July 22 – U

363/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Wow, only 3 more gratitude posts left including this one!!  When I started this journey a year ago, I was a little nervous as to if I would have 365 people to thank.  I didn’t want it to come down to posts such as thanking my mailman for the flyers he delivers in that they were the ones that led me on to some awesome deal!! ; )  Early on in these posts, I started hearing from friends that so and so had made “the list”.  I didn’t understand what that was until I was told that it was my “gratitude list”.  That put some pressure on me to say the least as there was now a “list”.  I didn’t want it to be a list and I didn’t want it to be some type of contest.  Then I heard that some people mentioned they were in the 80s and others were in the 200s!  I do have to make it clear that I haven’t had an order as to who I thank and thus whatever number gratitude post it was has no relation to ranking.  Most posts are the night before or a couple of days before.  Yes, I saved my dad for his birthday as I did with my children for theirs, my mom was first because well she is my mom but save for them and the final two gratitude posts, no one had a day or a number.  The list by the end of Sunday is far from complete.  I could thank another 365 people who got me to where I am today and this is what today’s gratitude post is about – to all of the people I didn’t name and there are hundreds of you that have impacted me!  So many former students, co-workers past and present, family members, inlaws, bosses, professors, fellow students, random strangers, neighbours past and present, friends, backhanded gratitudees (bullies and the like), service providers, celebrities etc, etc – just so many people who have made me who I am and to all of you un-named in this past year, you are part of this gratitude journey just because you were not personally mentioned here doesn’t mean you weren’t recognized by me.  To all the new people that will come in to my life, thanking you in advance as some of you will change and influence me in new ways.  Thank you to all of you who came along with me on this 365 day journey as well.  Your encouragement and support has gotten me to this end point.

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July 12 – you did me wrong

353/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  How cliché? 😉  But it is so very true – I totally understand and live by that motto.  Everything that I have been through in my life has made me the guy you know.  Yeah, my life was tough but I know people have had it rougher.  I accepted my fate in life and dealt with it.  What I do wish though was that I had support growing up.  Yes, as I wind down these posts, I must throw in one final back-handed gratitude post to people who, without your non-care (for lack of a better word), made me even stronger.  You all should know by this time that my dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic.  We, as kids, were told to keep it hidden.  Deny it.  Don’t talk about it.  This was told to us by our mother.  But she was forced to tell us this as her in-laws wouldn’t accept/believe that their son/brother/brother-in-law had a mental illness.  I recall overhearing my mom being lectured that she was making things up and she had to stop phoning the police when my dad would lose it on her.  I remember also being told as a teenager that I was in collusion with my mom by having my dad institutionalized for that decade or so.  I was in shock and I had so much anger at my dad’s family.  They saw things from the outside.  We lived things from the inside.  As you may also know, my sister and I were in foster care for a short period.  We were living with different relatives at other times when my mom would be hospitalized because of my dad’s violence.  The anger stayed with me for most of my life.  I had to see these people at my dad’s funeral – these people who never were there for us growing up.  Any one of them could have stepped up and been a father figure, a true uncle but that never happened.  On my 18th or 19th birth year, my mom wanting to take me to see my paternal grandparents in India – I was lectured to by my uncles there that my mom and I (once again colluding) to steal my dad’s wealth and property there – no, they had no clue about the poverty we actually lived in growing up as my dad put my mom on an allowance and so she had to hold down multiple jobs just to care for us but I listened and festered.  I, however, did learn that three of his other siblings (two whom had committed suicide) were also afflicted by the same mental illness – I got a better understanding of my dad.  I was forgiving of my uncles and family in India as they did not have the same knowledge level as my dad’s Canadian family.  I have 100% forgiven my dad because none of what he did was in his conscious control but I can’t forgive my dad’s immediate family here in Canada.  You could have made a difference.  You could have acknowledged that there was something wrong.  You could have supported any of us, all of us.  Yes, you lay blame on us.  I’d like to think I’m a bigger person and can move on but I’m not that good – I can’t forget and I definitely can’t forgive.  I will say though that you have taught me a life lesson that not all family is there for you. Yes, this gratitude post might come off as very bitter but I think I’m entitled to this one.   I am so that much stronger in spite of/despite you and for that, you get the backhanded thank you!

