thoughts of a Canadian living in America today

It was a very long night, and this morning is not looking much better.

I’m oscillating between Debra and Maya Angelou; between Fuck absolutely everything and Oriah Mountain Dreamer; between running home to Canada, and staying here to fight for what I believe at my core is the right thing to do.

Hey, I never said I was perfect. Zen Bitch, remember?


Still I Rise
Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

The Invitation

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

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Oh Canada, I love you and I miss you, but there is more work to do where I am.

And I wouldn’t be a yoga teacher if I didn’t tell you to breathe. Slowly and Deeply. Repeat.

game face

images-4“There will be bad days, Times when the world weighs on you for so long it leaves you looking for an easy way out. There will be moments when the drought of joy seems unending. Instances spent pretending that everything is alright when it clearly is not….” Shane Koyczan, excerpt from “Instructions for a Bad Day

21451861There will be days where your best is not crying, at least in front of everyone, at least not for extended periods, at least not to the point of boogers running down your face (save that for the car where you have tissues), that your best is not crying, and not curling into a ball wishing the world away. Some days that’s all you’ve got.

When I quit drinking 10 years ago someone said to me that I would feel better, that I would feel everything better, pain, joy, happiness, anger, sadness, you know everything. She also told me not to believe everything you think. Solid advice that still applies.

houseToday I am feeling all of the things, emotionally, mentally, physically, metaphorically…. (note: I feel most things metaphorically, writer thing… maybe, not sure… actually I have no bloody idea and am freestyling this bit). Medically, things have been a bit rough. So much so that I have four new prescriptions and more doctor appointments than I would prefer (I would prefer zero appointments, but still). Everything hurts, well not everything, just the things I’m focusing my attention on. I feel a bit like a House episode, minus the curmudgeonly doctor. My doctor is very nice, and quite firm, which is why I’m sitting here looking a gaggle* of pill bottles. *a herd? a cluster?  a bevy? what do you call a collection of medication bottles? I even googled it, apparently it’s not a thing.

And then, because I’m me, and I swear this stuff just finds me  when I’m sitting innocently being responsible (you know, and not crying, and not assuming the fetal position, and doing all the grown-up things that I don’t feel like doing) I find this little bit of music, this tiny lyric.

Vair me o, ro van o
Vair me o ro ven ee,
Vair me o ru o ho
Sad am I without thee

1008012I find this little bit of music, and there are no oatmeal raisin cookies in my house, no lightly frosted lemon scones, no dark chocolate truffles with caramel and sea salt, none of these things, so I have to sit here and feel all the feelings, which is still not my favourite. I’m even out of lemons for my tea.

Shane also says in his poem “There will be bad days. Be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm slowly now. Let go….”

Okay. Okay. I’m on it. Letting go. (for extended thoughts on letting go, with lots of pictures and convoluted thinking click here ), putting on my game face (the one that says “I ain’t bovvered”), and making tea without lemons, but with lots of honey.

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the post in which I give zero fucks

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field of f

It didn’t happen when I turned 50, but sometime after I turned 51 I stopped caring so desperately about what people thought of me, and I have to say that it is really fucking awesome (yes, I will use profanity when I want to – Sorry. NOT sorry, who am I kidding).  I still have moments where I grab the “rock of really giving a fuck about what you think about me” I used to wear like a raincoat, and haul it around for a while, but I just can’t be bothered to carry that weight anymore, ya know? In one way the “swirling shit storm” of my life the last several months (years, really) has helped me let go of many things simply because they are too heavy to keep carrying.

There are things I will not apologize for anymore, and if you don’t like me because of it, I’m really, really super-fucking-okay with that.

You don’t like my politics? Great!
My life choices? Fucking Awesome!
My tattoos? More power to ya!
My sarcastic, sassy and profanity laced language? I will somehow manage to carry on without your fucking approval.
Can’t decide if  I’m worth dating? Sayonara, Adios amigo, Caio bella, sich verabschieden, d’adieu, tchüss. (because I totally AM worth it, ‘Slaying Dragons For’ kind of worth it, and I can’t spend my time with someone who doesn’t think so).

