101 Days Ago …

It was May 24, 2016 and this was me:

  • I had just decided to take an extended break from work, 4 to 6 weeks was the plan, the longest break I had ever taken from work. I was feeling burned out, short tempered and WAY too connected to work.
  • I was feeling lost and wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do.
  • I was drinking WAY much. Just about every night I had a drink and for someone with a family history of alcoholism that wasn’t a good direction to be heading.
  • I was playing video games for 2-3 hours every day. I told myself that it was a good way to have some laughs and blow off steam at the end of the day.
  • I had just started the Global Corporate Challenge with others at Ellipsis Digital and Engine SevenFour.
  • I was 1 week away from turning 47.
  • I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life tipping the scales at 183 pounds.

And I knew it was time for serious change.

So here we are on September 2nd and what’s changed?

If I was going to fix anything I was going to need a little help or even just some reassurance that I was going about this whole thing the right way. So, on the first day of my break from work, I started seeing a counselor. It wasn’t life changing or anything but I was able to put a bunch of stuff on the table and start picking through it all. I told the counselor about my plans and they agreed that I was doing everything on the “how to set yourself straight” checklist: get fresh air, exercise, stop drinking, spend some time in nature, take a break from your routine, take some time for yourself and try to eat better (diet was the only thing that I had a pretty good handle on).

I jumped into the fitness stuff with everything I had but I blew it. I ended up hurting my knees and had to take it easy for a while. Finally, after buying good shoes, shorts, shirts and, most importantly, socks, I was able to really get it together. I did ok for an old man. I was out morning and night and walking pretty much everywhere.

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Now normally I would be bored out of my mind walking for 3 hours a day but I really got into audiobooks and was blowing through a book or two a week: Armada, Passenger, Contact, Ready Player One, American Gods, The Martian, Girl on a Train and the list goes on. The time flies by and at the same time I’m warding off my black dog with fresh air, sunshine and all kinds of juicy endorphins.

All that and I’m now tipping those bathroom scales at 159 pounds down 24 pounds. None of my pants fit anymore.

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I know the chart shows my peak weight at 181. TBH I couldn’t bear to type in 183 into the app.

On top of that I quit playing video games. That might not seem like a big deal but I had been playing 2-3 hours a night for 7 years but I quit cold turkey. Now I’m going to bed earlier and sleeping longer. As much fun as I had playing games I also think they were probably just as frustrating as anything. Bottom line: I’m not missing playing and it’s all good.

And lastly I cut out the drinking. I was way into unhealthy territory and it needed to stop.

It’s been a big summer of changes but the most important things haven’t changed, I’m still surrounded by amazing people (especially Jodi) who support me and keep me moving forward.

And now onto the next 100 …

The Hard Work

It’s coming up on two weeks since I’ve checked out of the office and I’ve managed to stay clear of work with only a few exceptions. I busted into my email once to get a spreadsheet that I needed, I had one phone call and I attended rtraction day (our anniversary celebration) with the team.

I have managed to get out and exercise for an hour or more just about every day. I’ve invested in a Fitbit, good headphones for walking and some new running shoes. I’ve dropped 5 pounds as a result without having to make any major dietary changes except for one.

I’ve stopped drinking at night. I wasn’t a heavy drinker but I was having a drink maybe three nights a week after work plus whatever social stuff I was doing on the weekend. My father had trouble with alcohol when I was young so I’ve tried to be hyper aware of my alcohol intake and it was getting a little too much just before I took the break.

I’ve been reading quite a bit more but I was also getting very distracted by social media so today I made the really big change and am taking a two or three week vacation from Twitter and Facebook* (I’m sticking with Instagram). If you know me then you know this is a really big step, I’m used to being plugged in ALL THE TIME and now the apps are off my devices and there’s no reason to pick up the phone to check anything. This is uneasy territory for me. I may blog more to compensate, we’ll see.

Tonight I will also have my second visit with a counsellor since the break began. The first visit was a lot of “getting to know you” stuff but I think we may have caught a glimpse of something and I’d imagine that we’ll continue down that road tonight.

This is usually the point in my vacation where I would start thinking about returning to work but this time there’s still a month to go so we’re entering unknown territory now.

The hardest part of this whole thing is not being around the team. I hope there’s something down this road that makes that sacrifice worthwhile. I do need to thank David, Josh, Jennifer, Jordan and Alanna for making this possible and for covering my ass while I’m away.

I don’t imagine that I’m that different from a lot of folks when I say that the hardest kind of work is working on yourself.

And on we go …

* This blog is programmed to auto-share on those platforms but I won’t be there to see any feedback so please use the comments section below.

