After that break-up you need to take a full year off to heal.

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Auntie Says…You Can Do Anything for a Year.

A few weeks ago my nephew came over for a visit. He’s 27, handsome beyond words, and very gregarious. He’s just one of those guys you want to be near because his energy is welcoming and positive and his smile always genuine. We chatted and got caught up but I knew he was circling around something that he wasn’t quite sure how to say. 

After a while, he couldn’t hold it in anymore. “We broke up,” he said referring to himself and his girlfriend of five years. He let the truth lay there on the floor in front of him—by now he was slouching and the energy that normally radiated from him had waned.

I could see the heartbreak behind the bravado and knew I needed to tread lightly. With the painful truth out there, we decided to go for a walk. The dogs (pets are such a good distraction, aren’t they?) were running and we chuckled and asked a lot of remember when? We have so many memories between us. His dad (my younger brother) died when he was six. After that, he  and his brother spent an extended vacation with me every summer.

“I’m not sure it’s over,” he said out of nowhere. “I think I still love her.” His voice was a whisper and he was staring at his shoes. 

Oh man, I could see how much he was hurting and I wanted to tell him that it would be okay but the physical pain is palpable. It’s been said that you can’t die from a broken heart but anyone who’s ever experienced it, sure feels like they’ll be the first to prove medical science wrong. The gut-wrenching agony is real whether you’re thirteen, thirty, or seventy and it takes time to heal.

Five years together is a long investment of time, emotion, and self and isn’t something to simply brush off without thought and careful consideration. I could see that he was struggling to make sense of it as he tried to lighten the mood by talking about his new job. The sadness in his eyes remained though.

“I think you need to stay single and celibate for one full year,” I told him. “Take the year for yourself to explore what direction you want to pursue.”

“One full year? I can’t date, or be with anyone, for one year? Seriously?” He was incredulous that I’d suggest such a thing. 

“Yes, take a full year off and concentrate on yourself. By jumping back into another relationship (or even the previous one) before waiting a year, you’re not 100% committed to the new person because you’re still wounded.”

He didn’t answer me. He didn’t have to. His eyebrows were raised in question, a smirk plastered on his face, and the continual nod—it was official—he thought I was nuts. I had to laugh because he obviously didn’t get the point. We continued our chat about his future plans and dreams.

To him, taking one year away from the dating/relationship world sounded daunting and impossible but it’s a period of time easily measured and one that can be committed to. It’s long enough to be significant and life changing, while short enough to be manageable. You can do anything for a year.

The pain and emotional toll of a break up should never be trivialized by rushing into another relationship or even back to the same one. The one year commitment to yourself can slow your impulsivity and shows maturity in dealing with your own issues before getting involved again.

“But what if I meet the love of my life before the year is up?”

“If she’s the one, she isn’t going anywhere,” I said. “Be friends and get to know each other. If she respects you and your decision to wait a full year, your future relationship will be stronger.”

He gave me a big hug and the smirk was replaced by contemplation. I think he heard most of what I said—time will tell.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. She can be reached at faye.arcand@icloud.com or www.fayeearcand.com  

“Cancer” and “Child” don’t belong in the same sentence.

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Auntie Says…With caring comes vulnerability.

It’s a Tuesday morning and I just left the Penticton casino. No, I’m not a gambler. I went to the pancake breakfast fundraiser being held for Wills Hodgkinson, a local boy who’s fighting cancer at the Vancouver Children’s Hospital. I don’t usually go to these kinds of things—in fact that was my first. I guess I’ve always felt such events would be attended by family, friends, co-workers—that sort of thing, and me showing up, being a complete stranger, seemed a bit weird, maybe even intrusive. I’ve always been one who preferred to show my support from the sidelines. 

Today was different though. In fact the entire week has been a weepy one for me. I don’t know if it’s the Humboldt Broncos tragedy or the picture of seven year old Wills sitting beside an RCMP officer looking up with those big, round, trusting eyes. When I think of either situation I’m reminded of the vulnerability of life and the pain that comes from caring. 

I knew I couldn’t be in Saskatchewan but I could attend a pancake breakfast fundraiser. When I saw Wills picture—his eyebrows raised, not quite in question, but in awe and wonder—I felt drawn, compelled even, to somehow connect. I think what I saw in Wills was every child I’ve ever known and loved. I look at the picture of a little boy, dwarfed by the man-sized police cap he’s wearing, and don’t see the suffering, or the fight he’s facing, just the innocence of a child loving life.

