Prepared to grieve

16 04 2018

williamshakespeare1The tragedy of the Humboldt hockey players bus crash and the loss of all those sweet boys was and is truly horrible. I feel for parents and friends and other teams and everyone involved. Especially the driver that survived…images-26

But while this is happening, and we respond by doing things like putting hockey sticks outside doors, wearing team shirts, etc., I can’t help but think that at this moment, we are all prepped for grief, standing on the edge of weeping, hanging onto the unstated hope that the US government and people will not send the world into war.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like living in this constant state of tension, waiting for that deadly tweet from an insane man who doesn’t think the rest of the government has any role. What will keep he-who-shall-not-be-named from setting up a fake situation with Russia or Korea and sending off those “very smart” bombs he is so proud of? Especially if his stock goes down, or that infamous tape is released?

1bvnzs(Aside: his childish hatred of the Democrats is insane. Who does things like pee on a mattress just because the Obamas slept there? What is in this man’s head?)

As a Canadian, I’m not directly involved in the loss of democracy below the border, but it and the hateful rhetoric that allowed the fascist oligarchs to take over is slipping through the permeable membrane between our countries. H-W-M-N-B-N and the GOP have made it okay to promote racism and stupidity and flash anger over rational thought. That’s tempting for anyone who is frustrated by the status quo. Simple sound bytes and lack of discussion are easier, clearer, than complicated explanations and balanced approaches.vx7jcsh

 

 

So everyone I speak to seems to have an undercurrent of tension these days. A little high pitched note under their speech, a slight twitch to their eyes. We joke – but there’s a tone under the humour, like things are changing in ways we don’t like to this may be the last time the winter is like this, the spring comes like this, fall slips in like this.

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I imagine it felt like this before WW1. I’m reading Barbara Tuchman’s excellent “The Guns of August” about this lead time and it sounds terribly, awfully familiar. People taking offense at nothing, anger over things that are said, a sense of chaos and loss of control. Evil people consolidating power and denying existing governmental rules, backroom deals and the lust for money.

It almost feels like something must happen to let off the tension.

Let’s hope it’s impeachment and not world destruction.

 

And meanwhile, we watch in the darkness, sensing the storm coming, unable to stop it. We giggle, nervously, clutch at entertainment and the solace of hygge, wrapping ourselves in wooly cocoons. But when something awful happens, we scream out, prepared as we are to weep.

Practicing. Preparing. For the big one?

Thank heavens for the young, the hopeful and perhaps a wee bit ignorant. Everyone says everyone must study history. True. But we must do so without engendering the cynicism many of us have tangled so close to our chests. Because cynicism crushes hope, and only in hope can we achieve any change.

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Hanging out in a liminal space

6 03 2018

liminal-space-definition-ofI have a feeling of being in transition, of being in between the not anymore and the not yet. I’ve been chewing on it ever since I saw my dear friend incarcerated in his body from a stroke, and struggling in a nursing home.

The push onto the threshold is also because this is my 60th year. My parents were wrapped in end-stage cancer by this age. I’d been married for a few years by that time, my children born before my mother left us. It is so hard to believe this was so long ago; also so hard to believe that I am this old. In my head, I am still a rollicking 45 – not as spry as a young ‘un, but no way am I as old as my parents were!

In a real life and space, I’d be planning for retirement, I’d be managing some poor employees, I’d be all serious and such. Maybe I’d even have learned to play golf. Instead, on my “freedom 50 get MS plan”, I’m looking down the wrong end of the telescope at a life that seems very far away.

Not that I don’t have one now – lucky me with friends and family and a view of the harbour and almost my health! I am definitely NOT complaining.

6c6a49f23bf8b7fb1bcff4f50f1a1971--love-birds-for-the-birdsI’m sensing a change coming, though, like a fresh wind. Maybe it’s the birds doing their still-chilly spring romantic dance. Maybe it’s the fact that sometimes, sometimes, I feel a bit like I can play the ukulele. Maybe it’s the repetitive strain injury from stabbing wool for hours…or the look of my still not right bedroom, covered in wool and still-waiting-to-be-unpacked necklaces and clothes.

