Welcome to February!
In Canada, it’s another month of cold weather gear and snuggling by the fire. You may only be snuggling with the cat, a good book, a tumbler of your favourite winter red, or like me, all three.
During this month of winter, I am going to try my best to warm you up with cozy thoughts of love my darlings. This will replace my annual whining about being bombarded by pink, white and diamonds tossed at us by Cupid, the figment of our collective imagination aptly decked out in a diaper.
This year I am determined to laud Valentine’s Day as a day dedicated to loving and friendship. I will be doing this from a sailboat in the Caribbean Sea, which may be taking the sting out of it, but I digress…. Regarless of motive, I shall persevere and not question my rose-coloured outlook.
Now, I really don’t have one special person in my life, so you might be wondering why on earth I was reading an article on making relationships last. Well darlings, it’s always best to be prepared.
I was reading the article as I would a map of sorts. It’s nice to become familiar with the landscape before you arrive. Consider it reconnaissance of the most delightful kind, being carried out by this soldier of love.
The little teaser read, “Remember: “Love” is a verb”…Oh good lord I thought as I sipped my coffee, this is going to be a bunch of idealistic pooh. Since I usually refer to Valentine’s day as VD, I thought I should carry on with the article in case it might change my very stubborn mind.
Dr. Fraser went on to tell the story of her Grandparents who met at a Valentine’s dance while her Grandmother was already engaged to someone else. This meant nothing to Norman (her grandfather), who was determined to woo and romance this woman.
Now that’s my kind of love story; real, messy, and completely lived on the fly. She had me hooked;
Though she was engaged to another man, he wooed her, won her, wed her.
“Go get her Norman,” I thought as my wee little cynical heart began to beat a faster. In a few sentences I learned that the couple did, indeed, live not just happily-ever-after, but with passion and that little je ne sais quoi that keeps your wiggly bits warm.
Most of us know a couple like my grandparents, and we want that sort of love affair, too. None of us plan to become the couple staring blankly across the restaurant table with nothing to say. But great relationships are created, not discovered.
I’ve been that couple. But that’s the kicker isn’t it? The ever-evolving creation, the ongoing magic of spiritual alchemy between two people that needs constant tending. I wish I fully realized that when my marriage fell to bits. It’s only in hindsight I have been able to recognize these things, and fully come to realize the ongoing effort that’s involved.
I’m a great one for grand gestures and whirlwind (but time limited) romances. They are so much more exhilarating than hacking away at the same old thing, but you miss the joy of reminiscing, and looking back on the trail you’ve created together. It’s a cowards’s way out I’m afraid. It’s a way to let fear rule, and your heart remain safely locked away.
Authentic relationships are a fine balance with pro’s and con’s on both sides of the ‘to be in a relationship or not be in a relationship’ debate that so often wages war in my anxious mind.
Whichever side you take; better-off-coupled or better-off single, it’s an article worth the read. Most of the advice applies to friendships as well. Those can be lop-sided too. Without effort, the friendship becomes stale, and meaningless. The maintenance of true connection and attention to care in any relationship is necessary for survival.
Treat Valentine’s Day like a meditation bell, reminding you to slow down and show up for love, over and over again.
Call me a hopeless romantic Buddhist if you must, but I do have to recommend this article to friends, lovers, and armor-clad soldiers of love such as I.
I was you once – giddy with affection and unconditional love for my child.
Every moment was a miracle, and every second I could kiss, cuddle, snuggle or coo my little one, I did. Unapologetically.
I see you out there, proud as punch as you push your strollers and post your photos on social media of your naps, and first steps, and messy little-helping hands of your budding cookie bakers.
That’s right. You read that correctly. Don’t stop falling in love with your babies.
I’m the middle-aged woman you pass at the coffee shop, or in the shopping aisle who stops to tell you how beautiful your baby, toddler or young child is. I’m the woman who coos over the outfits and little faces, and even the tears. I’m one of the kazillion middle-aged women who look at you through their newly increased lens prescription and says; “Enjoy them while they’re young.”
Don’t stop being amazed at every new stage. Ever.Don’t stop wondering how they are when they head off to school, and don’t stop bothering them for a hug, or stories about their day when they become teenagers. Trust me, they will challenge you sometimes.
Whatever happens and whatever they get up to, don’t stop being the ferociously loving mother that you are.
I’ll be honest with you. When my child turned three, I was tempted to see what the return policy was. Four was better. Like a light switch being turned on, the ‘terrible three’s’ (it was three not two) turned into the fabulous four’s, and I had my angel back.
It’s true, every age and stage holds some surprise. Some stages, much like the prize your potty-training-darling hands to you while proudly shouting, “Poo-Poo” are less satisfying than others. Sometimes you will despair at how you will get through the day; emotionally, physically, financially. Sometimes, you will have nothing left to give. But that’s when us older gals come in.
We’ve been there; the smiling photo-posting-proud-as-pie times and the lonely-how-am-I-going-to-do-it-times. Pick up the phone, talk to us in line at Starbuck’s, or at the grocery store. We’ve been there sister, and lived to coach you through it.
