I’ve been very itchy and mom looked at my ears and said something about little bastards. Then she went away, and when she came back she sprayed me with something that smelled like my bed, she called it cedar. I didn’t know what to do with myself. It felt tingly and smelled too much, so I went in the yard and rolled a lot in the grass, and then ran very fast. Mom gave me a treat when I came back in, and now I’m not itchy anymore. Not being itchy is my favourite.
“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”
― Helen Keller
“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne
I just got home from a 3,368mile (5,420kms) drive (there and back again) from my home in Naperville, IL to Wolfville, NS. Two days driving there, one day stop-over, Two days driving back. About 54 hours driving time. It was the longest drive to and from school I have ever taken one of my kids on.
I spent the days leading up to the drive randomly being gripped in terror. I would suddenly feel the ground drop from under my feet and my stomach would leap into my throat, my heart would pound and I would want to cry. I felt certain that I was making a huge mistake, or at the very least doing absolutely everything wrong.
I get angry at myself for remaining in situations that do not serve me, my marriage, my job, my home, okay, my life in general, but then I’ve always had that terror and painful certainty that pin me down. With any major, and most minor decisions I am generally quite certain I have, or I will make the worst possible choice, and that sitting and doing nothing is my safest option. I assume that everyone else on the planet, or at least my peers, or my betters (which is where I put most people), would be handling this, or have handled this so much better, or have, at the very least, been better organized about it (my disorganizational skills are legendary). Other people, I dangerously assume, have the support of a partner, of parent or if they’re insanely fortunate, parents, or at least some close friends to reassure them they are making good choices. I have none of these and as a result am left with the really not nurturing voices in my own mixed up head. It’s a motley crew, the voices in my head. Part my mother (appearances are everything), my father (appearances are bullshit), my step-father (you’re utterly worthless, stupid and will make utterly worthless and stupid decisions unless you think and act as I do), ex-partners (I didn’t love you and I will leave you shortly so you better get that wall up to protect yourself), the occasional friend (hey, you’re awesome! *but if they really knew me they would get over that notion pretty quickly), and finally, in the back ground, usually jumping up and down like a far away but hyperactive 3 year old, is a small fierce voice that is the part of me who hopes and tries for something better. That small voice is the one who talked me into the 50+ hour road trip, it’s the voice that took me scared shitless to surfing lessons, the one that had me running around London and later the Dominican Republic on my own while presenting this brave adventurous face to anyone looking. Inside I thought I was an idiot, and doing everything wrong.
So, my monster drive, that I still can’t decide was brave and meaningful or crazy and stupid, or maybe it was all of these. I can present a very believable case either way. It did allow me meaningful time with my daughter, to process her going onto this next important stage in her life, to honour what she has done, and to be present for part of the transition which was painful for us both. That was important and I’m very glad we had that time (not sure if we needed so many hours of that time, but that’s done now). I brought several books to listen to, and was lost in stories for much of the drive. I drove past and through many landmarks of my life, in places I’ve lived and by people I have loved. So many places, so many people, so many memories.
In the end, truth be told, it wasn’t really that brave a decision. I could not afford a plane ticket, my husband, who could afford one, would not discuss it, so I did what I thought I had to to get my daughter to school. I could have pushed the issue, but decades of experience have taught me that I am on my own with this sort of thing and I rarely bother anymore. Now, of course, he is organizing for her to fly home for breaks and is the hero, where I am the one that took her on the never ending car ride. Part of the reason he is adored by both our families and I am not, that and he is a much better schmoozer than I am (to be honest I suck at schmoozing, alas…).
I try not to listen to the less than caring voices in my head. To focus on the little fierce one. I don’ t know if this is wise, or how much wisdom that voice has. In many ways it is a toddler with very basic and primordial needs, so I’m not sure if this is my Id jumping up at down, or at least my ego, but has kept me going when there was nothing else that would, and for that I’m grateful. It has kept me moving forward even when I am certain I will fail, it kept me driving all those hours, it help hold my my head up (even when I’m looking like a complete idiot), and it, usually, keeps me from curling up into a ball and giving up.
