Sunday, July 31, 2011

Journal 46 Time Travel Part Two

I've spent alot, really, an inordinate amount, of time in my head this week. I've been pulled into emotional situations, here and there, over which I have really, little control, but through it all, I've concentrated on listening rather than being heard myself, and when I do really withdraw into my inner life, the complexities that it offers me, I start, no matter what happens, to feel better:
about life, myself in it, and my path.
I continue to thinking about the past and how it has lead up to now, these little chapter headings we call 'months' and 'years' and the labels we assign to things--hard, difficult, trying--labels we give to times in our lives, often, in my case, skimming over the great stuff to once again dwell in that place of the challenging. It is my forte, perhaps. I learn more during the challenges than those few-and-far-between 'easy' times. A friend of mine sent out an email this week to me, musing on this very theme--why is the path so hard sometimes? Because, as my dear friend A. so sagely puts forth--some of us learn only through suffering.

December 2010
After what is my last Christmas Day with my family intact, I leave the next day on an ill-timed flight to Boston, booked in October by M., at the wrong time, however, this proves to be somehow fortuitous--the northeastern U.S. is being treated to one of their most destructive snowstorms in decades. My early flight is the last flight out of Toronto, to Boston. I have approximately nine lovely days ahead in Maine and the surrounding states to enjoy boxing day shopping and leisure time (read: READING). On the way back from the Boston airport, where M. has picked me up, the snow is picking up real strength; our late lunch in a restaurant outside of Boston, where M. watches a football game on tv while we eat, I notice a slight scratchy throat.
This blossoms into, truly, the worst flu/cold/chest infection that I have had in over a decade.
New Year's Eve finds me mixing the strongest cold medication the U.S. has to offer with beautiful Californian chardonnay, bought at a wine outlet in New Hampshire, which I can barely taste due to my advanced flu. Conjunctivitus rounds out the evening nicely, leaving me looking like a vampire with a wineglass.
January 2011
After the nor'easter flu, M. and I drive back from Maine to Toronto with minimal weather disruption. Stopping partway in Stockbridge, Mass., I feel a little better, but truly, in the greatest of ironies, I do not fully recover until I am back at work. Even stopping at an outlet mall in Buffalo
does little to mend me. I don't see my parents again until the 25th of January, a full month after Christmas, due to my lingering cough.
February 2011
Celebrating my sister's birthday in a nearby vodka bar, I will reflect, later, on this being the last time of real mirth for many weeks and months to come.
March 2011
My nephew's birthday starts this month off; it seems impossible that four short years ago he was busy being born against the backdrop of my mother being treated for a severe, yet-undiagnosed health problem, and my new-home-ownership. His birthday party is attended by all of us, at my sister's ex-husband's beautiful home. M. takes a family photo of the four of us, my father, mother, sister, and me, and as the shutter clicks I smile. Behind that is a terrible sense of foreboding, like something has just ended, and has yet to begin. When my parents get their coats to leave the afternoon party, a cold, icy day in early March, my father is not looking well. He sits down and I kneel to lace up his winter boots for him. He gets too out of breath to do it himself. In the final eerie scene of the day, as they are walking out the door, the stereo, blaring loudly in the background as I say good-bye to my parents, begins playing the song "The Funeral" by Band of Horses, a song I have long loved for its slow processional feel. I shiver.
Later the same day I go for a long run in the freezing cold, my usual antidote to anxiety. This time, it doesn't work.
Over the next few days, the course of a week, my father is in and out of emergency no fewer than three times, rushed there by ambulance, due to the inability to breathe. I still cling to the denial (as do we all) that this is a momentary lapse.
It's barely the second week of March, when, on an ordinary Wednesday or Thursday, my phone rings, early.
It is my aunt; she has been at the emergency ward all night, with my mother, as my father gets oxygen and helium, a combination designed to 'float' down his throat. Although I am showered and dressed for work, I don't go to work that day, or the next.
Instead, we all stay at the hospital, taking turns, a vigil, until a CT scan is finally performed and the results are interpreted by the woefully-inadequate, under-staffed Ajax hospital.
The doctor, oddly, is the same one who attended to my father during his 1996 heart attack.
We wait for the meeting with the doctor innocently, hoping for the best, despite my father being basically unconsious (for his own comfort) for the last four days.
The doctor's prognosis (a stent in his airway, versus a few days left) leaves us, each in our own way, stunned, and a transfer is arranged to the better-equipped, and much further east, Oshawa hospital, during which my father almost dies in transfer.
The stent proves impossible and in a last-minute attempt to save him, a trach is performed, this most barbaric of surgeries, harking back, to me, to a time of medical medieval-ness, of times past, of victims of choking, not for my father, not on him, not my family, not this, not me, not yet.
We pass days in the Oshawa intensive care unit waiting room, the biggest pressure, aside from my father's unstable condition, is that my cousin has made the fateful decision to fly home from her 'permanent' vacation in Europe, one which she has stretched out for the last fifteen years, to 'be with her family'. My sister and I are reasonably stressed by this announcement, but due to my aunt's constant involvement, she needs her daughter, an emotional security blanket. In the best of times, my cousin's behaviour doesn't really approach that of the sane and I steel myself to steer this ship. The morning of my father's first wake up, I am there, with some explanations. He cannot speak, his eyes belie the terror of a trapped animal. Yet his grip on my hand is firm. We speak with our eyes. I am already able to lip read. After all, I grew up learning language from him. With him.
I make him two promises, and nothing seems out of my control that day;
One, that he will be able to leave the hospital and die at home.
Two, that my cousin will not be in our house when he leaves the world. Unfortunately, in the making of this second promise I realize that my aunt will unwittingly not be there either, but there is nothing I can do about that.
At this point, as I mention; nothing seemed out of the realm for me. Even the day the doctors call the family meeting and give us the 'weeks' prognosis, I still remain insulated from this reality.
There is an earthquake in Japan during all our tumult here, and it takes days for me to even realize it. I guard against any outward emotional displays, lest I fall into a pit I am unable to climb out of. St. Patricks Day finds me out with a group of friends, M. among them, downing drinks and recognizing quickly that no food and pints for me, is a recipe for falling into the exact emotional pit I've worked so hard to avoid.
The endless lashing rains of March do little help this feeling of helplessness, and the weeks drag on to the last week of March, my father still in hospital, fighting pnemonia, all of us fighting to keep our strength up, the daily sixty-five kms-plus that I am driving become times when I zone out.
My mother's and aunt's respective birthdays at the end of March are marked only by the cards I buy for my father, that he writes words of love in for them; these are the last cards from him for this occasion. I didn't think of this as I bought them for him. Just that he couldn't get out to get them himself.
M. returns home.
I have a headache that lasts over ten days, and I don't run at all during that time.
April 2011
On April 5th, I think it reads in my daytimer, my father is 'released'. But really, to what?
Really, to what we call end-of-life care, after my pushing incessantly to get him home, much to the challenge of my aunt and cousin, who feel that home is the worst possible place for someone as sick as him. While I agree in principle, my mother is the informal caregiver, and I know she will do a better job than most of the revolving-door staff at the Oshawa hospital. I continue to fight them on this point up to the last weeks of my father's life, even telling him, over dinner one night, their wishes and goals, should they have been in the driver's seat. My father is taken aback by their assumptions of 'knowing best' where he should be. I am not. And despite the numerous waiting lists that we have my father on, the "Plan B" as the PMH doctor advised, we never have to resort to this type of care.
May 2011
The weeks are taking on the appearance of whirlwind for me, just numbers, no real passage of time being measured except on how much worse my father is getting day to day. His home care palliative care doctor and his wife, the nurse, are good at getting the medications to ease some of my father's insistent pain, but nothing can stop the march of this disease. Dinners at home, Mother's Day, renting a movie at Rogers, voting, going for drives with my aunt where they talk about the big things, morphine, returning the car on lease from the dealership, talking to banks, to government agencies; all these things fill the days, yet don't stop my fear, my incessant, looming worry. I am at my parents house alot, and I begin bringing my running gear with me every time I go; it's my way of distraction, of getting some perspective on the situation.

