Gallery-Written · Life · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

To all of the people I knew before.

To all the people I knew before.

This is goodbye.

Goodbye from the girl you thought you knew that is. You know the girl that was holding back. Welp, I don’t know how to say this, except to just say it.

She’s dead.

Ha! You see, something weird and wonderful has happened. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly how to describe it though. So I’ve just been letting myself live it. And it’s been overwhelming in the best possible way. I find myself just bursting into tears because the sky is so beautiful. Seriously. And I know some of you might be thinking that the cheese has finally slid off the cracker. And to be honest I have felt like I’ve been flirting with the edge of madness for years. But I promise you that the cheese is right up on there, and I am eating that shit up. Because, well, it’s delicious.

But let me back up a bit. I want to tell you a story, to help you understand where I was. It’s a bit of a mouthful but I’m hoping if you stick with me you’ll see it’s all worth it. For those of you that have been following along, you know I started this project as an outlet for the pain and grief I had experienced throughout my life. I had kept it a secret initially, as I’m definitely not a writer. And honestly I was scared to share this side of myself. But sharing my feelings and my story was therapeutic, and art fed my soul. What I haven’t shared though, is that I have been battling big emotions, and either trying to manipulate my environment or make everyone get along for as long as I can remember. I would never peg myself as a victim though, in fact I would tell most people I had a great life. And despite it all I am resilient as fuck, and have managed quite well for myself (and alongside my husband). What I didn’t often share though, was that this life of mine had never felt like a charmed one. I was surrounded by addiction and the disfunction that goes along with it as a kid. While my mom worked evenings and my sisters found reasons to stay out, I would often stay home. I’d put my drunk Dad to bed after school. I’d clean the house or act silly, noticing that if I could make everything nice, and make everyone happy, our home would be peaceful and much more loving. But the murder of my Grandma due to domestic violence shook me up. I had just turned eight. It was confusing and scary. And then, just as my Dad was getting a handle on his addiction, he died. And despite his flaws I had loved him as much as I’d ever loved anyone. I still do. His death broke my heart. After that, despite my efforts to get on with it, life just seemed like an endless series of unfortunate events. I was kind of embarrassed about it, but I had no drive to become anything. I just wanted to work mediocre jobs. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in my early twenties. I was married to my love, but I struggled to navigate my role as a step parent to the son he had been blessed with as a teen. I was always worried our distance would make him believe he was hard to love. Which of course was never the case. He was incredibly easy to love, which just seemed to make everything about the situation seem more difficult. And I made many bad choices in my life, which I’ll get to later. But I tried to do better too, even though my self shame often got in the way. I had dealt with anxiety since I was a kid, and would freeze up in most new situations. I thought I was managing it, but I was so afraid to fail or look stupid, I wouldn’t try anything. If I did go anywhere I would hide these fears with my big personality, or by talking a mile a minute. In the same way I would entertain or manipulate my family to keep the peace, I could fool everyone. Then I suffered through many years of infertility before doctors discovered I had a pituitary tumour (on the underside of my brain). But thankfully this discovery and it’s treatment helped me to enjoy the pregnancy I’d always wanted. Only to have my bliss interrupted by postpartum depression and rank hormone shifts for years following his birth. And so the cracks began to show, I was angry all the time. I felt unworthy as a mom and wife. It took a toll on my mind, my body, and my marriage. Then my sister died. And although I didn’t really let many people get close to me anyway, it seemed like everyone was always leaving me. My brother in-law battled a cancer scare. My father-in law died. A diagnosis of PCOS, during another battle with infertility. My entire family seemed fucked. Everyone of us, was sick or in pain. And despite years of trying to make everyone see eye to eye, it all seemed to be unraveling. And my own mind was split. I loved everyone so much. But I couldn’t be everything, (or anything) to most of them anymore. I was too tired, so I just stopped trying. But I also felt like I might explode. I either wanted to go yell at everyone in the world, or just cry. I usually just cried. I felt completely misunderstood, and utterly alone. Physically, I felt like shit all of the time. I was always swollen. I kept getting rashes all over my face. I was always tired no matter how much sleep I got. Some days I struggled to walk. I tried to get help. And I’m a good patient, I took my medicine faithfully and followed their advice, but I never felt good. I told the doctors I couldn’t live like this anymore. The more empathetic doctors offered anti-depressants and more medication, to deal with the effects of the other medicines. But most of them treated my complaints like an annoyance. I felt that ultimately I was on my own.

