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 10 – the people in your neighbourhood

351/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’m always fascinated by one’s environment and the kind of impact it has on one in regards to character formation.  I grew up in the 70s in Northwest Richmond BC – a predominantly white community with a few ethnic families.  We were told to assimilate by both our parents and by the community at large and we did.  My street – Riverdale (like the Archie comics – yes, I’m dating myself) – was host to a very diverse population in regards to socio-economic status, family types, and even ethnicities.  I remember almost every kid who lived on the street and I’d love to say that they were wonderful and left an amazing, lasting impression on me but I can’t say that.  With perhaps an exception of one or two, most were not pleasant to me.  However, that also helped shape me into the guy I am today.  My neighbours and yes, it’s my blog so I’m gonna name you – brothers Daryl and Ken R who lived right next door to me made my life a living hell (more so older Daryl with Ken following his lead).  They would spraypaint racist epithets on our driveway and no form of cleaning truly erased what was said literally and figuratively as it has stayed with me to this very.  Daryl would vandalize our home: windows broken, rip off our laundry off the line and I would have to go hunt it down on the street, throw all sorts of trash into our yard and have his buddies over to spit at me from their deck while I (remember that I am extremely overweight and nerdy) had to cut the grass.  Daryl would make fun of me when my dad would be taken to Riverview, he would say the worst racist things to my mom and I would yell back and he would laugh at my face.  My mom told me to ignore them and do what I had to and just keep the peace and although I was angry at Daryl and Ken, I did what I had to and took the abuse.  They involved neighbourhood kids like Candace and Todd, Arif and Shafik (yes, that Shafik if you live in Richmond) to join in and yes, they joined in.  There were others but I need to get off this bitter train before I start giving them all their own compartments 😉 The neighbour kids across the street, although not involved directly, saw how very unconfident I was and did their own things – siblings R, P and K, and K and her sister – nowhere near the extent of Daryl and his followers with physical things but more psychological.  At the time, along with the bullying I suffered from (see post #15) in school, I hated my life and just wished I didn’t live there but I got through.  As with that earlier bullying post, I became stronger – a Survivor.  Everything I am today is on a subconscious level in spite of all of my tormentors.   I haven’t really thought of these neighbourhood kids until today and just happened to Facebook find a few of them as I was writing this and was tempted to send them this link but I am above all that – yes, I named you and I needed to do that and yes, I hope some of you who read this post and are in touch with them will forward it to them but I am beyond the Riverdale neighbourhood kids today and so much better off given what you put me through as I am that much stronger.

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.

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.

January 1 – my sister

161/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s the new year – new start and I’m going to start with letting bygones be bygones. As many of you may have gleaned from previous gratitude posts, I haven’t had the easiest of times growing up. Being bullied, having my father institutionalized for most of my childhood life due to schizophrenia, not fitting in at all – just a far from ordinary childhood. I have at times wondered how I made it through but deep down I know how I made it through because I had a partner during that time – my sister Pam. Two years younger than me, she the calm, cool thoughtful one to my crazy, erratic self, she also had to deal with the chaotic life we had at home. She saw and experienced the same things I did outside of school – dad at Riverview, dad escaping Riverview and us escaping dad, dad back at Riverview, mom working to support the three of us and then both of us working to help her out – these are just some of the childhood experiences that come to mind but so many others that most people couldn’t begin to fathom. She the pretty one to my ugly duckling. She the popular one to my “geekwardness”. But she always being the one there for me. I could easily have been jealous but I was proud of the fact that one of us had it going on. Many times, we were on our own for various reasons and had to cook for the two of us, keep the house in order or pay the bills forging one or the other parent’s signature on cheques, crying together wondering what was going to happen to us – just a normal week in our lives but we did it together. We were perfectionists where our lives were far from perfect. We both got the best grades possible, worked part time, did all the household chores and obeyed our mom at all times. All our uncles and aunts commented on how good we were but we both knew that we had to do right by our mom given all that she had gone through so we could not disappoint her even if it meant we were disappointing ourselves. Our sibling bonds were established very tightly and because of our life experiences, we were very close growing up. Even as we ended up having our own families and our own lives, we still made time to hang with each other and had a great relationship. Of course, we would have the occasional sibling flare-up but be over it in a few days because perhaps we had that subconscious knowledge that we’ve been through way worse growing up. However, that was not the case about a year and a half ago. Unfortunately due to a number of circumstances, we have not spoken to each other in that long a time due to our differences. Both of us were not willing to forgive but over the course of starting my gratitude journey and writing this blog, I have learned the importance of letting go and appreciating people. I miss our sibling bond as we went through a lot during our childhood and teen years that most don’t go through in one lifetime. If not for you Pam, I wouldn’t be me – the two of us survived our childhood to be amazing adults if I don’t say so myself. I am hoping that this blog post somehow finds its way to you and we can start opening the lines of communication, however small the start is, and go from there. You are my sister and I am your brother and I hope we can start the transition to being that in 2016 no matter how difficult and uncomfortable the first steps are. To you my sister!

December 9 – it’s all relative

138/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I’m a little, okay, helluva lot upset over what transpired in the last couple of days. It’s interesting in that I was only commenting two or three days ago about how friends and strangers are reading my blog and being inspired by it and giving me that figurative pat on the back. However, I guess that’s not the sentiment shared by all – especially by some of my relatives. A few of you veteran/seasoned extended family members, unbeknownst to me, felt that all my sharing on social media such as my blog posts and pictures of various beers is indicative of hereditary schizophrenia!! I was blown away to find this out. Yes, as I mentioned in my very first blog, my dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic – I’m not ashamed but I guess I’m supposed to be. This revelation of the truth caused a lot of backlash in that I should not have been sharing the truth and I should have kept it hidden – I didn’t agree with that belief when I posted my (very freeing) truth. I do understand that people from a certain generation hold different views on what should be talked about and what shouldn’t be but to put their beliefs on others, that’s unfair. However, to surmise my over-sharing behaviour as indicative of schizophrenia is just – uninformed (oh, I thought of many words before I settled on that one!!). I was asked to indirectly stop these gratitude posts – why? Because of your misconstrued interpretations about my mental health veiled as concern for my well-being? Or because you don’t really know me but from what you glean off of my Facebook posts to create a distorted self-serving picture of me? No, in fact I will continue to write about my personal thoughts and share what has made me into the man I am today – and he is not schizophrenic just to set your minds at ease. You have further cemented my reasons for starting this blog in the first place. It’s sad that you may not see this post directly off of my Facebook feed since I have restricted you as of today as I don’t want you to further worry about my mental health (wait, maybe I am a bit passive-aggressive 😉 ) but I’m sure others will direct you to read it and when you do, please have enough courage to contact me directly with your concerns but in the meantime, thank you so much for spurring me on. I’m a 1/3 of the way through my year of gratitude and you just gave me the motivation I needed to continue doing what I am doing as I know others appreciate it. Thank you, you are done.