to be continued ...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Journal 45 Harsh?

I truly do love my family, all of them, original and extended, and I do think that some of what I've written in June, albeit from a place of deep grief and huge fear (of the unknown. of everything) could have been viewed as harsh.
I was re-reading Seething Sunday ( I took it down for now ) because, in tracking my stats, noticed
it being viewed. It was written the day before my father died, when I was ...let's just say, having a hard time.
But I had to be honest, for myself, to myself, for my family, for my mother and my sister, although these are my views, on my blog, and I like to keep the focus of this blog on ideas and concepts, my thoughts about life in general, and keep it away from dogging on others (at no time do I even approach something resembling perfection. none of us do).
But I have dogged on my beloved aunt here.
Some things still stand though, despite the love and the hope that I have; there have been lies exchanged, I don't like anyone in my life to lie to me, about little things, or big things. No, I am certainly not perfect. But lying is something I really avoid. So is manipulating situations so that I can puppet people, places, or things.
I digress.
I'm just saying (reading, feeling) that some of my posts may have been harsh. I tried to temper them with the right mix of thought, but emotion got in the way of some of that.
Am I sorry? Yes.
Was I completely wrong?

Sunday Playlist

Yes, I'm doing it again. Time Travel Part two is proving elusive tonight, so I'm featuring my Sunday Playlist. Here it is, there are ALOT of songs.
This is what I use on Sundays to chase away melancholy. I change it frequently to feature new songs and artists, or, alternately, older choices that I'm tuned into again...

Set Fire to the Rain -Adele
The Last Worthless Evening -Don Henley
All Things Must Pass - The Beatles
The Funeral -Band of Horses
Gimme Sympathy, Acoustic Version -Metric
Here Comes the Sun -The Beatles
Photographs -Rihanna ftg. Will I Am
Someone Like You -Adele
Sprawl II -Arcade Fire
The High Road -Broken Bells
Cry -Rihanna
Devil Wouldn't Recognize You -Madonna
Have You Ever Seen the Rain -CCR
Not Alone -Patty Griffin
River -Natalie Merchant
Under the Milky Way -The Church
One Love -Bob Marley
I'm a Monster-Ours
Sonnet -Verve
Fire Bomb-Rihanna
Soul Meets Body-Death Cab for Cutie
Something-The Beatles
Across The Universe-Rufus Wainwright version
House of Cards -Radio Head
Something Else-Diamond Rings
Time after Time -Cyndi Lauper
Caroline -Concrete Blonde
Eleanor Rigby-The Beatles
Lucky Man-The Verve
Moonshadow-Cat Stevens
Umbrella-Mandy Moore ballad version
Wild World-Maxie Priest version
I Don't Want to Wait-Bob Marley
32 Flavours-Alana Davis version
Girl with One Eye-Florence and the Machine
Drowned World/Substitute for Love-Madonna
Yesterday-The Beatles
Impossible -Shontelle
Soldier of Love-Sade
Already Gone-Kelly Clarkson
Miles Away -Madonna
How to Save a Life-The Fray
Mystery Girl -Roy Orbison
Save a Prayer -Duran Duran
Caroline-David Gray
Trouble is a Friend-Lenka
Say-John Mayer
She's So Heavy-The Beatles
Break the Night with Colour-Richard Ashcroft
In God's Hands -Nelly Furtado
Walk Away-Christina Aguleira
The Other Side -David Gray
Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word-Elton John
It's No Good-DM
Never Say Never-The Fray
Is Your Love Strong Enough?-Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music
Freedom-David Gray
Flame Turns Blue-David Gray
Don't Leave Home-Dido
By My Side-INXS
Let it Be-The Beatles
The Ghost in You-Psychedelic Furs
Some Kind of Stranger-Sisters of Mercy
Babylon-David Gray
Somebody's Cryin'-Chris Isaac
Do You Realize?-The Flaming Lips
Fade into You-Mazzy Star
Say Goodbye-Dave Matthews Band
River of Deceit-Mad Season
For No One-The Beatles
Maybe-Enrique Iglesias
Wild Horses-Sundays' Version
Baker Street-Gerry Rafferty
My Sweet Lord-George Harrison
Hometown Glory-Adele
While my Guitar Gently Weeps-George Harrison
100 Years-Five for Fighting
Too Little Too Late -Jojo
I Hate this Part-Pussycat Dolls

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Journal 44 The Age Issue

I did other things this weekend other than muse about the last 24-odd months, heavily pressing on the rewind button.

