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Isolation 101

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Ilan Cooley is an Edmonton based entrepreneur and writer. She is a an avid traveller, rescue dog mama and advocate of kindness and community.

You can read a recent story featuring Ilan that was published in the Globe and Mail on April 27, 2020. Wath this recent video story featuring Ilan and this topic on Global TV Edmonton.

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Original article follows

Isolation has been a predicted social epidemic for a while now. Younger generations don’t know a world before apps and social networks, and our large population of beloved boomers will face increasing challenges of loss and solitude. Then last week happened.

I have had this itchy need to write something about this for a while, but now it is impossible to ignore. The things I write often demand to be let out. I didn’t want to seem like a doom spreader, because I’m actually an optimistic realist, and I know nobody wants just another seemingly negative thing in their feed.

However, I feel uniquely qualified to express this.

I cannot deny I have a blessed life. I have a roof over my head, a successful business (for now), two quirky pets, good friends and a loving family, but I am alone most of the time. Solo entrepreneurship and, let’s call them ‘a series of unfortunate events’, led me to being alone more since last summer than I have ever been. For the first time ever, I felt the negative effects of it.

It’s been awful.

I’ve always been a lone wolf, fiercely independent, and comfortable in my own company. I felt I was prepared to handle whatever came my way. With all of its ups and downs, I thought I was as likely as anyone else to continue to handle life’s many lessons. I’m a strong person. I’m resilient. I’m a fighter.

I was wrong.

Like all things, dealing with a challenge is a process. The pity party portion of the program lasted four months. I spent most of that time alone. I focused on the things knew how to do, like running my business, but there were also some pretty major changes in the workisphere, and even that didn’t feel familiar.

“…In the midst of this, I experienced something else. A peripheral ‘noise’ detox of sorts…”

Around Christmas I hit my breaking point. I usually love getting together with friends, sharing the fudge I make, exchanging gifts, and spreading the cheer and joy of the season, but aside from a few people who lovingly stood by me and knew what I was going through, I suffered mostly in silence.

Many of the people usually present in my life were not there. To be fair, some of them died, which were some of the unfortunate events. Other people I care about were also struggling, for which I have endless compassion. Some just disappeared. I still have two undelivered Christmas gifts in my closet, lovingly tagged for close friends I haven’t seen in months. I hope I will still get the chance to give them. It has been a very unusual time.

The pity party involved endless tears, wine, unspeakable sadness and a trip into a place I didn’t like. A place of agonizing isolation.  The second phase of the process is still ongoing. It involves accepting the friendship of those who still choose to be in my life, guitar lessons, long overdue trauma counselling for my chronic pain, yoga, group training sessions, eating better, reading more, and no wine. I even saw a medium. Apparently, even in isolation, I’m not idle.

In the midst of this, I experienced something else. A peripheral ‘noise’ detox of sorts. It gets really strange when things grind to a halt. I describe it as what I imagine it might feel like to blaze through the earth’s atmosphere as a meteor. You feel hot, and it’s like you’re about to explode, or implode, or both. It is a fiery ball of chaos, until you break through. It feels foreign to shed the ‘too much of everything’ our world constantly throws at us. The cycle of too many meetings, phone calls, deadlines, texts and commitments. Take solace in this pause. I actually think that part is healthy. Once the detox is done, I promise it feels better.

“…My advice is to be kind with other people’s pain and struggles…”

The reason I’m writing this now is I feel a strange sense of community forming around the isolation that is being imposed on the collective “us.” I’ve lived alone and worked alone for many of my 18 years as an entrepreneur, but this recent experience has been different. It has gutted me, tested me, and brought me to my knees. It made me dig deep inside for the strength to get up. My mum says, “you’re like me. We get knocked down, but we get back up again.” I hope she’s right. I think she’s right. I’m trying.

This has not been easy. It’s not comfortable to admit things like, I’m hurting, I’m struggling, I’m lonely. I need help. I’ve found expressing this kind of truth doesn’t sit well with most other people. There have been a lot of blank stares, interjections that it can’t be that bad, some unreturned phone calls, and texts that went into the abyss.

Being alone can be wonderful, but being lonely is another thing. It can be devastating. I fear many more people will soon understand how it feels and that worries me. I want others to be okay, so maybe I can help, even just a little. My advice is even if you’re struggling and even if at first people don’t seem to understand, don’t let go of the ones you care about. Let them stay tethered to you. We need each other. Don’t let someone else’s struggle make you walk away.

