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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35 Days

Today I am 35 weeks pregnant and have 35 days left to go.

Last night I had a dream that the clinic that helped us get pregnant called to tell me that my trial fertility run was over, and that my abortion had been scheduled and they were ready to inseminate for real. I was shocked and horrified and I turned to both of my partners, but they were nonplussed by the news and took me to the hospital for my appointment, asking me what else I expected. I kept pleading with them, with doctors, etc to just wait out the next month so we could have this baby, but everyone kept telling me “That’s not the way it works.” Finally I faked needing to use the bathroom to make my escape and woke myself up, but felt so profoundly that my dream was real. Needless to say, there was no going back to sleep for me. It was 3:00 am.

My Babycentre pregnancy app tells me that I have 35 days left to go. Last week I would have told you that felt like a lifetime. This week I can tell you it doesn’t feel like enough time.

I don’t think I’m a good parent. More accurately, I know I’m not the kind of parent I would like to be. I’ve been working really hard in therapy, and with my own reading and research to unlearn a very deeply ingrained way of thinking that was largely instilled by my paternal grandmother who helped raised my brother and I; this idea that children and adults are not equals, and therefore don’t receive the same kind of respect; this notion that being stern and needing control is equal to good discipline; the “because I said so” school of thought. I would venture that many of my peers were raised the same way I was, as this seemed to be the North American standard of our generation. We weren’t unloved, but we realized we had a very different place in the hierarchy of our households, and we were constantly reminded that this place was below the adults.

The Daddy in my family today was raised a very different way. As he tells it he was constantly spoken to with respect and love and patience. He always felt valued and important. There was nobody barking commands at him, and every request was punctuated with a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Sounds Utopian, no? Mama S had about ten good years of witnessing this kind of parent/child interaction through Daddy’s family before her babies came, but here I am in year three of my massive learning curve, and I feel like I’m always getting it wrong.

So yeah, maybe my body has done a great job with growing this tiny man for the last 8 months, but what the hell happens once he’s out in the world? How can I possibly get my shit together enough in 35 days to be the kind of parent I’d like to be and do great justice to the lives of not only my bio offspring, but the two amazing stepdaughters I’ve been blessed with?

How with lack of sleep and raging hormones do I find greater depth in my seemingly shallow reservoir of chilled out patience? How do I switch off the need to control the children’s actions (so they don’t hurt themselves, others, or god forbid develop unhealthy habits) and just really relish in their experience of childhood?

How do I prove to my partners in 35 days that I am worthy of the monumental task of parenting? How can I stop sounding like my stern grandmother when I’m not having a great day? What can I do to help the people around me relax and trust that I’m growing and changing and learning and that I’m not going to become perfect overnight? I need the benefit of the doubt to be able to grow, just as my precocious, wily, headstrong six-year-old does.

How do I push through all of this fear and trust myself enough to let my body take over the task of bringing this baby into the world? 35 days just isn’t enough time.

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.

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.

 

 

Making Your Way In the World Today Takes Everything You Got

But when hasn’t it?

In Schnooville, life on the relationship front was cloudy with a chance of natural disaster up until about two weeks ago. Now it’s foggy, but it’s the kind of deep, peaceful fog that makes me feel like wrapping myself in cashmere and tramping through the heath with a wolfhound by my side.

What happened? First, a HUGE breakthrough in therapy. I had a bit of a collapse in our therapist’s office, and a series of guided tapping motions, combined with deep breathing led to me coming unhinged. Imagine a rusty farmstead fence being pried loose by a tornado and tossed like a sack of kittens into the nearest alfalfa field. That was my soul. What happened next is that the raging bull who lived in the pen raced out into the world, free at last, and now lounges beneath an apple tree sniffing blossoms.

In my life, when something I love becomes impossibly hard and deeply hurtful, I’ve shackled that gate and completely cut myself off, out, and away. I’ve left great jobs and even greater relationships in this state, and I think that I have come to really accept this in myself and embrace this as one of the big life projects that I have to tackle.

For a long time I’ve felt that other people cannot be trusted. That if you allow them to, they will mess with your head and hurt you. I now understand that these things that feel hurtful, deceitful and manipulative are often the bi-products of someone else working on their own big life projects. The negative behavior is the result of one of you being further down the road than the other.

Developing trust isn’t about putting absolute faith in other people. It is about putting absolute faith in your own ability to understand, and honor your own needs and wants in a clear, loving way, especially in the face of upset and hurt. People can’t hurt me when I clearly understand that they cannot give me what they need because of their own limitations.

It is striving to come to that place of acceptance and understanding that will save us all. (Dear readers, I don’t believe this ever applies to abusive situations. Those instances are when you hold your raging bull close and let him guide you straight to safety, where you can hold yourself tight and understand how you happened to get to that dangerous place at all.)

