the cactus

The cactus is in town, visiting for the long weekend (It’s Victoria Day weekend in Canada, to match with the current goings on of the British royals). She’s had a softening of sorts since 2015, which saw her transmute from a echinocactus to maybe a Christmas cactus. Quite dramatic. I still expect to be pricked, and I do at least a few times each visit, but she’s so much softer than she used to be, so much more wanting a relationships with me than she has ever wanted before.

But there is still all this history, and I don’t feel like I can ever fully let my guard down with her, even if I can also soften and welcome her bids for a little more closeness.

She’s now 67. She retired in 2015, which maybe helped her review her priorities and focus on trying to relate to me, no matter how much of an anvil sinking her down she’s felt I had been in the past. It’s harder to think your kid is useless once they have a  PhD and they’ve produced a grandchild. I mean, I can’t for the life of me keep a clean house or reply to her fucking emails on time, but Gummy. but PhD. (eye roll emoji)

A little over 2 years ago, she and her husband moved to the other side of the country to retire. It’s been good for them, as they live a very comfortable life on Vancouver Island. She’s got a neighbour who is from the same cultural, and linguistic background as she is, and she’s always spoken so highly of her. But tonight, she said that she actually has nothing in common with this person. I took a risk, and asked her who she felt close to in her new group of friends. She struggled to answer, and said a bunch of awkward things like “I’m a loner”, “I don’t like getting together with other women; I only like couples’ activities”, “I have pals, but not really friends”, “the other women in my social group email me when I’m away and want know how my trip is going”.

Ya, that’s fucking hard when your friends ask how things are going.

????

She unfortunately asked about me, which in both of our minds I’m sure, forced the comparison. I tried to be nonchalant about it, but I’m not much of a liar. I have many close, long term friendships, which mean the world to me. I subscribe to the Mindy Lahiri “best friend is not a person, it’s a tier” philosophy, and recognize there are many tiers in my friendship cake. I mean, friends have been much more important to me than family. My circumstances showed me that friends were safer, kinder, more loving, more available, more able to see me, much less prone to destroying me, more able to share in meaning making that helped me grow and find my way in life.

I’m feeling kind of sad for this woman now. This all powerful woman who could just rip through me and tear my to shreds when I was growing up, because she was so burdened and ashamed of me. I mean, I’ve not seen her as a monster for years now, thanks to the decades of therapy, but I really feel bummed out that she doesn’t get to know how amazing it is to have other women around who you admire, and trust, and love, and who get you on a level no one else does. Boy, did she ever miss out.

 

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Dream World

I have very unexpectedly felt better emotionally and psychologically this week. Many factors played into this resurgence of well-being, not least of which the fact that I got more rest over the Easter break and that Gummy was spending more time with her dad (which means Augusta gets time for self-care).

I knew I was doing well when some old, dusty dreams popped into my mind at unexpected moments. I even started to find ways I could pluck those dream out of the dream world and bring them into existence. Here’s a partial list of some dreams I’ve reconnected with this week:

  • Backcountry skiing in the Chic-Choc mountains, in the Gaspesie region of Quebec. They get a tonne of snow in that region, and there are huts in the park. One could ski hut to hut, or stay at the main lodges.
  • Visiting Iceland. This one has been on my list for so long. Someone at work just went, and her pictures were amazing. I’ve been wanting to go since before it became popular, and now I hear it’s really expensive. But still, I wanna go!
  • Going back to hike in the Adirondacks. When I lived in Montreal, it was a couple of hours’ drive to the High Peaks area, and I loved hiking there so much. I’ve gone up Mt. Marcy, Algonquin Peak, Lower Wolfjaw, Phelps Mtn. It’s a place I feel like I belong and I need to go back to. Hiking in the Northeast makes me really happy. I’m also looking forward to one day going back to the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
  • Visiting Chicago. This is a pedestrian dream, but I went there in 2008 for an academic conference and barely got to see it. I want to go back and explore this city. Other cities on my list: New Orleans, Taos, San Francisco, Portland (OR).
  • Cycling in Prince Edward County (ON) again. I’ve done this on two occasions in the past, and loved it. It’s a peninsula on Lake Ontario, with a thriving wine country industry. It’s so wonderful to cycle there in the summer because there is not too much traffic, and the vineyard stops are wonderful. And this time, even if camping at Sandbanks provincial park was fun, I think I’d try to stay at the Drake Devonshire because that place seems so amazing.

What sorts of dreams do you have that you keep tucked away inside your pockets?

Why’d you get divorced?

I was in search of new podcasts to listen to yesterday, and decided to try one about single motherhood. The initial podcast of this particular series talked about the question people apparently get asked after getting divorce: Why.

I must be frank with you here, this is not a question asked very much in Canada. I don’t think anyone but my attorney has asked me this specific question, and hers was a little different (Why do you want to get divorced). I’m guessing that it’s an accepted question to ask socially in the U.S., and by the sounds of it, one would be wise to prepare an answer. In Canada, we are so goddam polite that it would never occur to ask a person this question to her face.

Here are some truths:

1. Soybean and I are not yet divorced. We are separated.

2. I don’t have an easy, pat answer to the question.

To expand on truth #1, I am trying my best to get the divorce settled. I retained an attorney in early fall, and have completed all the paperwork requested. But even with my long delay in completing said paperwork (got it done over the Christmas break), I was still miles ahead of Soybean. He has not yet found a lawyer he’s happy with, has not completed any of the paperwork. We had a quick talk about it last week, and we made a plan about how he could find legal representation. So, it’s feasible I’ll be divorced by the end of 2018. Sigh.

As for #2, you all know it’s complicated. Common causes of divorce often include infidelity or adultery. I think in those cases, it can be more clear cut. There wasn’t any of that in our marriage. Just drifting further and further apart, while both staying loyal to The Marriage, without getting any joy or satisfaction from it. Had I been born 75 years ago, I would have likely not left the marriage. There would have been immense pressures to stay no matter what. But the transgressions weren’t huge, at least not as far at the naked eye could see. Soybean is a really good man, an honest to goodness kind human being. The only advice any one would have had for me would have been to stay.

Except that those who really knew me urged me to leave. It took one person to say it back to me: “the marriage is over”. From then I knew I had to find a way to end it. This happened about 5 months before I was able to communicate to my ex-husband that the marriage was over. Those words were to hard to speak; I had to write them in a note that I left on his desk at home and went to work.

When we later talked, he said he wanted to keep trying to make it work. I said no. I said it was already over, and no amount of work would bring it back from the dead.”I’ll move out” he said. “Yes. yes, you need to.”

I’m pretty much the jackass in this story so far. Except that I’m not. I know I’m courageous. I know it especially now looking back on this part of my life. I can’t say I’m bursting with happiness now, but I can look at myself in the mirror without too much trouble. I know I deserved more in a partnership. I know I was not seen and held as I needed to be, despite this good man’s kindness.

Why did I get divorced? It doesn’t make for good cocktail party conversation. I guess the pat answer would be irreconcilable differences. The more nuanced answer has to do with feeling unseen, falling out of love, not believing in the union, not able to continue without lying to myself all the time. How about: I got divorced because I chose myself.

letter to Gummy

Darling girl,

Yesterday, mommy had a terrible morning and you got the brunt of my misery. That feels incredibly unfair to me. I know that having me be so short with you, so impatient, so rough when I took out the elastic from your hair that you had asked me to put in a minute before (and asked me to take out again), yell, and use swear words hurts you. I see it eroding your budding sense of self and your confidence in the fact that you are a beloved little girl. I can’t tell you how much I hate myself for it.

But hating myself doesn’t help us.

Drowning in my own shame doesn’t help us.

You are a strong and willful little girl, darling gummy. You are trying so hard to be your own person, much to my delight. And much to my exasperation. You fight me on everything: whether it’s putting your clothes on, brushing your hair, eating your meal, taking your vitamins, using your manners, getting to the bus stop on time. And yesterday, I was especially exhausted and staring down a very long day at work, when in fact what I needed was a break from everything.

I noticed how my mind resorted to the old trick of blaming. Blaming you for being willful. Blaming your father for not giving me the break I need. Blaming your grandmother and step-grandfather for how they were during our visit last week. Blaming myself for not being tough enough to handle all of this.

But the blame only takes me down some dark holes, which I can often climb out of, but where I stayed stuck yesterday morning. Blaming doesn’t help. Things are caused. Period.  There is no need to point fingers.

As I cried walking home after putting you on the bus, and as I sat crying in the staircase at home, head resting on the wall, I realized that I couldn’t shield you from my misery. Putting it in those terms ripped me apart. It’s something that I might have known intellectually, but somehow yesterday, after that shitty, shitty morning together, it sank into my bones.

I cannot shield you from my misery.

You see, I had believed I could. I truly believed it. What a fool I can be, right? But I can’t subject you to what my mother subjected me to. That hurts much too much. Yet in those moments when I am at my worst, I see in your eyes that this is exactly what I’m doing.

Darling girl, I also know that my love for you is boundless. It is the biggest love I have ever been given to feel. And I have to hang on to the fact that your experience of your mother is not only my worst moments. I know that we are 3 to 4 decades away from you fully understanding me as a human being, but right now is the time I need to say these things. I so wish you could feel the sincerity within my pointless apologies.

You sat on my lap, crying and I was explaining that I was very tired and in a bad mood, and that I needed you to cooperate with getting dressed, you put your head against my chest and sank into me. You took hold of my special necklace, the one with the big circle and little circle intertwined, representing you and me. You touched the circles and reminded me that these circles are you and I together.

Yes. We are together, Gummy Girl. I may not be able to shield you from my misery, but I also give you the fullness of my love.

We’re together, darling girl. We’re together.

 

Sexual Orientation

7:46am, while trying to get the girl dressed for school:

Gummy: When is daddy going to come and have supper here at our house?

Augusta: Next Sunday. Daddy and Wren will come for Family Supper.

G: I want just daddy to come.

A: Well, Wren is daddy’s girlfriend. She’s his partner. They’ll come together. Daddy wants her to come too…You know, mommy will have a partner too one day.

G: You will? Can Antigone be your partner?

A: Antigone is mommy’s friend. My partner is going to be a man. That’s who I like to have as partners. A lot of people like to have someone from the opposite sex as a partner. Daddy likes women; and mommy likes men. And others like to have partners of the same sex like your friend Sunshine’s moms and aunty Oat, and mommy’s uncle who is married to a man.

G: Can I have a gummy bear?

This was an excerpt of the first of many conversation about sexual orientation with my curious 5-year-old. We’ve had the “Sunshine has 2 moms” conversation, but this was our first one about who people like as partners. Have you had those talks with your kids? Tell me what they were like.

The stairs

I live in an old house. It’s beautiful and sweet and small. It felt cramped when Soybean lived there, but since he’s moved out, I love it much more for its spaciousness. It’s also my gummy girl’s first house, and despite her dad’s many moves, this house (mom’s house) has been her constant. It’s the right size for both of us, is located near downtown, and has amazing neighbors all around.

It’s a one and a half story house, because the second floor is basically in the roof. That’s a technical tidbit I learned, so I’m using the heck out of it to make myself seem knowledgeable in all matters real estate (the opposite is true. I know nothing). There is only one small bathroom upstairs, along with my bedroom, gummy’s bedroom (my favorite room in the house), and my office/yoga space.

There are 15 stairs linking the first floor and second floor.

In my postpartum PTSD months, it was the stairs that really did me in. Soybean and I had decided, for the first few months after her birth, that he would do the middle of the night feedings with gummy so that I could recuperate from the physical sequelae of the birth and its many complications. But I never could sleep through that. First of all, a new mother hearing her infant cry has immediate ramifications on her state of sleep/wakefulness. But then I was awake and Soybean would take her downstairs to warm up her formula and I would lose my mind. The thought of him dropping her in the stairs, of him slipping in the stairs, of the stairs suddenly engulfing them into an abyss (ok, I made that last one up) would send me in a panic spiral. It was relentless. All my middle of the night fears were linked to those damn stairs.

During the day, the stairs freaked me out only a tiny bit. I held gummy tightly and held the railing with lots of extra care when I went up or down. The fear was there, but awake, all your gremlins get a little smaller, right? At night, those suckers become tremendous.

Today is gummy girl’s 5th birthday. She was excited about the pancake breakfast I made for her this morning and the presents waiting to be opened. As we walked downstairs after a trip to the bathroom, she tumbled in the most spectacular way, ass over teakettle down those stairs. I was walking behind her, and saw it all unfold (in slow motion) without being able to break her fall.

Cue heart attack for mama.

It’s hard to believe she escaped mainly unscathed. She cried for a little bit and asked if the ambulance would be called, but as it turned out, she could move all her limbs and stopped crying promptly. She went back to eating pancakes and being delighted about her birthday.

Those damn stairs. They’re messing with me again.

 

Dr Ninja-Weinstein

If you’ve been reading this blog or my former one, you’ll remember many mentions of dear Dr. Ninja. He’s the traditional Chinese medicine doctor I consulted during my infertility years, and during the Great Depression of 2015.

Turns out, I may have misjudged him.

Since last fall, Dr. Ninja has been charged with at least 13 counts of sexual assault against patients, and some other charges relating to violence/forcing himself onto women. They keep coming. It started with 1 charge and then it multiplied.

I’m sort of glad that I got to observe my process through it. At first, I though, “weeeeeellllll…..maybe the woman who charged him misunderstood. He’s really warm and likes to hug patients, and that may have come across all wrong.”

Clearly, your feminism is alive and well, Augusta. (eye rolling emoji)

I did catch myself sooner than later, and the feelings of disgust and outrage set in. I believe those women. They need to be believed. I believe them.

The twitter scroll has been lit up with all kinds of dicks FINALLY being accused of their sexual misconduct and assaults of women. It’s about time. I tend to just see these men as gross and entitled pricks. It was a little harder with Gomeshi, since I liked him as a radio host, but once I started hearing what women had been through, I stopped liking him at all, and was glad CBC fired his ass.

But Dr. Ninja is someone I know, and so this experience really brought it home. I have on one hand all the experiences I’ve had with him and on the other hand, the fact that many women are coming forward with these accusations. I review all of our interactions. With me, he’s been warm, attentive, caring, supportive, empowering, consistent. He would hug me or place his hand on my shoulder, but it never felt inappropriate. I felt like this was a different approach then the sterile North American doctor-patient prescribed encounter.

Did his hand ever try to migrate down to my boob while he placed his hand on my shoulder? Did his hand ever brush my ass when he was hugging me?

No. Those things didn’t happen. He was never inappropriate with me. I’m also not the kind of woman you necessarily mess with, in terms of my body stature. So there’s that. I also am not meek in personality, and I would have kicked up dust if he had pulled anything inappropriate.

I’m sure he targeted disempowered women who were more likely to keep quiet. So much for that, Dr. Ninja.

It is difficult to reconcile that the kind healer who helped me heal is also a sexual predator who used his power as a health professional to abuse women. But I’m letting my brain do that gymnastics because I believe the women.

 

Valentine, the terrible

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Ranunculus

It was Valentine’s Day this week. Yawn. I don’t usually pay much attention to this consummerist holiday. I eat chocolate everyday, so I don’t need a heart-shaped box from anyone to sanction that behaviour. I also buy my own self flowers on the regular, because I deserve them and love them, so I don’t sit around hoping there will be a delivery on this day. And red roses definitely don’t do it for me.

I sometimes actively hate Valentine’s Day. It feels so forced, and romantic love is so up my face it pushes my nostrils in an uncomfortable position. Bleurgh. All this overpriced, extremely non-local botany, excessive red and pink tulle and ribbons, jacked up prices in restaurants with waiting times for a table. There really is nothing romantic about prescribed romanticism.

Plus, does one need a reminder that one is single? No, one does not. Thank you.

As I intimated in Revive, I’ve been held down with influenza for a week now, and was able to withdraw from all that nonsense on February 14. Unfortunately, Gummy didn’t get to go to school and give/receive valentine’s day cards, which admittedly, is one of the sweeter traditions.

I don’t really know to what I need to attribute it, but I feel like this year, I didn’t hate Valentine’s Day. Maybe it was the fact that I had so little to do with it because I was home watching my little pony and paw patrol. Maybe it was Glennon Doyle’s fantastic post on social media honouring single parents on Valentine’s Day. Maybe sickness making me feel a little vulnerable just helped let all my friends love seep into my heart more readily. Maybe it’s my renewed connection with Kestrel. Maybe it’s the fact that some dear friends had a beautiful bouquet sent over from my favourite flower shop, and did that to remind me of spring and renewal and things coming alive again, after some dark days for me this winter. Maybe I had never given this holiday a chance.

 

 

the default

I’m sure in the last year in a half since I’ve posted ‘Locked in the Trunk of a Car’ you’ve all been having trouble sleeping for not knowing the outcome of the MRI. Let me put you out of your misery, beloved reader.

Normal.

That’s what my family physician said. She did not order the MRI, she got the results and shared them with me. Did she have a picture of my brain to share with me? Oh no.

Then months later, I went to see Dr. B, whose volume of patient is unimaginable to me. He, of course, did not remember the conversation about the MRI or ordering it at all, but I don’t fault him for it. He’s clearly overworked. And he remembers me when he sees me, which I’m happy enough with given I’m not in active fertility treatment, but am just one of the women he treats with hormone replacement therapy. Dr. B had no record of the MRI. Couldn’t find it in my computerized file, although he could tell he had ordered it.

Again, NO PICTURE OF MY BRAIN.

That was a lot of effort for the faint hope of a picture of my brain. And the effort didn’t pay off. What’s a brain nerd to do?

I guess we could take a moment to discuss those normal results. Nothing wrong with my pituitary gland. No pituitary adenoma. No structural reason for puberty passing me by.

You’ll remember that in the rule out of possible causes, we are then left with psychological trauma. Something that doesn’t excite the physicians very much.

But I like to think about it.

Childhood maltreatment impacts sensitive developing biological systems acutely. For example, childhood maltreatment significantly dysregulates the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), which is responsible for the stress response. And the HPA axis is closely related to the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Gonodal axis, the one that regulates our sex organs and reproduction. You can tell because 2 out of their 3 glands/brain structures in common.

The impact of maltreatment on the developing brain is devastating. I’ve been lecturing on that topic recently, providing training to all staff in the agency I work for regarding developmental trauma.

But who needs all that research?

I’m a living experiment myself.

 

 

 

 

Revive?

I’m puzzling over that question this week. Do I revive this blog? Or let sleeping blogs lie?

You see, I’ve got extra time to ponder, since I haven’t been to work at all this week, flattened by the nasty influenza virus. Gummy Girl and are have both been hit. It’s left us quite diminished, but sweetly together, since her dad Soybean is not ill, and we all want to keep it that way.

I deleted All in One Basket, my old blog. Around the holidays, I found one of those sites that will publish a blog in book format and send it to you for a pretty penny. I didn’t want to have it out there anymore. I felt like that part of my life could cease to live on the internet.

Why revive Re-Imagined Augusta now? A few reasons. I’m lonely and starving for connection. Through writing, I can connect with myself better, and blogging lets me connect with others (anybody still reading this ol’ rag?). The other reason is that I’ve reconnected with a cherished friend from long ago, Kestrel, who has encouraged me to pick this up in two important ways. He started reading the blog and sending me comments. Cute. And we’ve been writing to each other regularly, and this has made me miss writing regularly.

In terms of catching up with my news, here’s what’s stayed mostly the same:

  • Still working at Good Job and still loving it.
  • Still a psychologist
  • Still the mom of an extraordinary girl conceived via donor egg
  • Still on good terms, with Soybean (although see next section for caveat)
  • Still mostly depressed
  • Still done having kids
  • Still single
  • Still blessed with deep and loving friendships

And here’s a few things that have changed:

  • Mr. Right Now is a person of my past, not my present or future. After that healing moment I described in Courage, my word (parts 1 and 2), he did his best to consider whether we could try to be couple. Unfortunately, that meant (metaphorically) pulling me closer with one hand, and pushing me away with the other. It really ended a year ago when I called him on this and he didn’t respond. We tried to be friends, but he’s not great at that either. So, we’re acquaintances now. We say hello at work, and it feels enough for me.
  • It’s been more difficulty between Soybean and I, starting around December. He really wanted to have Christmas with Gummy and I, him and his new girlfriend. And I just wasn’t ready. He pushed a bit, and I got mad and felt hurt. But the worse was having to split up Christmas, and not having Gummy with me for most of Christmas day. We haven’t really done family supper since, although we are trying to start it back up. We’ll see where this goes.
  • I started a new therapy in September. I still see Orion, although not since November (he had a catastrophic accident and has needed time to heal). I wanted to focus on a body based approach to better help integrate all the trauma reactions I’m stuck with in my day-to-day life. This therapist is trained in Somatic Experiencing. So far, it’s been tough and also very good.
  • Gummy Girl started junior kindergarten! She’s at an all French school and despite a bumpy start, she is really liking it now.

That’s all for today. Just wanted to get the possibility of reviving this blog out in the open.