Tuesday, December 30, 2014

the golden updraft

There are times in life when I feel dissociated from the reality around me. I have a surreal experience that echoes as 'is this really my life?' It is a question that I always experience as wonder. I know what I am experiencing is accurate, and yet ... 

As I write this I am sitting in Miami International Airport mid-way in a long day of travel between my temporary home of Kingston Jamaica and my excursion destination of Bridgetown, Barbados. This is my unrecognizable life. 

How did an awkward teenager turned frumpy housewife from northern British Columbia end up here? Was I always destined to be here, or did I make it happen? Is the answer somewhere in between? I know this was long the life I dreamed of - even as a teenager in the hinterland I dreamt of being cosmopolitan, a jet-setter. It's the adventure I always wanted, but the leap from then to now is mind-bending. 

As Sidney Poitier says in his autobiography The Measure of a Man
Daydreams were guaranteed to please. They had it all over facts & reality when it came to getting groundwork done and foundations laid. However, daydreams were burdened with what in years to come would be revealed as their major weakness. Every ounce of the hard grueling work necessary in the conversion from promises made to dreams fulfilled was the sole responsibility of the dreamer.
I can, with neither false vanity not false modesty, say I've done the work. I earned the education. I put in the hours of work at jobs that varied between an expression of myself and just paying the bills. I did without when doing without was necessary, and I did with when it was possible. I went with the flow, and then I swam against it. I am also clear I haven't arrived - maybe there is no arriving. Maybe each summit reveals a new peak ahead. But in this moment, life is surreal and perfect.

It's also unequivocally true that I have had the great privilege not just of being allowed to dream but of being allowed to believe in my dreams. My sisters and I were encouraged to test and develop talents in various fields - sports, school, the arts - and so to learn about ourselves. We were encouraged to learn about and visit other places and people. And, we lived in a culture and society that said in myriad ways 'the white middle-class will inherit the earth' - it was the water we swam in. 

I see the street children in Kingston and I know they too dream. But I wonder if it ever occurs to them that they are worthy of their dreams, that they have as much right to do the hard work that has dreams come true as anyone. In an environment of constant lack and need, how do dreams grow?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

turning FOMO into love

November was an odd month. The elastic tethering my heart to home was stretched taut, life in Kingston had some unusual and unexpected challenges, and I longed both for the freedom to be fully here and for the comfort of being home. 

In the midst of that one thing that kept me going, as they have for the past year, was the ladies of my book club (before anyone corrects my odd grammar, I'm speaking of the collective ladies :)). Skype dates. Facebook chats. Emails. Little lovebombs sprinkled throughout my days. And, of course, reading the book they were reading - it's the literary equivalent of laying under the stars and knowing someone you love is looking at those same stars. 

I also reflect, every time I think about them, that it is because of those amazing women (and three amazing men) that I am here in Jamaica living a life I dreamed of. It is challenging some days, it is imperfect, but it is still the most amazing, life-affirming, growing experience I've had. It is because of the unbridled encouragement and support of those ladies that I've not had a moment of doubt since May when I didn't hear one or another of them whispering - or sometimes yelling - to me "you've got this! Dream! Live! Go!"

I am missing our 2nd Annual Christmas Potluck on Monday, and for me the missing will be very real. I have experienced a lot of joy and a lot of 'fear of missing out' (FOMO) in watching them all go on without me. I can't begrudge them their fun, so this is my way of joining in the Christmas revelry. Last year I gave everyone little gifts - this year they get the e-gifts below. You're welcome to take from it what you need as well:

Our ladies, it's hard for me to articulate what you all mean to me without resorting to cliché. Since this is the season of giving, let me instead try to say what you've given me & what I'd give you if it was in my power: 
  • B - the happiest book club news I've had is that you are joining our happy bunch and bringing your gifts of caring, nourishing, and sass. I am sending you a clean shiny slate on which to create a limitless life - no past, no shoulds, no other voices, just you and your brilliant creative heart expressed in the world
  • - you make your living being clever, witty and hilarious, but for me you are also the gift of quiet observation and deep insight. For you, busy mama, I wish sleeping in, peaceful connections, and a graceful expansion of your life over the next few months and as you welcome your newest love
  • D - there aren't words enough for who you are to me, but beauty and freedom are your gifts that come most to mind. I wish you bold, passionate, lasting love and a life that is worthy of your giant heart and talent.
  • EL - you sparkle in a way that makes people around you sparkle too. The love you have for your family & friends and your commitment to taking care of the community are an honour to witness. I wish you nothing more than quiet sleepy mornings in your lovely home with Mr. L and Baby L, and time and space to reflect on how amazing you really are. (And maybe a table to dance on).
  • ES - I have so enjoyed getting to know you. While you are out in the world creating total wellness for others, that is what I most wish for you. Ever-expanding peace in your body ... and bucketloads of Vitamin D by the ocean!
  • EW - You are the embodiment of courage and commitment to knowing what you want in life and going for it. As you prepare to return to work I wish you a graceful transition, peace with the arrangements, and space to still sit and play and cuddle with your little Flower as she grows to be a powerful, beautiful woman like her mom.
  • H - I can think of no one who has taught me more about metamorphosis than you over the past 6 years. I love watching you recreate your life with skill, humour and grace. I wish you boundless prosperity, trees to walk under, and adventures that make you smile that stunning smile of yours.
  • J - our quiet, smiling Mona Lisa who always has the perfect comment at the perfect moment. As you and your family move into a new house and a new year I am sending you ease, joy, and a whole new world in which to create amazing memories.
  • K - the boundless joy and energy that burst from you into life is what I most wanted to get to know when you joined our club. Your passion for a better world is inspiring and infectious. I wish for you bold freedom to have that positivity expressed in the world in a way that gives back to you ten-times what you give to our community.
  • M - you simply are warmth, quiet strength, and generosity. You have also been a consistent blessing to me in reaching out, encouraging, and following through, and I can't thank you enough for that. With a full heart I am sending you peace, a year of calm, healing and joy, and time to just sit, write and be blessed.
  • N - your friendship is such a gift to me. Every conversation we have I leave more centred, calm, and at peace with myself and the world. I wish that for you - have peace in the grieving that will be unavoidable for you this season; know you are blessed, loved, and surrounded with care even in your quiet. And, when it's time, bring back your brilliant laugh that fills the room with sunshine. 
And a gentle reminder, ladies, that everything I'd give you is actually in your power, as you've so consistently taught me.

BTW - November's book was Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. It was fine, but painfully predictable. That is all. 
Amazon link
This post is a 3-fer:
Reverb Prompt 18: In the busyness of the everyday, taking time to nourish the soul doesn't reach the top of the 'to do' list as often as it should. What nourishes your soul? How would you like to incorporate more of this into your life in 2015?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

the plank in my eye

Sometimes I want to share about insights I've had or lessons I'm learning but I fear that people will assume they know who has helped me learn that lesson or that I'm thinking/writing about someone in particular. I suppose I always am, but that someone is me. I just wanted to make clear that what I'm about to say is about me alone.