I bought Vogue's August issue, the Age Issue, as it has now been called for the last few years.
They profile a bunch of women, in different decades, in various stages of achievement, focus on the clothes they wear while they achieve these things (it is Vogue) and usually do an all around good job on writing sound articles with objectives that give glimpses into the lives of many powerful women, often externally-powerful women. But powerful nonetheless.

I was particularly interested to read this year's August issue having just finished reading a searing unauthorized bio of Anna Wintour, a real page-turner about a woman who, after reading this book, sounds about as vapid and shallow (and as ruthlessly determined) as anyone could ever be.
So maybe I was looking for Vogue's flaws this month. Maybe.

The heiresses to a cosmetics fortune jet-setting about Paris in their little neighbourhoods left me with a bad taste in my mouth, thinking, hey, they didn't work for any of that glamour and money. They had it gifted to them from their dads and grandads.

The woman writing about plastic surgery for earlobes (for real) and jawlines left me thinking: Wow. This is what we want women to think about instead of reading real books, coming up with new ideas (that don't involve a perfume line, a new night cream, or a secret anti-aging serum).
I consider it a good day if I don't wake up looking puffy-eyed, like I've been crying, or had a bad sleep. I don't even consider my earlobes. I can't diet. I just had a piece of cold chicken from the fridge, dry and crispy-skinned, because I barely ate dinner and I realized I've run, in the heatwave of this July week, over 35 k, walked about 10. I need those calories.

I bought a $ 14 Old Navy bikini, because I believe that's what you should pay for a couple of scraps of fabric, with no buttons or zippers. Also, I don't fit into my bikinis from four years ago. I just don't . Because I'm now a good few years PAST thirty-five, and I still need to eat.
I didn't stay out late Saturday night at the newest club drinking expensive champange or doing fun French things in a very expensive dress. I slept on the couch in my mother's house, staying up far too late because I was into the book I was reading. And my hair was in a damp bun, and I considered it a good day because my face had some sun on it and I didn't look like death warmed over.
So...that was my Vogue experience. And I pepper this post liberally with grains of "to each her own". But god. What a letdown this time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Journal 43 Time Travel Part One

I've always mused about it.
One thing I've discovered recently, on one of many long, sun-drenched, hot-as-hell runs,
is that even if we could see and know our future, we wouldn't believe what we were being shown
anyway, so that is one argument 'for' the uncertainty of life.

I run this argument again when I leaf through stacks of family photos, smiling, all of us, no hint of the terror of my father's cancer, his last months. Horror movies hold no sway over my emotions anymore--my father's death, my mother and I at his side, just the three of us, ensures that no mere image on a screen can frighten me.

Back to the concept of time travel.
I travel back in time, in my mind, many times a week, over the last two-odd years, and how upside-down my life has turned, standing on its head from where it was, from January 2009 to now.

