Steal my breath with beauty
Stir my world with passion
Touch me with tender intent
And I am forever in your debt ~
In a broken fairy tale
Of pride and crown
Replace the gems
From a life
I never really held
Now I wander
Behind the rickety gates
Of an overgrown garden
Finding a few seeds, signs of life
When the wind chooses
And I’ll cling
My neighbour is dying of cancer and you should see her smile. She’s making me think, she’s making me think about big things. You see I’m dying from living and smiling is sometimes hard. Though, to be honest, it depends who I’m with. But yesterday I felt I needed to tell her and her husband thank you, and I watched her light up. She doesn’t wear her pain as a crown of thorns. But I do. I’ll give her age and wisdom on her side, I still feel young and dumb save for the saggy boobs but still carry this sense of entitlement that life owes me a better hand for all the shit I feel I’ve been through, so I wear a frown.
I watched her, bald from chemo therapy, holding her granddaughters hand outside in the sun. And there she was smiling again. And it confuses my immature heart. Part of the problem is that it also induces shame, and that in itself is unhealthy because I should be more grateful right?
I could carry on about all the reasons why everything is so hard, and my friends remind me, that a year ago this time started one of the hardest years of my life. …And I keep waiting for it to get better. To feel better. For me to feel settled, for me to feel less insecure about existing. I’ve begun to think there are boogeymen behind every corner and a part of me worries that my fear is what actually conjures these boogeymen into existence.
You know that saying? About how life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it? It’s my only explanation for why this woman next door can still smile. I bet she cries too, I’m glad she has a supportive husband and kids and grandkids to fill her bucket. Because the bags under her eyes say her bucket is quite empty, but the light in her eyes says it is quite full. Unlike her, I imagine my eyes and the bags under them tell the same story that life is draining the life right out of me.
I think I’ll go and visit her today. To see her smile, maybe to try and look her in the eyes and ask her how she does it. To share with me her secret, about how she lives while she’s dying. It’s a secret I need to know, before I dig my own hole too deep.
It may be the age I am at, but I am taking notice that life seems to be speeding up a bit. The perspective of seeing kids growing, some days going as slow as molasses and other days you get this big smack to the face that realizes a once 8 pound 8 oz baby now is both taller and weighs more than you. Perspective grows further into the other spectrum though, it opens up an abyss into the world of death as well.
Just like when I was pregnant, I noticed all the other pregnant people in my general vicinity, now I see my peers, people my own age begin to face death more frequently than we have in our adult journey thus far.
There is nothing I regret surrounding my moms death. My dad’s death is another story, but I have mostly relinquished my feelings towards that story.
My aunty, she is brilliant. She is articulate, intelligent, pro-active, beautiful, giving and has taught me a wealth of things over the past 43 years. In fact, I am named after her and her twin sisters, my middle names Faith and Joy. Two women I can say, that have impacted my life like no others.
Today I got an email from her with a Ted Talk Titled A Heroic Narrative for Death by Amanda Bennett. To be honest I’m not really a Ted Talk kinda girl. (Except for when it comes to Brené Brown.) But this came from my Aunty, so it came with some credibility.
After I watched the Ted Talk and read her brief email, I began to think about a time in my life where I helped lead a ministry program in the church called Alpha. I spent 3 years studying theology in college, and 20 odd years involved in the Christian church, many years in a variety of leadership positions and it was during this Alpha program that I had first learned what Amen really meant.
I had prayed thousands of times throughout my years in the church, I had said amen more times than I have brushed my teeth and combed my hair in my life time combined, and yet I had no idea what it meant. The bible says that prayer is a conversation with God, and I thought when you said amen at the end of a prayers, essentially you were saying, “The End” to the conversation. as an aside, I think that’s kinda paradoxical now that I am a writer and that I RARELY get to use those words because my pieces rarely come to their end. And without losing a bunch of you because I am talking about the bible or praying, that is not my point at all. I just saw something I had never thought of before and wanted to share a connection my brain had made after engaging with this Ted Talk.
It turns out Amen does not mean The End. Amen means, “so be it.”
I began to think and pontificate, and let my thoughts wander.
What if our lives are in fact, living prayers? And what if we misinterpret the pronouncement of death as The End? And instead choose to let death be our “So be it.” A proclamation in fact.
