Over the last two years I have read Eat,Pray,LoveA Year Without “Made in China”, The Soul in Grief MotherMysteries, 100 Mile Diet and The Wishing Year. Last night, I finished The Happiness Project. I have always loved memoirs. Lately it has been specifically project memoirs that have grabbed me, though I wasn’t aware that that there is an actual name for this type of memoir until I looked it up to write this post.

While reading The Happiness Project I began analyzing what it is about this genre that appeals to me. As I read Rubin’s 12 Personal Commandments and tagged along on her February focus of Love, the other part of my brain kept up a running conversation. Needless to say, the constant questioning  got quite distracting at times.

Is it that everything is tied up in a neat 12 month package? – Not really, because it is the journey that is the purpose, not making it to December.

Is it the idea of the goal or project and seeing it followed through? – Likely, though at times that just makes me feel guilty or jealous as I am terrible at keeping up the momentum in projects. (As can be seen by my sporadic entries on this blog.)

Is it the opportunity to sit in on the conversations other people have in their mind? To participate in their moments of frustration and elation? –  Most definitely. For one, it is reassuring to know that I am not the only one with an on-going narration following me around. Also, there is something lovely and inspiring in someone being willing to be that vulnerable. I know that there is editing and more editing that goes on in writing a book. Not to mention the ability to ‘cultivate’ a voice but regardless there is still a willingness to be vulnerable that gives me hope.

Eventually, I realized that what appeals the most to me is being witness to someone’s learning and the growth that comes with their exploration. Watching someone tease out an idea, play with it, question it, themselves and their world inspires me. I find beauty just as much in their mistakes and frustrations as I do in their successes; for it is in those moments that I know that they are still human and it is real. I guess that is one of the reasons that I am a teacher and not a CGA (another direction I could have gone – a bad direction but an option). To me teaching is not and never has been about me passing on information, there are better places to get facts than me. I share knowledge with my students. I teach them the skills they need to acquire information – reading, questioning, thinking, computing.  I try and instill in them the understanding that it is not the destination that is always most important but the journey.

Which makes me wonder – what would my project memoir be about? Would it be Early Bird – one mother’s desperate attempt to learn how to love mornings which would probable make everyone happier around here. The truth is I am already on many different journeys. I promised myself I would take any opportunity that presented itself to me this year, a goal that I have mostly kept. I constantly working at being more self-sufficient and aware when it comes to our food. Each day I strive to be parent that is self-aware and present. I am starting the school year with the intention to be a teacher that is current, empathetic and who hands work back in a reasonable amount of time. However,upon reflection maybe all of those goals would benefit from being a bit more formalized and planned out. Not tonight though. If Early Bird is ever going to happen, I need to go to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Please be aware that this post may serve as a trigger as it deals with  a child and a near death experience.

This is the first time since Monday that I have had a quiet moment to myself. The first time that I have been able to really sit with what my world almost became last Monday. All week my fingers have itched to write it down. I guess I will never lose the need to write in order to understand myself, my feelings, my thoughts and my world. And if needed, write to let it go.

It’s not as though I haven’t been reliving  those moments over and over again.  Miss Pumpkin hanging limp and R running towards her. His laying her on the grass, her face white, her chest still. The moment when the breath pushed itself out of her mouth and then her uncontrollable tears.

I can hear the terror and pain in R’s voice as he looked up and saw her, Miss Heddy screaming “Mimi, Mommy”, the voice of the 911 operator, sirens in the distance and the absolute stillness of the rest of the neighbourhood as our world almost ended.

I can feel the emptiness before the grief came rushing in to fill even the tiniest crevice in my body. The relief that she was ok tainted by the wonder if  I had  been given my daughter back only to lose her again because lack of oxygen had damaged her?

And the gratitude that I exhale with each breath that she is safe and that I can get up in the middle of the night and hold her and kiss her and watch her breathe.  Gratitude that my world is filled with the sound of her voice – laughing, yelling, talking, whining or crying and that I have to steal moments to find silence. Gratitude that I have to come up with “one more story” or answers to the question “why do ants no have eyelashes?” Gratitude that I have to roll over in the morning so she can crawl in next to me, her morning breath causing my nose to wrinkle as it warms my face, her fingers pulling on my ear.