January 2009. My boss's beloved mother, a woman whom I long admired for her strength, her staunch survival skills, her humour, and her sheer love for life, loses her battle of cancer, a loss that I knew was coming, but God. It still hit so hard.
The same month, I re-connect with an old boyfriend (third time a charm?) and things look promising. I've written about it on this very blog. People can change. I can change.
May 2009. One of my best friends in the world gets married in Muskoka. Mr. Third-Time-A-Charm accompanies me to the wedding, and we spend one of the most memorable weekends with a huge group of friends, watching my friend L. get hitched. There is love everywhere. I can feel it.
June 2009. Mr. Third-Time-A-Charm has a birthday. We celebrate in Little Italy and decide to take The Next Step in our relationship, and move in together that summer. My parents are happy. His parents are happy. I'm happy. I'm so happy I can't believe how far we've come together.
Also in June, 2009. I get news from a long-cherished friend, that she has lost her sister. I am devestated for her. We re-connect, and spend that summer having very long conversations on the phone (she lives in another city) about life, and all the big stuff. I am back down to earth.
August 2009. I turn 36. He moves in. He has ALOT of stuff. I take time to adjust. And let me tell you--the adjustment is not fairy-tale, it is not easy.
I don't like it. But I love him.
At least I think I do.
October 2009. I see my long-lost friend for the first time in almost ten years. We have a fantastic dinner and visit and I am reminded about the amazing time I had in my twenties, despite the strife I often experienced. My friend reminds me of how great our conversations were, and how our friendship has spanned a time period over which most people would be unable to connect. For me, it's like she's never left.
November 2009. Third-Time and I go to Jamaica. While I love it there, we have a tame vacation, sitting on the sand, I read seven books and drink innumerable cocktails in the sun. Dinners in shorts and sundresses. Michael Jackson-tribute shows. I am relaxed but something in me is unsettled.
We return home on my father's birthday, November 13th, and I see my dad two days later, celebrate then.
December 2009. I'm at work on a Monday morning when the news reaches me, via email, via ex-boyfriend. A long-ago, lost-love friend has lost his life, far too early.
I have to leave my desk and find somewhere in the office where no one can see me completely freak out and cry. I am numb for weeks, through his wake and funeral, through the aftermath of pulling out every memory I had of him and then trying to find a new place to put it.
My old friend from far away, as I call her in my head (from a book title we both find ironic) flies in for the day. We play catch up again. We are sad together.
My live-in and I put up a Christmas tree 'together' meaning he puts up the tree and decorates it, and I zone out, drink chardonnay, watch Some Kind of Wonderful on tv, and dream of another life.
We all spend Christmas together, my parents, his parents, my sister and her kids, we visit old friends, we agree--best Christmas ever. It's the second last Christmas I'll ever have with my whole family of origin. But I don't know that yet.
The other thing I don't know yet is that my relationship with Third-Time is already over. I will never feel that kind of love for him. Somewhere inside him, he senses that I'm gone.
January 2010. My relationship is worsening. He plans a trip to Cuba with a guy friend. I am livid. I have no trust. We go to counselling. I don't like it. I have a session alone with the shrink. She tells me I have a disdain for men. My disdain, I say, is for her. She concludes this 'isn't working'. By 'isn't working', she means me and her. I mean him and I.
February 2010. Third-Time goes to Cuba. I love the week I spend alone in my loft, everything neat, quiet, and no disruptions. I take up running, a long-ago pastime. I run through the snow and slush of the dark winter.
It's the Family Day long weekend, and I have my mom, dad, and sister over for lunch. Even though it's February, I grill chicken on the bbq, and we all have a lovely lunch. It's the last time my father will ever visit my loft.
March 2010. Uneventful. Quiet. I construct a vision board. Inside I sense my desparation in this act. "Let me out of my life...."
My father has the nagging sore throat. Could just be a cold, one that won't go away.
April 2010. I go on my first real business trip, to Chicago, and I love it. I feel free, I feel single, and I feel...alive. In my hotel room on the second night, a quiet night in, me and my book, a spirit visits, a distant warning. Now I am having trouble swallowing.
May 2010. Life implodes. The cancer diagnosis of my father reveals an inoperable tumour, an aggressive, insidious mass, and the day I find this out, Third-Time checks out. He leaves 'our' home, (my home where he somewhat lives) for three weeks, without telling me where he has gone. My focus remains on my family and keeps me from committing any federal crimes.
The 911 call that comes toward the end--of--May, beginning--of--June is the true icing on the cake.
We quit each other, I change the locks, and start running in 10k blocks, sometimes three or four times a week.
June 2010. It's officially summer. Third-Time is officially out of my life, but more surprises loom.
I call an old friend who lives in the States. We re-connect by phone, and slowly we make plans to meet at the end of the summer. My father starts his treatment. My sister and I coddle together, too worried to talk about anything.
July 2010. I find out the real reason behind Third-Time's disappearing act. As my wise boss says, be glad--at least he's out of your life and someone else's problem now. As stinging as it is to my pride, I have to agree. As my friend A. says "he gave you a gift". I recall standing on a street corner downtown one May day, waiting for a kitchen delivery, and trying to call him, and him not answering (typical m.o.) and knowing....ugh. This (he) is so not for me.
August 2010. I turn 37. I go to the U.S. for two weeks, to see my old friend, and not so surprisingly after all our long late-night talks, our lonely lives meshing over the phone, we fall in love.
I am running on the beach with him, I am looking at the stars at night, I am eating pizza, I am going to Boston with him, and to see my friend L. in NYC with him, a lifelong dream to see the city. I run in Central Park, one of the highlights of my life.
September 2010. I come home, back to reality, and dig into work, life, and the business of my father's ending treatments.
October 2010. My new love, M., comes to Toronto for a visit, meets my parents, my aunt, and sister, and we spend a beautiful weekend together. The cloud of the last months has lifted and I run more than ever, I have so much energy.
My father is given the good news that his cancer has responded to treatment. I greet this news, truly, with uneasiness. I ventured onto the internet only once to look at the stats of his type of cancer. Then I quickly shut that down. I don't want to know anymore. And luckily, there doesn't seem to be anything else. Yet.
November 2010. M. is here, for some of the winter, and November is a cold month. We celebrate my dad's birthday again. I cannot, for the life of me remember what we did, for this last birthday. I have wracked my brain. Nothing.
December 2010. M. returns home. Christmas again. This year just us. My mom, dad, sister, and the kids.
It is, despite the kids' energy, a slightly somber occasion. My dad still cannot eat because of his cancer. This eats at me.

To be continued.....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Journal 42 Odyssey

My dictionary, when I look up the exact meaning of this word, capitalizes the O for the definition "a Greek epic poem". The small o definition is this: "any long, eventful journey".
The dictionary got it right this time.
The word "odyssey" came to me today, in my parents' backyard (my mother's backyard, I inwardly correct myself). The heat was at its apex, around 2 in the afternoon, cicadas droning, glass of wine in hand, the glass sweating, sitting under an umbrella at the patio table, with a book.
I was staring off into space again, when the word simply came into my head. And really, odyssey is not a word that pops up readily when I drift away.

A long, eventful journey. It describes life to me. It describes grief.
As I've written before, being at my parents house allows me to go down the road, so to speak, where the memories crop up like roadside attractions, randomly placed, in no particular order.

Fast forward to 4pm. My mother and I are at the patio table together, having an early dinner of pasta and fish that we quickly made together as we had been shopping earlier in the day and hadn't stopped to have lunch. We have spent the weekend together.

I arrived, from my office Friday night, with a bag packed, my loft left in shambles, turned upside down by the fumigation that was being carried out on Friday during the day. Thursday night I had bagged clothes, emptied my bedroom closet (no easy task. I've lived here for over four years).
Scrubbed the floors in preparation. Washed down the window sills. Took down pictures off the wall. In essence, topsy turvy. When I fell into bed exhausted, after midnight on Thursday night, my most insistent worry was that in my compromised state, I would not remember where I had re-positioned all the stuff I'd had to shift around. I fell asleep anyway, too tired to keep thinking about it.

