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That’s not me


There was this movie that came out in 1996 called “The truth about Cats and Dogs” in which Uma Thurman and Janeane Garofalo played friends in a bit of a reverse Cyranno de Bergerac. Uma is the tall model who maybe isn’t so worldly and Janeane is the smart, short, self-conscious one. There is a lot of great banter in this movie and the dialogue is smart and funny without pandering, but the reason I thought of it today is because I had a couple of friends take my picture.
So, there is a scene in the movie where Uma takes Janeane to a mall cosmetics counter and as Janeane is making very funny, if self-depreciating comments about her pores and the ‘free radicals’ in the air, the saleswoman plunks a huge, magnified mirror in front of her face. It’s a very aggressive move, and it perfectly illustrates two things about women: one, that our own inner dialogues to ourselves are worse than anything a person can say to us and two, that when insecure, we will spend money to try to fix it.

Which brings me back to today and my two friends. I work with a bunch of really fabulous people and in preparing for an upcoming newsletter, two of the people I love the most at work took my picture. Not just mine, but, this is my blog and this story is about me so, yeah, they took my picture. First of all, it’s daunting to have your picture taken. I am a total slave to the new age technology that allows me to use filters and take a zillion digital pictures to capture just that right ‘one’. So, having someone else control the lens made me nervous. Plus, I like these ladies. I am “the funny one”. I can always make people laugh. So of course I struck some poses like a fake Hollywood celeb with that hand on the hip front leg cross pose (from which I almost fell over, and I was wearing sneakers, not heels) and one of me literally climbing the wall behind me. But then they just kept on taking face shots. Which, I admit, was the point, but, again, no control=panic.
My inner me was freaking out a bit, having a hard time smiling without instantaneously criticising myself for how I must look. My inner me was instantaneously cataloguing every flaw that I feel the worst about or obsess the most about. My inner me was being a terrible, insecure wise-ass with a giant magnified mirror in my face.
Suffice it to say there were some really nice pictures in the bunch, because of course they’re both great photographers, but, as the emails kept rolling in for me to check them out, I had a really hard time. How do you turn off an inner dialogue that has been a part of your life for as long as you can remember?
You don’t.
I looked at each picture. The ones that were silly, the ones that were awful, the ones with too much neck, the funny one where I tried to pull my neck smooth, the one where I’m trying to look serious and am clearly clenching my teeth. I looked at every one of them. And whenever my inner voice tried to be too harsh, I said, that’s not me. I’ve worked very hard on my inner dialogue over the years trying to correct a lot of toxic thoughts and thought patterns. It’s not easy. But that can’t be me anymore.
So, I picked a nice shot, and also said that I would be fine with the goofy one of me pretending to climb the wall. Because that goof who likes to make people laugh, that’s me.
And I’m pretty okay with her.

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It starts (again)


I remember the fall of two years ago, standing in our kitchen the day Aislinn found out she was accepted early admission to Dalhousie. What a heady moment. What a proud moment. Now, it didn’t turn out that that was where she went for her first year of University, BUT, since our older two kids both delayed post secondary education, it was the first time we really had that “you’re accepted” thing and it really brought home for us the shift in the family. For years, it was the “older two”, then Ash (poor middle child syndrome, she was lumped in with either the “older two” or the “younger two”) and then the “younger two” or, the “little ones”.
Kathryn and Shawn Michael are close in age. They would have been 20 months apart, which is close by any standards, but, because he was a preemie, they are only 18 months apart. They were often mistaken for twins from about the ages of four/five, on. And they have always been the little ones of the family.
So, my older three kids have moved onward. They have all moved out, are working and living their lives. Which is still such a weird thing for me to say. But, they are all doing well, in the way young people do when they first live on their own, which is to say, they’re still all figuring it out and financially scraping by. That’s fine, they have loads of time.
Both Kathryn and Shawn M have jobs this year, which means they are both gone a lot. The house went from a smaller version of our regularly scheduled chaos to a very quiet one in one short month.

Yesterday, Kathryn texted me. She got early acceptance to Acadia. It may not be where she winds up going, but, that feeling in my stomach started all over again. Those little ones aren’t so little anymore. My baby girl is graduating high school this year and our baby boy, the little preemie who just turned 16 and is now 6’3″ tall, graduates next year.

I honestly don’t know where the time went! It seems like yesterday we were piling all the kids in the living room with their blankets and pizza from Lola’s and putting on a Disney movie for them before tucking them all into bed at 8:30 and now, my little adults are all either already flown the nest or making their plans for when they do.

