Mashed Potato: An Introspective

I don’t know what I’m doing

or how I’m feeling

and so I make a mashed potato

(just one, it’s all I need).

 

Held in my hands, tangible

Grew in the earth; rooted like I’ll never be.

Peeling off its skin like so many women before me,

it’s a strangely emotional experience

(but isn’t everything, lately)

for our hands to be connected like this.

 

Chop the peeled potato into

manageable

bite-sized

pieces

Everything is falling to pieces but

not like this

 

Fall into a rhythm.

It doesn’t matter how it looks

but

I feel a sense of satisfaction when all of the pieces are

roughly

the same size and shape.

Close enough is good enough here.

 

Cover with water

the same way I’d like to

pull a blanket over my head

pour a bath and soak until

the world doesn’t seem quite so

much

 

this water is enough

it’s all I’ll need

there’s more where it came from.

Second nature to assume there will always be

more.

 

Turn the heat up and

turn the music on

walk away because

I can take my eyes off of this

 

a watched pot never boils

so I tell myself that

in this case

not watching something happen

is actually helping

i don’t get this choice very often

so i seize it

and triumphantly call it

an essential part of the process

 

drain the potato then quickly add

butter.

milk.

sour cream.

salt to taste.

Don’t give it any time to recognize what it has lost,

and warm the milk so that there’s no shock

when it’s returned to the place it was before

but everything’s different.

It’s not rubbing salt in the wound it’s

bringing out the flavour.

That’s what I tell myself

 

Is there anything eloquent in an action called

mashing?

the metaphor is evident but

this feels good.

There are probably more complex emotions to analyze but

this feels good.

Even if this isn’t perfect

it’s still a potato.

 

This flexible definition of done.

feels good too.

 

Almost as good as

holding this warm bowl

close to my heart as i

sink into the couch

wondering how do i

how do we

how do any of us

do this again tomorrow

 

serve with: vegetables.

your body needs them.

maybe this fifteen minute dinner

(fully reliant on modern technology)

just shows that

humanity’s thousands of years of survival

haven’t resulted in much

but

 

this fifteen minute dinner has taught me that

this will help

this will tide me over

this will get me through

and if i ever start to doubt that

i can make a mashed potato.

Tea

I am five. 

You are bright clothes and brighter lipstick

Loud laughter and silly rhymes

Sometimes I confuse you with the Queen of England.

I’m still not sure why.

 

I am eight

You are wild stories and fleeting visits 

Your face a blank canvas for frequent messy makeovers

And you make better paper dolls than anyone my sister and I have ever met

I still have some, even now.

 

I am twelve

You are quick hugs and air kisses 

The dramatic reader of eccentric storybooks we think we’re too old for 

We know the rhythms of your stories by heart, and surprise you when we know the answers to your cliff hanger questions. 

I still know the answers, just in case anyone ever asks.

 

I am fifteen

You are funny mistakes and frequent repetitions 

We request our favourite stories and try to glean new details from you in every re-telling

You are over to see me dressed up for a dance, and are scandalized by my friend’s cleavage

We still laugh about that

 

I am nineteen

You are endless cups of tea and my preferred TV-watching partner

Your quotes and quips feature prominently in all my stories.

Mine is the only grandchild’s name you remember, and I try to piece your life together from boxes of discarded paper

I still say my name to myself with your intonations

 

I am twenty-one

You are quiet and still, words that have never before been used to describe you

Favourite stories read in sentence fragments – I read to you instead. 

We have a tea party in the garden and you find your Scarlett O’Hara voice and smile for a photo.

I still search for you in familiar gestures and misplaced words

 

I am twenty-five

You hold our hands – mine with your left, Becky’s with your right. 

You share a chocolate bar and look at pictures of us in front of the English flat where you met Poppa in 1959

We sit quietly in a sunbeam, and tell you stories about paper dolls and high school dances, spanning from Newfoundland to Vancouver and everywhere in between. 

We still know the grace you valiantly tried to make us sing every Sunday dinner. It’s Sunday, and so we sing it in a round, just the way you like. 

 

I am twenty-five

An enthusiastic storyteller, mirroring your gestures and inflections; speaking from lips that are still growing into your shade of red lipstick. 

