Crush

If anyone asks, I am NOT READY to start dating. When people hint at the fact that I may want to “rebuild” my life someday, I usually just nod and find it interesting that this idea of structure has to involve a man. You know how strong a feminist I am.

My priorities have been clear to me for a long time, and last year’s crisis put them into even greater focus:

Priority #1: My daughter

Priority #2: My health

Priority #3: My career

Doesn’t sound like much when itemized so succinctly, but those three priorities are more than enough to fill a life. And as I was mentioning in my last blog post, my cup feeleth more full these days.

So you’ll understand why I’m a little put off by the emergence of an office crush I’ve developed in the last month.

He’s someone that I talked to only once a few weeks before leaving Good Job for Toxic Hospital Job. But that conversation stayed with me and I remember thinking a the time that it was a shame I was leaving because I would enjoy talking to him some more. So when I came back to Good Job in January, I made a point to connect with him. And then he started coming around to my office. Everyday. He made me laugh, told me funny stories, and paid ALL this attention to me.

Sigh. I’m a fallible human.

Pretty soon, the teenage schoolgirl feeling invaded. I drove home crying one Friday after a long conversation with him because I felt that the grown up me had left the room and I couldn’t deal with that.

Thankfully, I have amazing friends whose counsel I relied on. ‘Enjoy the crush’, they said. ‘Just see where it goes.’ I had to nod at my long list of worries and anxieties about this situation, but also just let this be what it is.

So…

I have a date this weekend. An almost-42-year-old woman on a date. This should be interesting.

 

 

 

Impermanence

Life continues rolling forward, day after day. It’s been much easier to exist lately. I no longer feel like I’m only surviving, but actually starting to settle in a new sort of life. There is no striving yet, but I am making my peace with that. I need to feel the stability of the ground under my feet before I take leaps in any direction.

It’s anniversary season in my neck of the woods. Separation officially happened a year ago mid-March; Soybean moved out at the end of April; the start of my 5-month sick leave was in late March. The days on the calendar lineup and fall, one after the other. And from that perspective, it seems like things just keep going in some sameness.

But if I pause and reflect, which I am prone to do, I feel that so much has changed.

I feel it in the mornings, when my car turns right onto the highway instead of going straight towards the hospital I was working at last year. Just making that turn brings me an immediate sense of relief. Same immediate relief when I pull into the parking lot at my current work.

I feel it when I’m at work, and there is an absence of this constant sense of breathlessness and anxiety about every little detail. I just go to work feeling well and leave feeling well. And everyone seems pleased with the work I do.

I feel it when I come home to a house that feels peaceful to me. Soybean and I very rarely fought, but the tension in our marriage could be cut with a knife towards the end. The house is my space, and the home I make for Gummy and I.

I feel it when I sleep through the night and feel rested most days.

I feel it when I hear Soybean talks about his crazy parents and I know they are not my problem anymore.

I feel it when I notice that I am comfortable in my own imperfect skin and with my own biased ways of thinking. I handle my relationships more like a grownup these days, and that feels new and liberating. I am more clear with my boundaries.

I feel it when I noticed that what’s left between Soybean and I is a good rapport, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to raising our daughter as co-parents. The hardest parts of the relationship are gone, and mostly only the good is left. I realize there may be hard times ahead, but at the moment, we are doing quite well.

I feel it in the fleeting moments when I can start considering the future, and start making some loose plans in my mind, instead of trying to just get through today.

I feel it when I enjoy the weekend, instead of dreading it almost as much as the weekdays.

I feel it when I look at a depression checklist and I no longer check all of the boxes.

I can’t say it’s all unicorns and roses, and I’m not sure I’m a good candidate for a life made of those anyway. But I’m certainly savouring my restored health and well being these days. There are no fireworks (well, maybe some small ones. I’ll fill you in later), but it seems like I’m on solid ground and rolling along. And what a gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

heartbroken?

It seems I should feel more sad about “losing” someone I love(d).

But I mostly feel numb. Or relieved. Or congruent.

Congruent? I feel like being separated finally reflects what was happening in the marriage. I care about him a whole lot. I feel a lot of good feelings about him. I like him. I’m very thankful he’s the father of my precious daughter. He’s my friend. But the marriage had been ending for a while. We put up appearances for a long time, it seems to me.

It’s not the marriage I miss. And the guy,  well, I don’t miss him either. I text him everyday and see him several times per week. But instead of feeling uncomfortable all the time, the distance feels appropriate, comfortable, manageable.

I feel heartbroken when I miss my child. She was away for 48 hours last weekend, and that felt very difficult. I thought it would be easier by now, and sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s not. I need breaks but I feel such a strong pull to be there for her as much as I possibly can. I still feel the injustice of only having her half the time (which is really a quarter of the time, since the third partner in this equation is daycare, and that one gets a whole half to itself). I feel grief about breaking up the family. I feel the loss of the dream of what I wanted my life to be like, and where I thought it was going. And I certainly feel grief about my previously hoped-for second child, and thinking about our remaining frozen embryo.

But I don’t miss the marriage. I would much rather be alone by myself than be alone with somebody else.

 

 

the songs of where I’m from

Gummy really enjoys when I sing her to sleep. I’m sure I don’t know why, since my singing voice is, ahem, just a notch above yowling cats in the night. She isn’t too hung up on quality though, but is particular about what exactly is sung. Right now, it HAS to be “Who will buy my roses”, sung at least 5 times in a row. I follow that with an assortment of other songs taken from various past lives I’ve lived, and on most days, this results in a sleeping Gummy.

It struck me the other day, after singing for a solid 20 minutes to the girl who wouldn’t nap (and who did in the end, just like her mother knew she needed to), that the repertoire of songs I sing her offer an interesting window of where I’m from  as a person.

A brief inventory of the provenance of songs in my repertoire:

  • Songs from primary school and early childhood: All French (I did not speak English at that time), simple little ditties about animals, food, and sleep. And boats.
  • Songs learned when I went to camp as a child: When I was in grades 3, 4, and 5 my class went to camp. Not every class in those grades got to go to camp, but somehow, I landed in the classes that did. And I went back to the same camp during the summer after grade 6 for a couple of weeks. That camp is where I learned to love being in nature and being at camp. And the songs were a big part of the experience. 
  • Songs in the Quebec popular culture repertoire, many of them from the 70s: in other words, songs I used to sing when I visited the ‘boite a chansons*’ as a teenager in Montreal, and that are part of our cultural heritage. One is particular I sing to Gummy is about a seal in Alaska from the band Beau Domage. Iconic.
  • Songs from camp at Hawthorne Valley Farm, a camp I worked at as an adult where singing was prioritized. I spent five summers and one winter at HVF. It’s the place I met my dearest friends, did some of my most important growing up, and discovered a profound sense of home. We sang all the time at HVF; with the kids, after they went to bed, on our days off, around the campfire, in the car, in the garden, while hiking. Singing those camp songs to Gummy connect me immediately with all the good I want to transmit to her, the values I hold as most important: the sense of community and belonging, gratitude, the connection to nature, friendship, hard work, genuineness, kindness, joy, and beauty.

I find my list to be an eclectic one. Obviously, all the songs are within a small number of genres, and don’t span a very large swath of musical traditions. I do not sing techno/electronica to Gummy. But I was thinking about how few people would have a similar repertoire. Different friends from different times of my life would have overlapping repertoires, but theirs wouldn’t overlap 100% with mine nor mine 100% with theirs. We each have our own personal history songbook.

Do you sing to your tiny people? What language do you sing in? Where do the songs come from? What do the songs say about where you are from as a person?

*Some bars, mainly in Old Montreal, where you drink and sing all night as loud as you can to drown out the guy with a guitar (un chansonier) on stage. Also, these places tented to be lax about asking for ID.

Learning

What thoughtful, caring, empathy-filled comments (and texts) you wrote me, dearest women. A very soothing balm on my chafed, scratched up little heart full of shame. I read and re-read each comment as big swells of gratitude rose within me. Thank you.

It’s infinitely interesting to live authentically. That whole day of frustration, anger, yelling, shame, and what came after held the gift of learning.

The shame wanted to take over but I didn’t let it this time. I took care of myself. I did not remain silent and did not keep my shame-inducing actions a secret. I reached out to you and you responded without judgement, helping my own self-judgment to quiet down.

I had decided that when Gummy woke up, I would avoid being overly bright and cajoling. I had told her, before she drifted off to sleep, that I was sorry and wrong about yelling at her like that. I was looking for a fresh start when she got up, but I was clear that I wasn’t looking for us to ignore what happened by tucking it away and pretending it hadn’t taken place.

I was calm and real with her, and  we were able to re-establish our connection shortly after she woke up. My shame was shrinking. I wasn’t running away from it, from me, or from her. And we had a nice time for a few hours until her dad picked her up. I went out for dinner with my dear friend the other Augusta that night. And by that point, the shame was something that had happened earlier on, but not occupying much real estate in me anymore.

I have learned through my training that what comes after relationship ruptures is of the greatest importance. Some breaches leave us feeling like the relationship cannot be repaired. As a kid, the breaches with my mom were left poorly or entirely dis-repaired. I guess what I learned on Saturday is that I may lose my shit with Gummy, but that I will work diligently to repair the breaches in our bond, that our love is more important than moments of anger, and most importantly, that I have the capacity to hold emotional space for her and for me and for us.

 

shame spiral

Oh, that’s where I’m travelling right now. Swiftly down a corkscrew shame spiral.

I was reminding myself of the wise words of Brene Brown. Shame needs three things to thrive: silence, secrecy, and judgement. I’m really good at all three of those, and have grown a huge garden of shame-weeds for decades now.

It’s time to stop shame from being such a strong force in my life; for me and for Gummy.

I lost my composure with her. Quite a bit. I was frustrated from our morning, and tired from the week, and stuck on how I wanted things to go. And I was 100% certain that she needed a nap. And she did (she has been sleeping for 1.5 hours now). But she has been resisting naps on weekends. And I got angry. I yelled at her so hard that it scared her. I tried to compose myself, and to contain her, but I yelled again and scared her again. It was awful. I felt like a monster.

Luckily she fell asleep soon after. At that point, we both needed time apart, so I am incredibly grateful that she could fall asleep.

I was with Gummy the way my mother was with me in her worst moments. It’s not surprising, but it is deeply unsettling. I didn’t hit her, but I feel like I did as much damage. I wanted to make her do what I wanted her to do (sleep) and didn’t have the patience to let her find her own way there by providing her with safe boundaries. I just tried to make her. That seems insane to me now, and it did at the time. I just felt so angry and let the anger take over. I’m ashamed of that. And it scared me.

I’m writing because I want to go against silence and secrecy. It’s near impossible not to judge myself. But, even if I can’t avoid my self-judgements, I thought I would at least try to take care of myself in this awful moment. After she fell asleep, I noticed I felt nauseous, and sleepy, and frightened. I did some yoga; I journaled. I tried to see what that a small girl inside of me also needs care, so that when Gummy wakes up, the grown-up me can greet her.

There is lots that built up to our difficult mid-day moments. Stuff I want to write about here. But I thought I’d start with this bit of ultimate parenting low because of necessity. I’m otherwise doing pretty well I would say. Just not today.

 

Public Service Announcement – Toddler Edition

I know that the people who read this weblog are mamas, but I would like all the toddlers to come to the screens please. This is Gummy writing. My mom is on the couch with her “I don’t give a flying soba noodle” look and a glass of red wine in her hand. I’m not sure why.

So, fellow toddlers, it’s time to stretch your attention span and reading capacity for this brief PSA, which I can summarize by the following:

DO NOT PUT OBJECTS IN YOUR EARS. I have tried it, and it is no good. No good at all.  

If you’ve got some really interesting pine cone or rock you simply must go fondle, or if a strange noise coming from outside is a dead ringer for a digger, or better yet, if you’ve just been given the all clear to have your way with a humongous cardboard box, you can just stop reading this PSA right now. The most important has already been said. But if you want the entire story, keep reading.

When I beg you not to put objects in your ears, it is not to prevent you from having some good fun. I am always first in line for good fun, which is exactly what I was going for yesterday morning while my mom was not playing with me (how dare she), but instead was in the kitchen making me breakfast (that I had repeatedly told her I was NOT interested in eating). My grand-maman gave me a sweet little lady bug bracelet for Christmas. Curiously, when I pulled it while sitting on my upstairs potty, it broke and all the beads escaped on the floor. My mom, seeing me dissolve in tears, gave me a hug and labeled my feeling as disappointment. She gathered all the beads and put them in a small glass jar (what is her obsession with glass all about anyway?). Yesterday morning, I got the jar open, and as I had done several times before, I scattered the beads all over the wood floor. I think it made my mom grunt, but she persisted in making me breakfast. (she’s really dense, sometimes).

I picked up one of the beads and wondered what it would feel like if I put it in my left ear. So, I tried it. Then I wanted it out. I told my mom, which made her stop breakfast preparations and come over right away. Bingo! She tried to take it out with prickly tweezers. I would have none of it.

During nap time, she woke me up and got me dressed. She said we were going to see Dr. Wormbog to get the bead out. I like Dr. Wormbog a lot. She gave me stickers and let me hold my tiny barn owl. It was an awful visit though. She showed me these colourful sticks which she inserted in my left ear to try and remove the bead. I would have none of it.

My mom drove us to a different town, because she said she didn’t like the ER in our city. Why? (do you know how powerful that three letter word is? I thought no was the shit, but ‘why’ is my new fave). Something about almost hemorrhaging to death after I was born. Whatevs. She subjected me to an irksome 30-minute drive in my f@#%ing car seat to go to this other hospital. At least once we got there, we were put in a room with a cool bed and lots of interesting things I don’t have words for.

Now, be weary of nurses who suggest that they will ‘wrap you up’. When my mom says it after bath, it portends this warm moment between the two of us where she dries and hugs me at the same time. In this case, it meant torture! I got rolled up in a sheet like a small burrito so that the nurses could have me pinned down while the doctor tried to take the bead out of my ear. Even if my mom held me lovingly and sang me songs I like, I still cried and wailed bloody murder. I mean, who do they think they are to restrain me in such a way? Do they not know I’m 2? I left with the bead still in my ear. But not before I chucked my water bottle and it rolled under the curtain, and into a patient’s room who had several “precautions” signs posted on her curtain. My mom had to ask a nurse to get my bottle and she wouldn’t let me drink out of it again. I found that incident curious, and talked about it all day at my dad’s house.

Today, instead of napping, we went to another hospital. Back in my stupid car seat I went. Having learned from my past experiences, I screeched my very loudest, which caused my dad to freak out and give me my googie* (Well played, Gummy. Well played). This hospital was very interesting. A volunteer gave me juice. There was a little girl who was holding her arm, and crying loudly. I wanted to share my giraffe with her, but I was too scared she would kick me. My mom, my dad and I were assigned a bed in the emergency department. Pretty soon, a doctor with a head lamp contraption asked us to come into the ENT room. My mom held me close, and the doctor looked in my ear. I was doing a very good job of squirming and resisting. He quickly lectured me about the need to stay still so he could see and remove the bead. He reminded me that if I stayed still now, he could remove the bead promptly, instead of having to use “other measures” to remove it. I didn’t give three ships about his moralizing tone, but after my mom and dad held me really tightly, and he did some precise digging, and the bead was out! I cried, got my googie again, and some hugs and kisses from my mom.

I got to have a tiny donut after that. Then we went home. We had seaweed snacks in the car. I removed my boots and socks. And my mom took my winter coat off so that my car seat wasn’t excruciatingly uncomfortable.

I wonder what would happen if i put one of the beads up my nose? Maybe I’ll try that next week when my mom goes back to work.

 

*pacifier

Lightweight

I have discovered the best weight loss method ever. I have lost 1000 lbs in the last 3 weeks. If I market this, I will be RICH! My method, which I will reveal to you my most beloved readers, is this one: ditch your soul-sucking job. It’s that simple!

Currently:

I walk with a spring in my step. I sleep well (when gummy lets me). I smile often. I enjoy doing little tasks like laundry, dishes, housecleaning. I have been delighting in preparing for Christmas. I got a tree, made gingerbread ornaments, made a card display (thank you pint.erest). I have time to go to the gym. I’ve made lovely meals for my girl (that she mostly flings onto the floor). I’ve put up outdoor Christmas lights. I cleaned up the front and backyards for winter. I’ve gone to therapy twice. I’ve ordered and started sending the annual Christmas cards.

I realized the other day that even though I am enjoying this month off, I also look forward to going back to work in January. My old job, despite its long commute, was a very positive one is so many ways. And I’m looking forward to returning there. I haven’t looked forward to going to work in a very long time.

I saw Orion yesterday. He said: “You worked very hard this year. You navigated some huge challenges very well. At this point, you have your hard work to thank for feeling well.” I hadn’t considered that before he said it. But yes. Depression is lifting. I feel lighter. I’m so grateful.

 

just showing up

It’s hard to understand, without enough rest and reflection. You just end up on a train. Your best friend had an ectopic and had it removed, heartbeat and all, a few days ago. You shake your head, wipe your tears. There is Thanksgiving in America. There are Syrians drowning, dying. Cancer continues to eat up humans. Your own small tragedies. And the sense that a visit to your parents is overdue. You leave your girl at home. You’re on a train heading east.

The family landscape is different. Your father is very old; he will die sooner than later. He is alone, now more than ever because his favourite sister is dying. Your stepfather just got his prostate removed because it was cancerous. Your mother, who in retirement has rediscovered the compassion she was born with, compassion that previously lied dormant in her for fear it would preclude her survival, is happy to see you.

It’s hard to understand, without enough rest and reflection, that you need to be at a certain place at a certain time. You just get yourself on a train. You go say yet another goodbye to the city that loved you first, the mother that bore you. Is it duty that makes you do it? Is it love?

Your parents (mother and stepdad in this case) have packed up their many houses and are moving across the country. You stand in the empty house, halfway up the mountain, the centre of their everything. You didn’t grow up in that house, and you held rancour for all the ways you didn’t fit in it with your provincial ways. But from your 16th birthday until now is a long time, and no matter how poorly you once fit in with the new reality of your mother’s social climbing, you have memories. Sad, bitter, sweet ones.

You drive to St.Denis, to that restaurant you haven’t been to since your mid-twenties. Outside in the cold early-winter air, you remember your youth. Your many walks up and down this street. Your first love.

You eat more than you need; let your mom buy you two pairs of very expensive shoes, despite how unreasonable it is. You walk on the mountain and talk about alcoholism. You run with the dog. You silently thank the gentle snow falling as you walk.

It’s hard to understand, without enough rest and reflection. You’re just a small soul, trying to be a real person. A flawed human being trying to forgive her flawed parents. A mother trying to do better for her child, as each generation has done before. Understanding might not be necessary. Just showing up is enough.

if at first..

you don’t succeed, write, write again.

so, my month long writing practice turned into a two-week writing practice. Mental and emotional exhaustion were large contributing factors. Work did not slow down, and since it’s November, practically everyone I saw was having A HELL OF A TIME with life. And because my work sucks so much, I had to see 5-6 families a day, which made me feel burnt out. I couldn’t think of anymore creative way to write that I was empty, so I didn’t write.

Good news. My last day was yesterday.

I packed up the car with the help of one of my coworkers, said some final goodbyes and drove away. I did not look back.

So many sad goodbyes I’ve had to say before when leaving jobs I enjoyed, co-workers I loved, environments where I felt at home. Pretty much the only sad part about leaving this job was my patients. I meet very beautiful and inspiring human beings in my work, and saying goodbye makes my heart heavy. I also feel the duty to continue caring for them and transferring care, while necessary, is rarely something I enjoy.

And now I have a month off before I start back at the community mental health centre where I used to work.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.