Well hello there. Haven’t posted here for a while. I’ve been focused on my daily gratitude posts, which I invite you to follow.
I’ve had the word resilience in mind for weeks now. As I watch the news from Fort MacMurray, it seems an appropriate time to jot down some thoughts about it.
The main thing folks fleeing that fire have been saying is that things – homes, cars, the flatscreen tv – don’t matter. People do. As long as they are safe with their families, nothing else really matters.
That’s the mindset of a resilient person, the mindset that will help them bounce back. And we all have more capacity to bounce back than we initially think.
When life throws tragedy at us, we discover that we’ve all got something deep down inside that helps us find our own ways of dealing with it. I’ve lost a brother and a marriage. I couldn’t tell you exactly how I slogged through the muck to recover from those traumas, but I did. They added layers to who I am, deepened me.
So when I have to do it again – and I will have to do it again, and again, and again – I know I can.
I don’t know how. There is no roadmap that can be hauled off the shelf from one experience to tell you exactly how to get through the next. Just like it’s different for everybody, it’s also different every time.
But somewhere in those layers that I gained, there must be something akin to muscle memory that says yeah, we’ve been here before. And even though we’re blind with pain, we can feel our way through, over, around until we find the way out. It can’t be rushed. It has to be allowed to happen in due time.
Last night, I went to a concert that’s becoming a new Christmas tradition.
Halifax is lucky to be the adopted home of Jerry Granelli, the drummer in the Vince Guaraldi Trio that played the score for A Charlie Brown Christmas which first aired on CBS 50 years ago. He was paid $68 and got no royalties for the work, so he can be forgiven for turning his back on it for many years and cringing when he heard in airports and shopping malls.
In 2013, however, he had a change of heart (not unlike another grinchy holiday favourite). He pulled together a pianist and a bassist (he is the only surviving member of the original trio) as well as a children’s choir and they performed these holiday standards that you’d have to live under a rock to not know.
Now in its third season, the concert is being mounted across the country. I’ve been there every year, reveling in this music of my childhood that sparked a lifelong love of jazz. I have a LOT of Christmas music, and a LOT of it is jazz, but this album is my all-time favourite.
There was something new this year. Something that got me right there.
This year, Jerry told the audience how the story for the Charlie Brown special came about. He’d only just learned it himself. It’s based on Hans Christian Anderson stories like the Ugly Duckling, where an unlikely character becomes the hero.
Cue the iconic little tree with its single red ornament.
I think we all feel like the Ugly Duckling now and then. And we like the idea that it (we) can be transformed into something beautiful.
Last night, I didn’t just like the idea. I felt it. I embodied it.
When I went to the first edition of this concert, I’d only just sold the marital home and moved into the condo that I’m still not crazy about. I put up a tree and baked but there was no merry that year. I just couldn’t muster it. I was deep in my grief, mourning the loss of all that I’d hoped my life would be.
Last night, I felt full of possibility. I could see many paths and many open doors in my future. The fact that I’m not yet sure which ones to choose is ok. I’ll figure it out as I go. Because I can. There’s nothing stopping me.
Sistabuttafly is still in her cocoon but she’s transforming, getting ready to take flight.
I finally got rid of my wedding dress. Quite unceremoniously.
I was housecleaning and preparing for a dear friend’s arrival for a visit — a friend who’d stood for me at my wedding, in fact. It was one of those times when the usual weekly cleaning morphed into full on purging.
As the bags for Sally Ann piled up by the door, the thought occurred to me — I should just add the dress to the pile. I’d been trying to find a more meaningful way to part with it. It didn’t seem right to sell it. I didn’t like the idea of taking money from a bride-to-be for a dress that seemed cursed. I’d found a woman who uses material from wedding and prom dresses to sew tiny gowns for still borns, but she had too many donations and not enough storage space.
There was even the giddy idea of doing a trash the dress thing — jumping into the pool at the old YMCA wearing it with all my Y friends to support me (and keep me from drowning). But I hadn’t committed to that idea before the building was closed.
Two weeks ago in the midst of my purging, the moment was just right to let it go. I didn’t try it on again. I didn’t handle it any differently than the bags of clothes I handed over to the guy at Sally Ann. I just let it go.