June 9 – rx for life

320/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I am generally a healthy person and try to take care of myself.  I try to be active and watch what I eat.  Yes, like the best of us, I give in to temptation – okay, like the worst of us, a lot of the time 😉  Anything I put into and subject my body to – these are things within my control but many things that afflict the body are things that are beyond one’s control.   Over a decade ago, I somehow contracted a health issue called sarcoidosis.  I was gardening – okay, cutting the lawn and pulling out weeds and was just exhausted.  Went to school the next day and the principal told me to take the afternoon off.  On the third day, I was still tired and went in to see my family doctor who immediately got an xray.  I had a form of walking pneumonia. He put me on meds and immediately got me linked up with a respirologist at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.  Fast forward a decade or more and here I am managing with a compromised immune system and nodules and scar tissues on my lungs – no cure for sarcoidosis, just different meds to see what may help (steroids and inhalers) – no success yet : (  My family doctor has been with me since I was a pre-teen.  He was the one who put me at ease when I was 18 years of age and worried about becoming schizophrenic like my father – he told me since I was asking him the question, I definitely wasn’t as I knew my reality.  He referred me to a support group for family members.  In fact, anytime I have any questions or concerns, he always eases my mind and easily refers me to a specialist who deals in the particular area of concern if need be. He treats me like a family member asking me about my career, my children and also my mom.  I’m sure he does this for all his patients but I feel comfortable in his fatherly presence.  This past month, because of healing and broken ribs and a major flare-up with my sarcoidosis, I have seen him several times.  Alas, I can see him aging and realize he will probably soon retire and give up his practice as his patient hours have also decreased.  Upon writing this gratitude post, I have realized that I definitely will let him know of my gratitude for him being my health care provider and also for being there for my immigrant parents and helping them through their concerns and being patient with them.  I only today have realized how lucky I am to have a doctor who not only cares about you but has time for you.  I raise my cough syrup filled spoon in your honour ; )

