Circles on a Calendar

I write and I write about marking time.  Each year it surprises me as I go to Taste of Edmonton how visceral of a reminder it is. We met there – Owen and I – that summer I was pregnant with Gabe. I remember every year when I walk past the stall that sells the bacon wrapped scallops. The ones that I ate at lunch and ran away from at dinner.

A colleague is taking the month of August off. He’s like all of us with the changes at work – dazed, confused, and uncertain. He, more than the rest of us, has the time and space to take some time, so he’s going to southern California questing for answers.

We are all of us a bit lost.

I am hopeful for him and resentful at the same time. I have seen him change over the last six weeks and I am glad that he gets some time clear his head. I wish I had the same opportunity – I wish I could take a month of Sunday’s off – think about more than what I need to do to keep the plates spinning in the air this week.

And I think back – to all of the places I have been in the time since Gabriel – the six and a half years and how many times I have been lost, confused, uncertain. I look back at the things that cause me to mark time, the circles on a hidden calendar.

And I stiffen up my shoulders a bit more and march forward.

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Monday Miscellany

Sometimes the best thing you can say about a Monday is that it is over.

This Monday will be over in one hour and 28 minutes.

It has not been a particularly bad Monday, just a long one.

Posted in Salmagundi: A collection of various things | Leave a comment


Sometimes the hardest part of having a chronic disease is being gracious to the people who are patently watching out for you and your health when you are clearly not doing it yourself. Damn MS.

I over did it the other day and a number of caring and loving people were quite emphatic about the fact that I was not paying adequate attention to my need for sleep, for rest and for appropriate nutrition. So sayeth a random status of mine on Facebook. 

People being people and me being me, it was a hard thing. Those who know me well can approach me more directly – they can simply say “you must sleep. You must rest. This is not negotiable. How can I help you with this?” They will show up with food and put it in front of me and they will remind me to drink water.

And they will understand though-out the whole process that I am frustrated – I am frustrated by a chronic disease that inhibits my ability to do all the things and be all the things to all the people. They will understand that behind the frustration is embarrassment. I lived with a hypochondriac and mentally ill mother. It mortifies me that I get so busy that I am unable to remember the need to eat and drink water, and however grateful I am for the kindness of those who simply bring me food and remind me to stop for water, it makes me angry that I cannot figure out how to manage my workload and still eat and drink on my own. I was forced to caretake my mother – she used (apparent?) illness to force others to meet her needs. I do not wish to abuse others in this way.

I have failed twice then – in that I cannot do what I used to do, and that I had to be rescued and cared for because I attempted a thing and could not manage my own health like a grown up.

A friend nailed it on facebook – how it is hard to be scolded for doing a thing that I know I shouldn’t have done in the first place. My facebook status was an acknowledgement of that and an apology that I was not as gracious to those who care for me, as I could have been when they reminded me to take care of myself.

I got an email on Facebook from someone who was suggesting that my cure to MS could be found in . . .

Look, it doesn’t matter.

I have been singularly blessed – I have had very little in the way of pseudo-cures offered to me. Possibly I am lucky, most of my friends are science-y and aren’t into strange diets or odd herbs or things like that. I have a few friends who are actual herbalists, and they have come along with some suggestions for getting more vitamin D or providing some support to my immune system – things that are based on research and practical experience and in no sense are they ever presented as a replacement to standard treatment. Most of it comes with the line of “I did some research on MS and the drugs they will put you on are hard on your liver/suppress your immune system. . .”

And this is the first time I have had to directly confront someone who had an opinion on what I should be doing about the MS that wasn’t in line with standard science and it was the first time it was a woo-woo opinion and I was trying very hard to manage the line between polite and, well, “are you out of your freaking mind? I have a disease and I’m not interested in you selling me crap”

And I suddenly realized how fortunate I actually am. I have friends and I’m sure that they have opinions – not the least of which about how I should be treating myself. I am fortunate because the people around me – up until yesterday – come along and watch before they speak. They understand what I am – and what I am not. And when they think they can help, they come along gently – not telling me, not throwing things at me, but holding out assistance and letting me pick and chose.

Which is a good thing indeed.

Posted in MS Gets on Your Nerves | 4 Comments

Is You

The story probably starts this morning when I was tired and my head hurt and I was achy and felt sick to my stomach and I probably should have stayed home, but all I could think of was my list of things to do, so I went into the office.

The story gets interesting (perhaps) at about 4:15 in the afternoon, when I became so angry that  I actually kicked my desk and left a dent.

I know, I know. All things classy and mature and adult. I left the office at that point. It seemed wisest. I took a nap, took the dog for an 8K walk, made myself an omelette and then finally I went for a drive.