A Break

A few weeks ago I was in a meeting and something inside of me snapped. I was angry, really angry, for almost no reason and I immediately knew something had to change, and fast.

Within a few hours I had lined up some time off, a LOT of time off (for me anyway) – six weeks.

Jodi’s been trying to get me to see something for a few years now that I’ve been unable, or unwilling, to see: I have an unhealthy relationship with my work. It’s my last thought at night and my first thought in the morning, it invades my thoughts every hour of every day. It’s actually stressful to not be in constant touch with everything that happens with the team. My life orbits around my iPhone, my constant tether to the office.

So today I cut off all of my access to the office systems: social media accounts are controlled by someone else, email is being auto-deleted, Slack is gone and JIRA is gone. Right this moment I’m feeling a lot of anxiety around that in spite of the fact that it was my decision and I’ve had weeks to come to terms with it.

This all started to come to a head last year after we opened the doors to the roundhouse and it’s been getting worse every month. I knew it was coming too and I even engaged a coach to help me get ready for it. It still hit me like a ton of bricks. “You’re done Shawn, you’ve played your part in this big, amazing thing and now it’s over. The team has moved ahead of you and you’re playing catch-up. It’s time to choose, what are you going to do with your life now?”

I do my little bit in the community sometime I wonder if it’s only a distraction from work or is this something that I truly love? What part of that community sets my heart and mind on fire? Where does my passion intersect with my creativity and my utility? It’s time to look down some dark holes that I’ve been ignoring for far too long.

And what if this is just my lifetime companion making me feel this way?

Right now I only have questions but maybe the next six weeks will point me down the right path.

Here’s the part that’s going to suck: I’m going to miss the team intensely. I get to work with some incredibly talented, caring, intelligent people and that ain’t easy to leave behind. But my burnout is causing me to be short tempered and that’s not good for this team that I love (nor myself).

Monday I start seeing a councillor to try to help me deal with this shit and try to find out what Real Shawn looks like, because I only know Work Shawn now and that guy isn’t happy a lot of the time.

Let’s do this. Six weeks. Here we go.

Even the Dogs Know Ron

I’m not actually sure how long Ron was in our lives but I can still remember his face.

When I was a kid my folks broke up and my brother and I lived with my Mom. Dad was in the Canadian Forces and got transferred out west so it was just the 3 of us living together in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

My brother and I had Big Brothers for a while which was kind of nice. But after a while Mom met a really nice guy named Ron and they started dating (I guess that’s what it was, strange to think of my Mom dating now). I wasn’t even a teenager at the time but I remember spending time with Ron and I remember that he seemed to know pretty much everyone in the city, we couldn’t go anywhere without running into people that he knew and I only ever saw them greet him with a smile and a hearty handshake. My Mom used to say “even the dogs know Ron” regarding these frequent meetings.

I know now that having a man around when you’re barely 12 can have a formative effect on a kid. Ron always seemed like a stand-up guy and I’m sure that had some kind of impact on me.

And so it was for a while, Ron was often away as he worked in the oil industry doing exploratory drilling and he would be gone for many weeks and then back for weeks (I can’t recall the exact rotation) but it was good to see him return.

Then, in early 1982, Ron shipped off for another tour on the rig. It was the last time that I would see him alive.

At 7:00pm on February 14 his rig was struck by a rogue wave and his offshore drilling platform, the Ocean Ranger, was severely damaged. At 1:30am on February 15 the last communication came in, the crew was abandoning the platform. They were in the middle of a terrible storm just off the Grand Banks. There was probably never much hope for survivors, the Atlantic Ocean in the winter is an unforgiving place. All 84 souls were lost. Ron’s was one of the 22 bodies recovered.

Not long after a memorial service was held at the Basilica. I barely remember that day, it’s hard to know whether that’s just age or if it was grief but I do recall walking up to the side door of the church and seeing a dog, ownerless, quietly, sitting in front of the door.

A year after that Mom and Dad got back together and remain together to this day.

What’s the point? None really, I just woke up this morning and felt that I had to type that out.

(This whole blog is subject to change as I’m sure my Mom will refresh my 35 year old memories on this whole thing)

My Lifetime Companion*

I’ve lived with this guy for years. He & I used to have the most brutal fights imaginable. On 3 occasions he almost killed me.

When I was a teen he ruled my life. He was everywhere, all the time, screaming at me, insulting me, pulling me into the mud.

The first time he tried to kill me I got help and spent a month in the hospital. I decided that I had enough of his shit.

But there’s no shaking him. I’ve learned to live with him. Most days he stays at home by himself but some days he follows me.

Some days he’ll walks into the room when I’m laughing with my friends. Most days I’m lucky and he’ll just sit in the corner.

