As Often as it Takes

Way back when I was in boarding school, we used to joke that God sometimes used a 50 pound hammer to get our attention. We thought perhaps wisdom was when God didn’t have to use a hammer at all.

I no longer believe that God interacts with me that much. The deeply personal, deeply invested relationship, where God directed each thing that happened in my life? Science and evolution and tragedy and experience in the universe has led me to believe that if God exists, well, he’s a busy deity and he honestly has better things to do than whack me with a hammer because I keep committing the same sin.

God doesn’t sit in heaven, look down at me and sigh, shaking his head when I’m about to do the same stupid thing for the umpteenth time. There’s no ‘whack’, so that I fall back in line. The law of cause and effect affords me the opportunity to keep practicing. Einstein posited in practical wisdom if not scientific fact, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is a sort of insanity.

I will digress – just for a moment – to point out to the immutable forces of cause and effect and to the eternal wisdom of Einstein: while I appreciate that I may do the same things over and over and expect a different result, the same things often look like very different things when I am in the middle of them. Indeed, I am perpetually Wile E. Coyote, believing that my latest Acme purchase will defeat the Road Runner. I fail to realize that the problem is not with the Acme company, it that I persist in a foolish game of defeating the road runner. Meep Meep.

I am managing a very large, very complex and very politically fraught project. I am, in truth back in exactly the same sort of environment I was in during the Spring of 2014. We might say it’s not that different than the project I worked on between 2009 and 2011. It’s nothing new. And I have learned things. I have learned a bit more balance, I’ve built confidence. I’m a better leader than I was. I have more of a sense of where things go wrong to head them off.

What I don’t have, not yet and maybe not ever, is the ability to divorce myself from my work. The ability to walk through my front door and turn off the project part of my brain and simply be all the other parts of me I’ve worked so hard on developing.

I say this as a woman who is an ugly bundle of stress and frustration and aggravation.

Which is ok. Because the law of cause and effect will allow me as many tries as I require to learn this lesson.

Meep Meep.

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The Battle and The War

I gave up. I gave up on the battle and maybe the war. I’m not sure about the war.

I looked at my boss and I told him I was done. I give up. I’m exhausted. I have no more fight left in me. I don’t want to document. I don’t want to talk to HR. They can say what they want. Don’t hurt my body and I’ll throw my hands over my head to try and protect my mind.

I can quote you the stats. I went and researched them for a presentation I gave. In Canada 36% of women will even start a degree in STEM. 12 out of 100 women who start a STEM degree will finish that degree. Of those 12, only 3 will still be in a STEM field 10 years later. We have a pipeline issue – not enough women in STEM. We don’t get the degrees and those who do, they don’t stay. 35% of women in STEM report being sexually harassed. 56% have been called “too aggressive”.

It’s the death of a thousand cuts. It’s not a guy cornering me and raping me. It’s being told to smile for clients, it’s being called darling. It’s the times that men talk over me, it’s the times that they introduce me by my appearance. It’s the jokes about my sex life. And I object. I object – sometimes in the room. Sometimes after. I send emails, I talk to my boss.

And then the moment when my junior comes to me. My lovely, brilliant and capable junior. And she tells me what’s happening. It’s the same old. And we could debate over whether the guy is doing it deliberately or if he’s just clueless, but it doesn’t matter, does it?

Because it’s happening. And she’s telling me that she has a problem. And I am powerless to stop it. I tell her she needs to go to her boss and that I’ll go to mine. She asked a simple question – whether or not I’ve ever seen this change anything.

No.

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What does a Mother Look Like

Thus far, a flower store I often use sent me a reminder about flowers. West Jet told me what my mother most wanted was a trip (I’d say she took her final and perpetual vacation in December of 2014, but you go West Jet). Shopper’s Drug mart tried to offer me some “Motherly Advice” to buy more stuff.

And AMA.

AMA asked “What does a mother look like?”

So, let me tell you, Alberta Motor Association.

