Sunday, August 28, 2011

Journal 59 Supposings

I'm in Maine, reading Mary Karr's "Lit", stowed away inside while fierce winds howl outside, rain falls intermittently, pelting sheets of rain onto the A-line roof of the attic apartment where I am staying, M.'s house.
It's been dusk-dark all day, and during my run down to the shoreline, I was hit with salty mist, a reminder of the infuriated Atlantic, swirling under the power of the storm just off-shore. I have my own misery associated with this truncated hurricane, item one being that it kept me from New York City and the weekend my friend L. and I had been planning for months; two, that it handed me a difficult 5 hour drive through the state of Massechusetts.

Despite the travails of the last week, as I reflect, I notice that I tend to feel safest this time of year, the August-September bridge bringing out the eternal good student in me that yearns for renewal and a chance to prove herself again. It might be owed to my birthdate, too, sandwiched in at the end of the summer, my own personal new year, with its promise of re-birth.
Often at this time of year I find myself either on vacation or planning one, which lifts my spirits. As I get older, the real New Years' eve has taken on a terror (what will happen this year? I ponder). But the Virgo solstice feels like a time of empowerment, of freedom, of self-devotion.
I realized as I eked through my thirty-eighth birthday this week that, despite the relative challenges of my adult life thus far (I emphasize the term relative), that gratitude abounds.
Love, of myself and the people in my life, abounds.
Luck plays its own twisting role, but at no time have I ever, despite obstacles and tests, been 'hard done by'.
This is not a sentiment I reached easily. Eleven solitary hours of driving from Toronto to Maine yesterday, the last three in a caffeine-fulled, caloric-deficit state of anxiety and worry about the weather gave me plenty of time to think and reflect on life's gifts and time to thank God for them, even as I swore in my mind at the Massechusetts drivers and prayed like hell as I drove through blighting fog and torrential rain.
It was time, I thought, in the latter part of the drive, to turn the lens on myself so to speak and look at what I've saved up in the hopes and dreams department for my own life, thus far. Not just the wants I have for all those that I love, but myself--a separate entity, gripping a steering wheel like it was going to guide me to all the answers.
I only really want three things in life, just for me. Of course these things all involve others, every step we take in life really does, but they are just my hopes.
One, I want to marry M. and spend the rest of our lives together, however long we get, however complicated things are right now (my Canadian citizenship, his American one, our respective-family-and-job-devotion, our 1100 kilometre-apart lifestyles).
Two, to write my memoir, in my own voice, the way I envision it, not out of any vanity, but simply because a story waits to be told, and it will, as Capote said---haunt me until I write it.
Three, to meet and know E. and R.'s children one day.
I don't know how it distilled down to these three things in the last few weeks, but it has.
Grief has had its way of distillation, removing the sediment and leaving only the clear water in its wake.
Here in Maine, electricity wanes, trees slap the sides of houses, and darkness fills the air.
But inside I read.
I rest.
I recover.

Journal 58 Missing NYC

I'm in Maine, as of yesterday, driving eleven hours straight after making the very hard decision to by pass New York City due to the threat of Irene.
More in a bit.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Journal 57 Vacation

I leave for vacation tomorrow morning.
I know, so so exciting, as I have not seen my American bf M. in almost (to the day) FIVE MONTHS.
However, I am detouring over the NYC to visit another one of my favourite people, my friend L., and I've got to admit, as much as I am laughing it up, this Hurricane thing is kind of bugging me.
I think of it this way--I've been through so much this year already, I just had my birthday get bedraggled with a tornado warning, and a hell of a major rain/lightning storm, and now I have to gear up for a long the eye of another storm?
The thing is, weather reports long ceased to amaze me years ago. Here in Canada, where we brace for winter storms but don't stop planning things, it seems somehow natural and very Canadian to me to simply ignore all reports of this burgeoning storm and go about my plans.
I know. It's called denial. I'm listening to reports advising against any non-essential travel to the U.S., but inside I'm saying, but it IS essential. Essential I see my friend L., and that I get to stay with M.
Just letting the thoughts out of my head, I guess, so maybe I can look back on my thirty-eight-year-old self and say Oh my God what was she THINKING driving to the States with a hurricane watch on the go?
But more than likely all will be okay. I've never prepared/dreamed/needed/wanted a vacation more than I want this one right now. I'm mentally kaput from all the energry I've needed just to keep myself sane over these last few months. From my sleep patterns (up at all hours, against my will) to eating (picking at foods, eating the same thing four dinners a week) to my near-obsession with running (getting away from the inside of my head) to all the reading, writing, and general "taking note" of my consciousness every minute of the day, I'm exhausted.
I really really am. I clearly remember the email I sent to my Dad last year from Maine, when I had finally taken in the spring/summer months of 2010; I told him I felt like 'myself' again.
And I did--happy, playful, free, and looking towards the future with hope, not dread.
So I'm taking denial to a new level.
I'm going.
Get out of my way, storm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Journal 56 Your Voice in my Head

