Still

The funeral was on Saturday, and it went well. Everyone keeps asking me about that, so I thought I should tell you.

Then they ask something else – how I’m feeling.

And I honestly don’t have an answer for that. I don’t know.

My therapist gave me an assignment at last week’s appointment – to listen to my body.

It turns out, if you were wondering, that whatever language my body speaks, I don’t speak it.

I ask myself how I am feeling. And I get no answer back.

I am still.

Waiting.

Expecting.

Exhaling.

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And I shall call him Fred

I have had a headache and sore hands since my MS treatment on Saturday.

I’ve decided to name the headache Fred, since it seems to be a significant part of my life.

Posted in And the Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth | 1 Comment

Monday Miscellany – The Suits and Sinuses Edition

  • I started my morning at the doctor’s, talking about my sinuses.
  • Again.
  • It’s like they feel left out, and if I don’t talk about them with a medical professional at least once a month, they act up.
  • Turns out you can see a sinus infection on Xray.
  • It also turns out that Mr. Spit needs a new suit, and my usual black funeral suit is too large.
  • This is an issue, because my mum’s funeral is Saturday.
Posted in Salmagundi: A collection of various things | 2 Comments

Experiments in Weight and Mass

In the early 1900’s it was an experiment to weigh a body before and after death to determine the weight of the human soul. It’s one of those charming anachronisms of human history, that we once sought to prove the existence of the intangible using nothing more sophisticated than a scale.

How odd, quaint, peculiar it is that we once thought the human soul had weight. Still and all, how very intuitive. If you are the sort that believes that there is a soul at all: the very essence of what it is to be you or me, a form of consciousness that leaves us after death – proving its existence is a noble thing.

If you believe in the soul I think you understand that a soul can be both the world’s heaviest weight and during times of joy, a thing that flies free of the earth.

Weight defines heft and is defined by the gravity of the situation. Then there is mass. Your weight changes, is added to and subtracted from by a million incalculable things, your mass is fixed.

This is what those the doctor’s were really looking for – that which stays the same. A mathematical accounting of a fundamentally human thing – our need to live beyond ourselves and know that others value us for who we really are. A fundamental core that does not change, no matter what the circumstances. A requirement we know that when you cannot contain your own mass, when you can not accurately gauge it, someone else can and will. Someone else will haul you onto a scale and recite the mass that is you. They will not mistake it for weight.

I’m looking at things said and unsaid, done and undone. We are none of us perfect. The truth is that we have an innate sense of what our friends are good at, and perhaps in a more literal sense, what they are good for. We know, or at least have a pretty good idea of, whom you can call on in the dead of night and speak the words “I’m lost. Frightened. Alone. Help me.” 

There is no scale to weigh a, perhaps, dying friendship on, so use a question. Sent across the ether in bits and bytes, displayed on a screen in pixels. The question will have no weight at all when it arrives. That’s ok. I’m not looking for the weight of the answer but the mass of the friendship.

Perhaps I do so as foolishly as the doctor’s who weighed bodies looking for proof of the soul. It is possible that I am looking for one thing and will find another.

I used to smile when I thought of those doctors in the 1900’s. I used to chuckle at their naïveté, be amused by their earnestness.

Now?

I know their desire to quantify the intangible by whatever means they have at their disposal, to call an imperfect answer to the wrong question better than an endless wondering.

 

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I forget.

I took last Friday off. In my usual mode of efficiency, I booked a meeting with my mother’s boyfriend to give him the goodbye letter I found in her apartment and a journal she was keeping, I booked an appointment at the MS Clinic for some tests, I booked coffee with the eldest niece who is having a tough go of it, I booked a doctor’s appointment to talk about the clumps of my hair that are falling out (my hair dresser estimates I’ve lost about 25% of my hair). I was so pleased with myself for arranging things that I went from clinic to restaurant and then back to clinic. It was a nice, neat and efficient plan. It delighted my organized soul.

I forget. . .

That I am only human and as frail and given to the sadness and feelings of being overwhelmed that you would expect from a woman who has lived my year.  I forget that I have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, been through massive changes and a promotion at work, significant changes in my personal life, that my mother died. I forget that I am changed and am still broken. I rely on strength and fortitude that don’t exist any more. I forget that my well is dry, has been dry for a very long time and I cannot do what I used to. I forget that I need to be kind to me.  My ability to gut through things is sadly lacking these days.

