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The Good and The Bad

Yesterday I drove past the Sunny Hill Health Centre building on Slocan Street in Vancouver just for old time’s sake. It brought back a flood of memories.

This old building is mostly vacant now. Sunny Hill staff and programs moved to BC Children’s Oak Street campus in August. I am happy that the families and children are in a brand-new building. They deserve all the good things.

It reminded me how stories are neither good nor bad. Honest stories are a combination of both. Heather Lanier has a great TED talk about this.

Good: Six years ago, I was the successful candidate for paid family position at Sunny Hill, a pediatric rehab hospital in Vancouver. Paid engagement positions for patients/families are RARE.

Bad: We moved from Edmonton, leaving behind family and friends and Aaron’s community and established services.

Good: We had always dreamed of living on the west coast for many reasons. Weather, nature, escaping the relentless Alberta right-wing politics. My sister-in-law and her husband live on the coast too.

Bad: Disability, education and health services were totally different in a new province. I worked in the freakin’ children’s hospital and it took me forever to figure everything out.

Good: After interviewing seven principals, we found Aaron a good elementary school, where he was welcomed and not looked at as a drain on funding.

Bad: We are still lonely, six years in, never having replaced Aaron’s community and we still struggle to make meaningful connections for him.

Good: On the work front, I made some wonderful connections with families and staff at Sunny Hill and BC Children’s Hospital that continue on today.

More Good: I think I influenced some positive change at Sunny Hill, mostly through engaging staff through storytelling and creative endeavours like book clubs and TED Talk discussions to encourage more understanding and compassion for families and children.

Bad: I left my position at Sunny Hill after only 18 months because the Executive Director at the time refused to allow me a flexible work environment so I could care for my struggling son.

Really Bad: I was diagnosed with breast cancer three months after resigning from my position.

In the past 4 years since then, there has been more Good and Bad. Sometimes the Good and Bad happen at the exact same time.

The Really Really Bad is now we are in the midst of a global pandemic and people are in deep denial and serious cognitive dissonance about the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in. That’s a topic for another essay.

Thinking of this list of Good and Bad during my time at Sunny Hill helps me remember my whole story. As my husband reminds me, I am prone to figuratively drive directly into the ditch. I was not raised to be an optimist.

Remembering the Good is not Pollyanna. It is an exercise in reminding me that life exists in the ping-ponging between stories of Good and Bad (and as I’m finding in this pandemic, also in the Only OK).

Today’s Good is that it is not raining and so I’m planning to go for a long walk around Deer Lake. If that’s the only Good I have today, I’m going to hang onto it for dear life. My survival mechanism during this pandemic is to acknowledge the Bad and look for the Good. One step at a time, one breath at a time is how we are going make it through this terrible time.


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