There also things I will apologize for, because like most humans, I can be a self-centered asshole on a remarkably regular basis. Those things I try to be accountable for and apologize. Things like running about 5-15 late on a staggeringly regular basis. I do apologize for this, but I haven’t suffered enough negative consequences from this for me to alter my behaviour yet. That and forgetting your name, I have a smooth spot on my brain where people’s names are stored, it’s not you, it’s me. Really, really.

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Then I read Mark Manson’s Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and was forever changed. Well not quite, but damn.

The point is, most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given. We give a fuck about the rude gas station attendant who gave us too many nickels. We give a fuck when a show we liked was canceled on TV. We give a fuck when our coworkers don’t bother asking us about our awesome weekend. We give a fuck when it’s raining and we were supposed to go jogging in the morning.

Fucks given everywhere. Strewn about like seeds in mother-fucking spring time. And for what purpose? For what reason? Convenience? Easy comforts? A pat on the fucking back maybe?

This is the problem, my friend.

Because when we give too many fucks, when we choose to give a fuck about everything, then we feel as though we are perpetually entitled to feel comfortable and happy at all times, that’s when life fucks us.

And life will fuck you over, and over, and over, that’s just the way life is. It is also beautiful, tragic, sacred, messy and glorious . Our big mistake is to think the world, that life, that God owe us something. That we are supposed to be, #happy, #blessed, #blissful and need to share this with all our Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Wordpress followers all the fucking time. Seriously?

Here’s the thing, the world, life, the universe, God and everything else you want to call it, do not owe you one single solitary fucking thing, got that? Does Not Owe You. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Pas du tout. Nichts. We are not here to be entertained, to be taken care of, to have all our superficial and egocentric whims catered to. Life does not owe us. Life does not owe us a certain lifestyle, a six pack, an adoring partner, lots of money, an easy go of it, and when we caught up in the Super Sucky Vortex of Entitlement and we think that somehow we deserve these things, that we deserve all the stuff, all the fucking junk that we have been told over and over that we should have, when we get stuck in that vortex of really giving a fuck about the stupid shit, that is when we are most miserable.

tumblr_mmm3xfqWTM1snu8fxo1_500Okay, so my title may be slightly misleading. I do give a fuck about somethings, not about what you think of me, or my life, my family or any of that, I  give a fuck about what’s truly fuckworthy. In my 20’s I gave the most sincere fucks about the stupidest things. I tried, I tried so damn hard to be what I thought people wanted me to be. It made me fucking miserable.  As I aged, and occasionally matured, I found I didn’t have the energy to give a fuck about anything that wasn’t worth it. The clarity about what is important, what is worth giving a fuck about is what has liberated me. I am not apathetic, I am simply not will to waste my time and my fucks on anything unimportant.

Which is what exactly? We are here to give back, to be of fucking service to our fellow humans, to those who hold no power over us, to animals, to plants, to our mother, the fucking earth. What we need to do is to take care of each other. Is that so hard? Because it sure seems like it’s really fucking hard for people. And this is where I actually do give a fuck. I give a fuck about that homeless guy that you pretend you don’t see. I give a fuck about the recycling you just tossed in the street, about the dog you left in a hot car,  about the plastic floating in the ocean, about being kind to the person who seems to least deserve it, about feeding people who are hungry.

I give a fuck about a lot of things, just not what you may or may not think of me. Hasta la vista.

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leaving

“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” – John Green

The leaving, the letting go, that part is easy.

Approaching letting go, entertaining thoughts of leaving, that part is excruciating. When faced with loss, the loss of a person, of a lifestyle, a job, a preconceived idea of ourselves, when faced with letting go, we cling. Forget the platitude – I cling. Somewhere deep inside I know, I know that nothing is permanent. I know that I will age, that I will suffer illness, that people I love deeply will leave, may die before me, that material wealth can be lost, that my love may not be reciprocated. I know all of this,  and I cling even more.

“If she is to love life and freedom and be brave then she must learn to let go. To see beauty without clinging to it, to feel pain without holding it hostage, and to feel love without worry of losing it.”
― G.G. Renee Hill, The Beautiful Disruption

tumblr_n5i9nvFFkC1qbhueno2_r1_250-2Right. That part. It does make a lovely quote, but to quote Ron Weasley, Bloody hell!

