The Other Shoe

There are some things you just aren’t allowed to process out loud. Whether it’s the circle you are in or greater society, shame still has its hold over certain topics. And I am squirming, my kids see it, my lover sees it and I see it.

I remember after my mom died I had this acute awareness that there was very little time to mourn in the respect that life continues on. Kids have to be taken here, suppers need to be made, eaten and cleaned up after, and work needs to be attended to. Life doesn’t stop, even when you want to cry, scream and stomp your foot. Life is relentless, until it isn’t and we all know that side of things isn’t necessarily any better.

So here I am processing, wishing for time, wishing for space. It’s a cross between wanting to run away, wanting to hide and well… wanting to punch someone. You see, I will always be that person, that carries just that little bit, that edge of sadness in her soul. Someone who picks at her wounds, who ruminates, who stores pain in her soul. It’s not something I consciously choose, it’s not even something I enjoy, but it is who I am, and today even my 9 year old could see it. That hurt a bit too.

When we walked the West Highland Way it was hard. Like real hard. It didn’t matter how long we walked that day, whether 12 km or 27 km, with 2 km to our destination for the day to go I wanted to die…like every fucking time. You’d come around the bend of some winding path and hope that this would be it, here would lie the Mecca… the bathtub, bed and respite for the day. And the disappointment, when THAT bend, was not THE bend to signal the end of the journey for the day.

I don’t think I am 2 km’s from my journeys end, not by any means (I mean not that I know of!!!!). But I keep coming around the bend, hoping for respite, and feeling pain and disappointment, discomfort and sadness. Hope squelched… for now.

So I sit here, on the side of the road, aware that hope can look like it’s missing, aware that just like the bends that came and went that brought no end to that day, obviously eventually came. Otherwise how could I be here, literally.

I keep hoping that one of these lessons in hope will stick, one of these lessons in pain will stick. And that the other shoe, that it would stop dropping, or… maybe I just need to be a barefoot kinda girl, cause I’m running out of shoes.

©️Entirety 2018

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We Did It… we mother effin did it!!! #Westhighlandway

I’ll be brief, unlike our 28km hike today through rain, wind, sun, rain and sun again. (Ok so I never do brief very well…)

We made it. All 153 km and some extra to boot… we have lost all civility after climbing three flights of stairs with our luggage to an amazing BnB with an incredible view. (I mean Kevin climbed all the stairs, I winced and tried not to stretch my calves too much walking up the stairs…the right one currently has a permanent Charlie horse.)

We’ll post more pictures soon, but for now know we are safe and sound (and slightly more crippled than when we last saw you.)

From the end of the West Highland Way,

Entirety

The aftermath

Day 6 here we come #westhighlandway

Day 6

Scrambled a bit this morning, we woke up to what we walked through yesterday, a shit ton of wet. Our hosts in Ballachulish were tremendous, drying our belongings and doing a load of laundry for us as well. We have about 15.5 km to go today, up up and up the steep devils staircase on the way to Kinlochleven.

The mountains have been covered in cloud, the paths wet, the rocks occasionally slippery but never have I wished not to be here.

My muscles have adjusted, though they still hurt the worst at the start of every morning, like I had done hundreds of squats the day before. I suppose I have been. Nursing two blisters that seem to be healing despite the continued walking, layering to be as most comfortable for the weather as possible and realizing what very little (besides clean underwear and water) that you need up here.

Ok… typing while being transported to our next starting point is making me nauseous on this windy road. Plus I’m missing the view of spectacular mountains and overflowing rushing streams due to all the rain.

Milngavie #Scotland2018 #Westhighlandway

Milngavie…

The official start to the Westhighland Way.

We got to Milngavie in the on again off again rain this afternoon. Lugging 43 pounds of suitcase plus a pack was not exactly fun through all our transportation issues/difficulties but when we wake up tomorrow morning our suitcases will be someone else’s problems. We’ll pack our day packs (and not forget the rain cover for our day pack of course) and leave our bags with a baggage transfer company who will take them to our next stop. I mean while we walk through hurricane hooha and attempt to make it to Drymen. Dry…men…. dry… m… get it? <ahem>. We won’t be dry man or woman and may return to Canada one big prune.

We arrived at the hotel today and the clerk asked us if we were walking The Way. She made a cringe face when we answered yes…even the Scots know the weather is a wee bit awful.

Super.

Cause let’s all be honest. Jacquie is a bit of a princess. She likes nice things. She likes warm things… not cold and wet things. But she got it stuck in her numb skull that she had to do this. One can only hope there are bathtubs to warm up along the way. PRAY THERE ARE BATHTUBS ALONG THE WAY PEOPLE!!!