This is what it could mean for me and my perspective of losing my mother.
For one, it means, it is not an ending. I suppose I could see it as a continuation, of the 74 years she previously lived. What if instead of Goodbye I said, so be it? Acknowledging the life til now, and leaving our goodbyes to an open ended conversation, that doesn’t end at amen, or goodbye.
I don’t want to argue semantics, philosophy or religion, and I see there are many places for this idea to be taken apart, but my choice right now is to not see death and hence the idea of goodbye as the end. (I kinda imagine I’m not the only person to consider this concept either.) But the metaphor of our lives as a prayer, and death not being the end but instead the amen.
I 100% believe this is part of the reason my mom’s death was a heroic one. My mom didn’t end her life with a final page outlook, she approached death with an open ended conversation. She said so be it, with an occasional, “but am I really dying?” She told my sister (and my Aunty) that she looked at death as an adventure, she was curious about what lay beyond that last breath. It’s not like she was all gung ho or anything. She struggled for every breath until she took her last one New Years Eve. She cried when she realized her mini-stroke had prevented her from a much needed conversation with her best friend days before her death, because although she walked/rode heroically onto the palliative care unit, she was under no delusion, that in fact some things of what we knew as our normal were most definitely coming to an end.
I did have the privilege of saying goodbye to my mom, I said it to her every time I left the room to leave or to just go get a glass of water. But the amens, they were everywhere. Our “so be its” were evident even without our words. Our “so be its”, were in our toasts at the bedside with glasses of wine, our “so be its” were in the washing of her hair, the holding of her hands and the tears we shed both at and away from her bedside. Saying the word “goodbye”, although a part of, were not the act of our saying “so be it”, our actions spoke as well.
And for that I am reassured all the goodbyes my mom needed were said, and unsaid, just as they were meant to be.
Took a shower
In the rain
The part of me
That won’t shut down
Without the clawing sounds
Of time banging away
At its job
Trying to mute out the noise
Of the raging flame
The kindling in my brain
Before I can make sense
And just slow the fuck down
But the rain
It’s on its own time
Something I can’t control
With a swift kick
A brush stroke
Or even the ink pot
The rain just takes me away
To where all else
Has to wait
Even my own need
To control the release
Of what it means
To be fully me
New life. It’s one of my favouritest things about this earth, because there is nothing that fosters hope, like new life.
16 years ago today, I welcomed new life into my arms. I laboured for hours, ruptured membranes, an epidural, oxytocin and a fetal heart rate that scared the pants off of all of us resulting in a c-section.
Fast forward three years and me telling my midwife, “don’t worry, I won’t go into labour today, because it’s my other sons birthday.” Kismet. Fate. Like it wasn’t up for that challenge. I was so naive. New life doesn’t wait, and neither did my second son. Stalled out at 6cm, we thankfully succumbed to a c-section after hours and hours of trying to deliver naturally.
So two boys, exactly three years apart. And like many mothers, birthdays, surface birth stories. We want to tell our stories, the scary parts, the exciting parts and the tender parts. Not to scare other mothers, or to judge our caregivers, or to foster jealousy in others, but because our stories make up who we are.
My boys make up a part of who I am. Same birthdays, similar type of birth, same red hair and the similarities end there. I’ve said many times I would have gone on to have as many kids as possible just for the biology experiment of it all. I wondered how many babies it would take to have a black haired baby, or till a baby who would nurse, or if maybe baby number x would deliver vaginally. (I still have vivid dreams even after delivering 4 red heads via c-section that I could pop one out naturally. I dream I am pregnant often, even though it’s relatively impossible now because of my tubes being done.)
My boys are different, their struggles different and their passions different.
Calvin is a passionate engager, he will take over the world one day if the millenialists and their inability to stick things through don’t take over. He is a fighter. A warrior. For good or for bad, and he has confidence. I have seen him nurture, I have seen him lead and he is a powerful human being whom I believe in immensely.
Eliot, he is a connector. A feeler. He found his niche in band this year playing the frenchhorn and I couldn’t be more proud. But more so for the ways teachers have spoke of his compassion for others, ability to step in and help and build relationships with others.
