on aging

I’m feeling old these days. Mostly in a good way. But then, sometimes, in not such a good way. Usually when I look at recent photos and I look like a gaunt, eyelash-less man in his late 40s.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of a crushing heat wave, we were out at the lake where my in-laws have a cabin. The lad was up very early in the morning, so we went for a stroll down to the water before it became unbearable outside. Sitting at the edge of the playground on the beach were three young women – if I had to guess, I’d say they were heading into their last year of high school, though I am terrible with guessing ages, so they may have been older. They were just gorgeous, flush with lovely skin and suntans and secrets and friendship and – most of all – promise.

They asked me what time it was – it was 6:30, and one of those beautiful, still summer mornings just overflowing with birdsong and dew and fecundity – and I asked whether they’d been up all night. Of course they had. And I smiled at them and realized, with some sadness, that those nights are behind me.  Those nights are over – the ones when I had such freedom, and such fire. When I had so many ideas that I could stay up all night drinking beer and talking philosophy, and so much energy that I’d climb buildings to play hacky sack on the roof, or leave a great party at 3am to go play frisbee on the lawn of the legislature until the sun really came up. Fuelled by music, dancing, wine, the possibility of sex. That was a time in my life, and now it’s gone.

There was another beautiful young woman I saw the other week, walking in front of my car as I waited for the light to change. She had way more beauty than she knew – don’t we all, really? – and there was a sweetness,  a vulnerability to her as she waited on the corner and pulled up her strapless top, though it wasn’t falling down. I watched her go – funky indie style with vintage purse and cute flats and a little skirt – and as she crossed the street she tugged at her top again. She was doing that dance of wanting to be seen and not wanting to be watched. Or maybe it’s the other way around.  She sent me hurtling back 20 years or so, remembering the times when I would have fidgeted the same way – with every breath, squirmingly aware of how I wanted to be perceived. The studied coolness, the calculations doing battle with the fear.

Those days are over, too. It’s a relief. Still, there is sadness, nostalgia. I’m not sure what for, exactly – I suppose just that feeling of wide-open, the promise of a future filled with adventure and joy and discovery, that naivety. That lightness of youth in summertime.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

goodbye, worries

“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

This past weekend I had one of those great insights into my process. You know when all of a sudden, one of your habits is illuminated and you understand it with great clarity? And it takes a while to actually make the change settle into your life, but once you’ve seen things this new way, you’ll never really be able to go back to that habit in quite the same way?

Yeah, I love it when that happens, too.

What got exposed for me these last few days was my worry. I worry a lot. I confuse worrying with caring and loving – I used to believe that I worried because I cared so much. Now I know that’s not true.

I worried because I was arrogant. Because I was trying to hang on to the illusion that I have any kind of control.  Worrying gives me something to do – thoughts to direct through the busy intersections and flooded highways in my mind.

I worried instead of feeling – instead of sitting with the vulnerability of not knowing whether people I love are going to regain their health, of not having quite enough money to pay for things around here. Instead of sitting with my feelings of insecurity as a mother, I indulge the fear that I am wrecking my son forever by letting him watch Sto.mpin Tom videos on the iPa.d until his eyeballs fall out so that I can try to finish the dishes or drink a cup of tea or check Faceb.ook.

I worried because I was scared, but I’m going to be braver from on.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 15 Comments

inner & outer

Ahem.

[crawls out from under rock]

Apparently, if you want to kill your blogging mojo dead, just get an iPad for your birthday, come up with a really good idea for a blog, have a 19 month old son, and then just do absolutely nothing.

Well, technically, more like absolutely everything except blogging.

I have lots of good posts that I semi-wrote in my head, but they have been in that slow cooker of my brain for so long that all the ideas have dissolved like overcooked potatoes and the meat has gone all stringy. So I begin again.

I think I am ever so slightly depressed. Nothing is wrong, exactly. But I just can’t seem to feel on top of anything. I have a feeling that it is related to the ongoing enthusiasm that my boy continues to show for breastfeeding, and the ensuing hormonal bath my brain has been floating in for this last year-and-more-than-a-half-and-how-the-dickens-did-he-get-to-be-so-big-already. I am starting to weary of it, the breastfeeding, just ever so slightly, when those same hormones aren’t making me want to smoosh his creamy little body into a 20-minute embrace that involves smooches and made-up words and almost certainly much squeezing of his delectably plump little thighs. Any thought of weaning, however, just overwhelms me because a) I am too lazy to figure out other parenting tactics and b) he just loves it so much. As in, he laughs and claps when he sees my bo.obs coming his way. As in, he can get my bre.ast out of the top of any shirt that is not a turtleneck. As in, sometimes he just puts his face in between my bre.asts and holds one in each hand and just kind of rests there for a second, sighing in contentment.