So I’d scratch and claw my way to health, to love, to life. Which is how this project was born. Self care became my health care. And although I’d get little glimmers of light, sometimes even believing I might be on the right track, something else would happen and I’d be down again. I kept telling myself to accept it all, “it is what it is,” I’d say to myself.

I’d try to live my life through the lens of love, but it seemed so many things were outside of my control. These things kept affecting my life. So all too often I would fall back into fear. Life seemed so unfair, I was so mad, and so filled with pain. I was so scared of disconnection, and the thought of losing another person I love. But I hid it fairly well, and I would try to have a good time and ignore my anger. But the reality was that I was always prepared to throw down and fight anyone that I deemed as a threat. And it seemed like more and more things were bothering me. I couldn’t get off of the complain train anymore. Being around people took up so much energy, I rarely spoke to anyone. It was too risky. At the same time I thought I had it all figured out, and they were all wrong. Alot of these people said they were “healed,” and “saved,” that they knew the “truth.” And just as could use my intuitive powers to sense emotions, build people up, entertain or help them co-exist, if I was mad or scared enough, I’d employ my skills to knock those threats down. I had read the same books they had, and I knew how to hit where it would hurt the most. I would think“I have to show them!”

I’d think, “How can they be so blind?”

“Why can’t they see how mean, how manipulative, how judgmental and controlling they are?”

I thought my good intentions made it ok. I desperately wanted to lead by example, and I had the right idea. I knew that love was the answer. But for the first time in my life I didn’t care if anyone saw me as the bad guy, because I thought if I felt I was right and they were wrong it was ok. And despite feeling morally superior at times, for some reason I also felt more and more that I was becoming a walking dead girl. A shell of who I was, and wanted to be. I wasn’t suicidal or anything, I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I knew if I didn’t do something soon I would be fucked. So I screamed up into the sky, asking what the fucking point is. I cried, and I begged for help, over and over.

And then in the midst of this embarrassingly lame existential crisis, something weird started happening. It seemed like I started getting answers. I had been seeing repeating numbers for the last several years. And while I hadn’t taken much stock in those things, now I couldn’t escape them. My phone would buzz to life by itself. I started to see little blurbs about local healers and natural healing every time I went online. So I got on the waiting list for a naturopath, and I started acupuncture. I started doing affirmations and working more intensely on self love, self control, emotional intelligence and body love. I started feeling a lot better, but I still felt like my focus was all over the place. Something was holding me back and I just didn’t know how to let it go.

I finally saw the naturopath though, and we made a plan for my health. Which included my emotional health. I had done talk therapies, and felt I’d gone as far as I could with it. So she suggested I check out energy healing. I was open to it, and I left her office with a plan. I was feeling cautiously optimistic.

I started to do the work. And following some energy healing, I was struck with this moment of extreme clarity. My entire life flashed before my eyes. And all of the things I had been struggling with bubbled up and I felt myself let go of them. I could see while I’d been doing a lot of things since I was a little kid to make life seem easier, I had in fact been holding in a lot. And eventually holding back a lot. And I could keep looking for people or things to blame, or I could face the fact that all of the really long term damage I had done to myself. The release was uncomfortable, as big emotions often are. And it was scary letting go, because if I let go of Jessie the sick person, Jessie the comedic relief, or the fixer, then who was I?

But I knew it would set me free.