I've had a lot of opportunity of late to reflect on some patterns that have run my life and some traits or tendencies that work for me in some areas and not at all in others. One of those things that sounds good but gets twisted into something unhelpful is being compassionate. In both micro and macro ways, I want to make a difference for those who are hurting. It's why I am in Jamaica. It's why I volunteer when I'm at home. It's why most of my pets have been rescues or had some injury they needed nursing back from (that quirk has become somewhat of a running joke with my parents, particularly when I had a menagerie of needs - a scaredy-dog with a kinked tail, a cat with food allergies [and "developmental delays"] and a bunny that was blind in one eye). 

This morning I had the realization that the extension/bastardization of this drive in me is that sometimes my 'type' in relationships has less to do with particular physical attributes and more to do with wanting to rescue someone. When the rescuing is mutual it's worked out okay (though obviously not that okay or we'd be having a different conversation) - then it's not so much rescuing as mutual care and support, and I fully acknowledge the men who have tried to rescue me. However, far too often instead of a partner I go looking for a project. While there have been times that's put me in danger, generally it's less dangerous than it is a sad dishonouring of them and me.

On the receiving end, who wants to be chosen for a relationship because of their perceived weaknesses? And who am I to say someone else needs fixing or that I have any power to affect that change? As for me, what was new information this morning is that when my confidence has been shaken and I'm doubting my own worth it occurs to me that 'fixing' someone is what I need to do in order to compensate for the high price of admission for being with me. If I make your life better maybe you won't mind my soft belly or my height; maybe you'll have more grace for me when I'm snarky; maybe you won't mind that you'll always rank behind two other men in my life.

I pondered this while I made my way to work this morning - the walk, the bus, and the route taxi were all filled with my ruminations. When I got to work, I went on YouTube to look up a particular Christmas song and instead this video was the first one in the "recommended videos for you" list. Oh Googlebots, you know me too well. Listen all the way to the end - there's a question there worth thinking about.

And here's a new agreement from me: you do your work and I'll do mine. Now excuse me, I need to go deal with this plank in my eye. 


Reverb Prompt 16: (When I received this prompt I read it in relation to my writing projects and didn't see the fit. I see it now)  Like many folks, I picture myself as a modern day Wonder Woman, trying to use my superpowers, to do lists and pure force to get what I want.
- In 2014, I found that my effort wasn’t often tied to my desired outcomes -- except when it was.
- In 2015, is there something you’d like to try harder at because you believe it would make all the difference?
- Conversely, what is something you could stop trying so hard at that might actually help you manifest what you’d like

Sunday, December 14, 2014

as though I had wings

I claim no rights to this aside from the right to hold it as my fervent prayer.

Photo by the incredible Julia Margaret Cameron.
Lines from "Starlings in Winter" by Mary Oliver

Friday, December 12, 2014

love = courage. courage = love.

Reverb Prompt 13: Step one: set the timer for 5 minutes and write down as many answers as you can think of to the question: 'When and how was I brave in 2014?' Note: remember the private, intimate and small ways in which you were brave as well as the big public ways.

Step two: Choose one or more of those moments of bravery and write a letter to yourself back at the beginning of 2014, letting you know how brave you are going to be that year.
(instructions are for wussies ;-) )

Step three: Write yourself a short reminder to tuck into your wallet or post above your desk of just how brave you can and will be in 2015. (Tomorrow - I can do that tomorrow) 

As I mentioned earlier in the Reverb process, this has been a year of daring greatly. Of saying what really needed to be said no matter how much I didn't want to say it. Of stepping out in big ways and small - really really big. And really very small. 

It was a year of quiet, courageous questions that needed answers whispered in the dark. Of standing on mountaintops and shaking the world until my voice felt heart and my life realigned. Of letting my baby boys find their adult roads without me. Of letting love go - not die, but go. Of stepping out without a net. Of saying yes when the answer was yes and no when the answer was no. 

There are too many moments to list them all. And as many moments when I let the fear silence me. There is room for more - more honesty, more courage, more loving, more me.

But I can clearly and confidently say that the boldest action I took this year is to continue loving. Yes, I ended a relationship I believed would last for ever - that I wanted to have last forever. But ending the relationship didn't end the love. STG continues to be someone I stand for, someone who stands for me, someone who amazes me, someone whose happiness matters to me more than I can say, someone I turn to for a reminder of who I am and what I'm up to, someone whose existence in my world makes it better and happier. 

It hasn't been easy - for either of us. It has demanded that we be extra-ordinary. It continues to demand so of us. There have been moments we weren't up to it. And then the courage to do so anyway. For both of us. 

And, I love STG. I know he knows it as clearly as I know he loves me. However close or wide the distance between our paths, we have the courage to keep that truth alive, and to choose it whether we want to in the moment or not. Saying good-bye was hard. Continuing to say "I love you" was harder. 

Love doesn't die, though it does sometimes change shape. Courage keeps it alive. 

XO - our first of many 'us-ies'

generous hearts

Reverb Prompt 10: Look back at the last year and consider: how did generosity open your heart? How can you cultivate generosity in the coming year?

I wouldn't say the Rolling Stones are particularly skilled philosopher poets, but there are some truths universal that can be found in song. This is one of them:

You can't always get what you want.
You can't always get what you want.
You can't always get what you want.
But if you try
You just might find.
You get what you need.

In the preview to this prompt, Kira differentiates between "giving" and "generosity" with the observation that generosity "is free of obligations; it opens the heart, and creates warmth and connection between the giver and receiver."

This week I had the rare gift of an escape to a 5-star resort on Jamaica's north coast. I went with no expectations except for some great company and a relaxing luxurious respite after a very hectic and exhausting couple of weeks. I got the respite. I got brilliant conversation. And - perhaps even unbeknownst to the giver - I also left with an expanded heart, increased sense of myself, and the beginnings of an important shift in the nastiness I fling at myself.

As my tears washed into the ocean I began to create a space for someone/something new - a 'me' that lives and loves and gives of herself without the cloying and off-putting need for endless external affirmations I can never truly hear anyway. Or who, at the very least, can see the power that would come from being that woman.

The gift of that awareness is far more than the giver could ever know. Maybe I would have come to it in the hubbub of Kingston, but it was far more accessible in the quiet waters of Runaway Bay. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

being me

Reverb Prompt 9: As you enter into the new year, what would you like to do/make/have/be more often? How will you bear witness and celebrate the tiny milestones? How will you respond on the occasions when your intentions do not come to pass?

I am dancing on the warm sand. My face is full of light and peace. My heart is full of knowing. I am living the life that has been waiting for me. I trust in myself to know what is right, and forgive myself when I mis-hear that small voice. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

express your self(ie)

Reverb Prompt 7: Please post your favourite picture of yourself from 2014, self-portrait or otherwise! 

