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Decking the Halls & Trimming The Tree

Our tree has changed throughout the years, but not the tradition.

We play Christmas carols, and put the Velcro and felt antlers on the cat.  Every year I give a special ornament to my kiddo, and I never move the ornaments he places on the tree.

When I grew up the closest thing to spirituality and grace fostered during the Christmas season was that the name of  Jesus was frequently spoken. Often emphatically. Usually it was at the beginning of a sentence.

For instance, when trimming the tree, my mother could be heard screaming, “Jesus Christ! Are you f-ing blind? Can’t you see that looks awful!” …not a creature stirred, not even her spouse…

Since I’ve had my own home and my own tree, the hall-decking and tree-trimming has taken on a new flavour.

Being a single parent, it was always really easy to feel less-than. For years we had a theme tree; baseball, candy, under-the-sea. I bought ornaments and decorations, and went overboard. I Christmased with the best of them.

I’m so over that.

I’ve officially entered the if-it’s-not-useful-or-really-damn-sentimental-I-don’t-want-it-weighing-me-down phase of life. I also have a strong preference for silliness, laughter and feeling at ease.

Decking the halls and trimming the tree is meaningful because of who you share it with; whether they’re the ones trimming the tree with you, or the ones you’re remembering as you hang ornaments they gave to you.

Trimming the tree was never meaningful when I hung  over-priced au currant ornaments void of meaning.

This year I truly did some trimming. I decluttered a bunch of ornaments I just don’t, and won’t use any more. We are down two Christmas boxes, and it feels good.

This year our tree was trimmed simply, with a few shiny red Christmas balls (because I like shiny things, and red makes me feel festive) and the ornaments we’ve been gifted throughout the years;  handmade snowmen and kitties from my mumster, a colleague’s signature, hand-painted snowflake, great-granny’s quilted hearts, the Beatrix Potter ornament I bought when the kiddo was three and I thought that perhaps he was really the offspring of satan, loads of personalized ornaments from our now-in-Newfoundland-neighbours, the candy-cane carrying Mr. Potato Head my kiddo gave me years ago, the star that was stolen for me from a tree in Venezuela on New Year’s Eve, the rubber gingerbread man the kiddo squirted with sparkly glue when he was 4, and  the Eiffel Tower ornament I bought for myself in Paris….

Life has been a struggle this year, and hanging ornaments reminiscent of more light-hearted, silly times was bittersweet.

As the season of Advent approaches, I know that I will sit quietly in the stillness of the midnight hour,  wondering by the light of this Christmas tree what mystery might unfold in my life this Christmas season.

 

 

 

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When Christmas Isn’t So Merry

ADVENT WREATH

“Christmas makes me sad, ” one of my colleagues said in passing this week.

Sad was a theme for me in 2015, so her comment caught my attention.

My head jerked up from what I was working on and I listened to what she had to say.

“I still put up the tree and decorate. You know, for the kids.”

“Me too.” I said.

We were speaking with a younger lady who is still a starry-eyed romantic like we used to be. I hope she never loses that magic, because once you lose it, you can’t get it back the same way.

Loss during the holidays spreads a pall over the joy of the season. Loss as in a you’ve experienced the death of a loved one during the holidays, you’ve experienced another type of loss during the year (relationship, job, ability).

As you get older, there tend to be more people and more things to miss. There are deeper elements of life to reflect upon, and joy comes less and less from what is under the tree than from the quiet moments you get to spend with people you love.

When I was a child, the season of Advent was not a spiritual experience. It was a season of ribbon candy, clementines, chocolate galore and lots of toys. As a young woman, it was a season of party dresses, romance and giddy fun.  As a middle-aged woman, I realize the meaning behind the season of Advent; living in darkness, anticipation and mystery, meditation, and the cultivation of patience.

For those who find the Christmas season emotionally challenging, please try and remember that you are not alone. Our silver-bell-and-city-sidewalk-smiles hide a multitude of sadness.

