Finding Hope, Redemption, Courage... from Cancer

"(At one time) my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend." - Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday's Pick of the Week: 'Vancouver Still Ranked Nicest City in Canada'

Just to give you an example of what Tuesday will look like -
and no, not every week will be about the riots, or hockey, but this week I couldn't resist sharing this on here as well:

Go Vancouver!

What Lies Around the Bend, for "What Lies Around the Bend." Aka. The Renovation of This Blog

Some of you will have noticed that "What Lies Around the Bend," is not what it used to be, which was, an attempt to communicate concisely with our close-but-physically-far-away-friends about my health situation, to inform them how things were going and how they could support/think good thoughts/pray for us. We still need that support/good thoughts/prayers, very much, but it seems that the past 2 1/2 years have brought so much growth to myself and our family that we'd like also to be able to share the wealth of that freedom, and hope, with you. And by you, I mean everyone who cares to hear it, anyone who could be helped, encouraged, blessed, or supported by our journey through chronic leukemia and how it has changed our lives for the far, far better than we could ever have imagined.

It seems so much news, literature, and commentary today is so overwhelmingly negative, or even disturbing, and while we need to be confronted with hard truth that disturbing things present, I want to use this blog as a place to bring hope, to share stories of redemption, to inspire us all to have courage, no matter what monotonous daily task, or insurmountable hurdle, we might face. Along the way I hope we all find a bit of humor and light-heartedness as well.

I will not attempt to be doing this alone! There are many friends whose perspective I admire and, with their permission, hope to share with you. There are many more gifted, insightful people than I to provide you with their well-balanced ideas of how to take life by the horns and say, hey, I'm going to leave a real, palpable, footprint on my world. And by that, I do not mean ecological footprint - I am very much on board with initiatives like #GreenCity - but rather, the positive impression, memory, or legacy we can leave behind with the time we have left.

That being said, I hope to have an update for you on most days of the week ! I know, what is she thinking? It won't always be the kind of update I've been tending to write lately - no, wait, don't worry (or worry, depending on what you thought of those!!) we're going to keep those, because those-deep-thinking-reflective-how-do-we-do-this commentaries (and I intend to write overall, positive, commentaries, even if my spring-board for them may be something painful) are some of my favorite things ever, cathartic and challenging and the best way for me to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, no matter how long it is. Those commentaries, with the overall theme of how difficult things may actually make your life better, will continue, and I hope to publish them EITHER once a week, or once every other week, on Sundays. The rest of the week will be short links or quotes, or something else I find inspires me and, far more importantly I think will inspire you.

So here's my proposed routine:

Monday's Momma Musings: This will be a short paragraph about why I love my kids or what they've taught me that week; I am in NO means the example of motherhood, and I can think of several other people who I look up to in this role, so if they'll allow me, occasionally I will share something that they've found helpful or encouraged by. Those of you with young kids, or just Mommas-at-heart, may find Mondays the day you prefer to check this place.

Tuesday's Pick of the Week: This post will be a link, either to a place, organization, article, thing, or song that I think is awesome or worthy of some more thought/attention. If you're interested in news and our community, and how that impacts your life, these Tuesday-quick-link-posts will be for you.

Wednesday's Profile of Courage: This part I'm pretty excited about; either once a week or once every other week on Wednesdays, I will be doing a short blurb on someone I respect for showing courage in hardship, someone who models what it means to be positive - or even FUNNY! - despite the circumstances. As a cancer fighter, many of these stories will be fellow cancer warriors; as a Vancouverite/British Colombian/Canadian, many of the stories will be heroes who've fought for our city, province and country; as a voracious reader, they may be someone famous, either now, or in history who's passed on but left a legacy of courage, humor, or hope under pressure; or maybe just someone I love dearly who I think many of us don't recognize enough. If you want to feel not alone in what you're dealing with, I think you'll like Wednesday's Profiles. (Also, I would love EVERYONE's input for ideas of who you think deserves part in Wednesday's Profiles;)

Thursday's Thought: These posts will be either one or two short quotes I've found inspiring, encouraging, or helpful that week; I hope to have two, one thought-provoking, and one funny, because heaven knows we could all use a little more laughter. Those of you who want something quick to give a boost to your day, Thursday will be for you.

Friday's Good Read: This will be a quick reference to a book I love that I either just read and felt it deserved a mention, or a book that's directly relating to one of the themes of this blog (ie. #vancouver, #hope, #redemption, #courage, #cancer, #parenting).

Saturday, I'm sure you're all too busy having a good time to even think about what I'd have to say!!! but Sunday's Commentary, or "What Cancer - and the _______ - have Taught Me, Part 360ff" will continue, and this is the day that will look most like what you've seen in the last couple of months. It will either be every week or every other week that I'll post, probably on Sunday evening.

I realize that most of you will check in only sporadically, and may only be interested in certain parts/days, and that is great, whatever works for you. Again, I'd love your feedback on what you liked or what you'd like to see.