Life moves quickly, my loves. And the older you get, the faster it goes.

Kathryn, I am so proud of you!! No matter which school you wind up going to, they will be richer for having you.

Care


There’s a reason why flight attendants tell you to put the mask on yourself before you help someone else. You can’t save someone if you’re dying.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about care lately. Self care, caring for others, and what it’s like to watch someone you love spiral. When to jump in and try to rescue them, and when to put your own oxygen mask on first. It’s not an easy conversation to have, at any stage in life, about anyone you care about.
Some time ago it was myself drowning. Lost in a sea of depression, anxiety, bad choices, manipulations, disorders and juxtaposing addictions to the adrenaline and the guilt. It was a beautiful, chaotic tornado that kept on circling my life and taking down everyone in its path.
So what happened? Things came a head. Some people call it “rock bottom” but I kind of rebel against that term. I, and most people I know, have hit several low points in their lives. Rock bottom is not a singular event, but a way of expressing that things are pretty much at their worst in a given situation. So, there I was, on the “bottom” of whatever was going on in my life. Sitting in the eye of the hurricane. My family alienated, my husband pushed away, my kids, well, sadly, not taken into consideration. I was going through the motions of my life and I was doing it numb. So, I was told to get help, or move on. A crossroads. An ultimatum. However you want to call it. The status quo was not only hurting me, it was hurting everyone around me. Change or leave. Because staying on the ride of that tornado was not going to work anymore.
And so began a very long period of work. Hard, gruelling work. Dr’s, psychiatrists, counsellors. They all had homework for me. Some of the homework was in pill form and some was in conversation and some in journaling and some was solitary work to do when I was alone. But it was all work. Work to get up every day and make little decisions minute by minute that propelled me forward, not in circles and certainly not backward. And I healed. Slowly.
A funny thing happened. The more time I spent doing the work on myself, and taking care of myself, the better my other relationships got. The more I did the work the more I could actually feel the changes happening. My confidence came back. My appreciation for others and for even the simplicity of my surroundings came screaming back.
Now, I’m a few years removed from the hardest of those times and although I still have to do the work, it’s less *work* now. I’m off everyday medication and have been for a while. I feel good in my skin.
I was talking to a friend today who is going through a really rough time. A loved one is spiralling. In that tornado. Chaos and mental illness sometimes are the most common/worst bedfellows. And it gets…easy…to just stop trying. I know that first hand. All I wanted to do was lie in bed. And I felt that because I was clearly not well, people should go out of their way to help me. Bring me things, do things for me. It’s the ultimate check out of life. And, irony, I have someone in my life, more than one someone, who is also going through this. In all the cases, my own people and hers, the person in question does not want to do the work. Refuses to see that it’s necessary, even takes it as an insult that it’s being suggested. I get it. I really do. That tornado is strong. So is the addiction to being ‘the broken one’. It’s hard and it’s painful and the first instinct is flight not fight. In fact, it sucks all the fight out of you.
But.
Fight you must. Because, and this is so hard, the people you love and lean on are getting tired. Burned out. And they are running out of resources to help. I told my friend today that however hard I thought it was coming out of it, it’s harder to watch someone else close to you. It’s harder to start telling them ‘no, actually, I can’t help you today. I can’t listen today’. Because it goes against everything that feels natural. We WANT to help those we love. But we can’t do it from empty tanks. And we can’t be part of the chaos for them. I watched my husband and even my children sit me down and tell me that if I would not help myself, then they were prepared to live a life without me. Because that was the healthiest choice for them and those were some of the worst conversations of my life. But, they also opened my eyes to what I was going to lose if I didn’t find my fight. I told my friend today, I can’t make the choice for her. No one can. But, she can’t save someone if she herself has no oxygen. Put on your mask, I said. Save yourself, and see how the view looks when you can breathe again.

We all have our hard things. Sometimes the hardest thing is to walk away. Sometimes the hardest is to stay.


Of course our health care system has flaws. What system doesn’t? But, it saved my husband.

Thank you to everyone at the Regional Hospital ER and Cardiac care.

Please, if you’re in a hospital today, or seeing a health professional, thank them. Thank them from the bottom of your heart.

And say a silent thank you that we don’t have to pay every time we see a doctor, visit a clinic, go to emerg or have an operation.

Happy life day, my dearest husband.

Happy life.