This is the title of the book I just finished reading.
I stayed up very late a couple of nights this week because I couldn't stop reading it.
Oddly, it reminded me of another book I read, years ago, called "Wasted" which had very similar subject matter, namely, the struggle against black depression and self-hatred, cloaked by bulimia and other self-destructive tendencies.
This book is by Emma Forrest, who is a famous ( I did not know this, I had never heard of her, I don't know much/enough about the land of Hollywood, movies, actors, the lives they lead) screenwriter.
She is also batsh*t crazy, and the image when I googled her was one of a literary-looking woman in her early thirties, with a veil of something over her eyes. And when I describe her as batsh*t crazy, I in no way mean this to be derogatrory. I actually admired her very frank writing style, her battle against the thought-demons that plague her daily, her fight to stay alive, both in general and after a mind-numbing, heart-searing break up with a man who wanted her to have his children. ( I had to google the man before I finished the book to figure out who he was. I just had to know. In the book, he is given an acronym moniker, and there are a few small hints that he is a famous actor, but nothing more. I'm guessing she didn't want to be sued. But oh..finding out who it was was the cherry on the sundae. Let's put it this way: someone I longggg suspected of being an absolute and total dog. Not far off the mark. I know, I know, one side of the story and all that. But this book reads like gossip, and so should this 'review').
The main thrust of the story, though, is not Emma's relationship with this cad actor. It's her relationship with her intelligent, thought-provoking therapist, and his amazing insights into her behaviour and actions, and how he helped her translate and channel some of that manic energy to do more good to herself than harm.
Good therapists can do that. How is a mystery but the Why and the What are more gripping.
As I read I was reminded of my own therapist and our relationship, dating back to the late 90's when I was a troubled-twenty-something also going through a major break-up, alongside the drama of being the victim of a robbery at the place where I then worked. Needless to say, I was screwed emotionally and psychologically, and I was barely twenty-five.
But I never resorted to cutting, starving, or sacrificing my self-respect for a little attention.
My neuroses was turned inward.
Like even now, as I sit here, closing out the day, on my birthday, I let the neuroses take over and I am not remotely grateful or overjoyed to be alive or any of that type of happy-person stuff. I just think that 'great, there is a tornado warning' and this has messed up the birthday plans I had with my mom (hard to drive out east a bit when there is a tornado about to bear down--whether or not that actually materializes remains to be seen, but my mom didn't want me to take the chance, and truth be told neither did I so here I am, plan-less on my bday but wanting to be safe...) Anyway. M. sent me flowers at work today and I turn my head to look at them, and then out the window, every time I have a stress-thought (work was the pits today too. All sorts of demands, frustrations ie, losing an entire excel document I've been working on, all formulated and then...gone...where? WHERE?). So that has added to the pile. Then, I flip-flop again and feel so buoyed up by all the calls and the messages from people and then I land back down to earth and feel like, even though I have often felt adrift on an island alone these last few months, it is still extremely hard to be around people and try to 'fake it til you make it'. I can't fake it. The truth is, I don't even try anymore. My birthday surprise to myself might be to go across the street to the pub, that way guaranteeing I won't be 'stranded' anywhere like the last tornado (ie, outside. yes, I was), and I'll have a glass of wine in front of me and a book. However, the rooftop might be an appealing place to be, too, pre-high-winds, and pre-torrential rains and hail, which Environment Canada also predicts.
So there you have it. My book and birthday review. I still have LOTS in common with the Emma Forrest types of this world, despite my non-participation in the 'behaviours'.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thirty-Eight Years Old

It's my first birthday tomorrow without my father, without his voice on the phone wishing me happy birthday.
Recent cancer deaths, as my friend T. and I were discussing on the phone last night, have left me bereft and too sad to watch the news, read the paper....I thought about families yesterday, on That Day, the day when the person finally leaves you, and how hard that day is. Then I thought about how impossible it would be to have to share it with millions of others.
I wish them all strength.
And R.I.P. has become yet another abhorrent colloquialism that I depise. It's acronym "rip" as in, their life ripped away from you, their spirit torn from this world to the next. It has nothing to do with peace to me. I like, "go in peace" or the ever un-PC "go with God".

Sure it's a birthday. But like the Irish proverb says--you must get through a year and a day. Every day. Your birthday, their birthday, every holiday and anniversary.

Go on, in peace.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Journal 55 Backdrop