Friday was a long, demanding work day, and when it was over, I crawled in traffic to get to my mothers, and we ordered a pizza, both of us happy the week was over, and for me, happy to get away from the chaos of my own home for the evening. TV watching followed, an early bedtime, and then on Saturday, she came back with me to the city to help me put my apartment back together. I hadn't realized the job ahead of me until we unlocked the door and walked in and I felt like dissolving. However, we divided the jobs in half, my mother working on my living room/dining room and office area, while I did the bedroom, kitchen, and the rest of the laundry.
In a few hours we were done, my mom relaxed, and I joined some girlfriends for a summerlicious dinner we had planned; it was a great distraction and as always, when I eat an amazing meal now, I think of my father, and how much he missed food the last year of his life. It always has the power to lift me above the 'ordinary' when I think about things like this. I felt such gratitude for my friends, the meal, and our talking.

Back to my mom's on Sunday, where I am now, in my head. The odyssey.
My mom and I finish dinner, the heat is abating, and there is a beautiful breeze, the leaves in the trees rustling, and despite the gorgeous afternoon, no other noise in the suburban oasis.
The phrase 'lost in thought' comes to me as my mother and I sit, silently, each of us in our own little world. It's then that I realize how different the meals are, how I am sitting where my father normally sat, how our conversations are simple back-and-forth, not around-the-table.
I feel my father at that moment, his spiritual presence, keenly. My mother is looking away from me right now, and I wonder if it is to hide a tear. I have one, waiting to fall, but I hold it back, keep it together in front of her. It's the first weekend since my father's death that I have been with people the whole time. Every other weekend I've managed to carve out solitude, either late on a cloudy evening on my rooftop, with some wine and some kleenex to catch my tears as they fall, or sitting on the couch, going through photos, letters, and cards, tears leaving watermarks.

It's 5pm, I'm packing my car up, my mother is putting dishes away. We hug good-bye on the lawn and agree it was a wonderful weekend.
I back out of the driveway, head down the street, to the highway to get me back to the city.
Only when I am out of sight of the house do the tears really well up, behind my sunglasses, my tanned face, with not a trace of make-up on it. The tears well quickly, fall fast, keep coming.

The high-early summer evening sun does not distract me as I drive west, I do not notice the other cars.
I cry all the way home.
It's a long, eventful journey.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Out the Window Re-Visited

Out the Window was published by me on this blog, about 13 months ago. You could look it up in older posts if you want to read it in detail, maybe again, or for the first time, on June 10, 2010.

Oddly, to me, it is one of the most-viewed pages on my blog of all time (yea, I can track this stuff. Fun, huh?). I don't find it particuarly intellectual as a post, it is highly emotional, and while that can make for some direct, laser-precision writing, it lacks emotional depth, that post, to me.
It is all about facts, facts that I greyed over in mystery to obscure those in my journal entry,
to not draw too much attention to myself, my family, and my need for protection in those heady days of late-May, early-June, in 2010.
I re read it today, as it keeps popping up on my blog stats as being viewed.
So, someone's interested in it. Someone feels the need to dissect what happened that week, maybe, to gain some understanding of it all, of 'what when down'.

I wrote that page a number of weeks after a very distressing incident had occured.
See, I lied in the Out the Window blog post.
It was not just emotional abuse, neglect, and abandonment. It was physical violence.
And depsite the fact that he and I were over at the time, he had come 'home' ostensibly to figure
out timelines of when he was leaving. I may or may not have mentioned, but he hit the ground running, as fast as he could, after my father's cancer diagnosis, leaving me to pick up the pieces in what I will describe as one of the lowest points of my life involving a relationship.

I touch on the fear in that post.
I didn't touch on the 911-call I made to the police after he shoved me hard enough in my own apartment, and I hit the wall. How he wouldn't let me go to bed to get some rest the night before my father's first cancer appointment. About how we waited a long time for the police to get there.
And when they did get there, they were unimpressed and unaffected by his profuse apologies.
They looked at him they way I felt about him: Scum.

In hindsight (I never, ever mentioned this episode to my parents) it was the breaking point for me, that allowed me to hold my head up and, as Amy Winehouse would say, "get on without my guy".
And it also allowed me to never look back, and not to waste anymore time on his re-habilitation.
His affair, the whole 911 mess, it was all pre-destined to get that part of my life behind me and deal with what was in front of me-- a very sick parent.

My friends all know what went down, my sister knows, the police know.
What most people don't know was missing from that blog entry, and clearly some people are
still hungry for that information. So...that's how it went down. A nice, explosive ending, to a very volatile chapter of my life, that allowed me to 'get on without my guy' and move on to a guy who is my soul-mate in every sense of the word, my future husband, and a partner who inspires blogposts about his utter kindnesses, his simple compassion, his disarmingly unhurried attitude about life. I had to have that experience to get me to him, to feel what real love is like, when you are allies and when a man respects and protects you, and when the chips are down with the family, he acts like he's a part of it. Because he is, and because he can handle it. All the sh(t that can get tossed at you in life. He can handle it, we can handle it.
Because we get out of bed everymorning and meet life halfway.
I don't need to throw my spirit out the window to connect with him. He's right here beside me, loving me, and honoring our commitment to each other as boyfriend-girlfriend, and our future together. Not cruising online dating sites secretly, because he can't get it up for a real live person.
But being there, when it counts, and being in my head, because he belongs there.
So I've re-visited it, and I did what I had to do, I protected those who needed protection at the time (my parents), and I can now release this experience to the universe and let it slide and slither away, a snake in the sand.

Release is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Journal 41 Transfiguration

...through blogland? Sometimes this type of browsing (blogher, bloglovin'n or simply hitting 'next blog') yields great results for me. I feel inspired, unique, and ready to write again.