This past weekend was a long weekend and well, we just wouldn’t be us if we didn’t cram it full of stuff to do. So that’s exactly what we did. In the true spirit of team, I offered up our house as the location of the end of summer party for my work. In fairness, our property is just made for hosting and I was happy to do it. The weather was not so happy. It was cold, rainy and dismal. We didn’t let it deter us, though. We built a fire in the fire pit to keep folks warm and split our time from fireside to pool shed to back garage. There was plenty of good food, drinks and conversation and we went on until almost midnight.
Saturday morning, we helped our middle daughter Aislinn move out of our house and into her first apartment.
I’m going to pause here to speak on why this was so hard, because, I already have two other children who have moved out and, not to diminish what I felt when they did, there is something about this one that made it….well, harder.
So, I’m the second oldest of seven and I grew up with my older brother (13 months apart) and two younger sisters (four and six years younger). My three younger siblings were “the little ones”, which, fair or not, is what they were. They are 10, 13 and 15 years younger than me. They were born AFTER we moved from Guelph to Elora. Those first years of mine as a kid are filled with typical kid stuff: soccer teams and gymnastics and dance classes and taking us all over the place on family trips and such. Typical family stuff. But then, when I was 13 my dad got very sick and things slowed way down. So it was like, I got this one ‘Dad’ and the “little ones” got another.
We have often joked, much to our own children’s horror, that our family did a similar ‘split’ after we moved out east. We had family #1, when all the kids were little and we did soccer and dance and trips to Algonquin and epic Sunday morning breakfasts and movie nights and pulled them out of school for Harry Potter releases. And then we moved here and Shawn got sick, Liam and Keisha moved out and it was just us and our own “little three”. Only they weren’t so little. So life went on and we took kids to music lessons and we did a prom and a graduation and then not even a full month ago our Aislinn tells us she is seriously looking at places. Within two weeks she found one and voila, Saturday morning she moved out.
We miss her. It’s quiet with only two kids at home.
So how do we deal with only two kids left at home? Renovate, that’s how. We found a great deal on flooring at Home Depot, a new couch (after months literally of searching), and bought paint at Kent. So we spent the rest of our long weekend ripping out old floors, painting the walls, painting the trim around the room, windows and doors and then yesterday, putting the new floor in. Out with the old, on with the new.
In tune with our changing family, Shawn and I opted for the ‘old person’ choice of only one couch and a ‘special’ chair for each of us. For him, a recliner (only a nice one, not that brown monstrosity he used to have – love you babe) and for me, a chaise lounger. Something I can stretch out on, cuddle under a blanket on and oh yeah, knit. Because I’m also old.
I generally dislike change. Shawn and I walked around our house on Sunday night, after a late night snack in the kitchen and we realized, we bought our house for the family we had at the time, and not the one we were on the cusp of having. It’s a lot of house, for a diminishing amount of people.
I guess that just means we’ll have to have more parties.

Happy back to school, all!

Little birds


I had a nest with five little birds
Singing a chorus, night and day
Filling the air with their beautiful song
and never was chirping so gay

My five little birds lived in harmony
From fledgling to full soaring flight
Dipping and diving through air all the day
and snuggled in dark peaceful night

The first bird was quiet and pensive
The second was bold and so bright
The third had a strength behind grace
The fourth was a beautiful sight

The fifth bird was tiny, and broken at first
Fighting for each gasp of air
He grew to be bigger than all of them
he grew to be handsome and fair

My five little birds fluttered round me
All with such mischievous eyes
Then one by one, as they grew bigger
disappeared in beckoning skies

Five, four, three, onward into the world
Until only two remained home
For birds cannot nest for forever
and mothers must let their birds roam

I had a nest with five little birds
Please come back and visit some day
fill up our home with your beautiful songs
for never was chirping so gay