Other, small things have changed; I've added an opportunity for anyone to follow the blog by email, which opens up the possibility for people other than gmail subscribers to follow this, and I hope, will bring the new posts directly to your email. I've added a search engine for this blog, or google, or the web itself, in case there was some keyword in particular that you were looking for on my blog or topic of discussion on the internet. I hope also to insert a poll soon and some pictures of my favorite city on earth, unfortunately currently known as 'riot city.' Hopefully we can rename it or at least make the 'riot' part about people laughing out of joy.

PLEASE let me know what you think, what works for you, what helped you, what you'd like to hear/read more about. Even though what I write about affects me, I am far more concerned that I would share what could help others. Any time you have to share your thoughts with me will be greatly appreciated, just as anytime you choose to spend reading what I have to say already means more than you know.

Please email me at, message me/post on my facebook wall, or, easiest of all, follow me on twitter to send me your comments: @lana_meredith.

To place a comment on the blog itself you have to create a guest gmail profile, which can be challenging... so if one of those other options works for you, use it!

All this being said... we are headed on family vacation for a very VERY needed holiday. I may be offline until next Monday, depending on the wifi capabilities of where we stay. In any case, expect to hear from me either late next Monday or early next Tuesday.

Grace and peace, and a whole lot of sun and laughter wished for each of you this weekend!

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Cancer Has Taught me, Part 359: How to Overcome the Haters

"Always remember that others may hate you but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself." - Richard M. Nixon

Confession: I hate being hated.

No, I’m not proud of that hating-being-hated thing. The very phrase is irrational. You and I both know that I’ve realized I’m not – nor are many of us – going to be popular. But there’s a vast difference between being popular and being despised. And though I’m desperately trying to turn those parts of myself that have been against things to be for them, this week, I’m having a little trouble with that.

I never realized just how much I love being from this part of the world, until this past week and a half, when almost all the scuttlebutt is antagonistic towards this place and these people. That’s not to say that everyone thinks negatively about us – for that would be unreasonable and sort of despair-inspiring, wouldn’t it? But unfortunately most who care to discuss the elephant-in-the-room tend to mock and scorn VanCity and its people, and remind me frequently of what we’ve done and what we’ve failed to do.

Or rather, what Vancouver has done, and what the Vancouver Canucks have failed to do.

Interesting that the line between those two things has blurred recently; we have become our hockey team, and our hockey team has become us.

Now, back at the beginning of the month, that was a pretty good thing, hey? All the “cool kids” were planning the Cup Parade for our beautiful city – down Georgia or Granville? Smithe or Robson? – and even a few Americans and Albertans were joining the Canuck Train. The Skytrain sounded like a launch of Disney’s “California Screamin’” rollercoaster at each stop, and people could sense that a really great party was coming. Four weeks later, the “cool kids” are pointing their fingers and laughing – no, scorning – the team, and the city, whose party they once joined.

It’s unfortunate for all of us that the same people who gravitate to you while you’re having a good time, are those who run away first when things fall apart.

If I rewind to January 2009, I remember a few people who responded to learning I had leukemia with the same distance. They asked me if I thought I’d done anything bad to deserve this, which was painful, since I’d just come out of a season of disappointment in a role that I loved. These people likely meant well, or at least I hope they did, as they tried to help me identify any major error in my life that might have led me to something so exacting. Was it something physical? Like what I ate or how much I exercised? Was I getting enough sleep? Stretching enough? Drinking enough water? Taking enough vitamins? Should I have taken more life-changing supplements? Or was it something more complex - the stress of unforgiveness, or a broken relationship?

It is a terrifying unsettled-ness to think you have caused your own demise, to think you might deserve something awful to happen to you; to think that I had earned the constant bone pain, the overwhelming exhaustion, the accelerating crowding of my bloodstream, all while trying to raise a three-year-old daughter and abruptly wean an-eight-month-old baby was paralyzing. It ground salt into my already-gaping wounds to think I could have merited the punishment to die before I turned 30.

Just as, apparently, the city of Vancouver has now earned the punishment of the world’s derision, or even hate?, for the unfortunate events in our city, on - how appropriate - the ides of June.

At first I thought it would go away, that the next big event would come along and the media, along with our southern neighbours and fellow countrymen, would divert their attentions to something far newer or more significant.

But here we are, nearly two weeks later, and our team – or our city, I’m still unsure which, entirely – is still getting booed. And, I have a sinking feeling it’s likely going to continue.

Take for example, the NHL awards of last week. Jay Mohr, along with several of his presenters, despite poking fun at most of the influential hockey cities of this past year, when mentioning our city, laced his jokes with far more bite than fun. The ‘come on, what were you thinking’, and ‘didn’t the mounds of marijuana help calm you down’ jabs had real force behind them. And, he insisted that all those in the audience – yes, they were likely Canuck fans – get kicked out of the awards show when he asked the crowd to applaud Bettman, and instead, they booed him.

Classless, he called it.

I admit, I’m not proud of it, but that part made me laugh just a little.

Now fast forward a couple days to the NHL draft. The only team booed at the opening was, of course, Vancouver. And though at first I thought it was jealousy – we were the team to beat this year, after all, right? – I realized it had to be much more than that, considering we were beaten. It was over. We had lost.