May 31 – to my dad

311/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This one’s a tough one.  I can only put it off for so long but tonight is the right time.  My dad passed away 3 years ago on the 26th of May a few days before his birthday which is today.  He would have been 80 today.  I have mixed emotions when it comes to my dad but through therapy, I have learned that those emotions, although valid, are of my own perspective and not because he did anything wrong consciously.  My dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic – he thought the government and all its agents were after him and by extension the family and thus he did not abide by certain rules and we were not allowed to live in the way most people live.  However, back in the 70s and early 80s, no one really knew all that much about mental illness and the myriad of diagnoses.  His own brothers and sisters denied he had a condition and lay blame on us (myself, my sister and mother) for fabricating tales about him.  He could get jobs but because of his delusions, those would soon end.  Eventually, because of things I’d rather not delve into, he ended up being institutionalized at Riverview Institute.  I was around 6 years old.  He was in and out of Riverview – sometimes on a month release, other times because he would “escape”.  This was our life for the next decade or so.  During this time, a feeling of resentment grew in me.  I would see dads and sons everywhere: playing ball, helping ride bikes, walking to school, cutting the lawn etc.  Upon a few of his unsanctioned “leaves”, the proverbial white van showing up at our house with my dad being taken back in a strait jacket is etched deeply into my memory.  I was embarrassed and neighbourhood kids made fun of us calling us the “retard’s kids” – oh damn, this is getting pretty tough tears welling up – but through it all, he was my dad and I had to remember that.  When he was finally diagnosed properly and on meds that managed his condition, he came back into our lives on a full time basis.  I finally had a normal dad for the most part – yes, he still had delusions and would talk to himself but less so.  He got a good paying job.  Worked hard and a year later, my parents had their third child – my younger sister.  I will admit that I was ambivalent towards her as this sister ended up with two more or less functioning parents and much more of a normal life than I had.  I had a very superficial relationship with my dad in that I guess I blamed him for not being around and thus, in turn making me feeling I was less than adequate.  I blamed him for not giving me the male role model I needed.  I was jealous of the new family dynamics when he was back.  I was upset that I didn’t have a normal childhood and laid all blame on him.  I know now that he did not do any of this!  He did not leave us willingly and consciously.  He did not abandon us because he didn’t love us.  He didn’t talk to or not acknowledge our existence because he didn’t care.  He didn’t hold down jobs because he was lazy.  He had a mental illness.  He was not in control.  Damn, more tears!!!  He worked hard.  He saved up money.  They got a brand new home.  New cars.  New “toys”. A new life.  Being the dad/granddad to my son that I never had.  Yes, I felt like I was on the sidelines looking in but I was also an adult and had to get over it.  I am 100% sure that my dad made me into a stronger person.  I needed to go through all of that to be the man I am today – phew, more tears!!  Towards the latter years of his life, I was able to let go of my resentment.  No, we did not have a movie-like wonderful ending – more like an ongoing telenovela/Bollywood drama where we were good for this week’s episode but that hole in my heart for lack of a father became much smaller in diameter.  Yes, I have never properly thanked him, told anyone I loved him, acknowledged him or even yet grieved his passing but this gratitude post is a start, albeit a public one, that my dad, given all he had to go through, ended up teaching me about life, struggles, being responsible for self and not letting your past dictate your future.  I love you dad for giving me life and caring for me in your own way.  Thank you for moving to Canada, marrying mom and creating something here and leaving behind a great inheritance both financial and emotional for the three of us children moving forward.  I still have a lot of work to do on myself in regards to father/son bonds but wherever you are, I am no longer angry or resentful – I can honestly say that I do love you and what you did for us.

April 2 – Therapy 2.0

252/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  About 200 gratitude posts ago (wow, that’s a big number to comprehend), I showed appreciation for my therapist who got me through my separation, eventual move out on my own, and acceptance of my situation.  I saw her for a year and she acted as a sounding board and was very reflective in nature mirroring what I said (and needed) playing more of a life coach role.  This year, I decided to go back to therapy to now work on myself even further and delve into what makes me who I am.  I had the choice of seeing the same therapist but I decided that she was great at what she helped me with but I needed to find someone who might challenge me further.  This new therapist not only does that but she calls me on things which I was initially taken aback by but I have made huge strides in 5 sessions delving into my childhood and the absence of a father figure.  This therapist “S” also told me that her way may challenge me and it has – she stops me mid-sentence to have me feel the emotion associated with the words/thoughts that I am expressing which is something I rarely do.  She also has taught me how to give numerical value to all the emotions I feel and to also appreciate my own worth instead of looking for others’ approval/trying to win them over with my actions – something that I am totally guilty of and am now cognizant of.  Her therapy sessions are more than just talk at/with but involve the use of props, homework and readings with a big focus on my cognition and also approaching that little boy of 6 or 7 that saw a lot but did not understand it and decided to become the good boy to not disappoint anyone – now that’s what I call a breakthrough.  Getting in touch with the younger me has helped me to see how I became the me of today.  Thank you S for really challenging me to look into myself rather than just superficially at my actions.  I look forward to more sessions to really work on myself to become an even better version of me.

