Weathering the Shitstorm

Five great reasons to get my act together.

Five great reasons to get my act together.

Calorie counting, which I am mostly diligent about, but have taken a break from because my father-in-love is in town and he equals FOOD, has helped me shed about fifteen pounds since I last wrote here. I’ve limited myself to 1600 calories each day because I’m breastfeeding, and I’m generally staying away from complex carbs and refined sugar. Right now I’m about ten pounds away from my target, and I’m now seriously contemplating exercise each day. Note that I haven’t said I’m going to start exercising each day. That’s more commitment than I can handle, and the careful food choices seem to be working well. Score one for me.

I’m back to work (part time, I guess), and back on stage with the Coquettes, and about to head to Alberta with them for our first out-of-province shows. My experience with becoming a mother, birthing a baby, and watching my body turn inside out and upside down has created this insane confidence on stage. More than ever, I feel like I’m there to have fun, help the audience have fun and I really don’t give a shit about what might come out of my mouth in the process. This has made for some great shows as far as I’m concerned. That edit button is gone it seems, and hilarity ensues. Score two for me, I guess.

Noah is thriving, and smiling like a maniac nearly all of the time. The little monster is only four months old but fitting comfortably into nine month clothing, all while exclusively breastfeeding! He’s so long, I think he may end up a giant like my 6’7 brother. His sisters are wonderful too. I just had the absolute pleasure of two glowing parent/ teacher interviews where both teachers sang the praises of our wonderful children and our wonderful family. Score three?

I’m giving myself this cyber pep-talk because in therapy I’m experiencing what you might call the eye of the storm. The work I’m doing there feels like complete and utter shit. It feels like teenage days all over again. I sort of hated high school, so on Sunday nights I would feel absolutely sick with dread knowing that I had to return there on Monday. This is the same feeling I get now on my pre-therapy days. What’s going on there? Well, the simple answer is when I’m faced with difficulty, criticism and my own short comings, guess what I do? I go stony, I detach, I shut down. I do this because I  feel like I’m a terrible person and everyone around me is better off without me. I want to crawl in a hole and run away. That’s what happens inside. Outside I look like a cold-hearted bitch who doesn’t care about anything.

When there is a problem in your relationship, you want your partner there with you. You want them emotionally present to help work through difficulty. I can’t do this, or at least I haven’t been able to do this. I hate this about myself  and now I’m taking a very critical and thorough look at where this comes from and how I can stop it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and it hurts like hell.

So, how does a Schnoo deal with such a difficult emotional place?

1. Binge eating. Yes, I allow myself to completely and totally pig out, but only for one day. I know I can get back on track quickly, so I just go for it. Emotional eating is never a great idea, but sometimes only chocolate and popcorn can make the pain go away.

2. Maid mode. Today, after gorging myself last night, I have been a cleaning maniac. Cleaning through stress is the best thing. It’s a physical opportunity to scrub away all of the ugly, and it feels so good to take care of it while my partners are hard at work earning our bread. This morning marked the best on-my-hands-and-knees-in-front-of-the-toilet catharsis yet.

3. Makeup. If I feel like shit on the inside, I can’t stand to look like shit on the outside. I try to take extra time to focus on the things I can control, like glowing skin and bright eyes. I love makeup, I love the art of makeup application, and I love how this simple act picks me up.

4. Writing. It’s like puking the contents of my head onto paper, and I swear it’s the greatest gift I was born with. No other physical act makes me feel better.

5. Fresh air. I need to leave my physical space when I feel like crap. I used to take my iPad to the cafe near by, but with the little Noodle as my constant companion, I can’t indulge in out-of-the-house writing excursions these days. Instead he and I are going to drag daddy out to the new diner around the corner for lunch where I will sport my fresh and dewy face, indulge in a milkshake, and try to not feel like such an asshole.

If I have these wonderful people in my life who say they love me, and who are trying to build a world with me in it I can’t be so horrible, right? Is it shame that I feel in the face of making them hurt or feel frustrated and disappointed in me? Why can’t I let myself make mistakes and be a ‘work in progress’? Why can’t I just say “Yeah, that IS shitty, let’s fix it” instead of wanting to run away and hide?