So, I went alone to the pancake breakfast. I had no idea what to expect going to such a fundraiser. Upon entering a young girl asked me if I wanted to sign a card for Wills. Again, my answer normally would have be no—he doesn’t even know me, why would it matter? But I picked up the pen and wrote to him. I told him that I’m in this fight with him. As I was printing as neatly as I could, I held back tears and turned my back so no one would see. I stuffed my donation in the box and then grabbed a plate of pancakes and a cup of coffee. I was relieved that a small booth, tucked in the far corner, was empty. It allowed me to sit away from others so I didn’t feel like I had to talk to anyone. Even though it was a public community fundraiser, I didn’t want to appear nosy or meddlesome—I simply wanted to offer my silent support and then slip out.

I nearly accomplished my mission when a lady approached my table. She smiled and held out her hand to shake mine and said, “thank you so much for coming, I’m Wills Grandmother.” Well, that was it for me. The lump in my throat that I’d forced down returned and I couldn’t speak. Suddenly, holding the hand of that little boy’s grandmother, I became a quivering mess. My biggest fear had come true—I looked like the idiot stranger blubbering in the corner over a kid she doesn’t even know. I felt so stupid—and completely vulnerable. The grandmother patted my hand and smiled. She comforted me and then told me that Wills was having a good day and the family was taking everything one day at a time. She exuded a quiet confidence and strength that made me think that Wills was very fortunate to have this lovely lady in his life.

She pointed out all Wills fellow students who were there to help with the breakfast. “He’s really a lucky boy. He has so many friends,” she said. She then told me how his classmates gave Wills an iPad to communicate with the class and that they were planning a field-trip down to see him. She thanked me again and moved on to other guests in the room. I sank back into my booth wiping away my tears and thought of all the kids who’ve passed through my life. My son, many nieces and nephews, and the children of friends…too numerous to count.

While there’s no way to reconcile such a huge disease being foisted onto such a little person, I hope that the fundraiser helped. Supporting means something different for everyone. It may mean donating, volunteering, or perhaps saying a prayer. It’s personal and private, though we all recognize that the one suffering is actually a representative of the possibilities for any of us. 

Stay strong Wills. Your parents have named you well—with a solid will comes determination and strength. You’re in my thoughts little man. xo

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. You can reach her at faye.arcand@icloud.com or www.fayeearcand.com  

Auntie Says…The term “bully” is over-used and doesn’t mean anything anymore.

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Auntie Says…Bully? How about tormenter or bulldozer?—it’s a better fit.

There was recently an article in the news about a school bullying incident that escalated to the point of involving the police. Apparently the Principal and staff could see the situation getting out of hand and chose to use every resource at their fingertips. Bravo. 

The Administrator and staff aren’t miracle workers and realized their own limitations in dealing with a simmering situation. Having outside support is huge in taking a stand against the unrelenting bullying that some students inflict and others suffer.

It was the comments following the article that I found to be most insightful. Many said they were teaching their children to fight back—‘knock the other child down’ they said ‘and then kick them’. While the comments didn’t shock me, they made me sad in that there is a misunderstanding as to what is actually happening in the schools and it makes me think that we need to re-think the word “bully”. 

The word is used to conjure up the image of an overly aggressive kid who pushes a smaller one down and steals the ball. That kind of hands on school-yard posturing hasn’t changed over the centuries and is only part of the picture. Parents telling their kids to fight back are not wrong because they’re giving their kid permission to have a voice. It’s a matter of “how” they fight. Hands on doesn’t work and chances are the kid retaliating will be the one who gets in trouble. We’ve all heard it—he started it—but it doesn’t make a difference. Having someone treat you badly is not ok and screaming bloody murder until an adult arrives (or the aggressor leaves) is an option.

 

Bullying has evolved over the years. It doesn’t necessarily mean hands-on, violent confrontation—it’s become sneakier, slimier, and more silent. Imagine someone walking by your work station every day, several times, whispering, ‘you stink’ or ‘I’m gonna get you’… always out of earshot of any authority figure. What if you were being deliberately ‘nudged’ in the hallway—just enough to throw you off balance—constantly. It’s sometimes done with a smile by someone who’s considered a “good kid” and not necessarily your likely suspects. It can be like a game or power play to them. Imagine going to work everyday and having your co-worker treat you like that. What if, every single day—over and over—you’re told you should ‘go kill yourself’…‘go off and die’…‘no one loves you’? That’s a slow erosion of an individuals self worth and confidence. You might want to punch them in the face in the lunchroom, but then what?

I remember reading about a woman who was the target of an online hate attack. She said that though she knew all the words were false, it ate her up inside. Every time she turned on her computer it was there…mocking her. While computers and phones can be turned off, the hateful whispers, innuendos, the seemingly innocent jabs in the hallway, or the open mocking by individuals, doesn’t go away. The question I ask, is whether or not this nonviolent/hands off bullying is being viewed as being as serious as a bully knocking down a kid and stealing the ball. I’m not sure it is and I think it’s worse—much worse—and frightening.