Here’s some reading you can do while we hunker down and eat and sleep for our start at 9am tomorrow morning start (that’s 3am for most of youse at home).

https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/travel/everything-you-need-to-know-about-scotland-s-west-highland-way-1-4228343/amp

Love to you all, go hug and kiss my kids for me at Aunty Christa’s… tell them I’m safe and I’ll be home soon…

©️Entirety 2018

A Little Bit Stressful

Sooooo…

…. they cancelled our flight. Not like cancelled cancelled. But like, put us on a different flight 5.5 hours later which would leave us missing all our connecting flights to Glasgow. So we raced to the airport, and damn all I could think about was Home Alone! Thanks to Christa our speedy ride, and Maria, Cristina and Katrina from Air Canada we were booked immediately on two flights to see which one we could get to first to make our connecting flights in Toronto.

So obviously we made it…

Kevin was much more calm than I. It probably took me two hours to come down from that adrenaline rush… to land in a delirium of realizing I had been up for over 24 hours from coming off of a night shift. (I left without shower after work, without sleep, without food, …and barely packed…. and yes fuck, a few things were left behind from racing to the airport 3 hours earlier than expected.)

Two layovers later, several back breaking contortionist airplane seat sleeps later we arrived in Glasgow and have slept on and off since. Jet lag is a bitch coming off of already being awake from working nights. #justsayin

Just barely made it to breakfast this morning. And are now checking out late, and Kevin is telling me to get off my phone and to look out the window because it would seem the hurricane season has arrived in Glasgow. We…are so fucked.

Wish us luck as we find our way to Milngavie. The start of the Westhighland Way. … where impending doom and epic stories will continue.

©️Entirety 2018

One hand to go! #westhighlandwaycountdown


The closer I get the more scared I get. And it’s irritating me. Almost as much as my achilles is irritating me in fact.

What is with the fear? It is a motherfucking joy stealing turd that’s what!

Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Kevin shared this with me a few weeks ago, and although yes it came from a movie (an epic one at that) I don’t think its message is any less relevant. Travelling along the road of fear leads to places closed off from love, compassion and joy. The exact opposite of places I want to go.

So many lessons I have learned and places I have gone and people I have known remind me of the message that I want to live all in. Not to deny the fear, but to not let it suppress the joy either.

I realize I am not climbing Everest, but this is my Everest. Just like in relationships where every day in puts you further invested in one another, every preparatory act for this hike/trip brings me more vested in the outcome. I want to succeed, but also afraid I won’t and then my spirit wanders the messages going round my head. Some ok, some not so ok.

Me and my body/brain/heart have been practicing a bit of mindfulness. Practicing reorienting my ruminating, acknowledging the feelings, letting them enter my head, then letting them exit. Like watching a leaf float down a stream. A sports psychologist friend of mine once shared that with me and I have been using it as of late. The goal here is to enjoy the moment and still responsibly prepare for the next. The goal here is to live to the fullest capacity that I was created for and not lopsided in the realm of suffering and foreboding.

So much to learn, so much to process … SO MUCH FUN AND ADVENTURE TO BE HAD!!! And we’re on our way in 5 more sleeps.

©️Entirety 2018

Slippery Slope and 7 More Sleeps #westhighlandwaycountdown

Mondays are always bittersweet. As I’m getting the kids out the door and we’re fighting about lunches and clothes and agendas and well… why we fight so much, there is this nagging reminder that I won’t see them for a week. Monday is our trade day, they go to their dads. And although I often see them at some point because someone forgets something or because of football etc, there is still this hollow place that reminds me I am separated from my kids.

Whoa whoa whoa…. don’t for one moment think I also don’t love a break from the whining, fighting, Fortnite addicted monsters! I can sit, think and even get something written down when it’s my week off to work and my exes to have the kids.

What I have always been aware of though is that this freedom to sit, nap, write (or go to Scotland) comes with a cost. My break, my legitimate rest, my ability to run off to Scotland for two weeks comes with a cost. A little hollow heart, a little lump in my throat, and a reminder that although I love them with my whole heart, sometimes parents need breaks, and selfishly I am taking one in 7 more sleeps.

24 hours a day I am a parent, 24 hours a day I am a provider for my kids, but 24 hours a day I am also a woman in need of respite and recovery.

I see my married and coupled friends, and sometimes feel guilty I am afforded time “off” from the wee crazies, wishing them respite as well. But then I remember the cost of this “freedom” and I wouldn’t wish my journey on anyone.

Thank you @belgianmomma @tamijog and Anna and @calvin.65c for all chipping in, compromising, so I can get a break away soon. I love you, and wouldn’t want my life to ever be without any of you.

