Small Things

They let the MBA students play with lego yesterday. One of our assignments was to envision our lives post MBA and construct something to represent that.

So, that’s me. And no, I’m not working as a cashier at a yarn store (although, that is not the worst option in the world).

It was interesting to see what my teammates did. They created figures scaling mountains, very near the top. They jumped off cliffs, contemplated different decisions.

Me?

There is a big picture for me. Go get another degree. Spend less time counting beans and more time playing with ideas like slinkies. Care less about reccomendations and implementation and more about thinking deeply and reconciling contradictory ideas. Use my brain and not my grit.

I think I’m so very lucky – I have a job I love and that I find fulfilling. I get to nurture junior consultants, see and solve ineresting problems. I can point to things I’ve suggested and see how clients implement them. I’m useful to the world around me.

Me, post MBA?

Well, I’m not a cashier. That’s me at my stove. I’m cooking. Specifically, I’m making a roast chicken, with stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy. The table is set. I don’t know who I am feeding (having lost contact with most of my friends in the rush to the end of the degree).

I’m doing small things. Creating connection. Grounding myself in things I love. Meditating on the fact that cooking done with care is an act of love.

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Ecclesiastes 7:8

When I tell you I am tired, will you believe me?

I don’t mean the sort of tired that is solved by getting a good night’s sleep. I don’t mean the sort of weary that can be resolved by visiting a good friend or watching cooking videos on facebook. I don’t mean the sort of fatigue that you can sort out with a day spent watching bad TV, wrapped in a duvet, knitting and eating chocolate.

I mean the sort of tired that I don’t know how to fix. I mean the sort of tired that leaves you wondering about everything you ever did, characterized by fits and starts of what seem to be brilliant thoughts which fizzle into all the ways you hate yourself and every life choice you have made.

The sort of tired, weary and woebegone that you can’t fix. The sort that needs time and sunshine and good food and rest of a sort I have not had in the last two years.
I have one individual paper and one group paper. I am about 8,000 words and one final presentation away from being done my MBA.

I don’t hate learning, I don’t hate academia, but I am done with this particular degree. I am done with the frameworks, the models, the rush to solutions and the workman like drudgery and grind that is a business degree.

I am done.

Except for the fact I am not.

My boarding school chose a curious sort of motto. Most school mottos are Latin and they have some sort of sense of victory or duty or aspiration. Mine? Plain English.
“The end of the matter is better than its beginning.”

There’s not a lot aspiration in that. It actually seems like a pretty blunt and declarative sentence. I might even call it presumptuous. Is the end always better than the beginning? That implies a sort of teleological narrative. It requires me to believe that the whole of humanity strives toward a beautiful and complete finish. Or at least that I strive to that.

8,000 words. The end is after that.

And I am weary. Exhausted. Also woebegone.

I have no idea how I will find the reserves to get it done. It’s not hard, it’s not even a bit past my grasp.

I do not care about the last of it while simultaneously knowing I must care.

I can be any sort of  tired in 9 days.

Not now.

It’s not the end.

Posted in Grad Student | 3 Comments

Turn Right for Hope

 

I have made the drive from Edmonton to Victoria more than once. Never on my own. Indeed, the drive was a feature of my married life and Owen drove most of it. On Sunday morning, as I left Aunt Peanuts, when the sign said to turn right for Hope? That was further than I had ever driven alone through BC.

Past Kelowna, into Merrit is one of the highest passes in BC. That Sunday morning there was fog, snow, sleet, a bit of ice and the plows hadn’t been through. I have driven through the Rockies before, I have driven through snow, through fog, on uncleared roads.

I’ve just never done it on a pass that high, with all those factors, at the same time.

I am no stranger to ambiguity, to confusion. Your child’s death, a thing which plunges you unasked into an utterly foreign world, it teaches you to make your peace with ambiguity and confusion. The alternative is losing your mind. Some how, in Gabriel’s death I learned to marshal the skills I had, to beg, borrow and steal new skills. I learned to build on what I had and invent the new at the same time.

When it started to get dicey on the pass, I thought about all the things I’ve learned.  How not to brake on the long inclines, to move slowly and deliberately while changing lanes or speed. I know to leave enough space, to watch the car in front of me when I can’t see the lane markers.