Gratitude that I can see her, touch her, taste her, hear her and am not left with only memories and photos to appease my desire for her.

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These past three months have been so hard.  It was like there was a reprieve from the grief in the Fall but it came rolling back at Christmas and has continued to slowly build, its waves crashing higher, more frequent, more forceful.  Each event is begun with the phrase “two year ago.”  The tears are more frequent, come at points that make no sense –  yoga class, the mall.  While other times make a bit more sense – driving by a cemetery, a song, finding the dress Miss Pumpkin wore at his service in the box of hand-me-downs pulled out for Miss Heddy.

I think that has been the hardest.  I look at Miss Heddy and I see her, the same age Miss Pumpkin was when he died and it hurts.  It hurts that he never got to meet her.  I remember Miss Pumpkin sitting with him in the hospital sharing his meal or later rubbing cream on his hand in the hospice.  I remember watching his breathing change when she came into the room,  I remember watching the abandonment with which he loved Miss Pumpkin and my heart rages that Miss Heddy will never feel that love.

And I miss him and sometimes I feel like I am forgetting him.  It takes a little longer for me to remember his voice, to remember what it felt like when he did that little dig with his finger in my side that was his greeting.  I catch myself filing things away to ask him only to remember that I can ask but there will never be an answer.

Temporally in 10 days it will be two years. Emotionally it feels like it is happening right now, except now I can’t even go and hold his hand.

The dress Miss Pumpkin wore is buried under a pile.  I know logically that I should give it away but somehow that action seems more permanent than dad’s death

 

 

I have been writing posts in my head as I moved through my day but have had difficulty getting to the computer to actually write them down.  Sometimes it was because I had lost the urgency to write, sometimes because it seems impossible to carve out 10 minutes to pee and shower let alone write and sometimes because I just wanted to not think.

The summer that was supposed to be our lazy summer was taken over by an online course, a move, a surprise visit by family and as much camping as we could squeeze in.  The to-do list was tossed aside –  no garden dug, no painting, no ripping out of flower beds, less canning and freezing than I would like.  Then September came and back to work we both went.  This of course brought another new rhythm to the house and our days – getting used to having someone come into our house to watch the girls 3 days a week, me not being home for 4, Ryan starting work at 7,riding to work and being the first parent home, my mum coming and staying overnight on Wednesdays, dance class Saturday morning …  It has gone remarkably smoothly which is a blessing as I had several full blown panic attacks at the end of August about this transition.

I feel awkward here.  There is so much that I have wanted to unravel and tease through in this space but now that I am here I am at a loss. Like my students, I am overwhelmed at the open expanse and possibilities, I want someone to write the topic on the board and tell me my word count.  However, like my students I am just going to have to put pen to paper, or in this case fingers to keys and write.

I just finished reading a piece on autumn as the season of letting go.  That like the trees this is the time to strip away in preparation for the cocooning and reflectiveness of winter.  Maybe in the rhythm of my own life, I have spent the last few years in autumn.  I could let go of more but then I wonder what will be left.  In my rebirth as a mother, I have already had much of the excess trappings burnt away.  To put it bluntly I don’t have to time for the bullshit and self-involved anxiety of my twenties.  Not if I want to give all the parts of me that I truly care about the space they need to exist.  Occasionally, I fall prey to the desire of wanting to be noticed or to impress.   Don’t get me wrong, I had fun trying on different ideas of me. It is the same dress-up that started when I was two and continued through my teen years.  The only difference is that in my twenties, not only was I trying on the clothes, I was putting on the ideas and lifestyles of the characters I was performing.  For that matter, I still am – performing, trying things on – it’s just that this self is much truer to the essence of me than before.  The point is, for now anyway, I am comfortable in this skin, in this person.  My dreams, beliefs, and actions fit my song.