I think I need to be kinder to myself, maybe even forgive myself for not having this whole life thing figured out. Maybe even let the kind voice be heard among the rabble-rousers carrying on in my head. I think this is a rather poor ending to this blog, that I could have done better, but maybe this one will do.
When I was pregnant with Catherine my first child, I worked as a nurse in a very busy pediatric hospital in downtown Toronto. It was here I was the most perfect parent, before I had my own kids, and for the most part, when I was surrounded by people were making mistakes with their own. Things I promised myself that I would never do. We liked to say our ward saw everything (it was actually nicknamed “Nam”, as in Vietnam) and even now I don’t think we were too far off. There were so many worst case scenarios, shaken babies, cancer, home births gone wrong, babies born with AIDS (when it was new and unknown), abuse, neglect…. for me they all were warnings about what not to do. There was one baby, Sheeva, that I will always remember. Her mother was beaten so badly during her pregnancy that the baby had seizures before she was born, and her short life afterwards was little more than seizure after seizure resulting in increasing brain damage until she died. Heartbreaking, and terrifying. When I was pregnant I would take just about every normal prenatal symptom as a sign of something dire, and I drove myself insane with worry. One evening shift Catherine was hiccuping or kicking or just jerking around as fetuses are apt to do, but I was taking care of Sheeva that night and was terrified my baby was having seizures. I was not my most rational when I was pregnant, and when it comes to my children, I’m still slightly manic. I turned to Emma, a nurse with two young children, and asked in a semi-panicked state if she thought my baby was having seizures. She said, in a very Emma like fashion, “well, she might be having seizures, OR it could just be hiccups”. Somewhat calmed I asked her how she coped with the constant worry that I was experiencing and she gave me the best piece of parenting advice I have ever received, “Get used to it”.
Get used to it. There would be no magic day, birth, grade 1, adolescence, adulthood that a parent gets to say, whew! that’s it I don’t have to worry any more, there would always be something new to worry about. Am I reading the right books to them? Should I let them eat fast food? Do I make them clean their plates? Do I let them cry themselves to sleep? When do I wean them? Is so and so a good enough friend? What about piercings? tattooes? sex?? and will I screw them up forever if I make a wrong decision along the way? What if I’m doing everything wrong? What if ??
When I was five months pregnant with Catherine I had a routine blood test come back as positive for spina bifida. Actually, it was a could be positive and more testing would be required. Again I had taken care of some extremely disabled children with spina bifida and in my young “all knowing” mind had decided that I could never “deal with it” in my own child. Things were so much easier, so much more black and white when I was younger and knew the answers to everything (like all of those “should I?” parenting questions that became much fuzzier with each baby). So they sat us down and explained our “options”, which were, level 2 ultrasounds, amniocentesis, and termination of the pregnancy (we lived in Canada where termination is a medical decision), and there I was, my previous black and white world turned upside down by a blood result. Everything I has regarded as unchangeable fact was now up for interpretation. It was excruciating. In the end I wouldn’t even take the risk of amniocentesis, and opted for the ultrasounds, and my daughter was born healthy with an intact spine. The prenatal worries I had were, mostly, erased by the time Catherine was a a couple of weeks old, but now I was on to a whole new set of worries, and I realized how true Emma’s advice was.
Get used to it. Yeah, well that really sucks.
I was sitting the other day thinking I just had to get through the next two months with my son and then I would get a break, and then it occurred to me that the worries would not end when (if) he got to boot camp, that if anything I would find a whole new set of things to worry about, and when (if) he finishes there was another set of even bigger worries waiting for me. Get used to it. Damn.
So this is life when you love. You are open, and it will hurt, it will hurt a lot, and the answer is not to close yourself up in hope of protecting yourself from the pain, the answer is to stay open, to be hurt, to be heartbroken over and over again, because this is what will help you be kinder, gentler, more empathetic, and able to deal with life’s heartache, because you don’t get to be alive without heartache. Closing yourself off and hiding from life’s worries and pains makes you hard, brittle and frightened. I know, I’ve tried, and it was horrible.