I also know this – once you start up the highway, you actually cannot turn around. You can’t stop. The only way through is, well, through.

So I know what to do in those situations. Marshal what you know. Learn the rest very quickly.

 

On the fourth of January last year, I asked Owen for a divorce.My choice came at the cost of hurting someone I once loved a great deal. It marked the final breaking of a promise that I thought would really be until death do us part.

I am eternally glad that people don’t ask if I am happier alone. I don’t know what to say. I don’t even know if happy is the right word. I don’t know if it will ever be the right word.

It’s been a year of managing things on my own. Putting skills together in new ways. Learning new ones. Finding my feet. Finding me.

Happy seems a small and silly word. I’m neither happy nor unhappy. I’m mostly content. More peaceful. More resilient.

It amused me to see the sign telling me to turn right for hope. It fascinated me that getting to Hope was harder than I thought it would be.

I thought I should tell you that.

Posted in Divorce | 1 Comment

Everyone needs a nag

I’m sitting at the Nook this morning. It’s owned by a good friend and it’s a handy place to run away to when I need some time and space to focus on something.  I’m a bit invested – I spent most of the July long weekend painting everything in the place. (True story: if I find the person who scraped the table I painted, I will hurt them.) I’ve shown up with a hammer and WD40 to fix the bathroom door.

There are all sorts of things I love about this place, not least of which is watching how damn good my friend is at running a cafe. I also love that they make a fantastic americano. And they know that if I come in after 1pm, the order will change to a decaf. I can wander in, decide I  don’t like the grilled cheese special and they will invent the Cheryl special. Which always has brie. Usually other good stuff.

When Linds chose the location, she wanted to create a meeting place. It’s across from a Federal Government Office. Down the way from EPS headquarters. In the middle of the inner city. Underneath artist’s studios. On any given day there is an excellent mix of people. Suits and small children and uniforms and jeans and beards.

I was settling in. Pulling out my computer, waiting for my toast when I noticed the very young man in front of me. In a clearly very new suit (still had the tag on the arm) with the vents sewn closed. Normally I don’t say anything.

But in this place? A meeting place?

I walked to the counter, grabbed some scissors. Walked over. Smiled at him, told him to stand up. I explained that men’s suits are sewn closed, but you need to remove the stitch and take off the wool tag. I fixed his tie bar and told him that I wished him luck in his interview.

The Nook. Where you go for a coffee before your big interview and where a nagging woman fixes your suit while she waits for her toast.

Posted in Etiquette, Feats of Wonder | 6 Comments

A funny thing happened on the way to my thesis

On about December 15th, I got my first round of thesis feedback from my advisor. It was good feedback and I set about taking the probably forty hours to combine the feedback, do a bit more research, fix a few tables and make some updates. I’m not going to lie, it was a grind. Not because it was hard work, but mostly because I was so tired of working on this bloody thing. I was so close to being done that I really didn’t want to spend any more time.

I gritted my teeth and I did all of that and then sent a note to my advisor telling him I needed to run a few things by him. I did tell him I had uploaded the final draft, pending our discussion, it was probably good to go.

My advisor had this almost throw away remark in the feedback about wanting me to include two or three pages of research and narrative on barriers to technology adoption. There was a minor problem, in that I was more or less at the word limit and adding two or three pages was going to require another 1,100 words.

I needed a phone call to figure out how to do this. So I sent an email and we went back and forth about a time. We were still doing that about twenty minutes before I got the paper back.

I guess I should have realized that when you upload the final draft, they mark it. Like, actually mark it. (I know, it astonishes me that people pay me money to advise them!)

Now, it’s a good grade. A nice solid A.

I really don’t have much to complain about (other than I wanted an A+, but that’s just me. I’m like that. I can admit it.)

I’m pleased. No, really, I am. I texted everyone who would remotely care (and probably a few people who didn’t, but at least feigned enthusiasm for me). I left work a bit early, went and bought myself a very large pumpkin spice latte and several books.

It just feels a bit . . . strange. I had expected some period of time where I nervously awaited my fate. I had expected to sweat a bit, worry.

If you have something you need worried about, it seems I have a bit of time and capacity. Send me a note or a comment. I’ll get right on it for you.