Today, I marvelled over the constant repetitive content, the round-about-writing. I summarize the themes and some of the exact wording I read as I just scrolled through:

"Our life has grown so much, and I love every second, every minute of being with my family"
-actual Mom blog
"My purpose is to serve this time on earth and make every moment count"
-really? REALLY?
"I made the best decision of my life"
-you're THIRTY give it some time
"What I wore"
-ok, these ones really bother me. one. who dresses like that unless you work for a label/designer/magazine. And two, I classify times in my life that stand out by how I feel ; not how many bucks worth of fabric I had hanging off me.
"I love being a mom, and I love my children more every day".
-yea, we get it, you're a throwback. I'm not saying this is true or it is not; but it's out there--do you, ms mathematician, get to do any other meaningful work other than long division when helping with homework? Not saying this is not important work--but you threw it out there that you are a mathematician staying home with your kids. And that smile didn't reach your eyes.

People's blog photos of themselves in general.
Are those head shots?

And make no mistake--I go to church every week. But the Christian blogs, the Mormon ones, the missionary stuff, the bible-quoting and the clean-living (uh huh...). Let me declare it now--I have a deep mistrust of very religious people, especially quoting scriptures to support their..opinions.
Sooner or later in life a very bad hand could be dealt to us. Sometimes God's hands are not that easy to live with. That's all I'm going to say about it.

And when I go browsing I have to hear about it. Let me just say now, there is no judgment on my end on happy mums, clotheshorses, and people who can't spell yet throw a sentence together like they would throw a scarf around their necks, but come on. That's not INTERESTING reading. All the lead characters in every novel I've ever read do not come with that side order of happy. They came with a black cloud inching along above their head, and it was what they did to deal with that black cloud that made them that interesting protagonist, drawing me in, gaining my trust, my empathy, my love.

I thought that during my run today. I'd gotten an inspiring email today from a friend whose opinion means alot to me, and I felt good reading her reads on how she feels about reading my blog. I trust what she says, she's had a lot of life experiences and she has turned that into a spiritual type of currency, for lack of a better word, and she is very generous with this currency. We are both readers, and I know that the blogs I've browsed lately (looking for 'good stuff', the stuff I listed in my List of Top Ten blog/websites, which feeds me in ways that books do) have fed me. The more simplistic writers and the more upbeat outlooks leave me shaking my head that this is a blog on "blogher" or has a large number of readers. Read one earlier in the evening that advised against putting up a post til one had had a chance to really review and it and make sure that was what they wanted to say. Umm, it's a BLOG. Not your autobiography.

But enough with the negative, the shady grove I've been inhabiting for weeks (months).
I summed it up in an earlier post--up, and down, up, and down. Down again. Then up.
Then I do the right thing, see a friend, take the weight off my chest. Then I go on that insanely long run, the one I'm pretty sure I can't do, and I do it, and I want more.
Then I clean my oven, and the kitchen floor, and I'm in the physical world, outside my own head, scrubbing oven grime off of the oven door. Then I listen to my "Mike" playlist on my ipod, made last September, which feels like it was five minutes ago, and I drift back to my Maine vacation. I and look ahead to my next visit, also in September.
I look around the walls of my home, needing so much attention, attention I haven't given while I've been sitting on the couch since March, book in hand, vacant stare, glass of wine close by.

I am working on becoming that butterfly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Journal 40 Obstacles

I swear I had a million blog-lines just floating through my head last night as I drifted off to sleep.....things that were worded perfectly and required no internal editing. But as I drifted off to sleep, so did the blog-lines just float away.
I want to write, I need to write, and as I sent a dear email correspondent, I participate in 'writing practice' even when the mood or thoughts do NOT strike (like right now. F*ck. Right now.)

Writing practice was something I learned about in Creative Writing. (I know. I'm an interior designer. But before that I was an Art Student. File that under "Hey, I didn't know!" I majored in Drawing, minored in Creative Writing. They are my two loves. The computer keyboard has allowed me a fluency of the last few years that I simply did not have before).

In Creative Writing class, my lovely transplanted New-Yorker-turned-Torontian-writing professor introduced me to Natalie Goldberg and her inspirational series of books on writing, on writing the worst stuff in the world, every day if you had to, to get to the really good stuff underneath.
I know it works. My blog and some of my most passionate, beloved posts are proof of that.

The Tiny Buddha also shares thoughts on creativity and how we value it, and how the internet has allowed us to put a yardstick, a measuring tape, to our creativity, and really max out on readers, followers, on racking up numbers.
But truly, as they pointed out, and as I tentatively agree (after being rejected by Blog'Her, and after looking at blogs of note recently that have bordered on bizarre and hardly about art, life, writing, and the pursuit of all of these things, in my mind...).

Those numbers are just that, I remind myself. Numbers.
I love my writing, I derive the benefits of writing in my blog, be it only for myself.
And somedays, it may be only me who is reading it (like today, possibly).
But how does that matter? It doesn't really. I write it, for me. I read and re-read, for me.
To learn.
To evaluate...state of mind, presence, level of feeling, thought.
To allow me to chart my progress, so to speak.
I sometimes think of my blog like a bank, I deposit so much emotion, so many experiences, within its little boxes, maybe to keep me from overloading.
Because I know how capable I am of doing that, of going there.

I saw a Louise Hay quote today about obstacles, and posted it on my FB.

Tonnes of obstacles lately, despite me trying to be positive, and keep a frame of mind as far as possible from the freezing landscape I referenced in my last posting.

Spilling sauce in the kitchen, on the floor, on me, has the effect of melting me into a puddle.

Seeing an old card with familiar handwriting can wring me out.

Missing M. can reach the limits so fast I've had to put lids on how often/when I think about him, and how amazing it's going to be when I see him again.

An email from my condo corp. today almost sent me into a spiral. Like, what will they do if I just email them back and say "sorry. can't deal with this right now. more in a bit".

