A Reality Check For A Busy Body

I wish I could say I’ve been away; somewhere tropical sipping cocktails with tiny umbrellas, taking pictures of my sun-kissed toes which I then posted on Instagram for my 4 followers but the truth, dear readers and friends, is far uglier, even sinister.

I have been busy.

Mad busy.  Mostly busy with work but also busy dealing with Life’s unexpected challenges, like yesterday’s unforeseen trip to the doctor for a tetanus shot because…

of busyness.

There I was in the kitchen, mobile phone cradled between left ear and raised shoulder, talking about a photographic shoot our company had commissioned, while opening a can of tomato paste when the call ended and I  rushed to complete the task at hand because I had a campaign to finalize and a How-To doc to submit and so, lifted the rest of the lid with what I thought was my thumbnail but in fact I used my thumb and there was blood, lots of blood and I had a flashback to a day, not so long ago, when we had to rush my eldest son to the doctor when he was four (maybe five) for a tetanus shot when he stood on a rusty nail..

The doctor was kind but he looked at me disapprovingly when I explained that I wasn’t really thinking.  I just did it like I was Superwoman because some days, most days lately, I feel like Superwoman.   And right then, I knew I was in trouble. I was trying to make dinner in under ten minutes which is unusual for me, because I love cooking. Correction: Used to love cooking.

What happened?

While I write this, I realize that ‘my word for 2015’ – the word I chose for myself this year was ATTENTION. In fact, there were two words: WONDER and ATTENTION and the two are interchangeable now, because if I am not paying attention I am missing out on all the wonder….

Just this past week I had the opportunity to visit one of the world’s most spectacular gardens – The Butchart Gardens, on Vancouver Island.  I went to the island on a business trip and then, since hubby accompanied me, decided to stay on an extra day.

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‘Sunken Garden’ Butchart Gardens – photo: Y McAdam

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Sweet peas! LOVE them! Photo: Y McAdam

One of the first thoughts I had on getting back home was ‘I have to go back’.  I have to go back and drink in all that beauty and sink my toes into the dark earth and watch for the unfurling of petals; the rustling of leaves.

I’m less harried now.  My heart is lighter – happier.  And it’s because I’m sharing this with you and because I am writing again, and the writing is not for work, it’s not going to pay the bills but it fills up my Spiritual tank.

Believing In The Improbable, The Impossible and The Illogical

Sometimes, on my way to or from work I walk past a park with a playground and when the weather is good (which it has been for a while now) the park is full of mothers and toddlers and children no older than nine (my estimate). I enjoy listening to the children scream with glee as they scamper down the slide (sometimes on all fours, funny monkeys!) and reach for the clouds from the seat of the swings.

I love how children believe in the implausible, illogical and impossible and how despite the odds being against them, continue to reach for the man on the moon or search, flashlight in hand, for the purple monster under the bed.

Growing up takes some doing.  It’s hard work trying to suspend if not abandon entirely, certain heart-truths or beliefs.  Imagine for example trying to communicate to your dearest and nearest that you suspect you were abducted by aliens or that Bigfoot carried off your cooler on your last camping trip.  Chances are they’d recommend you cut back on the boozing and look into therapy… unless of course you’re a writer.  Like me.  And your family is, well, used to all kinds of ‘fantasies’.

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I’m going to share with you a story today that I have shared once or twice at family gatherings.  It is a story that always draws a few ‘ahs’ and ‘aws’ while raising a few eyebrows and a fervent apology from my husband who thinks I’m bonkers.

My eldest son’s birth was a traumatic experience for me and not for any of the reasons you would suspect.  I was scared.  Very very scared.   Believing I was ill-prepared, inadequate and unworthy in equal measures.  So  instead of pushing when I was told to, by an increasingly irate obstetrician I focused all my energy on keeping my child inside me.  I don’t recommend this course of action.  I can assure you if you have not given birth yourself that the pain I endured (natural birth, no epidural) defies description.

Anyway my son made his appearance and was and is a perfect boy. I remember holding onto him feeling ill-equipped and unprepared.  M was about two months old when it became clear to my husband, my doctor and immediate family that I was suffering from post-partum depression.  When I wasn’t sleeping (which wasn’t often of course) I was crying.  And I mean crying. Long, ugly, messy bouts of deep sorrow.  I turned to prayer and sometimes with my baby in my arms I would sit on the rocking chair in his nursery and lament.  Yes, lament.  I wish I could say I soothed my firstborn with lullabies but the truth is M would doze off to the sound of my pain.

Then one day  all hope drained out of my body, I fell silent.   I remember that day clearly.  It was late afternoon and orange light fell in a ray over my son’s cot and a bird sang his last song for that day somewhere in the distance.  The nursery door was wide open and I could see the corridor from where I sat.  Something stirred.  A breeze from an open window? The colliding of molecules?  I watched transfixed as a pair of beautiful, impossibly white wings materialized by the door.  They were long feathered wings, like those of giant dove’s, attached to an invisible back and trailing behind them a slow moving mist.

I know how this sounds.  M says I’m weird and sharing this is a bad idea.  But you should know I wasn’t on medication even though I should have been.  I will end by saying this.  I believe in angels.  Do you?

What belief do you hold onto because you know it to be true however illogical and improbable it may seem to others?