So, why did the crowd in Minnesota continue jeering? Was it because of the riots, in which our hockey team had no participation?

But, in any case, according to the internet, this kind of booing was not only not classless, but actually justified, for ‘Vancouver was in no position to be judging anyone right now’.

And, apparently everyone else is. Sigh.

Our booing of Bettman, classless. Their booing of us, justified. Why, of course? - Because we’d done something bad.

I won’t argue with the bad part, but ...

Most non-Vancouverites believe that we have a hate problem. Even many who live here think that we’re emotional misfits, that we’re overly angry. Twitter feels so strongly about our riot that many are calling others to hate us, to #embracethehate. Team 1040 speculates that many teams who are having difficulty selling tickets may even stoop to the marketing technique of “hey the Canucks are in town, come watch us hate them.”

Now, I know we have a pretty large group of roadies in Canuck Nation, but this is kind of, well... what in the world is going on?

I agree, that what a few of us did on June 15th actually boils down to the definition of a hate crime, in that their actions showed extreme hate for our city and its people, or maybe extreme hate for something else that was misdirected at us for whatever reason, and that those actions were indeed criminal. Those involved are being punished for their actions, not only by law-enforcement, but by the rest of our citizens. Some public rioters have been forced either into citizen house arrest or to leave the city as a result of receiving death threats. Some of these rioters seem unrepentant for their actions, but many woke up the next day and thought, what on earth did I do??

And really, haven’t we all had moments like that?

See, I still believe that the riots were something we didn’t want to happen, something the True Vancouver, the best and brightest parts of us, never really wished on our city or our people. For many of us, it was something that happened to us, even if the world sees it, and perhaps rightfully so, as something we did to ourselves.

Unfortunately, though, most of us are grieving something that was out of our control, and yet no one seems to think we deserve any compassion.

Oh wait, I’m doing that whiny Canuck fan thing again, aren’t I? Shoot.

Vancouverites are actually increasing this problem, unfortunately. Apologizing for the mess is one thing, but continually feeling embarrassed about it is another. It allows our opponents to continue to think they are justified in what they say to us and about us. It allows our city to be continually defined by one bad night.

Imagine if we let ourselves, our individual persons, be defined by our worst night. We’d continually live with our heads down, accepting the verbal beating as though we deserved it. Or, imagine if we let ourselves be characterized by the worst things other people said about us. We’d begin to believe it, wouldn’t we? And what we believe, we act on, and we’d just continue the cycle of negativity.

Now, imagine if we let ourselves be defined by our best night, by the best things other people said about us.

What a difference, isn’t it?

I can’t imagine who I’d be if I let leukemia define me, rather than refine me. And really, Vancouver, you have a lot of best nights and best things to define you (February 28, 2010, and June 16th, 2011, come to mind). You have a lot to be proud of. So why not let June 15th refine you, not define you?

My hat’s off to those people, and groups, who are doing this right now. Honour Vancouver Heroes in the Riots, Vancouver Spirit Rally, True Canucks.Ca, AnthemYVR, are just a few of those initiating a different opportunity to define Vancouver, by our response.

Just as we will be defined by our response to any person or thing who opposes, or even hates us.

We have a few options to choose from as our response. Those who are pointing fingers at us right now want us to agree with them and hate ourselves. Or, maybe they want us to hate them. As the Nixon quote said at the beginning, if we do either of those things, they win.

But there is a third way, a way we lose sight of, often - a way to overcome the scorn, and hopefully, bring us closer to those that seem to be trying to remind us of why we should continue to be miserable.

And I suppose we begin along that path by trying to understand the scorn. For my part, I’ve noticed three things about those who like to point out other’s flaws: they’re insecure, afraid, and unhappy.

Let me explain.

Those with a lot of negative energy towards a group or thing tend to do so out of extreme insecurity. Most people who need to remind others of their failures do so in an attempt to forget their own. When we have to put other people down, there’s usually something deep in us that makes us feel awful, something we have to push others lower for, so we can climb above. Sometimes it’s as simple as being frustrated that someone else is getting more attention than you. Other times it’s because the thing you think so negatively about has something, or is something, that you want. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.

We also tend to react negatively towards something or someone out of fear. Those who told me that leukemia was my fault were desperately trying to find something that reassured them it couldn’t happen to them. Maybe deep down Toronto, Chicago, Calgary, Edmonton, Boston, Minnesota, or Montreal, all recognize that holy cow, this could happen to us. And, if they judge us for our riots then maybe that judgment will protect them from ever being caught in the same kind of horror. Maybe that image of our destroyed city will help them not do something equally embarrassing the next time they are presented with opportunity. We all tend to ignore that what we hate tends to be part of us, or at least we fear it is. As Nobel Prize Winner, Hermann Hesse, wrote, if (we) hate a person, (we) hate something in him that is part of ourselves. What isn’t part of (us) doesn’t disturb us.

We also tend react with hostility when we are most unhappy. Freud thought that ‘hate’ was an ego state that wished to destroy what we perceived as the source of our unhappiness. Surprisingly, it’s not those who are hated who are truly unhappy; its those doing the hating. As Coretta Scott King wrote, hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater far more than it injures the hated.