Maybe we need to change the word ‘bully’ to ‘thug’ or ‘goon’…how about ‘bulldozer’? 

The real question is, what satisfaction do these bulldozer kids get out of making someone else feel like crap? I know one person had commented on the recent bully story saying that the home life of the tormentor needs to be the focus. I totally agree. The focus needs to be off the act and on to the wrong-doer. They’re inflicting life long pain for what we all see as ‘no reason’, but there has to be some pay off. I’d like to know what it is.

If you have a story to share…let’s chat.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the south Okanagan. Contact her at  faye.arcand@icloud.com or fayeearcand.com

U.S.A. Student Activism–March On!

Auntie Says…My thoughts are with the American students. March on!

Columbine. That word pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

It was April 1999 and I’ll never forget seeing the images of terrified high school students running for their lives. I, like everyone else, was horrified and sickened, but It got worse—much worse. School shootings in the U.S. became, I hate to say it … commonplace.

While for the most part I don’t talk politics or religion, my heart and voice are with every student in the U.S. marching and protesting for a safer tomorrow. I’m optimistic as I witnessed the planned walk out one month to the day after the Florida school shooting. It was an illustration of choosing a course of action in solidarity and it makes me proud.

The young people of today are the voters of tomorrow. Getting angry about the abhorrent gun laws, political rhetoric, and the seemingly lackadaisical attitudes surrounding school shootings is not only necessary, but required, for change. It takes a lot of courage and tenancity to take those first steps against the status quo and I applaud these young people for what they’re doing.

Like many, I’ve wept as the body count rises in the name of U.S. democratic freedoms. Even from a  distance where I don’t feel the same physical (gun violence) threats, I can still understand the grief faced by so many —too many. I seriously don’t know how they all cope and carry on after such harrowing circumstances.

In Canada, we don’t face the same fears about school shootings, but we still feel our neighbor’s pain and the aftershocks of grief and anger. For every individual that dies, there are survivors—the other students, the family, the teachers, staff, and first responders—forever changed in a way that we can only imagine, but there’s also the public. Let’s not forget the average person watching the tragedy unfold on TV and how it affects them. It’s a mood of uncertainty and helplessness suffered by millions of people in both the US and Canada. It’s a sad truth of the day.

Even if you don’t think your kid is aware of the news and current events, believe me—they know. The kids talk about it to each other and in class. They watch YouTube .It’s not a secret and yet as far as I know, the schools here don’t do anything like security drills or heightened vigilance. Who knows how much all the school gun violence south of the border is adding to the anxiety and depression for teens everywhere?  After a televised incident, I’d bet that all the teachers and administrators walk back into the school with a heavy heart. How could you not? It doesn’t matter where the incident occurs, it affects us all.

When I see the anger and determination on the faces of those young people marching, it gives me hope. Hope that there will be change. Hope that someone amongst those students, is a strong and forever leader—a compelling voice—that will bring about positive transformation. I also hope that the protest continues until it’s voice is so strong that it can no longer be pushed aside or ignored.

We joke about having ‘first-world problems’—school shootings should not be one of them. Let’s pray that the students voices raised in protest will be heard and acted upon. #NationalWalkoutDay #StudentsForChange #EndGunViolence #AuntieSays

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. She can be reached at faye.arcand@icloud.com  or www.fayeearcand.com 

