Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It Seems Like Years

Outside, rain is falling,
Thunder is breaking the sky open.
Inside, my spirits are bleak,
I wonder when I will break open.

I have coffee, I have music, I have
a bed with no sheets on it. I have
a cupcake, for breakfast. There's no one
here to tell me not to.

You were here throughout this long, cold,
lonely winter, as the song says. You
made sure I wasn't lonely.

I'm just writing, musing to get out of the
inside of my head. Wanting to be outside, shoes
hitting the cement, heart pounding, head finally

So where, exactly, is my sun? When is it coming?

with a nod to the wonderful Beatles song

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I went to church yesterday, as I do almost every Saturday afternoon. Saturday mass is different from Sunday. It's shorter, it's quieter, it is, I guess, for people like me, who aren't morning people. Alternately, I imagine that for some, it might be one of many masses they attend through-out the week.
But there are fewer people in attendance. That beckons me too.
I arrive in advance of the start of the mass. Others do too. They do that, I imagine, for the same reason I do; to reflect, to let their guard down, to go to that place of surrender where you remove the veneer of the city outside and let the beauty of the building calm you. Voices can ruin this effect for me. I was reminding myself to pray for patience yesterday as a woman played catch up with someone she hadn't seen in a while. I briefly considered not staying for the service as my frustration level was rising, and my patience for hearing her voice was wearing thin.
I took a deep breath, calmed myself. Stayed in my seat. Faced forward, and continued with my own prayer and stopped hearing her.
The sermon was so worth staying for.
It was given by the Monsignor, who doesn't do alot of the masses as guest priests often attend at this large parish.
The Monsignor has a melodic voice, full of inflection and tenderness. His sermon was, fittingly enough, about death. About what happens after we die, that eternal, unknowable mystery. About our names and who we are, our identity after the death that we will one day all face. Those who will remember us. The other place we will go to, be it in our imagination, be it created by something, someone, that entity that we subscribe to, that we believe in. That seems to mean different things to each and every one of us. Talking about this in casual conversation can offend, frighten, and turn things to awkwardness. Deep conversation is required for this subject. I talk about it with certain people only and with these certain people, few words are really needed. The silences say it all sometimes.
I continue to look for the signs, as they are sent to me, and they are. The proof, even though I don't need proof. I am the proof. You, too, are the proof.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trust Life

"You do not choose your family; they are God's gift to you, and you to them" --Desmond Tutu

I've always had trouble doing that, trusting life. Trusting it to bring me to the places I'm meant to go, to curve down the unforgiving streets past the barking, aggressive dogs of life, to a shady grove, a front porch, a safe haven.

Life right now seems to demand patience and reticence, two qualities I'm afraid I have to admit I greatly lack. The temptation to bulldoze thoughts and feelings reminds me to do the opposite--to sit with them and ponder them. The real them. Why they are here. The resentments, the judgments, the mis-understood, the frustrations, the uncertainties. I try to focus on my own imperfections; I am an imperfect, stumbling soul, rambling along in this blog.

Alot of my time in recent weeks has been spent in the car, driving the hour-plus drive to a rural/suburban area, far off the beaten track of this city-girl. Destination: a mid-size hospital in the Durham region, where my father has spent the last few weeks gaining enough strength against a barbaric disease to see himself home, to allow him some additional comfort, peace, and his own safe haven, as he tries to fit his life into the new framework of his disease.

Each small triumph arrives holding the hand of a bigger challenge, fateful twins, their linked hands creating obstacles that feel mountainous.
Every piece of news arrives distorted, as though the radio signal is clogged with static, and the channel can't be changed. I try to find the wiggle-room, the silver-lining, but really all I find are more outlets for my terror--terror for my father's deteriorating condition, for the future of my family, for myself--getting older.
Is this what getting older means?
An ailing 'last quarter', limping along behind the pack, waiting to be taken down by the nearest wolf?

It's not an end I like to contemplate.

In the hospital waiting room yesterday my mother had a weak moment. I responded in my own weak way, impatient, unsympathetic, and it spiralled from there. I reminded myself, in this room surrounded by my extended family members, why I never wanted to have children. My family, this little nucleus, this little boat, drifting on bobbing waters, never seemed to have the serenity I wanted, no, needed, to nourish my often-anxious-soul. There was a constant feeling (my own) of having no net. But when I reflected on my mother's admitted fears and my own reaction to them, I realized all of us have had to fit our lives into this new framework, whether or not we want to.
We don't have a choice.

An recent email from my wise friend D reminded me of something I often forget, something that has been evidenced, not just in recent weeks, but for many years. I DO come from a close family. Yes, we argue, we judge, we tear down, we build back up, we breathe impatience on each other like the fire from a dragon, but we also protect, would go to the ends of the earth for, live in close proximity to, spend every single dysfunctional holiday together, and simply love each other, in all our splendid imperfections, with all our narcisscism, our faults, and our clutched-to-our-chests-spill-over-personalities, valuing each family member for their own unique contribution to this mess of a life.

This is where trusting life comes into it all. And for this, I must turn the compass needle to sheer gratitude, away from sheer terror.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Before You Know ...

I have been unable lately, to put words down, as I noted in my last post. In spending a quiet evening in tonight, I came across this stunning poem in the most recent edition of the Oprah magazine, to which I have a subscription, a most lovely birthday present from my dear friend A. This poem reminds me a bit of her.

As we age, and go around and around in that revolving door, each time spitting us out into some new reality, our shoes on the pavement, trying to steady ourselves, trying to adjust; to a grief, a loss, a sudden up-ending, a vicious disappointment; this seems to be the time when the most self-compassion is needed, where the most pure growth occurs. When we are forced to.

I mused to myself that if I had read this poem fifteen years ago, even with my university background in creative writing, I'm not sure it would have resonated to me the same way then. But reading it at home, in my safe, warm bedroom, my glasses on, the tilt of the lamplight, the quiet missing of someone gone too soon, I understood it perfectly.

Read, savour, read again, enjoy. And be kind.

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

—Naomi Shihab Nye from Words Under Words: Selected Poems

Monday, March 7, 2011

Words Fail Me

At every single family event of 2010, after April 30th, I put one single word before saying the name of the event:


So why, now, is this a surprise to me?