This mother has spent a week in workshops. Making sure that people were heard, that time was kept and decisions were made. This mother is tired. She mediated an actual shouting match broke out during her AM workshop yesterday. This mother made sure that everyone was going to take a break, have some food. She made sure that feelings were ok after the shouting match, then she had a glass of wine with her lunch.

This mother spent Tuesday night with a sobbing 5 year old Spark on her lap. She sent an email to the family, asking if everything was alright. She emailed a niece who is going through a hard time. She laughed at pictures of her great niece and nephew.

On Sunday? She will go out the garden where she placed her mother’s ashes. She will tell her mother all the things that have happened over the winter. Her mother’s former boyfriend might send her a text, remembering her mother. This mother’s day she will be remembered as a bereaved daughter. It turns out that it is easier for the world to countenance a daughter whose Mother has died than a Mother whose child has died.

I don’t look any different on Mother’s Day than I ever do. I’m as invisible of a mother as I ever was.

He could not stay, so I tucked him between my heart and my lungs to keep him safe and warm. My motherhood is invisible and always present. My instincts to care and nurture are directed to a crying Spark, an overwhelmed staff member. My motherhood is filled with an ever present sadness that occasionally bursts out as a solitary bout of howling grief. And after? A quiet sort of peace.

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Need Help

When I wrote about the break in, I told all of you that I would order a replacement bracelet for Gabe.

Except I can’t. the website still exists, but repeated inquiries and requests have gone unanswered.

So I did a kick off meeting, his birthday, Christmas without Gabe’s bracelet. And while that doesn’t mean he’s any more gone than he ever was, I’ve missed it. I’ve rubbed my wrist where it would have been.

I have looked at rings, at necklaces, but in truth, the bracelet is helpful. I rarely wear them, so it feels special. I liked that it had his name and date of birth on a charm.

Any thoughts on where I can find something?

Posted in Baby Loss | 4 Comments

Fell In Love, Walked Away

I don’t know what your superpower is. Mine is getting in the longest line and finding bookstores.

I find bookstores . . . everywhere. I walk down the street in not my hometown and I look in windows and hey, there’s a bookstore and I walk in. I have a sense about that many books, gathered together. It’s like they call to me. Usually I buy something. Almost always I buy something.

When I went back to Chicago last month, I went for a funeral. The night before I took the train to a small town for the funeral, I went out for Mexican, then as I made my way back to my AirBnB, I found a bookstore. It was supposed to be a quick trip. I went in, asked about a few books I’m always looking for, I had planned to emerge in 20 minutes. 30 tops. I’d been awake for 16 hours, I needed to sleep.

I emerged some 3 hours later. We talked about books, about life, about the perils of dating after 40. We talked about Canadian politics because he listens to CBC Radio French. He told me about growing up in Mexico. I told him about growing up on the prairies. Our pets, our parents, our friends, our passions.

I fell head over heels in love.

I am deeply practical. I’ve been smitten and infatuated before – I am human, however much people doubt this. But head over heels in love?

I can’t explain it. There was a moment, a brief one, where I almost texted my best friend to tell her to pack up the house and ship me my cats and dog. Where I almost texted my boss I quit.

He wrote his email on a scrap of paper. I lost it. This too is a thing I cannot explain. I tucked it carefully away in my purse. I am not prone to losing things.

And yet it is gone.

I could find him. I know what street the store was on, I can find it on facebook, on instagram.

But I am not sure that I would find the magic of a bookstore, it’s light spilling on to the street. And Manuel. Standing behind the counter, ready to talk.

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Carry you With Me

I tell people that politics is a family sport. My grandfather, my mother, me. I apparently (I don’t remember this) door knocked in my first election when I was 5.

I don’t remember the first one, but I remember many after that. I remember political conventions, I remember rallies, I remember, well at least three decades of it. I’ve never been an official agent, I’ve never been a campaign manager. There’s literally nothing else I’ve not done.

I’m serious. Door knocked. Called. Stuffed envelopes, dropped leaflets, hosted coffee parties, donated.