I’m tempted to throw it all out. Sell it, give it up, start fresh. It seems to be on the backward side of the threshold. But what is on the other side? What can I do next?
When I was in first-year university, I didn’t have any money to buy my parents a160503_BOOKS_Allegory.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2 Christmas present. So I wrote them a story, about a unicorn and a girl making choices at a fork in the road. It was so dreadfully heavy with allegory I’m surprised my parents could lift it, let alone read it, but never mind, I can do a good preaching when I set my mind to it. They cried. My English teacher read it and told me it was trash.

images-8In the story, the Unicorn was there to help the girl along the rockier path she chose. It was meant to symbolize the coming of adulthood and the need to take on responsibilities, as it were. It had capital-B Bears in it who were my parents, who were ahead of me on this treacly road, who provided support from afar; it provided sympathy for what they’d lost by taking on adult responsibilities.

It was gruesome, I tell you. Whenever I am feeling too full of myself, I get it out and read it, and then go brush my teeth. Three times.

But I’m feeling that split in the road now. The need to figure out what this later bit of my life will come to mean. The tasks that will keep me sane. The things that will bring me joy. Housekeeping just ain’t it.

I know a few things will have to figure. Since my fall yesterday, I know I am going to have to throw myself back into physical fitness. My body is quitting on me, but that doesn’t mean I have to help it. It’s time to really allot time to exercise as I have done before. I’d say I should give up scotch, chocolate, and cheese, but let’s not get crazy here!

That means less crafting time, as all of that takes time and space.

I’m going to work on friendships, because I love them so much and often don’t get to meet up with my friends. (or family – that has to change, too) I don’t want to end up alone. I’ve seen how that can go, and it’s nasty.

This can also mean less crafting time, though most of my friends gather to do crafts, so maybe not…

Creativity is important to me, too – so I’ll have to work that in somewhere, somehow,00f5dde1205620d312e1ccceeabc3210 using words or needles and thread or wool or both.

So I’m standing on a doorstep. Time to step forward…just have to push myself through all of these piles of wool first…(but wait – I still want to try this, and make that, and there’s Alice and other stuff I could try and even little things …)

Maybe I’m not quite ready to step over that threshold … seems like I’ll be liminal for a while yet.

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Oh, Mr. Neville…

27 07 2017

05103c84733200777408f3c80b5eb4da4e65deOne of the blessings of my enforced by MS flare-up idleness is that I have been able to plunge myself into a myriad of books, to wallow in lives not my own, to lay on my patented “chaise short” (an antique chaise with the merit of being less than 5 feet long and thus fitting both me and my apartment) and read the hours away.

It’s been wonderful, but I see that I have chosen the last three books unwisely. The first mistake was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book tells of a man who loved a woman so much he followed her around, through her marriage and children, at a distance,  until her husband dies. Then he asks for her hand. She accepts, and he tells her he had remained a virgin for her, all those 60 years. She says, simply, “liar!”, and they go to sleep. Meanwhile, he had been keeping track of the conquests he had to relieve his suffering for her love. He had arrived at 650 or more.

I adored this book, both for the love over the years and for the practical approach to it. It’s a grown up book, with grown up affection. And lasting love. And badness, concupiscence, and humour.

The next mistake was another of Marquez’s  – All My Melancholy Whores, an amazing and surprisingly sweet book. A ninety-year-old man desires to bed a virgin to celebrate his birthday – (at first a horrific thought.) He goes to a whorehouse that he used to frequent when younger – of course, it has aged, too. The madam obtains the virgin, but the girl is nervous so she is drugged, asleep when he meets her. The man finds he prefers to simply look at her, and sleep beside her.

Over a number of visits, he falls in love with her, and she with him. The romance is chaste and both sad and joyful in turns. I loved it.  Again, a twist on the usual story, and characters with deep, serious emotions. I suspect Marquez of being one of those men who truly loves women. There aren’t so many of them about…

images-10Third mistake – The charming, witty, and ultimately motivational Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner – winner of the Booker Prize, and I can see why she won. It’s brilliant.

Edith, the protagonist, is a writer who has been sent to the Hotel du Lac as punishment for something awful she’s done. She has not been a “good woman”. The hotel is almost closed down for the season – it’s fall, and it is not in a fashionable ski resort. The weather is generally glum and foggy, as is Edith’s poor mind. She’s trying to write another novel, but she is emotionally fraught.

We don’t learn why until halfway through the book. She is in love with a man, David, but scheduled to marry another. David is married to a Very Perfect Wife, and thus available only upon his whim. The man who is to marry her is a bit too commanding for my liking, and also for Edith’s. She stands him up at the altar. The author is wise to put the “reveal” in the middle of the book – by this time we’ve grown to quite love Edith and her quick wit and desperate kindness, her loneliness and her resilience. So, of course, we cheer when she tosses the bossy man into the drink.