In reality, the backdrop of an interesting life is rarely static.
I think about this as I muse on this Sunday evening after a day spent on my own, like so many days recently, where my own company is all I can really tolerate, or want to drink in.
Quiet time. That is the journal entry I will write this evening, in my fawn-coloured journal, after re-reading my Aug 17 entry, again, barely able to decipher my own handwriting.
I have a section in my first entry entitled "Keywords" and these are, according to my definition in my journal are "when a phrase/thought/string of language will not leave me alone, and it seems to mean that it needs to be woven in somewhere".
I guess backdrop is a keyword.
I started this entry, with the first line, in mid-July, and really I have no idea what I was striving for when I thought up that line. It doesn't seem to relate to anything I'm thinking right now, except parts about the recurring thoughts I have about my life not resembling one of most people in my age bracket.
There are differences, marked ones.
I thought of this as I ran along Queen Street in the searing humidity yesterday: there are two types of people in this city--the ones who will actually stand in line and wait to eat brunch, like lemmings going off of a cliff, and me. There is no judgment in this statement--it's the same sentiment that makes me avoid small talk, or meeting new people when I really don't want to, or not trying new foods, because I already like the ones I currently eat. It's insane, it's over-the-top, it's me. That's my backdrop. Off the beaten path.
Where was I going with this? Ah, nowhere really.
I was just sitting on the grey couch, in my particular spot, watching evening slope over me, the shadows on the walls, reading Nelson Mandela's "Conversations with Myself" and his observation about his mother's last visit to him when he was in prison. He watched her walk away to catch the boat to the main land, and he suddenly had the bone-deep thought that he would never set eyes on her again. And he was right, she did die, that was her last visit.
That's another backdrop. Those things you just know, know in your bones, as truth, and so often you deny these truths based on the backdrop of whatever is distracting you about these things at the time.
I guess it could be denial, but it could also be a form of self-protection. I'm pretty certain that when I really need to bury something, it's because I just can't take the pain of it away at the time.
I think about meditation, I think about reading and writing and running as meditation, then I finish my glass of wine and stare off into space for a bit, thinking of life, death, the power of loss, the insistence of memory, of how random my memories can be at time, and how much denial colours them in. I think of my old friend G. and how long it had been since I had seen him prior to his untimely death. I think of the regret that rises in me, that tastes like metal, in the sad twisted end of our friendship. I think of my Dad's useless treatments and more regret waves over me. I think of Family Day, 2010, the last time my Dad would ever be at my apartment. I think of my birthday party last year and how much my parents wanted to come but couldn't make the trek. I can't remember much else about any specific events, the 'lasts' of last year, and something tells me that when the pain has rubbed off a bit, my memories of these events will return. I'll remember the funny parts. My Dad's grins as we laughed at stories, the envelopes of mail he would send me with articles he thought would interest me.

Backdrop. Your life continues, you do all those things you are supposed to do, plan, organize, discipline your self to eat properly, exercise, and pray, against the backdrop of some sadness, some pain, and some regrets.
And you get up the next morning and do it all again.
Evenings fill me with the most wonder, before I sleep and drift away, before I forget it all again.

Journal 54 Sunday Musings

It's 4pm, I'm still wearing pajamas, and I have yet to leave my apartment, at all. I haven't even taken out the garbage. And I didn't run. After all the running I've been doing lately, it feels nice to relax and take a 'day off' and give my body a rest.

Currently, I'm home-dying my hair and somehow have managed to get hair-dye all over my face, really messily.
I have to go and wash the dye out now (I know..I should say "Colour" not "Dye" as advised in Melissa Bank's wonderful book "Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing").
Ok. I'm going to wash the colour out. I'll be right back.

I'm back. My face still has hair dye smudges on it, but the colour is washed off, and the formerly "colour-free" parts of my hair are now their natural (ha!) official jet brown. Both my parents went grey/white really young, and my sister and I have the dubious inheritance of having this occur to us, too. But I keep up the fight, as does my sister. We both have very dark hair, and the grey/white shows quickly, I find, after each colour.

It's been alternately sunny/rainy all day and at one point it got so dark out it was like late-evening. The one good side effect of that was that I lit tealights in case of a power outtage (we got hit with a huge thunderstorm about two minutes after the darkness hit), and it was cozy to be inside, pajama-clad, in the middle of the day.

I made a bacon sandwich and had some gingerale, baked chicken for dinner later, and sent emails to my friend L., who I am going to be visiting next weekend in New York.
My suitcase, as I mentioned, has been on the floor of my bedroom for the past week, and now I've started filling it. Bikinis, sundresses, beach towel, flip flops...I'm so excited to get to the States, and I'm hoping my workweek (which I know is going to be insane) flies by. The last few weeks have been over-the-top busy, but I've really committed to getting so much done before I leave, that I have a real sense of accomplishment.

I've also spent the day controlling my worry-behaviour, as I've been very very good this week, and so far I've succeeded with that. My friend A. and I were talking about that last night, our "progress" with this, as she shares my mindset, and we often bond over giving each other ideas that seem to work. Mine is reading (her: "At least you can read!" we both found this funny), hers, acupuncture. Which is something my sister has also been doing lately. I may check this out when I get home from vacation.

My therapist has suggested "mantras" which, when she repeats them over and over to me in her office make me laugh, but I will admit, when I lay in bed at night and do them myself, they do seem to work. You just tell yourself the feelings will pass, and you forget a bit about your heart racing and you do kind of meditate over the phrase you're repeating, (for example, one I've been doing is "This is just temporary", meaning, how I feel, how busy I am, etc.)

I talked to my friend N. today on the phone too, and have made some new plans to see her this week (I flaked on the last ones. Weekend inertia after another longggg work week last week).
I admitted to her, on the phone, as I've blogged about here, I have basically done nothing all summer. I feel like that old Smiths song, "spending sunny days inside" and literally watching the world go by. Or merely reading about the world, in the world of books, an imaginary world, but one that lets me escape.

What else can I tell you about today? Complete Carolyn day.
I do have to do some work to prepare for Monday though (I know. Ugh). I have minutes of a staff meeting from last Monday to type and prepare, and I have to get them sent out.

So... I will get on that.