What would a client say? I often wonder, as I sit at my desk, rampant computer virus destroying the better part of an afternoon after an innocent click of the mouse. Frozen.

Like my feelings, my writing, my face in meetings.

None of this matters, I would like to calmly (scream) say. Wait until that angel arrives at your doorstep. You, too, will do everything you can to slam the door in its face, while, even as you're slamming, a part of you realizes no door you can close will keep the angel out forever.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Journal 39 Partway to...Nowhere?

I'm having a Carolyn Day.

I was explaining this to M. on the phone, earlier. I will explain to you now.
It can really only happen on a Saturday, preferably one with stunning weather (however being trapped inside while it snows or rains it can be nice too--however, rainy days do make for some of the best runs outside...). Anyway. I usually get up, wayyy too early, after having gone to bed wayyyy to late the Friday night, and I kind of slide into Saturday, today I did it quietly on my rooftop, in my bikini, with coffee, water, advil, my ipod, and House Beautiful.
The sun, at 830 am, was already high in the sky, and my goal was to be laced up, running the 7 km along Queen St. East to pick up my car, by 930 am. It was going to be a hot day, and in order to run prior to the hazy humidity picking up steam in the city, I needed to get out early.
I don't eat before I run on the weekends--tip--it's the quickest way to drop a couple of extra pounds and look a bit leaner--for some reason running first thing in the morning on an empty stomach accomplishes this. A girl I used to work with, who trained as a boxer, gave me this tip.

It's still quiet this time of the morning, even for Toronto. I run along Queen with few people getting in my way. But I have a rough start with leg pain and blow my time. It took me almost 45 minutes to run along Queen east to my friend T.'s (uphill on the last push, not liking that), and get to my car, drive it home, then go inside my loft for some much needed water.
That accomplished I decided to do my normal 9-ish km route right after the water and make up for my laziness on the last long weekend. The run starts well, I'm hydrated, it's bright, and I'm running uphill (again) but I plan it so the whole last 4 km is on the down-hill incline. It's during that stretch that the real leg pain starts, but I keep going, not even running on the clock anymore.

I finally return home, it's noon-ish, find a piece of leftover chicken in my near-empty fridge, and eat it while I talk to my boyfriend M. I shower, then do some cleaning in the kitchen and the bathroom, then head back up to the roof, this time with water, more magazines, and sunscreen. It's now after two, and I have about 90 minutes to loll on the rooftop in full sun, before going downstairs again to get dressed, walk out to do my banking, on the way to Saturday evening mass at 430pm. Yes. I am aware (guilty Virgo) that I have also scheduled my whole day off. But it means that more gets done, and I still don't have to compromise with anyone on what they want to do to keep my off my schedule. Nothing throws me off. I spend the entire day on my own. Daunting sometimes.

Walking to the church the heat is at its apex, but there is still a breeze. It's during this walk that the loneliness I've been running from all day catches up to me. It's when the anxiety hits (where am I going, what the hell am I doing, and how much longer can I keep this up)--swirl thoughts hit. I fight to stay calm, and it seems to help. I remind myself this is part of grief--that despite the hot sun, the high temperatures, the vitamin D, water quenching my thirst--there is a part inside of me on permanent winter right now--freezing, tired, wanting to lie down at any given opportunity. Not necessarily to sleep (that is still proving an elusive luxury at this point, and the bad news is it's starting to show on my face..) but to rest. To stop. To stop doing so much for everyone else, while I lose myself, and my own connection to that part of me that is going to help me heal.
A crow flies by just as I think these narrow thoughts, squawking past a vintage building, silouhette-black against the brilliant blue of the summer sky. I breathe in again and take it as a spirit-sign, a little pick-me-up, an "on the right path" type of sign. The sixteen kilometres done before noon allowed endorphins the power to muffle all doubt. Now I have to get through the rest of the day.

The church is cool. I pray for everyone while I kneel prior to the service starting. I sit in the pew, my sore back giving off pins of pain (there is something wrong with my lower back, and I have never, ever experienced lower back pain in my life--I usually stick to headaches--now I have stomach pains too, along with the back. I know there must be something to this....). I realize that left out of my prayers, unconsciously (subconsciously) my Aunt and her family. I allow my thoughts to wander to 'not nice' for a minute, despite the holy place I am in, as I remember my mother's tears on the phone last night. Earlier the day before, my sister and I had made up a little laundry list of all those who exhibited odd behaviour in the last few weeks to us, surrounding our father's death. My aunt and her family of course top the list, but my sister and I can't hide our relief.

It was a particularily busy work week, thankfully, I must say. I blocked my head with work all the hours I spent at the office; the rest of the time I was commuting, taking up the rest of the day in the car; it was the evenings that were getting to me, those sometimes aimless Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday nights, when you ask yourself, 'can I go to bed if it is still light out?' Believe me if I could get to sleep I WOULD be doing that. I am exhaustion personified at this point. It must be the root of the physical pain. My body begging for respite.

All in all though my Carolyn Day has been a success. After church I get to the grocery store, still walking, my thoughts a little lighter, to get dinner things. By 830pm, I've eaten dinner and there is officially nothing on tv, I'm turning to a book, and I've caught up on my emails, my correspondance, my bills, my organization, and most importantly, my mental inventory. The people who are in my head today deserve to be there, and are not simply making room for themselves.

That's something.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Journal 38 List Making as an Alternative to Writing a Real Post

Can't explain it. This is just where I'm at right now.
I'll be creative again soon. I promise.

List 1 Top Ten Favourite Websites/Blogs (in no particular order. I'm sorry...)
10. Poem of the Day
Blog. See title. Meticulously organized. You can scroll through the list of poets and pick the person out, then all the poems are grouped together...genius.

9. Reagan's Blob I love the photos, the content, her swirly clothes, thoughts, photography and family life, but most of all I love her optimism. This is my 'go-to, feel-good' blog. But not in the ordinary way...

