11. The Holiday Episode.

“If people are singing Christmas carols in a bar: I’m not so into that. But onstage, in a rabbit costume? It’s a totally different thing.”

Well, of course we had to do a holiday episode! If you feel isolated—either because you’re alone for the holidays, or because you don’t feel close to the people you’re spending them with—this can be a lonely time of year. But it can also be an opportunity to try to create the kinds of  get-togethers and traditions you wish you had, even if those don’t look conventionally “festive”. If you’re the kind of person who does love the holidays, it can be a chance to share the cheer. And also, honestly, this time of year can just be straight-up weird. Especially if you spend it at the mall, dressed as a cartoon rabbit.

You’ll hear that story from one of my guests, as well as several stories sent in by listeners, who have tried everything from joining the festivities of a Christmas-loving family to opting out of the holidays altogether.

Guests.

Shari Kasman is a writer, multidisciplinary artist, and piano teacher. Her collection of short stories, Everything Life Has to Offer, exists thanks to Invisible Publishing. She has created art for both private space and public space, including a photocollage around a construction site. Most recently, Shari made a photo book about Toronto’s Galleria Mall. It is called Galleria: The Mall that Time Forgot. Her background is in music.

Chris Piuma spends most of his time podcasting these days. He’s one of the co-founders of Megaphonic FM and he’s the producer and editor of this very show. He also hosts The Scene Of The Scene, which tries to capture the conversation you have with your friends when you’ve just seen a movie together. He created The Scene Of The Scene to make himself leave the house and see his friends more.

Show Notes.

Many young adults in the UK say they have no-one to spend Christmas with.

The Great Christmas Get Together Advent Calendar.

Article about “Friendsgiving” in the U.S. (It’s not just for millennials!)

Buy Galleria: The Mall that Time Forgot by Shari Kasman.

Tofurky and Quorn.

Raymond Briggs’s The Snowman.

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10. Working Arrangements that Work.

“Just having another person there, and not even talking—though you can occasionally look up and say something—I get way more work done when there’s someone else there, I don’t know why.”

For better or worse, the world of work is changing fast. With the increase in freelance and contract work and the advent of telecommuting, more and more people have paying work that doesn’t come with office space. Working for yourself can be liberating, and working from home can be convenient, but both can also get lonely and isolating in the long run. People are trying all kinds of strategies and setups to get around that: co-working spaces, working in cafes, teleconferencing. What’s the best way to be with people while working independently?

When Ange had a job in a library, she would look at people working in coffee shops with longing and envy. Now she is one of those people, when she’s not in a studio, co-working space, or her own living room. Jessica is fascinated by offices and co-working spaces from an anthropological perspective, but finds that folks at her current co-working space don’t tend to come out to social events, even for free ice cream. Can meeting or working with people digitally—i.e., via videoconferencing—sometimes be as good as having co-workers? Do you want the people you work with to be your friends, or is it enough just to get along with them? And what would the perfect work setup look like?

Guests.

Ange Friesen is a writer and creative strategist who describes her work as brand therapy for beautiful ideas and their people. Ange combines her background in marketing and copywriting with her training as a psychotherapist, helping creative people and companies figure out who they are and how to share their ideas with the world. Ange lives in Toronto and works everywhere.

Jessica Taylor followed her wife to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is currently a Research Associate at Harvard. As of her move, she now belongs to three book clubs and one reading challenge.

Show Notes.

Ange Friesen’s brand therapy website.

The Centre for Social Innovation is one of Toronto’s oldest and best known co-working communities.

Make Lemonade is a women’s co-working space in Toronto.

The co-working space in Malmö.

‘The flexibility is incredible’: When companies ditch the office, everyone's a remote worker (CBC).

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9. Artscape Gibraltar Point.

“I can go for the first few days avoiding people, but by the end of the week, always, I have an evening where I’m just itching to see people, and I end up checking the kitchen every fifteen minutes to see who’s there. Because I do get lonely when I work that hard, and it’s so nice to know that somebody’s going to turn up, and it’s generally somebody super interesting, who you can have a chat and a cup of tea with.”

Have you ever wanted to get away from it all—but not, you know, too far away? Would the idea of living communally with like-minded people appeal to you, if you knew you could go into your own room and shut the door and everyone would leave you alone? That comfortable balance of solitude and company is something many of us look for. It’s particularly important to artists and writers, most of whom need time alone to work, but draw inspiration and encouragement from talking to each other. For this episode, Megaphonic’s Chris Piuma and I took the ferry out to the Toronto Islands to visit Artscape Gibraltar Point, an artists’ residence designed to create an environment where it’s possible to find that balance. We talked to staffer Andrew Lochhead and several of the residents, and later I sat down for a longer chat with Anna Synenko and Julia Tausch, two writers who have returned to AGP many times over the years. The consensus, more or less: AGP is a great place to be alone—to hunker down and work, commune with nature, or even just sit with your loneliness for awhile. And when you start to crave company, there’s always the kitchen.

Guests.

Julia Tausch is a writer living in Toronto. She wrote the novel Another Book About Another Broken Heart and has published fiction and essays in publications such as Hobart, CBC Arts, The Hairpin, and Bon Appetit. She is currently working on a memoir that investigates abledness.

After a long career in publishing, Anna Synenko now creates projects for film and television exclusively, producing original scripts in full feature, comedy, documentary, and factual. She currently has created two documentary series that are signed to a London UK television production company, is optioned to write a big budget historical film with another UK company, and her adaptation of Amanda Lear’s My Life with Dali is currently with a European producer based in Amsterdam and LA. She works closely with filmmakers to teach script writing or doctor existing scripts. Self-taught, she’s spent approximately 5 years nomadically moving around, writing scripts, developing shows, and honing her craft to make stories honest in the revealing, daring in the execution, and provocative in the telling.

Show Notes.

Photos from our visit to Artscape Gibraltar Point.

About Artscape Gibraltar Point.

Anna Synenko’s website, featuring a photo of her Artscape Gibraltar Point studio in winter.

Julia Tausch’s first novel, Another Book about Another Broken Heart.

Maurice Vellekoop.

Special Thanks.

A number of people contributed to making this episode happen: Daniel Rotsztain put me in touch with Anna, Julia and Luisa. Andrew Lochhead provided all the information I needed, plus a guided tour and introductions. Chris Piuma did the onsite recording, had valuable input into pruning and shaping the episode, and went above and beyond with the editing. And, of course, thanks again to all the Artscape Gibraltar Point folks who talked to us: Alicia, Eunice, Barbara, Rae, Luisa, Marina, Julia, and Anna.

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8. Having a Baby.

“Not all of my friendships have survived the transition into motherhood, which is unfortunate, but enough new people have come in that it doesn’t feel like a loss. It feels like an enrichment.”

Becoming a parent changes to your identity, and the way you relate to other people, in fundamental ways. In this episode, I talk to two of my friends about their experiences with childbirth and new motherhood, which, although it’s perhaps the most conventional of the many different ways of becoming a parent, brings challenges that still aren’t talked about much.

Beth wasn’t sure she really even liked kids, and she was afraid of becoming the kind of boring mom who “doesn’t get the Simpsons.” Allysun was looking forward to motherhood, confident she’d just carry on as usual with her baby tucked under her arm. When they had babies, both of them—in different ways—found the experience harder and more enriching than they could have imagined. They talk about the vital importance of friendships with other new moms; how different the social expectations still are for moms vs. dads; how those of us who don’t have kids can be supportive and stay connected, and how much it means to them when we make the effort.

Guests.

Beth Martin has just completed a PhD in English literature and is currently working in research at the University of Toronto. She’s also a co-host of It’s Just a Show, another Megaphonic podcast. She has a four-year-old daughter.

Allysun Welburn is an elementary school teacher in Wakefield, Quebec. She has three daughters aged 10, 7, and 5 months. And she is currently obsessed with embroidery.

Show Notes.

The CBC story I mention is a segment of the radio series Out in the Open: “‘It’s not something we talk about…but it’s a real issue’: The isolation of new motherhood”.

Social.mom is a social network for moms.

Pierre Robin Syndrome.

The sad story of Sesame Street’s David.

The New York Times story, “Motherhood in the Age of Fear”.

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7. New in Town.

“I kind of grew up on the internet, with a lot of friends in different places all over the world. I don’t see a distinction between internet friendships and ‘real’ friendships. So when I moved, most of my friendships didn’t change at all, because they were already based on internet communication or on phone calls.”

You’re moving to a new city! It’s an exciting chance to start fresh, maybe re-invent yourself a bit with a whole new social circle. But are you going to lose the friends you made in the last place you lived? And how will you start meeting new people? Eva always brings her violin with her; she says “orchestras always need violins”, so she can usually find one to join just about anywhere. Daniel doubled up on re-inventing himself the last time he moved—he became “Dan” and “Professor Price”, with two very different corresponding wardrobes. We talk about how landing in an academic department makes moving easier, as does growing up and becoming more confident; how people used the internet to meet each other before social media was invented (blogs! Meetup groups!); and how one or two dedicated extroverts can hold a group of friends together even when they scatter geographically.

Guests.

Eva Amsen is a former biochemist who now works as a science writer and communicator. She has lived in Amsterdam, Quebec City, Toronto, Cambridge (England), and now London, where she plays in orchestras, browses bookstores and wanders the city.

Daniel Price is a preacher’s kid and former zoo-keeper from New Brunswick who is completing a PhD in medieval religion at the University of Toronto, where he studies the weird and violent world of Merovingian saints. He has held positions as a lecturer in history at the University of Saskatchewan and a volunteer god of chaos in a large online text MUD, and he spends his free time helping to develop equity and accessibility policy for his union local. He lives with his delightful partner and a handsome cockatiel who never stops whistling.

Show Notes.

“Making a New City Your Home.” New York Times article citing Melody Warnick, author of This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are.

The blog of Brett Lamb, featuring the last of his famous photo stories.

The London Euphonia Orchestra, Eva’s current orchestra, performs Georges Bizet “Les Toréadors” from Carmen Suite No. 1.

The Doctor Who Fan Orchestra performs “Donna’s Suite”.

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