Fishbowl

I’m writing this on my phone in the back of our car. We’re on a road trip today to celebrate my mother in law’s birthday and we’re en route to pick up my Mum. It’ll be a day of fresh air and I’ve got my fingers crossed for a lobster roll at some point. I’ll take over driving when we get to Mum’s in an hour or so...so I’ve got time to fit in another post before the end of the month. 

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I signed up for the blog course with full intentions of writing eight posts and participating in the community. I was going to read every post, respond thoughtfully and take everything on board. The last few months have been full of lessons and one of the biggest has been to be prepared to adjust my expectations. Looking back on the month, I’m pleased I finally wrote something about my grief. Even without writing another word, that post was worth it. And I can still read and respond to everyone’s posts, I’ll just be a little late. It was wonderful to hear from people after my last post and to learn what they thought about afterward. It means a lot to me. 


If I had kept writing after posting that entry, I think I could have written a dozen posts about grief. The key was turned but I didn’t have time to go through the door this month. 

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I keep thinking about how our perspectives change on our own experience. What we knew and actively believed at one point in our lives is anathema later on. The water we swam in, the things we believed without even knowing we believed and acted on, that was entirely invisible to us suddenly drowns us. How did we not see it? How did we not feel it? It’s obvious now. After. How was it not obvious before? And now what? Now how?


How do we go on?


How do we do better or differently with what we know?


How do we acknowledge before without belittling who we were?  


How do we uphold our personal values while treading water in water so many other people still can’t even see?


I have done a lot of thinking this month about my opinion. Where is it in my day to day life? Do people know what I think? Do they know or recognize my values? Am I living them? Or am I hiding them behind my job? Am I hiding behind worries about upsetting my dear ones? Am I stifling my voice because I don’t want to moderate my Facebook feed and “get into it” with Friends whose opinions are shockingly out of step with my own or with what I’d call reality?


Sometimes, yes. 


And that makes me uncomfortable. 


I have always tried to be open and encourage myself and others to broaden their horizons, challenge their assumptions. My core values are family, integrity, respect and service. Cross those lines and you will hear about it, maybe not at full volume but I will make my point heard. I’ve self-identified as a feminist for over twenty years but I was walking the talk in my own way even before that. Oh, and my miscarriages made me even more clear about the critical importance of women’s access to all aspects of reproductive health care, including abortion. 


I’m thinking about all of this in the context of race, gender, sexuality, poverty / wealth and now work. 


My paid work is accomplished in the realm of public safety. People  and their families need to feel safe. I’ve always been confident that my work is aligned with my values and for the betterment of the people in our province. In most ways, I’ve never been more sure than since March when work has been entirely focused on COVID-19 response and the protection of society.  We’ve done a lot of great work and continue to do it. 


In the last month or so, I’ve become aware of the water again and I’m forcing myself to hold my breath and take it in. 


My mantra at work is “challenge your assumptions.” It comes up all the time on projects or when folks say things like “well, we always” or “isn’t it true?” Even the old chestnut “CYA” needs my version of CYA. Challenge your assumptions. Ask why. Says who? How come? What’s missing? Who is missing? Look at micro and macro behaviours. Who says it’s OK? How come?


There’s no neat and tidy way to end this post. I’m doing a lot of hard work and I’m not posting about it on social media. The work I’m doing is my business and I have to think hard — constantly — about how to effect change and uphold my values when the fishbowl seems to have a lid on it. 


Years and years ago I had a goldfish whose bowl was in my bathroom next to the sink.  He would swim and swim and even splash while I brushed my teeth every morning. When people visited and remarked on my splashy fish, I would say that Otto wanted to be a dolphin when he grew up. I came and went every day and I don’t think either of us thought too much about the other in between visits unless the water started to stink. I wasn’t always quick to change the bowl, I’ll admit. 


One morning I got up to get ready for work and there was no activity in the bowl. It took me a minute to realize and then I assumed he was dead. I turned and turned the bowl, poked at his plant...no Otto. I looked all around my tiny bathroom and then it dawned on me. His wish had come true and he had finally made the leap. 


And there was no lid on the bowl. 


Who says there’s one on mine?






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