So back to letting go.  What do I want to write on my leaf and burn in the fire?

I want to let go of the pain that is crippling my right side, making it almost impossible to write or type or hold anything some days.

I want to let go of my breathe, to let my diaphragm open up and swell with air, instead of being tight and closed.

I want to let go of those little voices that gripe at me that I am not doing enough and that I am unreasonable.

I want to let go of the fear that is preventing me from trying new things – opening my own school, applying for a different job, seriously consider teaching overseas.

It has been awhile since I have visited here.  It has been a busy few weeks of packing and then unpacking.  We are now almost settled into our new home – pictures still need to be hung, walls painted but it smells like us.

More importantly we have fallen into a rhythm that feels more solid, more connected. Simply put – it feels right.  The outside is now no longer a destination but simply a part of our home.  We are dirtier (and wetter) but we are happier.  The girls can be with me while I cook and move around the kitchen but they aren’t in my way.  There is room for all of us and our dreams here.  It is not our final home but it is ours for now.

But it was really hard getting here.  A lot harder that I thought it would be.  Not because I loved where we were leaving – not like our first apartment where we brought Miss Pumpkin home.  Hard –  because I was leaving the last place I will ever live that contains physical memories of my father.  He was only there once, his birthday the day we moved in but I was still able to see him there, to look over and remember him that evening.  Maybe that place was meant to be a brief stop – a place of transition.  Maybe the universe knew that I needed a place where I could begin to work through the deaths and births that have formed the backdrop of my life this past year and a half.  A place that I didn’t love so it was easier to leave.  But it is not like I am leaving the grief behind, it sits with me, hiding just behind my eyes,  in my throat, in my belly and waits.  It is dense but slowly, slowly it  is unfolding, giving me back my space.

I thought it would be easier with time and I suppose mostly it is.  I find it hurts the most when I am having to let go and I am desperately trying to hold on.  Like now.  I need to let go of our old house and my fear that letting go means I will lose those memories.  Instead, I need to trust that by not madly scrambling to hold on I will become aware of dad in new ways.  I need to remember that the tears when they come should not be brushed aside or dismissed but honoured as each drop is in itself a prayer.  A prayer of love.  A prayer of grief.  A prayer of life.

“There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.” (Washington Irving)

It was glorious.  Even the last day, when I was suffering from a bad case of food poisoning that left me so nauseous, lifting my head and swallowing made me heave.  I lay there and thought about how in one day I would be home with my babies and Ryan and how thankful I was that I had the luxury of being sick without having to negotiate someone else’s needs.

I did literally pump my way through New York City.  Every major attraction that I went to and any small place where there was a bathroom, I was in there. At night and in the morning I would use the electric pump.  The rest of the time I would use a manual pump or when I was lazy, my hand.  I got very good at aiming.  It killed me though, to see all that milk going to waste.  I did end up freezing some and bringing it home as I just couldn’t bear the thought of dumping all of it.  I would worry that my supply was decreasing or that Miss Heddy would not want to breastfeed anymore but that was far from the case as she refused to take a bottle or sippy cup the entire time I was gone and within a half an hour she was back on the boob (and hasn’t really been off it since).

It took a little getting used to negotiating the world without two little ones.  Sometimes, I reslished in the freedom of being able to stop or not stop, to listen to my needs, to not have to frame everything within the perameters of a infant’s world or a 3 year old’s world.  Then there were the times that I longed for them so much that I would cry.  My arms and lap, empty of the warm solidness of their little bodies, still felt the indentations and grooves left by them and would ache to be filled.  I would find myself turning to Ryan to make a comment and be startled that he wasn’t beside me.

I did have my family and that was wonderful.  I am so incredible lucky to have my sister, mother, brother and aunt and to be able to spend time with them in such closed quarters and end the trip wanting to see them.  My brother, sister and I went out together just us for the first time in our lives.  That in itself was worth the trip.  Holding my sister in my arms, outside the apartment at the end of the evening and listening to her talk about dad – that too was priceless.

