Tag Archives: friends

The Art of Intimacy, or how we can lose it as we grow older


922fdc71b4b3d56d004b2e3f4e1aad93That old yellow wall phone. We had one with an unnaturally long cord in the kitchen of our house. It was the conduit of intimacy. We all spent hours on this phone over the years – it was out of the hearing of the rest of the family once they retired to the den upstairs. I must have spent weeks of time on the phone – with girlfriends, with (giggle) boyfriends, with everyone. The cord was long enough we could jump onto the counter and pull up our legs and feel all cozied in while we talked of – what? I don’t remember much – usual things about school or latest likes or plans and dreams. My siblings did the same. My mother lived on it when she was at home during the day.

It seemed as if the handset was slightly warm all the time, handed over with no time to cool. The cord got all stretched out of shape as we dragged the handset into different rooms, all over the kitchen, around corners.

In my family, kids were at home on school nights, and that phone was our connection to 3f635ff0e340055f44c2cfe7394f19da--old-phone-on-the-phonepeople outside – fellow entrapped kids, the secret boy who walked me home from school, the plots and games of outside life. The time we spent on the phone was intimate time, endless hours of it, getting to know each other intensely, one to one. Even during university, I spent hours on that phone – either to the family when I was away or to friends when I was home. So many words, feelings, thoughts.

When my kids were little, we moms formed tight bonds, the coziness of babies crawling all over us opening our talks, making us friends in the trenches. We’d call each other at 4 PM, the witching hour when being with small children was grinding us down. But, like work friends, when our kids grew up and went away, often the friends went, too. We got competitive, or marriages broke up, or jobs moved us into new relationships. The friendships often didn’t survive.

I was asked recently if I had “intimate” friends, people who I knew well, who knew me well, and my first answer was no. After all, I’ve moved all over. I left high school in my senior year and moved across the country, inadvertently severing ties from my school year friends. I spent two years in Seattle and then moved to Canada. More severed ties. And then I married a military guy and moved and moved and moved. With all the moves and the kids and general messiness, friends made slipped away. Was it my fault? Theirs? Probably both sides got busy and forgot to make the regular connections needed to keep friendships alive. It’s tough to keep in touch.

So now I’ve settled on the very edge of the continent and am using FaceBook as my yellow wall phone. I find old chums and meet new ones, chat with cousins and family and friends  – but most of these conversations aren’t close, don’t share reality. They don’t fill the need for the intimacy of face-to-face relationships. I truly miss those long conversations about nothing and everything, especially with people who know a bit of my background. I long for them.

2fa5e5a110cb1c7f82925997be5811a6I’ve grown accustomed to my distance, that long spiraled phone cord that hides the mess I sit in on the other end of the line. I push aside that stack of bills, the dirty dishes, the detritus of my lives, and put on my happy voice, or sad voice, or whatever seems right for that conversation, whether face to face or not. Which is usually nowhere near what I am really feeling. Interactions are shorter, busier, and I miss that one to one concentration and mutual sharing.

I had a phone buddy – a man far away who would call me almost every day, for no reason. We chatted about all sorts of things, for foolish amounts of time. Of all of my chums, he was the closest. Now he has become ill and can’t talk on the phone. I’m missing him so very much.

I’ve loved living a life of travel, of moving here and there. As I get older, though, I realize more what I’ve lost through it – the chance to have those friends from elementary school still around, the ability to refer to our shared past and add to it. The close crowd of family members who know me and love me anyway. As a Come-From-Away here in Nova Scotia, I’ve lived seven years without a bosom buddy, and it gets lonely at times.