But sometimes he’ll whisper poison in my ear and sometimes he’ll slap me hard across the face. Fortunately not often.

And when my friends ask “what’s wrong” I’ll say “nothing” because that’s what we say isn’t it?

I’m on the wrong side of 45 now and I’ll live with him until I draw my last breath, because he is me. There’s no running away.

But knowing that gives me some kind of messed up certainty. I know there are fights ahead and I know when he’s in the room.

It’s taken decades but I’m stronger than he is now. I’ll have my moments of weakness and he’ll be there to take advantage.

But I’m a stubborn sunnovabitch and I’m not going to let him win. Of course … that’s the strong me talking isn’t it?

Tomorrow’s another day and I’ll face it as it comes. Because that’s life with my depression.

*I posted this on social media as part of Bell’s Let’s Talk effort but wanted to capture it here and World Mental Health Day seemed like a good occasion.

Forward to the Past

Having made the decision to hand Pints & Politics over to a new set of leaders it’s time for me to start thinking about the future … um, the past … um, the future of the past.

Let me back up a bit. History and I don’t have the greatest history. Like many I expect, it was something that we studied as a requirement to getting through school but it wasn’t anything that we dwelled on much. Also like many, I went to work, came home, ate dinner, watched TV, went to bed and then did it all over again. I was only peripherally involved in The World.

So when people stood hand in hand around the Talbot block to preserve a bunch of old buildings I didn’t get it. This, despite the fact that I took architecture in college and constantly decried the state of modern building design. That I wasn’t there with them is one of the larger regrets I have.

Then rtraction happened and London seemed to matter to me like it never did before. Then Twitter happened and I fell in love with London’s people like never before. 25 years after moving here London finally became home and every decision became about doing right by her.

So when it came time to move our business we wanted to do honour to our city by using this opportunity to invest in its heritage. It’s safe to say that it was love at first sight with The London Roundhouse and I made a commitment to the building owners that I’d learn everything that I could about the building’s past.

Oh boy.

Before I cut the cord on TV (who the hell has time for TV when you have community?) I loved detective shows and it turns out that historical research is solving mysteries. I was talking to people from all kinds of fascinating backgrounds, sifting through clues, following leads, hitting dead ends, righting wrongs, hearing amazing stories and learning, learning, learning.

The best bit? I found a couple of tribes to belong to: heritage folks and railway enthusiasts. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on my new passion. It’s fun, it’s fascinating, it’s relevant and it’s strangely zen.

It’s a bit selfish but now I want to spend more time with these tribes and want to find cool ways to help grow them as well.

Let me preface this next bit by saying that I know that there are a lot of excellent people doing a lot of excellent things in this area and there’s no intent to reinvent the wheel … maybe, if everything goes well, we’ll just be adding a bit of grease to the wheel.

The intent is to start a small, casual gathering of folks to get together and chat about the past. London’s past, Ontario’s past, Canada’s past. A Hops & Heritage kind of thing. What will it all look like? This is just the beginning so I have no idea, I hope you will be one of the excellent people to help with that.

So this Wednesday, January 21, I hope you’ll come for a bite and a beverage at Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium at 5:30pm before wandering over to the London & Middlesex Historical Society meeting at the old courthouse at 7:15pm.

If you’re interested in this gathering or future developments please drop me a note, or just show up and say hi.

One Good Reason

A song just came up on my playlist and I felt compelled to write this.

Let me just say right away that I had strange taste in music as a teen (come to think of it … I have strange taste now too). My parents didn’t know who The Eagles were until the 21st century so I’m going to go ahead and blame them for that.

My recollection of all of this stuff is a bit foggy. Under the best of circumstances I don’t remember things well and these were far from the best circumstances.

As I’ve mentioned before, the 18th year of my life was bumpy, so much so that I almost didn’t have a 19th.

Immediately after my near death experience I drove to school and told my guidance councillor what I almost did. Not 5 minutes had passed and I was obviously in a pretty rough state. I told her what happened and she made a couple calls after calming me down a bit. Then we drove to the hospital.

I can’t remember a lot of the rest of the day but I checked in to the psychiatric ward. They probably asked if I’d try it again and I was certainly not in a state of mind to guarantee that I wouldn’t.

Over the course of the next 3 or 4 weeks I talked a lot and spent a lot of time by myself. I had a DiscMan with me and listened to music a lot but not a lot of music. I listened to one Paul Carrack CD for the most part.

Did I “get better”? No, not really. I was depressed and that’s not something that I’ve ever really left behind. There was no breakthrough from my time in the hospital, maybe all I needed was space. High school was a lot of noise, too many thoughts, too many pressures and my brain was ill-adapted to deal with all of that.