The other characters at the hotel and the employees are all charmant, all interesting in different ways, all dealing with their own issues. The rampant consumerism of some females is hauled out and mocked; Edith is made to feel inadequate in dress. (It’s a common enough thread amongst women – I’ve felt it myself. Edith and I favour comfort and giant sweaters. We may, at times, look sloppy. Just saying. ) There is a very thin woman with a tiny dog, a fat older woman and her clingy but oddly sensuous daughter, a deaf woman who smiles or grimaces on occasion, and a mysterious man, Mr. Neville, who seems to like Edith.

He proposes to her and offers her his companionship because he wants someone “steady” to help him rebuild his status after having his wife leave him. He says cheerily that he doesn’t love her, that he will have affairs and she can, too. I identified so much with Edith, I found myself saying ‘NO!” out loud when she decides to accept him.

But she rallies. And I am left cheering, and, oddly, with the desire to write.*

So what is the problem with reading these three all together? They all three deal with solitude and loneliness, with the interweaving between the desire for contact and the desire for silence, with connections made and severed.

It’s too close to my reality to be completely comfortable.

And, they are all filled with discussions of passionate love – not the “grab and smooch” kind my cousin and I used to giggle over in “the soaps”.

bb0daba08d0cc572acfe66e4a94d018c--forever-alone-quotes-being-alone-quotesThe sort of love that lasts through hardship and challenge, the kind that comes unexpectedly, but is fulfilling even if incomplete.

The kind of love that fills in the spaces around one’s life, enriching it.

The kind I would still like to find.

So the three in sequence makes me feel a bit sad, a bit lonely. I feel an ache. It’s not painful, just a bit of a gap.

Which is what makes me want to write.

 

*Of Anita Brookner, Wikipedia has this to say: “Her novels explore themes of emotional loss and difficulties associated with fitting into society, and typically depict intellectual, middle-class women, who suffer isolation and disappointments in love.” Hmmmmm. I think I may have found a kindred spirit.





“If we are not sometimes baffled and amazed and undone by the world around us, rendered speechless and stunned, perhaps we are not paying close enough attention.” Ben Marcus

13 05 2017

“So You Want To Be a Writer” – excellent article by the Guardian. I love the Guardian. A voice of sanity in a baffling world.

 





Fuck-up Nights

14 03 2017

i-dont-always-fuck-up-but-when-i-do-its-big-timeJust read about this group of people who get together now and again and talk about their failures over a few drinks  – sharing where they’ve messed up, telling what they learned, if anything, sharing that’s okay to make a complete mess of things. 

Here’s the article.

I think this is a great idea. Ever since we told our first lie to our mothers about how well we did in school, or our school friends about how well we live, we’ve been told to emphasize the positive. We become great at rationalizing. “Yeah, I failed the exam but that’s because I was helping starving orphans – no really!” Or, more likely, “I didn’t get the marks I wanted, but it was the professor’s fault.”

We graduate to hyper promoting ourselves in job interviews because we cannot be seen to show weakness. We even get into the (gasp!) fradulent Christmas letter writing, the tremendously successful social media posts, the endlessly cheerful selfies, carefully staged. And don’t get me started on the dating site posts. Lying abounds. No one admits to failures in their broken marriages, no one admits they can’t maintain a relationship for more than fifteen seconds (or that that’s about the amount of time they take for sex).

Eventually, this can change into the toxic mess of really thinking that any failures really aren’t our fault and then we get the bizarreness that is running the USA at the moment.

But here’s the thing – failures are the BEST. That’s where the rubber hits the road, where you are forced to think about things, where you confront the actuality of your existence. Where you learn. Heaven knows I’ve learned a lot from my multiple failures …(#humblebrag)

Gosh, see how that slips in? I can’t even honestly wallow in my failures without having to come up with some fraudulent positive to hold forth like a shining light like I’m better than everyone else because I’ve THOUGHT about my failures…

And truth be told, there are lots of failures I just haven’t learned from. Like:

Weight management. (chocolate calls to me like a seagull, persistent and loud)forrest-gump-fat-people

The need for exercise. (Again, it feels good when done, but that chair and book are so cozy)

Humility. (Though thankfully I get slapped with that one on a regular basis, so it’s harder to forget)

Relationships. (Though I heard that men, apparently, don’t like it if you seem willing. Who knew?)
winter-witch-female-snowwhite-disneyscreencaps-com-186163.2Forgetting to put lipstick on my aging lips, so I look like the undead. (Though I can rationalize about the chemicals in lipstick, it still doesn’t prevent me from looking like a 
winter witch)

Dressing for success. (I dress for comfort and often get followed around by staff in stores)

Writing. (I can’t even discuss that one)

Oh, gee, there are so many.