Auntie Says…Anorexia. Parents listen up…

Shows discussing anorexia and bulimia have been around for years. I remember watching them when I was young. And now, it’s the trending Netflix movie, To The Bone, that’s caught the attention of the kids.
The movie is about a young girl, Ellen, who struggles with her eating disorder, personal relationships, and attempts to move towards recovery. When it came out in July 2017, there was a lot of hype saying that it glorifies and promotes anorexia.
To The Bone, is aimed at a young audience that perhaps doesn’t have the sophistication to see how shallow and insipid the portrayal of Ellen is and how none of the difficult questions were asked. It is shock entertainment and totally glosses over the reality of secrecy, isolation and causation. I found it disturbing and unrealistic that the girl talks openly about her eating disorder, treats it like a game and finds a boyfriend while in treatment.
Ellen goes to a rehab house with other young people and the idea is that they’ll work together with their handsome Dr. (Keanu Reeves), to fix all their problems. It’s very Utopian and I can see how it would be captivating to young viewers. It’s presented like an adventure and could be construed as romantic, magical or as an educational starting block for some to make dangerous choices.
We see the characters compulsive drive for physical activity or calorie burns. It could be sit ups, running stairs, jogging…anything and everything that’ll keep the numbers on the scales moving down. Throughout, Ellen is also constantly ensuring herself that she can ring her fingers around her upper arm. A measurement of success.
To The Bone introduces the skewed relationship between the individual and food. The first is the chewing and spitting. This is when food is chewed and then spit into a bag because swallowing would introduce calories into the body. This is a way of purging without full consumption. Other things that are looked at are the compelling need to know the nutritional information of every food, how many calories burned with an activity, to have discretion over food by cutting it into tiny pieces, refusing to eat, or munching exclusively on low calorie foods like lettuce.
Though the movie isn’t going to win any awards, it brought the matter back to the forefront. Control (or lack there of), anxiety and a drive for perfection may push some young viewers over the brink. A skewed self image and larger emotional problems can kill a healthy future.
The character refers to an anorexic as “a Rexy”. Here are a few other terms to listen for.
A person referring to themselves as a Rex or Rexy or being part of a Rex Club, should set off the bells and whistles. Listen for the use of names like Ana (anorexia), Mia (bulimia) and Ed (eating disorder), in an endearing and familiar way especially if accompanied by unexplained or sudden weight loss. If someone says they’re going to hang out with Mia, Ed, and Ana, then some questions may need to be asked. Pro-Ana (promote anorexia) groups are rampant on the net. The kids know them, you should too.
If you have a young person (remember, eating disorders are not exclusive to girls), who’s experiencing stress involving food, diet, self image, self esteem, etc. and may be on the edge, then To The Bone could absolutely have a negative influence.
Parents/Aunties/Adults watch the kids. Kids watch your friends. This isn’t something to fool around with.
Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. Comments? suggestions? please message to fayeearcand.com or faye.arcand@icloud.com

*Published by Black Press

 

Auntie Says…What are you afraid of?

Sometimes it feels like the whole world is going crazy. Whether it’s terrorism at an Ariana Grande concert, raging wild fires, the death of a loved one, or a scathing remark from a ‘friend’…they can all have the ability to stop you in your tracks. Your heart races, palms get sweaty, you lose sleep, and things that once made sense, now seem turned on their side. It can make you realize just how little control you actually have, and that in itself, can be very scary.
As per Wikipedia, “fear, is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat…”. This is a very basic definition, but Auntie wants you to be aware of it and the affect it can have on your life. Fear can sometimes be a visceral response based totally out of emotion instead of rational thought. Imagine having to speak in front of a crowd. There’s no real physical threat yet it can cause you to freeze and be unable to function.What may be a breeze for some is sheer terror for another.There’s also the deep seeded fear involving the fight or flight response where life and death appear imminent…like fleeing a wild fire.
Do you know where your fears lie? Is your fear based globally, in your community, in your own home…or maybe even in your own head? Does fear grip you when you watch YouTube or news casts? Does it creep in every morning as you’re opening your eyes? Is the fear external or internal? Do you fear for yourself or for others?
That’s a lot of questions I know, but if you stop and think, it may help clarify your own situation. Fear can rule your life through manifestations of anxiety, stress, and heightened awareness; fear may also creep into decision making, thus shattering your confidence and blocking the freedom to be who you really are (or want to be).
What happened in Manchester, was heartbreaking and senseless. It’s an extreme act specifically meant to instill fear and the likelihood of that happening to you is so remote that unless you’re traveling in high risk areas, your radar can be lowered. It’s the same with recurring natural disasters, such as wild fires, earthquakes, or hurricanes…just to name a few. Media often shove them to the forefront and this can heighten fear. If you’re at ground zero, you have no choice but to act, but if you’re out of the zone and still have a fear of a natural disaster striking, you may need to take a deep breath and step back…turn off FaceBook/YouTube, make a plan of action if/when something does happen, and accept that your fear may be larger than the reality of the situation.
Depending on where you find yourself in relation to fear, you may have to go talk to a professional. If your fear hinders everyday activity, is present even though you know it’s not rational, or is so crippling that functioning through daily life is difficult, then you need to seek help. A good start may be with your family doctor or local mental health.
The thing is, you can never, ever, give up hope. Fear itself can be so debilitating and drive you to your knees but it doesn’t have to rule your life. Knowledge is power and sometimes when you sit down and study the reality of the situation and what can and can’t happen, you empower yourself and feel more in control. Try it.
So…is fear holding you back from doing what you want, or need, to do? You’re the only one that can answer this and it may be harder than you think. The answer is very telling as it shows where you are in many areas of your life. Whether it be maturity, confidence, or a willingness to explore alternatives to live, or think, outside of the box, you’re the only one that can identify and deal with it.
As an Auntie, I’ve seen many young people miss opportunities simply because they couldn’t find the courage within themselves to move forward.
The world is a crazy, scary place sometimes, I know, but somehow, you’ll find your way because the alternative is scary too.

*First published by Black Press July 28, 2107