Time to pick up the phone, and arrange a get-together…texting just won’t be enough.SC554Ylg

 

On the joys of domesticity and/or ironed sheets


28347248-Woman-Ironing-Stock-VectorI had a friend named Peg, who I teased because she always ironed her sheets, especially for her guests. “Why iron them? They’re only going to get all wrinkly right away…”

She looked at me sadly. “Don’t you iron your sheets? It makes them feel nice.” I thought she was borderline mad and/or OCD. She probably thought I was an ignoramus. Or at least uncultured. What can I say? My mum did minimal housework. I don’t think she ever ironed a sheet. Or much of anything.

iron-sheetsI was thinking of Peg today, as I ironed my new-to-me curtains from the thrift store for my new apartment, and then hauled out my sheets and started ironing them. I wanted them to feel special for my first night in the new place.  As I pressed them I thought about my new apartment, how much I’m looking forward to living downtown, how my image of “life in a garret” is finally coming true (though only at the second floor level).  And then, because ironing cotton sheets takes a long time, I thought of Peg, and our breakfasts at Denny’s where we’d ask for extra hash browns, and all the laughs we shared. I thought of my cousin Marie-Danielle who taught me about lavender and linen ironing spray and made my work ironing so gorgeous-smelling. And I thought of our shopping trips to Merrickville and how we found so many fun things to gaze at and dream about.

And then I thought of the people I’d ironed sheets for, those who visited me. I ironed them for my sons (sometimes). I ironed them for my sister. And I ironed them for others…

Ah, I thought, this is the reason for the ironing. It gives you time to think about friends and family while you are creating order from chaos. My sheets, imperfectly ironed as they are, are waiting for my first night home, smooth and clean and special.

And the simple domestic act of ironing soothed my heart and my soul.

I’m not a complete convert, though. I didn’t iron the fitted bottom sheet. What do you think I am, crazy?

Maybe I should try this…

images-4

Wandrin’ Star


By now probably all of you have seen the ad by Amazon, with the tousle-haired man and his dog with the broken leg. It’s sweet but the song attached to it seems an odd choice (well, except that the dog wants to wander and can’t, poor wee thing). It’s catchy, though and sticks in the head. For those of you who wonder how the rest of it goes, here it is: (click on the first lines for a link to the Youtube of Lee Marvin singing it…)

I was born under a wandrin’ star
I was born under a wandrin’ star
Wheels are made for rolling, mules are made to pack
I’ve never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back
I was born under a wandrin’ star

Mud can make you prisoner and the plains can bake you dry
Snow can burn your eyes, but only people make you cry
Home is made for coming from, for dreams of going to
Which with any luck will never come true
I was born under a wandrin’ star
I was born under a wandrin’ star

Do I know where hell is, hell is in hello
Heaven is goodbye forever, its time for me to go
I was born under a wandrin’ star
A wandrin’ wandrin’ star

When I get to heaven, tie me to a tree
For I’ll begin to roam and soon you’ll know where I will be
I was born under a wandrin’ star
A wandrin’ wandrin’ star
Read more: http://artists.letssingit.com/lee-marvin-lyrics-born-under-a-wandering-star-zfs6zf2#ixzz3y79V5jpL

I’m feeling that restlessness again. I don’t know whether it is winter or cabin fever or my lack of success with knitting broad-amyut I feel the need to stretch my legs. Somehow.

The other song that keeps running through my head is the Rose Vaughan Trio’s Restless as a River, a lovely tune with a haunting melody that sounds just like water over river rocks. And then there’s Rawlin’s Cross‘s Open Road, a song I listened to obsessively when I was contemplating divorce so many years ago…:

 If you want to you could stay, dream your life away
Counting the old memories you have stowed
But if you could be what you could be, you’d be just as good as free
I think it’s time you hit the open road

Chorus:
Open road, carry me
And take me where I can be free
Lead me where I’ve got to go
To the end of the open road

The future sits beside you, whisper in your ear
Telling you that now it’s time to go
But I don’t know how far you’ll get before sunset
I just know it’s time you hit the open road

Leave the past and let it wait, do not hesitate
Take your time and time will take your load
There’s nothing here for you but the memories and the blues
I think it’s time you hit the open road

I don’t know. Maybe it’s the Sagittarius in me, or maybe it’s from years of wandering as a military spouse, but for a while now I’ve felt the need to shift my location. I’m not sure where as yet. Will it be to Wolfville, small College town in the Annapolis Valley? Will it be elsewhere? Where?

