Last week I went to see a live spoken word performance by Shane Koyczan. If you’re Canadian, or a huge fan of spoken word, Shane Koyczan is likely one of your heroes. “He’s the guy who spoke at the Olympics” said one woman to the next while we stood huddled in the rain waiting for the doors to open. Once inside a packed theatre, out he came – cheery, reserved and ready to share.

From humble beginnings, Shane has found his purpose and evolved into a master wordsmith, a Professor of Syntax. Open and raw with his emotions, he is a storyteller like no other.

I didn’t know this. You see, I’ve been away from Canada for the last decade. Some things simply fell off my radar. Shane’s performance last week was explosive. I laughed, I cried. Most importantly, I took in his words and observations and questioned my life and what goes on around me.

Every person in the audience connected with him. For millions of people, his TED Talk on bullying To This Day resonated with their souls. For me, it was his poem entitled Whatever Mountain.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been struggling with how hard is it to re-enter society and be myself when I know how much I’ve changed. For months I felt like I was living in a dream, unsure of my footing. I’ve been waiting for the dust to settle, to feel whole again. I know I’m carrying my baggage, and have written about my divorce, on why I left aid work, and how hard it is to be back home after so long away. I am constantly searching for how to resolve this.

Shane’s poem Whatever Mountain is amazing. One part really grabbed me:

the heaviest thing you will ever have to lift
are our own spirits

they will at times
be weighted down with the terrible gravity that is doubt
they will at times refuse to man the lighthouse
meant to steer you clear from disaster

you will never master being whole
without first knowing

that some of the pieces we lose stay lost
and that sometimes the cost of moving forward
is having to leave behind that part of yourself
and learn to exist without it

to face down whatever mountain is in your way
but then do what you’re going to do about it.

It’s exactly what I’ve been struggling with – pieces of me are now gone. They are lost and I am not the same. The cost is finding energy to move forward. I didn’t anticipate the grief which would come from leaving behind parts of my former self. I do not know how to exist without the memory of this loss. Every day, I struggle with my inner monologue, which yells at me:

“You gave up. You left development. You’re a quitter. You couldn’t hack it. You got PTSD, many others didn’t – what’s wrong with YOU? And look, you needed anti-depressants to get through. And then you slept all the time, and gained 30 pounds. You are so lazy. You have all the education and skills needed to live a healthy life, to be active, to get out there and enjoy life. And instead, you sit around and worry about what went wrong. Get over yourself”.

You see, if I didn’t say that here, no one would know. They see me happy, energetic, and ready to take the world by storm. Most days I can overcome the inner monologue and get on with my day. Other times, it sits like an old CD on repeat, playing over and over again until I crack.

Do you have mountains in your way? Clearly I still do. This is part of life, yes, as we all do. Acceptance and letting go seem to be the medicine of the healed. Self care. Forgiveness. Love. Looking in the mirror and saying “you got this’.

Right now, I sit and realize that I had to let go of some baggage to start that climb up the mountain. Nobody said it was easy. Each step I get stronger. Today, I’ll embrace my wobbly bits and tell myself that it’s going to be fine.

“The heaviest thing you will ever have to lift are our own spirits.”

Shane, I’m starting there. I got this. Thank you for your wisdom and courage to share. Everything is work, and I’m working. I love you!

Much love,



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