I forget that people are used to the old me – the one that kept going, even when it seemed like she shouldn’t. When you are the energizer bunny, or at least people see you that way, they forget too.

They forget to ask if you need to talk,  they forget to ask how you are doing. They forget, when you tell them about the facts of the thing – that you met with your mother’s boyfriend to hear about the life she lived for the last 3 years – to ask how you are feeling. They forget that a meeting with the MS clinic means confronting the disease, and that a doctor might overwhelm you and frighten you with all the things that could be wrong with  you. They forget to ask what you found out and how you are coping with that. They forget, when you are usually so open and transparent, that hard stuff needs a space for revelation, time where you don’t have to organize your thoughts, time where you can lurch from emotion to emotion with no expectation that you will find any form of closure. They forget that when you have a day like that, you don’t need to hear about how strong you are, you need to hear they are strong and you don’t have to be. They forget when you don’t talk beyond the facts, that is when you most need people to ask.

I forget too. I forget to advocate for myself. To stand up and say “no, I need to talk about this. I need you to listen to me. I need to verbalize this so that I can let it go.” I forget to ask myself if things might be hard and when I realize that they could be, to space them out. To damn efficiency and just refuse to overwhelm myself. I forget to insist that my own voice be heard, to give myself time alone to adjust and to rebuild. I forget that not everything is words, sometimes it is human voice and not typing on a screen or on a blog platform.

Then it all falls apart, which is exactly what happened last night. I stared at another huge clump of my hair in my hand and I simply fell apart. I pushed too far, too long and gave away too much. I am overwhelmed and hurting and I need some time. I need to go and find those who will listen to me, who will understand that I’m lost and broken and I need a bit of gentleness and mercy.

I need to hear not that I am tough and resilient and that I will be ok; but that I am in fact bruised and battered and that’s ok, because I am loved all the same. I am as much loved for what I am not as what I am.

Mr. Spit is gone this week which is a bit hard, but also good, because I can focus on caring for myself. I can let work coast a bit, withdraw from harder places. I can watch movies and eat popcorn and knit. I can, and have, booked calls and dinners with friends who will listen. I can surround myself with the actual voices of people who care about me, and take comfort and love.

I need to remember, that it’s ok to beat a strategic retreat. It’s ok to withdraw for a bit, to tell people if they want to come in after me, in a non digital means, then please do. I’ll be back digitally in a bit, when I have found myself in the real world.

Posted in Learning Life | 9 Comments

Monday Miscellany (The Dead Mouse Edition)

  • While minding my own business and making my lunch at 7:15 am this morning, I stepped back and something caught my eye. . . .
  • It turns out that after 7 years, the furry slugs have decided to start earning their keep.
  • There was a dead mouse on the mat in front of my sink.
  • And 2 very proud cats looking at it and looking at me, and expecting all the adulation in the world.
  • So, after I recovered my composure, I congratulated the cats on their hunting prowess and then got to remove a corpse from my kitchen.
  • Funny, I’m less hungry for breakfast now.
Posted in Salmagundi: A collection of various things | 1 Comment

The Virtue of Thinking

I meant to write an interesting post about how one of the things that I like about the corporate culture I work in is the time we give to thought. To leaning back in a chair and saying “ok, let’s just think this through”. That was so much not part of my life at my old job. No one thought about anything, even things that clearly required thought.

Yesterday was a document review sort of day. It was a day of building a 4 slide powerpoint presentation for some high level executives, thinking about what they needed to know and the best way of showing that to them. I spent a lot of time leaning back in my chair and thinking. I had this photo, with my shoes up on my desk, that is sort of the epitome of thinking. I meant to write about how much I enjoyed the leisure to think. To brainstorm. To consider scenario’s and options.

I got home last night drained. It was a good day, but it was definitely a day where everyone wanted something from me. I got home and I wanted to continue thinking, but I wanted to be able to do it in my own time, to control my response rate.

I am always thinking, if I am honest. There are always several things running through my mind. Some are utterly mundane – things like is there cheese and some are about solving client problems and some are about things I have to do and some are about things I have read and some are about people.

I find that I am slower to speak now, and more than that, my first thoughts aren’t fully formed. I want to listen more, understand things like context and connection and feelings and emotions. That takes time. You can’t rush those thoughts.