I love it here. I love the people I’ve met and gotten to know. But there’s something… Perhaps, like Vianne Rocher in Chocolat, it’s the tricky north wind that calls me to travel, to experience something new. To force myself out of the comfort of routine, to encourage me to step bigger, to take chances, to expand my view. Or maybe to tighten my view, live somewhere smaller, somewhere where I can walk places, where there are birds other than pigeons to see.

Perhaps I can do this here. Perhaps I can’t. I only know there is something not sitting quite right here in my lovely cozy spacious apartment in the city, despite the friends around me. Like a pebble in my shoe, it pesters. I can push it to the side, ignore it for a while, but it’s still there…

not-all-who-wander

Going to ground


Time is creeping on….

I’ve made a vow to myself to tie myself into writing for the next several months, stay focused, try to avoid distractions. I’ve signed up for a high intensity writing course and I want to devote the amount of effort needed to get good results and not waste my or my mentor’s time. Which means cutting some ties, removing myself from some activities, stopping myself from my involuntary volunteering.

Ah, the volunteering. You see, it’s a problem I have. I’m not sure if it’s because of my Roman Catholic inoculation of guilt, or the inner knowledge that I am not the person I want to be, but I find myself endlessly wanting to throw myself into things to help out, to atone, to serve. Maybe I just need to go to Confession.

I’m not sure wanting to help is necessarily a BAD thing, but it means I tend to overcommit and get confused. And waste time, and exhaust myself. All foolishness I should have learned to give up when I developed MS. But I struggle on, silly me.

Detaching from people is difficult, too. It is hard not to give offence when you are really setting boundaries, especially when your boundaries have been too flexible in the past. Poor judgement, the need to be liked, the desire to be loved and wanted – well, they all play in to wavery boundaries and the loss of goals and focus. I’ve always been slightly scornful of those who are able to set firm boundaries with their time – how uncaring! How selfish! How cold!

How accomplished they are now.

And there is a part of me that says I have a gift, sometimes, with my words. I can touch people, I can tell a good story, I have something I want to do with my writing. When I allow myself to immerse myself in it, I can make some headway. But I consistently shortchange myself.

So I’m going to go to ground this time. I’ve allotted myself time for ukulele, as it gives my soul wings. I will continue with my rug hooking, as the fibres and colours speak to my heart. I’ve booked in time for exercise as my MS won’t stop moving unless I fight against it every day. My family always has first dibs on my time – as the woman said in the coffee shop, “Ah birthed ’em”, so I’m always going to be there for them.

There are my dear friends, MB, H, B, P, L, T and W. Always a space in my life for them, though the times may be shorter than in the past. I hope they’ll understand. 

And then there’s Mr. PH. He I can’t put off, ever. For one thing, he’s my conscience, quite able to nag as needed. For another, I’m too fond of his dear phlegmatic British self.

Finally, Mr. Bendicks, my furry friend. I can’t put him off, either, but that’s primarily because if I do he stands all over my dasjbbdfgl;hf.

The course runs until late fall this year. Wish me luck with focusing. It’s with Humber College, and I encourage writers to explore it. Task for today, continue reading the recommended text, Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A guide to Narrative Craft.

How will I know?


images-14Oh, sometimes I hate being a grownup.

See, when you’re a kid, you can spend hours gazing off into the distance and dreaming romantic dreams of life with your dreamboat, think about hours spent together, laughing as you walk along some mountain trail or canoeing down some whitewater river together. I remember spending hours and hours just envisioning a kiss. His hand would come around the back of my head, we’d gaze meaningfully into each other’s eyes, and we’d touch lips, gently, warmly together. No tongues. Thrilling!

When you get a little older, you can whisk up some dreams of families and homes with picket fences and Christmases together and warmth and cuddles. You think about joint trips to the hardware store, hanging lighting, renovating a house, camping, toasting marshmallows. Tongues might be involved. And other parts.