But I'm still on the fence about getting dressed. It's almost 5 pm now, there doesn't seem to be any real point (I'm not going anywhere. I've decided. Except, possibly, if the rain holds off, up onto the roof to read for a bit.)
My birthday, I notice, is in 3 days, and truly I'm kind of dreading it. Not for any reason of vanity, I don't mind turning 38, I really don't, especially as I wear jeans I wore at 26. But I'm sad and scared of my first birthday without my Dad. I know it won't feel the same. Just like Father's Day. I want the day to go by fast, I want to wish it away. And I feel bad that I feel that way, but it is what it is. That's all.

This is M.'s house, in Maine.

It has been five months since we've seen each other. I know. Five months, even for an LDR, is a long long time. There would have normally been a couple of quick weekend visits here and there but with the spring and my Dad's condition and all of that, it was impossible to go anywhere, even for a weekend.

Vacation count down:
6 days.

I truly cannot wait.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Journal 53 This Summer

Time, as it is wont to do, has really run away with me this summer, this year, these last two years.
I got an email from the CN Tower yesterday. Well, not FROM the Tower itself, but from the United Way, about their annual charity climb, held late-October, and I had to remind myself that it has been almost two years since I did that climb, wrote that blog post, called my Dad on the phone afterwards because I was feeling Not Good at all, and he was advising me on what I could do to feel better.
I want to do the Climb again (how's that for a metaphor?) but the memories even that little bit dredged up are very painful. I lived in a different situation then, life hadn't yet ripped a bit at the seams, and I felt safe, despite the fact that I had just climbed over 144 flights of 8 steps a piece, in under 24 minutes.
Even as I type this, as my ipod plays "Sprawl" by Arcade Fire, what I consider the theme song to my thirty-seventh year, I can barely register that my last 'real' vacation was a year ago, and that, even then, I was living a different life, with different people playing different roles.
People have come and gone so much in the last two years or so.
Hence the time-travel posts. It behooves me to make sense of it somehow.

This summer I have spent a lot of time at my Mom's house, where she now resides by herself, a huge change for someone who was married for over forty years. I haven't, as I was emailing my friend L. tonight, even let myself think of the 'lasts' at the house this summer, so far.
It is, after all, the last summer of this house. It is to be sold in the fall, so my Mom can move closer to my sister and me downtown, and all the memories and whispers in its walls will go with it on that day. I know they will still be with me, with US, but the physical reality, much like the physical reality of my father, will be gone. I will have to cultivate and conjure up its walls, its doors, its stairs--it will appear in my dreams the same way my childhood home weaves its way into my dreams on a regular basis. Just the other night, I was in the townhouse I grew up in, in dream land, and my father was greeting a boy who was waiting to meet me on our front steps. Once again, as always in these dreams, my father is young and healthy. He is about the age I am now in these dreams ( I do the math--my father at thirty-eight was the very protective father of one very secretive, determined thirteen-year-old daughter. Me).
As I look toward my thirty-eighth birthday, due this coming Wednesday, I cannot imagine having a thirteen-year-old, and a twelve-year-old, at the same time. At this stage.
I cannot imagine that only five years prior to this I would have lost both my parents, as my father did, when he was thirty-three, in the same year.
It does put some perspective on things, I'll say that.
Like that saying "Life must be lived forward but can only be understood backwards". Too true.
Hindsight and all that. What if, during our formative years, we each had the chance to switch roles with our parents, for even just one day, and live in their consciousness, and better understand the decisions they made, that may have seemed misguided at the time?
What a way to bridge the generation gap.

I try not to dwell on 'lasts' and think, as is my minds' way, the 'catastrophic' ending to all things. I try to remember instead, my parents' backyard when my dad comforted me after a bad break-up last year, eating hamburgers outside, things he could no longer eat. I think, instead, of the magical Christmases, not the one that just past, with its lovely meal that he could not have.
I don't think about my long runs around the paths at their house, that will forever, no matter how far away I place them in time, remind me of my father's funeral, of the thoughts running through my head as I ran, every day of that week between his death and his funeral. About how warm it was out, about suburbia and its absolute stillness at times--its' lifelessness.

That's what the summer has been. Me, moving along the path and the timelines, sometimes. Other times I don't move from a chair for a long time, and it doesn't occur to me that I should.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Journal 52 Reading

I guess this is an 'in-between' post.
I've been journalling again, with my new journal, pen touching paper, and I'm loving it.
All the things I don't post on this blog (I know it doesn't seem possible there is more) are going into this journal. My writing style changes with the passing years, and I'm excited to write like this again, alone in bed, late at night, charting my dreams and desires, without worrying about whose reading them.
So I'm going to do, for lack of a better word, some summer book reviews. I mean, I've been reading like a crazy person. A typical week, despite a packed work-and-social-schedule, involves, lately, two to three reads. Sometimes simultaneously.
At night, after dinner and clean-up, which is usually around 9 pm, I'm on the couch with my book for at least an hour of deep reading. I don't even turn on the tv lately (there's nothing on).


I've got alot of books to talk about. And I'm not going to get all literary on you. I've gone down the literature path, I still flirt with it now and then, I've read the prize-winners, but, for the same reason I am a bookclub drop out...I need to find my own way with books.
Bookclub was yet another added scheduled event in my frenzied life, and whenever I went, our discussion rarely got around to the book, picked by the group, which was rarely ever to my liking.
It also interfered with my reading (I know...most people join bookclubs to add to it). I mean, it interfered with the pace at which I read, which I devour books. And the way I choose them.
Which is, completely at random. Yes, I love memoir/biography/life-non-fiction of all kinds, and I do read novels, but on my time, on my schedule, and on my terms.