Posted in Grad Student | 5 Comments

Lucky Stars

A friend of mine and I talk about nature vs nurture sometimes. He’s a scientist, with the sort of specialization you google and still aren’t sure about. When I ask him genetics questions, I suspect it’s like a five year old who tells knock knock jokes. (You keep asking who’s there to be kind, but inwardly you are groaning.) All the same, he answers my questions with good humour and fact. We never seem to talk about luck. I suppose there’s no science in lucky stars.

It’s unsurprising I would think about what we inherit and what we learn as I was driving home from a family Christmas in Calgary last night. I made the drive all right, but somewhere shortly after I started my memory took a wrong turn.

I think back to the choices I made between the ages of 13 and 17. By logical outcome, there should have been a bill to be paid. Based on the decisions, I could be dead, I could be in prison, I could have had the course of my life catastrophically altered. My bill simply never came due.

I had company on my wrong turn memory lane. The people for whom that bill did come due.  They paid it with their lives, with their freedom. Some of them are still crushed under the weight of the payments.  If we want to stick to science, that’s Newton’s third law- every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

I am surprised when people tell me they are self made. I’m made of luck. My bill never came due. Somehow I escaped the equal and opposite reaction.

At the end of my drive and my trip down memory lane, I pulled in front of my house.

I made it home.

So many of them didn’t.

I thanked my lucky stars.

Posted in Learning Life | 1 Comment

It Came Without Tags, It Came Without Packages

I am typing this by the light of my Christmas tree, with about a quarter of a butter tart sitting on the couch arm next to me. The other three-quarters of the tart are safely ensconced in my tummy.

It is a surprising thing that I have a tree this year. To put a positive spin on Christmas, I might say that I took the opportunity to consider what Christmas traditions I liked and how I wanted to interact with Christmas.

To be more honest, my biggest problem was, and had been for months, what I was going to do for Christmas Day. I’ll put in a big PSA at this point. If you know someone whose circumstances changed over 2017 – they got divorced, they moved, someone died, they lost friends, would you please consider providing them a plate at your Christmas dinner? There is nothing so terrible as realizing that you are going to spend Christmas alone.

I thought about it hard. I did the baking because I love giving it away. I like the opportunity to thank my neighbours for being great neighbours. I did the festival of lessons and carols, which I used to do with my mum, because I love the feeling of history and connection it gives me.

I stood in line at the bookstore and they had Christmas Cards on sale. I couldn’t be fussed to get cards with a photo, but I managed a greeting card and a Christmas letter, in part because I liked the letter part. More than that, I like getting cards from people and giving them seems to increase the likelihood of getting them.

The tree came about differently.

I like staring at the lights. I like sitting with a coffee, with a butter tart and losing myself in the lights. I found myself, on Saturday, almost without thought, pulling up the tree, putting out some ornaments. Digging through the many boxes which can allow me to vomit Christmas over my entire house, finding enough to make the place look festive inside and out.

My present, which arrived in the mail from Ms. Fab is sitting under the tree.

I am staring at the lights.

And suddenly, Christmas is here.

Posted in Divorce | 3 Comments

Bi-Cameral

Ten years on, it is a strange thing to celebrate your child’s birth and mourn their death. You receive texts and calls and messages from friends. You are reminded that you do not mourn alone.

But you go and live an ordinary life. Do a load of laundry. Put gas in the car. Write Christmas cards. Submit your thesis. Talk to your neighbour.

You remember, as you are driving to meet your ex for dinner, that you forgot to put more kleenex in your purse and you wonder what will happen when you go and sing happy birthday to your son, just like you always do.

The first year, you couldn’t get any of the words out.

This year? You sang the entire song. There were tears in your eyes. You blinked them away.

For years, today was hard. It was the re-integration to the other part of my life. This year it was different because I spent yesterday in both houses.

It seems like it was only last week that he died.

And also a life time ago.

I left the hospital on December 12 of 2007. There was a couple as we were leaving, the nurses were checking to make sure that the baby was correctly seated in a car seat. We slipped past the nurses as they were distracted. I had no luggage, no balloons, no flowers. My few things were in a plastic bag, given to me because I came to the hospital without packing a bag. I had no baby and no idea what I would do next.