“The term “kintsugi” means ‘golden joinery’ in Japanese and refers to the art of fixing broken ceramics with a lacquer resin made to look like solid gold. Chances are, a vessel fixed by kintsugi will look more gorgeous, and more precious than before it was fractured. Some say we need to cherish the imperfection of a broken pot repaired in this way, seeing it as a creative addition and/or re-birth to the pot’s life story. Others say that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.
And so are we, more beautiful with our wrinkles, our cracked and fractured hearts, and with our worries. This is life, get used to it.
A quiet morning with a good cup of coffee is worth getting up early for
Sunshine is a beautiful gift too often taken for granted
Your feet are really important, take good care of them
Every day that you are alive is a gift, try to remember that
Love is unconditional, liking is another story
Be kind, to everyone, period, really, this is THE thing that will see all of us through our short time on this planet
We live on a planet first, countries later, and lastly homes, try to behave accordingly
Feed people, care for them, not just on holidays, every single day
Smile. Make eye contact when you do it. Do it a lot, everyone will feel better
Show up and do what needs to be done, do more than needs to be done. Do this every day
It’s best if you don’t get everything you want
Keep moving, your body, or mind, your soul at whatever speed is your own, stagnation is death
Carry others when they cannot carry themselves
Do good, not for any reward or recognition, but because that is why we are alive and on this planet
Look around you, the world is full of beauty and of gifts that you are not noticing
Listen to people, turn off your own running monologue and just listen
Dance, whatever dancing is to you. Open your spirit and enjoy yourself
Listen to music you love, everyday, it will feed your soul
Be alone and be quiet.
Everyday work on loving the person you are right now, not the person you want to or wish to be. Love yourself, right now, grow from there
Forgive yourself, forgive everyone else, for your own sanity
No one thinks they are the bad guy, everyone, EVERYONE is doing the best they can
Let yourself love an animal, let yourself love something that will die before you.
Let your heart get broken, over and over again
Stay open and vulnerable, even when it hurts, especially when it hurts, this will open you to the beauty of the world
Fight for those who cannot, lend them your heart, your voice, your strength and your love. One day someone will stand and fight for you
Speak your mind with love
Laugh!! Everyday, many times. Your sense of humour will keep you sane. Never take yourself or your life too seriously to laugh at. Laughter keeps the importance of things in perspective.
Surround yourself with people who love and value you. Stay away from those who do not, they will suck the joy out of your life, don’t give them the opportunity.
Do others the honour of seeing your real self, your scars, your warts, your self loathing and your unspeakable beauty
Love and honour something greater than yourself
The world is not here for your entertainment, you are here to do some good in whatever form you can manage
People will not behave as you like, this has nothing to do with you
What other people think of you is none of your business
Resist absolutes, judgements and black vs white, and good vs bad thinking, it’s lazy and will not serve you
A person’s skin colour, gender, sexual identity, social status has absolutely NOTHING to do with their value as a person
Be mindful of your own biases
Everything begins with your thoughts, your actions, values and character all grow from your thoughts, make them worthwhile
Change happens, always, get used to it
You will change, this is a very good thing, try not to fight it too much
Read. Read. Read. Read everything you can, you are blessed to be able to read and to have so much available to read, do not ever stop reading, it will make you a better person
Be passionate about something, live your life in a way that expresses this passion
You will get hurt, you will suffer in your life, this is not optional. Use it to make yourself kinder, softer, more empathetic so you can be there for the next person who is suffering. Don’t let your hurts make you hard and bitter.
Get out of your comfort zone, regularly, this is where you learn and where you grow
Make mistakes and spend your time learning from from them instead of beating yourself up over them. Mistakes aren’t optional, what you do with them is up to you
Nothing’s good or bad that thinking makes it so, decide how you want to think and then do it
Practice moderation, and then truly enjoy the things you love
What a person says and does says everything about them and has nothing to do with you
Remember always you are precious beyond all measure and loved no matter what.