I try and make a joke out of them. I tell myself they don’t matter. Most of the time they don’t. Truth is, what I may see as a galling gaping hole of embarrassment doesn’t even touch the outside world. No one is looking at me, or if they are, they take me for what I am or judge me and it means nothing. Either they are friends or they are not.

maxresdefaultThe problem with this not acknowledging failure thing is that we become perfectionists, hide what we attempt. Once I took a pottery class, throwing endless cylinders on the wheel. Every one I threw I sliced in half to see how thinly I was able to throw the walls, the bottom. I failed to make a pot every single time because I’d cut it in half. I left the 6-week class with nothing to take home. None of them were worth keeping, in my perfectionist mind. In a way that was freeing (I do so HATE to finish projects (see unlearned-from failures)), but I could have learned a lot more if I’d accepted the good enough and just pushed forward.

For awhile, I was published a lot. I’d write off a short piece, polish it, and send it in. Get paid for it, even! Lately, I have been holding onto my pieces, sure they are secretly horrible. They pile up, sliced in half like my clay cylinders. I’m holding back, refusing to throw myself into the world, “be seen”, as my friend Bonnie used to say.

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Fortunately, I make weird felted animals, and I have a wonderfully supportive group of female friends who told me they were good enough, so I dared to toss them into the caring hands of the people at Argyle Fine Art, and they have accepted them, welcomed them, given me street cred. I have been seen.

 

I still fail at them regularly, and a wise friend from my knitting circle told me yesterday, “But maybe that’s why people like them?” So…who knows?

Now, if only I can do that with my writing. I have many a project that needs a little fluffing and then releasing. They aren’t perfect, but maybe, like my animals, people will like them more for that? I dunno, but if nothing else, I’ll have more failures to add to my pile…and that’s a good thing.

Because failures mean that I tried.





Christmas Star

19 12 2016

15442297_10154249676151491_841160323482067397_nI have a brass star that sits on the top of my Christmas tree. No matter the size or state of the tree, the star is there. It matches the star that lived on the top of my family Christmas tree; the one made by my father the second year he and my mother were married.

Polishing the family star with Brasso was one of the key Christmas traditions. A designated child would take the star reverently into the kitchen, dig out the smelly Brasso, and polish the star until it shone. It had to be done quickly because it was the first thing put on the tree.

When I got married and moved away from home, I begged my dad to make me a star for my new family. He was living with cancer at that time, not up for travelling or finding brass – but it turned out there was still brass left over from when he made the first star, and he worked it into a beautiful five-pointed star and wrote a message on it, blessing it with his hopes for happy times. My children followed the same polishing ritual at our Christmases, when I’d let them.

My father didn’t live long after he made me the star. I never got to spend another Christmas with him, and he passed away on Christmas Eve, while both of his stars shone down – one on my mother and siblings in Boston, and the other on my little family, living far away in Germany.

Every Christmas I reverently take my star out of its special box. I no longer share my Christmas with the man whose name is inscribed with mine on the back. I wonder how my father would have viewed my divorce; I grieve how he never got to know my children. I think of all of his Christmas craziness, about us all singing around the family piano, of his flambeed desserts and chocolate covered bugs, of his perfect understanding of us and his forgiveness of what we were.

free-elf-clipart-1And I think of my mother, the more silent Christmas celebrant – the one who didn’t join us in singing, who sat out much of the foolishness, who seemed absent – but who was in reality racing around making hot chocolate, cooking the dinner, baking the goodies, tidying and sorting and making Christmas happen. For her, I put out her little elf, not the “elf on the Shelf” spy, but one from well before that time. It has a striped hat and is dressed in green. It was her ornament in our family setup, the one she made sure was out and front and centre. (You can see him in the bottom left of the photo above…)

So appropriate. My dad was always the star of Christmas. My mum was the engine, the busy elf acting in the background. She reminds me of the Brownie Pledge:

“Twist me and turn me,
And show me the elf-­
I looked in the mirror and there saw myself.”

The star shines on. The elf finally gets to take a rest and just hang out. Though my parents are long gone, their icons are still with me, filling me with memories of Christmases past.

stock-photo-little-girl-with-small-christmas-tree-on-the-table-dreaming-about-the-holidays-isolated-copy-63309307

 





Restless Legs cured?