I thought about waiting until Tuesday to submit my thesis. I thought about driving to the parking lot of that hospital, tethering my laptop to my phone and sending it from there.

I was so very lost ten years ago. Broken, inconsolable.

I’m bi-cameral now. I live in two places. Most of me lives here. Here, where I do laundry and I write a thesis for my MBA and I sit with a junior consultant as she prepares for her first big facilitation gig.

Also there. That space out of time, a space where my son and I were together. I carry a pocket of grief with me, an enduring sadness.

Almost no one will know. That’s ok. I’ve made my peace with it. They will not know that I am a mother, that my dearest love is not with me.

And I live in two places.

Posted in Baby Loss, Gabriel | Leave a comment

The Vortex

At some point your realize the death of your child will be ever thus – a howling vortex of pain and anguish, lasting only a few seconds.

Standing on a hill at a summer folk fest, singing along with a band I love. The very last of the set begins. It’s that song.

I walk away from my friends. I stand alone and stare at the candles we are all holding. Then, we are both here. In the vortex, you come back to me. In the dark, by the light of hundreds of candles, I am your mother, singing your first and last lullaby.

The vortex. It comes from the day when my head and my heart realized that I had your life growing inside me. The first time I ever felt you move. The nickname I gave you. The moment I first stared at you on an ultrasound screen. The conversations I had with you. All those moments only we know about.

I figured out pain and anguish so very quickly. I figured out how not to talk about you. I learned to tuck you between my heart and my lungs. I found out ways to make my life meaningful without you.

A decade later, I understand the vortex. I hold my pain and sorrow as immutable truth. I loved you. I loved you with every ounce of my being. I love you still. I will love you until the day I die.

The vortex is the price of that love.

When it comes, I fall into it.

Happy 10th birthday little boy. I miss you.

*****
Dear friends and loved ones,

With great joy and heartbreak, we wish to announce: at 10:26 PM on December 10, 2007, Gabriel Anton was born into the hands of Cathy, his midwife, sang to in the arms of his mother, rocked in the arms of his father, bathed in the arms of his grandmother, and baptized in the arms of Regula, his Parish Priest.

At just after 11 PM, he was carried to Heaven in the arms of the Angels, where we will meet him again one day. At 520 grams (1 pound 2.4 ounces), and 33 cm (13 inches) he was wee, with 10 fingers and toes, and a full head of hair. He was a perfect, but very tiny baby.

For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart. Luke 12:34

Posted in Gabriel | 5 Comments

Like her and . . . Not

I stood in the line at the grocery store, ordering my groceries so they got bagged in a simpler order. I walked through the parking lot, looking at the at the hefty receipt. I was muttering “I’m so glad I came for only a few things.” I came home, put my groceries away into various jars and bins. Flipped a load of laundry. Found myself thinking I needed to sit down with a cup of coffee. If you knew my mother, I just described her. Perfectly.

I finished my grocery shopping early because for the first time in my dating career, I was stood up. My friends were all one would want in this situation. They agreed that he was lame, a jerk. Mostly I just wanted to know if I got some sort of badge or trophy.

In truth, it might have been a missed communication, he might have been abducted by aliens or maybe he just stood me up. I don’t know. I choose not to take it personally.

My mother spent most of her life a classical narcissist. Fundamentally, everything was about her. With a narcissist, when someone wrongs them, it is personal. Wrongs turn into vendettas, grudges and grievances.

I worry about becoming my mother. I worry about causing the damage she did. I worry that leadership will become control. Don’t tell me I won’t, NPD is a mix of genetics and upbringing. I have told you I am her daughter. I had a traumatic childhood.

So, I try not to make things about me. This was Brene Brown’s gift to me. The idea that on the whole of it, most people are doing the best they can. I choose to believe that, not because I’m a pollyanna who doesn’t want to see bad, but because believing this changes me. I get the power to let go, to not hate, to not be angry, to not resent.

I thought about all of this, sitting on my front porch, drinking my coffee. About the good and the bad. The ways I miss my mum and the ways I try to live differently.

She died three years ago today. I miss her. And I don’t. I am my mother. And I’m not.

Posted in Adult Dating, The language of families | Leave a comment