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.

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Apathy: The Emotional Equivalent of Wet Firewood

fireplaceLast night we tried desperately to get some good flame action going with  new firewood. What we realized was that the wood had not been cared for in a way that was conducive to the warm glow that we were hoping for.

Lately I’ve had a few conversations with people about their relationships. As always, my sage stance is that any relationship that is neglected will die; like  wet firewood,  an unwatered flower or like a lemon left to wither in the back of the fridge.

Human beings are wired for connection. Yet, in our twisted culture, we are socialized to fear intimacy. Partnership involves emotional risk and vulnerability. After all, if you can’t be vulnerable with your lover, the one person you ought to trust to be naked with body and soul, well, you likely don’t have a very solid connection. Apathy isn’t sexy. Apathy is your old maiden aunt’s dentures and wig-on-the-nightstand-every-night.

Fabulous women like you and I darling are certainly brave enough to be  vulnerable and to ask for the intimacy that we need. We are not needy enough to stay  if our basic needs are neglected and left to, (shall I say?) wilt. Six months ago I went out on a limb and asked for what I needed. Guess what has happened since?  Keep guessing…

If your ‘parnter’ parts leaving you with all of the times that they’re busy and can’t connect, see it for the big, fat, red flag that it is. And then go do whatever the heck it is that you  want to do.  Do not let someone’s lack of passion inspire insecurity or any other shitty feeling. At this age, we’ve all been through too much to waste time living in the land of ambivalence, apathy and pretentious crappola.

Start saying no to waiting around and yes to not giving a damn.

Now go spark up that fire people, whether it be your own innate wildness, or together with your true love. Some say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but  that’s a lazy excuse; out of sight, out of mind sweetcakes. Carry on!

Love & Other Fragile Things

birdbranchYou know that I’m writing this for you, right?

The woman who’s just had the news that her husband isn’t ‘in love’ with her any more. Maybe it was your wife, or your partner…whatever. It’s all the same soul-crushing-crashing-everything-to-a-halt-breath-stealing-change. And it hurts. Bad.

And it scares the hell out of you.

Trust me, I know. I’ve been there. But here I am, 17  years single, and not a-crazy-old-cat-lady…yet.

There will be times that you despair, and feel loneliness deep in your bones. You will lose sleep over how you will pay the bills, tell the kids, manage holidays, and ever manage to open yourself up to the wonder of everything that once brought you joy. But you will darling. I promise.

Your sense of self, your home, your routines, your comfort zone – these things make you fragile my sweet.

But you will crawl out of all of this muck. You will be a polished, shining, more resilient version of yourself. You will be more wise. You will appreciate the little things. And you will laugh from your belly.

You will also wonder what the hell you were so upset about in the first place. There’s a lot of energy that goes into loving someone – I mean really, feet-on-the-ground-all-hands-on-deck-loving, or as some people call it – active loving. You likely spent a lot of time doing stuff for your partner; maybe you cooked, did the laundry, maintained the vehicles, did the lion’s share of maintaining the kids, your family holidays, etc., etc.  If you’re like me, you put your own timeline and the little things that bring you joy  second to the priorities of your partner; boys’ nights, golf, their fitness and waking time preferences.

At first, time on your own will feel like a long rest after a marathon, and then it will feel eerily quiet. What will you ever do with this landscape of barren time?

Let me give you a few suggestions; pedicures, concerts, art galleries, boozy lunches with the gals, discovering favourite shops, more time with your kiddos, a bed all to yourself or not, reconnecting with friends, and eventually rediscovering the joy of  being treated like the precious gem that you are.

Love is fragile, but so is our sense of self.  As a woman who has had the luxury of time alone, I realize the cost of independence and the price of nurturing another. Love is fragile, Time is fleeting.

Lean on your friends. We will remind you of the fabulous person you have always been, even in the shadow of heartache.