At some point, a light turned on. Perhaps inside me. Perhaps it's all the sunshine. It may have happened suddenly, or it may have been a process. All I know is that I'm at a point where I like photos of myself. Not just the one or two that I've always trotted out - me on the Cliffs of Moher, me on Moberly Ridge, the one in the blue ball gown - but actually many of the pictures I have been in of late. For much of 2014 I felt and looked grey, frumpy, worn-out, and as though I had given up, and then - light. It's an odd thing to like your own reflection. And really, a reflection is all we ever see of ourselves. 

This picture was taken today and reflects something else that has shifted. I am not, generally, a big fan of children. I find them demanding and exhausting - not mine, of course, but most of the ones I didn't give birth to. At the event I worked today they clung to me, and I enjoyed it. The little girl in my lap grabbed my hand anytime she saw me. Normally I would have been exasperated, wondered (with judgement) where her parents were, gently shaken her off, and gotten back to 'more important things.' 

Today when she and her sister found me and asked how they could get lunch (we were at a homeless shelter with about 400 people, and the lunch line was long, adult, and restless), I asked where their mom was. The little one said "no mom." I don't know if she meant today or always. I asked who was taking care of them, and the bigger sister - who may have been all of 8 - said "mi ah take care for she." 

Right then. Keep smiling, Shan. 

Together we skirted the long line-up of adults to get their lunch. That's the benefit of befriending an event organizer, I suppose. I sat with them on the ground out of the crowd and the sun, helped them open their bag juice, made sure they ate the coleslaw. We sat with the young boys in this picture, and a bigger girl who was probably 12. As it was happening - as I scooped the little one up on my hip to navigate the throng and felt her relax into me, I realised I am not who I was - frantic, absorbed in my worries, always doing and never being. And I like it. 

That's who is in this picture. I like her too. 

PS - the boys look a little sullen in this one because they've just been told off by the photographer for flipping the bird and throwing 'gang signs.' Snips and snails and rude gestures - that's what little boys are made of. :) 

Friday, December 5, 2014

my snark is worse than my spite

Reverb Day 6: Despite our usually sunny dispositions and dedication to the practice of “assuming positive intent,” we all occasionally find ourselves having to deal with an incredibly unpleasant individual. While I’m sure you always handle it with the tact and finesse for which you’ve become so well known, I’m going to ask you to step outside yourself for just a moment. Think back to such a situation: if the gloves were off, how would you really have liked to have dealt with them?

I have one of those faces - you know, the one that betrays my every emotion. The one that can mask neither my glee nor my annoyance nor my disgust. It is irrelevant, generally, for me to say what I'm thinking since my face yells it loudly (though it's pretty open to interpretation, so asking what's up is still encouraged). 

And yet, sometimes what I think also sneaks out in words. I am not so practiced, in fact, at not taking things personally. I have not built a strong muscle in 'assuming positive intent.' I have been accused of using my power with words as a weapon. And, I have inherited a heritage of sarcasm that is, frankly, not all that becoming. 

So I have to say that I do not aspire to this. I do not wish to rant, or bite, or lash out. I wish to have my face, my tone, and my words reflect another me - one that rises above; one that takes the high road without feeling wounded in the process. I aspire to that. I am not yet there. 

I once has a co-worker who, it seemed, actively disliked me and tried to undercut me. I may be wrong. Maybe for 4 years she accidentally lost my emails, mis-understood my communications, and misrepresented my words. Maybe it was less intentional than the pattern of behaviour came to look over time. Maybe other people warning me about her was coincidental. Maybe her screaming at me in front of colleagues was a learning moment. Maybe saying the organization was 'just fine before I got there and would be just fine after I left' wasn't personal. 

Regardless, I wouldn't change my reaction of shaking my head, shrugging my shoulders, glaring, and walking away. I wouldn't go back and lash out. I wouldn't call her the descriptor I think best fits. She was the conduit for my leaving, for my pursuing the thing I had long dreamt of doing.

If I saw her today I would thank her* - for teaching me that you don't have to like everyone; for teaching me that you don't have to tolerate bad behaviour; and for giving me one last shove out the door right when I was wavering. Even (insert descriptor)s have their purpose. 

*That's a lie - if I saw her today I'd pretend not to see her and walk on by. Who needs the pretense? 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

do you hear?

Reverb Day 5: What is the sound of your own voice?

I like talking. One on one, To a crowded room. From a podium. To another face resting beside mine on the pillow. I also like singing. In the shower, In church. On a stage before hundreds. With my sisters. To my sons when they would let me. To a lover if he'll let me. 

What I don't like is listening to my own voice. People tell me I'm a compelling speaker, a pleasant singer, but I don't hear it. Sometimes when I'm otherwise occupied and have an idea about a story or a blog post I will record that thought as a voice memo. and invariably when I listen to it later it makes me cringe - I sound whiney and somehow fake. When I used to sing publicly I would record rehearsals for reference when I practiced at home. I could rarely listen to the playback. 

The same holds true with the small voice inside my head, which is sometimes not that small - sometimes it booms. It can yell, whisper, sing, and state unequivocally, but without an audience and agreement, I find it so hard to listen to. I hear it. I know it's a fine voice. I just have trouble listening to it. 

So, I though I'd do something a little crazy here and post the only recording I have of me singing. It just happens to be "Do You Hear What I Hear?" - oh irony, you are so fun. I'm singing alto (although I'm a soprano) - and I start with the first verse - and my friend Esa is singing tenor (although she's an alto) - maybe you can pick it out, maybe not - it's okay. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

a stable centre

Reverb Day 4: We are all lightning rods, conduits for that which the Universe wants born into this world. What energies did you channel this year?

We may all be lightning rods, as my eloquent friend Noël suggests in today's prompt. In fact, I don't argue that point at all. But when I look back on 2014, I see so many things going on. I channeled somethings that weren't good for me or the people around me. 

And then, in May my book club read Daring Greatly for our retreat weekend, something stuck, and things started moving, vibrating, coalescing. I think I can safely say that being bold has been the energy I've channeled since then, and I hope it's the energy I've inspired in others. Perhaps bold is the wrong word; bold is a little harsh, a little in your face. My experience of daring greatly is gentler than that. 

For me daring greatly has meant a couple things that look pretty dramatic from the outside, I'm sure, but on the inside it's all been baby steps and discovering my line in the sand, then asking the question - what do you really need here? The tricky part is then putting the fear aside and going for whatever that answer is. Sometimes it's quitting a job or ending a relationship or doing something that takes you far from your people. Sometimes it's making a phone call you're not sure will be answered. At the centre of it all, what might look like bright flashes of daring out there feels like a slow-growing peace. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

loving what is

Reverb Day 3: It’s all too easy to put off loving where we are until everything is perfect. What can you love about where you are now?

When I first saw this prompt on twitter earlier today I jokingly replied "aw, do I have to?" In that particular moment, what was on my mind was a specific lingering something that I sometimes can accept but can't quite go far enough to love.

For me this is the epitome of 'loving
where I'm at.'
But if we are talking where I am now in literal terms, well ... what's not to love? I am living and working in Kingston Jamaica. I am told the weather has turned Christmassy, but it has turned from 32 degrees celsius for weeks on end to 27-31 degrees, with some more rain thrown in (aside: the rain is a good thing; a months long drought had decimated the agriculture industry, and they need help bouncing back. It's essential to the economy, and to my blossoming watermelon & coconut addictions). 

Every day I learn something new, have an opportunity to challenge something in myself - sometimes something small like trying a new food. Sometimes something larger like my prejudices, presumptions and privilege. I laugh and am laughed at. 

I am witness to more vivid colourful full-volume sensory-overload life after 2.5 months in Kingston than in 13 years back home in staid Victoria. Some days I miss the quiet of Victoria, but more often I enjoy the spectacle.

On weekends, I try to make my way to the ocean. Sometimes I plunge in, sometimes I touch my toes at the edge of the water and let the waves break against my legs. The ocean is restorative for me - it washes away all the mayhem. 

So when it comes to the broader, big picture, all of life, and some of the particular details and loving what is - I'm working on that.

Loving where I actually am now - I have that covered. :)

Monday, December 1, 2014


Reverb Prompt 2: What unfinished projects from 2014 are you willing to release now? (Regret not required.)

Earlier today when I first read this prompt but didn't have time to respond it didn't speak to me. Now it sings to me, one of the most irritating earworms of 2014. I'm not even going to name that tune just in case any of you are free from it for the moment.

I don't know so much about having lingering projects from this year, but that's not to say I don't still have things to release. Sadness is one I'm working on. Expectations (though it would also be appropriate to say that releasing expectations has been an ongoing project for a few years and with little forward motion). I think that in tidying up my life in order to leave it for 5 months, I also completed a lot of releasing. 

I suppose there are a couple things that fall in the "I wish" category that I could release. It would be worth it to arrive in 2015 without the weight of old concerns tied to one leg. I wonder though, do I release that weight by taking firm actions or by metaphysically turning it into a helium balloon and letting go of the string.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Reverb Prompt 1: Today, I invite you to take a quiet moment to consider: what can you say right now with certainty?

For all the constant change going on around me this year, I actually  have a lot of clarity and certainty in some spots, which helps ground me through it all. 

First, foremost, and always - I love my sons and am fiercely proud of them. I will continue to believe in, encourage, and support them to the best of my abilities until they fully believe in themselves. They are remarkable men with a resilience that keeps them moving forward. To be this far from them for this long (if you're new here, I'm volunteering in Jamaica for 5 months) is sometimes a challenge for me, but they have risen to the occasion, are creating great lives for themselves,  and I love them for supporting me as much as I support them. 

Second, at long last, in fits and starts, I am learning to love myself, to accept my body, to cherish my own company, and to communicate my boundaries. Some might say better late than never. I will say there's a ways to go, and I'm appreciative of the people who are patient with the process. 

Friday, November 28, 2014


Reflecting back on another year of such dramatic change is challenging; a little more bitter than sweet. Disorienting. This time last year I was negotiating with my heart partner how soon was too soon to put up the Christmas tree. This year I am watching stranger strings lights on palm trees & hoping the trade winds carry my memories away, or at least remove some of the sting.

Christmas 2013 - so much more than 365 days from Christmas 2014
The distance between that life and this one is almost incomprehensible to me. I still don't really know what happened. How this happened. Last year I was stressed, exhausted, loved and confused. Now I am less of almost all of those things - only the confusion lingers (yes, I know I am still loved - you know what I mean). 

Reverb - an annual writing-prompt/writing community project of both looking back at the last year and looking forward to what may come next  - begins Sunday. Reverb is not just for bloggers; it's for anyone who wants to spend the last month of the year being both reflective and creative.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure I'm ready yet to look back at 2014 with much vigour. Some of what has happened is still hard to look at directly - I prefer to glance at it out of the corner of my mind. It may be like that for a while. It probably ought to be like that for a while. Love shouldn't be easy to get over. 

None-the-less, no less a philosopher than Socrates declared that "the unexamined life is not worth living"; who am I to argue? Besides, I really love my reverb community. If you're going to navel gaze, at least do it in great company. 

Click the image to learn more.

Friday, November 14, 2014

the void

My mom sent me a message on Facebook last night observing that I've been pretty quiet this week. She's right, I suppose. I haven't blogged here or there. I have been less active than usual on Facebook (that is, less active than I usually am, not less active than the average bear. I suppose some people will be glad of that). In truth, it's been a long, lonely week, I didn't see a way out of it, and I really wasn't going to talk about it. I knew that this too would pass and like so many others, I'm tired of my whining.

I messaged specific people asking for connection & most of those messages went unheard. Or heard but not yet acted on for various reasons. It's no one's fault - I am here, in a different time & space. I was thinking today of a comparison to a swimming pool: when one person steps out of the pool almost nothing changes for the people still in the pool, but everything has changed - however temporarily - for the person dripping on the tiles on the deck. 

In essence, the water has filled the space I left when I stepped out of the pool, and that is natural, but hard to break through. I can't think of one person who has asked for my address here. I can't think of anyone who has called me unless they first missed a call from me. I chose to step out of the pool - it's only natural that the waters rush in and fill that void without anyone even noticing. 

I spend my life in a world of communications technology & strategy, but my day to day experience is one of missed connections. It's as true here in Kingston as it is at home in Canada. It was as true when I lived with the man I love as it is living with someone who started out a stranger.

I came across this video today and it spoke very powerfully to me of why I experience such a relentless desire to connect. If nothing else, the video takes some of the shame out of wanting (and missing) connection so much that it overwhelms me at times. At least I come by it honestly.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Green Hills of Africa: a review

Somehow in my summer of perusing used bookstores Ernest Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa ended up in my 'not yet read' stack. I can recall thinking that I should set aside my assumption that I would not like Hemingway and read something I wouldn't normally read. Hemingway is famous for some reason, right?? 

And so, casting my literary prejudices aside, Mr. Hemingway's wee book ended up in the aforementioned book stack, and then made its way with me to Jamaica based solely on its stature - I was at my weight limit for luggage; only small books were welcome on the journey. 

Even so, when I first sat down to read this book, Z was too fresh in my mind. Although that was a fictional imagining, I could so believe in the vileness of Hemingway and his interference with the Fitzgeralds that piling on the topic of slaughtering animals in Africa as a sport and a proof of masculinity ... well ... let's just say Mr. Hemingway had a bit of an uphill push.

Hemingway's sparse prosaic style, of course, is not a style I appreciate. And then there is his rampant self-centered stupidity. How is this for logic?: "He [their white guide] hated to have anything killed except what we were after ... No killing to kill, only when you wanted it more than you wanted not to kill it." So, then, you could only kill whatever you wanted to kill? Okay. Got it. That's some high standards. 

Sexism. Racism. Colonial swaggering. Alcoholism. Slinging insults at other writers from the safety of the safari camp. I finally called it quits this morning after one last attempt. I have read 47 of 200 pages. I can take no more. I love reading too much to have to suffer through it. 