I used to question the logic of  my friends who would start therapy and then quit, but now that we’ve scraped well beyond the surface and am digging into the meat of my psyche I can totally understand the impulse to stop the process. I won’t though. Somewhere beyond all of this crap-ass feeling is the realization that I (and all of those I love) will be better for it. Somewhere my mind knows that crying like a maniac is actually better for me than going all stony and hard so I don’t have to feel things. Therapy is best approached like a very sticky bandaid – get in there, rip it off, and deal with the pain rather than gingerly peel it back, or see if it will eventually fall off in the shower. That last one always ends up a dirty, stinky mess, doesn’t it?

Spring time goal: getting rid of the hard candy shell to enjoy the gooey centre.

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16 Days

A Little Tin of Chocolate

I began writing this blog in 2008, fresh after a breakup from a very complicated relationship, and filled with excitement because I was about to embark on a solo vacation to Paris. Life felt pretty huge and terrifying then. I was raw with emotion, and apprehensive about what the future held for me. When I returned from my trip, I would have no place to live, and I’d be facing the realities of being single and thirty-something.

I drank Paris in, and fell deeply in love with a city that I always suspected would have a special place in my heart. Because I was on a very tight budget, I allowed myself only a few token souvenirs, mostly purchased at a well-stocked supermarket and the Parisian equivalent of Winners. One of these mementos was a tin of French drinking chocolate, so I could enjoy the delicious little ritual I had created for myself each afternoon no matter where I ended up back home in Canada.

When my new family and I combined our households, the chocolate tin came with me. I hadn’t expected the chocolate to survive, but the tin was pretty so I imagined we could use it for storage in our kitchen. French chocolate is resilient though, and to my amazement still tastes as good as it did when I first bought it almost five years ago.

On Tuesday night, A and Daddy made us a post-dinner hot chocolate and marshmallow nightcap, and all five of us sat around the table enjoying it together. As I gazed at the faces of these beautiful girls who have been one of the greatest gifts of my life thus far, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. Strolling through the aisles of that Parisian grocery store, trying to choose just the right thing to bring home, I had resigned myself to believing that children and family were a long, long way off and perhaps something that were not meant for me in Schnooville. But now I sat surrounded by my family, (a family I have chosen against all odds, and a family who freely chose me despite all of my flaws), drinking that Parisian chocolate and ready to burst with another brand new life who gets to go through each day with these wonderful people. I feel no fear about this huge milestone because my heart believes I am exactly where I should be, with the people I need most in my life.

Look defeat in the eye and love yourself even harder. Tell disappointment that you deserve better. Treat your broken heart to vacations and decadent chocolate and trust that somehow, probably in the most unpredictable way, it will all work out. If you believe that you are lovable, the love you crave will find you.

H & A Enjoy Some Tummy Time:

It’s Gonna Take A Lot To Take Me Away From You

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Have you ever remained in denial about a thing until it was right there staring you in the face? Of course then what happens is that all of the feelings and fears you refused to acknowledge are there en mass, and there’s no pretending anymore.

I’m folding tiny clothes and tiny socks and packing up suitcases and trying to stay bright and positive, but I’m not good at missing people. I’m not good at “aparting” as my five-year-old would say. My fella and my girls are off to Africa for three weeks and my lady and I must stay behind.

It’s a huge opportunity and a huge adventure for the girls and my man hasn’t been back in 22 years. It’s an important trip for the extended family, surrounding an important religious occasion, and I’m excited for them but so sad.

Sad to miss so many firsts, sad to be so far away, sad to not be able to take time off to visit such an amazing place, and sad that their first time couldn’t be our first time too.

There’s a bright side too because there always is. I get three very quiet weeks to focus on work, reading, writing. I get three weeks to enjoy some alone time with my lady. I’m hoping those great pluses will take the edge off my worry and sadness.

I furnished the girls with a fresh new sketch book, we will Skype every day, and hopefully the time will fly by. In the New Year, I’m hopeful that we can go on a family vacation – something we’ve yet to do all together.

What a magical time for them! I guess it’s a little tough for me because I’ve missed a lot of their magical experiences already, and I’m new to the maternal separation anxiety thing.  I’ll focus on the magic that we’re bound to share as their lives unfold, enjoy the quiet time for reflection, and celebrate the adventures that await us all.

Dear Friends

You are really and truly amazing and important to me. In many ways, I think of you as the family I have chosen, and I hope that you share that sentiment with me. My home is always open to you, as is my heart, and when I love people there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for them.

I have a few requests of you, so I hope you are listening.