10 12 2016

quote-i-haven-t-found-anywhere-in-the-world-where-i-want-to-be-all-the-time-the-best-of-my-life-is-the-sean-connery-41134Well, not the medical malady. More the moving all the time thing. My friends mock me for it, those who choose to stay put for years and years can’t understand it, even the local landlords have taken to asking me prying questions about my moving history.

It’s true. Since I left my husband, I’ve moved a lot. Partially because of work, partially because I rent and so don’t HAVE to stay put. And partially, as my kids say, because I seem unhappy and can’t settle.

I’m not unhappy. Clinically depressed, probably. But not unhappy. I’ve loved all of my surroundings for various reasons, and disliked them for various reasons. My youngest son thinks I’m crazy to move so often but he moves every few months; my middle son changes jobs frequently. I suspect we all have somewhat restless souls.

When I first had to stop work, I moved to Ottawa to be close to the kids and still be near supportive services. I didn’t know how long this MS would give me to play. I wanted to be somewhere with good public transit and medical services in case things went bad.

But, after a year in Ottawa, my ex remarried and all of a sudden I needed to be further away. I still loved my in-law family but it was time to make space for his new wife in the constellation. It was too awkward for both of us to be there, me knowing the history, she knowing the present. I thought carefully, and decided to return to the sea, the place where my heart had settled, the divine and magical Nova Scotia.

5cc883be42d2e36462ba6d1389c495daTo my astonishment and gratitude, the MS thing seems to be taking me away slowly. Yes, walking can be a challenge. Yes, I lose my ability to think concretely if I am in a crowd or if there is noise or if I’ve done too many things that day. Yes, I’m in pain a lot of the time and numb even more. There are those other things, too, not to be mentioned in a public blog. Unless I’m tired and have lost my filter. Which happens a lot and explains why so many people know of my misadventure with the peppermint foot cream….

My plan had been to write and become a locally-known author. Instead I’m a somewhat known crafter and sometime writer, former volunteer and somewhat snarky group member (I never hung out in groups as a kid or adult and it still feels itchy now).

view-of-halifax-harbour-from-the-dartmouth-side-with-ferry-in-foreground-bepyed

my favourite mode of transportation

I’ve dug a cozy nest for me here, lined with wonderful friends who are surrounded by yarn or tasty treats or fun conversations or interesting life stories or all of the above. I feel blessed, most of the time. (Except when that MS chews at my brain and makes me think it is all for nothing. Most of the time I can whip my thoughts back into shape and I’m getting help for the times when I can’t. And my MS friends here understand and we laugh about it together until I feel better.)

I miss my family (just a wee bit far away), and I long, occasionally, for the bustle of Ontario. I miss my fabulous cousins, many of whom for SOME REASON live in Ottawa… But I have the sea, and that is a tremendous comfort. There’s vast, changing beauty, just outside my door…

I’ve moved a lot since I 20130101-downtowndecorations-06came to Dartmouth – started in the suburbs because of my dog, moved in closer each succeeding move, and now I am exactly where I want to be, tucked into
friendly downtown Dartmouth, steps from the waterfront and the ferry, and Halifax is a 15 minute boat ride away. My apartment is wonderful, if a bit snug. I hang out here with my cat and his fish and I can see the world going on outside my window. I run down a flight of stairs and I’m in the stream, part of the streetscape.

It’s strange to be comfortable here, especially as it is wonderfully noisy in the summer,

lakebanookf

Follow the ferry back and you’ll end up at my house!

hot and humid for months, and now I am currently freezing my tail feathers off * because of a heating system that is NOT geared to people who don’t work. High electricity rates during the day do not a warm DA make! But…it’s home.

Every once and awhile I think about buying property, but when I am sensible I know that this place is just enough for my energy level – easy to tidy, nothing too strenuous to accomplish, walking distance to everything. Heck, I rarely even have to cook, with places to grab a bite all over the place!

Can it be I am finally settled?

quote-there-came-a-time-when-you-realized-that-moving-on-was-pointless-that-you-took-yourself-stephen-king-51-62-59

hmm

*(I rather suspect I feel at home in the chill because my mother used to turn the furnace down to sub-zero to manage the bills on our huge house, especially during the oil crisis…my dad took to wearing a heavy wool hat in the evenings in protest. Maybe I should try that?)

 








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