the_cure

Wait for Something to Happen

I’m in a holding pattern in life right now.  The kind that reminds you that life is full of crazy contradictions and extremes.

For months earlier this year I struggled with a messy home, yesterday’s half-eaten school lunches, my hectic new schedule as a Scientists in School presenter balanced against my long-standing prior commitments as a piano teacher, and – every night – a depressingly long and anxiety-provoking list of unfinished jobs for the morrow (some of which I began involuntarily freaking out about right at the moment I should have been putting the 2 kids to bed).

All this, of course, was set against the backdrop of me running out of the house to drive to yet another new school on said morrow.  By 7 am next morning I was already running late.  No time for the list until I arrived home again, hot and exhausted, at 5 pm.  Throw in a hefty measure of daily guilt that my whole family was not eating properly, that everyone was upset at me with their own personal axe to grind whenever I happened by, and that my 7-year-old son was playing video games all evening instead of progressing with reading, and there you had “me” in a nutshell.  Don’t forget at this point in the proceedings I still had my workshop kit (all 6 Rubbermaid bins of it!) to clean up and prep again before the next day’s events.

In short, this past spring it was pretty much a wonder I did not shatter into a million tiny crumbs, like safety glass collapsing after a catastrophic impact.  Somehow I got through it.  No points for style, though.

There were things I hated then.  Chief among these – to summarize, I suppose – was that nagging feeling that I just didn’t have time to put my house in order, as it were.   Maybe we all know the feeling, that your mind is an overcluttered attic that you simply haven’t had time to set right and that – at any moment – one of the unsorted teetering piles you haven’t yet dealt with is going to topple onto your head.  Think Harry Potter’s Room of Requirement here and you will soon have an image of what the inside of my head felt like from April to June.

Second among things I hated would be the 7 or 8 piles of clean laundry thrown on my bedroom floor in the course of daily events and then simply left there all week.  Somehow putting away those fresh, clean underpants and socks (a job I used to love… honest!)  never quite made it that high on the list of urgent fires to be put out.  Until, suddenly, it did.  Usually a mental leap like this would happen to me at about 11 o’clock at night.

Luckily, real work makes the Room of Requirement Of The Mind disappear for a while and, so, there were parts of my Crazy Spring Routine that I loved as well:  the “me time” of driving, having a pay cheque to call my own again, the constant stream of new schools and people, and the hustle of rushing to get somewhere in the morning because – somewhere, and to someone – I was an important and irreplaceable component in the events of this day.  It was nice to feel like I had status again.  I mattered.  I got paid for what I provided.  And – most importantly of all – I was doing something I loved and believed in the importance of.  I was teaching something about the ecology of this planet to children.  A life changing lesson possibly.  Yes!  I was possibly changing some kid’s life.  Every day.  I could hold my head up when I thought of that.

When you’re separated and your mind constantly clutters up with each moment’s new problems, misgivings, and nagging doubts, a distraction as incredibly awesome as that is a very great blessing indeed.  And so, when the day’s workshop ended and negativity crowded back in, trying to drown me, it was always more than a little depressing.  There were days I cried my eyes out during some long drive home.

And then along came summer.  After a whole winter and spring of worry and hassle and “hectic” and grief.  After I’d already been through all the questions and all the feelings until my head ached from the effort and my heart was now a blank slate, emptied of grief.

This week it is too hot here to do anything.  At 33 degrees Celsius with a humidex rising above 40 during the day you can feel your skin baking in the sun the moment you open the front door.  Sunglasses, sun screen and a hat are required equipment for any outing.  The air feels heavy in your lungs.  All your clothing seems to be for another place or another season – I only own one cool blue slip of a top that’s “nearly nude” enough to ventilate me properly on a day like today.  You can drink and drink, but you’ll never pee.  And it feels like you’re overdue for a cold bath.  All the time.

There isn’t anywhere to be rushing off to now.  No alarm clocks or lunches.  No school for any of us.  From a famine as far as free time goes to, now, a completely embarrassing feast.

Not just that.  I have already dealt with all the grunt work that separation entails.  The papers have been sent for, scanned, signed, submitted.  I have already had every conceivable argument, talked to everyone about everything.  Sometimes twice.  Every proposed detail of our proposed agreement has been thought about, rewritten, and thought about some more.  There is nothing left to do here.  I’m into the waiting game now.  Waiting for something to happen.

In television dramas, break-ups are always dramatic.  People walk out.  Doors slam.  Someone is always left, shocked, saddened and broken-hearted, unable to process something so sudden.

Sudden is not a word anyone could now use to characterize our break-up.  Not without laughing anyhow.  We did manage to slam some doors at least…

Breaking up with my husband – the man who, at one point, I really did see as the love of my life and the person who completed me – has been a lot like quitting smoking.  I have heard that most people try to break the habit about 13 times before they finally and forever butt out.  I’m sure I’ve been through this over and over, have gone through this process as a thought experiment in my own person version of being Albert Einstein, at LEAST that many times.

I tried to put this to bed for years by making a “final” decision that was the wrong one.  Tantamount to a diabetic who won’t give up refined sugar or an alcoholic who can’t admit that they need to shed some destructive weekend friends.  And you know what?  I found out that as you go over it and over it in your mind – each time with the stupid arguments somehow ringing a little less “true” and the phony reasons becoming progressively less valid, less important – you slowly change on the inside.  You have to change on the inside until you are strong enough to see yourself through the storm to come.  The storm that happens when you re-arrange your life, re-aligning it with your new truth.

When I talked about those slow epiphanies I wasn’t kidding.  It really was like that.  I sat with this a long time.  I have already cried out all the tears about lost love, about disrespect, about doing this one, terrible thing to the lives of the children I brought into this world vowing that, above all, the one thing I would give them was security.

When I got over THOSE reasons for not leaving, I still had to get over that inertia.  That reason that says splitting up will mean buying your own toaster, or microwave, and that these are decisions you’re just completely unable to confront.  This reason (a lousy one!) tried to tell me that my comfort in this life of unfocused sloth had a stronger pull on me than the call to be more in life, to show my children how I value their lives (because I am valuing my own).  How I want BETTER for them (because I want better for me).

After a number of failed attempts to “quit” my relationship, I began to look around and see that, over the years, I’d acquired many of those stupid, inertial household items in duplicate already.  In past fits of “I will leave!”  I had bought pots, cutlery, an electric blanket, a Queen-sized mattress for me, fitted sheets.  In fact, this time I was ready to try to quit again, but with equipment.  And there were no tears left.  That’s something like leaving “too late”, but – whatever, good enough – at least it finally felt to me like I had processed what I had known already for so many years.  I walked out of the Waiting Room of Life where I had been sitting, waiting for my husband to have time to love me.  I made a firm decision about that (which required me to toughen up a bit), so – when I walked out – I closed the door this time.  And locked it.

Now I am waiting.  I’ve done my part.  I’ve even spent some months, as I now realize, waiting for my husband to catch up to me on this one.  Watching him go through his own version (surprisingly) of the 5 Stages of Grief.  My paperwork has been done.  I’ve gone as far as I can go, for now, with lawyers, bankers and realtors.  Everything has gone out and now I must wait for the things that come back.

In the meanwhile, the kids and I hang out together at home.  They have cooked lunches and dinners.  Fruit smoothies for breakfast.  No one is having bathroom problems.  Everyone’s teeth have been getting brushed.  We can spend our whole day at home in pajamas now and no one will notice.  Or miss us.

My list right now has nothing real on it, even though I know hopefully soon another long list will drop from heaven and make me feel like I am, once again, running behind on so many things.  I’ll be back in the Room of Requirement of the Mind then.

But for now – like the song by the Cure says – I Wait for Something to Happen.

Perhaps, meanwhile, I’ll go buy a toaster.

 

All for now,

Butterfly

golden

Brand New Old Girl

My husband says I am still technically a wife until we finalize our divorce.  This may not be for some time.  Although I no longer feel I am in a relationship and – if I’m being honest – haven’t felt like a person in a relationship for a long time, I still experience quite a queer feeling when I contemplate no longer being “a wife”.  So perhaps it’s kind of okay that we both seem to be slow in changing our thinking on that score.  For now  a wife I remain.

It is a weird feeling, however, to be standing in one’s kitchen, hearing your husband of 19 years clarify that you are still “technically a wife” for a few months more.   His wife for a few months more.  Sometimes everything about life right now just seems sort of strange and surreal.  Not that it’s happy or unhappy necessarily.  Just kind of like a crazy dream that you never wake up from.

My husband and I  – again, being honest here – have both wanted to split for some time now, with neither one of us quite ever having the courage  – or so it seemed – to do so.   Inertia can be a powerful force in keeping a marriage together.  That and being too lazy to just go out and buy your own damn toaster.  And I still think coupledom is way better for the environment.  Having to own two of everything is going to suck.  I already throw away way more leftovers too.

For my part, I always viewed sticking it out in our marriage as something I would continue to do for as long as it appeared to be “better for the children”.  This was my own personal version of being a martyr – my individual happiness didn’t enter into my calculations, and I certainly wasn’t allowing for the line of thinking that it really wasn’t that good for the children to have an angry mother who felt shrivelled and dead inside, trudging through every day in an unhappy situation because it was “better” for them.

In fairness to my husband, I will refrain from speculating what his own reasons were for sticking it out.  I also think it’s fair to say that his unhappiness had been quite noticeable to most people we know for quite some time before we separated.   It seems likely to me that he recoiled from the very thought of the more unpleasant details of dividing a household and the horror of even imagining that stuff did keep him from doing anything real about “us” for too long in the end.  Finally it was up to me to say it was over.

At some point it had become crystal clear to me that staying in a desperately unhappy marriage was NOT “better” for our children.  At about that time I also remembered that I mattered too.  To me, as well as to my kids.  In any case, I suppose now we have both figured that out and finally we are pushing through this experience, unpleasant or not.  The skeleton is out of the closet now.   “Us” doesn’t work and that problem is the root problem (in my opinion) behind almost all our other ones.  So I hope everybody’s going to feel better and lead a more fulfilling life as we put the end of “us” in the past.

On a recent walk along the river I was surprised to discover something pleasant within me.  Right now being alone is about the only time I discover anything “pleasant” although occasionally I have moments like that again when I’m alone with the kids, which is hopeful after so much yuckiness I suppose.

This particular “pleasant” feeling was something beyond the excitement of my impending independence or of the approaching reality of finally choosing my own curtains.  Shockingly, I felt –  if only for a moment – a sensation of calmness and peace welling up within me.  I haven’t experienced serenity in a really long time.  It felt euphoric in an expansive way, like sunset reflected on water at the end of a perfect day.

I think that moment was something like acceptance.  I accept who I am and who I am becoming now.  I accept I am no longer a teenaged girl (Although a while back I did go through something like a fit of wanting to be one temporarily as it dawned on me that I would be single and “alone” again…).

This weekend I found myself walking and accepting who I am at this very momentNot a sixteen year old girl, but a somewhat wizened-looking forty-five year old “girl” with increasingly silver-grey hair.  Someone who now needs to find her “readers” before she can go pluck the hairs on her chin.  The straight brown hair, nice legs, and firm butt of twenty years ago are gone now.  I have varicose and spider veins on my calves, and my face has some deep grooves the gentle lady at Yves Rocher calls “expression lines” because she is too sweet to say wrinkles.  My skin has been blessed a little too generously by the sun over the years and  – in addition to the massive number of freckles I’ve always had – I have some of those big brown “age spots” now as well.   My skin is thinning too, which is a difference that’s noticeable to the touch as I now liberally apply sun screen.  Luckily I still have all my teeth so far.

I can see all of this in the mirror, but I don’t really need to look.  My feet and knees don’t feel strong and young anymore, I can’t “push through” like the younger me if I don’t sleep enough or if I’m maybe coming down with something, and I don’t quite see or hear as well as I used to.  And there’s lots of silver piano wire somehow getting onto my hairbrush.  So I don’t need a bathroom mirror to know that I am aging.

Funny thing this weekend was that I suddenly viewed all of this new insight as incredible, amazing, stunning, and GOOD.  In short, I realised that aging is great.

You see, I’ve always been insecure, indecisive, and uncertain.  What I’ve lacked in confidence over the years I’ve mostly made up for in the manners department, which means I’ve politely abdicated a lot of control and decision-making power to a lot of other people in my life, mostly boyfriends and husbands.  And I may be wrong, but  – from the point of view while I was walking yesterday at least – it really doesn’t feel like I’m going to do that anymore.

It’s a funny thing, but it was my husband, who’s always been a shy person, who once told me that one great thing about aging is that you no longer care as much what other people think.  As my husband got a little older, he became less shy. Just because he wasn’t as hung up on what other people would think of him, or so I understand.

It turns out that’s true in my experience as well.  I never noticed how much time in life I was wasting because I cared TOO MUCH what other people thought.  I wanted to be who they wanted me to be or to do what they would like for me to do.  I didn’t want to disappoint them or hurt their feelings or (in some cases) break their rules for me, even when those rules were ridiculous and controlling ones.  I never realised how much of my life I’d really wasted this way until I woke up one morning and found I didn’t care about all that that much any more.  Then I started to wonder how much time I had left to make ME happy now.  It felt like my turn.

The other thing as I get to know myself again is, of course, I actually AM the same 16-year-old girl I’ve always been.  It’s shocking how much I still think exactly the same as that young thing who made all those lists, wrote all those love letters, and scribbled all those “Dear Diary” entries twenty odd years ago.  It’s a shame that girl let so many people push her around!

A few months back I was struggling with this idea of what would constitute feeling “organised” for me.  It seemed a trival topic, yet one I was inexorably drawn to as the chaos of our daily life deeply unsettled me.  Of course, sometimes when you’re drowning in junk it isn’t really about the junk.  The junk is just a symptom of something else.  Reaquainting with my younger self I remember what really excited me.  For a long time I used retail therapy as a sedative instead of dealing with where I found myself in life.   Some of the junk around me now is my baggage from that and I can’t wait to straighten myself out enough to lose it.

So – in addition to still, with apologies to BG, wanting bookshelves – I have also come to view the experiences I have yet to have as much more exciting than acquiring new throw pillows.  I’m excited to see who I will become, with my grey hair and my bad-ass granny attitude.  I’m nervously excited too about this delicate new gift I cradle in my hands for my children, a legacy (I hope!) of inner-strength and self-worth that they can someday carry on into their own adult lives.  Sometimes I doubt myself – on bad days I think this whole thing is a disaster – but I continue to be stubbornly optimistic that this new old girl will find the path for herself and her son and daughter to tread from here.

All for now,

Butterfly

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Why I’m Not Writing When I Need To

I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything in life more uncomfortable than wanting (needing!) to write and not writing.   Well, there’s constipation, I guess.  Then again, that’s exactly what this feels like.

Over the years I have uncovered myriad reasons why I might not write when I need to.  Here are just a few:

  1. lack of time
  2. too much time – you write better under pressure
  3. lack of energy
  4. over abundance of energy – better go burn some off
  5. beautiful weather
  6. lousy weather
  7. it’s 12:30 at night and you should get some sleep
  8. it’s 5 AM, and – hey!  wait a second! – aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?
  9. it’s morning and you need to take the kids to school now
  10. it’s afternoon and you need to pick the kids UP from school now
  11. it’s raining cats and dogs and your husband wanted you to go out and make a video of your neighbour’s lousy drainiage if you were home when it started raining like that
  12. you’re soaked to the skin because you were out in the rain, making a video (see point 11 above)
  13. it’s sunny and hot so you should go do the laundry and dry it outdoors
  14. it’s cold and rainy so you should go take down the laundry you left to dry outdoors
  15. right next to you there are two really poorly behaved children who are driving you nuts and whom you need to separate before they kill each other RIGHT NOW
  16. right next to you there are two really adorably behaved children who need and deserve your love and attention and whom you should be doing something special with RIGHT NOW
  17. Lou is having an urgent storybook moment
  18. Boo is having an urgent Minecraft moment
  19. the volume on Boo’s tablet is too high
  20. SOMEBODY is calling “Wipe my bum!”
  21. SOMEBODY is crying hard after she dropped the toilet paper while wiping her own goddamned bum
  22. it’s dinner time
  23. it’s not dinner time, but soon it WILL be dinner time and, gosh, wouldn’t it be good to have planned ahead for that?  Just this once?  For a change?
  24. anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law
  25. Facebook
  26. the phone’s ringing
  27. you need to go dance to the song they’re playing on the radio right now
  28. what you want to write may hurt, offend, or shock someone you may (or may NOT) care about, and – anyway – it would just be in poor taste to be honest in your writing right this minute.  Maybe you should post a comic list instead!

Ahh, Irony!  We meet again!

Talk soon,

Butterfly

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Epiphany

I love that word.  Epiphany.  Not as in Epiphany the day, but as in having an epiphany, a eureka moment.  A paradigm shift.  A “Hold the phone, I’m having a thought here”.

Nestled snugly between epinephrine  and epiphenomenon, my Collins Concise Dictionary defines an epiphany as “1. the manifestation of a supernatural or divine reality,” and “2. any moment of great or sudden revelation.”

I used to put a lot of stock in epiphanies.  There were moments in my past when, suddenly, I thought I glimpsed some capital “T”  truth with great and sudden insight.  At times like these, I shifted my paradigms and tacked or jibbed my sails accordingly, swtching around my plans in life to catch this sudden, new wind of belief.

But – like Truth with a capital “T” – Epiphany with a capital “E” can fool you, something I’ve learned the hard way as I’ve sailed through life. So now, when capital “E” epiphanies come calling, I listen, yes, but I wait too.  Instead of hurriedly hauling anchor in a sweat about the next great thing,  these days I watch the weather instead.  Sometimes I put my thumb to the wind.  Only when I’m really tempted though.

I have learned that waiting and watching are good things.  Signs of growing older and gaining some insight?  Yup. Perhaps signs of wisdom accrued?  Maybe – yes – but waiting and watching also come as part of having more responsibility these days.  More to lose.  More to protect.  Oh such very precious things to protect.

When you act on every new insight, people around you stand at risk of being hurt, collateral damage as you go about the business of re-arranging your life.  And – let’s face it – re-arranging life sometimes seems like a game for the young.

In fact, I still believe in epiphanies.  Much as I mistrust those large, magnetic, neon sign beaconingly attractive ones,  I listen closely to my heart these days about all those whispering, smaller moments that so tend to pile up inside.  The ones that, one day, gradually – over a great deal of time and upon ample soaking and reflection – add up to a seismic shift in your belief system.  Or maybe not.  Maybe it’s more like a re-affirming of core principles you’d simply misplaced along the way instead.

Yes.  This seems more accurate.  I am the same person as ever.  But I have proved my patience and erased my doubts.  In other words, certainty is my epiphany now.

It’s in all those small things.  Like the comment that sat with you a long time, half-forgotten, until you woke up one day realising how much that really had resonated.  How long ago it had become a “famous quotation” in your very own little Book of Life, a new guiding principle, changing your direction subtly to bring you…  Where?  Here?  Without ever really noticing you’d been changing course.

I never noticed how much I’d been changing course.

Or the secret love that sat with you – living deep inside, for a long time – until one day you found yourself at the shop, putting the massive down payment on that big ticket item that you’ve known all along is right.  You remember you ALWAYS loved that red.  You don’t NEED to go home and mull it over.  And your friends say “Wow.  That was sudden.”

No.  Not really.  Not sudden at all.

My life feels like that right now.  At once very sudden and yet not sudden at all.

Small “e” epiphanies fit together like a connect-the-dots puzzle, each dot a small synapse that, one day, fired.  Changed you.  Or reminded you.  Eventually there are so many dots that it is clear that the true picture is “this” and not “that.”  The more times you trace over the lines, connecting the dots with the smooth ink of your pen again, and again, the darker and clearer the picture becomes.  It is no longer possible to overlook the true picture.

And you see yourself.  You really do.

I still love epiphanies.

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

To Live In This World…

“To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things: to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.”

– Mary Oliver

midnight_blue

Midnight Blue

They say that smell is related closely to memory.  Perhaps this is because, as I have heard at least, the centre in our brain that processes odour lies close by our area for memory.  Part of me, as a musician (one who plays a keyboard instrument), rejects this notion however.  Just because I can’t really imagine that memory is stored all in one place.  Instead I visualize something more akin to what MRI studies have shown with pianists as they play – or even listen to – music.  I see my brain lighting up all over when I enter my memories.  Yes, smell often does jolt this process into action.

The power of smell is visceral, to the point of being almost frighteningly so at times.  Even with “lost” memories, sometimes a smell will evoke some lingering sentiment – loss, sadness, or a remembrance of happiness as light and uplifting as the remembered warmth of the sun.  Maybe I’m noticing that because, as I age,  there are just plain more half-forgotten moments like that anyhow, floating, wispy ghosts of memory, haunting my mind just hoping for a chance to, once more, be sensed.  Hoping for one last moment of existence.

I am aware that smell is pretty universally recognized for this effect on us, but what about colour? I wonder: do colours affect people this profoundly?  I know that – for me – certain colours are evocative of certain memories and feelings, not as visceral as smells perhaps, but in a way that is somehow less fleeting.  And it’s not only my memory that is touched by colour.  My imagination, the world of my day dreams, is moved as well.

tawdry

My nail polish moment, 2014.

The effect of colour is more lasting for me than the sort of burst produced by a smell.  Different colours have different associations for me, affecting my outlook – for better or worse – over a long period of time.  And so, a colour has this power to act as a slow-release antibiotic for my psyche.

Midnight blue, in the form of a sparkly nail polish I bought last year (at my birthday, of course!), has been working its magic over me for nearly a year now.  Midnight blue is not just any blue.  It’s a blue-black-blue, the colour of the sky on a clear night in winter with a big full moon.  And – for me – it is flecked with these sparkles.  Starlight piercing the blackness of space.  Snowflakes falling on a freshly painted blanket of blue-black, poking the colour with pin pricks of light, revealing the shiny steel of the universe glinting underneath.

skates

Even from the safe distance of a shelf in the basement, my beautiful blue skates beckon…

I think my obsession with midnight blue started as a birthday fantasy.  On the other hand, perhaps it started with my ice skates.

You see, my ice skates are blue, but they’re not that midnight blue, flecked with sparkles like points of starlight, not the blue of the grocery store nail polish left unworn but which was reflected on with such longing.  But my skates are blue, and full of associations of freedom –  gliding over the smooth ice at the arena, feeling strong and free, independent and happy,  feeling in tune with my body, having cold thighs and a cold bum even afterwards back at the office, or maybe at a coffee shop.  To me, those are the best souvenirs of being alive.

I am a terrible skater.  A few years ago, I used to take lessons.  I was no star, but I improved.  I loved those Saturday lunch times, stolen time away from my day of piano students, and I loved the great, gliding, cold feeling that stayed with me after, even when I was back at work.

No one else in my family showed any interest in ice skating.  It was just me.  It was a wonderful, alone thing.  I tried to interest my son.  We went out a few times – while he had hand-me-down hockey skates that, for the moment, fit him – but he tried and fell, soon got cold, and whined to go home.

And, so, skating with someone remained a bit of a fantasy.  Bucket list item, I suppose.

After a while, when my lessons didn’t seem to be the practical thing to do anymore, and I stopped skating, I promised myself I would make time to go to public skating from time to time and continue my love affair with the ice that way.  I never went.  Not even once.

rhone

This painting by Van Gough may have got the colour and mood even better. Afterall, everyone already knows that OTHER one, right?

Last year, as my birthday approached, I thought of this with increasing longing.  I thought of the midnight blue, flecked with sparkles, I thought of Van Gough’s Starry Night, I thought of my skates.  I thought how nice it would be to skate outdoors and then walk along in Westboro Village at night, feeling the freshness.  Enjoying the dark.  I could see what I would be wearing, could taste what I would get to eat.  I could feel the weight in my hand of the little trinket I would select as a “remembership” (as Boo says) as I strolled along through the Village.  And then I thought how much more lovely this all would be if I had a friend to do it with.

I didn’t and I still don’t.  That’s sad, but it’s true too.  I have some girlfriends, mommy clique pals, so  I could arrange it as a girls’ night out, I suppose (even though that would be some doing, as they say – we all seem overwhelmed with husbands and kids, homes and responsibilities).  But that wasn’t the kind of evening I wanted.

What I wanted, was imagining, and longing for, was more like a date night, an evening of being with somebody whose hand you’re eager to grab hold of once again, after you sling your skates back up on your shoulder.  Someone to walk in that cold with, talking quietly.  Sometimes laughing.  Sometimes simply drinking in the beautiful midnight blue.