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

All the Bells Rang Out, There Were Tears of Joy and Laughter

In the face of so much uncertainty, I know this is true; I never want the holidays to feel like this again. This has always been an important time of the year to me, and I want to honor it without so much confusion and sadness for all of the rest of my days. Perhaps that’s naive, but this is how I feel today.

Initially, I thought I would forgo the extended family Christmas Day feast, a tradition I’ve observed since birth, every single year of my life. I’ve been so emotional lately, and putting on a brave face seemed totally impossible. I was also worried that I would be facing judgment, which is difficult on a good day.

As the days leading up to Christmas unfolded however, my reality shifted once again, and I found myself yearning for something as familiar as the sight of my own face in the mirror.

I felt great calm wash over me as I arrived at my parents’ house, my house for my entire life. Right after walking through their door, I knew I had made the right decision. As the day would unfold, I knew I was where I should be, but I also knew that four important people were missing. I felt their absence as profoundly as I felt the waistband of my jeans constricting around my turkey-filled belly.

It was a beautiful day in my aunt’s beautiful home. My family were generally warm and unobtrusive. I was so happy to play and snuggle and dance with my cousins’ beautiful children. We went through a spell where there were no little ones for several years, but now my generation is pro-creating and there is tinkling laughter and the exuberant energy of little monkeys all over again. I still hope that one day my own little ones will be part of that music.

Yesterday I learned that members of my family are actively reading this blog. I also learned that reading this blog seems to create some confusion for some of them. For those of you who are confused about who I am writing to, or for, or about I would like you to just ask me. Please send me a note. Please don’t speculate and create further confusion and possibly hurt feelings. This made for a really awkward moment on an already difficult day for me yesterday.

I have great love, respect, and admiration for my collective family. They have survived a lot of pain and loss. Despite this, we continue to come together. For me, that impulse comes from honoring the idea that there are some constant, deeply rooted things that tie us to the earth, and add meaning and purpose to our lives. Family is one of them.

Watching everyone spontaneously rock out to Boney M after dinner, with percussion instruments in hand or babies in arms reminded me of where I come from. Life is deeply painful, incredibly confusing, and exquisitely beautiful all at the same time. I come from people who deeply understand this.

The people who make us can’t fully know us, the people who know us can’t really make us. Our hearts belong only to ourselves and are our beautiful worlds to govern.

This heart of mine needs family. Deep, true, real family that I can belong with and belong to. This is at the top of my New Year’s wish list, and will shape the woman I am in 2011.

I hope that your Christmas Day was warm, and that your Boxing Day will suitably be devoted to eating too much, drinking too much beer, and watching the Canada/Russia game. This is what will keep me rooted to the world today.

People shouted ‘Let everyone know, there is hope for all to find peace.’

Chrysalis, Day Twenty-Eight

DISCLAIMER:

Adventures in Schnooville is my personal space on the Internet. If you’re here, it’s either because I’ve invited you in, or you happened by and I decided to leave the door open.

Are you hearing me? This space is mine. For me. Please don’t forget that for a second. All of the thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, and frustrations expressed here are my unique perspective on my very own unique life.

If you see yourself reflected here, if you discover experiences that are similar to your own, if you can relate, then I am of course delighted. That’s rather the point, isn’t it? We are compelled to write to combat feelings of solitude and isolation, and we are compelled to read to discover common themes and threads that tie all of us together. It makes me happy to know that for some of you, reading about my personal journey has made yours a little less lonely. If I do nothing else in my life, I think that’s a very fine thing.

If you know me beyond the realms of the internet, if you know a little bit about my life and the players therein, you are sharing even more of my personal experience, and if you’re reading this, then you ought to honor that. It’s rather like I left my journal open on your coffee table, isn’t it? On purpose. This is where I walk through my emotions, and here you are, sharing that with me. If it upsets you to read this, then walk away. Don’t read. Cancel your subscription, un-friend me on Facebook, delete me from your news feed, or take a break and come back some other time. I’m not writing for you, and I never will be. Commenting on the emotions I am expressing is futile because I can and will continue to express what I am feeling here. Always with as much sensitivity as I can muster, but as long as I’m here, I’ll be writing here.