Stories are making up who they are becoming, and what a gift it is to be characters in one another’s life. Some days the antagonist, some days the anti-hero, but most days the fire that feeds change.
New life is about the hope of the journey, the catalyst for the stories that make up who we are, and who we are becoming, yes even at 43, or 13, 16 or 86…
Thankful to have these kids make up some of the stories in my journey, and maybe one day, much later in their more adult years, they will be thankful for my role in theirs. But for now, we eat cake. And celebrate the new life they continue to be.
I have a therapist who encourages me to write. She knows this is a way I connect with my heart, writing and people are the glue that hold me together. I haven’t a chance to talk to her about this new development though, something I worry about speaking aloud, for fear of backlash and judgment.
I have a secret.
Entirety is not perfect, and she is an even less perfect mother. But my counsellor would piss therapeutically on me for that statement.
I’m not wearing my family’s garbage out for all to see and to gawk. Instead I am speaking about some of these unspeakable things so that they could hold less power over me, and that stigma and inadequacy could be quelled.
An explosive child, and a child some days I feel lost at parenting. Co-parenting with an ex-spouse, living out dynamics of dealing with not always agreeing, and knowing this child acts differently with me then he does with his dad, and yet the thread remains.
I am sometimes afraid.
In the midst of trying to grieve my mothers death, I have been trying to hold family life together. Often with the absence of my ex-spouse who has been necessarily dealing with personal issues. And I am drowning.
In the last month I have seen Lawyers, Doctors, Bankers, Counsellors, Funeral directors, mental health workers, police officers and I can tell you I am about done with professionals. There is nothing more to make you feel alone than walking into all these offices to fight these battles with only air by your side. I don’t mean to undermine my sisters hard work through my moms death, but I am partnerless, and at the end of the day, on the days I can, I crawl into bed alone and listen to the sound of the furnace and I hope I can sleep. On the days I can’t, I crawl in beside my 9 year old to not feel so alone.
Tomorrow I am taking my oldest son to live temporarily somewhere else. I want to make sarcastic comments about what kind of mother has to do this. Wise cracks about what a loser I am, but I won’t. Because I know it’s not true, I am a good mom who loves all her kids, even the one that I am driving to a friends house tomorrow through an organization called Safe Families. In the last two months my son has been expressing an enormous amount of hurt through anger, a tv was broken, baking destroyed, my iPhone 7 lobbed through a parking lot and I have been called a fucking bitch more times then I can count. But I can honestly say with my rose coloured glasses OFF, I know he is a good kid.
So I’m still showing up.
When I was 8 my sister ran away. (Note here she is far from being an adult screw up despite some of her journey being unconventional through her teens… ok she remains unconventional but in a good way.) After she returned safely she spent some time living with my Aunt and Uncle.
I remember quite distinctly my mom during this time. I remember comforting her at the age of 8, like my youngest does for me. These moments don’t really make you feel like a great mother. One that your kid can’t live with you and two that you need comfort from your youngest and three this underlying fear that it was something you did or didn’t do as a mother. Cause if I am honest, I’ve probably only fucked up with my son a few thousand times. Like the time he ate crayons and I put tobasco sauce on his tongue for doing so, or the time I told him he was pathological. (Hoping that all his time watching House didn’t clue him in to what I meant.). But I get angry too, and I have said some hurtful things.
So don’t you see, after my mom put my sister in with my aunt and uncle, I just want to know what my mom thought. How did she feel doing that? Did she feel like a failure too? Did she question if they were doing the right thing? Did she cry at thinking about the vulnerability of her child while simultaneously go through the motions of having to keep showing up for me since I was still there? I want to ask my mom, but she’s not here. I can’t ask her what it was like and I can’t not think about the journey they took with my sister and I am now taking with my son. I keep thinking about this quote I read, “why can’t heaven have visiting hours?”
Parenting is hard. I know that’s not a news flash. But it’s hard and I’m still showing up, and I’m a lazy fuck.
My mom showed up too. Somedays better than others, but I always knew she loved me, and that she loved my sisters too.
I can love my kids. Even if the days are sometimes hard. Even if it means unconventional family life so that everyone can get their needs met as best possible.