As I work on typing this, I’m also sending texts for the NDP. Yes, that’s right, if you’ve gotten a text from Tim with the NDP, it may have been me. (Aren’t we all a bit Tim?)

I see children in the campaign office, I saw them when I voted tonight.

I wanted this. I wanted to bring him to a campaign, I wanted him to know that this mattered. That this is where he came from, that this was part of his history.

I wanted to tell him about his great great grandfather, to tell him about my mother, his grandmother. To tell him about the arguments because she dared to volunteer for Pierre Trudeau. I would tell him about the time his grandmother came for coffee and saw an NDP lawn sign. And the look. Oh, the look. I wanted the moment when politics stopped being a family business and became his business. The moment when he supported someone I abhorred, and I told both of that it was important to participate.

I wanted that.

Gabriel died 11 years ago. In some ways, he died again today.

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Winners and Losers

One of my colleagues asked me if I won.

Can I tell you the truth?

A long time ago, a younger version of me stood in front of God and her friends and her family and promised until death do them part. A long time ago a man loved that young woman enough to make a life with her. To buy a house, to build traditions and create inside jokes. To dig gardens and decorate Christmas trees. Wash dishes and laundry. To bury his father and her mother and their child.

His father’s photo still hangs in the kitchen. His grandparent’s wedding clock hangs on the dinning room wall. Our son’s ashes sit on the shelf in the dinning room. 38 years worth of Christmases. 16 years of marriage. We grew up together and then we grew apart.

At about the same time, in buildings only a few blocks apart, a new title will be registered at Land Titles. Divorce paperwork will pass under a judge’s eyes and be signed. The courts will mail out the decree. Land Titles will send me a letter when they re-registered the title in my name.

My colleague, he was asking about money.

He missed the greater part. We lost on growing old together. We ended companionship and and gave up on tomorrows.

Tomorrow I will dress with care. Bite my lip, focus and put one foot in front of the other. Hand over the documents to end my marriage and sign the documents to buy my house. And then I’ll come home. And curl up in a ball on my bed, and weep.

There are no winners.

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The Extra Voice in My Head

In November, when I last saw him, my neurologist pointed out that I have had MS for 5 years now and not running anymore, well, that’s kinda what happens. He sorta shrugged and said “yeah, sorry Kiddo. That happens with this disease”.

It turns out that I wasn’t really ok with this.

So, I started running. I’m used to the voice that starts, oh, maybe 3 minutes in. That voice says this hurts and it’s stupid and it wants to go home and eat cheese and drink wine and this hurts and have I mentioned that it hurts. I’ve been ignoring that voice for the almost 10 years I run. I acknowledge it and I move on.

What’s new is the lesions. That comes with new voices.

There’s the voice that comes in about 2 miles in, which warns me for about a split second, before I lose the vision in my right eye. Now, this sounds terrible, but I’m running on a treadmill and it actually doesn’t matter if I can’t see.

There’s the voice about my left leg. Now, what happens is a bit weird. It’s not that my leg stops working. It’s more that my leg and my brain stop talking. I lose all sense of where my leg is in time and space. My leg is working fine. My foot is making contact, I’m running.

The problem is with the voice, the one I call Alice. Alice is, well, she’s a pain the ass. She has no solution to the fact she doesn’t know where my left leg is. She just wants you to know that he’s hooked deeply into my lizard brain, the part of my brain that wants to be able to run away from a bear and Alice wants me to know that she does not know where my left leg is in time and space and she thinks I should panic.

It’s mostly fine. Mostly I just don’t think about it. It took me a bit of discipline to do this. I have to carefully not think that I don’t know how my left leg is working. I know it sounds bizarre, but please believe me, it works.

Well, mostly. Except for the fact I guess I listened to Alice. Or she distracted me. Or maybe someone said something about cheese.

Anyway. On Sunday, around about 2 miles, I fell off the treadmill. Which is dumb. So today I got back on.