Books Read so far this Summer (again, in no particular order. my time management skills are shot--I look to last week when I was out of MILK for four days; any random item in my apartment that I "put away" goes into a black hole...I'm sorry. I can't put ANYTHING in order right now..)

Blackbird (memoir 1) and then, Still Waters (memoir 2) by Jennifer Lauck.
I did not know that this was an Oprah's book list book, years ago (2002 I believe). I plucked the two off the shelf, out of obscurity, so I thought, at the library, and ended up barely moving from a sunchair one entire weekend out of my obsession to finish them, especially Still Waters, which I preferred to Blackbird. However, you have to read Blackbird for the background, Lauck's childhood, which is about as harrowing as you can get when both your parents are absent for most of it.
But I identified more with Still Waters, her adolescent/young adult search for herself, for the person she wanted to become, and how she set about doing just that. The scenes in the book where she visits a monastery, the latter portion, for a slim chapter, are the most vivid for me.
Where not to lose your soul. An old friend always reminded me to hold on to mine. How right he was about how hard that can be sometimes.

I moved from difficult memoir reading (not the writing, just the subject matter) to searing fiction by the very prolific Alice Hoffman, who loves to throw that element of mystery in her often-saga-like novels, with generations of women interconnecting, mothers and daughters, and grandmothers and sisters, and all of their inter-woven lives. I've read a large percentage of Hoffman's fiction, and I like the element of mystery/spirit she threads in her stories.
This latest find, oddly enough called The Story Sisters, is particulary clever; curious about the role fate plays in our lives; how all of our decisions, and the decisions of those around us, affect the outcome of our lives. How sometimes we are just puppets on the stage, players, playing the role we've been cast, and never going against type.
The three sisters in this novel have, in various portions of the book, close, then wrenching, relationships with each other. You name the neuroses, this book has it. Death, divorce, addiction, missing persons, escape through geography, the catastrophic set my heart racing, and yet again, I stayed up late at night, knowing full well I had to be up for work at seven the next morning, but it didn't matter. I had to find out what was going to happen in the next frame of these girls' lives. It was that plot-driven. A feat, to me, when a writer can create generations of family, not involve too many extra characters in the plot, and still keep it feeling real, even if that reality is on the edge of ethereal. Loved loved loved this book. Pulitzer prize? No. Page-turner? Yes. Yes Yes.

Okay that's three books right there, just to get started.
I also read, on the recommendation of my boss, a lovely little handwritten book by Kim McMillen, called "When I Loved Myself Enough" and this is a good phrase to keep in mind when you feel like denying yourself something important.
The Prophet remains on my coffee table, day in, day out, and I pick it up occasionally to remind myself that there are real, true, thinkers who have roamed this earth, long before I got here, and there will be more real, true, thinkers (who don't hide behind the mask of self-help, of religion, of the guise of your well-being) who will arrive here while I dwell on this planet, and after I am gone. They can't be kept away. And they serve a higher purpose than about 90% of the crap on Blogher right now. (What is the Mormon/Christian/Mommy thing they've got going on over there? It freaks me RIGHT OUT. One of the blogs I stumbled on by mistake this week was not entitled "Throwback" but something very "Little House" like, "Old Fashioned Values in this World" I'm paraphrasing, but it was just fucked up. I know the whole U.S. is not remotely like that, and I understand the freedom to give up graduate school to breed, but Jesus Christ. To blog about it. WHY?)
Back to the books.
I will do a couple of more reviews in the next little while.
Just want to do a pre-vacation kind of 'wind-down' as I am approaching weariness in a way I never have before.
It's not been an easy year, by any stretch of the imagination, and all I have to do now is get through five more work-days and one thirty-eighth birthday to get to Vacationland.
(Yes, Maine. And New York. And Boston. And Cape Cod. And a little bit of my own country thrown in there at the end).
Keep reading. Even if it seems pointless.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Journal 51 I've Seen That Movie Too

Average days go by fast.
So does my heartbeat, resting (90 beats per minute?? I'm a RUNNER!?) when I try to sleep at night, unaided.
As in, my lifetime, each birthday seeming to approach with lightning quickness as the years pile up.
I've been impatient lately, trying to get it all done, at once, put it all in order and behind me. But life isn't ready to let things be that simple (yet).
I still find that each path contains roadblocks, usually consisting of dull people, clocks ticking slowly, waiting for things to be completed.
It must also be said that I am on a mission at work. It gets this way before I take a vacation.
Deadlines in my line of work are legendary, those decorating shows give glimpses of how stressful it can be, but in real life, there are also revisions to be made, situations to fix on the fly, and meetings. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings.
And I still forget things, and I still despise being rushed when I need to think slowly.

So, vacation countdown.
My last vacation (Christmas, illness, a complete knock-down) was pretty much a bust.
I'm counting on the upcoming one to fill me with hope again, that life is not just what it has shown me lately--that there are things to look forward to, plans to be made, that something good is around the corner.