The times in my life that have been the most painful, the times I thought I could not possibly survive, these were the times right before I left, before I finally let go. These were the rock bottom times, the times where I dug my fingernails in and clung desperately to the idea, the person, the thing that I thought was essential for me to survive. None of them have turned out to be essential for my survival, so far.

The Journey  by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I love this poem. It also make me a little angry. I want to say journeys like these don’t happen all at once. That you make this journey, that you make your own way in degrees. That, unlike the movies where the leap of faith gets made – generally to a profoundly moving musical score – and then life gets tied up in a neat bow, becomes perfect, and the credits roll as a glint of a tear forms in your eye and you wonder why can’t you just figure your shit out. Unlike that, in life you have to keep making the terrifying next step, you have to continue to make your journey. It gets easier, but it never gets easy. I have started on this journey many times, and to varying degrees, got pulled part way back by the cries of “mend my life!”, or turned back myself when the storm seem too much to endure.

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Trainwreck – Loved this movie – and look, everything is wonderful at the end, with great music and even cheerleaders. Bloody hell…

20151218_184853-01.jpegIt seems odd to be writing about this as I sit in front of our Christmas tree, surrounded in over 20 years worth of decorations, of traditions, of stories, of memories. The ornaments my friend Cathy and I made the last Christmas before she died more than 15years ago, the baby’s first Christmas ornaments for each of my children, beautiful things my mother made, the gifts from my favourite Aunt, the handmade gifts and ornaments from my children. All of these carry their own special weight, and this is the last year they will all be together in one place. This is the letting go, the leaving. This is the final Christmas in this house, in this town even. All our beautiful things will be divided, things I will keep, things that will go to each of my children, things that belong with their father, and things I can give away to add meaning to other family’s lives.

Twenty years ago, when my first daughter was 2 1/2 years old, my son, a 6 month old baby, and my youngest not yet born, we received a beautiful hand carved horse named Hilde. Tonight, after years of sitting quietly, Hilde went to live with another family with three young children who will love and play with her. Letting go of that stage of my life. I’ll keep the pictures, many of the books, but it is time to move on.

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Alexander Milov’s sculpture “Love” from this year’s Burning Man

Milov’s  sculpture silhouettes rigid, back to back  wire adult figures, within their frames stand children reaching towards each other.  At night the contrast between illumination within the wire frames “…demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature … Their inner selves … in the form of transparent children,  holding out their hands through the grating … This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up.” – Alexander Milov.

I don’t feel the optimism the artist does when I look at this piece. What I see is a stunning representation of how we separate ourselves, in spite of what our hearts, our most inner self loves. There is no turning of the wire frames, they will forever remain separate, despite the inner reaching.

“And the moon rose over an open field

Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America”

Simon and Garfunkel

Pete Fornatale said this lyric was a “metaphor to remind us all of the lost souls wandering . . .struggling to navigate the rapids of despair and hope, optimism and disillusionment.” Stephen Holden wrote it “simultaneously illuminates a drama of shared loneliness”. David Nichols called it “a splendid vignette of a road trip by young lovers; both intimate and epic in scale, it traces an inner journey from naive optimism to more mature understanding.”  I can’t explain as eloquently why the lines resonate deeply with me – “Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping, And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why” – but they do.

‘Man and Woman’ by Georgian sculptor Tamara Kvesitadze

The towering statues are two humans made out of metallic discs, who move toward each other, seem to kiss, to embrace, to combine together, and then to pass through each other, parting and end facing in opposite directions, much like Milov’s work. They represent a Muslim boy, Ali, and a Christian princess, Nino and their tragic love story, but again, to me it represents how we separate ourselves from love.

This last year has been a series of journey’s, many, but not all of them, painful.  This fall had some profoundly painful leavings. Letting go of my brother will not, and should not, come easily, if at all.  Letting him leave in small increments, or starting to let go of the idea of his place in my life is like pushing through metal. Finding out who I am separate from the things that I had been clinging to for various lengths of time, separate from being somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, sister, somebody’s love, finding who I am separately will be my journey.