And then you get to an advanced age and realize the chances of whitewater rafting with your love approximate zero since neither of you wants to risk the injuries. Families are done, grandchildren dance offstage, waiting for entrance and attention. Cuddling is great provided it isn’t every night since, after all, a good sleep is sometimes better than sex and requires less energy. And legs kick and nasal passages snore and the elegance of sleeping together lacks something when one of you is hot flashing and the other is sucking in the walls a la Yosemite Sam. Hardware stores lose their appeal when you decide neither of you should get up a ladder. Camping? Ugh. Getting up to find a toilet in the dark and bugs and damp? Never. Love is in the simple things: the newspaper, the cup of coffee in bed, the back rub at the end of a long day.

And still, if you are dating, you find yourself reverting to the kid you once were. Does he like me? Does she think I’m handsome? Will he still like me tomorrow? Will we have anything in common? Should I call him? Should I write to her? Am I being too clingy/demanding/honest/deceptive? What about that errant nose hair? You’d think we’d have this down by now.

Is the effort all worth it?

Somehow, after years of being in loving relationships, I still don’t know how to judge them, if my feelings are real or false, if they are being straight with me or leading me on.

I don’t really care. Life’s too short for endless analysis. I want to feel while I can feel. Sing while I can sing. And dance the dance while my feet still know the steps. And if I end up alone at the end of the party, well, there are always the joys of solitude.

http://youtu.be/0hWwJLM4ZEo

The warped door


images-5In every life, there seems to be a closet of unresolved feelings, undealt-with crises, unhealed wounds. I know I have one, and sometimes  it’s all I can do to shove things in there out of my everyday sight so that I can focus on what needs to be done to get myself around in a day.

Unfortunately, the door to my closet is, like so many old doors, slightly warped. It allows THINGS to creep out and catch me by surprise, grip me by the throat at the most improper times. Like when I hear the song, “Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics on an oldies station while I’m driving and it brings back my dad’s death with an acuity that feels like it was yesterday, instead of 28 years ago, and I have to pull over the car until I can see again through my tears.

Or an old Rascals’s tune, which sends me back to my childhood. Initially I remembered my childhood as happy and was puzzled why, when I would write about it, trails of greenish-yellow pus would ooze out of my pen, colouring the page with infection and noxious smells. Now, sadly, I know better.

I should never have messed about in that closet.

But you know how it is with those closets filled with junk – suddenly you come over all efficient and say to yourself, “time to tidy THAT up. I can use the reorganized space for new memories, new thoughts.” And then you get mired in old photographs, your grade 2 report card (that said you had great potential, potential you haven’t used, even now). You come across throwaway comments that somehow imprinted on your brain, that experience with a boyfriend that cut you to the quick and showed you the folly of ever, ever falling in love again.

So eventually you tire of digging through, and you slam the door, vowing to never go there again. But it comes to you, through that warping of age.

When I left my ex, I didn’t want to wallow in bad feelings, I forcibly shoved them into the deepest darkest corner of that damn closet in a box with a lock. Somehow that box walks its way to the front of the closet now and again, telling me there are still things to deal with there, that trying to lock things away won’t work, alas. It’s annoying.

I did find a benefit to my leaky closet, in the end. Despite the anguish it sometimes costs me, stories lie there. The stories that lie closest to the bone, the ones that help me write truer, deeper.

Compassion is there, too, wrapped like a warm scarf around the most painful memories. I can take that compassion out and wrap it around others, warm them.

So maybe the warped door isn’t altogether a bad thing. A little escape at a time might be images-6okay. And I might tidy just that one shelf….

Connecting to your inner gruntle


resized_disgruntledGrrrr.

I am feeling distinctly disgruntled and I seriously need some gruntling.

You know that feeling where you start to have hope, just a wee bit, that something in your life might develop into something interesting…

and then it doesn’t?

Or you start looking out for new opportunities and fun…

And can’t find them? Or they seem askew somehow?

Or you do all you can to be charming and lovely and kind and caring and supportive…

and it’s taken as due, no special thanks required? (Not referring to you, TC, if you are reading this)

Well, that leads to disgruntlement, in my experience.  Displeased, peevish, sulky.

