About as Happy

I had this notion, in the last 2 months of trudging, that I would be happy again. It probably wouldn’t come all at once, it might take time, but it would happen. Some of it was based on experience – I’ve been miserable before. Happy comes back.

Mostly because of this – I hate feeling miserable. I sometimes wish I could be the sort of person who could mope for long periods of time – but I’m not. I like being happy and I tend to get exasperated with myself when I’m unhappy. Eventually, I decide to be happy again. *

Last week was truly awful. There was a 21 hour trip, including 11 hours in taxi’s, on planes, in airports didn’t help. I am working on three projects right now and every last one of them is going badly.  A door slammed in my face (turns out the farm boy is dating someone already. No, that didn’t take long. Yes, she was probably around before he dumped me. No, I’m actually not going to spend a lot of time thinking about this because it’s not going to help.)

About Sunday I decided I’d had enough. Time to take charge.

I’ve deleted social media, other than Instagram, off my phone. I’ve been slow and terse to return texts to people who were draining me. I emailed the local girl guide group to see about volunteering in September. I made a list of things I want to do this summer and who I might be able to do them with (Also, if you were looking for a buddy to do something with and you are local, send me a note. Chances are I’m happy to come along). I shelled out some money and joined an internet dating site. I started going to the gym and tracking what I ate (which tends to mean I make better food choices because I feel stupid saying I had half a chocolate bar and some gummy bears for dinner).  I formally deferred my acceptance of my Master’s degree for a year. I’ll keep on with the meditation I’m already doing.

Is it going to fix everything overnight? No. It didn’t break in a day either. It was a long, slow break. So slow that I didn’t really notice things were breaking until they were really broken.

So, it’s better. Not because it’s fixed but because I can see the light on the horizon. I’m not paralyzed any more and I can figure out where to start. There’s still some trudging, but it’s not all uphill. That’s a good start.

*I’m cautious about saying this because it can lead to the implication that people who are unhappy chose to be so. Sometimes things like depression, grief and strife cause deep, profound and lasting unhappiness. No amount of deciding to be happy will fix this, anyone who says you can choose not to be clinically depressed or grief-stricken is an asshole.

Posted in Learning Life | 3 Comments

The Sea of Disconnect

I would like to be the person who starts this post with my favourite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt – that most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Except I threw out 5 mostly uneaten cakes this morning. This offends my sense of waste, but I really didn’t have it in me to haul them into the office.

Yesterday was the thank you I threw for my MBA. It wasn’t so much a “yay me” event as wanting to say thank you to the many people who helped me get my MBA. Those who encouraged me, those who reminded me to get away from my computer, those who edited my thesis or my papers, those who listened to me rant. I wanted to hug them and tell them they mattered, that this was a bit their degree too. I baked and decorated 5 different types of cake. Decorated the back yard.

I invited 36 people.

7 came.

Which meant the 5 homemade cakes and rather a lot of fruit, the lemonade and the beer my best friend brewed went uneaten and remains not drank.

I took the garbage out and sat on my kitchen floor and cried.

There were a variety of reasons – soccer games, music festivals, working, moving, other commitments. Simple fatigue. The rational part of me, the part that wants to embrace the quote, understands life happens. Life is busy and we can’t do all the things that we want to do.*

But oh, the other voice. The voice that says I am tiresome to spend time with, that I am alone, disconnected, unimportant. That’s the voice that is screaming today.

The trick is not to force myself to be happy. That will come. I know it will. The trick, on days like today, is to remind myself the other voice – the one that tells me no one likes me, that no one cares about me, that I am annoying to be around and that I will die alone and unloved-

It’s lying.

So for today, I won’t force myself to be happy. I’ll just force myself to be reasonable.

*I invited Mr. Spit, since he has truly helped in the process. He said he would come and then didn’t show up because he had a date. I rather think that his absence was intended to be a bit of a slight.


Posted in Feats of Wonder | 5 Comments

Still Trudging

Get up. Make coffee. Let dog out. Feed cats. Drink coffee. Get dressed. Go to work.

Write to do list.  Attend meetings. Send emails. Work through to do list.

Go home. Let dog out. Rest for half an hour. Feed cats. Maybe feed self a real meal, maybe eat cereal. Read, maybe. Knit, maybe. Garden, maybe. Watch TV, maybe.

