Wrestling and Mud

My father in law used to tell me to never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.

A high school friend posted that meme today. So I asked, were they not entitled to find love because he was disabled or because she was fat?

And the friend was horrified that she would “give off that vibe.”  I can understand that sometimes we need someone to come along and explain that meme only works because we think the disabled and the fat are not worth dating. That meme doesn’t work if it’s two “pretty” people kissing.

That’s not the pig. Pointing that out is not the mud or the wrestle. All of that happens after the premise of the humour is pointed out to you.

I’ve been there.My first instinct is not to say “thank you so much for furnishing me an opportunity for personal growth.” I’m probably no different than anyone else. My first instinct is to tell you I didn’t mean it that way. To tell you that there is something wrong with you.  See, you get a choice. When someone walks you through the problem, you have two options. You can listen. You can learn. Or you can argue.

That’s the wrestle. You get a choice. When someone walks you through the humour and says it is offensive, you have two options. You can listen. You can learn. Or you can keep arguing. I don’t wrestle with you. In this case, I pointed out that the meme was offensive. Posting it was the tacit acceptance that fat and disabled people don’t deserve love.

Someone (many someone’s actually) said that I shouldn’t have said anything. That offense is in the eye of the beholder, that you can’t call someone a bigot if you don’t know them.

That’s, well, it’s bullshit. Bigotry is bigotry. Choosing not to see it is not my problem. That’s not my wrestle and not my mud. Staying silent when I see it is my problem. When I stay silent, I get down in the mud with you. I become the pig.

I’ve kept my mouth shut about Trump on this blog. On facebook, for the most part. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

Trump got elected for a whole bunch of reasons. One of them is that we don’t like calling people bigots. We don’t like calling out racism, misogyny. We think it’s “mean” or “rude” or “insulting”. Sometimes we say that pointing out bigotry is arguing with a pig. Watching how the discussion on facebook went, I can see why.

So we stay silent. And when someone says “that’s just your opinion” we don’t stick to our guns. We don’t point out how the humour works and re-emphaszie that if you think that the disabled or the fat shouldn’t be able to find a date if you can’t, then you are a bigot. That’s a statement of fact, not an insult. I’m not wrestling and I’m not debating, I’m pointing out a fact.

I’m only getting muddy when I say nothing.

Posted in Learning Life | 1 Comment

Thin Strand

I’ve often thought that there is a cord that wraps through our lives. It carries our family memories, our passions, who we were, the worries we carry our entire lives. It wraps around us; our relationships they become strands within it. I think of my triumphs and my sadness, of all things that have given me strength to go forward and the things that have held me back. That’s the cord, filled with strands.

There was a strand of unhappy in my cord. A thin one, ever present. It just never really went away. In the happiest of times it was there, a mild shadow. Ignored, brushed aside. A thing I looked at in the middle of the night, sometimes. It grew denser and blacker and stronger in the hard times.

The thing about the cord of our lives and the way it wraps around our relationships is that you can’t cut a strand. You cut the cord. So I ignored the strand. It was not all bad. It was often good. Just never free of the strand. 16 years. The strand just robs and robs and robs.

This week I cut the cord. We cut the cord. Mr. Spit and I are divorcing.

It’s sad. We are tired. It hurts. There’s a terrible cost, it’s an awful thing to cause someone hurt for your happiness. If I still believe in sin, surely this must be a sin. So too is it a sin to ignore unhappy. There are no rewards for it.

I balanced on a knife-edge trying to find my way around it for 16 years. I finally realized, that’s the thing about cords. You can cut them, splice them, stretch them and change them. You can swap out strands. Our son will hold us together. He has been in my life for all my life. I’ve no intention of writing him out of memory. I love him too much for that.

Mr. Spit will no longer be my husband. We will, I hope, I think, I pray, return to what we began with – a friendship.

Posted in Learning Life, Marriage, Mr. Spit | 6 Comments

Bidding Prayer

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are for ever one.

I still listen to the Festival of Lessons and Carols at Christmas. My faith is dubious (although I went to Midnight Mass this year – see note about unhappiness and confusion.)

I found myself thinking of what it was to be without child or parent this Christmas. In some ways my mother is with me. She is with me when I sent my eldest nephew a crystal wine decanter upon hearing of his engagement. She was with me when I put spatula’s, tea towels and underwear in my stocking.

