Maternal In Memorium & Mother’s Day Manifesto

IshtarToday marks the second anniversary of my mother’s death.

Ours was an unusually complex relationship, with  complete estrangement over twenty years ago. Despite the common cry of making amends by well-meaning acquaintances who do not know the depth of the family’s dysfuncionality, I have no regrets when it comes to this relationship, or lack thereof.

My mother was a victim of her times and of abuse. She was the poster child of body loathing and repression.  I grew up surrounded by women’s magazines, and I confess, I still regularly take Woman’s World for their feel-good stories and their little strips of inspiration. It reminds me of a simple time when my paternal grandmother would clip the posts and pin them to the fridge, or tear out the Ziggy comics and pin them to her inspirational bulletin board in the sewing room.

My paternal grandmother was in touch with her power as a woman. She was wise, fierce, kind and strong. She lived fully and taught me what it meant to be my own person.

ziggy Times have not changed so much, and maybe even for the worse. Not only are we expected to manage our homes, but bear the burden of less feminine roles as well.  We are still surrounded by racks full of magazines, air-brushed images of the female form, with covers that imply we are flawed; how to be thinner, how to be happier, how to please our men, how to de-stress so we can be all of the above. We are ingrained in a culture who continues to devalue the natural life-affirming work of women.

You may wonder what this has to do with the anniversary of my mother’s death. Everything.

I was raised by a woman who was  estranged from her own beautiful, glorious and powerful self. I had a choice as a young woman, continue the trauma, or claim my own glorious divine feminine. I chose the latter.

So many of us hate our ankles, our bellies, our hair or our skin.  We punish our bodies and ridicule our own needs. We ignore the call of primitive intuition, and we diminish the great power of fertility and motherhood.

We live in the world of magazine promises; to create a common, submissive self that perpetuates a world where our value and spiritual gifts are damned.

As the years passed and I healed into my own femininity, into my own woman, forgiveness came. My mother was not a bad mother as such, she was  truly a victim of her times, of her inability to seize her own power, and grow into her own, always determining her own worth by the praise of abusive men.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, I hope that all of the women in my life,  spend some quiet time, reflecting on their own beauty and how their body has served them well, their own natural, intuitive intelligence, and their own power to embrace the fullness of what it means to be a woman.

More than that, I hope that whether maiden, mother or crone,  that all of the ladies reading this live each stage of life and every transition fully.  I believe that is the secret to a well-lived life. That is the secret to having no regrets.

Saturday Morning Coffee; Child Killers & The People Who Have to Be Nice To Them

saturday morning coffeeLast night I had my sweetheart, his son, and my son together around the table to enjoy a meal together for Easter. With young adult children and their crazy schedules, family time is precious, and to have both families blend together during these holidays is a true joy.

Simple things like having dinner together every day, and making sure you say, “I love you”, before you head out the door are mandatory at my house. Maybe a little too obsessively-compulsively so.

You see, my career is death and dying. The fragile nature of life is not lost on me, and maybe I have some PTSD going on. Ok, I do have some of that going on,  but I think that’s normal under the circumstances.

Easter dinner with the kids was extra meaningful for me in ways that I’m sure people who don’t work around loss and trauma will never know. Nor should they.

This morning I sat down to my little window, with my coffee and kitty mentor, Mr. Willy Nelson. I cruised over to www.thestar.ca and read the article about Ontario’s Chief Pathologist, Dr. Micheal Pollanen.

Basically, the crux of the article was that Dr. Pollanen has been guilty of confirmation bias;

Among them was confirmation bias — reaching a conclusion and working backward to find evidence to support it, and professional credibility bias — being unwilling to change an opinion once stated.

 

Fine. I get it, and god forbid I was on the receiving end of a case where a professional reasoned that I was guilty and then tried to prove it. Basically, you’d be screwed.

But the point of my little blog here isn’t to crucify Dr. Pollanen. I worked with him. I didn’t really like him – let me be clear, that’s my personal opinion. He seemed to be book-smart-brilliant, and socially awkward. But most of the doctors down there fit that description.

At the Office of the Chief Coroner, one finds that ego-with-a-capital-E runs rampant, and the term Doctor warrants a god-like-untouchable-status to anyone who doesn’t have the same credentials. Humility has no place there. There are few exceptions.

The reality however is that those coroners are human too, and I would argue, because of their perceived status as stronger, more intelligent and wiser-than-the-average-bear, they are at higher risk for PTSD, burn-out and the other psychological monsters-that-go-bump-in-the-night. Sure, they have  access to support, but there is no system in place to monitor it. There is no formal support in place to insure that the mental health of  professionals subjected to the most brutal trauma imaginable is cared for.

During my training, a past Chief Coroner ended his lecture to my graduating class by telling us that if we ever felt that we needed counselling or help coping with trauma, that we should suck it up because that was our job. This was hands-down the worst advice I’ve received in my career.

I too have seen the trauma of a child’s lifeless body marked by abuse, accidental injuries or what appears to be a cold-blooded homicide. I’ve looked into the teary eyes of grieving siblings who are too young to have know what grief feels like.  I’ve done it many times, it’s part of my job.  Unless you’ve physically had to take part in the autopsy or preparation of the body, you do not have any idea what it’s like to be a professional in death care, so stop judging and proselytizing.

