Irritable bowel syndrome


I wish there was a sexier name for IBS. I didn’t even know I had it until a few years ago, when my doctor said matter of factly, “You have Irritable Bowel Syndrome”. All I knew was that for as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced abdominal pain that is highly correlated to stress.

I was a studious kid who hated any form of physical activity and when I was 9, the school took us to “Mount Blackstrap” just outside Saskatoon for skiing lessons. I did not even know how to SKATE!

When we got there, my stomach pain was so intense that I was successful in persuading the teacher to call my mother who thankfully came and rescued me. It was bad. I have never been back to a ski hill.

Anyway, you likely know where this is going. Last week’s conversation with five landlords to let them know Prairie Girl Bakery would not be paying its April 1st rent really sucked and if my brain didn’t already know that, my stomach certainly gave me the message.

I’ve never “not” paid a bill. In fact, I can’t recall ever paying a bill late. Hearing one of the property managers tell me that not paying anything was “just not good enough” was excruciating. But I survived that call and the others and I have to say, my stomach is better this week than last.

It’s interesting what you can do when you have no choice and also how freeing it is. Now that my business has deferred one month of rent, with May 1st looming, it feels like I have been given permission to think broadly and creatively about solutions.

The closure of Prairie Girl Bakery for an indefinite time is undeniably a problem but since it is the same problem being faced by every other small business owner, I’ve kind of relaxed.  I want to think far and wide about this challenge. Why not? There is no playbook for how we will all get back from where we are right now, and when we ultimately know how the story ends, I think there will be some solutions that were better than others.

Over the years I’ve learned that my particular version of IBS does not like ambiguity but as the days and weeks go on, I see that at least the uncertainty itself is certain- none of us know where this is going. There’s a long road ahead, and lots of time to reflect.

About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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