I give babies storybooks that feature strange animals and stranger plots (I read out loud, and hear your voice instead of my own) 

I will never captivate an entire room, 

I lack your strength and self-assurance,

but 

I am never far from a lukewarm cup of tea.

sandcastles

I used to write

like I was building sandcastles

and the whole world

was waiting to see what I’d do next

 

and I hoped that they would be fascinated by

the turrets and shells

but then

let the wind come

let the waves come

because the building is enough

 

I know they say

never

look back

but that’s foolish and

I’ve never pretended otherwise

if we don’t know where we’ve been

how do we ever expect to know where we are now

 

So I turn and they’re all there

my sandcastles

partially finished

mostly washed out

new additions built on top of crumbling foundations

ones carelessly walked on

ones carefully repaired

 

all incomplete touchstones

layers of stories and things I’ve done wrong things I should have said better

but wandering back through

gives me just enough to remember when

without

tripping or getting trapped

 

and I don’t know, really, if anyone even remembers them

other than me

(no one pays much attention to sandcastles anyways)

but I do

and then I find I can

face forward again

 

and I haven’t written now

in a long time

and it’s not because I don’t have anything to say

 

we all know I’m in no danger of

running out of words

 

but it used to be sandcastles

and now the stories feel like bricks

and they’re heavy

and I want nothing more

than to put them down

 

these stories are changing me

there is no chance of waves washing me away

with their weight holding me so solidly to the earth

please, just show me where to put them

and I will lay them out end to end until no one can ignore them

 

but also, then

no one can ignore them

and these bricks can’t make sandcastles

and I don’t know if they’re going to be pretty and

I’m so scared to mess them up and

I don’t want to look back

and see permanence done wrong

or trip someone up

or keep someone out

or build a wall

that I won’t be able to tear down later

 

besides

some of these stories,

(the heaviest ones, of course)

don’t belong to me and I shouldn’t won’t can’t ask permission

and I shouldn’t won’t can’t Mess These Ones Up

but I don’t know what else to do with them

and dropping them all here in a heap

just feels undignified

 

but building something with them that isn’t exactly right

or doesn’t do them justice

feels like a mistake

when I know full well

there’s no going back

to fix it later

 

so I shuffle them around a bit

and I tuck them in my backpack

fill my pockets

empty my hands

 

and here i am.

 

heart still so overfull

a little stooped over

the weight only redistributed not less

never less

 

and here i am

because

we might need this for the looking back

 

let the wind come

let the waves come

 

here i am

building a sand castle

on choosing to stay

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_ebee“Nana says I can’t move anywhere outside of a three hour radius from her front door”  I say.

(that’s a lie)

If it was up to Nana, it would be a half hour radius from her house – tops.

but (unfortunately) it isn’t up to her it is up to me

and there is a lot of power in that but also a lot of anxiety and uncertainty

and so i tell people i’m under orders from my grandmother

because no one questions that

but i feel like they might question me

because

I’m 24. I should be separating myself from everything I’ve ever known. I should be moving across the country to

Chase My Dream

and

Live My Best Life

and

Be True To Myself

and

I Cannot Be That If I Am Surrounded By What I Always Have Been.

but, what I’m realizing is, I am not an especially complex person.

and, what I am also realizing is, is that

I Have Done That

and

I Can Do That

and If You Dropped Me Into A Job in Calgary Tomorrow I Would Be Just Fine Thank You Very Much

but what I am really realizing is

I Don’t Want To.

There is a lot of value in finding yourself in new places and forcing yourself to see who you are without the trappings of home and familiar faces. There is value in exploring new corners of the world, making new routines out of unexpected discoveries, building new support networks and friendships and families and finding pieces of yourself you never knew existed.

But

I Have Done That.

and

I Have Learned That

There is also value in returning home. There is also value in loving the familiar. There is wonder in seeing the same old same old with new eyes. There is peace, and unexpected friction, and growth that can only come from being challenged by people who have known you since Way Back When.

And

I don’t want to feel like I’m making an Easy choice when really

when I get scared and stressed and overwhelmed

by the decisions i have to make

i find myself looking at jobs

and imagining lives

further

and further

and further

away.