I suddenly realized all of these things hadn’t happened to me, they had happened for me. And each diagnosis had been a wake up call. And anyone that knows me well, knows I don’t like phone calls. It usually takes at least three calls,(hoping you’ll just text me instead) before I finally pick up and see what you want. And so, true to form, that’s what I did. I had ignored each call, until I couldn’t stand to ignore them anymore. But I finally took the call. I knew I was either going to die, or learn to love myself, learn to accept myself, learn to be myself. I could suddenly see that all of my external struggles where in fact a mirror to my own internal struggle for self love. It’s like everything I had been through, and everything I was doing, was this gift that had been coming together. A lesson that I needed to learn. Feeling unworthy, made me realize my worth. Feeling like I wasn’t accepted, pushed me to accept myself. Feeling lonely, made me realize the joy of my own company. Feeling unloved pushed me to fall in love with myself. And while everyone else was on there own path, I could see how all of our paths were interwoven. I felt so much love for everyone. Any anger or frustration, or push to control seemed to evaporate. I was filled with so much compassion for them, I could clearly see that they were all reacting through their own fear and pain, just as I had been. I knew I could forgive them. And I knew I could forgive myself. I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. ALWAYS! And so were they. I realized the only role I had to play in anyone’s life, was to love them.

This beautiful release and a lot of emotions continued for several days. Every time I’d meditate I’d have very clear memories of love and of friendship. It was overwhelming. I could see even more clearly how those moments of love had saved me. A few days after (what I’m calling my awakening) though, it sort of occurred to me that I’m still human. Ha! I would still have to experience grief, sadness, and frustration, but now I could also experience joy and pleasure. And while I started to worry about falling back on my old methods, I stopped myself. I even considered deleting everything I had previously written or created, because I just didn’t feel any attachment to those feelings anymore. But those things had also gotten me to where I am right now, so I knew I couldn’t regret them. And I realized I’m still going to be learning. But it’s like I’ve been scrubbed clean, and now I just need to see where this new chapter is going to take me. And I’m so glad y’all are hear to join me. I will eventually be sharing more stories and creating more art. And I am certain I will be healing, and not just emotionally. I believe my health will heal as I do. But like I mentioned earlier, I’m also just letting myself live. I’ve decided the best thing I can do with my time right now is to bask in the summer sun, while my son looks for a lucky four leaf clover. And all I can do is to smile as I watch him, knowing we don’t need it.

Gallery-Written · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

Holding back.

Hey all, Jessie here. Just keeping it sexy in Sask! Ha! 😄 I was out for my walk and I was thinking about what I’m doing with this page. If you’ve been here awhile you’ve heard me say before that I just wanted to make art and feel good. And that’s true, that’s the goal. But lately it feels like I’m all over the place, and so is this blog. The blog is about life though, and trying to figure out how to live my best life, so maybe that’s ok? Maybe this is a part of the process? I keep thinking about why I started this project. There are so many reasons. But a big one was that I just felt so restless. I’m somewhat isolated and often alone and although I would try not to, if I did express loneliness or try to connect through social media on my personal page I just ended up feeling even more lonely, embarrassed and misunderstood. I guess I started wondering if anyone really values my presence or even my voice. Don’t get me wrong I know there are people who care about me, but I’ve never felt like anyone really gets me. It’s not their fault though. I don’t really let anyone see all of me. Too often I hold back, or I bend and mould myself into some preconceived notion of who I think they expect me to be. And though I created this as an outlet, and it’s been surprisingly therapeutic, there’s still a loud voice inside of me screaming ‘who the fuck do you think you are though? What’s the point of this? You’re just some goofy girl with mediocre talents from some small town. Why should anyone care about your voice?

And so I hold back. Back from the fierce as fuck, confident, fun and powerful self that I know is in me too. Back from the stories, thoughts and projects I want to do and share with y’all. Sometimes I get on a roll and come out of the cave, but before long I crawl back in because I fear an eye roll on your end, afraid of some silent vibes that I’m a bit too big for these boots.

