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February is For Love Stories – Not Just Fairytales

Aggie the cat was stretched out on the roof, just past the glass of the window that was tipped open to allow her coming and going. Taped to the glass was the vintage orange, cover of Tennessee Williams’, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. You would have had to be a complete idiot to have missed the pun.

It was tucked up in the reading room of Shakespeare and Company that I read, in its’ entirety, Neil Gaiman’s, Art Matters. Amongst all of the old, hard cover, well-bound books that had possibly been in the hands of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway or even Gertrude Stein, I soaked up the love of storytelling written by one of our contemporary masters.

 

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Valentine’s day is the one day a year that we set aside to tell our love stories. There are very few of us who have lifetime love stories to tell, about meeting, marrying, raising children, and living into our twilight years hand in hand with our soul mate.  But this isn’t the only love story. Love does not follow a script. It follows the heart, and hopefully, if you are lucky enough, you have, by mid-life ,a small collection of stories that continue to inspire you.

Spending time in Paris, tucked up on the old daybeds of Shakespeare and Company will always be one of those stories. The syncronicity of how I met my late, angel-to-artists friend Nick Beat is another.

Stories are the thread that binds the fabric of our collective experience. Sharing them should be treated as a sacred honour, worthy of our full attention. Worthy of dedicated time to gather and share.

February is mostly past. Valentine’s day is over. Our love stories involve more than romance and fairy tales. Don’t forget that. Celebrate all of those things that make you vibrant; tell your stories.

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Memory: The Greatest Storyteller of Our Time

intotheabyss‘Boobs’. That’s all it said. A text message I received today after a  lingering champagne hazed session of reacquainting myself with a long, lost lover and friend.

What made it so funny was that it came from a number I don’t recognize, likely someone I have known quite well, but deleted from my digital Rolodex of potential back-ups.  One of my BFF’s refers to me  as McBoobs, but it wasn’t her. ‘Boobs’. Somewhere out there, someone’s memory brought a story about my assets back to the front line of their mind, and prompted the ridiculous text.

Memory is a funny thing. It’s sly and agile, hiding itself for so long you forget that it’s there, and then suddenly, it floods your mind, heart and soul like a spring rainstorm, leaving turned earth, and a rainbow somewhere, if you remember to look for it.

storm and rainbowDrifting off to sleep after a conversation and a few tipples with a kindred spirit, my memory reminded me how wise some people can be. Stonewalling is my preferred method of detachment and emotional salve after the crumbling wall around my school-girl heart takes a hit. “You’ve been through a lot of hurt in your younger days just like me. It’s natural.” He gets it, I thought, as I drifted off to sleep. Somebody sees it.

Seeing each other; witnessing the life of friends brings meaning to life. Years pass and friendships either fade or strengthen, and the beauty of lasting friendships is that you know someone out there in the big ole’ nasty world of non-stop striving really sees who you are. They know you.

There’s something about someone having stood by while your soul was formed and hardened in the fire of life. When you forget who you are, these are the people who tell your story back to you, and so it is – this is memory – retelling who we are and how we arrived at this place. Right here. Right now, as we are, fully human and  divinely flawed.

Not often do I go back so far in my memory to recall some of the hardest times of my life. That means I’ve forgotten a lot of experiences that were part of reinventing myself as a young adult. Recently I’ve been drawn back to a time I had managed to all-but forget. A memory or two has been salvaged and laid at my doorstep by someone whom I was sure had forgotten me. It was my choice to pick it up and examine it, or kick it aside until it eventually grew over as part of a wild, tangled landscape. I’m curious by nature, so I couldn’t leave a gift like that unopened.

It’s a blessing and a curse this easy forgetting. I do this when things go wrong with people I love. Hurt turns quickly to anger and then I toss it away like a pebble to the bottom of a deep, cold lake that is incapable of giving up her dead.  Something gone forever unless someone else makes the effort to salvage it and lay it as a gift at your feet.

Storytelling is a great gift given to friends and lovers when they’ve forgotten how fabulous they are. It’s a little spark of madness in the melancholic night of adulthood, and a hit of adrenaline to whet your appetite for living.

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Oh Bother

haveaballoonWinnie the Pooh – I don’t want to take up too much of your time with this, but it’s just too silly to let rest…yet.

The councillors in Tuszyn, Poland  have spent time debating Pooh’s lack of pants and therefore,  the obvious abomination it would be to have Winnie the Pooh be the town’s playground mascot. Tuszyn’s debate has placed the small town front and center on the world stage for their 15 minutes of fame.

My immediate reaction was, ” Seriously? We’re wasting time on our national news talking about Pooh Bear’s dungarees”? Too tired to be outraged, instead of tweeting about it, I laughed. Chuckled, smiled even.

News is such a joke anyway, why not report on Pooh’s pants? If you’re telling us about Pooh’s pants, what aren’t you telling us?

Having started upon the long and winding road of my career as a newspaper reporter, I have an insider’s appreciation of the passive aggressive as well as blatant gagging of the idealized journalistic objective reality of writing for money.

It is no secret that reading the Saturday paper at my favourite coffee shop constitutes an ideal weekend morning. What you may not understand is that I read the paper as a clue to what isn’t being reported, written about, recorded or otherwise documented in popular media.

So I thank you CBC for not being afraid to report on something seemingly insignificant.

From what are you trying so hard to steal our attention?

 

 

 

 

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Do You?

Christmas lights backgroundLate 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?

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Why I Stopped Dating: Part 2

bunnykissesMy previous post left off talking about fairytales.  I spoke of love and even grander love affairs;

 

I’ve had grand love-affairs. Upon reflection, I’ve had quite a few, but I just haven’t recognized them…I’m not talking about the kind of love affair where you have to sneak off so you aren’t discovered by a jilted partner, over-bearing parents, or the church. No. I’m talking about the kind that coddles and challenges you to be a better person, to be better than you were yesterday, or the day before that.

 

We took these fairytales literally, and failed to see them as the metaphors that they really are.

What they didn’t tell you about fairytales when you were a child is that you can have a love affair with any damn thing you please.

They also don’t tell you that you’ll have many love affairs, in friendship, romance, career and everything that you’re called to do. The storytelling of our lives is rich because we can’t have everything all at once. There is always a piece missing that we seek to develop ourselves in all aspects of living.

I have to admit that I’ve stopped dating because I’m in love.

Yesterday I spent some time with my sweetheart. I wasn’t going to this weekend. I’d been working long hours and wanted a weekend to myself; to sleep in, run errands, write, read, and contemplate the naval I lost 20lbs ago. But, I’m in the middle of a love affair and I couldn’t stay away.

My office, unlike the last few men I’ve dated, welcomed me with open arms. It had my coffee ready, my favourite chair, and a let me play my weekend jazz station. Sometimes I get jealous when there are other people around; jealous of the quiet, the space and distraction.

“Wait a minute you crazy broad. You can’t have a love affair with your job“, I can hear you say. I can also see you rolling your eyes. Stop judging me.

I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Although I’ve made a conscious decision to stop dating, I’m involved in one of the most satisfying love affairs with my work and my self. Go figure.

Just like a relationship with a person, good work is challenging. Passionate hobbies can make you feel inadequate and work harder to perfect whatever it is that you’ve fallen in love with. Whatever your beloved, it can make you feel like you’ll never be good enough. Friendships can make you feel more unconditionally loved than even the most devout lovers.

When all of this is so good, why don’t I have a man in my life?”

I used to ask myself that question all the time. Now I know the answer. As frustrating as it might be, it’s simply not the time for it.

For everything, there is indeed a season, and I’m certainly going to enjoy this one, without worrying about who or what  may come next.

 

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Happy Friday!

Sky, fog, and clouds on a textured vintage paper background with grunge stains.

Live your story today so that you can tell it tomorrow. Have a beautiful Friday!