My son is ever with me. Crazy, perhaps, but there you have it. He lives in the space between my heart and my lungs and is with me in every way that matters.

It was not a happy Christmas. I have found myself a sort of lost for the last 3 months. I don’t have a particular explanation. I should be happy. I’ve no real reason to be unhappy. Yet here I am. Deeply unhappy. Muddling through as best I can. I hope it will pass. Perhaps it is not unreasonable to say that on Christmas Eve, I lowered myself on creaky knees and found myself praying that it would.

I do not know what I believe. That’s nothing new. In some ways, unhappiness is not much new either. A friend of mine both aptly and eloquently pointed out that I have experienced enough grief for a lifetime. It feels a bit melodramatic, but it is, I suppose, true.

I find myself going back to the things I knew. They change. I do not know them the same way. I do not believe what I once did. I suppose I am telling myself that this is alright. The bidding prayer used to connect me to what was- to my mother and my son. I know now that they are never gone from me.

The world, the bidding prayer tells me, is separated into shores. Not disconnected really. The ocean connects us all.

Not such a bad learning in the middle of unhappiness.

Posted in Advent Reflections | 2 Comments

Back When

I stood in line at the drug store, buying nylons and mascara. There was sugar free liquorice and I almost bought some. For just a second my mum wasn’t dead, she was alive and talking to me and sugar free liquorice went into her stocking.

I called my godmother – to get her new address for her Christmas card, to see how she was doing, to arrange to stop in for coffee after Christmas.

In some places, when I call, I am still Cheryl-Nancy. I phone and they say “Cheryl-Nancy!”. Like all children, I hated that name when I was younger. I hated how prissy it sounded. It reflected someone who just wasn’t me. At the ripe old age of 38 – nowhere near a child, it reminds me of my roots.

They are complicated roots. Gnarled, twisted. Some of the trees they grew were dark and twisted. And some of them weren’t. Some of those roots grew into amazing things. This morning was one of those mornings. You know, the kind where nothing goes right. You wake up late, can’t find things, need to change your purse and your boots fit funny and your tights have a hole in them.

I was running around the house this morning, running through work stuff, school stuff, Christmas stuff (the gifts are bought. The decorating and the groceries – not so much). I walked back into the bathroom and there was a whiff of my perfume. For a moment, I thought of my mum rampaging through the house, trying to get out the door. For a moment I thought of being a small child, of where I came from.

Back when I was still Cheryl-Nancy.

 

Posted in Advent Reflections | Leave a comment

Fierceness Written Within

They didn’t know where it came from – this calm fierceness.

All they saw was the woman who got up, dumped out last night’s scotch, made coffee, ate her cereal out of a plastic bowl. Went back out to face another day of grad school. They hated her for it, some of them.

Sitting on my bed in the morning, legs dangling over the side, staring into a coffee cup, she remembered.

Horrible sounds that came from a broken heart. The moment her eyes could not cry any more, but grief still remained. Sitting on the kitchen floor, unable to move, for most of day. The moment she could not make a cake because she could read the directions but something was so broken she couldn’t comprehend.

And this? This with longer days and work and deadlines? I went and found this two years after those terrible moments. I found a software implementation project and I worked and I worked and I worked. I worked until my broken heart knit back together, until comprehension returned. Until I could find my way back to the light.

They only see her.

They do not see you, my little boy. With my red hair and your father’s hazel eyes. Our freckles. They do not know about you. When they ask if this is hard, if I have cried, what shall I tell them? That 9 years ago today I held you for half an hour and I sang you a lullaby and you gasped for breath in my arms and you died.

My heart lives in 2 places. The best of me, my single greatest and most profound achievement never opened his eyes. But I call you Gabriel and you are our baby.

Sometimes, with some of them, I held out my hands. I told them that a very long time ago I did a hard thing, and that hard things change you. Scar tissue is stronger than skin. These terrible things, these hard things, they make you. Maybe, if they were very lucky, this would be their hard thing and they would find light on the other side.

Some day, when it is hard for everyone around them, they will be calm and they will be fierce. It will be built on love and pain and sorrow and a short moment of exquisite joy. And nothing will frighten them anymore.

