February 28, 2015 - Liz (1st person I approached)
As someone living with depression, I accept that there are up days, and there are down days. The more work I do, the greater effort I use to understand and recognize why I feel the way I do, the better the chances of less down and more up days. It can also be fine just to simply acknowledge where I'm at. Nothing else.
The same can also be said about living with the human condition. Something we all have to do. My biggest mistake in the past few days has been allowing other people’s opinions, to bother me, personally. Years ago, I used to have certain people in my life tell me I was ‘too sensitive.’ It used to devastate me and I felt I needed to toughen up. One day, refusing to accept someone else's unsolicited opinion, I turned it around - ‘I think actually, you’re too cold and unfeeling’ I said.
“Don’t tell them you’re going to change, do it, and let them see the difference,” I read once.
I went out early this morning hoping to see Tom, my buddy from Day 10, 2014. I got to Tom’s bench, where he always sits, and there he was - the calm in my morning. We had a nice visit, sitting in the early morning sunshine, just chatting. Tom likes to watch European soccer, and Canuck's hockey. He plays a daily game, counting how many cabs from which cab firm he’ll see - the winning company being the one that gets to three first. Tom also introduced the topic of how helping other people, helps us individually. He is my soothsayer. I came home and loaded some new music on my phone and headed out for a long, leisurely walk. After three hours of walking along the seawall to Kits Beach and over to north False Creek, I was feeling much more balanced. I also took dozens of photographs along the way, which always makes me feel good. I arrived back home, and felt fortunate to have my morning unfold as it did.
I saw Liz strolling along the seawall when I was at Kits beach. I stopped and asked her if she would chat with me. She answered
“Yes, okay, as long as we go and sit in the sunshine.” We found a bench nearby and I explained what my project was all about. Liz told me she would be happy to chat, depending on what the questions were. As always, I explained I'm not an investigative reporter. We would only chat about whatever Liz felt comfortable talking about.
Liz was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia (NS).
“On the other side of the country, and I’ve made it all the way across, with many stops along the way,” she said, smiling.
“I had one older brother who has since passed away. We got along when we were young, yes. But then we were separated for about twelve years or so. We reconnected later as adults.” I asked if it was due to their parents divorcing.
“Something like that yes,” she replied. One child went with each parent. “I don’t actually know who got the better deal in the end. But that’s what it was,” said Liz.
“School was hard. I did some of my elementary school in Sydney. Then we moved to Halifax for a while. I think I did some of my elementary schooling in Montreal as well. I can’t recall exactly, it was so long ago. But we lived in Montreal and that’s where I went to high-school,” she said.
“No one ever stopped to ask me how I was doing. We moved around so much it was hard to keep up with school. I went to an English speaking school. My French wasn’t so good, and it didn’t get much better, which is a shame. I could have been bilingual. But school was tough.”
After graduating and working at different jobs, Liz went to Business College.
“I was told that’s what I should do, and so I did. I was there for two years, and after completing the program, I got a job in a lawyer's office in downtown Montreal. I did that for a while, and worked in a couple of offices,” said Liz. She married and had a daughter.
“My husband had four daughters when we got married, so I was their stepmother. With our youngest daughter, we had a family of girls.” Her husband passed away when their daughter was sixteen years old, from a lung disease.
“He had been sick for about eight years. At first we could still do everything, including going on vacation. We just had to make sure there was an oxygen tank in the car. But it progressed over the years,” Liz told me.
“It was a very difficult time for everyone.”
“We were living in Calgary. I didn’t know what to do next, after my husband passed away. I decided to go to university. It was like I came to one day and looked around me, and I was sitting in a rehabilitation therapy class,” Liz said.
“I spent the next twenty five years working in rehab therapy. I tried working in rehabilitation centres. For example, I worked with a young girl with Downs Syndrome helping her to get integrated. I didn’t enjoy the setting. It wasn’t very satisfying, and sadly, the pay was really dreadful as well. I mean, no one goes into that line of care to get rich, that’s for sure. And the system is set up differently in Alberta compared to British Columbia. Or so I understand,” she said. Liz explained that the pay scale was determined based on the circumstance or ability of the patient that one cared for.
"It forces people to put other's into categories, which is really unfortunate."
“I went on to get trained to have my own care facility, in my home. It was set up like a room-mate situation. I had two ladies who came to live with me in my home, and I looked after them. One woman I cared for had a brain injury after being hit by a drunk driver. The other woman who lived with us had CP (Cerebral Palsy). I learned so much from the people I cared for. Living with the people you’re caring for, they become like your own family. When I retired, it was difficult to say goodbye,” she told me. I said I thought that people would have been fortunate to live with and be cared for by Liz, based on her spirit and energy.
"I was the one who was lucky," she replied.
I asked what I thought might be a rhetorical or hard to answer question, wondering if Liz could say what it was she learned from her patients. Without a moments hesitation, she replied.
“Oh patience and tolerance, with a doubt,” she said, exhaling loudly.
“To see what people with a disability, whether it can be seen or not, have to put up with daily, is something you can’t help but learn from.”
Liz has been in Vancouver for about six years.
“I always knew I’d live on the west coast. This is home. Two of my step-daughter’s live here, and one of them has two children. And I recently became a great grandmother,” she says, beaming with pride.
“My daughter did live here. She had done everything she needed to complete her PhD, except for writing her thesis. Then she got an incredible job offer that took her to Winnipeg, and now she is in Toronto. I told her opportunities like that don’t happen twice. Take the job. She’s been very fortunate.”
I took Liz’s photo, and typed my website address into her phone for her.
“I’m on Facebook, but I don’t use it that much. I’m not the most tech savvy, but I do what I can,” she said. I thanked Liz for her time and for talking with me.
“It’s been my pleasure,” she said with a smile.
“I like talking to people. We need connection in our daily lives. Talking to people and hearing stories about other people is an important part of life. The connections we make. I suggest you even go and find someone else to chat with after me!” #notastranger