The list of novels I've been unable or unwilling to finish is fairly short: Anna Karenina and Middlemarch because of baby brain in the first case and time constraints in the second (hey, profs, how about you DON'T assign thousand page novels to people who have 5 other novels to read?), Tale of Two Cities, even after my grandma told me I was probably too young the first time I tried to read it, so I tried again. Nope, sorry Chuck. 

And I think that's about it. I can still see the value of those three books though. Green Hills of Africa, not so much. It will find itself on some book donation pile here in Kingston. Maybe someone can use it to start a fire for roasting breadfruit - that would be a fitting end.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

this is not a post about that guy

I tried with everything in me not to write this post. I hate bandwagon jumping and tidal waves of current topics. I am disgusted by the whole sordid mess. I feel for the women involved who once again will shortly be forgotten. I never liked the perpetrator because he was a dick to me on Twitter once (ya, I am that judgy and unforgiving - oh well). I have tried not to read any more "Me Too Me Too" articles that come across my newsfeed, particularly those of the 'we all knew but we did nothing' variety, written as though these standers-by want our absolution. 

I have not jumped in because I am angry that the statistics - that knowing how many Canadian women are beaten, raped, murdered, missing, abused, terrified day in and day out  - are not enough for anyone. I am disgusted that it is only the (very minor) status of a "CBC celebrity" (which is right up there with being 'internet famous') that has anyone paying attention. 

I cynically anticipate that the story will run its 10 day news cycle and life will once again go back to normal. Women will carry their keys in their hands when they walk to their cars after dusk. People will ask what a young woman wore to a party before she was drugged and molested. First Nations women will disappear from the sides of highways or downtown streets. As I said, life will go back to normal.  

I really wanted to say nothing. To let it die down. To do what I can to support those women I can support in the ways I know how, resigned to more of the same from the country I love that claims to be a place of peace and justice despite all evidence to the contrary. 

Then this morning a friend shared this intelligent and compassionate article by former MTV VJ Jessi Cruickshank that reframed the story in a way I found naïve and yet helpful. Yes, as someone in Canadian media circles she had met the creep in question. Yes, as so so so very many Canadian women she has a story of a man abusing his power in order to impose his sexual desires on her body. But most importantly, in my opinion, she speaks to the women - to those who choose to tell their stories, to the shift available in creating a culture in which telling those stories in safe. 

I still wasn't going to say anything until I read this comment in response to Jessi's post: 
"As the sordid tales about Ghomeshi continue to be investigated and disclosed, we will learn a lot about the culture within the CBC. This story is not going to end well for Ghomeshi, the CBC and his CBC enablers."
And I wanted to scream. Who could possibly give a damn about some minor celebrity or the reputation of a CBC that has already been gutted and abandoned by the government? We lose any learning opportunity and deflect any responsibility if we pretend this is about Ghomeshi or the CBC - and let's be honest, if anything good can come out of these despicable acts it's only in that we learn from them and our country grows just that tiny nudge closer to actually being a nation of peace and justice. 

One of the movements to arise out of this festering heap is an encouragement for women to tell their stories, and a pretense that Canada is now a safe place to do so (as, admittedly, Jessi optimistically declares). I call bullshit. Blanket statement like that help no one. It is not safe for all women to tell all their stories to everyone. It is important for every women to tell her story to someone, but that does not have to be public. 

Back when I still had an agile brain I did my Masters thesis on trauma theory, a concept which developed from research on the restorative power of personal storytelling for Jewish survivors of the holocaust. One of the important learnings of that research was that not just anyone can hear the story - there has to be enough emotional distance between the teller and the hearer for the story to be safely heard and believed. Both the teller and the hearer are important parts of the healing power of the conversation For example, very few survivors told the details of their stories to their spouses or children; it was a much more healing to tell those stories to a friend or grandchild. That relational difference meant that the survivors could tell their stores without having to worry so much about how upset the listener would be. 

A story that is heard and believed helps a survivor integrate that trauma into their concept of themselves more fully, restoring them to themselves and their loved ones. But - let me reiterate - telling your story is only healing if you are believed, if your audience is emotionally able to hear and receive the story as presented, and if your concern for their reaction is less powerful than the opportunity of being heard. 

I fear for many women who get tossed up in the wave of story telling without consideration of what that will do for their sense of self or of safety. Absolutely, for many women - especially those who have never said anything or for whom enough time has passed - that choice will be freeing. A monkey off their back. A light shone in the corner. 

But what about all those other women? What about the ones who have already told and weren't believed? What about the ones who pressed charges only to be told "he says that's not what happened" or "that's not enough for us to do anything." What about the thousands or women who have been asked what they did to cause the crime against them. For someone whose story has already been discounted or used against them, retelling the story is as potentially devastating as not being believed in the first place. 

For the record, yes I have experienced both sexual and relationship violence. Stating that publicly is of no value to me. I don't tell those stories publicly because they are difficult to tell without giving them more power than they actually hold. In both cases I reported. In both cases I retorted, blocked the aggressor after the fact, and moved safely out of reach. In both cases I had supportive people who listened, who believed me, and who actively supported my healing. I had only one or two really stupid people say really stupid things (no, as a matter of fact my height is NOT enough armour to keep a shorter criminal from committing a crime against me), but by far the most immediate and persistent experience for me was of being supported, believed, and listened to. No, not by the police, as it happens, but by people I respect. Most days those experiences are fully integrated into my understanding of who I am now, and they inform both my anger and my compassion on these issues. Some days they unexpectedly re-emerge and I'm left to curse the impact on present relationships and experiences. I mourn those moments when a man who is my safe place to fall appears as a threat because of those long-past experiences.

I am deeply deeply privileged to have all of the elements that are ideal for moving forward from trauma - I had both immediate and ongoing support. I have a believing circle of friends who let me tell what I wanted to tell when I wanted to tell it. I had and have access to professional support. I had knowledge. I had a safe place to turn. I have a lifetime context of love and safety that let me know instability was a temporary state. 

To ask women to tell their stories when they have few to none of those elements in place is both cruel and reckless. Everyone knows the statistics. And I believe, despite the statistics reported by the Canadian Women's Foundation, that everyone knows someone who has been abused, raped, hit, locked in her own home, denied basic human rights, and bullied because she's a women. If you think you don't know anyone it's because they haven't chosen to tell you, and that is one right they NEVER have to give up. 

It's time to grow up. It's time for Canadians to stop acting as though some egotistical dink is an outlier and the women he abused are unique. They are very very sadly  not unique at all. 

What are we to do about that? I ask myself these questions, and encourage you to do the same - 
  • Are you the kind of person who would remain silent in the company of a man who is being creepy with women, or a woman who seems scared of someone, or to a friend who has just met 'the perfect guy' about whom you know other truths? 
  • Are you the kind of person a woman wouldn't tell her story to because she doesn't expect to be believed and appropriately supported? 
  • Are you someone who has commented on a young woman who is "asking for it" because her shirt is too low or her skirt too high? 
  • Are you someone who has asked why a woman stayed with her aggressor? 
If you cannot vehemently and clearly say no, you too are part of the problem. And you too have an opportunity to learn, as do we all. We can scapegoat Ghomeshi to carry all our collective sins - even those of omission. Or we can look at ourselves and ask what can we do to make Canada safer for women.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

sometimes it's okay to read the comments

Yesterday, as I was walking home from a fabulous brunch with a friend, I noticed how loose my shorts were, how strong my legs are, how tall I was walking, and that I wasn't out of breath. I have been in Jamaica for 6 weeks now and part of my transit from home to work is walking at least 15-20 minutes on either end of the day.

I often walk more when I have places to see, things to do, and (apparently) crêpes to work off. It may not be a lot of activity to some people, but it's a hell of a lot more movement than my body was getting at home. I also eat more fruits and vegetables here because on a volunteer's stipend eating local and in season is not only a nutrition choice but also an economic necessity.

That's me in the middle at age 14 automatically hiding my
stomach when a boy I was crushing on was nearby, never
mind the threat of a camera. 
As has been my reality since I was about 12 years of age, I think about my weight, my body shape and where those are in comparison to where they have been and where they could be a lot more of the time than I should. But I don't have a set regimen to change that and - PLEASE HEAR THIS! - I do not want one.

I eat foods I love, that I can access, and that I can afford. Often that is fresh watermelon from a vendor on the street corner, and equally often it's peanut M&Ms. In order to avoid possible gluten-poisoning, I mostly ask for salads as my side instead of a starch, though a couple rounds of fried bammy with scotch bonnet hot sauce never go amiss. I have dessert if something looks like it'll work for me, though that's rarely the case. But I am not intentionally depriving myself of anything. My eating is healthier than at home, but could still be much cleaner. I'm good with that.

The change in routine and food availability means that clothes I brought assuming they'd fit once I'd been here a while now fit, and clothes like the aforementioned shorts are getting noticeably loose - as in "does that woman have a butt at all - how do her pants stay up?" loose. In light of all that and the body-positive way I was feeling as I walked home yesterday, imagine my surprise when I got to my apartment complex gate, said hello to our security guard (and I use that term VERY loosely) only to have her reply:

"You look like you've put on weight since you got here."


I don't believe she was being rude. There's a vast cultural difference here from both the Canadian standard of beauty and the Canadian taboo of commenting on people's bodies - even the bodies of total strangers. Jamaican women of my age and younger celebrate their bodies and walk with confidence. Even if they have a poochy belly or flabby arms they wear much more body-conscious clothing than most Canadian women do, and for the most part they do it looking composed and confident, not trashy. It's inspiring.

I have had comments on my legs, my shoulders, and definitely my body in general. I've been told I look very strong, called 'champion' and a whole lot of things I - thankfully - couldn't understand. I've also been told I look - at least in my face - like Natalie from Facts of Life. I've had a co-worker comment on how much sugar I eat, point out how much fat is in cashews, and ask if I eat buttered popcorn flavoured rice cakes because they are fat free (no, I eat them because they are buttered popcorn flavoured, gluten free, available here, delicious and a great carrier for cheese!).

I believe that in her world the guard's statement was an observation, not an insult. But I carried it the rest of the day. I could take my shorts off without undoing the fly, but despite evidence to the contrary I still carried her comment all day.

In the meantime, I posted pictures on Facebook of my trip to Ocho Rios last weekend, including this one of me in a bikini at Dunn's River Falls. I have never worn a bikini before; I have worn a bikini top with board shorts, but only once very briefly and only in an 'audience restricted' area. This was me, for 4 and a half hours, with potentially hundreds of strangers seeing and assessing me, just as I was seeing and assessing them.

That's not what this picture shows. This picture is of me
  • having an absolute blast doing one of my favourite things - namely playing in water
  • fulfilling a promise to myself to be daring
  • wearing what I wanted to wear because I wanted to wear it
  • not letting decades-old doubts stop me
  • having the most fun I've had yet in Jamaica
  • feeling great about myself and my life.
The problem is, when I posted the photo to Facebook I added a caption that referenced not the joy in my face but something about not being the fattest woman I'd seen in a bikini that day. I discounted my own joy and freedom after the fact. I squandered the power of that moment. The comments that followed have varied from "if a country can cure body image Jamaica is it" (maybe, maybe not - see paragraph 4) to "you look great" to "who cares how you look, you're clearing having fun" and a recommendation for great looking suits for 'curvy girls.' 

The truth is, I am not curvy. I am overweight. At what I consider my ideal weight I have very few curves, a long 'athletic' profile (broad shoulders, narrow hips, a straightish waist) and basically no butt at all. When people include me in discussions about this dance class or that new store for 'curvy women' I want to tell them, "I'm not curvy; I'm overweight." As a euphemism for fat, curvy fails.

I am not obese. I am overweight. I can shop in any store I want to and buy 'regular size' clothes (well, not pants that are long enough, but that's a problem I like having). And I am overweight. When I am again at my goal weight, the body mass index will still consider me overweight. And at some point today I had a eureka moment and realised that my percent body fat is a fluid and inaccurate measure of who I am. That realisation has somehow released a lot of very old angst for me. 

I don't know exactly how much I weigh right now, but I know how differently my clothes fit. I know how different my legs look. I know I have definition in places I didn't know definition was missing. I also know that I have weighed up to approximately 30 pounds more, and down to approximately 30 pounds less in the past 4 years.

I know that - and I'm not going to pretend this isn't a consideration - there were men interested in me at every point along that spectrum and I still hated my body. I know that at either end of that spectrum I wanted to hide my stomach. I know that because of an auto-immune disorder sometimes my bloated belly will not reflect my overall health no matter what size I wear. I know that no matter how many sit ups or crunches or burpees I did (if I was someone who did sit ups and crunches and burpees) I would always have a stomach with multiple scars, poorly reattached muscles on one side, and a road map of stretch marks.

But most of all, I know that having a rich, full life of adventure, not being stopped by what else is going on around me, smiling, laughing and jumping in with abandon when opportunity knocks, and valuing more essential things about myself  is sexier than lady abs could ever hope to be. 'Big ups,' as they say, to every single person who helped to get me here.

PS: If you think I want diet and exercise tips, please re-read the post. You couldn't be more wrong.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

facing forward

I took myself on a little get-away this weekend with the intention to clear my head and heart a little. And while I did accomplish that to some degree, it was definitely not with the grace for myself and others that I would have liked.

I had fun. I pushed myself. I dove in fully (actually fell backwards into the water fully). I also hid out and watched atrocious TV in my hotel room, ate chips for supper and texted Freckles, Shiney and Diva Moe - my trifecta of saving graces.

I am not expecting that it's possible to lay dreams old and young to rest without some pain, but I wish I saw a way to not have my reaction to pain be anger and a hard heart. Then again, maybe that's the appropriate response for now. I did come to Jamaica to learn more about boundaries and taking care of myself so I can take better care of others. I suppose I shouldn't expect to be perfect at it right off the bat. 

On a related note, I'm just going to leave this right here. Freckles said it to me last night and when my big sister tells me something, I generally believe it. Feel free to borrow/adapt it as needed:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Julie & Julia: a book club review

NB: I first reviewed Julie and Julia when I read it in 2009. This update is because it was the book club selection for October. 
 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

So I read Julie and Julia in the last 36 hours. When I first heard of the movie I couldn't WAIT to see it, and then when I realised there had been a book, not just a blog, well that just sounded even better. And Tuesday I stopped by Book Warehouse on the way to Dj's for dinner - and let me just pause here to mention what a very very good thing it is that there isn't a Book Warehouse in Victoria as I haven't time or money or space enough for all the books I'd then buy - and there it was, strategically placed and bargain basement priced for impulse purchases. I started reading on the ferry on the way home yesterday, and ... done.

View on Amazon
Done. And entertained, inspired and with a slight sense of 'hello self.' Not to mention utterly disgusted by classic French cooking (all that offal and marrow and aspic - PLEASE, people that's just sick!). I used to routinely find ways to simultaneously cook and read, clean and read, bath and read, do my makeup and read. I shushed Cowboy on the ferry and read. I sat in my room for 4 hours uninterrupted and read. I took an actual lunch break and sat in our actual break room and read for an actual hour. It's been a while since I did that - read - no RELISHED - a book almost non-stop in just a day - but really it's not that huge an accomplishment in this case.

Yes, Julie and Julia was utterly un-put-downable, but it wasn't really a heavy-weight (no, Mom, it was no Schindler's Ark. ;-) But it was oh so good Julie Powell is an unflinching fun, entertaining writer. Actually, now that I think about it, there's a slightly annoying self-absorption and whining tone to the whole thing - the project, the book, and likely the movie.

But self-absorbed and whiney and oh so very very funny. And, based on the excerpts she shares from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Childs was a similarly personable and inspiring writer, even of multi-page recipes. There's also, though, a lingering longing. Julie Powell began her cook/blog project out of a sense that her life was missing a centre - she had a great husband, a crap job, a looming 30th birthday, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome and no clear plan or sense of who she really was in the world. And along the way - in 365 days and 500+ recipes - she found purpose, meaning, money and ... best of all JOY!

One of the things I always look for when I read about other writers writing is a clue, a roadmap, a hint as to what I can do that would get me where they are. Especially if that writer has a multi-book deal with a respectable publisher. So it was slightly disheartening for me to read Powell's assertion that there is no road map. There is no formula. There's no working hard. There's just doing something you love - or maybe just something challenging - and being brave. And sticking it out. And, just to reinforce the point, I read an interview with two of my favourite bloggers today - the Fug Girls - and they pretty much said the same thing:
JESSICA: We’ve been so lucky to find some measure of success doing something we really enjoy, but it really started as a hobby. I guess my best piece of advice is to try to find some time in your life to work on something you feel really passionate about, even for just a few hours. You never know what it’ll lead to. HEATHER: Yep, I agree. Scrap the roadmap. Be open to anything, because the best things are the ones you didn’t see coming.
Sometimes I think I don't know what I love. Or what I'm passionate about. Or what really lights me up. And I have to say, that's some pretty solid bullshit. I know. I've just not been brave enough to do it. Yet. This is not my usual book review. And in many ways this was not a usual book. This is a line in the sand book - I can't unlearn what I learned here about being really alive. I leave you with this nugget of wisdom from Julia Child:
By the time you have completed half of this, the carcass frame, dangling legs, wings and skin will appear to be an unrecognizable mass of confusion and you will wonder how in the world any sense can be made of it all. But just continue cutting against the bone, and not slitting any skin, and all will come out as it should. "How to Bone a Duck, Turkey or Chicken" - Julia Child, How to Master the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1

When this book popped up for Our Book Club's October read, I emitted a sigh of relief. I was unsure what life would look like in Jamaica, and having a book I had already read come up took the pressure of making sure I had time to read.

As it happens, I have plenty of time to read but have not brought along enough books, and Jamaican bookstores tend to specialise in Bibles, Christian self-help and school books. Lesson learned. Perhaps NL can bring me more books when he visits at Christmas.

Although I missed our meeting in August, this feels like my first month away because I am so removed. And when I heard that our fabulous hostess of the month was attempting Julia Child's  Beouf Bourguignon I was even more sorry to be missing out.

I had thought about Skyping in, at least for the book chat (which is always the briefest part of the evening) but apparently that wasn't workable on the other end. And so I read the updates on our Facebook group with a smile, hope someone took and will share pictures, and remember the good humour and good food that is the hallmark both of this month's book and of our group. 


I had a thought today that is so crazy it just might be true. I had written an old old friend and shared, in my apparently unstoppable way, what my adventure in Jamaica has been like thus far, but also the grey cloud that has loomed over it. 

I wrote one particular sentence that is absolutely true, yet not the truth. I said that '[He] gave me something I'd never experienced in a relationship before - I was young, and feminine, and fun, and lovely with him.' It hurt to write it, in that poking at a bruise to see how it's healing sort of way. It hurt to have it flash through my mind throughout the afternoon. It reverberated there like a rattle in the dashboard that needs fixing, and so I examined it a bit more. And suddenly, on my walk home, I realised what the untruth in that truth was. 

I remember her.
It is true that I was my best self - at least intermittently and retrospectively - in that relationship. But the deeper truth is that nobody bestowed beauty, or laughter, or gentleness on me. I decided myself that that was who I was - in his eyes, and in my own

I miss him. Absolutely. But I miss feeling like that woman even more. The fear that keeps my heart in my throat is that that woman is never coming back. I suspect that perhaps she can, now that I know where she came from. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

what's behind door number 3?

I woke up the other morning with a question: is cynicism an easier load to bear than the pain of hoping/believing and having a dream shatter? In the moment perhaps but in the end I'd rather die having had my heart bruised over and over again and having played full out than give in to the burst of cynicism that follows each loss.

I can't remember a time growing up when I believed in true and forever love - at least not for myself. I'm sure I did at some point. I hoped and I dreamed, often stupidly. As little girls do, I suppose, I drew wedding dresses and imagined my handsome prince, though those fantasies were always more about a pretty dress and a party, and seldom about the prince and the happily ever after. I had many crushes, but little else. So I don't remember when I actually believed. Or when it stopped.

Any belief that love was my fate certainly didn't survive past the age of 12, after being taller than most, and more outspoken than most. After being publicly shamed by my elementary school 'boyfriend.' After going through all of highschool being asked out only by a terrible bully and a weirdo.

 I thought relationships were probably a good idea, at least on paper, but in the way that I thought being all around 'less' was a good idea - a way to not feel so different. Though really, the best I could hope for was to like someone who ticked most of the boxes on a human grocery list and who could stand being with me. Armed with those low expectations I sallied forth and stumbled upon my paper knight.