The best part – coming home to my family absolutely and completely solid in my knowledge that I belong with them.

3 years ago you came into this world and it is already a brighter place.  I like to think that the rain that is falling this morning are the same blessings that rained down on the day you were born.

May you always laugh with the sheer joy of living.

May you always ask questions and seek understanding.

May you always love fiercely and be honest with your emotions.

May you always dance with the faeries.

May you always be gentle with yourself.

May you always see the little miracles each day brings.

I have always believed that if you pay attention the world has a way of giving you what you need.  As I release myself to this belief more and more, giving myself the room needed trust, it becomes more true thereby giving me the confidence to take a larger leap of faith and so on.  This is one of the most beautiful aspects of my life as it leads me to such amazing places inwardly and outwardly that I would never had dared to do on my own.

I woke up this morning in a foul mood.  Miss Heddy has been having a difficult time going to sleep at night and then throughout the night and then Miss Pumpkin was up at 5:30 with a horrendous scream and throwing of body against the wall.  (As an aside, I am sure our neighbours are looking forward to us moving as much as we are looking forward to it.)  Of course, because Ryan was the one who went to deal with it, she needed me and I was trying to nurse Miss Heddy down..again, so then there was more screaming but now Miss Heddy was chiming in as well.

The result was that by 6 everyone else was back in bed and I decided to take advantage of having some time to myself.  It lasted all of 5 minutes and then Miss Pumpkin wandered into the bathroom and then out to the bedroom where I knew that Ryan and Miss Heddy were settled. This apparently was the final thing to make my mood turn completely and utterly black.  I attempted to collect myself when I got out of the shower as while I could hear them, I couldn’t see the other members of my family but the foul me was not listening to the ‘breathe, release and be in the moment” me.  In fact, the foul me was rather rude to the other me.  I could go on, but really who needs to read about my deepening blackness, as the point is what brought me out of it.  While it sounds horrible, it was my glimpsing the messiness of other women’s lives. The satisfaction didn’t come from comparing or gloating or voyerism but from the simply knowing that I am not alone in my struggle.

I spend a lot of time on the computer  and while on the computer, I spend a lot of time reading blogs.  I read a wide variety of blogs that cover a large range of topics from Vancouver real estate, education, parenting, crafting, food, and the list goes on.  Sometimes, I have the priviledge of knowing the authors personally but mostly these are glimpses into peoples’ lives that I likely will never have the pleasure of meeting.  Usually, I am inspired by the amazing (mostly) women that I read but I also fall into feelings of envy and inadequacies. I am a horrible writer and who really wants to read what I have to say, no one reads this blog so what is the point.. Why can’t I find the time to do make, cook, create while raising children?  Why don’t I have a beautiful house with a yard? How come when I go to the thrift store I can’t even find empty jars, let alone ‘treasures.’  I am too impatient, too quick to judge, my temper is too hot, my words too cutting …

One of my biggest struggles in life is with cleaning and laundry.  That’s right…the toilet is my nemesis and when it and the piles of laundry get together, my white flag is held up high and I am overcome by feelings of unease and inadequacies. Unease, because I really, truly find it hard to live in clutter.  Inadequacies, because it really shouldn’t be so hard to sweep the floor, put away the dishes and fold the laundry but it is; especially, knowing that these tasks are on repeat and will end with death or my moving into a care facility.

It is time for the toilet and I to forge a peace pact.

(Sidenote : As I am writing this post, Miss Pumpkin has taken the opportunity to pull out all the clothes from her dresser that I had folded and organised into baskets and dump everything on the floor.)

Evicted clothes

I have come to a number of conclusions about why I have so much difficulty with clutter and laundry.

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Yesterday Ryan and I went out for dinner, just the two of us.  It was wonderful.  I was prodded into it by my participation in this virtual retreat.  We had nothing planned Saturday and so I picked up the phone, called my mum and arranged for us to drop off both girls.  Except for a walk and a quick trip to the mall, Ryan and I have not been alone since August 4, 2009.  It was our anniversary and had celebrated the night before by going for Indian and then to see Food Inc.  We were supposed to pick up Miss Pumpkin but left her another night with my mum because I had a feeling that Miss Heddy was going to arrive soon.  Sure enough she arrived just after 2am on the 5th.