So, then, if its actually the ‘haters’ who are unhappy, afraid, and insecure, it would follow that those of us who are hated – possibly for being happy, confident, and secure – are in the best position to break this divisive cycle. If we can find the strength to be happy despite the hate, to be confident in the face of fear, and to feel good about ourselves despite the trash talk, then we can not only defeat our adversaries, but we may have a good chance to dissolve their anger as well.

I will never forget that scene in Mona Lisa Smile where Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character responds to the continual spewing of venomous insults by Kirsten Dunst’s character by walking up to her and hugging her. Dunst’s character responds by breaking down and admitting what she’s really upset about – which, as usual, had nothing to do with Gyllenhaal’s character at all. I’m not suggesting that we hug everyone who insults us - though I think many of us need more hugs than we’re getting! – but I do offer that we see those who insult us in the same way, as someone who needs a hug, rather than someone I’d like to slug. At the very least, a smile goes a long way.

We can respond with love in the face of hate. When we hear people saying negative things about our city, we can either point out what we still love about where we live, or better yet, offer our own positivity about where they live. And, if we haven’t been there, we can ask them what they love about their city. Nothing turns a conversation faster than the switch of focus from a negative thing to a positive one. And let’s face it, we all just love to talk about us, don’t we? If we could compliment, or show genuine interest in the lives of those who tend to put us down – things like, how was your weekend? Or how are your kids? Or are you going to go away this summer at all? - they may feel a little less disposed to rag on us. We may even receive a smile back. And if, when asked, we could tell the beautiful stories from our city, we may gently, slowly, turn the tide of anti-Vancouver sentiment into an acceptance that we are all flawed and ambivalent; that is, we are all capable of great good and great evil. And, in times of great tragedy, we need each other’s support.

And if I could go back now and talk to all those who felt afraid about being around someone with cancer, not only would I remind them that its not contagious, just as a city’s riot does not leap from city to city just by having contact with other people from that city, but I would say that I understand their fear and I know how awful it feels to think our worst case scenario could actually happen. I get it, and I would reassure them that even IF the worst case scenario does happen, you’ll still be okay. The thing we fear the most may just be the thing that could bring the best parts of us - and the best years of our lives - to the surface.

Did you catch that, Vancouver? We’re going to be okay.

So are you, Boston, and Detroit, and Chicago.... Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto... Surrey, Abbotsford, and Agassiz... and you too, St. Paul... we’re all going to be okay.

It is never easy to overcome hate. We are all predisposed to it, and find love far more difficult. But, as 17th-century philosopher, Rene Descartes, wrote, ‘this is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve, and bad things are very easy to get.’

Difficult, yes; but infinitely worth it.

And definitely easier if we do it together.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What Cancer - and the Canucks - Has (Have) Taught Me, Part 358: Maybe Its Not Just a Game

Okay, okay, you can put the tomatoes back in the fridge drawer. You can stifle the ridiculous laughter. Before you wonder what psychological obsession I must have to be writing about hockey, again, be assured that what I'm about to say has really just nothing to do with something that trivial. Really.

I mean, hockey - it's just a game.


That is why no one is talking about last week, isn't it? We don't really need to actually discuss the chilly grey skies shrouding this city for the past few days, do we? I mean, this is Vancouver. The moist, granite atmosphere is one of the reasons we love it, or, is at least something we assume as consequence for living in one of the most magnificently beautiful parts of the world. It couldn't be that the heathered air possibly represented a real sadness, a palpable confusion, or even sense of isolation rippling off each of us as we went about our days, telling ourselves that everything was normal.

So then, was I imagining everything? Was it all just a matter of perspective? Or were we really feeling sad about something, something that just happened to appear somewhere in the twenty-four hours we called June 15th? Was it embarrassment? Shame? Our inner child, or 'id' experiencing a sense of deep failure, perhaps?

It wasn't as if anything really big had happened to us.

Of course, there was the incredibly disconcerting images of Georgia and Cambie street the hours following said game, the lighted cars, battered law enforcement officers, and shattered glass of some of Vancouver's long-term businesses like Chapters and The Bay. But it wasn't us who did that. It wasn't you and I who trashed the city we say we love.

So, then, why did the drab skies seem so much more somber this past weekend? Was it just that the color grey was so much more noticeable, since it was no longer shielded by pandemic-proportions of blue and green?

Because really, in a matter of hours, Canuck colors went from being everywhere to absolutely nowhere. People wearing any Canuck-related gear were gawked at, glared at, and questioned, "how can you wear that? We lost." Gone were the flags, the painted cars, the super-Canuck costumes, the jerseys, the face paint, the shirts, the dog sweaters, the stuffed bears in cages guarded by orca whales, and of course, the tin foil Stanley Cups strapped onto our cars, placed in our windows, and hoisted over our heads. Gone was the buzz, the hum of a city ready and waiting to win. Instead was a giant, unspoken, unrecognized space, of ... something.

But its not about hockey, of course. We don't get depressed over a simple game. We are well-adjusted, physically and socially active, emotionally intelligent adults.


And in case we didn't ourselves recognize the absurdity of being sad about an immaterial, unsubstantial, game, the rest of our country, or rather, the whole world, and all the forces of its media, were unrelentingly blasting us with how desperately messed up we would be, if indeed we were sad about something so... so... menial.

As Rex Murphy of CBC's, "The National," said, we'd be "a pathetic pack of cowardly, destructive, losers."

To be fair, he was referring to those fans who responded with violently inappropriate behavior in the aftermath of our loss, not the ones who were sitting at home, numbly staring at our TVs as we realized we in fact must be pathetic losers if the members of our so-called 'Canuck Nation' represented us by acting out in such childish ways.

And though we may not understand it, and though we may not be proud of it, the fact remains, that for whatever reason, it happened, and our whole province seems to be in some sort of dysfunctional grief process about it. For as many who've said they've "moved on," the phrase is usually spoken in a terse, "we're done with this conversation," tone, which to me, always implies that perhaps they haven't really moved on but would prefer not to remember it. And that's okay, of course. Moving on is healthy. Moving on shows balance.

I tentatively put up my hand and admit it: I haven't quite moved on, yet. I will, but for now, I am still a little bit sad. It doesn't pervade everything I do, of course, but its there. So, either I am not in my right mind - which I am sure many of you agree with, since let's face it, I haven't been in my right mind for a long time! - or, it may be, just possibly, that its not 'just a game.'

Yes, I said it. And, I believe it. And, before you click your browser button away from this page, let me explain.

Those of you who knew my dad, well, he was very, very vocal about his love of spectator sports. He often embarrassed me with his overt displays of passion growing up. For a couple of years in high school I was a stats manager for the basketball team - I know, the reasons to call me a dork just keep piling up, don't they? - and he and mom followed me to games, along with all the other parents, making their support for our team very well known. They stood up and cheered for well-placed shots, then twisted their fists and yelled at the refs for perceived-unfair calls.

And of course, there was my dad's trademark line. Some of you guys can say it with me right now. Ready? Here we go: "Ref!!! What's wrong with you? Do you need my glasses?"

I can still see him doing this - each time, taking off his glasses and holding them out as an offering, a statement of his disagreement with the stripes and their whistles, or, occasionally, their lack of whistles.

He wasn't too unlike Roger Neilson, the former Canuck head coach whose-now-copper-immortalized-display - in front of the building where our Canucks play - of a white towel on top a hockey stick, became a symbol of protest and united challenge to the powers that be, that we aren't dumb enough to think that everything will be fair, nor blind enough to assume that everything that is done to us, we deserve.

No wonder my dad loved the Canucks so much. That was just, so, him.

My grandpa was also a diehard, multi-tasking Canucks fan/armchair coach, watching the TV, reading a newspaper, and listening to the radio all at the same time, while calling out his suggestions to the players and management, lovingly criticizing the players he perceived to have Jekyll-and-Hyde performances: "Who do we get tonight, Lanie?" He'd ask. "Jyrki Lumme? Or Jerky Lumme?" In recent years, his eyes would shut and he'd shake his head violently, complaining repeatedly that Brian Burke had insisted on getting us the "sisters."

If he could see those award-winning-yet-still-unpredictable "sisters," now.

How appropriate that these two die-hard fans - my dad and my grandpa - died within eight months of each other. They weren't blood related in the slightest, but seeing them together, lunching at Tim Horton's and cruising around town, beefing about all things Vancouver, laughing uproariously and telling the craziest jokes, over and over and over until we'd beg them to stop, most people thought they were genetically linked.

And, whether our family would like to say so or not, the Vancouver Canucks were one of those things that brought these two patriarchs of the family so close together.

It hasn't been the same since these two "peas in a pod," have been gone. Our family has been splintered, missing the centers of optimism and laughter, wondering what we do now that our favorite fun people have moved on to a much better place.

I've often joked that I could literally "hear" my dad and grandpa talk to me sometimes. I don't admit that to everyone, since they would think I'm developing a psychosis that must be Canuck-related - since hockey is apparently a bad thing, now - but these past two months its as if they were right there, again. That they were waving their towels with me as we scraped past Chicago, Kesler-bombed Smashville, and Boom-Boom-Bieksa'd over the Sharks. If they could only see us now, I would think. And it was that kind of thinking that my fifteen-year-long BFF, the loyal, fun, and fiesty-Mrs. Jana Hollinshead, was able to use to pull me up off the proverbial band-wagon jump I did after Game 5 of the Chicago series; she told me that my dad would have been severely disappointed if I gave up now. She told me, that being the sole Canuck in a family full of obnoxious Oilers, my dad and I were her Canuck family, and it was irresponsible of me to leave her all alone.

She was very persuasive.

I know you're chuckling over that. Cute, silly, whatever you think it to be, it might be a seed of something that could be incredibly, overwhelmingly important to the whole of our society. Really.

Because, I'm starting to think, its not just a game, at all.

Stick with me, here.

Anthropological studies imply that sports were originally constructed to train young boys for the adult requirements of war, to instill in them the sense that they were warriors, to teach them to band together and defeat their enemies as a team; to help them conquer, together. Modern sport psychology supports this theory, that in times - or countries - of peace, our sports heroes are our warriors.

Many enlightened, higher-thinking individuals of developed countries like our own would dismiss this idea of "sports-as-war,"declaring any who think so as base or immature. But it is hard to argue that the fiercest fans tend to be in cities and with teams that need something positive to cheer for, desperately.

Take, for example, the Philadelphia Eagles, whose rags-to-riches story was captured in the movie Invincible. For those living in the home of cheese-steak in the economic decline of the late 1970's, the Eagles - and likely the Phillies and Flyers too - became representatives of themselves, providing proof that they can be more than the struggles of economy or frustration of failure. It was following the worst Eagles season on record that local bartender, Vince Papale, joined the struggling NFL franchise and led them to a new season of - though not immediate winning - a sense of triumph, all the same. Just ask any Philly fan who is old enough to remember the Eagles of the late 70s/early 80s, and you'll see it wasn't just the players that felt hope and optimism with their NFL franchise's turn-around - it was also the community of Philadelphia, as a whole.

Another movie demonstrating the community-rebounding ability of sports, Invictus, chronicles the country-redefining power of South Africa's hosting the Rugby World Cup in 1995, mere months after dismantling the legal racial segregation in their country known as apartheid. John Carlin's book about this event is aptly subtitled, The Game That Changed a Nation. Because, in Africa, sport, namely, rugby, or soccer, too, is not just a game. As The Zimbabwean newspaper wrote on September 6, 2010, "(here... sport)... is an extravaganza, a celebration of life, full of noise, colour and energy, both on and off the pitch." Simply put, it gave them something to be excited about, something to cheer for, to hope for, together.

And how could we forget the emotional explosion of hope that filled the city of New Orleans whe the Saints won Superbowl XLIV, only a few years after Hurricane Katrina nearly wiped the entire city out? Even this past off-season, the NFL itself has acknowledged the community-building power of its Louisiana franchise. Despite the fact that the Saints organization is currently losing money, the league has refused to relocate. Even those motivated often primarily by money are choosing to recognize the significance a sports team can have to an entire city in need of daydreams, of promise.

My critical-thinking friends will challenge this suggestion, particularly those whose passions run to other diversions, whose talents are wrapped up in things other than sports. We often recognize the power of the arts to develop a city's emotional expression, to enrich the beauty or depth of their culture. We recognize the fun in diversions such as board games, reading, and physical activity. But how could following a professional sports team be that significant to the potential health of an entire city, especially a city as diverse as Vancouver, let's say? How could a metropolis so blessed with beauty and a wealth of social activities, be benefited by a mere hockey franchise, by a game that many consider to be less about skill and more about violence?

Except, its not about the game. At all.

Rather, it might be that the game is really a fundamental expression of the battles we fight in our everyday lives. Somehow in following a common team through their ups and downs, we are able to come together and emphatically declare, we will not be overcome.

Based on the media speculation following the Vancouver riots, it seems that in Canada, we seem to feel above this degree of sport-team devotion. One article termed Vancouver's preoccupation with its Canucks "pathological," "tribal," and "primitive." We're too quick-witted and mature for this, aren't we? We're too rational, reasonable, and controlled, to care about something this base. We're above this.

Pfft. Hogwash.

We like to think we are a free, peaceful, polite country. And we are, for the most part. But that does not mean we are without major, societal concerns. The drug-infused culture of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver is a devastating example of such problems. The hidden-but-regrettably-real presence of human trafficking, and the resulting unfortunate prevalence of sex trade workers - or shall we say it bluntly? slaves - is a deep concern in our city. Not only these issues, but the growing economical concerns of British Columbia, combined with our exponentially-rising-cost-of-living, produces a culture whose late teens and early twenties worry over finding a job, period, let alone a job that pays enough to live on, and let alone a career that supports the possibility of ever owning property. Not only are vacations becoming more and more out of reach for all those but the upper class, but the prospect of simple road trips are also significantly hampered by the insanely high cost of gas.

And let's not forget the increasing road rage over our packed-sardine style of traffic.

We may rightly call those who started the riots morons, over-privileged white people who need some serious discipline for their criminal behavior. For sure, there are many professional rioters who anticipated the opportunity to steal-and-resell items of interest following Game 7 in Vancouver and traveled here solely for that purpose. And even those who got caught up in the emotional contagion of the crowd produced behavior that was outright criminal. And yes, they deserve to pay the consequence for this behavior. Our society wouldn't function without the enforcement of laws that protect our community.

But our society also won't function in an 'us vs. them' mentality, in a segregation of what we consider 'good people vs. bad people.' Sure, a physical separation from harmful people may be necessary. But this mental division, this thought that, that could never be me, is not helpful. Because maybe, if we were really honest with ourselves, we'd recognize that, given the right circumstances, we're all capable of of such horrifying violence.