I just wish I could ask my mom though, what she felt and thought… but true to form I’d probably just accuse her of backseat driving.
I don’t think I’m special, just so you know. I’m not the first daughter to lose a mother and I won’t be the last. I am not the first daughter to lose both her parents by the age of 42 and I am not the first person to experience 3 huge losses in 4 years.
First I lost my marriage, and that was a hit. Then I lost my dad, and although terrible my dads death came with a frightening ambivalence due to some of my feelings surrounding him. Then my mother was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma Dec 8. Only 13% of all lung cancers are this type and 80% of those people are dead by 2 years. My mom was dead in 23 days.
I spoke at her funeral on Saturday, my sisters and I, her best friend and her sister in law, an aunt I am named after; we all gave the attendees a bit of a taste for who my mom was.
My mom wasn’t a playful mom, though she loved word games like Scrabble and crosswords. As a child I saw her most often either in the kitchen cooking up some strange Asian stir fry or something or other or on the couch buried in a book.
She drove me to 5:30am swimming lessons 4 days a week, she paid for flights to Saskatoon, Florida and the gas in my car. She bailed me out when my car got towed and let me crash in her home for two years after my dad died when I was living separately from my ex-spouse. In fact I’m writing from her apartment this exact moment, where it is quiet, dim and hollow.
I don’t hear her CPAP machine, I don’t hear Georgie rustling around in the litter box and I don’t have the worry that she’s going to rap on my door to tell me I’m going to be late for work.
She could just never trust that at 42, I knew how to retrieve my toast from the toaster in a timely manner, get to the kettle after it boiled or get out the door to be on time for work. She asked me one day if it really bothered me for how much she back seat drove. And I was honest. It bothered me to fuck. I’m a god damn grown up who birthed 4 kids, who has 3 degrees, and runs a household and a high risk labour and delivery floor full of crises…OF COURSE I CAN MANAGE MY OWN TOAST MOM!
But even when she quickly got her will in order I could see her distrust as I read it as one of her POA’s.
The addendum, to the will draft, was a clear statement something to this effect. “My 2017 Hyundai is to go to my youngest daughter Jacquie.”
Let me tell you how this is her telling me from the grave that my toast popped and kettle boiled. Two weeks before she went into hospital she said I should get CAA. You know, the road side assistance program you pay for to bail you out of locked out cars, flat tires and drained batteries from the cold. Ask me if I did that. OF COURSE I DIDN’T!!! Nearly for the very fact she told me to! She told me I should get it because my car is older and because I drive on the highway. 1# my car is a 2009. That’s not old. 2# the highway is 80km/h only 20 minutes from city limits. 3# I’M A GROWN WOMAN WHO CAN DO WHATEVER SHE WANTS.
So my mom did what she wanted. She must have known full well I wouldn’t get it. Moms are smart, even when they are 75 and dying from the oxygen starving disease that we call lung cancer. She endowed her car to me to keep me safe on that road, because although she couldn’t make me get CAA she could lead this horse to water by giving her a more promising ride.
I just want to say I loved my mom very much. She was an irritant at times but not once throughout her dying was she a bother. I loved sitting at her bed side, brushing her hair like I used to do to her as a small child. I loved teasing her about her beach body legs after seeing how quickly she was wasting away just to make her laugh. I was completely irreverent and even joked about shortening her life when I accidentally would step on her oxygen tubing. But she always laughed.
I didn’t love telling her I didn’t want to leave and I didn’t love hearing she didn’t want me to go. Being torn between my progeny and my mom was extraordinarily difficult. You see I needed to keep telling my mom that she was not a bother. I needed to keep telling her we would be ok. My sisters, our kids, that we would be ok. And I needed to prove it too, that I could leave her bed side in the good hands of my sisters or nursing staff to go be with my own kids.
There were times I was afraid she was waiting to die for when I left the room, so she wouldn’t “hurt” me in this way. Like some bad script I would announce to her as she lay there no longer able to rouse, “I am leaving the room now. It’s ok if you need to go.” You start to feel a little self conscious, like maybe it sounds you are wishing her to go. I never wished that. Not once. Like a child who believes in fairy tales even after I witnessed her last breath and gasps, I wanted to believe that she would sit up and pick up the crossword and make some back seat driver comment about making sure my car was plugged in or something.