Away where i do not have to have any responsibilities to Here and where i can put the people Here at arm’s length and that when i do come back Here it will just be for holidays and I never have to be Here for the pieces of Here that are hard and that break me down.

and maybe someday

it will be the right time for me to go

Away

again

But right now it would be a Running Away and not a Running To and something tells me that it is finally time for this girl who has been transplanting herself

again

and

again

and

again

for seven years

to put down

Roots

In-between​

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_e2ad
How’s it going? Oh, you know.

You know? You know.

You know.

It’s nice to be free of the deadlines and due dates and frantic to-dos in the margins of every notebook I own

but it’s also nice to have something to be learning when my brain starts to bounce between boundaries, where I’m not sure what beginning is coming and I’m too scared to run out to bring it into the present.

The highlights of my life right now are fantastic. They’re freaking incredible. Any moment I start to flounder, I find freedom on mountaintops, turn my face towards beautiful sunsets, force myself to stay seated while I figure out the beautiful art that’s flooding my senses, run my fingers through red sand and finally feel my feet stop moving and settle in for the night.

And then there’s the days that are less than that. There have been so many grey days where I’m battling goodbyes and grieving without words, and guessing at a future I can’t begin to imagine. I’m so grateful for the grace I’ve been shown because my tears have been anything but graceful these last few months.

Anyways. I’ve actually been trying to push all that aside (but also attempting to achieve peace with it all – somehow). I know there’s an after. An autumn. I know it’ll arrive, but I don’t know much about it after that.

Right now I’ve settled on standing still. I’m taking stock of my surroundings. I’m singing along to favourite soundtracks, sight reading music I squirreled away in storage several years ago, saying yes to seeing every soulmate I haven’ t seen enough these last seven years. So often I’ve wished for everything to stop for a second so I could see everything clearly before selecting my next step.

Clearly, I’m getting that chance. I keep hearing that carving out time to collect oneself is impossible. That casually capturing close moments with closer friends has to be contained in weekends and evenings from here until forever – it gets claustrophobic if I’m being honest.

So forgive me for feeling that I want to fight against this future that people feel the need to warn me about with furrowed eyebrows. This is me facing down the flurry of expectations and questions and worried faces and saying

I just need a minute.

And really, it’s unrealistic to think that requiring sixty (metaphorical) seconds to relax and rehash and regard and rewind and regret and rework and remember is too much to ask for. If I want to reach for the stars I need to recognize them when I get there.

So, I guess I’m taking my minute.

It looks like a laissez-faire approach to scheduling and a longer path to wherever it is I’m going to end up. I’m listening for guidance and letting people know that I might be a bit less right now, but only so I can take some big leaps into the next pieces of my life. Or maybe little leaps. Let’s wait and see.

And this isn’t very eloquent but it is where I’m at and so this is where I’ll leave you.

I’m waiting, but I’m also working towards plans to go after what it is that I want most. I’m wallowing in glorious days and weeping whenever I need to and whispering my most desperate wishes into the ear of Whoever is out there listening. It’s been wild. It’s been wonderful. It’s been a whole lot, if I’m being wholly honest.

But I’m becoming and being and there’s no doubt it’s bewildering, but it’s also so damn beautiful. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be here, because in-between is what I need.

the youths and their technology (aka why won’t you put down that phone)

IMG_8628

My alarm goes off at 6 (there’s another one going off in 10 minutes) and I’m up – there are three messages on my phone and about fifteen emails from Groupon even though I swear I unsubscribed the moment I moved away from civilization last month.

“Finally figured out the song that was stuck in my head all day yesterday. It took me an hour on iTunes, but I did it.” I snort-laugh, and fall back asleep.

“Hey, I know you were really stressed about today, but I just wanted to let you know that we’re going to make it through” a friend greets me from several time zones ahead. “We really are”. She’s already lived through a couple hours of today, so I decide to trust her.

“If you’re serious about running away,” counters my friend working nights while I work days (we haven’t talked outside of text messages in weeks), “I will be right behind you. Just give me a time and a place.”


I send out good morning texts to four different time zones and then start scrolling through Twitter. My heart breaks four times before breakfast, but I think, “at least I’m aware. That has to count for something.”