Yeah, I can’t really imagine taking all that away from him. I’m starting to do the slow, gentle weaning thing, but I reckon it will be slower than with many little ones I know. So my mental health will require other remedies.

I was visiting my friend K yesterday, and in her wisdom she very gently reminded me that sometimes our striving for order or achievement or whatever is not really about what we are striving for. She talked about strategies versus needs – that we can tend to focus on strategies and making plans and achieving goals when instead we could ask the question “What do I need?” The fact that I am constantly berating myself for having a messy house and too much stuff (just for starters, really – my list of aspirational self-improvements could fill our spare room, if I could ever get it cleaned up) could quite possibly be hiding the fact that I need some space. I mean some space for me, some space to welcome joy and sadness and confusion and, well, everything.

Maybe space like this blog. Maybe space in my body – through restarting my yoga practice. Maybe space in my life – like time to rest and dream and write and create. And maybe space in my heart – where I can let go of the habit of judging myself so harshly and practice peace with the way things are.

I shared with K yesterday that another woman, a mutual friend, was at my place this week, and she just sighed with happiness and said “I love your house!” I think I kind of snorted and then mumbled some bashful gratitude in her general direction. She told me that my house and K’s house both had that kind of happy and relaxed feeling. I knew what she meant – K’s house is exactly that way. And I wondered why I so rarely feel that way about my house. Why I am always looking around and seeing only what I want to change.

My son has recently started saying “happy” – in quiet moments, like the other day when he was just sitting in his chair, leaning back, taking a break. And he just said it, a propos of nothing: “happy.”

I have all these wonderful teachers around me. Now to start learning.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

beginning again…and again…

Sigh. I’m recovering, finally, from the third incarnation of this cold. Really truly hoping this will be the end of it – it’s going on 5 or 6 weeks now that I’ve been sick, on and off. It’s like another job, tending to a virus – it just sucks away the time that I’d like to spend doing productive or fun stuff into nose-blowing, coughing, and whingeing. Especially the latter.

However, my energy is returning slightly, the snow is turning to slush and we are moving into the brown season here. We don’t really get spring on the prairies – at least not the way it is in many parts of the world, with sunshine and flowers and buds unfurling and the energy of new life fairly bursting out of each green sprout pushing through the earth. No, spring here is like a grumpy teenager getting out of bed at two in the afternoon – all bad hair and worse breath – with the wind and the white sky and the bare branches whipping around above the melting piles of snow and slush, revealing a whole winter’s worth of dog shit and rotting piles of leaves that never got composted before the first big dump of snow back in October. And like said teenager, spring tends to make a few attempts at getting up before doing so successfully – despite the fact that I can see the edges of my lawn, there is a blizzard warning today, and I don’t remember a year when we didn’t have at least one snow in May.

But like spring, I am beginning to emerge here. And I will keep trying again and again, starting over whenever I need to, getting back to what needs to be done and to what beckons me in a more joyful way – a knitting project for my first niece, who is not yet born but whose arrival on the outside is imminent; a birthday cake for my grandad; the planning of the front yard garden I hope to establish this year.

Beginning again is such a comfort, such freedom. I can so easily get overwhelmed, feel like I am falling behind and not measuring up. But the way forward is perfectly clear – all I can do is just start over…and start over…and start over…

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

lenten practice 2011

I started writing this post a few days ago, but it has been one of those busy weeks where I can’t seem to finish a sentence, let alone a whole post, so I’m only getting it up now. Ideas and advice still welcome – despite having felt all up on top of the world of efficiency and organization earlier in the week, I have now been downgraded to the more usual “what the effing heck am I doing?” mode.

*****

Most years I plan to do something/give something up for Lent. Usually I don’t think of something until Lent has already started, and then I sort of fizzle out or pursue it only sporadically. But this year I am proud to report that I actually had a stroke of genius – I realized what I needed to let go of before Lent actually started, and am working on a plan and set of goals to try to stick with it. I am going to work on decluttering – my house, mostly, but also my social media involvement (basically Facebook, that damn black hole of time!), and other places in my life where things need some pruning and tidying. (And that does not include my sasquatch-ish hairy legs – I shaved those this past weekend in advance of our family fun day of swimming, thank you very much!)

Perhaps I should back up a bit – you may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t remember any previous mention of piety on this here blog…what gives?”  I didn’t go to church growing up, and I still don’t. But my parents are practicing Anglicans and we like to talk theology from time to time. And there are certain things within Christianity that float my boat, the big ones being Lent and Easter. I suppose they appeal to my slightly flaky crunchy earth-based-spirituality leanings and my interest in spiritual practice as opposed to declarations of belief. Let’s just say that I’m more of a seeker than a settler-in-er and the thought of doing the latter myself makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Though I am working on that.

[Blah. It is hard to talk about this stuff without feeling like I'm going to piss somebody off. I just snipped out a whole big rant about conservative Christians*.]

Anyhoooooo….. I am going to do this decluttering thing for Lent this year. My house is a mess, I’m having trouble following through on commitments and feeling on top of things (I know this is getting old if you have been reading previous posts, but what good is a blog on vulnerability if I don’t harp on and on about my issues?), and I believe that all the crap is getting in the way of my having the life I want and need. It’s getting in the way of the things I love to do.

Also, it’s embarrassing to have people over when I need to keep all the bedroom doors closed and wrapped up in “police line-do not cross” tape. I’m not kidding. My guest bedroom currently contains: a disassembled bed frame, mattress and box spring on the floor, a mitre saw, a pink toilet, various bits and bobs of Christmas wrapping, my sewing machine which needs repair, a few extension cords, back issues of magazines I cannot bear to throw away, a good chunk of my fabric stash, a humidifier, a yoga mat, my Japanese calligraphy supplies, a box of drywall screws, the cape/coat thingy I was wearing when I met the Queen in 2005 but haven’t worn since, and G*d only knows what else. Actually, I know pretty much all of what’s in there, I just can’t go on or you would be more exhausted than you no doubt already are.

I am trying to figure out whether I want to set goals for a specific amount of stuff to get rid of, or to spend set amounts of time in each room, or dedicate specific amounts of time each day to the project. Thoughts and suggestions are most welcome, and certainly if anyone reading this wants to join me in the Great 2011 Purge-a-thon for the Good of My Spiritual Health, by all means let me know.

*If you happen to be a conservative Christian, please know that I absolutely respect you and your right to believe whatever it is that you believe. I just don’t necessarily agree with those beliefs.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

derailed but you can find me in Australia

I got derailed by a cold and then that turned into just plain old derailed, but I have a guest post up over at Edenland. Go check it out and give her some love, cause she needs some and she is one of the sweetest, coolest, funniest, and best people I know. And I’m not just saying that because she said so many nice things about me.

Regularly unscheduled and sporadic blogging will return to this space in the very near future.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

dropping a veil

Sometimes I make myself laugh. Like when I realize that my earnestness is missing the mark, when it’s not really earnestness but more like a veil between me and, well, me.

This happened yesterday, when I realized that for all my prattling on about vulnerability, I was doing a piss poor job of actually living it. Ha. I read Eden’s latest post, and it just hit me all over again – philosophizing is not the same as being or revealing or living.

I know. What a shock, right?

So I’ve been struggling lately. And from what I read in blogland, quite a few of my sisters out there are struggling, too. I would tend to blame the winter, but it has struck our lovely Eden, too, she of drought and heat waves and snakes at the door.

Toddlerhood. Uh, yeah. I was definitely guilty of thinking before the lad was born that my child would never whine, or annoy the everliving shit out of me, or eat while walking around, or grunt with increasing emphasis while chanting “ge-ge, ge-ge” and pointing at something that I never can seem to identify despite Herculean efforts. Although I knew I was wrong in thinking this, even at the time, it’s still somewhat of a shock to find all of this coming true. All at once. In the dead of winter that prevents much in the way of leaving the house. When I am feeling horribly inadequate about my housekeeping skills, my inability to finish even one damned thing, about the fact that everything seems to be a scramble these days.

Like Pam, I keep thinking that there must be a trick to this, that if I can just discover it, things will fall elegantly into place like the first level in Tetris and my life will be a beacon of order and calm and creativity and pure unadulterated awesomeness.

Heh.

The fact that I am living out a bourgeois cliche does not make it any easier. If anything, it only encourages that old part of me that believes that I can rationalize my way out of anything. So my mind is working, working, working. Making lists, coming up with solutions (which only takes for granted that a problem exists…ah, mind, you sneaky little thing!), trying to plan.

I try to remind myself daily of the words of a dear friend who recently remarked on how much my living room has changed in the past year. She just sighed with pleasure as she surveyed the piles of unfolded diapers (quite possibly a damp one, too, tucked in among the wreckage, resting on its way to the pail) and board books and empty mugs and told me how glad she was to see my house looking like a child lived here.

Yup. Breathe. Me, too. I’m so glad a child lives here. And some of the problems are not really problems.

But seeing that is really the heart of the struggle, isn’t it? Getting to the spaciousness, navigating out of the weeds, out into the open water where things just come and go with ease.

**********

There is more to say, but this post feels done for now, and I’m on the first of what I hope will be a new tradition of Sunday afternoon sabbath-taking. Just me and my iPad in a coffee shop. So I’m going to get a refill of hot water and go read some blogs. Smooches to you all, my lovelies.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

soup and the fragility of human existence, redux

So it is absurdly cold here. As in: so cold there was a wind chill warning this morning even though there was no wind. It’s horrible – even though the sun is shining and the world looks so pretty with lots of fresh snow, I took the lad and the dog for a walk yesterday and we basically made it around the block before my lips started to go numb. Blah. For those of you who live in warm climates, this is the kind of cold that you can’t even begin to imagine. The vindictive part of me wishes you understood, but the kind part of me wishes that you never even have to try.

Fortunately, I found an excellent antidote in the form of this amazing red lentil soup recipe. It is so simple but I swear to you, I rolled my eyes in ecstasy after taking the first spoonful. I’m usually tempted to tweak recipes even before I make them, but after reading the comments on that post, I resisted and made the recipe exactly as directed. Seriously – it was amazing, more amazing than lentil soup has a right to be. And the drizzle of olive oil really added to it – it’s great without, but just that little bit of richness and fruitiness from good olive oil just adds another layer of tasty. Mmmmm. I just finished two bowls of it.

Finding that recipe was this emotional up and down to the day, actually – it’s an old post on a blog that deals with Middle East peace, writing, identity, family – lots more than food. I was really excited to find this woman’s blog, to make that connection that happens only by the delicate grace that comes about through the combination of luck, Googling and what I have in my cupboard. So when I was done with the recipe, I clicked over to her home page, only to find that the author of the blog, Leila Abu-Saba, had died in 2009 after a long struggle with breast cancer.

Leila, I never got the chance to connect with you. But wherever you are, know that every time I make this soup (the recipe for which, wonderfully, you shared by way of another writer whom you admired) I will be thinking of you and your husband and sons. I look forward to exploring your writing, and I hope you know that not only are you not forgotten, you are still being discovered and celebrated.

*******

Thanks, all you dear ones, for your beautiful comments on the last post. In a way, this one is a continuation – just more of that deep realization that we are all in this life temporarily. But I have to say that your comments and then the discovery of Leila’s blog have only reinforced for me the desire and intention to live with an open heart. Because everything is impermanent, but everything ripples out in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine. And I want my ripples to be reflections of who I am and what I believe most strongly.

As a sort of corollary to this, I was making up Facebook statuses in my head yesterday. (Anyone else do this? Just try and come up with succinct or witty ways of letting people know what’s going on, yet not quite get around to posting them? Or is this one of the signs that I really should leave the house more often and possibly engage in some basic personal hygiene?) And the one that really stuck with me yesterday was this:

“If you ever wonder how, exactly, I manage to ‘do it all,’ please know that it is only because I am wildly underfunctioning in some area of my life that I work hard to keep hidden from view.”

I’ve been really aware lately of how I project an image of myself as competent and controlled. I’ve done this for most of my life up to now – hence, a blog about wanting to explore vulnerability. But it is fascinating to see what is going on in the moment that I choose to gloss over what is really going on with me, or to just ask another question about what’s going on with someone else to avoid me having to even look within to find out what my honest answer might be to the simple question about how I am doing.

I had a few thoughts about what is going on for me in that moment, beyond the obvious habit of maintaining the status quo of how I don’t reveal myself. One is that I am struggling, much to my surprise, with feelings about the worth of the work that I am currently doing, i.e. being a mother and wife and homemaker. This is interesting to me because I have always felt really strongly that this is important, essential, deeply valuable work – work that transforms the world. So I was kind of unsettled to find during a recent visit with an old friend that I am feeling a bit insecure about the fact that I spend my days at home and don’t earn any money doing so. There is lots to investigate there, I think.

The second thing that occurred to me was that it is important to be wise about how fully we reveal ourselves. It’s one thing to say that vulnerability is the core of joy and all that, but at the same time, we need to have boundaries. We need to be clear about when and with whom it is safe to be fully ourselves. It’s not just where we feel comfortable about the vulnerability – in my case, it’s usually safe a long ways beyond where I feel completely comfortable, but at the same time, it’s not always kind to myself to really let it all out around certain people. So there is a lot of richness there, too – paying close attention to what that safety means to me, and when it is present, and when it is absent.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

groundless

So just when I was all full of enthusiasm to blog more frequently, last week came along. (Though I am already blogging more frequently than I was for the past year or so, and will therefore cut myself some slack.)

Last week sucked. Because a very dear friend of of the family, one of my sister’s lifelong friends, was touched by hideous tragedy: her ten-year old daughter died, very suddenly and unexpectedly and without a clear reason why, at least up to this point.

And then I read about a friend of Eden‘s whose husband died suddenly, and then I was in the tailspin I always get into when I hear of people dying suddenly.

(Let me just say that I know that the entire world does not revolve around me, that I know how blessed I am to not be going through what either of these women are going through, that my angsty tailspin is nothing but a mosquito bite compared to what they are going through.)

Still. It just hurts so much to be presented with the reality of how fragile life is. To be reminded of the truth of impermanence.

I found myself kissing and cuddling my little one in excess of his tolerance for such things which, admittedly, is extremely high. I reminded my spouse to eat more vegetables, and though he thanked me at our supper-time ritual of noting the things for which we are grateful, I felt like a real nag doing so. I just felt so uptight and helpless and sad at how much I cannot control.

There is so much suffering, always, everywhere, every day. But on the days when it comes closer to me, I feel so shaky – like the solid ground I think I live on has suddenly disappeared. One of my favourite Buddhist teachers, Pema Chodron, talks about how this groundlessness is actually the way things are all the time, that it is a mistake to think that suffering or joy or any other state will stick around long enough to let us build anything lasting on it. There is a lot of wisdom in that.

But you know, I like my solid ground – illusions and all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

the longer story

So for those of you who know me from my previous blog, I feel I owe you some kind of explanation. Or update. Or something. Last time I posted over there was in September, and while I hadn’t exactly been a blogging dynamo this past year, I’ve never let anywhere near four months go between posts until now.

Truthfully, I don’t have a good reason. Sure, I’m busy – having a one-year old kid, aging family members, numerous monthly commitments, a bathroom reno in incredibly slow process, a very very part time job, a support group to run, a household to maintain, a marriage to nurture (thankfully, my spouse is indulgent in this regard – let’s make 2011 a little snugglier, eh, darling?) and, well, life will do that to a person – but if my priorities had been different, I’m sure I could have fit in at least a few posts over the last four months.

The real reason I’d abandoned writing is that I have been floundering. Both in terms of what I want to say here on the blog and in terms of what I want out of my life right now. I’ve been happy – amazingly happy – since our boy was born, and I love being his mother. But  major life changes have a way of bringing my angst to the forefront, so I’ve been trying to discern a direction for myself, some way to feel like I’m being productive beyond all the repetitive maintenance that occupies me most of the time. (Clearly, this is a problem I wished for years to have – staying home with my child, cut loose from the world of so-called careers where I never seem to truly fit anyway – but it is a problem nonetheless.)

Something clicked when I watched the video on vulnerability I shared in the last post, and I will probably write more about that over the next while. But for now, I’ll just say that I’ve been trying to come up with ways to be more me in my life – to be more connected, to waste less time on Facebook, to cultivate true friendships, to release all that does not make my life or my community more beautiful, to stop eating mediocre cookies. For a long while, I’ve also been yearning for a blog space that better reflects my life now, beyond infertility and parenting. I’ve been wanting a blog that, if my next door neighbour or former boss or brand new friend or son’s future classmates read it, I would feel proud to call my own.

This is that blog, my friends. I hope you’ll stick with me in this new space – there are no words to say how grateful I am to know each of you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 14 Comments