But she didn’t. And now she’s gone. And it’s not fair. And it aches. I didn’t want her to go. She shouldn’t ever have to go. She’s my mom, and I need her.
But she is a curious creature, she wanted to meet this adventure head on, she was curious about what lay beyond the veil, and I have never heard of such bravery before, not quite like that.
So thank you for the car mom. Your windshield wipers work far superior to mine. Though you don’t have cruise control and that’s kinda a bitch on the highway but I am not ungrateful. I am not ungrateful for anything you gave or gave up for me.
I love you and miss you terribly.
A huge thank you to the 500 followers who follow along despite me not being a shiny finished product.
Your support is noticed and I am extremely grateful for having you along side my journey as I process life through poetry, fiction and non-fiction stories.
Blessings you all. 💜
She was there
To watch you dance
To hold your hand
To kiss your cheek
In every sigh
In every touch
In every breath
As you hold her
Across the unforgiving grave
Is the biggest threat to love
But not this day
This day is yours and hers
As daughter and mom
So what does one do when you can’t get a fix? You mourn, lament, tear your clothes, eat ashes and write. So here I am, evaluating the last two years of dating.
A few weeks ago I came across a guy on Tinder who was feeling me out a bit. (Not feeling me up.)
He asked me how long I had been on Tinder for. I said I had been on for a few years, but was still single. So he got real Frank, or Tim, or Tweedlefucktarded on me and said “So you’re picky then.”
I thought about my response, for like a whole millisecond. And this is how I responded:
“I AM NOT PICKY ITS JUST THAT THE MAJORITY OF THESE MEN HAVE ONLY WANTED SEX!”
…wait for it….
…Then he says, “I’m only in town for a few weeks, there’s nothing wrong with just having fun you know!?”
Case. In. Point.
I knew what he meant. And although every stage has its proclivities I don’t really feel like this is my stage any more. I seem to have graduated to picky amidst acknowledging my destructive gravitational pull towards unavailable men who actually want nothing more but a night o’flings.
The dissonance here between body and mind can be a bit frustrating. But the mind has been honing in on the damage of allowing myself to just be used as a breathing fuck doll. As opposed to the non-breathing kind marketed in Japan for a trillion dollars. *considers holding my breath for a trillion dollars*
In the last two months 4, yes 4 men from the last two years have resurfaced, all looking for one thing. Yup, you guessed it.
If you have read Pandora’s Box part 1-5 we can thank fucktard there for showing up a year later to ignorantly step into my present day. I invited it partially, but it didn’t take long after a few odd conversations that I didn’t want to do fuck doll all over again. I didn’t want to walk away in the dark (literally) tripping over clothes, randomly placed furniture and left out vacuums while trying to remember if we even finished the episode of Game of Thrones before other more pressing needs took over. But if I was very honest, I didn’t want to walk away wondering if I ever meant anything.
You see, I spend most of my time writing and contemplating meaning, and it guts me a bit, looking over some of the men I let into the private places of me and how I still don’t know if I meant anything besides being a good…. well never mind that.
I have a few good people in my life. Patient people. Loving people. People who remind me, I am worth more than some of these encounters have made me feel. (And some days I even believe them.)
I have stories that I can’t wait to tell my children, stories of military police deployment and asthmatic attacks. I have stories I cry over and stories I cry laughing over. I have stories I could not tell for months after because I was unsure how to process it all. And I have stories I have rawly told to you here in this Wattpad book.
And why did I do that do you ask?
I like pleasure, maybe even a little pain, but what I love is meaning and process. Discovery of self, discovery of personal truths. But unlike inventions that come with a lot of trial and error, and tossing out the dysfunctional inventions, discovery for me carries the dysfunctional moments with me; not to shame me, or to beat me down, but because in each one of these stories I find me. The vulnerable, strong, fragile, persevering, funny, perverted, broken human being I call me. And I don’t want to let go of me, not any part, I want to embrace all of me.
*For other facetious (and sometimes illuminating) pokes at dating midlife check out my A Date in the Life on Wattpad…just be careful if you have anything in your mouth at the time…lest you ruin your electronics.*
A Date in the Life