The weekends have been packed, lately, with plans, and as I've mentioned before, I long for more solitude than I've been getting. However, as I chart and study my anxiety, I do recognize that all the time I spend in my head contributes to all sorts of crazy thoughts, and worries, and wasted thinking.
I've been running tonnes. It's one of the few activities I can lose myself in, and 10km is no longer enough. Yesterday I finally broke through some sort of mind/body barrier, and there I was, at one-hundred-and-five minutes, completing 11 miles (appx. 17 km). As in, a 9-minute mile. I know--in some circles nothing to write home about, but for me, with my little legs, small build, and this nagging blister on my right foot, it was like climbing Mount Everest. I ran from my place to east of Wineva on Queen Street (yes, nice and flat), then home through the trail on the beach, then onto Eastern Avenue. As I was recounting to my sister, relaxing in her backyard last night, almost the whole time on Eastern (from Leslie west to Broadview) I left my body. Running was easier than walking at that point. I didn't even want water anymore. After not eating enough calories, meeting my mom for some shopping, hanging with my sister, I was asleep at 10:30, thoroughly exhausted, but awake at 3am, stressing about an early meeting with a new client.

It was an average Monday (normal day...let me be aware).... and as I have on all the previous Mondays since Monday June 13th, a little sadness visits me at 3pm. I feel distracted at that time. I push on with work, I make a Monday night on-my-own-plan, and I get better.
I get home from work, walk to the store, get caught in the rain. All that simple life stuff. I roast a chicken, eat some of it, with rice and with vegetables. I read another book (I've been reading volumes). I put the tv on in the background. I paint my nails with clear coat. I talk to my mom, listen to her regale me with stories of how my aunt and/or cousin are calling her again. And when she doesn't answer, they don't leave messages. I guess their shame precludes message leaving.
Yes. I'm still harbouring anger. And no, I don't think that it's unwarranted. Either talk to my mother, eat some crow, and admit that your behaviour was nothing short of scandalous, or don't make the call, don't leave the message, and while you're at it, fuck right off.
My mother mused on the phone tonight as to why they don't call my sister or me. I told her, point-blank, why that is. Because my sister and I have a wonderful talent-it's called speaking our minds when it's called for, and it also involves a little line from a favourite Elton John song:

"It's a habit of mine, I don't get pushed around".

I'll leave it at that for now.
Truth be told, there's spirit at work with this too. I know my Dad would not want this, but he would also not want my mom, sister, or me, to suffer needlessly anymore than we already have, making excuses for, and emotionally accomodating more than we really had to.

For work and music on my ipod and shopping and running and getting caught in the rain.
All that simple life stuff.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Journal 49 School

A gift arrived yesterday. A couple of gifts actually, courtesy of my dear friend A., the occasion my approaching thirty-eighth birthday.

I unwrapped it carefully, and among the hand-picked book (perfect for me) and a stunning bracelet (it will go with a new dress I just bought) was a journal with a bound cover, soft fawn brown, showing two larks in a tree (I are obsessed with the meaning of birds and their connection to spirit, as is my friend A.). The first thing that came to my mind when I saw it was "old school"! So many people have ipads, small notebook computers, they can post statuses of what they are doing in a few keystrokes. This is something that one day, people might muse about. An honest-to-goodness notebook.

I turned it over and over in my hand, late last night, when sleep eluded me, as it does so so often lately. I was lying in bed after a calm night of TV, reading, and thinking, light off, when finally I just got up, turned on the light, and went into the dining room to get it.
I didn't know where to start. Here, on the blog, I can revise, rewrite, delete, type words, start again, backspace, backspace, put posts up, take them down.

This was pen and paper, a special new journal, and I didn't want to sully it's palely-lined pages. But I savoured what I would write in it. All the things that I don't put on this blog. And, as much as life is on here, my narrative life, and even alot of my feelings and emotional responses, it's not all on here.

I got to thinking about the last time I had written in an honest-to-goodness journal, how fast I need to write (read: scrawl), and how illegible it can be as I write in it late at night, as I did back in the basement apartment years, the subscription-to-the-New-Yorker-years, writing about my nights at the Keg, my crushes, my more serious loves, what I thought the future would hold, after staring out at the summer sky from where I lived, deep in suburbia at that time, wondering where I would end up. My paper journals hold it all in there from those times. I didn't even OWN a computer then. It was 1998, 1999.

Then there were the Bathurst years. The first hot-as-hell summer (I am reminded of it based on how hot this one has been). It was the year 2000, I was twenty-six, going on twenty-seven. I still had the New Yorker coming in weekly, Tina Brown taking it in a new direction, and that was the summer I read The Fountainhead, late on weekend nights after I would get home from the restaurant, in front of my dining room window, in tiny pajamas, trying to keep cool.

I always write after reading, and I'm always reading. Particularily in times of great stress or pain, that is what I fall back on. I isolate myself socially, for the most part, and I frequent the library and used book stores to keep my supply from running out. In addition to being a voracious reader, I am a very fast one. So the New Yorker and the novels fuelled me in those apartment days, '98, right into '04 or '05. I stopped writing in a journal after emerging from a long period of depression, and it felt right at the time--living my life, forcing myself out of my little maze, and letting the clouds lift.

The depression stayed away, I moved on from my Bathurst apartment in 2007, and life turn a new turn. Now, instead of depression and loneliness, I had anxiety. Chronic anxiety. I fought it off quite well in the beginning, scheduling time so I could not think about it. I also worked constantly, two jobs, as I had the whole time I saved up for my condo. I read, not as much as I had before, but I still had my books on the go.