 

 

 

 

 

Further thoughts on the Art of Waiting

We do a lot of waiting don’t we ? We wait in line at banks, at bus stops, train stations and airports…We wait for results and feedback and answers to problems, we wait for news and babies and crops but few of us are socialized to do all this necessary waiting gracefully.

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I worked for a time in a physiotherapy clinic as a receptionist and it was one of the more ‘illuminating’ jobs I have ever held.  I watched people arrive, usually on time for their appointment (surprisingly very few people actually arrive early for appointments) and when advised by me, that they would be waiting a ‘few more minutes’ to see the physiotherapist their faces would crinkle with irritation or exasperation..  When I waited on tables (for a spell in my misspent youth) people sighed at being told they would have to wait a ‘few more minutes’ for their grilled chicken and after the (inevitable) complimentary drink would begin to whine loudly for all to hear of ‘waiting for ages’.    One ‘gentleman’ actually asked me if we were busy plucking the chicken in the kitchen, it was taking so long.  I wanted to say something smarmy like ‘hey dude ever heard of salmonella poisoning?” But of course I didn’t. 

Now that I have been lying in bed for six days waiting for my chest to clear and the aches and pains to disappear (I have now progressed to extra strength Tylenols which is a big deal for me because I’d rather be chewing Echinacea roots) I’m getting a sense there is a whole lot of ‘soul making’ going on and I am all for it.

129107-simple-red-square-icon-media-a-media27-pause-signPause button

I leave my bed only to use the bathroom and to refill the tea pot otherwise I am here – in my cocoon with my books (my husband has taken to calling it Hadrian’s wall) and my laptop.    The rest of the house is a game of Clue or a crime scene of sorts.  There is a clear trail of crumbs and ketchup from the refrigerator to my sons’ bedrooms, a tower of dishes in the kitchen sink, a girl’s hairclip in the sitting room sofa (who? And when did this happen?), Halloween candy wrappers under every table, a thickening coat of dust on every surface…

It beckons.  The house calls for my attention as does my job in the city.  But I am not ready to leave my bed.  I am in no rush to rejoin the world of deadlines and quick fixes.  Thomas Merton wrote: ‘The imagination should be allowed a certain amount of time to browse around.’  I am happy to dip my toes in foreign waters; to nose around in secret places; to poke and pry into others’ lives while mine for the time being is on hold.  And so my body strengthens, my spirit stretches and stories – marvelous stories – incubate.

Walking with despair? How to choose life.

So it’s Friday and I’m probably supposed to write something light and fluffy but something happened and I can’t shake it off.  I don’t want to shake it off.  I want to remember and keep remembering. And I want to share it with you.

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I found out yesterday that friends of ours lost their beautiful and vibrant fifteen year old son to suicide.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24, following motor vehicle accidents in this country (Canada).  And rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of countries, in both developed and developing countries.

I don’t have the specific details or the answers as to why our much loved young friend took his own life but there are many reasons why people take their own lives ranging from mental health disorders to socioeconomic, family and issues with identity.  From when I was eight years old to when I turned ten I was bullied. The ‘ringleader’ of this campaign was a girl called Celia and yes, she was the meanest but also the most popular girl in our small primary school.   Why are the meanest so often the most popular?

She was tall.  I was not.  She was Barbie/Prima Ballerina.  I was not. You see, Iice showed up in my hair and my mother, horrified, shaved it all off and since my hair was never going to be anything more than what it is, thin and lifeless, she decided to keep my hair short.   Really short.  So I got teased a lot.  I was called names.  Hurtful names. I learned at a very young age about intolerance and prejudice. I learned your looks hold  a lot more sway in this world than the contents of your mind.  I learned that words are weapons and if you let them they can wound even kill you.   I learned all this at a tender age because I was picked on and pulled apart not only by a girl called Celia but by my peers and teachers too.   Because my teachers thought I was odd.  They thought my mother was odder and told me so.   My mother was a very young single mother.  Back then a very big no-no.  So I was the ‘possibly- Hare-krishna-lesbian daughter’ of a single mother.  I shouldn’t have made it.  But I did.  Because of two things:

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I had two very devout grandmothers.  They weren’t necessarily always emotionally available but they introduced me to God and took me to church.  So I believed with all my heart in someone Greater and something Bigger than all my problems. And it made all the difference because I didn’t feel so alone with God on my side.   Even when Celia was dragging me around the school yard by one of my skinny legs and the other kids jeered.   I’ve been told by people who should know (they hold PhDs in Mind Reading and the like) that I survived because I’m the resilient type.  I’m not saying I didn’t hit the bottom of my own personal Marianas Trench.  I did at the age of eight.   I swallowed a handful of some pills I found in the bathroom cabinet and waited for death.  I was still very much alive when my mother got home from work so I told her what I had done and she drove me to the hospital.  Turns out I tried to overdose on contraceptive pills.  I don’t remember being reprimanded.  I don’t even remember being hugged.   

Here’s what I think:

Maybe we should talk about God.

Maybe we should read more.

Maybe we should talk more to our children.  Maybe we should be more alert to the warning signs.

Maybe we should turn off our smartphones/tablets and listen more.

Maybe we should sit around a table with our children.    

Maybe we should bless our meals and the people sitting at the table with us.

Maybe when the people who are supposed to love us simply can’t or don’t know how to we should reach out and find those who will.

Maybe we think only children are capable of bullying.  Think again.  If you know or suspect you are a bully get help