Posted in Just a Working Stiff | 2 Comments

The Patriarchy

I am, for the record, supposed to be reviewing a document for someone, but I thought I would rant instead. I just finished a slide deck and  I made a few changes, but mostly when I got to the end of it, I sighed.

When I was in my first year of University, fresh out of a girl’s school, I had an economics textbook that used a “she” in an example. This was in 1997, as we were just starting to be a bit more conscious of gender stereotypes. I remember it because the example surprised me. I noticed the “she” and after a feminist sort of education, you wouldn’t think I would.

The reality is that I work in a male dominated industry. Most of the men I work with are great men, supportive and egalitarian. I don’t often run into the jerks. It’s still not all that uncommon that I will walk into a room filled with decision makers and they will all be men. I am, often enough, the only woman in the room. If you say “stand up and be counted” in my industry, you just aren’t going to count a lot of women. There aren’t a lot of us.

It was a good slide deck, polished, good content, but I got to the end of it, added a few comments and then sent a note back saying “could we put some photo’s of women in it?”

I do that now when I build slide decks. I look for pictures of women. I deliberately try and use he and she interchangeably. I didn’t used to think of these things. It’s a small thing, but I believe it matters. What we show in pictures is very telling. When it’s all men, we support the notion that men make decisions. To tell you the truth, I don’t think we will solve the world’s gender problems by having women in a slide deck. I don’t think we will end child brides, the pay gap, maternal morbidity or really much of anything by adding in a few more women into a sales slide deck.

Maybe though, maybe we will do what that text book did for me. It started me on the path of questioning. Wondering why there were so few women on corporate boards, so few female executives, so few women in parliament.

Wondering who it was that was telling me I had to be a secretary, a teacher, a nurse, and why the hell I was listening to them anyway?

Posted in Feminism | 4 Comments

Monday Miscellany

  • Christmas was good.
  • Welcome back to what they call “blue Monday” because it’s the first Monday where everyone is back to work.
  • My alarm this morning was . . . rough.
  • My keurig takes about 2 minutes to make coffee. Those were the worst 2 minutes in recent history.
  • The dog looked absolutely betrayed by our leaving.
  • The cats looked thrilled.
  • Did you have a nice Christmas?
Posted in Salmagundi: A collection of various things | Leave a comment

A Year In Words

Charles Dickens, in his novel A Tale of Two Cities, starts with a now famous quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” 2014 was that kind of year.

January Sadness In late January it becomes time to say goodbye to Maggie, our dog of 14 years. It’s hard to say goodbye to a beloved friend.
February Wonder We step off a plane, trading arctic cold and mounds of snow for tropical Hawaii. We snorkel, see the volcano and drink a lot of coffee and some wine.

 

March Fear An MRI, as a result of an eye issue, shows that Cheryl has lesions on her brain indicative of relapsing remitting Multiple Sclerosis

 

April Precision Owen decides on a new hobby –taking up archery. Both of us are excited at his ability to defend us from the zombie apocalypse.

 

May Thankful Our nephew Travis organizes the first ever “Team Spitters” walk for MS in Edmonton. We plan on walking again this year.

 

June Adjustment We have a better understanding of what MS means and how we have to change our lives to accommodate Cheryl’s MS.

 

July Delight We spend an entire week with our great nephew Bennett and our great niece Emma. We also catch up with Matt, Andy and Christie. Smarties are a hit!

 

August Insanity Cheryl is in Winnipeg (Mosquitoes! It Smells!) Owen is on Highway 2 closing lanes of traffic (Angry Tourists! Safety plans!)
September Pride Cheryl is promoted to Principal in a surprise mid year promotion.
October Relax Cheryl takes a month off from work after her first MS treatment and decides to cross a thing off her bucket list – she goes to (almost!) every church in Paris and London.

 

November Comfort We spend a lot of time cozied up at home, petting the furry slugs, being licked by the dog, cooking comfort food and trying to reconcile the changes of the year

 

December Sorrow On December 3, Wendy, Cheryl’s mum dies suddenly. We are sad that she is gone and hopeful that she found a measure of peace.

There isn’t much to say about a year like this. It was just hard. Very hard. For long periods of time. We learned something though – when it is hard, bleak and dark, many of you are only a call away. You came, you brought food, wine, laughter and care.

 At the end of the year, perhaps we would sum up the entire year thus:

 It was hard.
You made it easier.

We are so very grateful.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments