Just Breathe

I sit, looking out the office window at the mountains of the north shore, watching the float planes land on the inlet, the sky blue, the water bluer still. I watch the sail boats drift along, wonder yet again if the gas station in the inlet sells chips and the auto trader in a rack and random fuses.

I went out for dinner with a cousin last night, I will have dinner with a friend tonight. There was lunch with some favourite colleagues today. Brunch with my Aunt and Uncle after a run tomorrow. Ms. Fab arrives at our hotel about noon tomorrow. There will be shopping and sea otters and gabbing and wine and hugs. (Ms. Fab gives about the most amazing hugs you can imagine).

And I will just breathe.


On Monday I took leave of my senses for 20 minutes or so. Someone came into my office and asked me a seemingly innocuous question. I started to sob. He was kindness itself. He closed my office door, handed me his hanky and told me that he didn’t know what was wrong, but it would be ok. I lost my mind for 20 minutes. I don’t often do that, but for 20 minutes every single thing was too much. I have never cried at work before, but the pain was great and he – entirely accidentally – hit the nexus of it with a laser beam.

I need to breathe.

Find my breath so I can return to my centre.

Breathe out some of the stress and hurt that has made up my life in the last 2 weeks. Breathe out a sense of failure, breathe in the love that I am surrounded by.

Breathe in joy and let the rest escape me with a mighty sigh.

Just breathe.


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Things I’ve Learned

I’ve been trying to write a post the year since my diagnosis, and in all honesty, I just can’t seem to. How do you sum up so very much in black and white words?

Mostly I’ve just been thinking about fairness. If you asked me what my biggest struggle about the MS has been, it’s been the same struggle with Gabe’s death, with the miscarriages, my relationship with my mother, ending a friendship last week, and a million other things.

It’s not fair.

I cry out that things aren’t fair like a child – looking for someone to come along and fix things, to force everyone and everything to be fair.

I know life isn’t fair. I know it in my bones, I know it like I know my name and the shape of Mr. Spit’s shoulders. I know life isn’t fair, that fairness isn’t even a promise made and broken. No one ever offered humans fair.

You can work hard, you can try everything, you can give it your all and do your very best, and sometimes that just won’t be enough. You actually control very little. The universe cares less about you than you can even imagine.

You can know things in your bones – that you didn’t deserve the bad things that happened, that you weren’t perfect but you gave something your best and your best effort is not inconsiderable, that you loved someone as hard as you could and it just wasn’t enough.

You can know these things and it won’t matter a whit when blatant unfairness comes to call. It won’t matter when life leaves you knocked over, bruised and bleeding. It won’t matter when it feels like your arm has been chopped off, when you are grieving and unsure how you will ever be happy again, when you live life worried about the future.

Life isn’t fair. It never promised to be fair. Fairness isn’t even a goal. Fairness matters even less than anyone can imagine.

What does matter?

Standing back up. Not immediately, but eventually. The moment when you uncurl yourself, expose your soft belly to the universe, knowing it’s probably going to get sliced open again, and that’s ok.

It’s been sliced open before. You healed it then. You’ll heal it again.

Posted in MS Gets on Your Nerves | 2 Comments

Stretched Past Home

She has a rare disease – the connective tissues in her body are breaking down like a garment that has been stretched so much it can’t return to normal size. It’s like she can’t return to home, she says.

She won’t win a Nobel Prize. No one will name her a companion of the Order of Canada. No one will name a building or a program after her. There are no prizes for every day acts of kindness and good will done quietly.

I heard her words of thankfulness that the day of her birthday was a “good day”. I hugged her ever so gently, helped her wash down the pain pills, staring at her. Her every day vitality has left her, but she has become more luminous than ever.

I could rage. I have raged in the last few days. I have thought about care and loss and I have shaken my fist at God, wondering what this amazing woman ever did to him but try and serve the least of his, worshiping and blessing his name, even now.

In that moment, as she described her body stretched thin, painful and weary, unable to return to a home state, I thought about all I know of home. I do not know what to call that other world now, though I used to call it heaven.

I do not know much any more. I have no certainty about what happens after we die. I lay in bed and I think deep thoughts and I find no answers. This I do know: this world was never her home. She knew her time here was short and there was much work to be done.

She is on her way home now.

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Monday Miscellany

  • The car show was this past weekend.
  • Please, won’t someone buy me an Aston Martin? Pretty please?
  • I had almost all my younglings for dinner. Which felt good. I’ve missed them.
  • They brought me flowers and wine and an apple
  • There were 2 bunnies in the field this morning.
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I had a dentist’s appointment for a cleaning this morning.

I’m cavity free and healthy, but I got the usual injunction . . .

You need to floss more. 

I don’t floss. I don’t even try and pretend to the dentist that I do. I floss if I get something stuck in my teeth, I floss on Sunday night (yes, that’s right. I floss once a week). I hate flossing. I hate how it makes my gums bleed, I hate how it feels, I hate that squeaky noise (shudder) and I hate how the floss cuts off the blood flow to my fingers.

I’m 37 years old, and I’m not going to floss if I don’t want to. Clearly my teeth haven’t fallen out of my head, so I’m fine.

I think flossing exists solely because dentists and dental hygienists need something to lecture you about.

I do wonder though – have any of you ever been told by a dentist that you were a “good flosser?”

Posted in Curiosity Killed the Cat | 6 Comments


Every morning this week there has been a rabbit in the field across from my house.

I stand, on my front porch, watching the sunrise and watching him.

He* hops around the field a bit and then suddenly makes up his mind.

Tearing across the field, crossing the street and running up my sidewalk.

Disappearing to I don’t know where.

Wherever he spends his days, I guess.


(*I have no idea of the sex of this bunny. It’s a bunny. Hard to tell really)

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Another Suitcase in Another Hall

The suitcase and the boxes on the front lawn. Parents and a mistress screaming. You hid in the front closet, the one they had locked you in for 2 days. This time you felt safe there.
(Another Suitcase in Another Hall, Sarah Brightman) 

The ending of things with a lover, angry and shouted words and that terrible and awful silence when you’ve said too much and you can’t take it back.
(Maryland, Vonda Shepherd) 

The moment that you realized your mother was never going to really love you unconditionally. Something in her compelled her to hurt you. She was driven to wound and you had to build a Fortress. With a Moat.  And Archers. And a Dragon. Just to keep yourself safe.
(Who I am, Jessica Andrews) 

The song that comes on when you are feeling scared and alone and unworthy. The song you hear every year on your birthday, that was playing in the gas station where you stopped the day you got married. The song you played over and over with your father, until your mother threatened to break the tape. Perhaps it is his way of saying he loves you still.
(Fishing in the Dark, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) 

That very first heart break in your life, the one you still remember, when it seems as if your heart is in a million pieces on the floor, shattered, bloody and utterly destroyed, and you do not have enough experience to know that you will survive this.
(Must have Been Love, Roxette)

The terrible death. The moments of silence after the phone call when all the oxygen leaves your lungs and all the stiffness leaves your spine. The days spent waiting for his body to come home. Trying to find some explanation. Realizing that sudden, tragic and young death will never have an explanation. He was gone. Your last words had been angry. 
(All I want is You, U2)

The time you walked away from a relationship that was good, possibly close to perfect, because you knew that you would absolutely die of suffocation, trying to be the person he wanted to marry. It was a fantasy, another life that you tried to put on.
(He Thinks He’ll Keep Her, Mary Chapin Carpenter) 

That moment in life where everything was perfect and filled with liquid gold sunshine. Where time stood still even as you heard the second hand of the clock ticking, knowing nothing gold can stay.
(Life in a Northern Town, The Dream Academy) 

That time you fell head over heels in love with someone who wasn’t ever going to love you back. Utterly out of their league and you are too wise already to try.
(Damn, I wish I was your Lover, Sophie B. Hawkins) 

The friend who just stopped talking to you. No words, no explanation. Not even a “fuck you”. Radio silence. For years. All of those shared memories, with no one to share them with.
(Rainy Days and Mondays, The Carpenters) 

The last baby you lost. Perhaps no different than any other, but the realization that you just couldn’t do this any more. There was no pay off big enough for three years of sorrow. There would be no redemption to the years that the locusts ate. The years were just gone. (Stand Back Up, Sugarland) 

When you have no words. Chalk and Cheese. He is Saturday Night and you are Sunday Afternoon.  The gall of it is that you thought things were better. You were wrong. You realize that you are past hurt, past anger and all that is left is this horrific sadness and sense of failure.
( . . . )

There’s a playlist I have. It’s called Remember. Songs that I would never answer questions about, but people, circumstances, times I want to be able to go back to, at least occasionally. Places that I felt safe and loved in. Starting with a place where I was neither safe or loved. Remembered by a song that taught me early, all pain ends. You can survive anything.

Call in three months time and I’ll be fine, I know
Well maybe not that fine, but I’ll survive anyhow
I won’t recall the names and places of each sad occasion
But that’s no consolation here and now.

I’ll add another song when the sting is gone.

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Remember you are Dust

The thing I love about Ash Wednesday is the stunning simplicity of it.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. 

You started from it, you will spend your life surrounded by it, and at the end of your days, you will go back down into it.

You are a blip in the universe. A tiny bit of collected matter formed, is you for a short while and when you die becomes something else.

I fail. I fail a lot. I fail because I am human, petty, sometimes small minded. I fail because sometimes I try and fly too close to the sun. Sometimes I try my best not to fail, and it doesn’t matter. I fail from the very best of intentions, at least sometimes.

Then I remember I was but dust, and to dust I shall return.

Tonight I failed, again.

The older I get, the more I realize, failure is both greater and lesser than I ever imagined. Greater when your failing hurts another, as mine did. Lesser because we are all bits of dust and wind and matter. Our time here is short. We are all recycled matter.

Dust is the perfect effigy for failure. It is the remains of what you thought was something good, now dry and bitter in your mouth and stinging across your face.

So it is with failure. It is as dust, and when you have thought through how you got where you are, you let it slip away to become part of something else. You hold out hope for the power of regeneration. Perhaps someone else can take your failure-dust and turn it into something wiser and more beautiful.

I will, perhaps tomorrow night if I am ready, stand in a place I love, a place that reminds me of whom I failed, and I will let failure slip through my hands.

Remember you are dust 

(bits of ash and sand, grit and the remains of what was)

and to dust you shall return. 

(leaving something more wonderful instead)

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Caught between the promise of spring and the dying days of winter, I find myself dreaming in my sleep again.

Wiser people than me tell me I dream every night, but I don’t ever seem to remember it. At least most days.

It goes in fits and spurts – I will go months, if not years without remembering my dreams. Suddenly, everything will be memorable. I will awake in that liminal space where you think you can still fly, loved ones are still present and the world is more colourful.

I have always felt that dreams were just that – non waking space where anything can happen, but I must say, I find the change a bit glaring.

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Monday Miscellany

  • Happy Easter Monday!
  • For the first time in a decade, I ate a holiday meal that I did not prepare.
  • It was lovely!
  • Why do we say that we “slept funny” when we wake up with a kink in our neck? I assure you, this doesn’t feel funny at all?!
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