They will understand -the broken and the fierce- it comes from what lives in the space between our heart and our lungs. We hold it there because it is what we love and how we breathe.

What lives in that space is the most amazing light and wonder you could ever hope to see in a dark place. It defines us.

And you define me.

Even still.

Happy Birthday little boy,

Mummy.

*****
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

Tea Towels and Wooden Spoons

I see her around. Well, not really because she is dead, her ashes put in to the ground by my own hands.

Except that I see her. In a well dressed woman of a certain age. A tone of voice. A whiff of perfume. A turn of phrase.

Sometimes the turn of phrase comes out of my own mouth.

I see her absence too. When I walk down Whyte Avenue at Christmas and think of the shopping trips she took with my Godmother. As I cook food for a colleague whose mother is dying. When I survey worn and stained tea towels and battered wooden spoons. Too many years with no stockings.

The galaxy of small things I don’t think about until I do. The unexpected moment which catches you.

I came from something.

Not always something good, loving or even healthy. But something. I had roots. I had tea towels and wooden spoons and some idea of how to behave in public. It is Thursday. 2 years ago tomorrow I sat with her while she died. On Saturday am I held her hand for the last time.

I carry things forward. I pass on things, share care and concern. I make a friend, whose mother is dying, meals. Send thank you cards, still dress appropriately. In many ways, she is no more dead than she was in all of those years that she wouldn’t talk to me. Except when the last of the coffee mugs that she bought me broke, I lost the ability to breathe.

I can go buy more tea towels, wooden spoons. I can order them from amazon and never leave my house. A coffee mug is just a piece of ceramics.

Imbued by love. Tradition. The sense of how things should be. My mother wasn’t very good at it, but at least some of the time, she tried.

And I miss that. I miss her. I miss roots.

Posted in The language of families | Leave a comment

Judicious Application

I was talking to a friend about my financial accounting exam this coming Friday.

Mostly I am a bit panicked.

There are, I suppose, some who are simply so naturally skilled at accounting, who grasp the concepts so easily that they can skate along. Rarely is this me. I learn by a judicious application of, well, ass to seat and pen to paper. I guess, in this case, fingers to keyboard, since all of my study materials are on line questions.

I am not brilliant. I will say that again. I am not brilliant.

Mostly what I am is a combination of curious and diligent. I am good at focusing, I am good at asking questions and I am good at knowing what it takes for me to be successful, which mostly means that I know that I will pass this exam by doing question after question. It is boring. It is tedious. I may lose my mind if I get another question about costing for a stuffed alligator factory, the lampshade budgeting requirements or the break even point at the pen manufacturer.

I am the annoying kind of smart. Smart enough to be let in to do a grad degree, but not so brilliant that I will ever ace all of it, even with an extraordinary amount of effort.  Mostly I am going to muddle through. I will have occasional flashes of brilliance. Mostly I will plug away. I will do question after question. I will start my essays early, so that I have time to refine. I will read the text and then I will read and highlight and then I will make notes.

I am frustrated by the notion that I am brilliant. (Which was his word). Mostly because people assume that I don’t have to work and I don’t have reason to worry. I am frustrated because it is often hard for me. It is often challenging and rarely easy. I get my marks the old fashioned way – by hard work.

So stop telling me not to worry because I’m smart. I’m only smart enough to realize that I need to work hard.

Posted in Grad Student | 3 Comments

Endless Grey

I’ve been lacking in ambition and drive in the last few weeks. This is probably normal – it’s grey out – days of endless drizzle, sleet, snow, rain. It’s a tough time of year for me – the anniversary of my mum’s death, Gabe’s death. The end of fall, the start of winter, the lengthening dark.

I try and breathe through it, just like I do every year. Tell myself that it happens every year, that it will be ok.

I look out the window, hoping for sunshine.

Posted in Interruption. | 2 Comments

Aspirational Reading

I have enjoyed reading the Slate “Normal” series. Perhaps the virtue of aging is that you realize that you are relieved to be normal. I don’t crave differentiation as validation any more. I know my own failings: a predilection to overthinking everything, an embarrassing sort of earnestness and a hopeless love of shoes and lipstick that ill becomes a feminist. Middle age brings a desire for conformity, the endless comfort of knowing that your aches and worries and woes are the unimpeachable evidence of a undistinguished life. Middle age teaches that exceptionalism in all things is just exhausting.