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I’ve been told I’m ‘too much’. That I’m too silly, too serious, too chatty, too shy, too childish, that need to stop complaining, be more positive. I’m an all vibes are good vibes kinda girl, in a ‘positive vibes only’ kinda world. And I myself have thought I should be different, hold back. But I’m kinda starting to think——F*ck all that?

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I think we are all meant to shine. Something deep down feels like I’m meant for something bigger, that there’s more to life than ‘this’. Something in me so badly wants and needs to share my message with the world, it’s there just waiting to break free. But there’s also something deep down holding me back.

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Sometimes I feel like I’ll always be an amateur at everything, whether it’s art or adulting, ha. But I’m wondering if maybe the problem isn’t that I don’t know what to do. It’s that I know what to do but I’m still not doing anything about it. I set up bullshit barriers like I’ll do it tomorrow, I have to clean my entire house first, or maybe I just end up watching all the series on Netflix with a bar of chocolate or three (how did that get there). Or I fill up my entire schedule without giving myself a minute to breathe so I can put off doing the shit that is going to bring me closer to my dreams. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Cause the truth is, the only person holding me back from living my dreams is me. I can tell myself all the affirmations, repeat all the mantras and visualise all I want. But if I don’t actually get my subconscious on board and clear these blocks I’ll be f*cked. I’ll continue going round in the same cycle of feeling like I’m being torn in a million directions, feeling stuck and unsatisfied because I’m not living to my full potential and sharing my light with the world.

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And I guess that’s why I’m still here.

Maybe if I’m here I’ll push myself to let it all hang out. Maybe something I share can help you suffer less than I did. Maybe you’ll feel like you’re not alone. Or you’ll be smart enough to learn from my mistakes and be more forgiving of yourself when you make your own. Maybe you’ll see me questioning everything under the sun and you’ll say damn I do that too—we should stop doing that, ha! I dunno, I just know I want to see more stories like mine, someone who is still battling their demons, and trying their damndest to win. And if I want that, maybe someone else out is waiting to hear my story too. Maybe we can cheer each other on and watch each other turn our pain into something beautiful. That’s all I want. And hopefully one day you’ll look at this page and say look at her—just living her best life, spreading love and being so authentically true to herself. And maybe you’ll think you can too!

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Hey all! Thanks for being here! I’m happy to report that some things have changed. So I hope you’ll also check out https://smartandsmitten.com/2019/07/21/to-all-of-the-people-i-knew-before/

Gallery-Paint · Gallery-Written · Life · Mind & Spirit~Reflection, Habits & Self Care · Uncategorized

Understanding and Improving my Approach to Conflict.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my approach to conflict. I usually use humour to deflect or diffuse arguments. And it works, so I rarely get into arguments. I rarely debate. And I try to avoid giving my energy to opposing someone’s opinion. As my mother in law once said, “you’re likely just gonna waste your breath trying to change a mind that’s already made up.”

But as you’ll often here me say, I am a fence sitter. I’m a woman of many shades. So, while I have gone out of my way to diffuse situations for others. I also get overwhelmed by conflict, and have isolated myself at times to avoid it all together. A friend recently said that I’m spiritual enough to pray for y’all, but probably still hood enough to swing on you too. Its a bit of a problem. One I’ve been trying to work on, but one that is kinda confusing. It’s not easy to have a good cop/bad cop reaction playing out in your brain, simultaneously, pretty much all the damn time.

Around this time last year I found these two beasts wrestling with one another over the meaning of a quote that my sister had shared on Facebook. Ironically, I thought it was about what comes out of you, and how you react when things go to hell. An old family friend, felt it had another meaning, and went about saying so in a way that I found abrasive and unnecessarily rude. So I questioned him, I could have just scrolled on and let him be wrong but I didn’t. And ultimately we just ended up trading barbs, and by the end we still disagreed. By the next day though, I realized how ridiculous the entire thing was. I tried to make a joke out of it, but that pissed him off more, so I apologized to him. I told him that I wanted to believe because he had said something I thought was rude and mean, I had the right to knock him down in an effort to stand up for my sister.

