Friday, October 23, 2015

beyond ordinary understanding: a novel

In the summer of 2009 I had a dream. Actually, it was a nightmare. And it left me rattled. I dreamt my husband and I were shopping on the streets of Italy. We went into a shop that interested me, and at some point he decided to go outside and wait for me. When I left the shop I couldn't find him.

I never saw him again.

The feelings this dream invoked in my soul woke me and kept me awake the entire night. Which, if you know me, is no surprise since sleep is not something I excel at. I was entirely distraught, but that is not all. I felt something I have never felt before, a sorrow so deep inside me it affected me physically. I wretched over the toilet that night as I tried to pull from my sleepy stupor what was happening. Was I sick? No, I wasn't. I was sad. Profoundly sad. And all from a dream. I wept for my own imaginary loss. The entire night I wept, and into the next day. I couldn't even describe in words my melancholy.

I still can't. It was a wordless feeling.

I tried to process it, tried to convince myself it was just a dream. There was no way anyone could feel that much despair in real life. But, I knew that wasn't true, people feel that all the time. I had never felt it in real life myself, and I hope I never do. It was a gut wrenching sensation.

I tried to write about it. I sat on occasion and tried journaling this one feeling I couldn't seem to describe. I began entertaining thoughts of writing a story about it. Eventually that story turned into a novel. Something fictitious. Yet real.

Does that make sense? I didn't think so...

Over the course of the next two years I created in my head characters that were not only capable of feeling this type of pain, but also inflicting it. Thoughts on the subject came at random times and in random places. I took notes on paper, napkins, receipts, and in my phone.

One hot day, as I was driving the kids to the Okanagan to see my parents, I was deeply entrenched with the creation of this novel. As I drove I tried to fix into my memory all the thoughts I had when all of sudden we came to a dead halt due to construction. We did not move for over an hour and as we waited I typed madly into my phone. Notes upon notes. The plot thickened and grew and before I knew it I was giddy at the thought of writing this book. I was a woman obsessed with recreating that one emotion I felt inside a dream two years earlier.

For months I added to those notes. In church I would find myself distracted by the characters and their choices. I would take notes on the sides of church bulletins, on my hand, wherever I could find space. I collected these bulletins in my bedside table, next to my notebook and my scraps of paper and all those receipts. It was a hodge podge of crazy. I knew it was going to be a chore to organize, but I didn't care. It was growing into something of its own. Like I had no say in the matter.

Yet somehow I was going to be responsible if it didn't happen.

And then my husband and I went to Mexico. The hot Mexican sun, coupled with the spotty wifi, and its evil Mexican sorcery took my phone and deleted every single thing on it. All my pictures (even the awesome puffer fish I found), all my contacts, and...

...all my notes.

Everything was gone. Pages upon pages, and hours upon hours of thoughts, ideas and character quirks...gone.

I was ill about it.

It was so upsetting to me I had no choice but to put it straight out of my head. I went into total denial. I tried to let it go, like it never happened. But every now and then it crept back in. Little snippets here and there tortured me. Why didn't I email the notes to myself? Back the information up? Why didn't I protect my baby? I have no answers. I just didn't. I could barely look myself in the mirror. What a giant waste of time. I had given so much thought to this project, and through my own negligence it was just gone.

Over the years it has slowly been reborn. If my memory serves me, it is almost identical, minus a few strokes of brilliance here and there. I will make attempts to recreate those as I go.

I find myself at a crossroads in my life. I am done school. And as I look for a job that suits my family I find myself totally consumed by thoughts of this novel.

So it's time.

I mentioned to my friends that I wanted to get it out. I was looking into a weekend away to start writing it in the mountains, for the mountains are where ideas come to life, don't you know? My friends, who are nothing short of amazing, pooled their loose change and their collective genius, and said go go go. Go now! And before I knew it I had three nights booked at the Banff Centre in a self-directed writing residency paid for entirely by them.

And this is where I sit, telling you this story. On the side of a mountain.

These friends of mine are making dreams come true. Do they even know what they are capable of? These ladies are my army, my village. I hope they'll be gentle with me when they read the book. Because this is happening, people.

As we speak, this is happening.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

no matter how you slice it

The man is no dummy, he knows the way to my heart is through the grocery store. He wins husband of the year, every single time, when he responds with a "send me your list" to my subtle wails of "I DON'T WANNA GO TO THE GROCERY STORE!! Wahhhhhhh!!"

That's a lot of husband of the year awards. We might need a bigger house to store them in.

If I don't have to do the grocery shopping then he doesn't have to endure me and my post grocery shopping lunacy. That sounds like a win-win to me.