This week (or maybe last?) was a post about displaying books. I am amused, the Mr. and I have a 10 foot high and 12 foot wide custom built book case in our dinning room. There are books in the basement, there are books in my den, a stack on the floor by my bed and a bookshelf in my office. My books in the dinning room are organized at least a bit artfully. The books in my den are shoved in to maximize space and let’s just not talk about my office bookcase. I’m not sure that having that many business and academic books isn’t a walking cliche.

The end of the article talks about the to be read (tbr) pile, more specifically the aspirational TBR pile that apparently some folk instagram. I carefully consulted instagram and I continue to see photo’s of cats and children and food and knitting and pumpkins. Apparently no one I know is cool enough to have an aspirational reading list. Possibly my TBR pile is exceptional.

I have a stack of books. I buy more than I read these days. These days of middle age – I read for 5 minutes before I fall asleep. I’m still reading through four year’s worth of books I bought in airports across the continent. I’m still reading through the books I bought second hand when I took the new job last year (I thought I was going to have all the time to read). I’ve bought books since then. There was a united way book sale and I had to buy books, it was for charity.

I find books, or at least being in their company, comforting. I know that my aunts will read this post (Hi Aunt Deb, Hi Aunt Robin) and they will laugh because they too have piles of books. My mother died with books unread (They are now in my to be read pile. Towards the bottom. I’m not that deeply invested.)

I’ll keep my TBR pile. It’s nothing special. I’m glad Slate agreed that it’s normal to have books you haven’t read.

Posted in Books | 4 Comments

Smile and be Pretty

I get handed the dumpster fires at work. Your train wrecks, car fires, blazing inferno’s? Project over budget, behind schedule? You don’t even know what’s been done? That’s where I shine. I’m good at that. I’ll take your mess and I’ll sort it and people will be happy. Clients will like me when I’m done. Most of my colleagues will like me after everything is fixed.

I’m competent.

I was on my way to a meeting yesterday. The sort of meeting that really should be an email, but because of the way we humans are, it was going to work best if we just got everyone in a room. As it happens, it took 3 minutes to explain the issue, 5 minutes to discuss some history and 4 minutes to agree on a solution. Another 4 minutes of next steps, add in some chit chat about cars, weather and hockey and you have a 15 minute meeting to solve a problem that had been going on for a month.

Competence and dumpster fires are the back ground – the main act occurred in a hallway yesterday at about 1:58 pm. I was running late for  the meeting I just told you about. Came across a colleague and a senior member of the client staff. My colleague – a man – put his hand on my shoulder – looked at me and said “young lady, what have I said to you about always smiling for the client.” 

There are so many places I could go with this.

If you are a woman I don’t need to go anywhere.

You are with me in that hallway.

You know I felt tiny and belittled and humiliated. I wasn’t competent. I wasn’t going to solve a problem. It didn’t matter that I was tired because I solve dumpster fires for 50 hours a week and I go to school for 20 hours a week. It didn’t matter that I didn’t feel well, that I was worried about a friend losing his job and that I was trying to sort out two other problems.

None of that mattered because I wasn’t smiling and I didn’t look pretty.

I’m not stupid. I know I’m playing at a man’s game. I know that. I know that there are fewer women hired into tech and that even less of us stay. I know it doesn’t matter that Justin Trudeau said “because it’s 2015”, that the Premier of my Province is a Woman.

What happened yesterday, it’s just another scene in the ongoing drama. Another act. Following on from the time the senior developer asked if my pubic hair was the same colour as my hair. When I’ve been called honey. Had my ass grabbed. Called a bitch and offered midol for daring to tell a man he was wrong. Been asked to make the coffee, do the photocopying. The time the client thought my BA was the project manager because he was a man.

I sent an email. Told the colleague his behaviour was unacceptable. Followed up with a note to my boss.

Apparently my bottle of “very expensive apology scotch” will arrive. This was my bosses’ suggestion to make amends.

I don’t want a bottle of apology scotch. I’m not interested in washing down my demands for basic equality with a side of light peat. I sure as hell don’t want to drink with someone who thinks I should look pretty.

I’m competent. I’d like to be equal too.

 

Posted in Evil Corporations, Feminism | 4 Comments