Not only did we go out for dinner but we didn’t talk the entire time about the girls.  We did talk about how we were feeling as parents and the impact it has had on us.  We talked about loneliness, community, my plans for a school and the education system in general.  I left, feeling connected again.  Not that I have felt like Ryan and I have drifted apart, just that so much of the time we are negotiating with each others as co-parents and problem-solvers that it is easy  to forget that there are other parts of ourselves that need to be nourished and heard.

kisses for baby

post-dinner

There was even dessert & coffee

There was even dessert & coffee had

In less than a month I leave for New York sans children and husband.  When I heard that my brother was singing at Carnegie Hall it seemed like such a good idea for me to go with my mum, my sis and my aunt to see/hear him.  Also, New York has always been on my list of places to see and Ryan has absolutely no desire to go and so this seemed like a good opportunity.  At the time, the months stretched before me like I had forever before I would be leaving and I had no worries about Miss Heddy.  Now, with the departure date looming up and Miss Heddy in the throes of only mama is good enough and sleeping is for chumps, I am beginning to panic.

I could just take her.  It would be a very different trip and I would have to leave her with a complete stranger for the night of the concert as I would have to hire a nanny for the night.  It wouldn’t be horrible to bring her but I’ll be honest, I have been looking forward to sleep –  sweet uninterrupted 8 glorious hours of sleep.  Also, the ability to go anywhere I want without having to run a child friendly/stress analysis before entering.  I have been longing for the chance to be with just my thoughts and to not have grocery shopping as my alone time where I spend my time looking at my watch and feeling guilty that I have already been away for too long.  I have been looking forward to spending some time with just my mum, brother and sister as a family without dad.

I thought originally it was just the idea of leaving Miss Heddy that was bothering me but it isn’t.  I am absolutely terrified of leaving my family because I am afraid of either them all dying or me dying.  The fear and panic is constantly with me.  It lies just under the surface of my consciousness, waiting to rise up and swarm over any rational thought.  I remember when Miss Pumpkin was born and I left her with Ryan for the first time to go to the store.  I was so scared and worried about leaving them, listing the ‘what if’s”,  I finally realised how some people become crippled by fear and understood that I had to nip the fear right there and then or let it control me.  I was successful.  It was there but it was under control.  I was no longer able to listen to certain news stories and certain TV shows were completely off limits but it didn’t prevent me from living freely or letting my child live freely

Something has changed.  I hate putting it all on dad’s death but it seems to me that was the turning point.  I think because his illness and death happened so quickly and seemingly so randomly.  One day he was fine and the next … well we all know what happened next.  I don’t think that it helped that I was pregnant with Miss Heddy through it all and then went through the weird, labour but not labour during the last two months of my pregnancy.  During Miss Pumpkin’s birth I was fully present and confident in myself, with Miss Heddy I was frightened and no longer had the same trust in myself or the world.  Hers was a very different birth, not horrific, but it definitely happened in a very different place.  I am also more panicky about Ryan’s seizures.  I think because like dad, there was no warning, no indication that his brain carried this potential.  I know that the seizures themselves can not hurt him but when he is home a little later than expected, a slide show of scenarios starts rolling through my head.

I don’t know what to do.  I hold on desperately to this fear of mine, unwilling to let it get away from me in case it does damage.  Holding it so tightly means that I am never free of it, it just sits inside me, making itself at home, gnawing at me, choking me.

I go back and forth, wondering if this feeling of impending doom about New York is some sort of premonition and that I shouldn’t go and knowing that this fear and worry is shared by so many other mothers (and fathers) out there and I need to learn how to live with it. I wonder if I am fighting it too much.  Do I just push through the fear or do I sit with it, give it the space to play out.