I checked myself out and got on with life. My friendships were never the same. Nobody knows how to deal with a kid who does something like that. One girl went so far as to write me a note saying that she needed to focus on her study and couldn’t deal with me anymore. That one still sticks with me.

I’ve had a couple of relapses since, including one close call a decade ago, but I live a very different life now. A rich life filled with excellent people, a fulfilling career and I’ve found a purpose.

The name of that Paul Carrack CD was One Good Reason and the chorus of the title song was:

Just give me one good reason baby
One good reason now
One good reason, I should
I should hang around

I have so many good reasons to hang around now. The darkness is only in the corners of my mind and heart now. Thank you to all of the wonderful people who fill my life with light and laughter.

And thank you Paul for keeping me company through the darkest time.

Pride, London and the Sochi 2014 Games

Dear Mayor and City Councillors.

Canada set the bar with Vancouver’s Pride House in 2010 and cities across Canada are flying the Pride flag in solidarity with our LGBT olympians.

This Council has enthusiastically supported Pride events here in London and I hope that you will continue to support our LGBT community by supporting the motion to fly the Pride flag at City Hall for the duration on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Shawn Adamsson

cc/ Cathy Saunders

Replies from Council (posted in the order received):

Nancy Branscombe:
Thanks for your email. I will be happy to propose your motion so we can join many other Canadian cities in support of ALL of our Olympians. It would come forward at Tuesday’s Council meeting as an emergent motion. I will look for a seconder and notify the Clerk and the Mayor tomorrow that it is coming forward.

Joni Baechler:
“On Fri. I sent a note to the Mayor and Cathy Saunders requesting the flag fly until games are over. Cathy may be able to ok request internally. If not, we can make a motion at SPPC tomorrow night to go to Council Tue.Cheers

Judy Bryant*:
“Hi Sean,
Sochi presents a great opportunity and I am on board. I do not want to start an electronic illegal meeting.

Stephen Orser:
“I will fully support this Joni and Nancy.
Ward 4 Councillor
Stephen Orser”

Cathy Saunders:
“good afternoon. You would need to direct that the policy be amended.”

Denise Brown:
“Shawn, you can count on my support “

* I sent this to all of council in one shot so “reply to all” could be considered a “meeting” I guess.

Death and Life

When you love your city you want it all to succeed. Every city boosting initiative, every idea that worked somewhere else, every person that has the energy and initiative to put it on the line.

They don’t all work. Many, or even most, fail and out of the ashes comes new energy, new ideas and new lessons.

Many people here in London have been aware of an initiative that’s been kicking around for years – a centre for social innovation for our city. I had the pleasure of meeting one of my role models, Mark Kuznicki, a few years back at Toronto’s CSI and have been excited to see this kind of space happen in London. Why? I hate silos. HATE them. And the city that I love is full of them. We need a space to bust up some of these silos and to get our very best and brightest working together.

We were invited to be an anchor tenant in London’s CSI a few years back. A number of locations were investigated, we were committed to the idea and wanted our skin in this game. Time marched on and our lease was coming to an end, things looked promising with the centre but we had to find a new home and we needed certainty. Backing out of the project was one of the tougher decisions that we’ve had to make.

We were very excited to hear the news this week about the pending deal for a home for the Social Innovation Shared Space (SISS).

This doesn’t come without some mixed feelings for me. Although we are gaining a potentially groundbreaking centre in our city we are also losing a century old retailer from the core as well. We’re at a crossroads of heritage, traditional retail and social innovation; all things I care deeply about.

Kingsmill’s was already up for sale but it always felt like it would be a long shot. It’s amazing that they had survived so long in this day and age of big box stores, suburban shopping malls and online retail. The clock was always ticking and we all knew it deep down.

So, while I feel a lot of joy at the birth of something extraordinary and celebrate that an extraordinary piece of our heritage will be preserved., I’ll also mourn the loss of something special.

Life’s like that.

A Moment of Clarity

Twenty six years ago I was seconds from death. I was speeding down the road in my parent’s car and as distraught as one can get. It wasn’t worth it anymore. I saw a huge truck in the oncoming lane and braced as I prepared to swerve and hit it head-on.

And then a moment of clarity.

The guy driving this truck doesn’t deserve to live his life with my suicide in his memory. Nobody does.

So I stayed in my lane and I drove to school to tell my councillor what just happened. I spent the next few weeks in the hospital “getting better”.

I’m not going to tell you that the years since have been all wine and roses, there have been some really dark times but there have been way more really amazing times. I should have given therapy a chance but never did. Life could have been much easier.

I cling to that moment of clarity, that millisecond that saved my life.

Maybe one day you’ll be there. That thought, that moment, grab it and don’t let go.