It reminded me of indoor rock climbing. Really.
The first time I did it, it turns out I was able to scamper up an advanced wall without much difficulty, but a more seasoned (and extremely competitive) fellow in our group couldn’t do it.
I watched how he was climbing. It looked like he was trying to be uber strategic about every move he made. Because he took so much time trying to choose the perfect next knobby thingy to grab, his body got too tired to complete the climb.
I didn’t put that much thought into it. I took a quick scan of the available knobby thingies and made a decision, then another quick scan, and another decision, and so on. The point being, it’s a strain on the system to hold onto something (physical or emotional) too long. You have to let go and keep moving forward…or up.
With that done, tonight I moved on to all the other wedding things I’d packed away in a bag and tucked out of sight in a closet. I kept the CDs of photos and video, a photo frame (minus the photo from the engagement shoot), and the guest book, tearing out the few used pages. I kept the rings but tossed the boxes. I kept the length of silk that came with the dress. I filed some important documents. I read all the kind words my friends and family wrote in cards (and found some money!), then bundled them up for recycling. I dumped the dried bits of bouquet into the compost and said goodbye.
I had another really big bright lightbulb this week. I’m talking football stadium floodlight wattage here.
It came through a poem my late brother had written. After he died, I sifted through his journals and was taken by the poetry I never knew he wrote. It looked like he wrote it quickly and he rarely made edits. It seemed like the words just flowed out perfectly in the moment, without hesitation.
One poem in particular struck me:
Since I’ve been going to yoga regularly again, my mind has been pulling up pieces of this poem. The connection I made between the two is the reference to light because the first English translation of namaste that I learned is: “The light within me recognizes the light within you.” So the other night, I hauled out the poem and that’s when the lightbulb started glowing.
I went to bed thinking of this poem, marvelling at how much more meaning it holds with all I’ve been trying to work through. My train of thought started with, yes, I can see the light out there, the goal, some form of happiness in the future.
Then it occurred to me that I don’t quite know what that light is. I’ve been fixated on wanting a family and trading this condo for a house again. But a house may not be financially in the cards if I also want other things like vacations. And a baby isn’t going to happen naturally. When I think about whether to adopt, I find myself waffling. So what is it that I really want?
Then came a big revelation. I don’t know what the light is but I have to go towards it anyway.
That was quickly followed by a burst of laughter as I realized I was telling myself to go towards the light. Don’t worry folks, I’m not checking out anytime soon.
Then the deeper meaning settled in with the closing line of the poem: “Now you are here in the light in you.” While we’re all journeying forward in life, we’re also on a journey inward to find happiness in the present moment.
It’s hard for a goal-oriented person to accept not knowing exactly what the future goal is and all the steps to get there. It’s also hard not to dwell on things that brought happiness in the past but are no longer within reach. But this giant bright lightbulb over my head is now seeping into my heart and I’m finally embracing the present.
Here’s a tiny first step: After every course and exam for for my masters degree, I find a stone to mark the progress. Yesterday, I picked a seventh stone to add to the collection on my windowsill. Even though I don’t like where I’m living right now, I picked a stone from my condo building property…something I would have most decidedly not done a year ago.
This is where I am now, and I am finding my light here.
