back from the darkness of my grief. And I began to feel a tiny bit of joy again.
A week or so after Justin Trudeau delivered that eulogy, I met him on the street in my neighbourhood in Vancouver. He was still a teacher back then and he was out for a walk on a cloudy Sunday morning with friends. I stopped and introduced myself. I explained that my Mom had just died. I extended my condolences to him on the loss of his father. And I thanked him for the beautiful words he shared in the midst of his grief which had somehow managed to lift me a little out of my own.
We spoke briefly. He was genuine and kind and he thanked me very much before we each went our separate ways.
Last night, as Prime Minister Elect of our country, he gave another speech and I can't help but feel that he has lifted the curtain back again, this time on a collective darkness that has lingered too long over the hearts of Canadians. There is a fear that has been lifted; a division struck down; a seeming indifference by the previous government toward the people of this country which feels to be dissolving and in its place I feel rising up a regard for this country's citizens that I haven't felt in a good long while. 
I know there is work to be done. And I know we may not agree on policy. But today I feel that we're back in this together. And that with respect, kindness and compassion we will indeed find our way back to the sunny side of the street.
Welcome home Canada. It's good to have you back. 

Xo,
Enid-Raye Adams
The Happiness Detective

Monday, September 21, 2015

Is Nothing Sacred?

Well folks, I'm feeling the deep feels today. My kids are both in school full time. I'm keenly aware of the passage of time. I'm resonating intensely with the life experiences of friends I know and those in this world I have never met. 
I'm a wee bit, as they say, open.
This morning, I walked by a Terry Fox poster in my boys' school and I could not stop the goose bumps, the awe and the emotion that bubbled up as I read and re-read all the details of Terry's journey. 
When I was a kid, my brother and I thought if we chanted "Honk your horn for Terry Fox!" at the cars that drove by that FOR CERTAIN all those who honked their horn would help Terry get better so he could complete his Marathon of Hope, finish his run across Canada and find a cure for cancer. 
Tonight, 35 years later, my two little boys sit in a bathtub together and chant back and forth:
"When I say Terry, you say - "
"FOX!"
"Terry..."
"FOX!"
"Terry..."
"FOX!"
They do this for a young man who ran and lived decades before they ever came to know life. Their cheers for my childhood hero lift my spirits and fill me with hope that the truly good and decent among us will continue to be celebrated long after their time on this planet has passed. And that this, in turn, will inspire countless others to allow their own goodness and decency to be the cream that rises to the top.
It is reprehensible to me that the Conservative Party has politicized and campaigned at the expense of my childhood hero in this way. I know I shouldn't be surprised. But, to me, this really is a new low.
Shame on you, Conservative Party.
Shame on your lack of integrity.
Shame on your deceitful standard operating procedure.
And shame on your disregard for the sanctity of a legend.
Terry Fox persevered and accomplished what is illogical and impossible. He deserved better than this. As did his family. 
October 19th cannot come soon enough for me. 
In the meantime, feel free to donate to a great cause in honour of one of the most extraordinary Canadians of all time: Terry Fox Foundation
Thank you Terry, for everything.
Xo
Your pal,
The Happiness Detective

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Boy On The Beach... (Resetting Our Political Compass)

I didn't look at the picture for very long. I only saw it by accident, actually, in the morning as I was checking my email before I left the house for a busy day filled with errands and work. I thought the little guy was having a nap on the beach, that's how briefly I looked.

Later in the day, I came to understand what had really happened. I began to sense something was awry when I was at the bank and looked up at the news on TV to see the image of the boy again and Stephen Harper explaining that we needed a stronger military presence. It was noisy in the bank and I didn't hear everything that was said. I just remember looking from the news on the TV over at my two little boys who were gobbling up their salty popcorn treats, sitting on their chairs waiting patiently for me to finish my banking. It was later when I got home, that I would learn the details of how someone else's little boy on the other side of the world came to be on that beach, not napping after all.

Details came out describing the attempts of Canadian relatives to bring the little boy and his immediate and extended family to this country. Depending on what you read in the news, those attempts were either deemed insufficient, incomplete or not received at all by Citizenship and Immigration. Or perhaps, like attempts by many other refugees, they were thwarted by a tedious and stingy bureaucracy acting out of alignment with the immigration goals set by the very same Prime Minister who called for further military action instead of keeping his promise to open Canada's doors to those displaced by the ravages of war. As I read these details, I could feel myself shutting down again the same way I did when those impossibly small grade one students were shot to death in their classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The inhumanity of it all left me feeling hollow and numb.

Sometimes, it's hard to think things will ever get better than this.
But if that were true then what is the point? What in the world are we doing here if not, as I've said many times before, to work together to move our collective human story forward?

I'm not religious. I don't believe there's a God in the sky acting as a father figure blessing some while disparaging others. I defer to science for the most part. But I also hold a space in my heart for the possibility of things not yet proven. And in this way, I believe there is something that exists which is greater than us all - the connection that binds us as one human family. I believe in the love we feel for one another that cannot be quantified or measured but which lives and breathes inexplicably through us all in moments of great empathy for those we've never even met. It is profound and mystical. To me, it has no name yet it brings me indescribable comfort and peace. It leaves me feeling humbled and in awe that I get to be a part of something so magnificent. It makes me feel hopeful that we can recalibrate and set our course anew, through these choppy waters and into clear sailing.

It is my hope that we allow this powerful connection we have to one another, here and abroad, to inform our voting choices as we head toward the federal election next month. It is my hope that we reset our compass and reconsider how we want to exist in this life, both as Canadians and as citizens of the world.

That little boy wasn't napping.

It is my sincere hope that the rest of us wake up.

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective