Myopic and Astigmatic Observations: political & social commentary

Women, Yes You Can!

International Women’s Day was first observed in Canada shortly after the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8, 1977 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.

When it was announced, I remember thinking “What’s the big deal, anyway?” I’d always assumed women were as good – or possibly even better – than our bigger, louder, compatriots. Then I recalled applying for a cleaning job back in 1972. It was for a Federal Government position.

The woman who interviewed me confided that there were actually two positions available on the application form – both for the same job. The one was categorized as “Housemaid.” The wages were 3 dollars and something per hour. The other was for the male equivalent: a position labelled “Janitor” for five dollars an hour.

I applied for the janitor job and was accepted.

Canada has come a long way since legislation was first passed in 1918 to allow women the right to vote. But there were a number of obstacles. In 1928 The Supreme Court of Canada- interpreting the British North American Act in light of the times in which it was written, ruled that women were NOT “persons” and therefore could not be appointed to the Senate.

In October 1929 an assembly of five Canadian women sailed overseas to appeal the case to the Judicial Committee of England’s Privy Council. The Council ruled unanimously that “the word ‘persons’ in Section 24 of the Act included both the male and female sex.…” Canadian women were eligible to run for political office, and to be appointed to the Senate.

In some countries where laws are rooted in religious tradition, women’s rights remain stuck in past centuries. Women cannot be seen in public- except when in the company of a man and draped in such a way as to hide their faces.
But to quote Bob Dylan: “Times they are a-changing.”

Last April there was a newspaper photo of a long line-up of Afghan woman waiting to cast their vote in an election. I was so impressed I wrote the following poem:
Women of Afghanistan

Women queued up to vote
Gather in great numbers despite
Threats from Taliban
Yes, they can!
Draped in hooded burqas, black,
Blue and muted colors
Courageous, collective stand
Yes, they can!
Like large birds, getting ready to fly
Voting in their own land
Women of Afghanistan
Yes, you can!!

And this year on March 15 there was a photo on Twitter of a group of Afghan men wearing burqas to support the rights of women.
Hurray, the Afghan guys are getting onboard!.



Depression is:
Falling off your horse
While riding through the barn yard.
You land on a manure pile.
It stinks awfully, but
Try as you might,
You cannot
Get back in the saddle again
To sing-a-long with Roy Rogers

Anxiety is:
Riding a spunky horse
‘Long a lovely mountain trail
Beautiful day, but
You can’t help
The big rocks, bush ‘n
And the raging river
Far below



Love Don’t get No Better Than That!

“I don’t buy into that Valentines’ hype,”
he growled as he came through the door,
arms laden with groceries
and yesterday’s newspaper.
No flowers,
No chocolates,
Not even a card…

“Besides,” he added
with an ingratiating grin,
“Every day that we’re together
is Valentine’s Day.”

Before I lapsed into a self-righteous pout
I recalled the love song he’d written
‘Specially for me,

And when I’d had that cancer scare
He’d wished that it’d been him.
But the absolute efficacy
The ultimate validity
Of his devotion to me
Was that
He’d always
Bait my hook
And then remove the fish

Love don’t get no better’n that…

“The wall!  The wall is coming down!”

O glad night, that you could see this day

O bright heart, that you could speak these words

The wall;  the knife that separates

Badge of the divided self…

O hated wall you cannot speak

but if you could

You would say  “NO!”

with cold guarded breath


“The wall!  The wall is coming down!”

I curse the hesitant that hold us back

and I swear on my grave that I will die

a free man

Behold the soldier…

How he stands with disbelief

No, he cannot believe his eyes

But the wall crumbles nevertheless


The divided self cannot endure

The crippled will walk anew

and the stifled cry of lovers will

change the broken heart of man

The tyrant falls to pieces

like the shattered idol of the state

shiny and polished

but too fragile and delicate

to withstand the wind of the people

that expands in anger

and threatens to bring down every foundation

every wall that lives in us


“The wall!  The wall is coming down!”

Every heart is a crucible in darkness

And every hand will rise to touch the sun

Rejoice!  For the night is on fire

Oh, the stars are falling

but I am not afraid…

This is not how they said it would be!

Every spirit walks in splendor

and every mouth is fed with food for the soul

Now I can sing…




                                                                       Worries Candle

Oral presentation

 I used to believe myself a strong person in high school. I was very outspoken. I loved politics and theology. I was a hard and determined worker and devoted sister. I had big dreams. I was going to join the military after high-school and become a doctor through the military. Devoted to my dreams, teachers and counselors alike called me crazy for the workload I had taken on in my final year. I was working while taking every science and mathematics courses I could . I had been planning since I was six to become a doctor. And nothing was going to get in my way.


I was a capable debater, and was asked to join the debate team, in which I naturally rejected because I didn’t like publicity. I joined and helped organize RTL (right to learn) during the start of the teachers’ strikes. I was more than capable of forging my own path through this life.


Like many of the student body, I saw those suffering from mental disabilities as weaker human beings. It’s not that I hated them or felt the need to hurt them. But inside my own self I didn’t fully understand what it took to go through what they went through every day with a smile.


I remember the year I graduated. It was the same year we had a group come in and present about schizophrenia. I remember listening to what they were saying about voices and realizing I might have it – yet being to afraid to tell anyone. I figured I wasn’t having it that bad, and that I was just being paranoid.


However that same year the voices started getting worse. I remember crying alone in my room -begging them to stop talking to me because they were so cruel. I ended up dropping out of my courses and taking easy courses just so I could graduate.


Shortly after I graduated I suffered my first psychotic break. It was then that I started to appreciate the strength it takes to simply live. To breathe;  to have a hope for the future.  It’s rare that any voice you hear has nice things to say, quite often they just tear you down, call you names and play on your past mistakes or current weaknesses.


Imagine having a bully that you can’t push back calling you names all day or nit-picking at your flaws all day. To lie in your bed falling asleep to the sound of “loser” or “coward” being said to you. Trying to go for a shower or go to the bathroom with comments on what you’re doing or derogatory terms directed at your body.


That’s what it’s like to have schizophrenia, and what schizophrenics deal with daily for years. There are medications to help distance you from the voices, sometimes they go away altogether. Mine have never left me, not for a second for the last four years. And yet I have it easier than a lot of people out there.


I know a boy who was pushed too far by his voices. He ended up slitting his arms screaming: “This is what you’re doing to me!” And another boy who would walk around mumbling: “I won’t let them break me. I won’t let them break me.” Those are just examples of how intense this situation is. And how it can make you or break you.


Sometimes schizophrenia is coupled with psychotic breaks. This is a very dangerous situation to be in for the schizophrenic, as they are now detached from reality. A psychotic break is like driving a car without brakes. You feel your mind going faster, but you have no way of stopping it. The more you think  the faster you go. Like stepping on the gas but the faster you go, the harder it is to control the car. And inevitably you will crash.


During a psychotic break your world is distorted. Facts about reality that you used to take for granted, are now called into question or distorted beyond recognition. What you used to understand as “a cup” is now a secret Middle-Eastern weapon of mass destruction that you alone know about and must destroy for the safety of the universe.  You react just as you would if those situations were fact, because to you it is fact.


After a psychotic break your whole world changes. Your perception of yourself; your perception of society friends family. Nothing’s the same. You have to scrape together all the hope you have left just to believe it won’t happen again. You have to push through unshakable doubt to believe that the brain damage isn’t permanent and that you will be able to speak normally again, read again, write again. You have to work harder than all those years prepping for the military ever took, just to reach the point where you can function normally again.


The road to recovery isn’t an easy one. In a psychotic break three things can happen as a result. You can fully recover, you can partially recover, or you can never recover. The fear of never recovering stays with you, the idea that the voices that mock and hurt you will never go away, is not easy to stomach. And the idea that society will always look down on you – besides what you’ve gone through- is frustrating at best.


It was humiliating, having a psychotic break. I was convinced I was fine, so after I got out of the hospital I stopped taking my medication. I enrolled to take upgrades to catch up on courses I’d dropped out of in high school and found full time work.


I made it halfway through my Chem. 12 and Bio. 12 before I had my second psychotic break.

I missed so much I had to drop out again. And my work didn’t believe me that I was having a psychotic break and fired me after three days of missed work.


This time I didn’t have the hope left to believe I’d ever make it as a doctor, and there was no way they’d accept me in the military. I gave up until I found people like Heather who showed me I could still contribute to society in my own small way.


I’ve been recovering for four years now and am going to attempt collage again next year. I’m not becoming a doctor as I had planned, I’ve reached the point now where I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover. But that doesn’t make me less of a person. Or that I can’t contribute to society. And it doesn’t mean I can’t help other people see that.


I’m Sonia Hawkins and I have schizophrenia,


I’m no different than someone who has any other type of permanent illness. It requires management and discipline to deal with. But that doesn’t make me less of a person. And I hope if you take anything from this story that I’ve handed out: it’s that although our illnesses are a little more disturbing then some, we aren’t weak because of it. And I hope it gives you a little more insight on what it means to be schizophrenic.


Thank you for your time.

Time Capsule Journey

I just returned from a time capsule journey to visit my brother at Forest Grove, in the Cariboo District of BC. Nothing has changed at his place over the past umpteen years. Not the wood stove and heater; nor the water buckets; nor the tilted outdoor toilet. Jack and I reviewed tales and experiences almost constantly over 4 full days of conversation. Strangely as we chatted, memories flowed and I actually recalled many names and faces from the distant past.

This is a guy who’s had 2 major heart attacks – has a defibrillator/pacemaker in his chest. Has bouts of angina and breathlessness. He cuts trees and splits wood, hauls water, drives rickety vehicles which he has to repair along with other rickety machinery. One doctor told him all that work’s what’s keeping him alive. (He’s made it to 74 from first heart attack at age 57)

As for me, the one thing I definitely DO NOT miss is having to use an outdoor toilet!  (Although environmentalists insist that’s the best way to go.)  I wrote the following poem when we moved to a cabin on the north shore of Fraser Lake in about 1972.



Behind the old house ‘cross the road,

Reminding me of dreams of old,

Father built it in the fall,

Of ’49 if I recall,

To replace the one before,

This one was new except the door.


A high seat with a great big hole,

A small one for the children’s goal,

A thoroughfare throughout the years,

Upon the path no grass appeared,

As bare feet, shoes and winter boots,

Pounded on the grasses’ roots.


Tall grass now obscures the way,

To the outhouse in the hay,

Weather-beaten in the breeze,

Tilting eastward ‘neath the trees.

Nostalgia grips me close to tears,

As I think back to childhood years.


The Eaton’s wish-book on the wall,

Alternating Spring and Fall,

Dog-eared from the season past,

Still good reading while it lasts,

A good place on a summer’s eve,

To dream, rejoice or sometimes grieve.


Modern plumbing,  ‘lectric lights,

No more flashlights in the night,

Hurrying, weaving, stumbling child,

His urgency long since reviled:

“Must you wait on Winter’s night,

‘Til bowels are screaming in their plight!”



A horn is honking, I must go,

My reverie is gone I know,

The past is gone as we drive forth,

Our home and family are up North.

As we drive back throughout the night,

I think upon our present plight.


We bought some land, a cabin too,

It’s near the lake, a gorgeous view,

There’s room to breathe, the air is clear,

But one thing’s wrong – no plumbing here.

Our outhouse now is new and strong,

But we, I hope, won’t need it long.


The Art of Humour

I believe humor which results in the state of mind referred to as “happiness” can be a coping tool for those who suffer from mental health instability. I’ve often wondered how people with huge challenges in life – such as cerebral palsy – can smile so often? Smiling and humorous remarks can be reciprocal in that they warm the hearts of others… It’s doggone therapeutic to receive a positive response from an audience!

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