My cat and I share today as our birthday. How weird and wonderful is that? It’s 44 years for me, and seven for my black bear, Moe. Of course, it also would have been seven for his jolly, tuxedo-wearing brother, Joe. We still miss him so much. The birthday weekend started out with some well deserved sloth on Friday night. Moe and I curled up for some old episodes of Frasier and laughed our heads off. OK, I did. Moe just chased mice in his sleep on my lap. We had a good sleep in on Saturday, then cozied over coffee and breakfast. I got the housecleaning done – the vacuum being the low point of the weekend for Moe – and headed out to buy a new TV. Yay! Next stop was the gym where I ran 11 km – the furthest I’ve ever run. I’ve done the 10 km race in the Blue Nose Marathon several times, and this year, I’m training for the half. I’ve been hampered by high hamstring tendonitis but I think I’ve hit my stride with one long training run per week, increasing the distance by 2 km per week, and keeping limber with yoga, aerobics, water jogging, and walking through the rest of week. So far, so good! On the way home, I stopped at Flip Burger to celebrate the run and Halifax Burger Week with my usual…cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, pickle and garlic mayo. Moe got a small taste of local beef patty and curled up on my lap for another couple of episodes of Frasier. We had a delicious sleep and woke to glorious sun streaming in the windows this morning. After coffee and breakfast – tuna for Moe, bagel with light Laughing Cow cheese and pear for me – I rolled out my yoga mat in a sun spot. I don’t normally practice at home; I prefer the guidance of a class. But today, as I looked out the window at fresh beautiful snow on the trees (not resenting it in the least, even though we’re officially a week into spring), I found myself saying to the world, “Thank you for having me. Namaste.” Then I went sledding. Seriously. I love spending time with my friends and their adorable monkeys. And you couldn’t ask for a more perfect day for sledding. Fresh, fluffy snow, sun, and temperatures above zero. I think I actually got a mild sunburn on my face. Home for a cat nap, then off to the gym again for deep water aquafit. I love a good water workout, plus it’s great for loosening up legs that are remembering yesterday’s run. I made my legs practice good running form while also giving them a break by making my arms do more of the work. Home to a dinner of tossed salad and salmon cakes. Yes, Moe got some salmon, too. It was a great fish day for him. Topped it all off with a steaming mug of Baileys hot chocolate. And now, I’m feeling pleasantly well spent and ready for bed. Tomorrow, we’ll wake up and find out what the next year brings. a ps – The TV is still in the box!
Well hello there. Long time, no blog. Not sure why, to tell you the truth. So let’s get back at it.
I went for an awesome run tonight. A nice 9km in the sunshine. Right on track for my training for the Blue Nose half marathon in May.
Now, if you know where I live, you’ll know running outdoors is a challenge these days. Nova Scotia and neighbouring provinces have been walloped by storm after storm this winter. One of them involved wildly fluctuating temperatures, so it turned on a dime from downpour to flash freeze. Pavement disappeared under inches of ice. Slushy footsteps frozen on sidewalks made walking treacherous. I wasn’t about to risk almost certain injury by running on that.
In fact, I never thought I’d run in winter at all. Which is funny because I like cool weather for running. My ideal seasons are early spring and mid to late fall. Somewhere around 8 degrees celsius is perfect. Double digits quickly become too warm for me.
But I’ve always watched winter runners in all their cold weather gear, pounding through frigid messes, and thought they looked so uncomfortable. I imagined how cold their feet must be in running shoes that provide little protection in a slush puddle.
And yet there I was tonight, on the first day of spring – hah! – happily trotting through tunnels created by the bobcat snow-clearing machines after the latest storm dumped about 90 cm on Halifax. The bobcats leave a couple of inches of snow but it was certainly passable with caution. The few times I felt the unexpected ick of ice cold water through my shoes, it quickly went away thanks to wool socks.
As I trotted along to Enid, I remembered times spent with my best friend Nat in her dorm room in university listening to the Gordon CD. I smiled and thought, “If only my 21-year-old self could see me now.” I’d like to think she’d avoid some of my mistakes, and also find some of my newer joys earlier.
Ah, that’s not how life works, is it. But here is one little nugget of wisdom about how it does work. A nugget I have known in theory for some time but only just internalized this winter: You are what you give power to.
You can’t swing a shovel around here without hearing someone gripe about the lousy winter. But not me. I’m not caught up in the negativity, and it’s really not hard to resist.
Another snowstorm? Excellent day to make cookies, get some school work done, and nap with the cat! Need to shovel again? Great exercise in the fresh air followed by well-earned hot chocolate with Bailey’s! Another storm coming tomorrow? Do this weekend’s training run early, then foam roller with Netflix while the storm rages!
There are far worse things than some snow, boys and girls. We are Canadian. Embrace our natural habitat. Give power to the joys of hunkering down safe and cozy during the storm. Give power to gratitude that you have good health and a warm coat to do what you gotta do outdoors. I guarantee it’ll lift the weight right off your shovel.
ps – If you’re looking for a food connection, there isn’t really one. All I’ve got for you is this: I had an awesome nosh of spaghetti and meatballs after my run tonight. I made the meatballs during the last storm.