In 2009 I started my blog. I had a nice little laptop, I was used to sending my friends messages on email from home, communicating with those who live far away by email, and it seemed a natural progression. I also knew that I needed the outlet, that it had been a long time since I kept a journal, and this, my online journal, has filled a void that I didn't even know was missing.
Still, those paper books, my scribbles, my feelings, my longings--for things I didn't have, couldn't get; they are a poignant reminder of how much I've done, how hard I've worked to create my life, a life I could be proud of, one that I wanted to live.

The volumes of journals sit on my bookshelf, they stand alone, they are my first 'books'. I can't wait to start writing in my new paper journal, in honouring my feelings in their pages.
I might, from time to time, turn them into blog entries, as I have with a coil-bound notebook I've kept to scribble in from time to time over the last year. That was where I wrote my father's eulogy. I needed to use my hand writing to do that.

So..all that from a night of anxiety. I remember the depression, the small peaks, the devestating valleys, and I remember that out of that, out of the pain of an unrequited love, dissatisfaction with the life I had, emerged a new life, the one I really wanted.

Out of the anxiety will come something too. What it is I do not know yet, but I look forward to my new journal helping me figure that out. All of the journals, the writing, has been part of my adult life, my 'schooling' so to speak.
Thank you, again, A.

Journal 50 Haunted

As I struggle with Time Travel Part Three (I'm so sorry), I do relive May-June-July, that ninety day month, in 2010, as it's doppelganger in 2011, where three months blended into one, without my noticing that time was going by at an alarmingly fast rate, as I watched a way of life dissolve, last year relating to my father's diagnosis and my subsequent break-up; and then this year, watching my father approach his June death-date, my consciousness rebelling with the passing of every day. First, from the lead-up, but after, as I have heard so many people recount about grief--the fear of leaving that date behind. Those last moments, those memories, the tape-loop that gets stuck in my head pretty much each and every day, taking a new scene out and spinning it around, looking for a new angle.

I don't find one.

I then remember the re-birth I had in August, with my trip out east, and despite my panic (I have it now) I made the drive, I stayed awake, I drank it all in, and I conquered, at that time, my unbelievable fear of life.
I have it now, right now. I'm at the end of one period, something new is about to begin.
I have another trip planned, a driving excursion again, a reversal of the order I travelled in last year, later this month.
I will turn another year older this month, too, just as I did last August, marvelling at what my thirty-sixth year had brought me, the few highs, the very painful lows. The grief, the stillness.
The stillness being me, watching what was happening, in one of those types of times in life when you have even less control over things than you normally do.

I continue to stride to a healthier place, but I know I need to give myself time. My therapist says a good year will pass until I begin to get back to 'normal'. The old Irish proverb for grief is a year-and-a-day. As I once read--you need to get through every day of the year without the person, and then, finally, their first death-date anniversary, and that is when things start to settle, perhaps for their spirit too. I imagine that the first year of death is busy, eventful, with lots to learn, things we don't have an inkling of.

In anticipation of my trip and vacation, of which I am already longing for, my exhaustion beginning to take on new dimensions, I took down my suitcase from the storage area above my closet today. I just tripped over it in the dark of my bedroom as I went to set my clock radio to get up for work tomorrow. I liked tripping over it--it was a nice reminder.

I had my nails done today too, properly, indulgently, at a spa with two close friends, and as I sat there, I did feel 'normal' even as the girl who did my nails bent over my feet, my eyes darting at the tatoo she sported on the upper part of her back--a sunny yellow star, "Dad" written in the center, and then a set of dates, bracketing, as I did the math, a fairly brief life. I looked at the girl with my new, lost-parent eyes and reminded myself to honour my feelings, and the feelings of those around me, even ones I do not know.

You really can't always know how haunted people are.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Journal 48 Spirit at Work

Just a short post.
En route to my therapist's office today, pre-thick-Toronto-rush-hour-traffic.
I missed my exit off the parkway due to the ineptitude of another driver.
For some reason, I was thinking about this song I hadn't heard in years, Good Times by Tom Cochrane.
After I missed my exit I had to get off at the next one and double back to make it to my therapist's office, crossing the Bloor viaduct, the well-worn path I run over so much.
As I crossed the bridge, listening to Kim Mitchell's radio show on Q107, I heard the opening bars.
I was...incredulous. It's never on the air. It's not even on iTunes (I checked).
The song flowed on, its lyrics washing over me, as I sobbed in the car....
Nothing that important, probably, to most people listening to the radio at that time, this song. But to me, it felt like I'd just been handed an significant, longed-for gift.
Oddly, the song continued as I drove on to my therapist's office, re-tracing my steps, drying my tears, as to keep up appearances (insane) as I continued to drive.

"Funny how you look back on those times we had, remember all the good ones, forget about all the bad..."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Journal 47 Happiness is not a fish....

It's Holiday Monday. Simcoe Day, named for John Simcoe, an important historical figure whose actual contribution to our wonderful country escapes me right now. I'll get there.

Reading Tiny Buddha today, it's wonderful message about the judgment we slap on others ends up with us slapping judgment on ourselves. An unsavoury thought. The more I think about it, though, the more I agree. As my friend L. said in an email this week, she's avoiding the sabotagers of life; I say go one better. Avoid them in your head. Even when they're right in front of you. Maybe they are stealing your ideas that you worked hard to come up with. Maybe they don't have their own original train of thought and need to borrow yours. Maybe they were not raised with the decency to tell a friend whose hurting, Hey, I know it's a hard time. What can I do?
No bother. Some are not capable of these unselfish acts.

So. Get them out of your head. They can't have that space for free. Period.

Back to Tiny Buddha. The message, what we resists, persists, gave way to the author of the post listing (I love lists, love love love them) her happiest moments. They weren't earth-shattering or unattainable. They were what they were. Her moments, in no particular order (again, as a list-lover, I love that even more).
Also, I think I needed to read that right now. Last nights' writing of Time Travel Part Two (and it's not even done yet, there is still more to come) wrung me out emotionally, the dark holiday weekend second night in, the solitary mood I was in, the music I had on (alot of 'bad idea' emotional songs, see Sunday Playlist from last week) all conspired to take me down the grief path.
Granted, I had the time and space to see that through, finally finishing the book I was reading this morning, after falling asleep over it last night in bed.
I awoke at 7 am and picked up the book, the end of a life in a memoir. From cancer (as I've mentioned previously every single book I've picked up over the last few months, be it fiction, non-fiction, an article in Vanity Fair, what have you, involved someone dying of cancer, someone's parent dying of cancer, someone having cancer, someone affected by cancer/illness/death in some way). So I finished the book, filed it away, got out of bed, made coffee, laced up, and ran a painful, stiff, HOT, ten kilometres and didn't think about anything but the bright sun, the heat, the leaves on the trees, the police catching holiday Monday speeders on the Bloor viaduct.
I returned home, paid some attention to my tan on my rooftop and decided, since I've read all my library books as of today, to re-read The Prophet, right from the beginning, instead of letting it fall open to whichever page/poem looked appealing, which is what I've been doing lately.

I'm going to make my own Happiness list right now, nothing fancy, as I sit here typing, after my energetic morning, in a late afternoon sun-stupor, wearing a bathing suit cover-up, flip-flops, and hair flopping my eyes. I will note I've had nothing in the way of proper nutrition today, unless some leftover risotto from the fridge and cookie-dough ice cream fit the bill. I vow to think about happiness and it's rightful role in my life, despite the pain of the last few months, as much as I can allow. And I am going to get dressed to go out and meet a friend for drinks very shortly, lest you think I truly have become a shut-in.

Happiness List

  • My niece and nephew's births, respectively. Unique in their own way; the anticipation of my sister's first child, my niece, a girl (!) and then the arrival of her second (a boy! so amazing). The opposite seasons of their birth, matching me and my sister (summer and winter). How tiny and beautiful they looked. How they changed my life is such an unimaginable way.

  • Running in Central Park, for a good 7-8 kms, on a hot September afternoon, on vacation in New York City, and reaching a running high of which I've not yet replicated (or tried to). Also, seeing a man on the bench, his sad, kind eyes meeting me. Maybe an angel. Seriously.

  • Running along the East River (don't think I'm some kind of NYC know-where-I-am, I might as well have been blindfolded the whole time I was there, we arrived at night, a surefire way to guarantee that, when you are somewhere you have never been before, you will NOT be able to find your way around with a map).

  • Driving to Maine by myself, despite my nervousness as a driver and my trepidation of going somewhere unfamiliar, alone, and all the gifts that awaited me there.
    Listening to a version of Stay (Far Away, So Close) recorded live in Boston, one rainy Sunday afternoon, alone in the car.

  • Quitting my restaurant job because my self-respect and inner feelings toward myself meant more to me than money.

  • Hearing recordings of a long-lost friend, knowing that I could still hear his voice even if I couldn't see him anymore.

  • Chicago in the springtime, all the design stuff I could possibly take in at one time, the feeling of success and privilege of that trip.

  • St. Maarten, both times. The Beach, my friends, the sunset, the moonrise, the view from the cigarette boat, speeding along the Caribbean sea. The hills, the promise of another life just over the horizon, one that I didn't know was going to happen yet. The dusk on the beach, my ipod, me, a glass of pinot grigio, nowhere to go, nowhere to be, nothing but my thoughts. Opening my eyes and looking, really looking at my life.

  • The letter from the lawyer this week on some news about my father's estate, news that will help my mother, and the fight to get here thus far.

  • Winning the lawsuit over the people I bought my condo from. Knowing I deserved the win and that I had earned it. And that I was resourceful and wily and I could pull strength out when I needed it most.

  • Visiting my dad during his chemo last summer, walking to PMH and spending time with him, quiet time. He could still talk. He could eat a bit. I remember the tomato soup with saltines dinner I bought him from the hospital cafeteria, and how much he enjoyed it. Reading and looking at Newsweek and Macleans, his wonder at the state of this world we all have to share.

  • My talks with my aunt. How I miss her.

  • I've just given an overview here, and again, no particular order. And yes; some of these are 'pure happy' but some are that little bit of happy tinged with something extra.

    As I read in The Prophet today;

    "And ever it has been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation".

    The same could be said about happiness, I think. You treasure it most when it seems elusive

    It will return.