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

Advertisements

Just a moment… #loss

Artwork found on Pinterest – unsourced


8 months ago we admitted my mom to palliative care, not realizing how fast her breath would be stolen. Not realizing we would only have days to hear her say our names, days to listen to her quirky stories or days to hear her laboured breathing.

It catches you off guard, this thing called loss. It was just a song, and then a domino effect of all the things both good and bad that I have not gotten to share with her these past months.

There was pain I think she would have not known what to do with, but she would have listened, and offered me advice even if not asked for.

There was joy she would have celebrated with me as well, telling me that it can’t be all bad, all the time. She was mostly right.

Some days it sneaks up on you, that life is a temporary state. Life is precious, and living is why we’re here and why we need to be present. Present to our families, present to our friends, to our lovers, and present to our selves. To be wide awake to it all.

©️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

She’s such a girl #poetry

Such a fickle girl

A feeler girl

A wonderer

And a captivated girl

An overthinker

An overprocesser

An overthetop girl

(But mostly in her head)

She laughs too loud

She stores the world in her heart

She reacts before thinking

She finds beauty everywhere

I think I want to know this girl

I strongly suspect I am this girl

I imagine being no other girl

Now to love her as she is

©️Entirety 2018

Photo found on Pinterest

Letters #augustfalls18

If I am honest

My letter to the ocean

Is filled with a fear

Of not being strong enough

To swim its current

Of not being deep enough

To understand

Where it needs to go

Of not being generous enough

To let it ebb and flow

If I am honest

My letter to the sea

Is filled with longing

It is filled with a love

That wants to live with no bounds

It is filled with a raging passion

Only a sea could understand

And a need to explore caverns

These depths no land could ever know

It seems to me

Being in love with an ocean

Or a sea

Is a terribly exhilarating

And scary place to be

It seems to me

There is no other way

But to be engulfed

By its gravity

To feel its polar ends

Its surface and its depths

To wake at the end of all the morrows

Spent

Given all

And to have wholeheartedly

Received its gift

©️Entirety 2018

Image found on tumblr

Who Are You – Not just another #ADateintheLife

I sat on the edge of the stair, perched on his deck, afraid to get comfortable, anxious for all I was feeling.

“I don’t want to like you.” I said boldly. “I thought that the whole way on my drive here.”

He sat next to me, close enough to create intimacy, but not intruding my space. I lowered my head down, cupped my head in my forearms, and groaned a bit of resignation. It was too late.

I’ll not forget that night of conversation. He was careful, but not too careful to not make me think he wasn’t in deep already as well.

Most of you know my life is messy, if you’re reading this you probably know of my countless attempts at dating over the past several years. Some empowering moments, some written about and many not, some valuable experiences and other regretful risks. But 100% these were years processing what it was I wanted and didn’t want in a relationship.

If it came right down to it, besides the obvious, attraction and chemistry I wanted one thing above all else.

Presence.

I had met and dated enough men to know presence was not in everyone’s repertoire. There’s little staying power in a world where you can swipe, chat, delete all within the same day on a dating app. You’ll recall me saying earlier in this series everyone dates for their own reasons, and I am the last to judge – whether a night, a week or a lifetime, everyone comes to the dating table with their own needs. But sometimes those needs evolve.

And my needs had changed, or at least came to the surface even if they were there all along.

I sat down on the edge of that step, knowing I had nothing to lose, that this man who I had already begun to enjoy and connect with needed to hear it again. Yes, again.

“I’m looking for life and love.” I said.

“What does that mean to you?” He asked, occasionally reaching out to touch my hair or my neck with his hands.

“I want someone to be there when I wake in the middle of the night. I want someone to be there when my son punches a hole in the wall, and I want someone to bring to my family’s at Christmas time.”

“You can have those things.”

I looked at him sideways, believing him when he said it, and mad at myself for believing him because I felt like after all these dating experiences I should be more distrusting. But he was different. And it was scary, and sometimes it still is.

You see he is every bit as real, sincere, honest, charming and funny as a woman like me could want. Actually he’s really goofy, and he makes me laugh, and sometimes he makes me cry. But the crying is more to do with the fact sometimes I look at him and say “who are you?” in my head. The crying is about the distrust of time because to be this deep, this invested, without years under our relationship belt, how can we justify wanting to be all in.

I’ve perched on a few more stairs and steps in the last months. Usually those conversations on those steps involved all the reasons he should run. I have a messy enough life that I should give any good human being the chance to escape the drama that has seemed to follow me around. But he hasn’t run. And now I occasionally let myself sit in a rocking chair on his deck, or on his uncomfortable leather sofa, or even in his big soaker tub. Instead of perching on things to avoid getting too comfortable.

All of life’s lessons aren’t always helpful, but my girlfriend said maybe I had to meet all those other men, and date to see what was(n’t) really needed in my life when it came to a man.

I think she nailed it. I needed a man that had staying power, who didn’t scare easily and was able to be present in my life the way my life looked today, not how it may or may not tidy up later.