Matty is now a mostly well-behaved member of the deceased. Right after he died he used to pop up all over the place. I would see someone who had his walk – a middle aged man walking through a mall;  someone with almost that shade of red hair – a young girl whose hair would almost certainly darken. I would see these people with some element of him and for a moment my heart would sing because it was all a terrible mistake and he wasn’t gone. And then as I hurried to catch up I would realize.

In an instant it was the jarring phone call, the terrible silence after words slammed into me, rushing to his mother’s, the empty days while they brought his body home, the funeral, the after party we threw. It was all of that – days and days happening in a single second and the sheer force of it nearly killed me every time.

You say you want your story to remain untold

The song comes over the stereo. And I have no idea why it should give me such sorrow – I swear I have heard it hundreds of times since 1998.

And suddenly I could see him sitting next to me*. Stretching out his perpetually ungainly limbs in the seat, trying to get comfortable. He could never sit straight. I could see that vibrant shade of hair.  Some rust and some safety cone orange, a bit of brown and the odd strand of black, but over all it was just. . . orange. I could see his patchy beard (that I hated), and the acne. He his milky blue eyes looked straight at me. I could smell his soap (Ivory, if you were wondering. Which has no smell, but you could smell it on him all the same)

And I could hear his voice.

“Nice car for a stoner. Haven’t you gone all corporate?”

And he isn’t mocking me. He isn’t being mean. There’s almost a sense of confusion. That thing we do with our friends – the question we speak and don’t speak. ‘I mean, it’s fine, I guess. If that’s what you want, I’m happy for you. (Is this what you *really* want?)’

You say you’ll give me a highway with no one on it
Treasure just to look upon it all the riches in the night

In those days, when kisses weren’t contracts, we probably kissed. I honestly cannot recall. I’m sure we must have. He wasn’t a boyfriend, but he was the first of his kind – a truth teller. The sort of person who has the gift of looking into someone and seeing them as they truly are, and then reflecting that back to them. He was the first one and I learned with him, to listen.

You say you’ll give me eyes in a moon of blindness

It is 4 am as I write this. At midnight my computer was binging away because there was a decision made and then another decision and well, I wound up working. I volunteered, as it happens. It was both the necessary and the right thing to do.

A river in a time of dryness, a harbour in the tempest
But all the promises we make from the cradle to the grave

I was flipping through old photos before my computer started up. I looked at the single photo I have of him, standing there, leaning in. I looked at those faces – jubilant in youth and endless summer nights. I looked at the constellation of the people I used to pass my time with and one face led me to another memory. We used to stay up until 4 am you know.

That was when we told each other the truth.

Haven’t you gone all corporate, says he. . .

* To be quite clear, for the more literal members among us, I did not see a dead person sitting in my car. I did not have an actual conversation. I am not crazy.

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Pretty Little Land Mine

The fact is that between quitting smoking and emotional eating and bottles of wine, I have gained 10 pounds since January. This on top of the fact that I still have a bunch of weight to lose.  Mr. Spit has lost a bunch of weight and ran 17KM yesterday and he looks like a million bucks and I look like hell.

I am paying attention to what I eat – have been for the last 2 weeks, since I finished the soul sucking project from hell that almost did me in, managing to sleep more than 5 hours at a stretch and consciously settling myself down. I can actually deliberately chose a salad and not the nachos and it’s ok.

But weight goes on easily and it does not come off easily. It is summer, it is hot and I overheat easily and when I most want to shroud myself in layers of clothing, it is 30 degrees outside.

A well-prepared mine field then.

I am completely un-armoured in the mornings. When I say that I am barely functional in the mornings, I am truly and honestly not kidding. I hope – every morning – to good earth – that nothing derails me. I can sort of cope with this world, but it’s a narrow path. A crisis at work, bad dream, sometimes just the way I land hopping out of bed can be enough.

A well-prepared mine field, just waiting then.

David texted photo’s of Owen and I at Sunday night’s BBQ. I had no idea he had taken them. I was looking at them, bleary-eyed in the morning, 3 sips into my coffee.

Sunday night, Sunday night I felt ok. My hair looked good, I thought the tank top and capri’s were both cool  in the summer heat and looked fine. I felt – dare I say it – confident and attractive Sunday night.

I saw the photo’s and I swore. I actually felt sick. I looked absurdly fat to be wearing that little clothing. If you have been there – had that moment when you close your eyes and think “Oh god, I look like that?” then I don’t need to explain. If you haven’t been there then bless you, but stop reading – this post isn’t for you.

There are many places I could go from here:

The grown up and mature place is to say that I will not base my feelings of self worth on my scale and a bad picture.

I could try and put the weight gain into context – I could realize that I have had a lot on my plate. It has been hard to be with me. It’s not just the MS, which was a certifiably big thing. It was also a terrible project – a project that was so epic in it’s badness that a C-level executive hugged me to thank me for not quitting. It was the changes at the office – I lost my boss, my champion and my mentor and gained a bunch more work. It was some rather devastating news about my family and weeks on the road – it was all of that from the middle of March until the end of June. It was 3 and a half months of hard shit, all day, every day.  Eating nacho’s instead of salad is not the worst coping mechanism.

I could try and be gentle with myself – most people do not read an MRI report telling them that they have a chronic and degenerative disease and then drive to the airport to get on a flight for work. Most people give themselves the gift of time and space to get used to this. Most people do not discover that every single thing their mother told them about their family was a lie without some sort of adjustment period.  I just drove myself harder and was perplexed when that did not work.

I could simply remind myself that while it will take some time, I have already lost weight and I’m doing all the right things and it’s not the end of the world.

I could send David a gentle note, telling him that for reasons that are old; older than him, I hate photo’s of myself and it was a kindness that cut to the bone. I am behind the camera because that is where I am most comfortable.

I could do all of those things – but this was a land mine, blowing up everything. And all day – with eyes wide open I thought of those photos. Of how I felt. Of sheer and utter humiliation that I walked out of the house looking like that. That I couldn’t keep it together, that I couldn’t be perfect and that I have fallen apart in oh so many ways, and in 3 photo’s in my bathroom, I saw every last way I have fallen apart since March.

A pretty little land mine that blew everything up.

Posted in Learning Life | 2 Comments

Monday Miscellany

  • David is moving into his new place – his first place on his own, and he wanted a kettle as a house warming gift. It turns out that you can spend $120 dollars on a kettle. One that boils water. It does not add extra oxygen to the water, the resulting boiling water will not make you skinnier, and the kettle still requires your participation to make you a cup of tea.
  • Tell me, and you can answer anonymously, have you ever paid $12o for a kettle? Is it that much better than a $40 kettle?
  • On that note, I’d like to take piano lessons. Among many things, I need to sort a piano. Now, I understand that you can buy a good quality keyboard for almost no money, but I like old things and I’d really like I piano and I have a place to put one, so I might as well.
  • The problem is that I know nothing about buying a used piano.
  • Do you know anything?
  • I made cupcakes for dessert last night, which has nothing to do with anything other than to say mmmm chocolate peanut butter frosting.
Posted in Salmagundi: A collection of various things | 5 Comments

Self Aggrandizing

I had a discussion with the Handsome Aussie a few nights ago about how I didn’t mind being 35, at least most of the time. It’s not that I don’t have moments of self doubt, I do. I’m human.

Some time in the last year I have realized that there are a lot of 20 year olds who are smarter than me. There are 25 year olds who are less wrinkled and shall we say more perky. There are 3o year olds with a better education and better job titles.

I’ll still take being 35.

There’s some liberation in 35. I’ve realized what I am and what I am not and I am a lot more confident in my gut reactions.

At 35 you have a better sense of self, if only because you have begun to exclude things from your sense of self. I know what I like and what I want, in some very fundamental ways. Somewhere in the mix it became ok to let go of dreams and hopes. It wasn’t failure, it just wasn’t the direction my life took me in. I can look around at my life, realize that it is mostly good and understand that you take the good with the bad.

If you asked me at 20, I would have told you that my core value was justice. At 35 I realize that justice is blind and fairness matters more. I have started to pick and choose my battles and in my 35th year I walk away from far more battles than I fight. I have realized that there are far more matters of personal preference and idiosyncrasy than there are great moral issues of our time.

If you asked me at 25, I would have told you that how you looked and what you did was more important that who you were when no one was looking. I would have asked about your marriage and your children and your church, not who you helped when no one was looking. At 35 I realize the most important thing is kindness and what kindness means in each situation is often hard to discern.

If you asked me at 30, I would have told you that I was trying to do it all and be it all. At 35, I realize that I will impress some people and some are going to think I am an idiot, and as long as I did my best, that was all I could do anyway. Often the people I don’t impress are those I probably shouldn’t have tried to impress anyway.


Silly season has started up at the office with the recent departures. There is a lot of jockeying for positions and power and promotions. One of my colleagues has turned into a right self -aggrandizing jerk. Actually, the word I used on facebook is asshole. He’s turned into an utter asshat. An asshat that keeps coming after me.

And I have realized a few more things in my 35th year. It’s still worth it to balance humility with self-esteem. Know what you are good at, but know your failings too. Be unfailingly kind because you never know who is watching. If you aren’t sure if you should say something, shut the hell up. Your gut reaction hasn’t caught up with your brain and you are probably going to regret saying it.

And this – when they keep coming after you, over and over, you are probably doing something right.

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