8. Apartment Therapy 'House' tours of people more creative with interior space than almost any designer I know, myself whole-heartedly included. My favourite are the New York apartments. What some of these people do with 600 square feet or less is amazing.

7. Tiny Buddha Visit this inspirational sight, and sign up for their daily email. You can thank me later.

6. Sheye Rosemeyer If this talented woman were to write a book, I would want to edit it, and I would title it "Through the Eyes of"......photographs and pink fonts...almost 'other-wordly'.

5. Landing on Cloudy Water Described as a 'nature' blog. Midwestern and I love it. And I want to know how these bloggers get their photos to look so stunning on their blogs...

4. One Girl and her Ipod The energy, the Scottish-ness, the fun of it all.

3. Gerard I go here when I want to visit an old friend and remember that sometimes, sadly, life is far, far too short. Listen to some music, remember his friendly face, time travel a bit.
2. Anything to save me from physically having to GO to an actual Indigo store, wait in line, listen to half-wits 'discuss' books and bear witness to just what is getting published out there today. At least with Amazon I get real recommendations, and can browse with interest. And if Amazon disappoints me I go to the library. For real. Dewey Decimals and all..

1. Mama Pundit Katie Granju is an American journalist. Calling this a "mom blog" is really not fitting--it is so so much more.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Journal 37 Umbrella

I know it's not, intellectually I know this. But sometimes all the self-work, the soul-digging, the reading, the reflecting....still leaves me feeling...empty.
I realized, after staying at my parents house on the July 1st holiday (my mom's house, I keep forgetting) that grief is exhausting.

I didn't run at all this week. I put everything into my work, packed 5 days into 4, or so it felt, for the Canada Day holiday, and came home, after wicked traffic, every night, too tired to move, let alone lace up my shoes and blast out for a bit. The traffic served its own purpose, though, as I look on it now, calmly; it did give me that time to reflect, that can be something you run from at times like these.
My aunt always said you didn't know what people were capable of; my friend A. turned this statement around to you don't know what you are capable of; it's true--I would have never thought myself capable of severing the close relationship I had with my aunt over a moment of protectiveness toward my family of origin. I didn't think I was capable of writing, let alone delivering, my father's eulogy. But you grow, you evolve, you pray, and as the English say, you 'get on with it'.

Weekend found me wallowing a bit. My mom's house has that affect on me now.
His absence is everywhere. I check his email for him. I help my mom with the barbecue, I open the garage, I observe the beautiful summer weather as we sit in the backyard, writing out thank-you cards together to send to those who were kind enough to send flowers to my father's service, donations, their presence. Their thoughts, their prayers.
Then night falls and I do feel the same anxiety as my mother. I sleep in the den, downstairs, and as always when I sleep somewhere unfamiliar, I hear all noises, I seem to only half-sleep.
I dream of my father, not a peaceful dream. We are all in a car, driving to his service, with him, he is stoically unmoving, but alive, I observe. He is insisting we have his service at 11 am (coincidentally we did have it at 11am). We are driving in the rain (the day of his memorial was sunny and bright) past an unfamiliar or unremembered park, in someone else's car.

I want to believe in spirit, the afterlife, the unseen, the ultimate in the unknown, the crossing of the bridge, that fateful boat on unknowable waters, taking us on our final journey. But I have fits of doubt, of terror. Now I have the butterflies in my stomach. I breathe deeply, as I jolt awake from the latest dream, pulling myself back to this world, panting a bit with anxiety, the grief a weight, on my upper chest, robbing me of air and causing me to breathe shallowly, tentatively.

Finally, it's 4am (the witching hour). Birds are already singing in the suburbs. In my sleep-wake I lie there, not wanting to move and the phrase, unbidden "the night is darkest before the dawn" pops into my head. It certainly feels that way. I have moments of memories. Conversations, especially those in that remote Oshawa hospital, after I first learned that these weeks, spring of 2011, would be the last I would have with my father. That I wouldn't have the time to have more of my adult life with him, share with him my growth, his growth, write new stories, trace the new memories. Have him see me get married. I know he was proud of me; his friends tell me that. I wanted unlimited chances to continue to stoke that pride.

I email back and forth with a close friend of my father's, B., who sees the world, it seems to me, the way I hope to one day--calmly, peacefully, and filtered with spirit, but without the anxiety that accompanies it for me. He wrote me these lines after I shared with him that I felt I had not always made the right decisions in my relationship with my Dad;

We all “do the best we can” in our relationships with loved ones; but, when they pass away, there seems to be a reflex which results in a critical self-examination of ‘what we could have said’ or ‘what we could have done differently’. I’ve felt that way myself but I’ve learned to recognize that those Above, under God’s umbrella, remember what it’s like to be human; but, have been granted the wisdom to not judge us; but, savour the love, acceptance,values and importance we had in their lives.

Those in Heaven wish only the best for us, indirectly, they try to encourage us to explore and enjoy all the world offers us, unhampered by any regrets.

When I read these words on my lunch hour at work, the day before the Canada Day holiday, I have to close my office door quietly so I can softly have a cry by myself and honour these sentences. I cried because I want this to be true, I need to believe it to be true, and somewhere inside myself, I continue to work on the banishment of any and all doubts that it is not the case.

I get up, turn on the light, turn to a book. It's a spiritual book, one that I had read before I was ready. Now I read it again, and I notice things I didn't catch before.
I take a pill to relax. It's that bad in this four-in-the-morning wake-up time.
After an hour, the light does begin to show itself. I feel ready to lie back down, turn off the light, and put my head back on the pillow.

One more memory, again, unbidden, sidles into my consciousness.
"I'll miss you," he says, his sad eyes filling with tears.
"I"ll miss you, too." I say. I manage to get the words out before tears choke me mute.

My head is on the pillow, the tears slide down my face sideways, and I close my eyes, and drift back to sleep.