So I need gruntlement when that happens – a good laugh with friends, support from my gal pals, a good book, a better writing session, a hangout with creativity in some way.

Usually, that’s all it takes for me to become gruntled again. Tomorrow I’m off exploring an island I’ve never seen before.

I sense gruntlement ahead. Picnic-logo-FINAL

Serendipitous Connections


 

CONNECTsmall

I’m all grown up now, no kids to tow to rugby games or class performances , no parent-teacher lineups or other shared parental volunteer activities to set up friendships with other grown ups. It used to be easy to meet new folks – we were doing the same things at the same time, our kids hung out together, we got to know each other over backyard BBQs and such.

We could hide behind our kids to get us out of bad friendships or conversations or activities. We could meet people we wanted to without seeming creepy or forward. It was all so easy back then.

Now that’s all gone. I meet a few people through my kids but most of the time we travel in very different circles.

So I have to make new connections, and that’s tougher. I was blessed in that I was married to a military guy for years, whose modus operandi was to move me away from everyone I knew and then abandon me and go to work. It was the best thing to ever happen to a gal like me, who was able to fake it til I made it, but who spent a fair bit of her time humming “Whistle a Happy Tune” under her breath.

So I learned to get out there, talk to strangers (and even strangers), join things, keep busy. I took up strange interests – pottery, ukulele, volunteer stuff, writing – in the hope that I’d meet interesting people. I signed up for classes and pretended to study. I joined dating sites and chatted with many many strange men (and some lovely ones). I met people.

But often the connections are so happenstance they are unpredictable. One of my best gal pals I worked with years ago, only to find she’d moved to NS and was living a block away from where I’d moved to – I would never have found her save for a political event attended by her minister, where we got to chatting…

And my other BFF is a lass I met at a ukulele concert – we happened to sit beside one other, got talking about the Halifax Ukulele Gang, both decided we wanted to go, and we’ve been friends ever since.

It’s serendipitous and wonderful, miribilia, as Rob Brezsny would say.

And now threads fly out from me to all those places where I once was, where I have left friends and family, connecting me to people around the globe. Some of those threads are thin and worn, but so many of them hum brightly when I touch them, making me feel supported and part of that ineffable something bigger.

I still sing that song, though. But that’s a topic for another day.

 

Gordon Belsher, PEI, and seizing the day


I’m having a serious problem with delight.

PEI is figuring prominently and it’s odd because though I love PEI in its own way, it is far too tame for a wild soul like me. Give me the windswept shores of NS anytime, with their rocky beaches and spitting waves and preferably fog rolling in in a glutinous manner to enclose all in mystery and hidden rage.

Why, they don’t even have much wildlife in PEI – no rampant coyotes or wandering meese or whatevers. I like my pheasants stomping by outside, the occasional sound of a coyote-cat interaction, the feeling that nature red in tooth and claw lives, yea, verily, here in utter suburbia.

But I just spent a lovely restful, beautiful couple of days with my wonderful gal pals over in PEI and it was smashingly wonderful. We talked and examined our lives and ate fudge and altogether too much bad for us food and laughed and slept like dead things and wandered the beach (well, I sat on the beach as my MS-legs were uncooperative). Prior to that, the same pals and I attended a blissful house concert here in NS involving Gordon Belsher (guitar and many other thing player and a major source of warm thoughts for me – admit I have a crush!) and Richard Wood (fiddler extraordinaire and cutie pie). The coziness of the house concert made it seem like we were friends.

I had to buy a CD to recapture the feeling, and lately I’ve been listening to Gordon’s CD in the car and singing my fool heart out. I go through these phases where a certain CD just speaks to my heart, and I listen to it over and over like a teenager. For a while there it was James Hill’s Man With a Love Song…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlfrHelmX34&feature=related

but now that relationship is over (It’s a good thing overall, alas), I seem to be bonding on Gordon’s “I’m not old yet”, especially the song below, which unfortunately doesn’t have a recording online, but you can sample. It’s the words I love, and the way Gordon’s voice trills up on the chorus. It makes me happy. I don’t know what it is about his voice but I confess to a bad fantasy about grabbing him to sing a special song especially to me. In a field in PEI. With the polished Holsteins that are stood around there. And I wouldn’t mind that it was pristine and that he is married (for I don’t want him for that) and that eventually the song would be over, I’d just listen and soak it up with the sun and the grass and the smell of contented cows and the sea and then go forth and be a better person.