I really really really hate that chore. Like, really. So yesterday when I said "we need groceries" he said, in his wise wisdom-y way, "send me a list." Upon that list were the words lunch and meat.

Lunch meat.

And . . . this is what he came home with.

Dude, c'mon now, that is not lunch meat. That's a ham. And some crappy, processed, semi-meat product. No matter which way you slice it, that's not lunch meat.

Okay, I will compromise on this and admit that the ham, if sliced appropriately, becomes lunch meat. But who wants to cut up a ham?

Also, there is such a thing as a stupid question. Who wants to cut up a ham? The man does.

And with a big grin upon his furry face, he asked, "Where's the meat slicer?"

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

and then she went to university. part 2

I was going to regale you with tails of the inner turmoil caused at having to leave my baby in downtown Toronto.

On a sidewalk, no less. 

I was going to reflect upon the emotional temper tantrum I threw within the innermost recesses of my soul, the part where my trying toddler resides. I was going to try and emulate, with words, my refusal to accept the inevitable. I was going to proclaim my outright dismay at the injustice of it all. 

But I'm tired. And today has been delegated migraine day. And really, there is only so much whining about my baby leaving me that even I am willing to put up with. 

So, instead, let's review what I did in the moments directly after the abandonment of my child on the rowdy downtown streets of Toronto. 

I went to a movie. And then I went to another movie. 

Of course I did. 

On my way back to the hotel I was overcome with dread at being alone for that long before sleep became a viable option. So I pulled over at the nearest movie theatre (and we all know that at any given moment I can direct you to no less than five movie theatres) and checked what was playing. There was something starting within 5 minutes and so I yelled "SOLD" and bought some sorrow drowning popcorn and a vat of diet coke and cried through a horror movie. 

The tears poured freely, movies theatres are the perfect place for free flowing tears. 

When the movie had ended, but my tears had not, I felt mild panic at what may lie ahead on that muggy, hot, and dreary day. 

But it was like heaven was looking down upon me because wouldn't luck have it?  Another movie was just starting, and so I cried through a comedy. 

That was a long day. 

But the next day I put on my big girl pants and went to Niagara Falls and got on a boat and rebelled against the flimsy red rain poncho. I decided to let the elements eat me alive. I got soaked, which was fine because it was one million degrees out and I was hot hot hot.

There is something about being left to the devices of nature this grand. The red rain poncho seemed wrong, somehow. 

It was tortuously hot out, I could now check witnessing this marvellous wonder off my list and so I headed back to the hotel. 

I was deeply lost in thought and missed a highway somewhere and got lost in this little place of perfection I can't even remember the name of. It was riddled with perfectly historical houses and I contemplated instant relocation because my inner self believes it was meant to live in history. Also it was a lot closer to my child than home was. 

When the lady at the door said I couldn't live with her I had no choice but to drive back to the hotel in order to fly home and wait for the rest of my offspring to leave me. 

Have I mentioned I hate flying and make a very poor seatmate? 

 And that is the story of how my heart took a beating but kept on ticking and contrary to the wants of my helicopter parenting heart, life goes on. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

and then she went to university, part 1

I'm finally ready to talk about it. Took awhile, but I got there eventually. Cicely went away to university a month ago and my heart took a blow I was not expecting. I mean, I knew it would be hard and that I was going to miss her, but I was not expecting that!

Nothing makes you scramble at reconciling your failures with your successes as a mother faster than those last moments before you leave your child on a sidewalk in downtown Toronto. 

Did I teach her everything she'll need to know to survive this?

There's no way I taught her everything she needs to know to survive this. I need more time. Loads and loads of time. But, KABAM, out of nowhere we ran out of time. This is it. This is happening. So, what can be said in those last seconds that will armour her?

Drink water. Get enough sleep. Stay on top of your assignments. Do not wander down Yonge street alone, and definitely not at night. Be kind. Ask for help when you need it. Choose good people to surround yourself with. Stay close to the Lord. Say your prayers. Read your scriptures, they will bring you peace. 

Text me.

Call me.

I can help you. Please let me help you.

Was she listening? Does she know these things? Does she believe them? She would say yes, she knows - there was a lot of nodding and 'yes, mom-ing'. 

But I don't know for sure. 

What I do know is that leaving her there was the hardest thing I've done thus far in my life. I wept buckets of tears every time I thought of her for days on end. Watching her skip off away from me, me getting into the car as fast as possible as to not melt into the saddest puddle you've ever seen right there on Jarvis Street. Driving away from her. 

All of it was hard. 