That night we sat on his deck and we did the download as he calls it. Where you meet someone and spend the first while of your relationship “downloading” information. We talked about kids, jobs, education, up bringing and traditions. One of our extended family traditions I told him about is that we always sing this hymn when we eat together. I come from a Mennonite background and some of our traditions still include things we did while my grandma (Oma), the matriarch, was still alive, and this hymn persisted. I told him how every Christmas we sing it, and although we were a pretty open, liberal family, the hymn stuck and I think we are rather happy to have it as part of our tradition, and traditions are important.

So months later, perched on the edge of his deck, I am thinking about many things, about how we are 44 days away until he and I leave for Scotland for an epic walk that may possibly cripple us both physically at our ripe “young” age.

I’m also remembering that first night I perched on his step, wondering if I should trust this man who said I could have love and life. I was preparing to leave his home to head off to a night shift at the hospital. I can’t remember if he sent me off with a lunch that day, but he has done so many times after. I can’t remember if my hair was up or down, if he waved goodbye in the window as I left. I can’t remember if the dryer was running or even if the lights were on. But I can remember this.

He leaned in and kissed me goodbye, then pulled me in for a hug, putting his lips near my ear.

It was that feeling of a free fall, knowing you can’t stop the fall, a bit worried about the landing but wrapped up in the exhilaration. He squeezed me tight, aware of my fears, distrust and hopes and whispered in my ear.

“I want to be the one to take you to your family’s Christmas, I just don’t want to sing the song.”

And with that, he sent me out the door.

©️Entirety 2018

Don’t Let Go #poetry

I love the way you hold me

When I’m sad

When I’m afraid

When I don’t know the way

When I say

The words that linger

On both our tongues

And echo in our ears

I love the way you kiss me

When we say hello

The goodbye less so

I love the way

When I need to know

You are there

Penetrating my soul

You don’t let go

©️Entirety 2018

Art found on Pinterest

With a whole heart

Love is risky. It is far off from the sidelines of life, in fact it is right smack dab in the middle of the game where the action is live, rough and raw. It surfaces fear, insecurities, but adrenaline and endorphins as well. The very primitive of life.

It makes me think of my oldest who plays football. Standing at the line, head to head waiting on the whistle and the thrill of taking off, doing what he’s meant to do, meeting exhilaration and anticipation while risking himself to (bodily) harm. At least in the case of football, bodily and in love, yes there’s risk of being hurt there too.

A few years back a co-worker talked to me about imposter syndrome. She said I had it. To put it loosely, it’s being afraid people think too much of you and that maybe the longer they stick around, they’ll figure out that you aren’t so shiny and not so deserving of their affection/praise/advancement. Insert new beginnings here. My love and I talk about NRE (new relationship energy) a lot, ok we tease about it and the word shiny comes up a lot, or has until I admitted my desire for him to stop using it to describe himself. It carried this connotation that once he or I became “unshiny” our fraudulence would be discovered. And I have been utterly myself, admission of faults, insecurities and the raw facts of my life laid out early to give him a chance to run. And guess what? He’s still here, and sometimes it makes me weep.

I’ll be honest, he is shiny. I mean he’s living life, he is proud of his hard work, his kids, his relationships and who he is. He is unapologetic yet kind. He is an all in kind of guy, so this all in kind of girl was a bit taken aback to discover there really was someone out there for me despite my 43 year old collection of well, lots of unpleasant experiences he may or may not want to be connected to. And… (cue Entirety’s ability to overthink EVERYTHING) it is all a risk… it is all a god damn risk to believe in this thing called love, but even further to believe that it is meant for you at this time with this person. Because tomorrow…because who knows what tomorrow holds.

You probably have heard me talk about Brené Brown. She’s the author of Daring Greatly and Braving the Wilderness (And others). There’s this line from Daring Greatly that goes round and round my head and I am nearly sure I have mentioned it before. She talks about how there are no reassurances in life, I mean seriously, we are not even reassured our next breath!! And we are not reassured tomorrow or that even the person we love today, will love us tomorrow. And instead of using it as an excuse to stay out of the game and to avoid pain, it has motivated me to do what she implores in her book. To live all in today, to live wholeheartedly and true to my values, to my goals (which mostly consists of keeping me and 4 hoodlums alive), so that I can experience the joy of really living.

So I’m risking. Risking my heart and mind, by saying I am all in, me, just like this. Risking advancing into a new stage of life at the chance of failure, heartache and loss, but risking for the returns as well, to experience joy, wonder, beauty, pleasure and a full heart. If I’m not willing to put my heart out there, look at all I could miss out on. And there’s no god damn way I want to miss out on a single thing with this man.

©️Entirety 2018

Cling to Life #poetry

Photo by Leo Ch.


In a broken fairy tale

I reside

Emptying pockets

Of pride and crown

And stones

Replace the gems

From a life

I never really held

Now I wander

Defrocked

Behind the rickety gates

Of an overgrown garden

Finding a few seeds, signs of life

When the wind chooses

To blow

And I’ll cling

©️Entirety 2018

The secrets of living I need to know

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.

©️Entirety 2018

Photo| Pinterest