For now, just keep doing what you do. You’re great at it, even when you’re not sure you’re doing it right, you are.
~Enjoy them while they’re little. They grow up too quickly.~
My friend asked me to write a post on Surrogacy from an outsiders perspective, so here goes.
It’s screwed up. It’s against nature, and in all ethical debates I favour the natural; Refer to Margaret Somerville’s: The Ethical Imagination.
I am unashamedly Pro-Choice. In other words, I’m a hypocrite. I always favour nature unless…any number of emotional arguments whose colour runs through every strand of the fabric of human life.
The Universal-Collective-We favours logic over emotion. That, my darlings, is unnatural.
We have the capacity to love, hate and feel a broad spectrum of emotions combined with intricate expressive language. When we started to prize logic over emotion, we lost out on the rich beauty of intuition and true love. I’m not saying I’m a braless free-loving hippie. I am saying the value we place on logic versus emotion is the reason psychotherapy is on the rise.
So what does this have to do with surrogacy? Well, everything.
I have chosen not to be a surrogate mother, for many reasons, but they are my own, and not yours.
Both of my very best friends have been surrogates. When the first pal o’mine whom I’ve known since I was 12 told me about her decision, I thought she was crazy and I told her so. I finished up my three sentence blessing with, “Whatever you do, I’ll support you and love you.” You know why? Because I love her.
When my second pal decided to do the same thing, I gave the same speech. You know why? Because I love her.
What are the chances my two best friends decided to do something that wouldn’t even register as a possibility on my radar? Well, because I have my own life, my own experiences, and my own opinion. They have theirs.
Argue gay-rights, Christian rights, women’s rights, or whatever rights get your pink and whites sweaty, I really don’t give a rat’s ass. What I care about is people caring about one another. I was raised in a heterosexual-nightmare of a household, and frankly, some wolves would be far better parents than a lot of people out there who bumble through life, giving birth like I give out bags of potato chips on Hallowe’en.
I know many heterosexual-childless couples by choice, and I know a lot of homosexual couples who would be amazing parents.
Money changes hands over more insidious things than bringing human babies into the world, so who am I to judge? Surrogacy is a priceless gift, which is why the money makes it seem dirty. Our version of survival of the fittest now includes survival of the most financially and class-status elite. Face it, poor people don’t have surrogate babies. Ever.
No one shakes a condescending finger at people taking chemo (against nature), birth control, oral fertility medication, erection enhancers, or diet pills – all against nature. We don’t picket the Red Cross because accepting donor blood is against nature, and we sure as hell don’t tell our flaccid-penised mates to pass on the little blue pills that make us go giddy in the bedroom.
The reality of the surrogacy issue is that it is tangled up in a web far too complex for human beings to comprehend and therefore too complex to mess with. Euthanasia, assisted Suicide, invitro-Procedures, organ transplants, tissue donation, even global warming. The list goes on and on and on….
Human beings think they have a handle on medicine and science, but we are mere infants in a universe more infinite and magical than we can ever comprehend. Every time we tamper with it, we damage it even more. We are emotional creatures, and we are loving creatures. We are far, far away from being ruled by logic when it comes to reproduction, our evolutionary drives, mortality and sex.
What is important is acting from a place of love, while we flounder with the deceptively simple logic of right and wrong.
So went the lyrics of the Eagles song I had cranked as I poured my first coffee this morning.
After changing plans due to weather I crawled back under my covers and settled in between my mass of duvet and fluffy pillows. I starred out at my tiny piece of the snow-covered urban wilderness.
“Thursday already,” I thought to myself with a sigh. My week off is almost over. I decided I’d lay in just a while longer and watch the white tree boughs brighten as the sun rose. Willie Nelson was already stretched out in his watch position, letting me know that all was right outside the window and that I was safe from threat of intruders. “Good old Willie Nelson,” I smiled, and let my eyes close.
Our little corner of the world is a happy place. Sure, there’s the stress and demands of every day living, but I’ve been really good at keeping any nonsense at bay, and it’s something that I’m glad that I did.
As I indulged in the soft warmth of my bed, I listened to those song lyrics and thought about anger, disappointment, love and wisdom. Discernment as you know my darlings, has been front and center for me and has pushed my girl-brain into overdrive.
Anger, for a woman is something that’s not ok. We’re supposed to be gentle, smile, and be mothering. So, quite often an angry woman is not seen as feminine at all, but an abomination of all that is sugar, spice and everything nice.
Every time I’ve been angry, it’s been because I’ve been hurt, felt rejected, or disappointed in love. Not necessarily glass-slipper love, but love in general; friendship, romance or collegial respect.
So what does this have to do with Christmas? Well, sometimes holidays get muddled up in what we think should be happening, who we think we should be spending time with, and giving or receiving the gifts that should be under the tree. It’s when those should-be’s don’t happen we feel hurt and angry, and that is the hole that we put into the season of Christmas.