March 23 – by George

242/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  One of my favourite yet craziest and most challenging jobs I ever had was working for Social Services and Housing (Welfare) when I was in my very early 20s. My mom – the crazy, judgmental parent (at times) told me that I would get killed working with those people!!! Yup, that’s the type of advice she’d give me when she didn’t understand things. However, I learned so much about myself in that job especially growing up on this side of the fence. I worked with many people over my two and a half year career but the people I remember are some of the stand-out clients. The one guy that really affected me was George. He was First Peoples and my client at the Main and Hastings branch that I was a regular at. We had some crazy times in that office – I mean the front desk window was made of plexiglass and you’d think we would be safe when the main Vancouver police station was across the street but no, we had many incidents that required the shutting down of the office. I learned how to set up my office so I could run out if I had to for my own safety!! George would come in high and sometimes homeless losing his cheque over a drinking binge. But he would always be honest with me and own up to what had happened. He’d crack jokes and I felt a fondness for him as he was real and I didn’t feel like I was being used just as a money conduit. He took my advice for rehab classes – unfortunately never really finishing them.   When I switched offices, of course I lost contact with George but one day I happened to be downtown with friends and there was George! He saw me and recognized me and called out my name and I was like “Hey George” – he chatted with me briefly but sadly he was aware of the awkwardness from my friends but I gave him the respect he deserved. He high fived me and cracked another joke and then he was on his way. I’d like to think that I made a difference in George’s life and that he found his way but that’s probably not the case; however, he was one of the reasons that I got into teaching as I knew my role was to make an impact earlier in lives rather than later. Thank you George for showing me that everyone is worthy and to keep me cognizant of why I teach.

March 14 – you gave my dad a chance

233/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I have yet to write a gratitude post for my dad but that one is coming in May on either his birthday or the anniversary of his passing and it will be one of the toughest ones I write but today, I have to honour the men who gave him his livelihood. Before and after his time/hospitalization/incarceration (whatever you want to call it) at Riverview, my dad did hold down a job to be able to support us. Yes, he would lose it at work due to his paranoia and delusions because of his schizophrenia and just walk off the job or not go to work for days or get into fights but the bosses/owners/managers must have known that he had a wife and two young kids and gave him countless chances. I recall my mom bestowing exorbitant Christmas gifts upon his bosses and I would complain as to why when we barely had enough to make it through but today I completely understand – those men gave my dad a job and focus and he brought in money to the house when he was working. I didn’t understand it then but I do get it now. They could have fired my dad for so many infractions but they kept him on – on until he got his pension and on so that he had benefits to cover us. I tried to search them up about a decade ago to phone them and tell them how much I, as an adult, wanted to thank them for doing what they did as I wouldn’t be who I am today if my dad wasn’t able to have held down a job to support us if not for them. Alas, I was not successful in my endeavour but this gratitude post goes out to you gentlemen – from the bottom of my heart, I truly thank you for doing the right thing and because of that, letting me and my sisters have lives that matter!

March 11 – more than just a job

230/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Growing up Indian, we were taught not to tell anyone about what went on in our house. We were told that family matters were to remain private and that no one needs to know about what we were going through. These gratitude posts have been cathartic for me and I don’t mind sharing my truths as I feel that I am only getting stronger and none of it is shameful. Because of this “keep the truth hidden” mentality, my family did not seek out help for my dad’s schizophrenia and I didn’t know about any resources, assistance, or aid that we would have been entitled to. I also did not benefit from any support groups that would have been available to us. In the last few years of my dad’s life and only because of his other health issues (diabetes, dementia, and heart bypasses) was he identified and put into the mental health system (did they forget about his decade or so at Riverview?) – this still shocks me.  A whole world of support was opened up to my mom and dad upon learning of him being in the community and this would have made a substantial difference for all of us growing up. However, I can’t live in the past but I want to thank the two ladies/case workers who were assigned to my dad in the last couple of years of his life – they were amazing. They helped my mom in numerous ways and checked up on her and my dad often and also told us about other resources that we were entitled to (for years had we known). In the last few months of my dad’s life, they gave my mom the additional support she needed outside of family to be able to cope with the inevitable loss that was about to take place given his deteriorating state. These ladies also explained a lot to myself and my sisters about the mental health programs – they were surprised that my mom had taken care of my dad that long in life without any type of provincial assistance. Although we only met them for a short time, their kindness and support was greatly appreciated by our entire family in my dad’s last years. Thank you for all your help.