For those who still find Christmas deliriously happy, don’t be afraid to share your enthusiasm. We love it, and are happy knowing that although we may bring peace and love to the season, there are others who bear the burden of bringing the joy.

Wishing you peace this Christmas. Wishing you love. Wishing you the joy of friendship, romance and the thrill of experiencing some of life’s  unfolding mystery.

 

 

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A Soldier of Love on Buddhist VD

"Just because you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town." ~George Carlin~
“Just because you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”
~George Carlin~

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.

Yesterday, I as I lounged under my pile of duvets, I had time to read a short piece in Mindful magazine by Dr. Cheryl Fraser, entitled, Make Love a Priority.

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.

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The Magic of Christmas Appeared in the Form of Ambrosia

"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" ~Charlie Brown~
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
~Charlie Brown~

The magic finally happened for me this year.

I had just put the tacky Christmas goldfish ‘sunshine-Jello-salad’, into the fridge and was stirring together the tacky ambrosia, when I felt the first sparkly jolt.

Christmas?! Yes!

Perhaps it was going through the motions of tradition that brought it about for me this year. On the eve before Christmas Eve, I found some magic. It started with a kind message from one of my oldest friends who helped  me realize that I don’t have to constantly be strong for everyone else.

Just in time for Christmas Eve: my favourite part of Christmas.

To say that it’s been an anti-climactic lead-up to Christmas is an understatement. In fact it’s been a Christmas time to remember. Often these are the years that build character and help us empathize with others who struggle through the holidays.

One well-meaning soul typed a comment about having expectations too high at Christmas time.  This Christmas has not been Christmasy, and it’s not because of any expectation, it’s because of loss. Expectation is an interesting concept, and one worthy of discussion.

We live in a hurried world where sadness and empathy take time none of us want to take. I believe that encourages platitudes about ‘no expectation’ and ‘not being attached to outcome’. Hogwash and pith my darlings.

It’s right up there with; having a stiff upper lip, not crying in front of the children, and keeping yourself busy. I’m a ‘loss’ professional, and I firmly believe in having to fall apart sometimes in order to pull your refined-by-trial soul back together. Sometimes things suck, and it’s ok to say so.

If you think that having rainbows and lollipops poof out of your arse all day long is normal, please send your unicorn to fetch me for your next seminar.

Certain expectations are healthy; to be treated fairly, to be compensated fairly for work, to be able to live freely without discrimination and most importantly, to feel validated when you feel every emotion, including the ugly ones like fear, anger and sadness that make most folks uncomfortable. These are healthy, and necessary expectations.

For anyone who has experienced loss, Christmas can be a really tough slog, regardless of expectation.

As we near the midnight hour, and our corner of the world slows down, I think I will take some time to stop and consider what expectations are helping me move forward or holding me back. Discerning between the two is where the magic happens, because as much as our human brains would like the world to be black and white, it isn’t.

Christmas magic appeared unexpectedly as I went through the motions of making the traditional food that goes on our Christmas table, and I am grateful. Happy even. I’m looking forward to tonight and tomorrow, and am thankful for having people to share the day with.

Wishing you joy this Christmas. Wishing you a soft landing if  you are among those who have experienced loss at this time of year.  Wishing you the wisdom to discern between healthy expectation, and hokey platitudes. If you’re having none of that, I’ll send over a dish of ambrosia for your narwhal.

 

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Why It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

 

"I close my eyes and drift away into the magic night I softly say a prayer like dreamers do. Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you." ~Roy Orbison~
“I close my eyes and drift away into the magic night I softly say a prayer like dreamers do. Then I fall asleep to dream my dreams of you.”
~Roy Orbison~

It has been decided and declared from our home to yours; it does not feel like Christmas this year. At all.

It’s been an odd festive season, and I had held out hope that as the day approached, I’d start feeling Christmasy. I kept hoping for that Christmas miracle I’ve been praying for would manifest in some way shape or form…until this evening as I assembled my ‘goodie’ platters for the office tomorrow.

