Simmering Boil

For a good part of the last 3 years, my life has been one of inaction and taking direction from those around me.  While on some level, I have been aware of this, I don’t think the gravity or full implication of what it means to wait for others, had really sunk in.


When I came back to Ottawa, after 10 years spent in Northwestern Ontario, I was full of life, hope and energy.  I ended up getting into a relationship within 2 months of my return that really set the trend for what would happen over the next 3 years.  It wasn’t a great relationship by any means-of course I can only provide my side and perspective of it, but I have often wondered why I let it go as far past the first date as I did, when it really shouldn’t have gone past that point at all.  I let my then partner’s words, actions, opinions and thoughts cloud my own, and in so doing I inadvertently jumped into what could be the worst version of the waiting game, and gave him the reigns to my life at the same time, as melodramatic as that sounds.

When my Dad began to show what we would later learn were the really bizarre tell-tale signs and symptoms of cerebral blastomycosis, I extended my participation in the waiting game.  I didn’t stray far from Ottawa, as I wanted to be close by in case something happened.  My days all centred around trips in to the hospital.   I waited around for my Mom to ask me for help.  I constantly checked my phone.   While I suppose it could be argued I did it with good intentions, I waited to be helpful.  I waited to be wanted.  I waited to be needed.


I didn’t know it in April of 2014 when I drove back into Ottawa after 2 days on the road, but I would be embarking on a ridiculously long period of fence sitting.  Waiting for someone else to make the decision or call.  Waiting for someone else to tell me how I should be feeling.  Allowing and giving permission to someone and something else for shaping my life.


I didn’t have an epiphany this morning, as this realization gradually dawned on me. There was no one action or event that suddenly made me more aware of what I have been doing. Interestingly enough, a feeling of anger and resentment began building up. As I am still not comfortable sitting in my feelings and emotions, I do like so many people do: I distract myself so that the feeling gets pushed down. I tried to take a nap … I scrolled through Instagram. I looked out the window for a while. I checked my email. And then the Universe walked into the room, and slapped me across the face with this message:

Whether we blame others or blame ourselves, there is something aggressive and unkind about it. It sets up a situation in which it becomes difficult to move forward under the burdensome feelings of shame and guilt that arise. It also puts the resolution of our pain in the hands of someone other than us. Ultimately, we cannot insist that someone else take responsibility for their actions; only they can make that choice when they are ready. In the meantime, if we want to move forward with our lives instead of waiting around for something that may or may not happen, we begin to see the wisdom of taking the situation into our own hands. Madisyn Taylor


It’s an interesting dichotomy: on the one hand, my life in recent years has been about control.  Controlling what I eat.  Trying to control my sleep.  Trying to control outcomes over which, I really have no control.  Trying to control the future.  Trying to retroactively control the past.  On the other hand, I have surrendered so much of my control and say over my own life to others and their own circumstances.  I’ve been trying so hard to control the minute details, that I have consciously or unconsciously (I’ve been aware of it, on a certain level), given all of the control over the more significant things to other people and circumstances: How I feel about myself.  How I see myself as a person.  How I feel about certain things.  The beliefs that I have.  The judgements that I make.  None of these reflections have come from within.  They have all been tremendously influenced by the outside.  I’m a lemming.  I am that person our parents have all warned us about NOT being: I WILL jump off the bridge because so-and-so said it was a good idea.  Not because I wanted to.

I put things on hold.  I wait to do things.  I sit in inaction.

I finally listened to a voicemail this morning, from my really good friend Jan.  Jan and I and first met in Christchurch, New Zealand, where we were both completing our respective teaching certificates.




Jan and I were, to all intents and purposes, flat-mates.  We shared an amazing year and a half of our lives together, and ended up creating a really special bond, although I didn’t realize how special it was at the time.  That year and a half, from early 2004 to the spring of 2005, was the only time that Jan and I spent together-where we were in each other’s company on a regular basis.  I came back to Ottawa, shortly after a bit of travel and Jan stayed on in NZ for a bit before he made his own return to Toronto.

In the 12 years since we said our goodbyes, Jan has been the stronghold and heartbeat of our friendship.  He calls periodically and leaves messages for me, sometimes inebriated, other times sober.  He’s a great guy.  He loves food and is PASSIONATE about life.  In the voicemail Jan left for me a few days ago, he said he hoped I was doing okay and told me that he missed me.   If you’re lucky enough to have a Jan in your own life-someone who persistently and regularly calls you to catch up and keep in touch, someone who always extends warm invites to finally meet up-you are blessed.  The Jans of the world are rare.  They are people who hold you accountable and responsible.  They remind you of your good qualities, while at the same time comment on how you suck at returning phone calls.  They make you feel loved.

I’m working very hard at trying to see myself, and feel about myself the same way my friend Jan does.  It’s not about finding validation and worth through others, but rather getting that intrinsically.  Every time Jan reaches out to me, he reminds me of who I used to be some 12 years ago.  I was still a person who was worried about her weight.  I still didn’t like my thighs.  I was a person though, who made my own choices and decisions and steered my own ship.  I don’t want to go back to that person, as my current focus is on moving forward, but I do look back with fondness on where her headspace was.  I’d like to try and spark some of that from here on in.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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