And from the start I could have just said that. But when I responded to his comments on that quote, I knew that, that wasn’t what I was doing. I knew deep down, that a part of me also really wanted to put him in his place. I went into it telling myself I was just asking questions, hoping to understand his comment better. But that’s not what I did. I was mad, and when I’m angry I rarely take the time to think about anything other than where I’m gonna hit you below the belt. And if I feel I’ve knocked you down a peg, I might start to think I’ve won. It’s like this old arcade game I used to play at the nearby ski hill when I was growing up. I don’t even like video games, but I was a hopeless skier and snowboarder (and I was poor and couldn’t afford that shit anyway). So while friends enjoyed the slopes, I actually got pretty decent at “Mortal Combat.” And sometimes when I argue I think of it. If you can throw your opponent off balance, you’ll hear a voice commanding you to “Finish Him!”

I’m not particularly proud of this method of operating. And I guess that’s why it keeps bubbling up. I’m realizing that if the objective of my discussion is to win, I usually end up being the loser. Even if I sway them to take on my point of view, I will often end up feeling guilty, regretting how I spoke or treated the other person. I’m also realizing that although I want to evolve into a more loving person, it takes emotional maturity, it takes time, it takes knowledge, and it takes practice.

Practice I’m not going to get if I hide out and isolate myself all of the time. So I keep trying and hoping that if I continue, I might become my own version of the examples that I look up to. And maybe if this light of mine can warm even one heart with my silly doodles and rambling stories, it’s a win. Because I think every time we choose love, life and connection we can elevate and work together for good. It lifts my heart, and I feel hopeful about this life and this world, it feels right and damnit it feels good. So friends tell me, how do you face conflict and share your light? I’d love to hear from you.

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Hey all! Thanks for being here. Somethings are really changing on this self awareness journey of mine. I hope you’ll also check out https://smartandsmitten.com/2019/07/21/to-all-of-the-people-i-knew-before/

Gallery-Paint · Gallery-Written · Uncategorized

Abracadabra

Abracadabra-

Life is magic.

You say I need only believe it’s so.

But I told life she was cruel,

On the night she let you go.

Life is magic.

Even when I question the belief.

It’s when I hold you close I realize,

what causes all the grief.

Life is magic.

I feel it as I watch our babies grow.

And I pray that I can show them,

What they really need to know.

That, Life is magic!

We create it as we speak.

That it is only through love,

Life reveals the magic that we seek.

J. Thoresen

Gallery-Paint · Gallery-Written · Life · Uncategorized

Oh hey, you’re out of Milk- Notes from a stalker.

It’s been said by those that know me, that I come off as a bit of a creep. I can be a kind of intense. And if you give me a cocktail, you can bet I’m turning into a total close talker. If I’m at all interested in you I’m probably going to stalk you a wee bit. You know the usual stuff, gather intel, do a background check, light surveillance, nothing too crazy. I promise its totally innocent, sort of a detached appreciation. I’m actually quite introverted and definitely have no interest in a possessive way. But, I’ll most likely come on too strong, or over share, and send you running for the hills. And even if I’m not at the wheel of my creep-mobile, if you are remotely in my orbit, at some point I’m going to say or do something weird. I’m generally always doing something to embarrass myself.

For the most part I’ve embraced it, I’ve even worn my stalker badge proudly. I love making my friends these creepy music videos, kind of a birthday-gram. They all share the same theme—obsessed fan. It’s all in good fun and thankfully they still accept me despite my special brand of weird.

But in this life long pursuit to connect with those I’m drawn to, I’ve made things weird on a few occasions. Recently I was reminded of one of the more notorious events in my stalking escapades.