You don’t know the deeper level of concern that we bear when our child or spouse takes the car, or is running late. Working with trauma brings you face to face with the fickle nature of mortality every. single. moment. of. every. day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing Dr. Pollanen, I’m simply empathizing with him. You might want to try it sometime.

Ask yourself this; In a courtroom full of adults unwilling to admit that they either abused or neglected a child to the point of death, I wonder what the average reader of the morning paper would do? Part of me likes to think that they would rage and deliver a little eye-for-an-eye justice, the other part of me is a passive Buddhist.

So, as I sit here this morning, sipping my flavoured coffee, looking out at children in the courtyard giggling and scurrying during the annual Easter Egg hunt, I ask you to think of Dr. Pollanen as a human being who has dedicated his life to making our society a safer place.

 

 

 

Letting Fear Scream Like the Child It Is

It’s April 7th and there is snow on the ground. I feel (physically) like I’ve been hit by a truck , and you know what? I’m so miserable I want to crawl out of my own skin.

zen circle.jpgWhich is really crappy. But sometimes crappy is ok. Sometimes we must embrace the tired, sore, discouraged and frustrated parts of our psyche and let them have their say.

Today I’m not in a shit mood, that’s why I’m writing about it. I’ve gained a little more perspective and had a little more sleep.

You see,  I was also in a shit mood on the 9th. Despite the sun shining in as I drove to work,  some poor sod got the finger when he rode my bumper, and not just a flip of the bird. I must have held it up there  and waved it around for a full 10 seconds like a hillbilly waving the confederate flag. I wanted to make sure he saw it. Yah, not a proud moment.
It’s in these moments, I want to not only be aware of, but practice, Thich Nhat Hahn’s famous teaching about cradling our suffering like a newborn baby. I want to be aware of that, but what I usually do is spiritually squirm like a spoiled toddler, wanting to stamp my feet, whine until someone gives me ice cream and then tucks me in for a nap.  But I am getting better at it.

Spiritual practice is long and sometimes it feels grueling. In a culture that praises speed, cultivating grace is a long, slow, lifetime process.

Recently I’ve had the benefit of more solitude and silence than usual. Unlike during years past, I’ve had questions of clarity pop into my mind about my attitudes, reactions and fears. Better still, I’ve had the opportunity to let the reasons why come to the surface.

angry trollWaving a white flag and needing a hug, all of these reasons have come crawling out of the past. Finally. Since the distillation of my emotions and thoughts, fear seems to be their leader.

When you’re angry, jealous, sad or hurt, ask yourself why? And then ask yourself why again. And again, and again….trust me, it always, always boils down to fear.

So give yourself the bad days, the pissy, miserable moods, and yah, every once in a while you might slip up and lay on your horn for thirty seconds or flip an intentional bird. Just look a little deeper if you can when the clouds have passed. You might catch a glimpse of your fear poking out of hiding, ready to make friends.

 

Pithy Advice, The Artwork of Our Time

shadow-work

There’s a lot of advice out there. Everyone gives it out like it’s the best thing in the world. But it’s not. It’s usually unsolicited and fucking awful.

When I’m feeling like this, the most therapeutic thing to do is to pour a beer, play some Janis Joplin on the annoying side of loud, throw my hands in the air and let the universe take over.

Nobody ever gives out cool, easy  Janis-Joplin-fuck-it advice. Nobody.

Today while meandering through a home decor store, I cruised by the aisle with the paintings and plethora of signs with pithy sayings.

in-this-house

 

Seriously? We all know that in ‘this house’, we do life the best we can, and that all this schmarmy shit is  a bunch of Stepford-bullshit-hoo-ha.

 

left-the-gate-open

 

Oh, bugger off.

dream-picture

 

Dream, hope, love…yes, I never want to lose those soft elements of my soul, but sometimes, it’s a little too much.

Tacky quotes have replaced art, creativity and independent thought. We have been so brainwashed that we hang our directives to suck-it-up in our living rooms.

Carl Jung is my hero. He championed the balancing of our shadow selves and touted it as the key to wholeness. If only the commoner could come to terms with their own anger, jealousy, fear and whatever other emotions aren’t considered pleasant.

I’d love to see some signs that say; you’re doing ok under the circumstances, and you are under no obligation to marginalize your less-Disney-like emotions? I once even thought I was going to embroider a sign to hang over the liquor cabinet that said:

Come unto me all who are weary…Matthews 11:28

Humour helps. When advice is plentiful and patience scarce, you don’t have to dance like no one is watching, or love like you’ve never been hurt.  Because people do watch (and give advice on how to dance better), and we’ve all been hurt.

For those who are also weary of placating the powers that be by stealing our passion and swallowing our sense of injustice, trust me when I tell you that telling the universe to fuck off once in a while can be completely, and utterly cathartic.

Now, excuse me while I commune with Janis and carry on exactly as I am.

 

 

 

The Once Every Six Week Crap-Out

a-crying-ladyMy Mumster suggested to me that I just flow through what she calls, “The Once Every Six Week Crap Out”. Being a ‘crap-out’, it’d kinda tough. Being in the middle of the bleak mid-winter makes it even tougher.

Tears have been a companion off and on for a few days, and I’m sure, given the shit way the morning started out, they will be again today. But that’s ok. I have tissue.

Focus is something I grasp at during these days of sacrifice. I say sacrifice as I believe that after a holiday filled with indulgence and excess, our bottoms and our bottom lines need some reigning in.

My tendency is to withdraw into myself and hibernate a bit, keeping my energy for planning wonderful things like Winterlicious dinners, allowing the characters I’m writing about to come out and play, and choosing something to accomplish.

To my gal pal who spent her birthday alone yesterday, I want to let you know you were in my heart. Been there, done that, and trust me, you’ll be better for it next year.

To my other gal pal who is working very hard at her profession, feeling guilty about money and family time, I am so very  proud of you.

To a few of my pals, don’t feel alone  in your intimate relationship. I’m with ya, and coffee and a good talk with a friend go a long, long, way. Call me.

To my Mumster who normalized the every-six-week-crap-out, thank you ever so much. It helps me in my practice to never forget the temporary nature of all things. It helps me just let go of all of the insignificant crap that interferes with the incredible woman I’ve worked so hard to become.

To my dear friends, I hope that your once-every-six-wee-crap-out is a catharsis of sorts, leaving you feeling purged of your demons and ready to step back onto the road of fabulousness.

 

 

 

Christmas Burnout; Adapt don’t Change

bull-dog-christmas-lightsThis  year I gave up.

I gave up a lot of Christmas traditions that have become burdensome, and not joyful. Quite often when people expect you to do things it becomes less about enjoying it, and more about feeling pressured to do it.

So I gave up making my Christmas cake, I gave up buying gifts for friends, and I gave up my annual Christmas party (way too much preparation).  All of these things stress the clock and the wallet, and frankly, all of that stress over a long period of time can wear on a gal’s fabulousness. And I’m nothing if not a shining beacon of wonder.

What-the-hell and a giggle have been my signature move for years.

Not giving a crap has never been my modus oparandi, but appears to be the most freeing way to be in the world. I’m learning that from the people around me who are kings and queens of, ” I could care less about how you feel”.

I thought about faking that shitty attitude until I make it. But I can’t do that, because it’s just not who I am. I care. I’ll always care, and I’m proud of it. The rest of the apathetic world can just choose which side of my butt to kiss first and carry on. I will hang with goddesses of ethic and compassion.

Rather than giving up doing things that bring me close to my family and friends, and letting the burnout I’ve been feeling creep even closer to my bones, I decided to change.

Change? Yes – it’s as scary a word as morninghair (yes, it’s a word).woman-silly

Ok, so change is a big word. Perhaps I should say I’ve chosen to adapt rather than change.

I will continue to bake, but not necessarily what everyone else wants. Sure, I have a soft spot for my kiddo’s favourites, but I also have a hankering for some new mocha eclairs and candy cane fudge.  I’ve asked for a little more help with Christmas dinner, and instead of cooking myself into a coma, I’m doing my Christmas party way more casually. I’ve opted for an open house with chili and beer.

For those of you who care, but need a break too, consider adapting instead of changing the traditions that you hold dear. Leave enough time to lean in to your own sense of personal flair, and enough room to allow your giggle to bubble up and over into the mood of every day.

Missing Woman on verge of Being Found

ghost womanI was the first one who thought that she had gone missing.

There were traces of her everywhere, but she was nowhere to be found. I thought I saw her in the dress shop, trying on a short blue summer dress. She must have thought she would be going somewhere special with her new man. Two months later, I found the dress hanging in her closet, the tags still dangling from the sleeve.

When I was at the café where she usually spends leisurely afternoons, I thought that I saw her in line waiting for her coffee, but it couldn’t have been her. Instead of sitting down and spreading out her writing treasures like a Queen at tea, she slipped a sleeve over her to-go cup and left.

And then an invitation arrived. For sure this had to be her. Hosting an arts night, a poetry reading, a mouth-watering home cooked meal that would drag on for hours over conversation and the next, and the next, and the next bottles of wine. Alas, it was not. I assumed then that she was not in her tiny, kitchen conjuring magic and dancing to her music.

I took a stroll by the great slabs of patio glass, to see if I might find her there in one of her hippie sundresses with no panties on, legs stretched out on another chair so that her pretty, pedicured feet could take some sun. The chairs were empty, and she was not there. There was no small-town-front-porch hospitality being offered. I found that rather odd as it was a place of great joy for her, having spent many evenings under the twinkle lights with bottles of gulpable wine, good friends, and summer lovers.

She was not away for the weekend having a new adventure; on a farm, at the beach, on one of her road-trips with an unknown destination. But she had been here. I could feel her. Possibly just minutes before she had walked right by. Her clothes were in the hamper and her towel was still wet from the shower. The dishes were clean and the bed was made. Freshly made, with the pillows having been placed just slightly differently than the morning before. The cats were fed, there was food in the refrigerator and the bills had been paid.

Where on earth could she have gone?