I know I cannot control the needs, wants, realizations, decisions, clarity, and communication style of anyone else around me, but I have complete control over these things in myself. That is where my focus lies now. I’m not running, I’m not afraid, I feel completely open. I have a greater understanding of the love I am being given, and meditating on that love is so much better than agonizing over complexities that I cannot understand.

Last night, I went to a parenting session that focuses on the work of the amazing Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. He captured my absolute need from a partner or a loved one perfectly when he said “being known and expressing what lies within is the ultimate expression of individuality and intimacy.” It’s an entirely reciprocal sentiment too, I think – a vital exchange of the contents of one’s head and heart that I require to bond with someone and really develop a loving relationship. In the session, Dr. Neufeld also presented his model of the ideal signs of total maturation. This inspired me completely, and these are the things I wish to strive towards in myself:

Interested & Curious

Eager to try new things

Thinks for oneself

Fills solitude with creative endeavors

Values originality and creativity

Self-directed in learning

Assumes responsibility for actions and impact

Sees the options and choices in life

Values uniqueness and differences

Rarely bored

Full of vitality

Seeks autonomy & independence

Seeks to be own person

Regards the separateness & boundaries of others

 

Random Acts of Nature

Rainy Day by Alexander Volkov

Yesterday, I had just launched in to a much-needed psychiatrist’s visit when the entire hospital building began to move underneath us. Ten seconds and a shudder later, this phenomenon stopped. Then we were evacuated.

I got separated from my shrink in the stairwell, and blinking into the sunlight like a mole, I wandered shell-shocked until I found a Second Cup. Then I called my family. Almost all of them.

The descent down several flights of stairs, iPhone in hand, eliminated my fear that someone had bombed the G20 summit downtown. Apparently we’d experienced an earthquake. Everyone was safe, but my head was still full of stuff. An explosion of cranky, a nap, a date with my girl, a good night’s rest – my head is still full, but I’ve been thinking…

Underneath all of our personal drama spins a planet that is complex and changing all of the time. It spins and quakes and shudders and erupts and then continues to spin again.

There is not one among us who hasn’t similarly quaked and erupted only to return to our rotation, and in that realization comes a deep sense of peace.

Looking at this next chapter, all of the worry seems normal, and totally manageable. The time has come to let go of the things I can’t control and simply have faith. It’s time now to take good care of my mind, my heart, and my body to sail smoothly through the next adventures that are in store.

I listened to the pouring rain in the early hours of this morning, safe in my bed and curled up beside my love and knew that something wonderful was coming our way.

Today I woke up and everything was okay.

Today, In Therapy

Hump day is my day to sit on a couch and talk about my feelings. This was my second official visit, and the first time I tried to go back to the office after and be productive. Despite shoveling two handfuls of Munchos Parti Mix in my craw, I still feel like I can’t get anything done until I write some things down. Rather than do it in my diary (I probably will hit that next) I thought I’d share here.

The key issue we’re working on is Trust. With a capital ‘T”. Today we launched into my last relationship, which some of you know was a gong show of the highest order.

What a remarkably strong feeling of ‘ick’ I’ve got going on now. I had to put myself in the early infancy of that relationship, and try to remember what my early needs were. Facing that reality made me feel ashamed of the person I was back then. I think I learned today that a desperate fear of being alone with a lot of pain kept me tied to a relationship that should have ended six months in. Instead I stayed, and invited in a Great Big Sea of Sorrow.

What did I need?

Someone to distract me from my own pain (which was fairly monumental at that time)

Someone to nurture, and love

Someone whose dreams I could get behind and whose vision I could rally.

Someone who would inspire me with their artistry

Recently, when examining my current, rather complex relationship, I began to worry that I was repeating a pattern of making very difficult and possibly negative choices for myself. At last week’s session, my therapist asked me to examine what my needs were. I thought of this today as I was comparing the set of needs I had with my last relationship to the set of needs I have now:

Someone to give me lots of support and love

Someone to be inspired by my artistry and rally my creativity

Someone who inspires me with their own passion and ambition

Someone who I can trust, who will be emotionally and physically available

Respect and encouragement for my need for quiet space and alone time

I know that I am more than capable of reciprocating all of this, but the difference seems to be that I’ve now got the strength to hold my head high and lead with my own list of requirements. I was also pleased to realize that all of my needs are being met, twice over! My last relationship fell apart as I began to really understand what it was I needed.

People cannot be used as band aids. We need to heal ourselves before any real progress can happen. I suppose today’s lesson is that whenever you feel the most terrified of your own head and heart, these are the moments that you should sit alone with both of those organs and make sure they’re o.k. before moving on.

I ignored my gut for four years because my head and my heart were broken.

Oh, and Munchos cause acid reflux.