 

 

 

Your True Self

doitlaterWhen did the dreaded mid-life crisis start rearing it’s ugly head in our thirties? Seriously.
Recently I’ve spoken with a handful of thirty-somethings in the middle of what I will call spiritual crisis. Oh, and forty somethings and fifty somethings…
I think you get it don’t you darlings?
Our day-to-day has become a constant battle of trying to convince ourselves that life is hap-hap-happy. When really, we get up and go to jobs that require more and more of us, or no job at all, neverending bills, and to-do lists that make the activities and the relationships (friendships) we once loved seem like dreams that we can’t really take time to enjoy.
This morning as I stroked another thing off my to-do list, I had a call from my wonderful friend the Amazing C, and we had a good girl talk. I miss her and she misses me. The old her, and the old me. The broke, single, carefree, laughing our heads off ‘us’.
Neither of us could have planned out how our lives have played out. Neither of us feel completely connected, or hopeful at this stage. But what I think we shared was feeling connected,  because someone out there  does indeed understand our bitching, our heartache, and our complete frustration in the moment. And then I asked; is this who we really are? Is this our true ‘self’?
I write this on the tail of my previous post, and share with you a portion of an email exchange with another dear friend…
Thank you for your email. Thoughtful as always. I haven’t been calling as much because I know that you’re in a difficult place right now.
As you can likely tell, I’ve been in a bit of a dark place too, feeling like there is little meaning in my life… Sadness is the only way I can describe it…I let it overwhelm me sometimes and then I realize that I’m letting it take over my life, that I’m allowing the cycle to continue.
While I was taking my Buddhist classes, they taught that in their philosophy, those who commit suicide come back and have to endure the suffering over and over again until they live out that particular lifetime. To which I thought; Fuck off and son of a bitch.
At the retreat I just attended, I decided that I did not want to speak in our evening dharma groups, that I just needed to ‘retreat’ and listen. Ironically, this year they asked me to be one of five speakers.  Anyway, during our dharma group chat I was able to remain silent, and one lady spoke of how she lies awake in bed at night, quite often lost in anxious thoughts of the future. Oh boy, could I ever relate. … And then she said what were the magic words for me in that moment; “I know that these thoughts aren’t’ real. They’re just thoughts”.  For me that was really important as I often make up scenarios in my head about all of the things that I’m afraid of coming true.
The other thing that came to me during my time in silence was that I’ve never felt good enough. I’ve never felt pretty enough, or smart enough, or good enough for anyone or anything, and quite frankly, when I look at my life, I think I’ve been exhausted my entire life just trying to ‘be good enough’. It’s a shitty way to feel and to live. I haven’t figured out how to change that, but at least I’m aware of it now. That awareness is like having a big turd on the living room floor and not being able to get rid of it. That awareness just sits there like a big, stinky, piece of shit…
I’ve also realized that in the moment, I’m not any of those things either. It’s a constant struggle to shake off where I came from and be in the present, looking forward to anything.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. Maybe I hope that something will resonate, and you won’t feel as alone as I do sometimes.
So having reflected on all of this, I’ve decided that there is only one solution. Shenanigans. Yes, darlings. That is all.  An afternoon on a patio with a kindred spirit, a girls weekend with the women who make me feel like a kid again, and lots and lots of time on my little patio, looking at the world and letting the reality of just how wonderful things really are. In. This. Moment. These experiences and feelings of joy are very much also part of our true selves, it’s just time to let them in, because we are good enough.

Happy Hour – Right After Closing Time

A few weeks ago during a conversation with one of my very close, wise, and kindred-who-gives-a-flying-patoot-what-anyone-else-thinks friend, I decided that I would not have any serious  discussions (especially with my sweetheart) after 8:30 pm.

Really, who wants anything too heavy before bedtime, whether it be a big dish of pasta, or a big ol’ cup of pissed-off? Nobody. You know why? Because you just can’t digest anything that late. It repeats on you, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

In favour of letting my anxiety get the best of me, I’ve decided to let it go. Until I get moving the next morning anyway, and since I’m really not a morning person, that means sometime after 10am.

With all of that designated, “No Bitching” time, I’ve discovered a couple of things. First of all, I’m happier. As in way happier. I’m not such a snowballing mess of fear and anxiety. Second of all, it’s given me way more time to be grateful.

So if you’re a Type-A-worrying-control-freak, give it a try. You may just find some joy.

 

Be Like Water

  Despite my Irish temper, I try to go about my daily business doing my best to help others. At the very least, I try to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business.

When I started a career based solely on service to others, I struggled with it for many reasons.

I was surrounded by trauma, suffering and sadness. Quite often those emotions were expressed as anger and frustration, and directed at me.

 Before leaving the house every day,I read a little plaque that I had hung by the front door;

The highest goodness is like water. Water benefits all things and does not compete. It stays in the lowly places which others despise. Therefore it is near the eternal.~Lao-Tzu~

Each day I read this quote, hoping that I could just make it through another day.  Be like water, I reminded myself…be like water.

As pithy as it sounds, there is beauty in the dim, dark and mundane places that we so often avoid. 

Being joyful is easy when life is fun and exciting, not so easy when tedium exists. Not so easy when stress is relentless day after day. 

One of the secrets to happiness is being in the present moment and offering gratitude, even if it’s just that the present, unpleasant, moment will be over soon.

Be like water….

Well Hello There Anger, You Curious Beast

rozSubtlety has never been one of my shining qualities, nor do I wish it to be. It makes for hearty discussions that can be uncomfortable yet rich. Being with people who can admit that they are afraid of the dark,  yet have the courage to explore it are the best kind of people.

I’m a fiery gal. There are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. I am not for the faint of heart or the timid.

But I’m also soft-hearted to a fault, and love nothing more than to take people in, feed them, make sure they’re safe, and take care of them.

For many years, like many women, anger was not my friend. It’s ugly, and doesn’t accessorize well. It chewed me up from the inside out, and boy oh boy, did I suffer for ignoring it. Once my practice matured, I was able to let it in, give it room to breathe it’s fire, and finally burn off the dangerous edges.

This post was inspired by my incorrect perception. Some might even say, I was wrong. But let’s not get carried away now my sweet little peaches. Being wrong is such a bitch and entirely not sexy.

The human smorgasbord of emotion is fascinating, with a little of this and a dash of that sprinkled through the entire menu. What I’ve discovered, and I believe to be true, is that the  plethora of negative emotions are all rooted in the muck of fear. To be fearless about exploring those negative emotions, well, that my darlings, is interesting stuff.

I will be the first to admit that relationships scare the hell out of me. Commitment is a word I actually had an issue saying ( it made me stutter).  Yet, I’m a devoted, loyal, stick-with-you-to-the-end friend and colleague. What gives?

Well, after years of learning and practicing, I came to understand just how healthy it is not to deny myself all of the ugly-step-sister emotions; anger, jealousy, shame. They are all rooted in fear, and we, as human beings all experience fear and the offshoots of fear every day.

After a thoughtful discussion with my sweetie last night about anger, communication, and perception, I came back to an article by Jules Shuzen Harris, Sensei; Uprooting the Seeds of Anger, (Tricycle, Summer 2012 p44-47);

We’re going to keep getting angry. It’s going to come up. It has come up in our lives before, and it will come up again. This practice is about becoming more mindful, becoming aware of how we are getting stuck. With care and work, we find ways to get unstuck. But we also know that the moment we get unstuck, we’re going to get stuck again. That’s why it is called a practice – we never arrive. So when you find yourself upset or angry, use the moment as apart of your practice, as an opportunity to notice and uproot the seeds of anger and move into the heart of genuine compassion.

This passage speaks to me of impermanence, the Five Skandhas, and the importance of self-compassion as we practice mindful living/self-awareness.

When I first sought out meditation practice and the wisdom of the monastic teachings at a local monastery, what I really was doing, was running away from fear. I thought that I was doing something wrong, and that being happy all of the time was what being a spiritual being was all about. But, surprise, surprise, the Goddess-of-Everything-Delightful was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Ick.

Denying oneself the full-spectrum of emotion is like plastering concealer over a nasty pimple. Eventually it wears off, and it just makes the problem worse.

Our daily practice consists in running away…We are afraid of the suffering that is inside us, afraid of war and conflits…But we do not want this fear to manifest, because it hurts, and so we repress it.  We try to repress our suffering and we invite other energies into our ‘lving room’ to fill it up so that the negative energies will not be able to make their appearance there…We should not adopt this boycott policy. On the contrary we should open our door so that our suffering can come out.  (Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love)

I have committed to my practice, and I feel it slip when fear enters uninvited, tracking mud through my heart. But I won’t pretend it’s not there. I will not kick it out, or wash away the dirty footprints without taking a good look at how it got in, and what I might do lovingly acknowledge it.

 

 

 

2016 Predictions: It’s Your Choice Baby

liveonceToday someone paid me a backhanded compliment. Their ex accused them of being just like me.

To which I say, ‘That’s right douchedrop, she’s just like me. Happy.’

I’ve been accused of being too passionate, too cold, too serious, too silly and just too much of many things.  I am who I am in the moment. I feel deeply and think creatively and give big, warm, squishy hugs. It’s a wonderfully liberating way to be.

A lot of people can’t handle authenticity in the face of their own, long-ago-lost moral compass.

I know heartache greater than losing your true love. I’ve known regret, self-doubt, crippling fear and loss. I’ve known the depths of depression and despair.