 

be fucking brave

So this. I’m10592840_10206139425545919_5843121347137963057_n riding my own personal crazy train right now. One of my own making, from the full steam ahead steam engine that burns red hot, fiery coal 24/7, through car after car full of personal baggage of all shapes, sizes, weights and colours, to the caboose that can only look back and wonder what, the fuck, was I thinking?

Aside: I did quit that job, and I LOVE the job I have now, the rest, it’s a work in progress.

This quote, and a few dear friends are  currently what is holding me together. Also, quite a bit of chocolate, and singing to very loud music in the car, off key, every single time I drive. I’m not kidding, tonight is was Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. This guy does it better. Yesterday it was Eurythmics, Smiths, and R.E.M. all day. 

I used to think that when I turned 20 two major things would happen. 1. I’d be given the ‘adult handbook’,  and 2. my skin would clear up. You know the handbook that  ALL the grown ups had. The one that gave you the answers to life. No more teenage and young adult angst for me, I would finally have the ansewers, and then BOOM, I would figure life out and become a happy, well adjusted financially secure adult. Apparently there is no such book. You can imagine my disappointment at having to figure things out for myself, and don’t even talk to me about my skin. Honestly, how does anybody figure anything out? I am a hot mess with passable hair on a good day, and on a bad, I shove it into a pony tail.

My ego took a hit last week. It was not pretty. I wasn’t so pretty, except for my hair, I had a good hair week, so it wasn’t all bad. I was just mostly bad. I may have got a little crazy, or as I like to say, super sized extra crispy crazy with side of hysterical hot sauce. Yep, I’m a grown up, and I still cannot figure this stuff out. My brain has this section I call the the hamster wheel section where all my crazy ideas spin faster and faster. I’m not allowed to go there without a friend.

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how do they know?

Fortunately, I have great friends. I spent tonight drinking pop, diet pop even… from a Wonder Woman glass, eating chocolates and watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding with a friend, and then confessed all my crazy thoughts and actions and, she still loves me and sent me home with cupcakes and a fortune cookie that said “Be willing to admit you may be wrong, you’re only human”. That’s love for ya.

the weight of a sweater

It’s not my life hIMG_5429_edited-1as been any more or less difficult. There are no new crises pressing down on me. The old ones still wrap around me, their weight about the same as a heavy sweater, one that you sometimes forget that you’re wearing, and one that you sometimes wrap yourself up in, hiding your hands in the sleeves and your head in the collar. Sometimes I panic at the sight of its heavy, tattered cloth, my heart grows cold as I notice the bits of frayed thread and my world feels terrifying. These are the times I grow quiet, the times I pull inside myself and sit.

Outside it’s somewhat grey, cold and damp, sweater weather. This morning I slept late and moved slowly. My dog has gone from running outside to sleeping by the fire. There are birds in the feeders, cardinals, chickadees and a squirrel dashing from tree, to tree. For hours I’ve said nothing except the to the dog, and written very little.

Sometimes I think I could be silent forever, pulled inside myself, wrapped in my sweater.

I didn’t plan to do nothing today, there are many important and pressing things that I should be doing, but the stillness and silence had a greater pull so I leaned into them.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will do important things.

dear john

dear john,

today I wanted to carve the words
carve them into my skin, so
all could see
what I am

when we spoke, had you asked, I might have told of the holes – I carve – inside, maybe you could have seen the ardent slice ripped out, to quietly lay at your deeply restless feet. but all it touched was your breath, passing backwards in your constant cool drifting words.

had you understood my voice –
could you have heard?
known my songs are all written for you?

before I left
did I tell you
of bloodstained views on wood grain hall floors – knee in my back, fists gripping long hair, of the stripes of our walls getting closer just before they turned black.
or was it you who told me
of the view from mum’s hand standing in doorways –
watching,

blocking escape.

dear john,

should I have warned you? of trusting too young, and of pain, and fear, and of blood, sometimes first – and of tears locked in rooms, could this have saved you?