Me, Him, Them, You


I am in so many relationships, you guys. Like, a plethora. An abundance. A glut of relationships. I got relationships coming out the wazoo, which is a great thing, because at 42, I can happily say that the majority of those relationships are positive ones. And do you know why that is? Because I cracked the code. I figured out the hierarchy of relationship:happiness.
Me, Him, Them, You
Looks simple, doesn’t it? Almost too simple. And yet, so many people struggle with this. I’m not throwing shade, I myself completely struggled with this for YEARS. I finally got it right though and now I’m going to share it with you.
Me. I have to come first in the relationship list. It took me a really long time to accept this as not only true, but, as the HEALTHIEST choice for me to make. I always thought that putting myself first meant that I was being a total narcissist, but, I had it wrong. It makes me the sanest, most giving and loving me I can possibly be.
You see, I let my “me” relationship sit on the sidelines for a long time. I told her it was more important to focus on the children (which, is highly important, and they are a BIG factor of my life), my husband, my friends and making sure that everybody liked me at the EXPENSE of my own happiness, self worth and health. Tell me, how are you going to make all those other relationships wonderful fulfilling ones when it’s evident you don’t care enough about yourself to be happy? You can’t. Because if those people in your other relationships notice you are constantly unhappy, sacrificing yourself or just being a doormat for their happiness, they will stop trusting you. They will no longer engage in a mutually beneficial way, they will either pity you, or take advantage of you or just plain give up. For years I let my need to be ‘for everyone else’ overshadow my need to be for me.
And then. Major life changes, re-evaluation of life and a lot of really good therapy and I learned that when I look to myself first, I’m a happier person. I am able to give more, do more and be more because I have the reserves to do so. I can say no and not feel immediately worried that I’m letting someone else down because I’M ALLOWED TO SAY NO. My life is no longer lived for everyone else, which has in turn allowed me to be freer with the part of me that I *do* give. Being happy every day, for the most part, is the best way to live my life and believe me when I say, that has a ripple effect on ALL of my other relationships.
Him. So I’m married. I’ve been married forever, plus 22 years. I’m one of those few people in our current society who married her high school sweetheart at 19 years old and we’re still going strong. But we weren’t always. In fact, for a good stretch of years there, we were a mess. A big ol, covered in sticky kid fingers mess. Why? Because I was in the depths of living for my ‘other’ relationships. It was all going to the kids and then to the friends and the community we lived in, for the sake of appearances. And while we “appeared” to be “perfect” on the outside, a farce we were super proficient at performing, we were an unholy mess on the inside. He lived for his job and I lived for the kids. Neither of us lived for each other or more importantly for ourselves.
And then. Those major life changes and all that great therapy. Much like the discovery of self, we learned that we ‘chose’ our relationship with one another and we needed to bring it back to priority. We started to date again. We talked and really listened. We became one another’s best friends again and when there was a problem, instead of going to the friends to bitch, we went to one another and worked on it. The newly found importance of taking care of ourselves trickled into care of one another and our relationship. We found so many new levels of connection and we’re still discovering them. And it’s OKAY for us to put ourselves before our kids. Because when they see us working together every day on making our marriage and ourselves the best they can be, we model for them the kind of love and happiness they in turn will seek out. What a gift to give them!
Them. Those kids. Well, we had a bunch, so what did we expect other than having them take over the world. Five kids in eight years. Like lunatics. Or people who had birth control fail them once or twice. Either way, I love each and every child of mine even when I am super mad at them and they know it.
When they were little, I had the luxury of staying home with them for almost 12 years. I loved being a stay at home mom outwardly, but inwardly I struggled. Children are HARD. And to make matters harder, I also babysat in our home to bring in extra income, so between that and the friends in our neighborhood who came over, it wasn’t unusual for our house to have 7-10 kids in it at a given time. I was all about the kids. I did everything for them. Maybe sometimes too much. It’s hard to know. But, as they got older and I went back to work, in my fear of losing my connection with them from the single digit years, I started blurring the lines between parent, and friend. This did not actually serve either of us well. As the older kids got older, they sometimes became my confidants, and that REALLY didn’t serve us well. So, as I’ve said, excellent therapy and a reclaiming of our roles and their place in the hierarchy and I have excellent, parental parts in my children’s lives. I’m loving watching them all take their turns at moving on and becoming the adults they are becoming and I’m proud to say that they have (or seemed to have) learned that they need to take care of themselves in order to be able to give of themselves to others. I never hear anything but praise of how mature and delightful they are.
You. You get to come last. That doesn’t mean I neglect my friends, it just means, and you all know this, myself, my husband and my kids supersede you. I’m not going to go to you over my husband or hide things for you from him. I don’t do secrets and lies anymore. I don’t do drama. God, I hate the drama. And the best thing is? Since adopting this, the people in my/our life who thrived on the drama and the chaos have simply drifted out. Either than or I’ve let them go. And the people left? They are the ones who understand where I/we are and they get it. They love and respect us for it. Mostly, they are the same way.
It’s a happier life, friends, knowing this. Living this.
Me. Him. Them. You. It made it all so much simpler. And so much better.

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