Yah, you read that right – you put it there. I put it there. We put it there. Sometimes we do such a good job of it, it should come wrapped in shiny paper and a beautiful bow so that we’re forced to open it and stare our disappointment down. We’d all open a beautiful package with grand expectations (mine would be a tiny blue Tiffany box by the way), and then we’d be wounded when it was empty. Empty! Empty? Yes – empty. Odd isn’t it? It would be empty. Because it’s not real. Because it’s a figment of our fucked-up imaginations and social subconscience.
Christmas is a season of giving, a season of light, a season of slumber and contemplation. I wrote about waiting, hope, endings and beginnings last year as the season of Advent started. Light and giving sound great right? Well, slumber and contemplation can be cozy, but they can be uncomfortable too. But I’m convinced that it’s in those moments of discomfort that we choose to grow or let the expectations we never grew out of turn us into some kind of jerk.
Drop the should if you can. Just let them go. Enjoy what you truly enjoy, embrace the friendships that keep you sane, and toast the things that your wise discernment has help you cast aside. If you haven’t begun to think about the wisdom of discernment, maybe contemplation can be your gift to yourself this Christmas.
Late at night, long after I should have gone to bed and should have finished my to-do list for the day, I often turn off all of the lights but those on the Christmas tree, and spend quiet time on my own.
These moments are too infrequent, and wrought with what if’s. However, if I’m still, and if I let go of everything that I’m clinging to; my fears, my worries, my lists of wants and needs, I can still touch that place I thought I left behind when I was a little girl.
Growing up in a small town, I did not know the indulgence of city parades and rows of shop windows. We had a small grocery store, with the original French doors and hard-wood floors. Produce and meat were weighed, measured and priced on the shelves, and were all passed along a simple groove-worn counter top without a conveyor. String hung above the cash register to wrap and tie parcels, and your bags were still packed in brown-paper bags and carried to your car for you.
I grew up in a land where time had, for a few years at least, been stopped.
Each Christmas the grocer’s wife would decorate the store window with the same dollhouse filled with miniature furniture and smiling dolls. It was the picture of a perfect family. Mom rolled out dough on the kitchen table while the kids and dog looked on. Each detail was perfect and so very tiny.
As a little girl, I stood, mesmerized by the scene before me, and the creation of my own imagination. How wonderfully perfect it must have been to live in that house of smiling dolls, with the warm fireplace and kind faces.
Beyond the store window, I knew there would be paper-wrapped stands holding clear plastic bags of French creams, snow balls, ribbon candy, and my very favourite; chicken bones, the hard cinnamon candy with a chocolate centre. Beyond that, during the holiday season only, there were bins of loose nuts and those wonderful tangerines!
While my mother and grandmother would shop, I spent a lot of time looking at the doll house in the window, imagining and dreaming, and hoping.
Those precious years of endless, hopeful dreaming slip away without us realizing. As a teen, I worked in that store every summer, and eventually, one-by-one, the businesses closed, including the grocery store and the tradition of the doll house.
When I hear about ‘believing in the magic of Christmas’, I don’t so much relate to the little boy born in a manger. That may horrify some of you, but it’s true.
The magic of Christmas for me has always been the effort we make to stop time for just a few hours; to slow down our ever-busier lives that slip by faster and faster as we age. The magic of Christmas is now, more than ever, the miracle of making time for one another and really taking time to share, listen and care.
I do still believe in that.
Each Christmas my hope is that whether at my home, or when I’m visiting with friends, that the joy, hope and magic I believed was happening in that miniature doll-house that decorated our old-fashioned grocery store window, does still exist among us today. Even if it’s only at Christmas time when we pause, reflect, and give thanks to the people who make our hearts feel as happy as I imagined those little dolls to be.
I still believe in the magic of Christmas. Do you?
There’s something about the crystalline quality of lights that twinkle through the icy, clear winter nights. Whether it’s the Christmas tree in my living room, or driving past the city square, sparkling lights are always a gateway to daydreams, wondering and nostalgia.
So this weekend, we set to work putting up garland, trees, villages and patio urns, all twisted and tangled in a wash of lights. It’s a bit of work for a lot of joy.
Tonight dinner is in the oven, and my first batch of short bread will be baked.
Even though we don’t have big, spacious house, we have a home filled with love. This year, when I planted my little summer garden, and set up my cornstalks, pumpkins and Thanksgiving decorations, one of my neighbours poked her grey-haired head out of her patio door, and said thank you.
I put up our lights and decorations so that we have a home to look forward to coming back to at the end of the day, but it makes me feel even better knowing that it makes our neighbours feel the same way.
So, if you don’t want to bother decorating this year, that’s ok, but remember, sometimes it’s your little piece of the planet shining brightly on a dark night that helps someone dream of a better life, and easier days ahead. It is indeed a season of light, because it is in the darkness we most need a beacon of hope.
After a long, busy autumn, I hope that the next two months find me baking in the kitchen or cuddled in by the fire. Mostly, I hope it finds me with lots of time to spend laughing with my kiddo, and sipping tipples by the fire with my closest friends, dreaming as we gaze at the twinkle lights, and are reminded of what is truly important.