I want to be like the girl in the song. There are parallels, though I’ve never learned Latin.

So, unfortunately, stealing Gordon Belsher would likely land me in prison. I resorted to ordering another of his CDs. I love Richard, too, but Gordon’s voice reminds me of songs around the campfire back when I was young and sweet and lived for the moment. He even sings “Cockles and Mussels”, which my dad sung a lot. Right now I am wrapping him around me like a blanket and delighting. While I get right on with that seizing the day thing.

Seize the Day

©Carolyn Arends

I know a girl who was schooled in Manhattan
She reads dusty books and learns phrases in Latin
	She is an author or maybe a poet
A genius, but it's just this world doesn't know it
	She works on her novel most every day
	If you laugh, she will say...

Chorus:	
	Seize the day, seize whatever you can
	'Cause life slips away just like hourglass sand
	Seize the day, pray for Grace from God's hand
	And nothing can stand in your way
	Seize the day

I know a man who's been doing some thinking
He's as bitter and cold as the whiskey he's drinking
	He's talking 'bout fear, 'bout chances not taken
If you listen to him, you can hear his heart breakin'
	He says "One day you're a boy, and the next day you're dead
	I wish way back when someone had said..."

(Repeat Chorus)

Well, one thing I've noticed wherever I wander
Everyone's got a dream they can follow or squander
	You can do what you will with the days you are given
I'm trying to spend mine on the business of living
	So we're playing our songs off of any old stage
	You can laugh if you want, I'll still say...

(Repeat Chorus)

Going home again


ImageThey say you can’t ever, ever, go home again.

In a way, it’s true. Life has changed, people have moved on, the place is subtly different and yet familiar.

I recently went for a visit to Ottawa, my home several times over my life – as a new nurse, taking on my first, terrifying job; as a newish mother and first-time home owner, starting to take on grown-up commitments and lifestyles; as an experienced military wife, choosing to keep my life separate from the military; and as a single person again, coming “home” to a place that could take care of me, in the physical, sensory, emotional ways.

It is a beautiful city, though it was drenched with heat so intense I wanted to lie about and gasp in air conditioning. The grass, green when I arrived, had already started to brown before I left, three days later. The canal was gorgeous, the city all dressed in Canadian flags for Canada Day, sounds of music everywhere from bagpipes to opera.

But it wasn’t home, so mingled with the recognition and the pleasure in seeing old friends and family was the tiniest bit of grieving.

I’ve lived so many places, and loved most of them (Leavenworth was a bit much, really). I’ve tried to return to a few of them, with various disappointments. Shilo, Manitoba, was no longer a fun place to live with the kids. Annapolis Royal, NS, though sweet, seems small and empty. Kingston, ON – well, I could still live in Kingston. I may live there again one day. I liked it there, both as a student and as a grown-up, though I have many sad memories associated with the place – the breakup of my marriage, my job failures, the discovery of my illness, all that stuff. The pleasant memories outnumber them, though, so on balance it seems a good place. And there’s the lake…

Flying into Nova Scotia, I happened to see the coast as we crossed over the Bay of Fundy, and was suddenly, unexpectedly, simply, happy. I feel at home here, in one scant year, and yet I still feel there is so much to learn about my new place. I think I’ll be exploring for years. It makes me smile.

It is funny meeting up with people from the past, though. Some are friends forever, and it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since last you saw them – they still call to your heart. Some have changed and you realize the relationship you cherished is no longer sustainable. Some make you wish you could be just down the road from them again. It isn’t predictable which will be which. I met all three types of friends over this short visit.

So coming back there is a sense of loss, a sadness, but also a sense of completion. Time to move on, taking those friends that stay along for the ride. I’m so happy to have so many of them. You know who you are. I love you all.