I can remember when I first met him. He was quiet and handsome and had dimples for days. I barely knew him, but I knew I desperately needed to know him better. I can remember one time I saw his car pull into the only gas station we had in our small town. It was blocks away, but I ran there as fast as I could. When I arrived he was just leaving. I was completely out of breathe, but I tried to act aloof, managing to squeak out one word. One breathe-less “hey.” He said hi back, hopped in his car and left, and I collapsed to the ground gasping for air. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but nope, that’s me. This is just one example of the many embarrassing things I’ve done when I find myself attracted to another soul. He should have been afraid but for whatever reason he tolerated my intensity and we became friends.

A couple years later we were hanging out just doing the normal teenager thing, cruising around and hanging out with friends. My girlfriends and I were scrutinizing and exchanging the only selfies we had back then, our annual school photos. I was picking my photo apart, but he thought it was cute and said he wanted one. I was embarrassed because I had to give them to my mom first, but I told him I’d give him one later. A normal human being would have just set aside one of the leftover photos. But instead, I spent the evening constructing a giant poster board, using all of them. Twenty or so of the same photo and pose, in every size. The idea was that he would hang it on his wall, and if anyone saw it they would assume he was obsessed with me. A real stalker of my own, swoon! My girlfriend and I laughed the night away at the thought of it. We added blinking lights, shiny paper and tinfoil. The next day I went to present him with my masterpiece. But suddenly I felt a bit ridiculous and started second guessing myself. I was a bit worried he wouldn’t get the joke, and would likely think I was a total lunatic. But I threw caution to the wind, and decided to go for it. I put it in his truck and when we got a chance to be alone I told him to go have a peek. I was laughing, because no matter what I kinda think I’m hilarious. To my surprise he seemed totally unfazed by this monstrosity, he smiled and told me it was awesome!

Awesome? Perhaps this quiet, smiley boy is a bigger weirdo than he lets on. “Let’s go plug it in” I exclaimed. And the rest is history.

The point is, sometimes you are better off just letting it all hang out. I want to be liked and cared for just as much as the next guy, but getting close to people can be scary. I can be insecure, and I make mistakes attempting to do so. Some people get turned off by me, but I’m slowly learning those aren’t my people. Rejection is hard, but I’m a woman of many shades and I’m the only one who gets to define exactly who that is. Anyone else’s opinion is none of my business. Sometimes I’m intense, maybe a bit overwhelming, sometimes I’m introverted, probably kinda underwhelming. But I’m also a loving human being that desires intimacy with others, not in a sexual way, but a spiritual one. I need people I can be totally unfiltered with, laugh with. People who care about my story and remind me that although I feel like a misfit, I’m not alone in this journey. Apparently this is going to be misinterpreted at times, and may scare the odd person off. But there’s something special about it too. So I vow to be myself and see who stays. I’ve had success and found kindred spirits by doing so in the past. And I think those who are brave enough, might end up with a great friend. Someone who will always be looking out for them——albeit through a long range spying scope. Ha! But seriously I can’t help but be me, flaws and all. So I’ve decided to let my freak flag fly! Cause you never know who might be happy to see it.

Words and Art by Jessie Thoresen.

Gallery-Written · Marriage · Uncategorized

Secrets. And the site of the next Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

Edited to add: I wrote this in the fall of last year. This tragedy and the loss of those boys really rocked me. In truth, my hometown is very close to the crash site. I take the long way to my sister in laws house just so I don’t have to see it. I was angry with the methods of operation within the industry, before and after the crash. And was so mad at everyone in it, including my husband for seeming to go along to get along. Until finally, my fears spilled out into this blog post. I intended to open eyes, and I knew that it would bother some people we had worked with. And in all honesty, I think I wanted it to. I thank everyone that responded. Especially those within the industry. But I no longer believe that sharing fear is the best way for me to illicit change. I was going to delete this. But instead I’ve decided to edit it, and add that you always have a choice. I don’t blame the industry anymore. Because it comes down to a matter of individual choice. You may tell yourself you don’t have a choice, but you do. Even I do. And I have told my husband he can do whatever he thinks he needs to, but so will I. And I will report him to the department of highways myself if he chooses to break the law, endanger himself or others just to hold a job or contract. I no longer care if I lose anything of monetary value because of it.