When I got married at the ripe old age of 20, it was not for love. I thought I could tough it out - that by sheer force of will & stubbornness I could make something work, and that while that was happening love would grow. After all, people in arranged marriages sometimes fall in love, so why not me? I figured I might as well marry someone who checked off most of the list - shared values (I thought); hard-working; close-knit family; cute. I'd work the rest out.  And, for a long while I did. And then I didn't.

In the (ever-stretching) years since, I've dated. I've had some good times and some terrible times. I've edited and re-written and update and finally abandoned the checklist with each passing lesson. I feel a bit like the little bird in
Are You My Mother - ever searching for an increasingly ludicrous match.

But I haven't really truly believed in love - lust, like, romance, deep friendship, and the ability to choose to be with someone or not were the new 'best it gets.' Aside from one bright and shining light - distant as the north star - there were a lot of dim bulbs.

And then it happened. Me and my sturdy tree trunk legs somehow got weak in the knees. As in actually weak in the knees the first time he kissed me - I had to lean against him for support. That was new. He was kind and funny and gentle and could literally sweep me off my feet. That was also new. Initially it seemed he had enough belief for both of us. Eventually, that belief got worn down.

Three and a half years on, we are negotiating the frigid sometimes turbulent waters of friendship. Like the NorthWest Passage, it's sometimes hard to see a way ahead. We bob along wondering how to get through this when the person we're each used to turning to is the person being grieved.

And I am awake with the question - is the cynicism that accompanies disappointed hopes and dreams worse than the half-life of never loving and being loved? Obviously no - and curse hope ifor being so damnably irrepressible. I just pray that someday I discover there really is a third option.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

one need not be a chamber ...

I just came across this poem via Twitter today. Not being much of a Dickinson scholar, I haven't read it before. Or maybe it just never spoke to me before as it does now.

One need not be a chamber to be haunted
by Emily Dickinson, 1924

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.

Far safer, of a midnight meeting
External ghost,
Than an interior confronting
That whiter host.

Far safer through an Abbey gallop,
The stones achase,
Than, moonless, one’s own self encounter
In lonesome place.

Ourself, behind ourself concealed,
Should startle most;
Assassin, hid in our apartment,
Be horror’s least.

The prudent carries a revolver,
He bolts the door,
O’erlooking a superior spectre
More near.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Wide Sargasso Sea - a review

Little Miss Horner presented me with her copy of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea at my going away dinner, clarifying that it was a going away loan - I can see why. I had seen and seen referenced Jean Rhys' book many times, but had somehow forgotten that it is a prequel to Jane Eyre, an old favourite. I was also unaware that the titular sea is the name applied to the area of the Atlantic between the Azores and the West Indies - a treacherous section of the route colonizers and slave traders used. It's a region choked with massive weeds and bordered by strong currents. It's an area of doldrums.

Reading this book on my deck in Kingston, Jamaica - as I'm certain Miss H anticipated - greatly heightened my reading of it. Lines like "Our garden was large and beautiful as that garden in the Bible - the tree of life grew there. But it had gone wild" play out on the page and all around me. Taking in the words while listening to the morning sing of birds and tree frogs was akin to a reader's IMAX theatre - my internal and external worlds fully melding.

This is a beautifully written and disturbing book. It splits the narrative between Mr. Rochester and his first wife - the eventual mad woman in the attic. Full of references to zombi, obeah, and ancient 'magick,' not to mention the wickedness people bring upon one another, this is a book I read in full daylight. It fascinated me, but I needed to break from it now and then.

Maybe if I wasn't also smelling oleander. Maybe if the eerie feeling of ancient lives destroyed didn't somewhat pervade this island, it would have been less real to me. I highly recommend this book - just make sure your ghouls and ghosts are far away when you read it.

Amazon Associate Link

Friday, October 3, 2014


She waited for the steady sinus breathing pattern that let her know he was asleep, and slid gently out of bed and into her solace-filled housecoat. This was not the greatest betrayal possible in a relationship, but in this house it ranked high on the list. After all, the delight she slurped in the darkened kitchen was mint chocolate chip.

No one should expect her to share that.

Monday, September 29, 2014

a woman of independent ways

The men I've truly loved
needed me to need them more.
All I wanted was to be wanted.
I didn't understand their need.

Others say I've always been this way ...




I thought it was a compliment.
A  part of my strength.

Maybe I was wrong.

Maybe they were.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is openness selfish?

I’m here – I’m in Kingston Jamaica. I’ve been here 4 days. In SKWiD training one of the conversations is about whether or not to share negative things with our people back home – what good can it do (feeling supported), and what bad (worrying loved ones who can’t help; being disappointed in their inability to help). I’ve been reflecting back on that conversation this week as I navigate the steaming miasma of a new country, essentially a new language, all the endings I left behind, and all the questions that lay ahead. 

Nothing about Kingston is negative, so far. It’s not that. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, we sometimes are locked out of the water supply for (knock wood) short periods. Yes, I’m learning to navigate systems in a place where everything still looks the same to me. It’s early days, and Kingston is a rewarding challenge. 

The only real struggle I’ve had is feeling isolated. We are in training all day, which means I can’t get to the necessary government office to get the tax registration number I need to get home Internet. I am home alone by 5 every evening, and in bed hours earlier than I normally would be just because there is no loneliness in sleep. Except, of course, when there is. Damn dreams. 

My roommate arrives tomorrow, but I don’t expect her to fill those aching gaps. She is a stranger-roommate. Not a son. Definitely not a lover. Not my champion who for years has reassured me at every turn that I can do anything. Not even yet a friend. I know myself well enough to have anticipated that this would be my first, and perhaps my biggest, hurdle. And I know that sharing it may be a selfish act, but there it is. I am not just alone – I am lonely. 

I seem to have lost by two best friends somehow this summer. They have left large holes. I have a lot of love in my life, but it’s hard to feel it across a large continent and a wee sea. I feel it reaching, but not within reach, at least not yet reliably so. I know it's there ... 

The upside is, I am learning to stand tall on my own. To cross traffic where pedestrians have no rights. To cook with local flavours and ingredients. To turn on the boiler in the morning or enjoy my cold shower (mostly that). To include sunscreen and bug spray in my morning routine. Once I get over the ache of what was, I’ll be even more ready to celebrate what is.  

I am on a grand adventure – I have been blown away by the people of Kingston, their patience with my inability to understand their accents, the amazing customer service everywhere, how nicely put together people are at their businesses, the food, my 5-month home ... I haven’t seen a lot of the city so far, but I am so excited already with the opportunities to learn and grow and explore. 

I didn’t expect to be this lonely this soon. I didn’t expect to feel so shut in when the sun goes down completely by 6:30 and I’m encouraged to stay in my apartment. I know this feeling is very transitional, but it was surprisingly fast. 

As always, music is my friend. Tonight I have been listening to this on repeat while I scrub the kitchen:


Do not worry – I am happy. I’m proud of myself for being here, for seeing that my life wasn’t what I wanted or needed and doing something about it. It’s just hard, sometimes, to keep looking forward. I am using a cliche as a mantra. I wonder how you say it in patwa. 
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