I thought to myself, “I’ve done everything right. I’ve put up the outside lights. I’ve decorated the house. I’ve entertained and baked. The gifts are wrapped and under the tree, and I’ve stocked the pantry with treats and nibbles, so why on earth does it just suck this year?”

Decidedly it sucks because ‘we’, as in the royal, collective ‘we’ are caught in a vicious commercial and capitalist cycle of bullshit.

There is no break and no ‘taking it easy’ because it’s the holiday season. We work to the limit and squeak out a few days off to catch up with the people most dear to us.  Holiday house parties? Forget it. Who has time for that? Fun office parties? Nope, I’m afraid we’ve taken our professional selves to the edge of robotic functionality with no room for emotion, compassion or humour. Snarky sarcasm has replaced sincere humour as it’s older, wiser cousin. Dear god I miss laughing.

I want to believe in the magic of Christmas. I want to wake up one morning to whatever that Christmas miracle is that I’ve been hoping for, but I don’t have the energy this year to dig that deeply.

Perhaps I will find that magic in the candlelit sanctuary of church this Christmas Eve, after the Eucharist,  as we raise our voices to sing silent night and remember the true meaning of Christmas.

If ever we’ve needed your magic Santa Claus, this is the year.

 

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Caring Less That It’s Christmas

 

"What makes night within us may leave stars." ~Victor Hugo~
“What makes night within us may leave stars.”
~Victor Hugo~

Perhaps it’s because we’re into the longest hours of darkness as we near the solstice, or maybe it’s having felt deeply two personal losses in less than a week.   It could even be the wee little chink in my girl-armor sustained by the careless blow of, ‘The Guy’. Perhaps it’s just bearing the full load of life with no one to lean on once in a while.

Whatever it is, it has me way beyond needing bourbon or bubbly. I need my jammies and a hot cup of tea. Heck, throw in my granny’s quilt and my slippers while you’re at it will ya? And while you’re up, could you please flush my phone down the toilet? Yes? Thank-you.

I tend to enjoy everything about Christmas, even the debut of Hallmark collectibles in July. Yes, I’m sappy like that. I’m a tough old gal, but I do actually have feelings.

I’m a glass-half-full-kind-of person, but not today. Nope. I know what it’s like to have a death in the family at Christmas. I know loss. We’ve snuggled long and hard, and I totally get someone saying, “Oh, you should be thankful because…”, and to them I say, “Really? That’s all you’ve got in your arsenal of empathy. Please shut up.”

What I’m trying to tell you is that this year, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I’ve had some lovely visits, and am so grateful for my friends, but I’m depressed as hell. Depressed as in, if I didn’t have a kid to look after, I’d stay in bed until my skin became one with the sheets, and they-had-to-come-in-with-hazmat-suits-depressed. Knowing there are chocolate caramel biscotti hidden in the kitchen cupboard might save me, but it’d be a close call.

So right now, I could really care less that it’s Christmas. I don’t even want to bake, and the Christmas cards I usually make out for everyone I see on a daily basis? Yah, not gonna happen. Making sure all of the treats and goodies are on a pretty Christmas day table – not exactly fluffing my skirt.

I suppose that darkness goes along with the anticipation of mystery, waiting and hope, but I’m not feeling it. It being the hope part. Mystery and waiting isn’t much fun without the sizzling, fireworks of hope.

Maybe before the candlelight service on Christmas Eve (which is my favourite part of the holiday), I’ll feel some of that Christmas magic and hope. So, my darlings, I’m going to take some of my own advice, and withdraw from the world a bit, and I’m going to remind you that it’s ok to do that too.

Do what you must and let everything unfold without your energy. One thing that life has taught me is that it will unfold all by it’s wonderful, mysterious, self.

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Surrogacy: An Outsider’s POV

surrogacy

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.