I would have saved you – you know, taken your blows, swallowed your bitter bruises, your raw pain, and sent you away whole – if only I’d found you.

dear john,

even now that you’re here,
I’ve lost parts of you.
and no longer can I wrap you in blankets.
I can’t find your song or your bruises. so I keep carving these slices off me to make us both whole, but your restless feet walk by them with your words always drifting backward at me.

dear john,

today I wanted to carve the words
into my skin
so all could see
what I am.

But then begins a journey in my head

me with quote

The Irreconcilable Differences between Mind and Body had become so profound
they were heard in the Court of Judicium. The usual reserved Attendants
were appalled at the excess of emotion and were given to making small ‘tsk
tsk’ sounds behind handkerchiefs and fans whilst disapproving eyes squinted
down at the proceedings.

Mens Mentis represented Mind, Corpus represented Body.

Mens Mentis presented an extensive past history of failures to illustrate
the likelihood of the present endeavor ending in heartbreak and
humiliation. An impressive parade of witnesses came forward to give
evidence to support the case. One spoke of stretch marks, belly fat, and
sagging breasts, another of age and foolishness, and yet another spoke with
passion about the need for caution and restraint in all affairs..

klimt danaeCorpus, not to be out done presented extensive physical evidence, stomach
sitting too high in chest, heart becoming larger, beating more quickly and
thus increasing blood flow, of the increased occurrence of deep breaths
with extended exhales, the memory of skin on skin, and the presence of a
hopeful smile. All these events occurred despite the extensive evidence
presented by Mens Mentis, argued Corpus, and therefore must be given more
weight.

Mens Mentis moved to strike from the record any memories because they
occurred within the Mind and not the Body.

Corpus then moved to strike all memories of past failures because they did
not occur in the Body.

Both motions were overruled by the Most Honourable Judge Iudex, stating
that both motions included events that could not be solely related to
either Mind or Body, and thus where considered Joint Property.

The proceedings have been going on for weeks, at times it appeared the Mind
would prevail, but then events would occur and body of Body’s evidence
became increasingly stronger. Each time this happened, Mens Mentis would
argue that Body was incompetent to stand trail and should be removed and
placed in protective custody. The Most Honourable Judge Iudex has, so far,
overruled each of these objections, but the talk among the Attendants is
that with the passage of time and without fresh physical evidence
(memories, everyone knows, after a time become increasingly unreliable)
that the Judge will rule in favour of the Mind.

Meanwhile the jury continues to absorb the proceedings with passionless
expressions.

instructions for a bad day

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Love my suffering? I’m not sure I’m quite up to that yet. Today has not been a bad day, it’s just a day, like any other that came with it’s own challenges and it’s own frustrations. It includes people not behaving in ways I think they should, doing things that I don’t like. It has me suffering from the attachments I made to specific outcomes, to ‘things and people as they should be – according to me”. It involves setbacks, my own and other’s. It has me spending a tremendous amount of time and energy on things I’d rather not be doing.

In other words, it’s just a day.

Look To This Day

Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

– Kalidasa

It’s just a day, and in the end I get to choose how it affects me. That’s pretty much the sum total of what I can control today, and everyday. I can see what is beautiful, even in – especially in, the midst of suffering. “The bliss of growth, the glory of action” it’s all here, even when I don’t (won’t) see it. There is always more love, I may not always notice, but there it’s always there.

So today, the world is not as I would want it, so I will sit and drink my coffee slowly. I will eat small bites of very dark chocolate, letting it’s bitter-sweetness melt on my tongue. I will make a bowl of calorie laden macaroni and cheese and pour lots of hot sauce on it, and eat it cross legged on the carpet in front of the fire. I will read poetry from worn out and well loved books. I will talk to my dog about the bird-feeder and the state of the snow covered garden, and he will wag his tail and tilt his head to the side to show me that this too is fascinating and important to him. Later I may even tell him about my worries and my fears, and this he will take sagely and without judgement. Today I will think of my lover’s strong and safe arms, and I will close my eyes and rest my head and my heart there.

“There will be bad days.

Be calm.

Loosen your grip, opening each palm,

slowly now – let go.”