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Millimetres of Mercury

It boggles my mind a bit, they measure blood pressure in millimetres of mercury. As in, your blood pressure is 120/70, means that on an old fashioned sphygmomanometer the measurement they take when they hear your heart beat stop (or maybe start) showed 120 mm of mercury until they hear it start (or maybe stop, probably you shouldn’t ask me to take your blood pressure), showed 70 mm of mercury. In a world of high tech drugs and spinning magnets which take pictures of my brain, this seems very quaint.

That’s the curious and quaint part.

My blood pressure has been borderline high since Gabe. In that time – 11 years – I’ve taken up running and lost 60 ish pounds. I’ve quit smoking (and started and quit and started and quit. Currently I’m in the quit phase, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that the most I can hope for is the idea of being a former smoker. I will never be a non smoker). I eat beans and tons of vegetables, I look at sodium levels in canned soup. I do all of the things that I should do.

I offered to lose the last 20 pounds I’ve been kicking around (Ok, 25, I ate very well in Mexico!). The doc said that this wasn’t the worst idea, but she looked at me quite nicely and said that it was mostly genetics. My father was dead by age 68, my mother was 67. While neither of them did well at managing their health, the genes, they are not on my side.

I’m telling you all of this because I probably should eat kale, and because it’s kind of a bummer that I’m going to wind up on bp meds, which I thought “old people” took. Mostly I’m telling you this because I’m proud that I didn’t blame myself for this. I didn’t shame myself for the extra 25 pounds, or the days when I don’t go to the gym. I realized that this wasn’t my fault. I’ve actually done reasonably well to get healthy since Gabriel’s birth. The meds? They would be ok. Which felt like a sort of victory.

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Emails about Slippers

My left slipper has gone missing. I thought it was perhaps under the bed, but no, it has gone on some sort of fantastic adventure. It has not sent a post card with an expected return date.

I live in a 1910 house, which is to say a cold house, with cold floors, and occasionally I want slippers. As I age, and I am perpetually cold, I seem to want them more. Which is about where this story starts – the idea of needing slippers, thinking that this cannot be a hard or expensive problem to solve, and being a bit flummoxed.

I think, and I’m not entirely sure, that my last pair of slippers came from my former MIL. For years, Aunt Peanuts used to buy me moccasins for Christmas. The upshot of this is that I am quite certain I’ve never actually bought myself a pair of slippers.

Given this, it is utterly ludicrous that I had an opinion over the cost of slippers. I’ve never bought myself any. I don’t think I have ever bought anyone else slippers. I have absolutely no basis for an opinion about slippers, but nevertheless, I find myself astonished at the cost.

I had originally thought I would just order myself a replacement pair from LL Bean. Possibly not quite a replacement pair as the pair I had were probably about half a size too large. They don’t sell my version anymore, but the approximate replacement seems to run about $125, plus shipping and I’m sorry, but I just can’t. A cheaper version (with cats) runs about $90, and that still seems to be ridiculous.

I contemplated felting myself a pair. After all, I have more wool than I could ever possibly need and I could totally do this. The problem is that with my variant of MS and Clumsy, it is patently unwise to not have a rubber bottom. It’s the sort of unwise that makes even me nervous.

There’s a funny sort of irony in this. One of my male colleagues, of the sort that I know pretty well, bought his wife slippers for Christmas. I suggested that this was perhaps, well it wasn’t the most romantic of Christmas gifts, and that very few women (his wife included) were going to complain if he bought a nice pair of earrings and placed them in the toe of the slipper. They didn’t even have to be particularly expensive earrings – just plain gold hoops. It was the extra effort that was going to net him much reward. The acknowledgement that slippers are practical, but his love for her is much greater than that, so have both warm feet and something as pretty as she is.

He did well out of my idea, although he took some time to come around to it.

There’s a bit of irony, because after panning his idea of slippers, I caught up to him at the coffee machine and asked where he got the slippers.

Which I may still refuse to buy, but at least I’ll have a better idea.

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