1. I am in a closed romantic relationship. Though it defies convention, in many ways we are the same as conventional couples. We are “monogamous” insofar as we can be. We welcome your hugs, kisses, platonic love and mild flirtation, but please know that we are not recruiting.

2. The children in my life call me “mama”. They believe I am their mother. I believe I am their mother. My partners believe I am their mother. Please address me as such, particularly in front of my children, and kindly do not address parental-type conversations directly to their biological parents in front of me. We are called “mamma S” and “mamma C” if you need to make a distinction. Please treat my children as you would if they were my adopted or biological children. I call them my step kids, but it’s a bit different, isn’t it?

3. We are living in the open. Therefore when thanking us as a family please address us either by our individual first names or lump us all together under one tree. Either use my full name and say “and the rest of the x family” or just say the “x family”. We care what you think. We don’t give a shit about what your parents/aunts/uncles/strangers/etc. think.

4. If you can’t invite all of us to events and occasions because you’re afraid of what people will think, please don’t invite any of us. We won’t always ALL be able to come, but we’re not really into leaving anyone behind for reasons other than schedule conflicts.

5.  We are all partners now. Terms like “husband” and “wife” no longer apply to any of us, unless you are trying to be cute and are bestowing titles on all of us.

6. Thank you for your love and support. We’re going to have a lot of explaining to do in this lifetime, and some unintentional social blunders to wade through because of the choices we’ve made. We anticipate this, and hope that this post has been helpful. There aren’t really any etiquette tips that apply to our situation, so we are creating our own.

Take a moment and reflect on your own relationship, if you are in one. Some of you wouldn’t have the love that so enriches your lives if it weren’t for pioneers to blaze the trail to the rights you now enjoy, and perhaps take a little bit for granted. Maybe one day, we’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our own courage in a way that extends well beyond our four walls.

With so much love,

Schnoo

The Wild Geese

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
Mary Oliver

This week in Schnooville

We adopted a six-month-old bunny. After conclusively deciding that my man is only mildly allergic to rabbits (a very hilarious trip to the Menagerie Pet Store involving a rabbit face-rub was our scientific study) our tribe decided it was time for our first pet. Floppy was the first rabbit I discovered with my lady on Kiji, after the kids had been tucked into bed. Her family was near by, and had made the sad decision to give her up because she was terrified of their terrier. Terriers were bred to hunt small game and rodents. Sigh. They described her as gentle, fun-loving, eager to be pet and stroked, mostly litter trained and adorable. Their photos supported the adorable theory, and she came with her massive cage and all of the goods for a very reasonable price. A steal, really. I sent a note and the next day we went to gather her up. The children decided to call her Ella because she is a lovely mottled grey, and elephants are also grey. She is as affectionate as described – perhaps too much. She keeps making chortles, giving me little nips and peeing on me. Based on my bunny research, she is trying to do what rabbits like better than carrots. Ella will be spayed on Friday which should help with her marking and garlic-smelling poo. So not okay. Nothing I read told me her crapola would smell like cooking. Feeding her more parsley only made it smell like French cooking. Hmmm…rabbit stew. Just kidding, I’m already quite in love.

I have the weirdest cold. One day I’m just a tad sniffly, the next I can’t talk, am hacking up a lung, and wondering whether I might be expelling brain matter from my nose. The cold arrived before the rabbit, so I’ve dispelled the possibility of my own allergies. I’ve cleared my social calendar completely and am behaving like what my friend Natalie would call a “nana” – like a contented old lady who takes naps and sips tea by the fire.

I discovered the amazing poet Mary Oliver through the lovely Liz Green – thank you Liz! I’m hungry for her words like I haven’t been in a long time, and look forward to reading more of her work.

One of my ‘Besties’ (a title reserved for my very closest friends) is relocating to Los Angeles. He’d already moved far away to Montreal, but his lovely Toronto girlfriend kept luring him back for visits. Now they’re shacking up and heading off for new adventures. I’m thrilled for them, but he will be missed. I can only hope that they will follow through on their plans to settle in Toronto permanently.  Spring has me thinking of babies, and I’d like to rear all of my young with my friends who I love so dearly close by.

I’m trying to do good and right by the ones I love. I’m taking big steps, reaching out, and reaching in. This week I came to realize how profound one of my big-time low moments in life has affected my present tense. When you have royally fucked up, there are always consequences. My former tendency was to run, under the guise of sparing others from the misery that I decide that I’ve caused them. Grown-up Schnoo is willing to stand and face the music and do whatever it takes to make things as amazing as they can be. It’s abso-freakin-lutely terrifying to stare down the barrel at your own weakness and stupidity. I want to crawl out of my skin or disappear in some moments, but there is such immense power and tremendous love in humility. I wish to foster humility in my girls, because I was only able to embrace it after smashing my head repeatedly in the same spot over and over again. I’m still learning how to really embrace the humble openness that seems to consistently make magic. Nothing is scarier than being that open for a Schnoo like me. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. I’ve been whispering my feelings into the Internet for several years now. Naming them to real-live people is another matter entirely.

With that, off I go to my head shrinker. We’ll have lots to discuss today. I’ve fueled up on a giant maple flavoured coffee while I’ve been typing here. I hope your Hump Day is happy. Tell someone you love something brave and beautiful that is deep inside your heart, and then congratulate yourself for being so bold.

xo

Eternal Sunshine and My Spotless Heart


2011 is off to a very, very good start. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

My world is being put back together very carefully, and with so much love. I am so very lucky to have another opportunity at forging the life I’ve wanted with the clarity and awareness and understanding that I now have. That we all have. We are truly blessed.

So many of you reading this have reached out to me with your own stories, and your encouragement, and your love. I really can’t thank you enough. I have no secret solution for solving matters of the heart, but I can try to distill what I have learned, and what I am learning.

You cannot love or be loved without the willingness and ability to make yourself vulnerable. The more you fight that, the more you will encounter strife, grief, and heartache. It’s terrifying to open yourself up, particularly once you’ve learned a thing or two about life, but nothing less will work. Especially when the one who loves you is willing to open themselves up for you. Vulnerability is essential, and sometimes impossible. It’s a constant struggle to check in and identify what is preventing your heart from opening up.

Trust is paramount. You simply have to give it over. For me, giving over trust was like stretching my hamstrings. It fucking hurts, and at first I could only stretch a little bit, and the next day I’d be aching. Eventually, as my body realized I wasn’t going to rip or tear anything by trusting, the hamstrings of my heart began to relax and I could go further and further. I was hurting myself and everyone around me a lot more by tensing up and resisting. Strains, sprains, and tears everywhere. Not pretty.

Trust cannot be taken away. At the end of the day, trust is not about hoping people won’t take advantage of your vulnerability and annihilate you. We really have no control whatsoever over what other people will do. Trust is about trusting yourself and your heart to survive anything life might throw your way. Trust is about knowing you have the strength and tenacity to rise above whatever difficulty or heartache you face.

Love is everything. When you find someone who loves you well, for who you are, who believes in you and inspires you and makes you want to be a better person, hang on to them. The way to hang on to them is to constantly strive to know and understand yourself. Understand what you are contributing to the relationship. Understand how you might be damaging the relationship. Know yourself. Love yourself. Understand that you are worthy of their love and that you won’t make a mess of it.

Don’t listen to fear. Though it may roar louder than the angriest ocean, it is almost always false. The more you have to lose, the louder the ocean of fear. Only you can quell it. Take a deep breath, do a quick survey of what is actually happening around you, understand the difference between what is happening and what you are afraid might be happening and tell fear that it is simply reminding you of how much you have at stake. Then be grateful for the abundance that you have and move forward. This will have to be repeated on a daily basis for some of us.

Communicate. Open your mouth and breathe out the things in your heart and your mind. Breathe them to your loved ones, breathe them to your confidantes, breathe them to your diary, breathe them to yourself, breathe them to the Universe. Speak with love. Listen with love. Listen with more love to the things that are difficult to hear. Accept difficult truths and embrace them with love. Understand why they hurt you and understand the call to change. Answer the call with love and resolve. Understand when words should be ruminated upon and when they should be shared. Share with calm and with peaceful intention.

Banish anger. It will eat you alive. Hear it, look at it, hold it in your hand and then send it away. Find other words to describe that feeling, peaceful words that open the door to transformation. Anger is a wall that is high and mighty and will shadow you from the healing light of love.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m sure there will be many more lessons to share. I welcome your lessons too. Share them here, in comments, so we can all grow wiser.

In the background some chilled out trance music with a smooth beat and a sitar woven through its rhythms acts as a backdrop. This quiet moment where I can share my heart with you feels like an awakening.

I know what I want. It’s what I’ve always wanted. I have it, I accept it, and I am eternally grateful for it. This is my time to shine. Are you ready? I finally am.