©️Entirety 2018

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8 more sleeps #Scotland2018 #Westhighlandway


Joy, fear, foreboding, excitement, exhilaration, reality and good old disillusionment are all rearing its head these days. And I’m not just talking about the 96 mile or 154 km hike my man (can I call him that?) and I are about to embark on.

I have been called mad, crazy and brave in the last few weeks and and I think that sums it up in a nut shell. (And I’m still not just talking about the hike.)

We have conspired around an adventure of a life time. We have thought about rain, snow, peeing, eating, blisters, water, and looming old injuries waiting to rear their ugly heads. But what we haven’t yet done is experienced it.

I warned Kevin early on that I’m afraid of hard things and am more or less the laziest person I know but I knew I had to do this. I knew it had something for me. I knew, but knowing, reading and packing doesn’t totally prepare you for what it’s like an eighth of the way in, when you are already sore, wet and maybe deep down inside scared shitless. (Still not just talking about the hike.)

I was totally prepared to do this walk alone. (I’m a great talker.) I had thrown it out there in a few venues and didn’t really have any serious takers.

So when I told Kevin about it though…his response?

“When are you going to ask me to come along?”

I’m a whiner, a passionate being who struggles with irritability, anger and fear. WHAT KIND OF GOD DAMN SAINT WANTS TO GO ON A 154 km HIKE WITH ME?!

Ok, he does. Saint Kevin. (Yeah that sounds all sorts of wrong.)

This next week is a downward slide into unknowns and hard work. I can’t wait to share the journey with you. I have no idea what’s going to happen. Megs at work says I cry when I’m happily overwhelmed. I do. I cried the first several weeks into dating Kevin. I cried on the top of Quiraing, I cried on the side of a mountain while Jim Mackintosh read me poetry. I am expecting some of those tears. (I am expecting some of the other kind too.)

My hope is not to be a drag to my partner, to not steal joy from the experience, to open my body and heart to what persistence and overcoming can mean for me as a person. And even as I wrote this I cry.

Hang on… I have a feeling it’s going to be quite a ride. (And I’m still not only talking about the hike.)

©️Entirety 2018

23 days to go and a little remembering amidst the loss #westhighlandwaycountdown

Photo by Tracy Armstrong


Today was 23 more days till I tackle a challenge I am not even sure I am ready for. As I touted to my boyfriend that it was probably like 0.7 km from the bedroom to the kitchen at his place he paused saying, “I’m not sure you really understand how far this walk is!” (It’s a 154 km to be exact). It was a terribly hilarious moment as I reconsidered my internal distance tracker and recalibrated quickly.

But 23 days don’t lie, I’m not making that up, it’s nearly 3 weeks and the last two days have slowed me down immensely with all the goings on, making it still feel like eons away.

The number 23 now…where do I start? My Samuel was born on the 23rd of October. He was to be my 4th c-section. I couldn’t answer reassuringly enough to Dr Helewa after baby number 3 that I was done having kids so my ex and I gambled one more time, pre-Valentines eve. (while we were still married of course) Apparently that was day 14 of my cycle, ovulation day for all you non medical types…you know… fertile as fuck in laymen’s terms. So Samuel was conceived, Samuel would be born, and Samuel would become my gentle (and loud) giant.

A few weeks before Samuel’s c-section I came in to visit the obstetrician who was going to perform the surgery. A resident I worked with on labour floor met me in the clinic waiting room and pulled me aside. She said Dr Helewa’s life was hanging in the balance, he had had a heart attack. It was frightening and terrible news. This is a man I had worked with for many years, whom I respected immensely, who could die at any moment and the man I trusted to deliver my other three babies wouldn’t be there for number 4.

I was reassured there would be a doctor covering of course, and I knew all the Dr’s and knew everything would be fine. But I’ll never forget heading up to labour floor a bit dazed and seeing Dr McCarthy sitting on our couch in the lounge completely distraught. It was no secret. Dr McCarthy and Dr Helewa had had it out several times. Both brilliant obstetricians in their own right, both holding different values around research, experience and the ever present intuition of Dr McCarthy. I clearly remember Dr McCarthy yelling in his Irish accent, “you can make the numbers say whatever you want them to!!!” He trusted his gut more than any research study surrounding birth issues.

But Dr McCarthy was a compassionate man, and after all the feuding, to know his colleague was suffering through a possible life ending heart event, well, he was disheveled on most days, this was altogether another thing.

A brand new obstetrician and a resident I picked out delivered my Sam after a difficult extraction that requires forceps (yes we use forceps sometimes in c-sections too). 11 minutes from uterine incision to delivery time and a lot of coaxing and sweet talking from the two sweating Drs led me to my youngest baby boy’s birth. Although I was proud to have been the first c-section for a new attending, Dr Helewas absence was noted, and a bit of my history altered. And if you know me at all, history, connections, and meaning are super important. So much so I asked the anesthetist who did my very first csection to do that last one as well, I had wanted to keep the team together.

Dr Helewa went on to get the care he needed and received a new heart and years later even began practicing again. The feud between the two doctors dissipated and I had even caught them joking around a few times since.

They were only men after all. Not gods, despite being Drs. Fragility of life noted, adjustments to routines and both Drs took care of their own health in their own unique ways. I remember Dr McCarthy leaving labour floor to tell me he would be unavailable because he was going swimming. (I just can’t recall if that was before or after he stole the lemon tart off a patient’s tray.)

So yesterday it was Dr McCarthy’s turn to leave us all distraught. Our beloved Irish Dr McCarthy died from a massive heart attack. Rattling our cages once again, reminding us that even the legends, even the people we hold in highest esteem despite laughing at them as their scrub pants are falling off them, even these precious compassionate, generous, albeit abrupt souls die.

You see death was as abrupt for Dr McCarthy as his phone calls were to labour floor. So abrupt we couldn’t even get our goodbye in. But death was cruel and unkind, unlike our Dr McCarthy. He’s left behind a family and a wife who loved him devotedly and dearly. He’s left a third floor of an entire hospital in shock, a northern community in disbelief, and an entire province of nurses still a little bit perturbed that another goodbye was missed. And the conglomerate of birthing professionals very very sad.

So I couldn’t help but think of Dr McCarthy and Samuel and Dr Helewa, and how all their stories were intertwined to make up my countdown today. 23 days till I get on a plane and tackle this pilgrimage that was motivated by my own mother’s death, only 8 months ago. And a day after my aunts death, I can’t tell you how certain I am that I need to live today, to not put off things till tomorrow. Because life (and death) keep reminding me that tomorrow is never promised, only hoped for. (And minorly foreboded in the perspective of 154 km).

We’ll miss you terribly Dr McCarthy. But we are so grateful for ever knowing you and all your antics. Thank you for being a part of my story, and so many generations of stories in the northern women you served and in the obstetrical staff you have worked with through the years. You are imprinted on our hearts.

©️Entirety 2018

The Black Hole #doinglife

I live inside my head a lot. For an extrovert it doesn’t feel exactly right, but maybe that’s because Myers Briggs puts me 50% in and 50% out.

I don’t mind time with myself, what I mind is being eaten up by partial truths, misperceptions, and misplaced feelings that tend to grow disproportionately. I was born to catastrophize. Not around everything, but some things.

Some of those things require conversations to resolve, some of those involve reality checks about who I am to myself and who I want to be to those around me, whatever the case it involves heart work. And heart work is hard.

Personally, I’d rather not be stuck in my head, it’s why I process out loud so much. It’s why I write, it’s why the people close to me get to hear the ebbs and flows of my feelings and probably are quite lost at times by my inability to pick a path and not still deliberate about that path while being on it.

In the enneagram (another personality exploring tool) I am a 9 space. I bring this up because while at the pool the other day my aunt pointed out that in relationships all the spaces butt up against another space, with the exception of the 9 space who butts up against the black hole.

I’m wondering if my head is a black hole, and that the dissonance I feel is about roots becoming unrooted, about ties being cut and about the sequential unknowns I keep being faced with. In my 17 year marriage it was always in question whether my husband would be there tomorrow or the next day. In my last year, it was about how would I make it through financially, or without my mom or with a child who was struggling with his anger. Where would I live? Where would my kids go to school? Who, what, where, when and why begin most of my thoughts out loud.

Life is a black hole, it’s a blank space until you’re there doing it. It’s potential space, possibilities and a choose your own adventure. But I keep coming around the corner of a new experience, faced with new unknowns and part of me feels like shouldn’t I be more solid at 43? Less swayed by unknowns? Less afraid of them? When does one fully mature? Where you can say with confidence, I know, I want, I need…

So I’ll hide in my head today, this grey prairie day with a wind that has me sitting in my car over being outside. I’ll let myself feel the unknowns without letting the fear of them control my actions. I’ll let myself butt up against the black hole knowing that the getting lost in them and getting found in them is just as much a part of my journey as breathing. I’ll let myself feel the scope of love that life has to offer, still learning at 43 how to be fully present to it and being ok with being me amidst it all.

©️Entirety 2018