Tag Archives: sorrow

Moving on

Just listening to Stan Carew on Weekend Mornings – he plays the best music and woke me this morning with a rousing fiddle tune by Natalie McMaster. I’m feeling my toes tap under the covers as I sluggishly awaken.
But the song spoke to me.
Lately I’ve heard from a quite a few people who are by choice or not in a position where they are living in a hellish situation. Family dynamics, unhappy marriages, awkward locations, bad jobs. It seems so many are trapped, struggling against ties, but unwilling to take the risk, unwilling to bear the swirls of awfulness that come from change. We’ve all been there at some time….
There’s a part of me that still feels badly about the dissolution of my marriage. I was brought up to believe that marriage was a lifetime promise. But sometimes the contract is in fact broken, and then sometimes it is the right thing to leave, rather than stay and let the poison of our anger or hurt eat away at everyone in the family. Or so I tell myself. I don’t know.
Life is short. Should we make ourselves unhappy for all of it? Or should we move on, so that we are capable and have the resources to be joyful, bring joy to others? I’m not saying to cast aside things casually, but if we tried our hardest and it doesn’t work, what good are we doing breaking ourselves against the rocks?
See, the thing is, where we are at may seem like absolute hell. But, like standing in a prairie rainstorm, two or three steps to one side or the other may bring us into the sun again. Change doesn’t have to be dramatic, in fact, we are such small bugs in that prairie rainstorm, a tiny change may well be enough. A willingness to speak up, to try something a different way, to reach out or push away…
But we also have to be willing to draw our line in the dirt and say ” this far and no further.” And if we are still miserable, we can turn, and move on.


Mourning for Christmas

Ho oh ho! Celebrate! It’s the big day next week! Let’s laugh and play…
Not so easy for those who have lost someone this year, or recently, or who have someone like my dad, who passed away on Christmas Eve, this making every year an ache of longing for him and his cruel/funny approach to the holiday. My uncle the priest said at my dad’s funeral, “he was a fairly good Catholic”, which caused my mother, his sister, to fly into a rage.
Oh families are fun. I miss the strum und drang sometimes…

I just read a review in the New York Review of Booksof Julian Barnes new book, Levels of Life, which might be a helpful gift for those like me who deal with loss over the holidays. He writes about his grief at the loss of his wife, but never directly. In several stories, he lets us know the depth of his grief obliquely. The quote that struck me the most, and reminded me of the time my daughter turned away from me in anguish, never to speak to me again, was this one. He was asked how he felt after his wife died (stupid question, often asked). His reply, recalling a ballooning accident he’s mentioned in the book:

So how do you feel? As if you had dropped from a height of several hundred feet, conscious all the time, have landed feet first in a rose bed with an impact that has driven you in up to your knees, and whose shock has caused your internal organs to rupture and burst forth from your body.

I don’t think you can get a better description of overwhelming grief than that…

It’s one thing when a person dies. The grief, while acute, softens over time. I miss my father every day, but I miss him as he was when he was 60. He’d be 87 now, give or take. Would he be the same? I get to remember him as he was, a man interested in the world, passionate about his interests, talented, funny, always fascinating. But I’m selfishly glad I didn’t have to see him diminish over time, become not himself.

My daughter is another issue. I grieve her in my heart every day she doesn’t speak to me. She has transitioned to be my son and I’ve been excluded. I want to support him as he becomes himself, but I am not permitted to. It is untold cruelty to me. Initially I blamed myself, felt I must have done something wrong. I questioned every interaction I could remember with my firstborn. Overall, I know I wasn’t perfect, but I think in general I was average as a parent. Most parents don’t have to cope with this level of abandonment.
Now I’m merely heart-broken, and every holiday makes it worse. I still feel that knee deep in the ground, internal organ spilling feeling whenever he crosses my mind.

Someone once told me a very true thing – the only thing you can control in life is your reaction to the events that surround you. I’ve tried to react in helpful ways, spoken out and supported trans causes, dealt with those involved, cut myself off from those my son accuses. And yet…

I asked my ex for my son’s phone number. Just to leave a message, try to cross the breach. He has chosen to ignore this request. Probably on my son’s direction. It breaks my heart. And fills me with rage.

How do I react to silence?

Living with sorrow

ange-sorrow-weeping-whiteIt’s been an interesting week, as the old Chinese curse would say.

I read “The Deception of Livvy Higgs” by the wonderful writer Donna Morrissey, while simultaneously realizing I couldn’t attend her evening class as planned due to a minor flare up of my MS which seems to be hanging on, alas.

Then I went to a lecture about MRIs and MS which of course depressed me further as I wander about imagining my swelling itchy brain dying by inches, leaving gaping holes where once my creative spark flew. Self-pity abounded.

But I’m not alone. I also teach a course in living well with chronic disease and we discussed feelings this week, and so many are living with sorrow, fear of disability, aging, pain. My dear friend lives with a level of pain I could never bear, handles it most of the time, probably more of the time than she should, strictly speaking, for her own health. She is a marvel and I love her dearly and worry about her, though she’d insist she’s okay…

So what has this to do about writing? Well, as I read through Morrissey’s book, filled with family lies and damages done by them, I realized that what calls me to stories is the pain. The sense of overcoming challenges, damaged but still strong. The whole hero’s journey thing. And when I write well, I dip into that pain, I reach into my head and pull out the icky bits, the bits where no one spoke to me in eighth grade, the time my ex abandoned me, the memories of a mother I never understood and her loneliness. It’s not always pleasant exploring in that area, but it is where the writing is best.

I’m working on a third piece for my three novella set about religious confusion. Going to be dealing with evil in this one, and it worries me a bit. I’ve met evil, heck, I have some in my very own family here and there, and I’m sure deep down there’s an evil fibre in me, too. Now I have to tease that out and face it, straight up. Because evil and sorrow are inextricably linked, and to purge one, you must purge the other.

WHYanmar, Myanmar?

bm_large_locatorThis is what one gets when you ask someone to pick letters for you to get the country you should write about that day. I get Myanmar, a beautiful country located somewhat appropriately on the “balls” section of Southeast Asia, lying along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

Back when it was Burma, it was only regularly corrupt and killed and tortured people only following British rules for same.

Now, though, it rates near the top of the pops for corruption and human rights violations, ruination of children, human trafficking, and the ever popular jailing people for talking.

Oh I know, things are supposed to be getting better and tra la tra la the world is happily trading with Myanmar now, but sheesh. It has a long way to go before it is the sort of country you’d want to ask over for dinner, let alone a long weekend.

Maybe drinks. Or a drink.

But you just know if it gets a lot of liquor under its belt it will become all thrashy and argumentative and kill a bunch of helpless civilians or put Aung San Suu Kyi back in house arrest again on rice rations. It’s happened before.

It seems that kind of place, given to thrusting itself around. People are poor, despite the rubies and diamonds lying about. There’s no spending on infrastructure, health, education. You know, people.

But for some reason many western countries have decided to get all palsy-walsy with the place of late – US presidential visits, cosy little meetings here and there with various other “civilized” places. I know there have been big steps toward a more open society, but I can’t help but wonder if there is something else behind the new friendliness.

Lessee. What’s the CIA Fact Book say about resources?

petroleum, timber, tin, antimony, zinc, copper, tungsten, lead, coal, marble, limestone, precious stones, natural gas, hydropower.

You know, if I were a suspicious kind of gal, I might think there was a plot afoot to get some copper or something, or tin, or even a diamond or two.

And as for the poor kids/women/boys forced into sexual slavery? Hey, that’s just good for trip distractions….especially if you’re with the CIA…(sorry)

woman forced into labour in 2007

woman forced into labour in 2007


Sorry. I sound bitter. It’s just that some places are almost unbelievably precious – like jewel-strewn Myanmar – and yet so filled with evil. It breaks my heart. I mean, they have TIGERS in Myanmar/Burma. They have over 800 species of birds. Hundreds of species of fish, monkeys, flying foxes.

BM_010Beautiful temples. Beautiful people. Rubies, diamonds, precious stones…

So here’s to you, now-Canadians who have left Myanmar. Welcome. We are glad to have you here and may you live in safety and security and feel comfortable even though your oppressively pretty country is nowhere near.

Thank goodness.

International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award – or check here to depress yourself about a writing career

Wow. Just pulled up this list, as my favourite author ever, Helen Humphreys, is on the long-list, for her wonderful book, The Reinvention of Love.

GAWD it’s depressing how many really truly good books there are out there.

It’s not that I feel envy, no, it’s just that when I read them I realize how far away my little dream of writing a really good book is. (See, even that sentence structure should tell you I am a rank amateur, unworthy of attention).

I mean, can’t you glowing wonderful, fabulous writers take a holiday or something? Just for a couple of years or so, until some of us catch up?

I am going to go drown my sorrows in a cup of eggnog latte at the delightful Cafe Brea and review my options. Perhaps I’ll give up and do needle felting for a while til the desire to write passes.

Meanwhile, have a look at the list (click the link). Every book on it is worthy of a read.


Thanks awfully, but…

Way back, when I started this writing gig, I felt totally inadequate. All the best writers, I felt, had a disastrous childhood, a set of parents who beat or ignored or hurt them in some way, a problem with addiction, run-ins with the church or with the police or school.


heading into my writing lair…

They had handicaps, couldn’t write because they had to work double jobs even at the age of 12, lived in grinding poverty and stole moments to write on scraps of the Sears catalog when they were shivering in the outdoor privy.They were unloved, outsiders, alone, had made up friends. You know, the poor pitiful writer thing.

That was back when I wrote comedy. Life, I thought, was a huge cosmic joke, and besides, I didn’t have any deep substantial trauma to write out of myself.  I tried to become an alcoholic, but just became depressed when the addictive part passed me by. I tried smoking cigars a la Hemingway but they tasted awful.

Well, the gods, I have to say, have listened to me. Though I rather with they hadn’t. Over the past few years, tragedy seems to be stalking me. I’ve developed the unpredictable disease, MS. I had to stop working and now see my life in a series of downward spirals of increasing disability. Well, okay, only on my bad days.

My parents both died in untold agonies. My marriage also. My family disintegrated. My relatives started perishing, also well before their time. My favourite uncle vanished one day, leaving me wishing for a goodbye, but too late. My favourite aunt withered away, her spirit unquenched until the last horrible days. My mother in law developed and died of ALS, a cruel destiny for anyone, but most especially for her, a strong New Zealand lass who took all of life in stride.

Then other bad things happened, stupid things that served to mess with my head – sexual assaults, terrible male friends with horrible pasts, financial disasters. Depression sauntered into my life and turned it grey. My daughter stopped speaking to me, and broke my heart.

Then, this past week, a lightning bolt that will change my life forever. It’s nasty enough to make me call back those gods and say, hey, enough already!

Suffice to say I have things to write out of me now. And it’s fortunate I like to kill people in my stories cos I have a few I’d like to really do away with but can’t as prison life isn’t healthy. And I couldn’t hurt someone deliberately, really. Sortof.

So listen, ye gods of old, unless you give me my own lightning bolt to fire, maybe you could lay off my life for a bit. I’m sure there’s some other wanna be writer who needs a bit of inspiration. I’m full up now. I’m good. Really.


So, apparently last night in my adopted and loved home, a man who was an outspoken but kind advocate for the gay and lesbian community, and the editor of Wayves, was beaten to death on the street.
From the Chronicle-Herald: “Although police have not released his identity, several sources said the victim is Raymond Taavel, the former longtime editor of Wayves, the monthly gay and lesbian magazine. Taavel was a well-known activist.”

This makes me want to throw my fists in the air and howl at the heavens. When will this stop?
It seems to me the world is evolving into a nastier, more hateful place. Gays and Lesbians are still being beaten to death; women’s rights are being taken away by men looking to control sexuality and behaviour; the wealthy work to further oppress the poor. Everywhere people seem to be finding reasons to hate this one, that one, the other one.

And then they kill them. Directly or by starvation or imprisonment.

What the hell is wrong with everyone????

Is it too much caffeine? Are we enraged by the excessive salt in our diet? Are men not getting enough sex and so feel they need to attack?

Yeah, I know, women can be mean, too. But there is a qualitative difference. And women seem to be less deeply offended by homosexuality, for some reason. Maybe we identify with oppression.

Maybe we just work behind the scenes in hateful ways.

Men pound the heck out of people. Apparently this attack used no weapons, solely body parts, and was totally brutal – the poor fellow died on the street.

The man who is in custody for this was for some reason on an unrestricted leave from a forensic institute, where he was sent for beating someone else. So now all of those who hate people with mental illness will have another reason to rant, when the real blame rests with the people who released him, and the overall lack of decent options for the mentally ill.

I wish people would understand how very lucky some of us are in this country, how we should be on guard against hatred, how wrong it is to kill people because of their beliefs or race or sexual orientation (or lack thereof) or in fact, at any time.

(Well, at least until the next time we want to send them overseas to kill “the enemy”. Grr.)

It is both freaky and odd that this happened on the anniversary of the passage of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms – one of the very very good things done by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his government. The Charter is viewed worldwide as the example of how to write such a charter (though I should point out Canada still hasn’t signed the UN Charter on the Rights of the Child).

But still, we hate. And kill and beat and treat people badly. As a parent, I feel horror. My kids are all their own people, with strong beliefs about sexual identity and religion and politics and life. I am glad of this, but fearful. I’ve been attacked often times for taking a position, and I know how hard that is on a person.

But are we all to be quiet? Say nothing? Avoid controversy?

Or can we be brave enough to differ politely, to discuss alternatives with respect for each other, to allow others to exist in their reality as long as they don’t punch into ours? Can we speak out more loudly about injustices, prejudice, poverty, the fact we seem to be losing our way?

Can we ever learn to love one another, but also hold one another to our Charter rights?

To basic human rights?

It is tough, and sad, and I feel despair.

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

So much sorrow. So much sadness.  So much going wrong in the world. And then this, a loss closer to me, of a cousin I wish I’d known better, who I never saw without a smile on her face, a kind word for everyone, and a wee twinkle of mischief in the corner of her eye. A cousin who left far too soon.

It’s been a terrible month.  Japan, destroyed. Thousands of people gone, gone, no sign of them. Environmental damage, too, that will take years to heal. Haiti, still struggling to rebuild, holding an election between a rock star and someone who might actually know what she’s doing, but who may also be tied to the corruption that has held the country down. Libya – previously being destroyed by its mad leader, now being smashed into the ground by the rest of the world.  Of course, those are targeted missiles. Of course we know they kill no innocents. Of course we know that those on Gaddafi’s side must die. At least this time around.  Last time we killed the other side.

I feel like Obi-Wan, hearing voices crying out in suffering and terror, everywhere. But there’s a new tone, now, because I hear my family crying, too. This closer tragedy highlights what people must be feeling all over the world these days – sudden loss, sudden terror, sudden sorrow.

My cousin Mary, like my Aunt Mary and Uncle John and all of those now gone that I knew a bit better on my dad’s side of the family, was filled with laughter and light and joy. It’s not that life was that easy for any of them – there were the usual challenges, the usual sorrows, the disappointments that hit all of us in life. But there was something within them that gave them the strength to carry on and still shine. The Brown family knows how to laugh. They are present and open with their love; their families are strong and supportive and filled with that kind of unconditional love we all wish surrounded us more often. My mother always wanted such a family for us – but her own family was split with rivalries and imagined offences and somehow missed the closeness that my dad’s side of the family seemed to have pulled together in the end.

Mary grew up as the baby in a family that was squashed into a smallish house that resonated with laughter.  I remember being astonished at how my Uncle John and Aunt Colleen managed to fit their large family into their home, with built-in bunk beds and specially individual spaces for everyone.  I loved their house.  Something about it was so perfect, in every way. When we visited, we eased in like water through marbles, so welcome and so warmly greeted. They welcomed my husband, my children, and every time I see them, I feel like there has been no time passed, that we are all still rumbling along, friends always.

I know the loss of Mary must be like an open wound to them, and I’m left broken-hearted, for my loss of friendship unexplored, but mainly for a family that is so interwoven it must feel as if they’ve lost a limb. I talked to my cousin Susan last night, and she was calm, having told the story so many times of Mary’s illness and sudden death – she commented that “she’s with her Da”, my Uncle John. Oh, I do so hope there is a heaven, because it is so lovely to picture them there – they were a team, the two of them – and I can still see them laughing together. It’s just too bad for the rest of us left back here, our lives immeasurably poorer with her loss.

Go safely, Mary. We all loved you, even those of us who knew you less than we should have.

And may the heavens open up to take on all those others who need solace, whose families are also shocked and alone and struggling.

The world is a hard place these days.  But take a lesson from my cousin’s family, and use this time to draw closer, love each other more, laugh with each other in shared joy despite the sorrows. Life can be short, but if you take a lesson from Mary, you can make every second count.