I think you will find that if you give yourself a week, and then come back and re-read whatever upset you, it will be a very different experience. Or perhaps not. Whatever the case, it’s your responsibility to deal with how my emotions might be making you feel if you chose to read these pages.

Comments of reflection, relation, sensitivity, encouragement, sharing, and inspiration are always welcome here in Schnooville. Harsh criticism, judgment, and hurt are not. Start your own blog.

Finally, I would like to say that nearly a month in this chrysalis has given me a keen look at what it is like to be one of those people who absolutely dread this time of the year. For you, every year beyond this one, I give a little slice of my heart. I’m not sure if it’s the cold and snow, or if it’s the result of carefully planned propaganda, but this time of year wants sad and lonely people to hurt more than ever, and that’s just wrong.

Here is the challenge I throw down – make a list of everything in your life, right now, that offers you a consistent sense of warmth. Notice I didn’t say people? People are not so constant, but I can bet a warm mug of tea (with a nip of scotch perhaps) is always a little bit of comfort. If you have even one constant person who can be counted on for warmth, even if you don’t know them well, add them to your list. Warmth is warmth when it’s especially cold.

A whole month has passed almost since my life began to change shape again.

Last year, at this time, I knew it would be the last Christmas that I found myself in the circumstances I was in. I didn’t predict this change of course, and within the many layers of pain and sadness is a layer of unexpected surprise. A change of course that illuminates, and offers hope in the power of love. Hope that I have always held hidden beneath my layers of fear and cynicism. Now this hope has a face, and a name. It is real, and I will hold it close to my heart and recognize it over and over again each day.

There will be no fresh start because life continues moving forward. If you keep moving with it, your landscape will always change. In these dark winter months, the light at the end of the tunnel is impossible to see, but as spring waits tucked around the corner like a blushing virgin, so too is the light hidden away, waiting for the moment of revelation.

I raise a mug of warm scotch to you, and remind you that you’re not ever really alone.

Chrysalis Life, Day One (Morning)

Bailey's Winter Coat

I drifted in and out of sleep, waking only once with the panic of feeling like I was having a bad dream (and that dream was in fact my own reality). Instead of being woken by my step-children, I was greeted with a tiny dog that looks like Samuel L. Jackson crash-landing on my sternum. In a flurry of slimy dog kisses and the faint aroma of corn chips I regained my bearings and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.

I quickly realized that my low-carb, high protein lifestyle does not match my parent’s peanut butter and jam toast for breakfast routine. At least coffee is universal and the grocery store is on the corner.

As I woke up slowly, instead of packing tiny lunches, I opened email after email from concerned friends. Some who I’ve known for years and who really are my family, some who I barely know at all who wanted me to know that I was loved. This made it possible to imagine the next few steps in my day with some measure of lightness in my heart.

My parents insist on keeping their home like a meat locker. Thankfully, it’s a cozy home, despite this sub-zero climate. I donned my fingerless mitts to hunch over my computer like some red-headed lady Bob Cratchet.

Cooking is path that leads to happiness. There will be cooking in my future, and I’ll be diligent about sharing recipes here. We can call it the “Broken Hearted Feast”. Then I’ll publish it like a cookbook and make millions of dollars. Don’t steal that.

(LATER MORNING)

I’ve just done some actual Coquettes work to set a client up with everything she needs to convince her board to let us show our tatas in Owen Sound. Fingers crossed.

Before that, I took my mom’s ridiculous little dog for a walk around my old hood. He has a new winter coat which he seems to be terrified of. I think with firm patience I’ve broken him of this paralyzing fear, because his little legs finally got moving and he was able to make a poop. Tiny victories.