Perhaps this is why I readily see beauty in simple things. Perhaps it’s why my definition of crisis is much more intense than the average bear. Perhaps it’s why tonight, with family and friends gathered at my humble table I felt a deep, profound, contentment.

This year I hope you have the courage to be who you really are. For some, you will be ‘too much’.

I hope that you are finally brave enough to take time to sit with your demons in silence, hear them out, let them have their say, and then graciously hold the door while they leave.

Be brave enough to use your heart for great love. Cherish your friends, fall head-over-heels in love, and don’t let the shadow of hurts-past darken the gift of getting to do it all over again.

Choose to be happy. Choose to be quiet. Choose to be alone. Choose to be whatever the hell it is that you need to be. But know it is a choice darlings. You, and only you, can choose.

Don’t whine and be a martyr for your lover, your family or your colleagues. Don’t waste your breath explaining away your shitty choices, or your crazy ones, or the ones that will make you smile a kazillion years from now when all you have left are memories of your misadventures.

My wish for everyone whose life I touch this year, is that I help them be at ease with themselves, in this wild and wonderful world.

 

 

 

 

Christmas: The Perfect Time to ‘Find Yourself’

vmask

What you see is what you get.

I had an interesting conversation tonight. Interesting in that I’ve heard it a zillion times from a zillion people; “I’m finding myself”.

Which, by virtue of the ability to be found, means that some element of oneself, was, indeed, thought to have been  lost.

After very little thought, and perhaps a dash too much  judgement, I came to the conclusion that those who have felt lost were not lost, but sold.

Sold as in; sold the big ol’ American dream. They have bought into the who, what, where, when and why of existence as deemed necessary by our completely make-believe economy. After all darlings, Just like Saint Nick, if you believe, it must be real.

Someone pass my wine….

What I think ‘finding’ one’s self truly means is that people find themselves in an unexpected solitude. Finally they have the space and time necessary to contemplate  mundane aspects of their life which have previously been taken for granted.

Daily routine for instance, or whether or not they like a certain type of music, sex, or art.

Finding oneself is often accomplished in the reflection of solitude against companionship; the interaction between contemplation and practice.

Finding oneself in the moment is all that there really is. What better time to practice than Christmas time, when we are often time and energy stretched and prone to  participate in more social interaction?

The present moment is where you will always find yourself. And you rarely find yourself the same way twice. Learning this will help you honour who you  are in each precious moment, in each exchange of energy with your colleagues, friends, relatives and lovers.

This is where your mask slips, allowing you see your reflection, frowning or smiling just as you are. Who you are is who you are, in each, precious moment.

 

 

 

Just When You Think It Can’t Get Any Worse

danceinthekitchenI have had one hell of a year.

It’s been a  ‘real doozy’ as your granny might say. Like a feather pillow at a pre-teen slumber party, sometimes you just get the emotional shit kicked out of you.

Tonight as I stretched toward the top of the cupboards with the longest barbeque tool I could find, I heard the voice of he-who-shall-not-be-named telling me that I was going to hurt myself. Deftly I scooped up a long wicker tray, and tipped it into my waiting hand…like a boss.

A few months ago, I was planning things with this he-who-shall-not-be-named sweetheart. I hadn’t been that happy in sooooo long. I was over the moon.

Tonight I’m alone.

As over the moon as I was a few months ago, I dove that deeply into mourning the loss of all that it was going to be.

What is it they say? I think it goes something like this, “ My knight in shining armor turned out to be an asshole in tinfoil“. Whatever… and at this age and stage, who cares?  It is, whatever it is. It’s. Not. My. Problem.

One thing that I do know for sure is that the future is too precious to waste dwelling on the past.

As I heard that voice in the back of my head, tipping my wicker baking basket over my head, I realized that I was truly happy. Happy. Goofy smile, humming to myself, dancing like a fool all by myself in my tiny kitchen.

I  stirred caramel corn and baked devilishly good cupcakes while bopping around my little kitchen in tights and a t-shirt, not missing anyone or anything. You see, just when you think it can’t get any worse, it often does, get better.

Over time, and with careful observation of how my mumster handles herself with grace, strength, and my favourite trait; humor, I realize just how much control we do have when it comes to having a good day or a bad day.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes life just stinks, and you need to curl up in a ball. You need to rage, cry, hate, feel insecure and alone. You need to do all of this without apology or holding back.

And one day you’ll be done with it.

You’ll find yourself all alone, smiling from the inside out, and you will realize just how damn wonderful this one, precious, life really is.