And whether we understand it or not, I believe that is why we feel such shame, such responsibility. Because some of those who called themselves us, some of those who joined in with the slogan of "We are all Canucks," acted out in a very destructive, harmful, and criminal way. As my fellow-writer-friend, Jay, says: "We are all Canucks," became "We are all Cavemen." And my mother added: "Nasty Cavemen, at that." Like it or not, that night was still a part of who we, as a community around this city, really are. Ugly, embarrassing, and captured on international cameras. But there, and part of us.

We are quick to say, "That's not my Vancouver," and in a sense, we're right. But maybe what we're really trying to say, is, "That's not who I really want my Vancouver to be," or "That's not who I think my Vancouver can be."

We are quick to distance ourselves, I think, largely because the world is pointing their finger and laughing at us losers. We are desperately fighting for our reputation. And we should, but unfortunately, the reality is, that most people will judge us no matter what we do. Especially now.

Because, it was just a game, after all.

And that's what bothers me most: that many writers, reporters, and residents of Vancouver themselves, are now suggesting that because we rioted over the Canucks, the Canucks themselves - and our allegiance to hockey or sport in general - must also be bad. That our only way to heal from this is to pull back from our national past-time and seriously question why we get so involved. That our over-involvement is a sign of a lack of personal health.

Hmm. Maybe, but maybe not. In fact, the answer may be just the opposite.

Studies in sport-fan psychology - yes, such a discipline does exist! - suggest that not only does a fan's team bring them a sense of identity and self-esteem, but explain that "an intense interest in a team can actually buffer people from depression and foster feelings of self-worth," (Dev Ashish, Analyst for the Bleacher Report, Sept 26, 2008). They claim that sports allow fans a sense of escapism, not only from the struggles of daily life, but the expectations of social inhibition, allowing them to express themselves freely and lash out at opponents without being ostracized for their behavior. In fact, the freer their expression, the more they seem part of the community.

That's right, the community. For psychologists also suggest that many people find a sense of belonging and acceptance in following a sports team that they haven't found elsewhere in life.

We'd dismiss this as trivial, except that many of us are already well connected, in churches, in charities, in social groups, in work environments, in our families and friends. Its easy to disclaim the importance of the community of sports fans when we already have a community to support us in other arenas.

The sad truth, is that most of the world doesn't feel connected.

I'll never forget the moment my husband was 'hooked' into Canuck Nation. It was November 3, 2009, and we'd been offered box tickets to the Canucks-Rangers game at Rogers Arena. In the third period, the score tied, the Rangers initiated a bench-emptying brawl ending with three of their players literally sitting on top of Ryan Kesler. When Kesler got up, of course, he was given the penalty.

The building was in an uproar. After all, those of you Canuck faithfuls, will remember exactly why we hate New York. Think June 14, 1994. Game 7, Stanley Cup Finals. The final scoreboard read 3-2 New York. There were 2 disallowed Canuck goals that night. In our heads, it was 4-3 Vancouver.

But that's not what the records show.

But, I digress, silly Canuck fan that I am.

Back to 2009: Only moments after Kesler's questionable penalty, the Canucks responded with the go-ahead-and-eventual-game-winning-goal. And in those moments, the entire 18,000 of us at Rogers Arena jumped to our feet, electric with excitement. High-fives all around, the guy in front of me yelled, "You take that, New York!" Another one turned to me, high-fived and shouted with his hands above his head, "We will not go quietly!" It may have only been one, regular season game, but to many of us who were there, to those who remembered with frightening clarity the spring of 94, it represented payback, or victory, for something over 15 years old.

On the Skytrain-ride home, my husband grinned at me. "This is awesome," he said. "I made so many new friends tonight. It's like you're part of a new family or something. I love it!"

Kind of appropriate that he bought me Kesler's jersey for Christmas that year, isn't it?

When I opened it, he looked at me uncertainly. We hadn't talked about if I had a favorite player or anything, if there was a specific number I wanted to wear. It had been a long time since I owned a Canuck jersey, and then it was one of those flying skate versions with Cliff Ronning's number 7 on the back. Ever since Ronning had left the team, I had had great difficulty identifying with another favorite. So, David guessed.

And he told me he guessed Kesler, because, no matter how many times I get sat on and given the penalties of life, I get back up and fight too. He said he wanted me to know that it didn't matter what was thrown at me - even cancer, even persecution - I wore the number of a player who represented resiliency. The number of a player who reminded us of that night that we felt like a part of a new community.

The past two months, this community has only grown stronger, louder, bigger, and more confident. We let our repressed-Canadian-nature be overwhelmed by our enthusiasm for something, but it wasn't about hockey at all.

It was about each other.

I can't count the number of amazing people I talked to solely as a result of the Canucks run to the cup, incredible people I likely would never have connected with otherwise but am so glad our hockey team gave me a reason to do so. People of faith, people of no faith, those who love Vancouver and hate it, musicians, athletes, cool people and geeks, hey, even some Americans from the Pacific Northwest - I mean, even my in-laws were cheering us on enthusiastically! - we all came together for a season.

A wonderful, beautiful season.