It's like someone took a chunk of my heart and said, "this isn't yours anymore." She makes her own decisions now. Now, I just get to watch.

Turns out I wasn't ready. It feels like I spent the last three years semi preparing myself for her to leave, but I wasn't nearly thorough enough. I missed the important parts like: the broken heart, the random moments when all of a sudden you remember you're here and she's there and tears soak your face before you even know what hit you. It's sort of hard to prepare for those parts because, well, they aren't fun.

She was ready, I was not. That is just how it rolls. Doesn't change the fact that it totally happened. And I was there to witness it. 

And it was hard. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

collateral damage

So I guess I was sort of lying when I said I was back. I think it was more intention than anything. I intended to come back, but then I didn't. You know?

But I have been thinking about it a lot. I'm sure that counts.

So anyway, while I sit here and eat my bon bons I thought I'd drop you a line. And here it is: I may be enjoying, a lot, this past month where my kids are in school all day and I AM NOT.

Three years.

It's been three years since I have been a true stay at home mom (whatever that means) and apparently it took working real hard-like and being real stressed-like and busy ALL THE TIME to appreciate the simplicity of running a home and making dinner.

Not that it's simple to be a 24-hour on-call master of the universe. That's not what I'm saying.

The simplicity comes from witnessing, first hand, this machine you created 20 years ago, and then tended to for 17 years. Oiling and altering and maturing and developing. A system that was able to pretty much run itself for three years while you stepped away and delved into all selfishness. Doing something for yourself, something you hadn't done for almost two decades, and truly thought you would never do again. Never mind do well.

My family became collateral damage.

You see, I am bad at balance. This is the most valuable lesson I have learned from going to university while being a wife and mother. I am bad at balance. I am an all or nothing sort of person. Except, when you're a mom, you are always a mom. So sometimes your attention is forced into places that pull it away from other places and nothing is getting all the attention it deserves. Everything is getting what's left, and what's left is usually scraps. It takes its toll. You crave and wish for balance. Sometimes you are even able to fake it for short spurts of time, but it isn't who you really are so you can't fake it forever. Not without your soul taking a beating. And maybe the souls of your people, as well.

I am bad at balance. I am bad at going to school, being a mom, being a spiritual person, and fulfilling all my responsibilities with any semblance of success. So I will be grateful for all the oiling and altering and maturing and developing I was able to squeeze into 17 years so that when I made getting a degree the priority my family was able to fend for itself, under the guidance of a very good and very capable man, and stay afloat while they watched their mom and wife sink into academia and only surface long enough to say hi and how's it going and does anyone need anything and if you do go ask the man because I am too busy for you.

So when all is said and done, and you have taken three years to run yourself ragged fulfilling bucket list number one, and then all of a sudden the running ragged comes to a full stop and you get to see clearly, again, this creation called your home and your family with eyes devoid of stress, anxiety, deadlines, and exhaustion? It feels like simplicity.

And simplicity is a beautiful thing. Trust me.

I am looking for a dream job. It's what I want. It will take lots of time and lots of paying my dues and various positions on various totem poles and all that jazz. It's a painfully slow process, which I have decided I am not going to complain about. It involves many job applications and cover letters every few days and then the hearing nothing from anyone except that it's a tough job market and there is tons of competition and since I have nothing to offer that seems remotely impressive on paper and yada yada yada...

I know where I stand.

Until that possibly imaginary day when a job comes my way that scratches my corporate itch and I get to go buy some new shoes, I will sit and stare happily at the brilliant simplicity that is my home and my family.

Now, pass the bon bons.

Oh...and, what's for dinner?

Monday, August 17, 2015

and so she blogged...

I am here to blog. This has become a foreign land to me. It sort of feels like coming home, you know?

In an effort not to bore you with the details, I have decided to keep it short and sweet as an attempt to come back and feed the beast, so to speak, in a more current fashion. I think that only made sense to me.

Here's what you missed, or what I missed telling you over the last year:

We moved to an entirely different neighbourhood into a dream house for reasons that are not important and my oldest graduated from high school which made me cry and then she got accepted to her favourite university on the planet and despite my best efforts to thwart her plans in order that she stay close to home she has decided to go to this faraway university thereby abandoning any hopes and dreams I may have had to spy on her on campus and sit through her classes because I love university so very much and then Jack reinvented himself in a way that is not my favourite but he still continues to crack me up every single day and so we will keep him and teenage boys are hard but I guess we signed up for that although I have no recollection of doing such a thing and then the unthinkable happened and it came right out of the blue and smacked me in my face which was rude rude rude but it did and I had no choice but to accept it.

I graduated from university.

With an actual degree.

The end.