This simple stroll around the block was a snapshot of my entire life in The Hammer. My parents have had the same house since 1975. I think their refusal to move had less to do with economics and more to do with their desire to give my brother and I the stable home that neither of them really had as children. They live in a complex of townhouses, and I think they are one of three original homeowners who remain here from the glory days.

When they bought the house it was a promising little suburb surrounded by orchards and farm fields. Now, it’s The Hood. Two clusters of low-income apartment buildings sprung up, and the neighbourhood deteriorated accordingly. This place went from a sea of kids who were similar in age to a land with few children who could speak the same language, blue collar workers, and immigrants who are trying to get a foothold in their new life.

As I grew older, the parks and playgrounds got meaner. Used condoms, hypodermic needles, shifty, greasy men in dark corners, strangers with slow-moving cars, crack dealing public school thugs and angry girls with babies in their tummies became more and more common.

The family-minded neighbourhood die-hards stood their ground. There is a handful of home owners who insist on maintaining pristine gardens that they tend with love (my mother is one of these). One of the low-income housing buildings even takes up a tenant fund to create a glorious landscape of hollyhocks and snapdragons each summer. Some of the people in this neighbourhood have real pride in where they live, and a great number of our neighbours are one welfare cheque away from having nowhere to live at all.

Welfare cheque days were the most dangerous in this neighbourhood growing up. From what my parents have told me, the new immigrant population has now outnumbered the white trash conglomerate, so things aren’t as exciting as they used to be. I clearly recall Friday evenings spent dodging beer bottles soaring from balconies across the street, parties that lasted two days with the strains of Waylon Jennings floating from open screenless windows, and the police here, in multiples of three from 9pm until way past my bed time.

And yet, my mom and dad managed to carve out a little oasis.

Now, my old school is an adult learning centre. The public school next door to where my school was shares it’s massive field with a recreation centre and fully-loaded playground, and there’s a cricket field, soccer field, and cluster of benches under a group of trees where the Sikh gentlemen sit conversing and sharing food year-round when the weather permits.

Bailey wore his powder blue and silver coat, and I floated along my route to school and my usual trick or treat route in a cream-coloured Calvin Klein coat, a brown Valentino scarf, my Coach sunglasses and a vintage fur hat. The men I encountered were ruddy-faced middle aged white men who seemed to have nowhere to go, and the women I saw were scale tipping ladies and girls who poured themselves into jogging pants with words written across the bum. And of course the Sikh gentlemen.

My point here is not to establish status. My designer articles are things I loved that are the product of my extraordinary ability to source mad bargains. I don’t spend insane amounts of money on clothes and accessories. My point is to illustrate that in this place, since I was six, I have always felt like a stranger in a strange land. How many other twelve year olds have had a collection of signature scarves?

As has always been the case, I felt everyone I encountered eyeballing me. Perhaps that’s why I’ve grown so comfortable in the spotlight in my adulthood? Embracing the attention has certainly been useful in my life.

Our therapist made a very astute observation yesterday that I hadn’t even arrived at yet. My experience of the relationship I was trying so hard at was that no matter what, I would always be the outsider. I’ve felt like an outsider for my entire life and have experienced some real pain and feelings of inadequacy as a result. My struggle to belong has shaped me as an individual, and the pain of struggling for acceptance in the context of my relationship was simply too great.

I regret deeply all the hurt my honesty has  caused. There are so many people who, when faced with their own difficult truths, can brush these aside and exist in a place of denial and trying to maintain status quo. I did this once, for four years, and I promised myself to never, ever do it again. It pains me to think of my loved ones feeling so sad. We tried to do something quite unique, and we discovered some amazing things about ourselves, the complexities of love and relationship dynamics, and each other as individuals. I don’t feel like it was a failure, but rather a very necessary journey for us all. I hope that through the pain we now face each of us can hold on to that. I hope that we can hang on to the love we’ve found, in the way that mature, open-hearted, self-aware individuals can do. I also hope we can shelter our children from the complicated nature of adult relationships and cushion them through these transitions with all of the love and security they deserve.