You are welcome to continue reading. But I hope you’ll also take the time to read this as well. As it’s where I am today:https://smartandsmitten.com/2019/07/21/to-all-of-the-people-i-knew-before/

Secrets. And the site of the next Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

September 13, 2018.

Last night I tuned in to watch the Humboldt Broncos and their emotional return to the ice. I watched them with pride, but couldn’t help but wonder whose hometown will be the site of the next bus crash.

This being the Broncos first game since the bus crash that claimed the lives of so many young people, the emotion was palpable. In a city that has become accustomed to tears, fans, friends and family, had tissues ready to try to quell the inevitable sniffles and unshakable sorrow. But as the opening ceremonies proceeded one could see and feel the gamut of emotions, from grief and sadness to excitement and hope. The love of the game is evident here. A new season brings new hope for the team and a step in what will likely be a very long healing process, not only for this community but also our province and country. I think most of us can remember the shock and sadness we felt, as reports of what had happened emerged that day. There was even a worldwide response as people from around the globe contributed to the funding, and expressed their condolences to the families.

And while the new season brings hope and excitement in many ways, it’s also a reminder of the sorrow and grief that this tragedy caused. I know my mind kept wandering, and wondering how the victims families are coping? Or how the survivors and their families are coping? How anyone involved in this crash might be coping?

I didn’t personally know any of the people involved in this calamity. But even despite that, it felt like it had happened in my hometown. This tragedy really hit home. For many reasons really, but for me as a mother, lord knows I’ve had fears and reservations about putting my children on a bus everyday. My heart immediately ached for the mamas of those boys. But it also really bothered me because my husband is a truck driver. The scene on that highway was a horrible combination of my worst fears. And I want to make it clear that I am not here to excuse or condemn the driver involved in this crash. I will leave that to the police and the court system. I am writing this today because the fears I had before this disaster, have since been amplified. After witnessing that horrific scene I’m finding it difficult to remain silent in regards to the reality of trucking in this province.

And while I know that truckers head out everyday, saying goodbye to their families to supply the needs of yours. I also know, that the trucking industry has dirty little secrets that can have deadly consequences. My only hope is that from this tragedy we might see some changes and prevent something like this from happening again.

My husband has been involved in trucking in some capacity most of his working life. Being a prairie boy himself he started off trucking grain, but for more than two decades he has hauled dangerous goods in the oil and gas sector. Although he was farming and learning to drive big equipment in the field before most kids have their training wheels off, many drivers do not have any experience. In fact, in Saskatchewan, (as in most provinces) you aren’t required to have any training. You just need to pass a basic road test and written exam. On more than one occasion in his career he has been asked to ride along with new drivers to show them the ropes, which seems like an excellent idea. Until he came home with tales of drivers who aren’t even sure how to start the truck, shift, or make a proper turn. One of these guys could barely cross an intersection without stalling in front of oncoming traffic. On more than one occasion he has questioned how some of these drivers ever passed a road test.

But sadly inexperience is probably the least of our problems. I will be using trucking in the oil industry as my example in this piece, because the oil sector is what I am most familiar with. But believe me when I say, variations of these issues are present regardless of what goods are being hauled. In our neck of the woods, most semi drivers own their own truck, they sub contract under a trucking company, who bids for work required by oil companies. Therein lies a big problem. For one thing, the top priority of the trucking company is to keep the oil company happy. In order to do so, they ignore the best interests of the trucks and their drivers. They take very little time organizing loads, they cater to oil company employees, and dispatch drivers more loads than they could possibly complete in a legal number of hours. It’s not uncommon to see guys out driving for eighteen hours or more. They send drivers into areas with unsafe road conditions, often ignoring drivers reservations, insisting that the load needs to go. If and when accidents occur they are always quick to flip the script, putting the onus entirely on the drivers. And why wouldn’t they? Owner-operators, and drivers are supposed to refuse unsafe work, they are supposed to keep track of their hours of service and refuse work after this time. It is the law. The trouble is that drivers know that the squeaky wheel does not get the grease, it gets replaced. Many drivers that I have talked to over the years feel stuck. As entrepreneurs they aren’t entitled to employment insurance, they have bills to pay and family relying on them. And although a trucking company will rarely demand or threaten the operators they contract, they do employ more subtle methods of manipulation to get what they want. Drivers who refuse work, complain, or even make suggestions as to how loads are dispersed, are often blacklisted as difficult or lazy. Most often, if they aren’t fired, they are starved out until they can’t afford to stay. Many of the trucking companies also underbid on the work resulting in low rates. Low rates and high fuel costs slowly drive away skilled operators and increase the number of inexperienced drivers. But neither oil, nor trucking companies show much concern. The trucking company makes the same amount regardless of the cost of fuel, or the number of hours they work. And the oil companies save a buck by choosing the lowest bidder. And while oil and trucking companies claim that safety is paramount, it always amazes me how easily they turn a blind eye to these issues. Even though we know these kinds of practices result in more mistakes and accidents. My guess is that because they can’t be found legally responsible, they simply choose not to care about their part in the problem.

Again, I am not going to excuse drivers here. Professional drivers know the law. They know they need hold themselves to a higher standard. But my hope is that we also start to question why anyone would choose to work over 14 hours a day, everyday, putting themselves in a position where they could go to jail, kill themselves or someone else. I know why we have done it; fear. Fear we would lose the work, fear we would fail, fear we would let down the people we work for, fear we would lose our business and possibly our home.

And I don’t know what the perfect solution is. But I do know I can’t get last nights game, or that crash out of my head. I can’t stop thinking of the banners hanging in that arena last night. Each one reminding me of those that didn’t make it to this ceremony. Each one serving as a reminder that there are sixteen families whose lives were forever changed on that April day. Each banner reminding everyone who straps on some skates and gets on the ice, that “we play for them”. Each banner paying homage to the kids, coaches, and staff that are no longer with us, but ensuring that they are “Always remembered”.

Always remembered.

But as I watched those brave boys step back on the ice last night, as the puck dropped, and they held back tears, pushing past their own grief to pay homage to their friends and teammates, I wondered, will we remember them? And I don’t mean just remembering the crash, their names or posting a message of remembrance every April on your Facebook page. I mean every time you turn the key and head out for another day on the road, will you remember them? Every time your company and it’s staff dispatch someone another load, knowing they’re over hours, will you remember them? Every time you speed up, hoping to get home to your family today, will you remember them? Every time your company dispatches a driver into another shitty Saskatchewan storm, despite road reports or the drivers reservations, will you remember them? Every time you lie, or edit your log book and keep your mouth shut, will you remember them?

I hope we all will. I hope we can be as brave as those surviving boys. They have a tough journey ahead of them. But I really feel that if we want to honour and remember them, we in the trucking industry are going to need to be brave too. We need to shine a light on the shady practices that we all know exist. We need to reset the bar! And so, we may have a tough journey ahead of us as well.

Personally and professionally I am well aware of the costs. I know it could increase costs for the oil companies we haul for. And I know if trucking companies have to put the interest of the trucks first, they will struggle to cater to the companies that contract them. It could cost them their run. And I also know that there is a good chance if we as professional drivers hold ourselves to the standards set by the law, if we refuse low pay, disorganization, unsafe work, or the extreme hours of service that these companies expect, we may face the ever present manipulation in this industry. It may cost us income. It may cost us our contracts or employment. It could possibly even cost our businesses. Some say these costs are too high.

So do we just keep our head in the sand? Keep rolling, business as usual. Just keep hoping you, or one of the trucks dispatched by you, are never a part of a scene like the one below. Because on April 6, 2018 we saw that the cost of our ignorance is way too high. What we can’t afford, is for this to happen again.

We need to remember them.