So, really, the last thing we need to do is run away from the thing that brought us together. If anything, we need to stick together even stronger now. Talk about what happened, admit we're a little sad, both about the game and our unfortunately international loss of at least some of our reputation. Laugh about it, find the good, put the bad behind us, and move forward. That doesn't happen by flipping a switch, or denying our Canuck-nature, or our city's-intensity.

It actually happens by reaching out to those people around you and finding some point of connection with them all over again, whatever that is. We live in community. We die in isolation. There's no way I would defeat - or at least give a heck of a challenge to - cancer without the community of neighbors, family, friends, without people like you, that actually take time out of your day to read what I have to say and make sure things are going okay, and if they're not, asking what you can do about it. Even the fact that you might think about what's going on with me, makes me feel stronger and more capable of tackling this very big, very challenging enemy, that actually lives inside of me.

And, really, that's just a reminder that there is an enemy that lives inside of all of us. Something that is really big and ugly and threatens to come out every now and then. It is by grace that we escape the worst parts of ourselves. Perhaps then, we could extend a bit of that grace to those of our community who let the ugly parts show.

Perhaps, too, the rest of the world will eventually extend that grace to us. Its not as though sports riots are unique to Vancouver. Montreal, the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, rioted after they won. Los Angeles, Detroit, the UK, Australia, are all familiar with rioting. And, lest we think that we were bettered by our Cup final opponents not only on but also off the ice, let us not forget that the city of Boston themselves rioted only three short years ago, after their Celtics won. And, someone died in that riot. As far as I know, no one died in Vancouver as a result of the events of June 15th.

That's kind of a sign of grace right there, right? An experience of mercy that our juvenile actions didn't result in the ultimate destruction, the loss of human life. Because, based on what I saw, that could have happened.

And, if we could accept that, as Lord of the Flies so devastatingly displayed, we are all capable of great violence, we may be more motivated to protect our community and reputation by challenging those with inappropriate behavior. Ironically, riot psychology shows that those who riot over sports may be best subdued by fellow fans, that the riot itself may be best defeated and diffused by those inside the riot circle. Psychologists suggest that if the instigators recognize that those same members of the community who embraced them for their fan-dom, are now rejecting their inappropriate reactions, they may modify their behavior accordingly.

They certainly won't modify their behavior if we're all filming it as though it is a worthy spectacle.

Some brave souls did manage to step in to the tragedy on the evening of June 15th. Many of them were injured in some way, for participation in anything will expose us to potential pain. But if we did step in, enough of us, could we have perhaps stopped - or at least curbed - the negative behavior, before it got overwhelmingly out-of-hand?

I don't know, of course. Sometimes, stepping in is unwise and unsafe. And, even when it would be wise, or when I really should do it, I'm not sure I would - or will - be strong enough to do it. But I want to be strong enough. Because this is something I'm a part of. Humanity is something I'm a part of. I need to fight not only for myself, but for them too.

This isn't what we live for, like the slogan said, not really. But it does make life a little more fun. And it makes our city a little more connected. In the world of iPhones, iPads, and a generation increasingly mediated through an explosion of electronic devices, the physical screams of a city over a game is a welcome sense of positive mayhem, a cathartic way of expressing our inner geeks, and thinking, we can do this. Together. As David told me often this past week, "I miss the high-fives." He's referring to the phenomenon that after every Canuck win, you can walk the streets of Vancouver - or heck, even Abbotsford - and high-five every other person wearing blue and green, bringing you connection with those you barely even know.

So bring on the blue and green.

Or, bring on anything that brings a sense of togetherness in an increasingly fractured culture. That we rioted over a game indicates that there is so much more there. Instead of hiding what it might mean, or shaming it, what if we reached out and tried to heal it?

We could put our city back together. We will put our city back together. How can we not?

Appropriately enough, today, the sun is out, and, miraculously in Vancouver, it feels like summer is finally here. Our grief is coming to a close, or at least to the stage of acceptance. Hockey - and hopefully the cold - is behind us, and a new season is about to start. But let's not forget what these sixty-plus-days showed us. Let's keep finding new ways to bring our community together. Whether its our minor league baseball team, our new MLS franchise, the Grey-Cup-hosting BC Lions... we need to engage with our city, not disperse. Whether we play beach volleyball, bike the seawall, take the kids to the Aquarium or zoo, let's be part of this great place to live. Whether our involvement centers around Settlers of Catan, community BBQ's, Jazz Festivals, long-weekend-fruit-picking, ice-cream eating contests, or impromptu neighborhood kids basketball games...

Let's get out there and play.

Because these aren't just games. They are representations of who we are. They are rallying points for our city, for our common goals as humankind, to look at the impossible and say, hey, maybe I can do it. And if I don't, that's okay too. There's next time. Next time I'll be better. As long as we're in ultimate competition with ourselves, and not just concerned with being better than everyone around us, we bring out the best, in us and in others. And when we see our fellow men and women acting less than themselves, less than we wish our city, or our neighborhood to be, lets not cast stones, point fingers, or distance ourselves. Lets jump in and steer them back to what it means to be 'good sports.'

Because they are good - sports, that is. And, we can be better.

Did you hear that? We can be better.

See you next year, Boston.