Sadness is like a deep well right now. I have to make sure to hang on to the bucket.

I’m making dinner tonight for my parents and my brother. Here’s the menu:

Roasted Sweet Potato

Sauteed Green Beans

Braised Red Cabbage

Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Shallots

Perhaps some time in the kitchen will make me feel a little bit better.

Updates to follow.

 

Oh November

Transcendence by Susan Seddon Boulet

A baby fell six stories from out of a window, bounced off a restaurant awning and was caught by a doctor who just happened to be walking by.  This is a true story. Check it out here.

That’s some kind of crazy luck. That’s the kind of luck that I’m calling Paris Luck. I believe that Paris holds some kind of magic, because of my own experience in that fair city – an experience that launched this here blog.

Paris Hope is another great thing I discovered in the City of Lights. I’m clinging hard to that now. When I arrived in Paris my life was in total chaos, and over brimming with uncertainty, yet I had the strangest sense that everything would work out somehow.

That’s just what life does. It works out. You get disappointed, your heart breaks and then you get that new job or new opportunity and you meet someone new to love. That’s my life experience, anyway. Doors open and doors close.

This doesn’t diminish the pain in those transitional moments. I can clearly remember sleeping on air mattresses and sofas, wondering what would happen to me, and wondering where I would find myself once all of the debris had been shoveled away. I’d lie awake at night wondering what was going to happen to me.

At the tender age of 34 I am starting to understand that I have no control over the bigger picture, but I will always have a pretty great sense of what the next day is going to look like, and if I can look at each day one at a time, nothing feels as scary as it once did.

I’ve also learned exactly what I need to build trust, both in myself and in the love I have. I started to worry that I would never find this thing, but in an entirely revealing moment I realized that trust begins with me. When I began to learn to trust my own ability to handle difficult moments, I learned that nobody could shatter me.

This week I learned some very important things:

There is a big difference between being utterly helpless and simply not yet having the tools to deal with conflict, crisis, and distress.

The opinions of people who love me when expressed in a carefully composed, very loving email are received like precious gifts instead of harsh judgments. Thank you for being brave enough to reach out like that. When you emphasize the love you are speaking from it makes all the difference to my ears.

I have made good choices about where to put my heart, even if the big picture has changed.

I am afraid of what will happen next in my life. Though honesty remains the very best policy, it can often come with immense pain. I was and continue to be committed to the love with which I have expressed myself. When you have to deliver difficult news, always do it with all of the love you can muster.

My emotional welfare professionals are incredible, compassionate teachers who I feel have blessed my life. Any one of us deserves to search for a great therapist and open our hearts to the experience of having their support and guidance. You are never too old or too broke to enjoy this.

My body isn’t working the way I want it to. I wait to see if science has a solution, but realize that I have so much that even if science doesn’t have the answers, I am full.

Love is a powerful, magical force that we can only really feel the benefits of if our hearts are as open as they can be. I feel the most strength and safety from love when I allow it to burst forth and wash away my fears.

My work is the baby of my soul. It feeds me as I feed it and fills me with inspiration and purpose. It is my rock in times of pain and confusion. I work every day towards the freedom to always only do the work that is meaningful to me. I will never do a job I hate again.

I am a mother. Wholly and completely with all of my soul. Anything ever said to tarnish the relationship between step-parents and their step-children is a lie. Those girls are as much in my heart as they would be if I had birthed them.

I never knew love could be so deep, so safe, and so inspiring.

You know, perhaps November isn’t really so bad? Perhaps it’s all of the change and transformation that can feel dismal if you forget that spring is around the corner, and will always be right there, no matter how many leaves fall.

 

 

Wishful Thinking

I wish you knew how much I love you all.