I scroll through Instagram while I drink tea and pretend I’m not running late. There are so many people from past chapters of my life leading overwhelmingly beautiful lives right now.  I scroll, and I scroll, and I think: “I’m so glad she’s getting to travel the world. She loves traveling” (like); “I’m so glad he’s one step closer to the dream he had when I knew him” (like); “The smiles on their faces are unreal, I hope it’s not weird that I’m still happy that they’re happy” (like. . . unlike. . . like); “Oh my gosh we’re in the same place we have to meet for coffee! No really! We do!” (Sometimes we do, and it’s a delight. Who would have ever thought our stories would align again here?)


Out to the car. I pay for Spotify Premium solely so that I can listen through all of the song recommendations my sister sends me via Facebook instead of walking down the hall to my room. I’ve got a 45 minute drive, and I make it through half of them.

I pull into my parking spot and there’s a text from my grandparents – a selfie of them at our traditional breakfast place in London. “Missing you at breakfast!” they say with an egg emoji. I send three crying emojis back.


Everything at work is on the computer. Patient charts and handouts. Assessment instructions and last-minute research on wheelchair measurements. A YouTube video reminding me how to transfer someone without injuring my back. A Google search for resources to offer a patient I met for the first time fifteen minutes ago.

I use my phone for a timer and see a message from my friend three hours behind me “Good morning! Hope everyone’s days are going well!” 


“I went back to your favourite café!” My roommate sends me a picture of my favourite bagel while I eat my tragically bagel-free lunch. “But also the house centipedes followed me to my new place and this wasn’t part of the deal.” (She doesn’t send a picture of the centipede, and I am grateful).

We may not be within shouting distance of each other anymore, but at least we’re still aware of recent bug sightings in each other’s lives.


I use Google Maps on my phone to find a patient’s address for a home visit.

I can’t remember” pings my group chat, “What’s the normal range of motion for arm abduction?” Thankfully someone else remembers, because I do not.


Time to go home. I try calling two different friends using my car’s Bluetooth but neither picks up. Back to Spotify.

One calls back, “I was just about to call you! I’m on my way home too!” She traverses the metro in Montreal while I speed past fields of cows and then promptly get stuck behind a tractor. “Are you doing okay? You didn’t sound like yourself in your texts yesterday”


Supper is strictly no-phones-allowed, a rule my mom originally implemented for my sister and I but that now also applies to my Dad. The rule is partially to prevent us from disappearing into our separate worlds, but mostly to prevent us from Googling the answers to interesting questions that come up while we eat.


I work online most days (because it’s a gig economy, don’t you know). I answer questions from authors using our virtual office’s app, then edit an article on WordPress and save three interesting Reddit threads for some story ideas I might use next week. That’s enough for tonight.


The sunset outside is incredible so I snap five pictures in a row ignoring my phone’s insistence that my storage is almost full.


“Is it okay if my friend watches TV with us tonight?” my sister asks, coming into my room with her computer. We put her friend on speaker phone and with a “3. . . 2. . . 1”  press play on Netflix at the exact same moment. We’ll talk about this episode in a group chat dedicated to trash tv later.


I watch a Snapchat story of one of my friends adventuring through places I love with all of my heart and send eighteen heart emojis back because my heart just overflows every time I see her smiling in front of red sand.

I receive three pigeon photos from three people in three different countries because the hashtag #ThingsBriHatesForBri has now spread to people I will likely never meet in real life.

I’ve decided asparagus looks like dragon tails” one of my best friends says at 9:38pm. I have nothing to say in response because what DO you say to that.


“I can’t believe he did this!” appears in yet another group chat. We immediately begin dissecting the screenshots of a Tinder conversation she’s having.

When we were younger, we used to print out MSN conversations to pore over in the high school hallways. This is so much more efficient (especially now that we only see each other once every few months for made-up holidays).


I can’t fall asleep because of my Dad, Uncle, and Papa live-texting the hockey game in the family group chat.  They’re so ridiculous that I’m not even mad.


“Help,” I say to my friend, tossing and turning, “I’ve had the lyrics to Downtown stuck in my head for an hour.” She sends every single lyric back to me. One line at a time.


Midnight.

I send out one text to three different friends. “I’m really not sure that I can handle tomorrow,” I say “I’m feeling really overwhelmed and it’s just been so hard.” There’s no response. One’s working and the other two have been asleep for hours.

But, I know when I wake up there will be three messages waiting for me, all promising me that it’s going to be okay.

The six people who raised me and the lovingly impossible standards they set for me that I will forever be trying to reach

img_1517

1. Lessons taught in the half-hour after the tea is poured but before dishes have to be washed, in the car en route to spontaneous adventures, and while walking into people’s homes unannounced:

Cherish your relationships and make them a priority. Learn people’s stories and really listen to them when they talk. Ask the hard questions even when it makes people angry. It isn’t love if you aren’t being honest. People and experiences are always more important than things.

Don’t take life too seriously. Laugh. At yourself. At the situation. At the things that scare you. At the things you’ve overcome. Laugh until your sides hurt and remember there is always something good if you look for it.

Challenge yourself and push yourself beyond what you think you want. That’s how you grow, and that’s how you have adventures. Unless you take a chance you’ll be living a shadow of the life you could experience.

And if it doesn’t work out? You know you can always come home.”

2. Lessons taught while looking at cottage sunsets, facing down scary diagnoses, and being forced to make my own phone calls under duress:

The past is the past, and you can’t change it, so why would you look back? And the future isn’t certain, so don’t worry about that, just focus on what we’re working with right now. And what we’ve got right now is good, so why would you spend any time worrying or complaining?

Work hard and be a good person. It won’t always be easy, but it’s the right thing to do. Don’t waste any time on gossip or the people who spread it, life is easier without them anyways. Treasure your family, and remember that the definition of family is flexible – there’s always another seat at the table.

Don’t let other people tell you who you are or what you can do. Even in the face of impossible odds, just focus on the good things in life, and do your best to show those odds they aren’t so impossible after all.

3. Lessons taught through carefully selected storybooks, piles of newspaper clippings, and audacious red lipstick.

“Be wild and passionate and always go after what you know is right no matter who or what is standing in your way.

Make people notice you and make them fall in love with you and make them listen even if they don’t want to hear what you have to say. Amplify the voices of people who aren’t being listened to. You have a voice, so use it, and use it to make a difference.

Tell stories. The bigger the better. Never underestimate the power of a story when it comes to drawing people in, bringing them together, or teaching them a lesson.

You’re never too old for make-believe, and it’s always time for tea.”

4. Lessons taught while learning how to cook a full meal, fold fitted sheets, polish silverware, take impossible stains out of white t-shirts, and parallel park:

“Take some time to think through the possible consequences of what you’re about to do – don’t just rush into it.If it doesn’t turn out perfectly then you learn a lesson, and you make a different choice next time.

Love is always the right choice. Forgiveness is always the right choice. Hope is always the right choice. Faith is always the right choice. Family is always the right choice.

Find beauty wherever possible, and collect the things that make you happy. But, the moment you don’t love something anymore? Let it go. Things are just things.

Sometimes loving people means doing uncomfortable or unpleasant things or being the strong one when the whole world looks like it’s falling apart. Just do what needs to be done, and do it to the best of your ability. That’s all you can do, and that’s enough.

There’s magic in being happy exactly where you are. Be welcoming, and loving, and kind. Be the kind of person that people come home to

5. Lessons taught during endless hours of piano practice, through violent bursts of tears, and in the quiet moments in-between:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re right or nice or smart. What matters is that you are wise and gentle and stick to your convictions.

Look for truth in every situation and treasure the people around you. Sometimes you only get one chance to love someone, so love them with everything you have and be very thoughtful and intentional with your actions – being careless can wound.

Never show off what you can do, just put your head down and do your best every day without looking around to see if anyone is watching. Integrity matters more than attention.

Remember that you are not God and that you cannot do things on your own strength. Worrying isn’t going to help anything, so you just need to do what you can do and let God and other people do the rest. And yes, that means you have to trust them.”

6. Lessons taught standing in the kitchen during midnight study breaks and in looks exchanged across the dinner table while we hear an old story for the forty-seventh time that day:

“Work hard, and be confident in your intelligence. Take pride in your accomplishments, but always keep dreaming bigger. Why settle for good enough when you can be great.

Question authority when it’s deserved, even if they don’t like it. Show people what you can do, and be principled and accurate in all things. Take your time, always, and be deliberate in your actions.

Get to know people, even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s never too late for forgiveness, and a promise is a promise. Loving someone means putting their needs before yours – always, and without question.

When you know what you want, chase after it no matter how difficult it seems. Lose yourself in the things and people that matter to you. It will be worth it in the end.”