I believe we are inherently social beings. We gravitate towards love, laughter, joy, congregation, sharing and caring for one another. The obstacles currently in our way are not going to make us feel good. It’s going to be really tough, but we can take some comfort in knowing we are all in it together.

My advice is to be kind with other people’s pain and struggles. We do not know how a situation or circumstances may impact an individual. Don’t try to explain away someone’s reality as unimportant. If you don’t know how to respond, just say “I’m here for you,” “I care about you,” “you are important to me,” or “I love you.” If you can’t ask “what can I do to help?” because you have nothing left to give, that’s okay. Be honest and communicate. Don’t just walk away. We need each other now more than ever.

So, from my isolated little world to yours, I’m still here. I’m here for myself, but I can also be here for other people too. I can still do that. I want to do that. If isolation gets you down, don’t stop telling people how you’re feeling and don’t stop checking in on others. Rely on the people who want to be there for you. I promise there are people who do.

This story was published originally on March 18th, 2020.

photo of Ilan Cooley

Ilan Cooley is an Edmonton based entrepreneur and writer. She is a an avid traveller, rescue dog mama and advocate of kindness and community.

Listen: Ryan Jespersen, Lynda Steele, J’Lyn Nye are joined by writer Ilan Cooley: The Untold Toll of Online Trolls

 

Alberta

History of Red Deer’s Second Courthouse

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Red Deer’s old courthouse sits as the centrepiece of Red Deer’s historic downtown and is celebrating its 90th birthday. Come spend some time downtown. Visit the city’s unique Ghost Collection, many of which are within a few blocks of the Old Courthouse.  For more information on leasing opportunities in this beautiful building, please email Davin Kemshead or phone 403-318-6479.  Enjoy this story by Ken Meintzer

History of Red Deer’s Second Courthouse

It has been witness to a great many events and stories in the 90 years it has stood on the corner of Ross Street and 49th Avenue in Red Deer.

The Gaetz Company building as seen in 1912. It was the courthouse for the region from 1916-1931. It is the current site of Mason Martin Homes. Canada’s first female juror served in this courthouse in 1922.  Photo courtesy City of Red Deer Archives photo.

As the solidly constructed anchor for both provincial and the Court of Queens Bench for 52 years, this sturdy structure has also been a sanctuary for artists, the setting for movie productions and most recently home to numerous professional offices. It also was the backdrop for the last murder trial in Alberta which saw the defendant sentenced and hanged under capital punishment in the province.

Construction of the new courthouse well underway. City of Red Deer Archives photo P2610

This readily recognizable icon celebrated the anniversary of its official opening earlier this month and is showing no signs of retiring any time soon.

View of the Lyndall Limestone columns in the Palladian Style entrance. Photo by Duane Rolheiser.

This was the second courthouse for the steadily expanding central Alberta city. The earlier one had opened in 1916 after having been converted from a coverall factory. Talk about being adaptive and creative!

Construction of the “new” courthouse was significant for many reasons. The Great Depression was in full swing so this project provided a much-needed injection of both money and jobs into the community along with a sense of pride that such a fine building would bring to the region.

Brick exterior with Lyndall Limestone detailing. Photo by Duane Rolheiser

This would be the last courthouse built in the province until the 1950s, the final version  of a series of Alberta courthouses built in the classical revival style. Both Wetaskiwin and Medicine Hat received similar structures during this era.

Testament to the quality of the design and materials used in construction of the building is the fact that it remains steadfast after more than 8 decades of use.

Constructed using hot riveted steel beams, brick and mortar, then graced with pillars shaped from the legendary Lyndall Limestone from Manitoba, this grand historical resource will stand for a great many more years to come.

Original 1912 era boiler. Converted from coal to natural gas.
Photo by Duane Rolheiser.

In the spirit of the type of practicality and resourcefulness often seen during the depression, heating for the building would be provided by a boiler built in 1912 and  repurposed from a ship!

It was converted from coal burning to natural gas in 1949 and has since been replaced by modern, efficient boilers yet it still remains in the building as evidence of a different era.

Every building of a certain vintage usually carries a story or two about otherworldly spirits or energies. Why not the old Courthouse? It was thought that the ghost of Robert Raymond Cook inhabited the building.

On one particular evening, the caretaker for the courthouse was heading into the boiler room to grab some tools. When he flicked on the lights, they popped briefly and went dark. Despite this, the caretaker walked alongside the boiler in the direction of his tools when suddenly he was slapped in the face by an unexpected soft force! Was it the apparition of the hanged murderer?

When he had regained his composure a time later, the caretaker investigated the boiler room once more to discover the source of the slap in the dark. A frightened pigeon had flown up in his face when startled in the boiler room!

Judge bench in the original courtroom. Photo by Duane Rolheiser

This magnificent building was the home of the judicial branch of the province for the Red Deer region from 1931 to 1983 when its replacement was constructed just down Ross Street to the east.

A law office has made good use of the original architecture. Photo by Duane Rolheiser.

The courthouse was the venue for a great many legal tales over the years but probably none more famous than the 1959 murder trial for 21 year old Robert Raymond Cook of Stettler, AB who was accused of murdering all 7 members of his family in a most violent manner.

RCMP mugshot of Robert Raymond Cook, 1959. Photo used with permission by Legal Archives Society of Alberta.

His trial began on November 30th, 1959 and Cook was found guilty and sentenced to hang for his crimes. His defense appealed the conviction and a second trial was held in Edmonton but his conviction was upheld on June 20th, 1960.

On November 14, 1960, Robert Raymond Cook was hanged. His death sentence was the last ever carried out in the province of Alberta.

the actual witness bench where Robert Raymond Cook would have sat Photos by Duane Rolheiser.

Numerous books were written about this trial as the murders captivated and horrified the population who followed the course of the investigation and trials.

Even a dramatic play was created, called “The End of the Rope”, reenacting this historic trial which was developed and was even staged in the actual courtroom where the all too real drama actually took place all those years ago.

exterior of the courthouse while it was home to the Community Arts Centre in the 1980s. Photo courtesy Red Deer Archives.

In 1983, the  building was sold to the city of Red Deer for a dollar and turned into the Old Courthouse Community Arts Centre. The grand structure housed painters and potters among numerous artistic pursuits for 18 years

An artist displaying his works during a Christmas arts fair in the courthouse, 1987. Photos courtesy City of Red Deer Archives.

The old courthouse has seen real life dramas and reenactments of legal dramas including being the location for filming  scenes from the TV Movie, “While Justice Sleeps” starring Cybil Shepherd in 1994.

Even a dramatic one-man play was created by Aaron Coates called “The End of the Rope” in 2003, re-enacting this historic trial. It was developed and staged in the actual courtroom where the all too real drama actually took place all those years ago. Cook’s lawyer, David MacNaughton even answered questions from the crowd after the performance.

Promotional ad for the TV movie “While Justice Sleeps” starring Cybil Shepherd. Photo from IMDB

The old courthouse made its most recent transformation in 2001 when it was purchased by Jim Dixon and Dick McDonell.

Interior details.
Photos by Duane Rolheiser.

The new owners invested close to a quarter of a million dollars in upgrading the building including installation of new boilers, restored doors, energy efficient windows and new flooring  throughout. 1930s era lighting was sourced to replace fluorescent fixtures, giving the rejuvenated structure a proper historical feel.

Today this 90-year-old icon of downtown Red Deer proudly carries on as the home to numerous professional organizations from lawyers to architects and with its new owners and numerous upgrades, this beautiful structure should be proudly welcoming people to downtown for a great many more years to come.

Red Deer’s old courthouse sits as the centrepiece of Red Deer’s historic downtown and is celebrating its 90th birthday. Come spend some time downtown. Visit the city’s unique Ghost Collection, many of which are within a few blocks of the Old Courthouse.  For more information on leasing opportunities in this beautiful building, please email Davin Kemshead or phone 403-318-6479.  

 

How the Railroads Shaped Red Deer

 

 

 

 

 

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Community

Angeer’s Story – Providing mental health supports for the most vulnerable

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Angeer’s Story – Providing mental health supports for the most vulnerable

When Angeer found out her eight-year-old son’s bone cancer had relapsed, she didn’t know how she would be able to get through it. Like many local families, they were also facing isolation and anxiety as a result of the pandemic.

United Way worked rapidly with our partners to identify the needs of the most vulnerable and rallied the community to provide supports such as counselling for local people who are struggling. Because supporters do local good, families like Angeer’s have the mental health supports they need to weather this storm.

Help make a difference in your community today by visiting myunitedway.ca/donate-united-way.

Mary’s Story – Helping domestic violence survivors heal and find safety

Read more on Todayville.

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