I wish you knew I want to be a family. Even if it’s changing and growing.

I wish you knew that I need you.

I wish I could be less afraid.

I wish we could all find clarity.

I wish I could watch you grow old and grey.

I wish I could write books and make us all rich.

I wish I could be at your side as you realize your dreams.

I wish I could be all things to everyone. I can’t.

I wish I could hike through a rainy park with Arthur, feeling my cheeks get rosy and my heart fill with hope.

I wish we could each have something wonderful right now. I still think we do.

I wish you weren’t feeling so much pressure from every side and every angle.

I wish for understanding.

I wish for faith.

I wish for patience.

I wish for unconditional love and support from my parents.

I wish for more communication with my father.

I wish for strength.

I wish for a stack of books and a cup of tea.

White Nights, Grey Days

A broken heart’s manifesto…

I could not bring myself to participate in the revelry of Nuit Blanche because I am exhausted on a level I have never before touched on. My bones are tired. My hair is tired. I’m getting a cold, and I just want to stay in lycra and sweaters and fuzzy socks and not move.

Since this is just not possible, I will instead pull together my most fashionable lycra outfit, cover the black circles under my eyes with concealer, take a thermos of tea about with me, and try to get through my day.

I feel as though somebody turned my skin inside out and forgot to switch me back to normal.

Actually, as I consider this, I realize that my normal for the last several years has been afraid and anxious. The time spent in the Fortress had just reached a place of peace, but I didn’t linger there long enough. Now I have to find that again. If I sit alone with my own thoughts, I can hear that constant voice that has always told me “you will be okay”. I’m always grateful for this, but I wish that I wasn’t straining to hear it again on the tails of heartbreak and upheaval.

I will be okay.

I know this must be true because this is the first time in my life that I have listened to my gut and moved forward, exclusively taking cues from my heart and my intuition which seem to be working in some kind of harmony that I have never before realized.

I am sorry that this new pairing of heart and intuition prevents me from being who and what I am desired to be,what I once desired myself to be, but I believe that if everyone pairs their heart and intuition and allows them to speak louder than fear, they will understand, and perhaps even realize for themselves that this course of action is the only true, honest path. That any love that springs from denial, from a lack of self-awareness, from trying to will away the skeletons in the closet cannot blossom. That we cannot be the best lovers we can be unless we are truly honoring ourselves, and are honest with ourselves, and honest about our limitations.

I hope that the love I am able to give will be accepted. Anything beyond this acceptance is a rejection of my heart’s truest offering. I have spent all of my life desperately wanting to be accepted and loved as I am, and now more than ever do I understand who I am, and what I need from love. Maybe the Universe didn’t bring me to this most recent love for the reasons we originally thought.

I am a whole, good, vibrant, passionate, vulnerable, creative, loving person. Everything I have done in my life has been borne of a desire to feel love, and give love, and though I have “failed” at this countless times, with each failure came a greater understanding of what I want love to be. Each of these “failures” has taught me to be more of my actual self.

I want a love that is safe, and borne of truth, emotional honesty, and deep communication.

I want to be wanted 100%, and have that love demonstrated in ways that I clearly understand.

I want to be inspired by my love, and clear and proud of my role within the context of that love.

I want to feel proud of what I am giving, knowing that I am giving my beloved 100% of the love they seek from me.

I want my love to be something that fuels my forward motion in this life. To encourage my work, my passions, my drive. I do not want to be stunted in my ambition or aspirations by fear, instability, or emotional turmoil.

I want my lover to be self-aware, honest, inspired, driven, open, sensual, noble, faithful, and present in the world.

With a kiss, I’ll send that to the Universe and continue to hope for the best.

A very special thank you to Natalie who pointed me in the direction of a costume rental place that was selling off bag fulls of old inventory for $35 per garbage bag. That was some of the sweetest retail therapy I’ve ever experienced.