This time of year makes me wanna hibernate. I know, I know, my friends say I am a broken record. “Yes, you are a bear in winter Renée, we get it.”
I love my gals, we are a tribe and they get me. And yes, the bear is my spirit animal during this time because I want to sleep through the cold. But it is time for this momma bear to wake up.
Toronto, circa 1999, I was fresh off the boat, Marine Atlantic to be exact; navigating my way through the “big smoke” was the scariest thing I had ever done in my 20’s. Fear was my GPS in the sense that I knew if I didn’t adapt I would be eaten alive.
In the beginning I camouflaged myself, learning to walk faster with the pack. Making eye contact most often meant I would be ignored or challenged. I learned I would have to quietly observe others in order to find my footing.
I would watch people on the street while taking public transit. The slow crawl of the Queen St. Streetcar made it easy for me to safely observe; creeping to a slow halt every few seconds. Those frequent stops allowed me to watch the flow of ignorance that surrounded me.
Men inappropriately rubbing themselves against women on a crowded subway. Someone shouted “faggot” once and sent a young boy running from the direction that he planned on traveling.
Mother’s travelling with children always caught my attention. I was not yet a mom but I knew motherhood awaited me. One day a momma was getting ready to exit the streetcar with her toddler in hand, when a car came racing up to try to pass it. Watching her “mother bear” instinct was thrilling. Her foot made its way into the passenger side door as she screamed, “Watch it asshole.”
The most touching and completely disturbing moment of my life came while I was temping for a foundation that supported men and women that were AIDS/HIV positive. An older man in a wheelchair come to pick something up from the office. When I held out my hand to introduce myself a tear ran down his cheek. I was very concerned that I had said something wrong.
The man reached his hand out slowly, and while I gently placed his hand in mine his words grabbed a hold of my heart, “No one has wanted to shake my hand for a very long time.”
It took a few seconds before I realized what he meant by that statement. He was confiding in me that he had fallen victim to a horrible disease-ignorance. No one had shaken his hand in a long time because he was suffering from AIDS.
I placed my other hand over his, looked into his eyes and said, “Well I give good hugs too.”
After our embrace the man was gone. I had never seen him again. I was filled with empathy and didn’t know how to process it at the time. I was overwhelmed by all the injustice in the world. It was all very heavy stuff for a naive 20 something.
The past 20 years have served more of the same. In many ways it is far worse. All I need to say is Trump and you know what I mean. That is why the mother bear in me is no longer interested in sleeping through the winter. I have completely had enough of it all. 2017 is the year you will hear my roar!