Have bath. Crawl into bed. Read. Try and sleep. Maybe.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Still Trudging.

Posted in Feats of Wonder | 2 Comments

And a Safety Pin

I crossed the stage this morning, the University conferring upon me the degree of MBA, with all the rights and privileges thereunto.  I shook the right hands, in the right order and did not fall over. Cheered for classmates. Hugged my aunts and uncles that came. Held the flowers they brought me.

I told everyone that there would be a photo of me in the stupid hat, with the silly robes and with the biggest grin in the world.

I wore my mother’s gold necklace. Gabriel’s bracelet. Carried my father’s lighter.

Our family is where we come from. I am proud of where I come from.  Proud of the people who taught me grit and resilience and fortitude. It meant the world that they brought me flowers, but also that they came. They came to cheer me on, to be proud of me.

I carry my son with me everywhere, but on a day like today, it matters to me that whatever else I am, I am also Gabriel’s mother. He is gone but not forgotten.

And I had a safety pin.

I asked a friend to bring me the pin. It was a last minute realization, the idea that I could pin the lighter into my dress. It doesn’t seem like much, bringing someone a pin. But she brought me the ability to carry forward where I come from into who I am becoming. She brought me the means of connecting it all together. This is what our friends do for us – they help us hold it together. In a pinch, when you need help, they bring you a pin.

Posted in Friendship, Grad Student, The language of families | 5 Comments

Turning on the Vacuum Cleaner

I was on a date a few months ago, and I made mention of having a housekeeper. The gent asked why. I would have thought it was obvious, at that point I was working more than full time, going to school full time, and while I hadn’t mentioned it, I manage a chronic disease. He seemed genuinely confused that a single woman would have a housekeeper. He kept asking why I couldn’t clean on my own.

Pinterest is obsessed with giving me cleaning tips. How to get my baseboards clean. Parts of the toilet I need to scrub. How to bleach my grout. How to dust fake flowers. How to clean the inside of my dishwasher. I do not care.

I turned on my new vacuum cleaner for the first time last week, when my housekeeper had to call in sick. I was a bit embarrassed to tell you that I have not used it up until now.

I have a housekeeper for a lot of reasons. She does a far better job than me, mostly because she cares about a lot of this more than I do. As it happens, she really likes vacuuming. My time is limited, even without school. Time spent doing housework is time not spent doing other things. Jamie makes my life easier. I come home on a Thursday or Friday, open the door and the house smells like Pine-Sol. Things are clean. It’s the most fantastic thing in the world.

It astonishes me that I would be embarrassed to tell you I haven’t turned on my vacuum cleaner. I don’t live in squalor – if I need to sweep in between cleanings (and with 3 cats and a dog, I often do) I will. I know how to vacuum. But there’s that age-old thing. What the gent on the date and what Pinterest insist on. I’m a woman. I must care about housework.

And I do. I care that it’s done. I care that I don’t have to do it.  I shouldn’t be embarrassed about that.

So here and now.

I hate housework. It’s a lousy use of my time and I like living in a clean house.

That’s why I have a housekeeper.

Posted in Interruption. | 7 Comments


Spring in  Alberta is a strange time. Every spring, I wait to see what plants have come back and which have died. The time where you can see the remnants of the plant from last year, but you can’t see any green. You aren’t sure if it’s dead, so you can’t pull it out of the ground. There’s nothing to do but wait. I did that for three weeks. This last weekend is where I declared things dead and moved forward with planting new things.

My boss asked, in a meeting, if I wanted to take on a project. I am spectacularly fortunate to be asked this. Most bosses don’t care. Most people have nowhere near as much control over their work tasks as I do. It’s important to be grateful for this.

But the truth is – I don’t care. The truth is the list of things I want to do involve – well, pretty much nothing. Maybe curling up in a ball and sleeping?

The list of things I look forward to? It’s empty. The list of things I want to do? Nil. Things that get me excited? Nothing.

Getting dumped by someone I knew, someone I trusted and someone I let in? Kick in the gut. The teeth. The head. The kidneys.

Before you panic, I’m not going to end my life. That’s the whole point of this post. It’s the part where I grit my teeth and declare my intention to trudge on.

So, trudge. Get up, go to work. Pull weeds. Clean the cat litter. Eat food. Go see friends.  Take the garbage out. Pet the dog.  Knit things that need to be knitted. Do it all again the next day. And the next. And the one after that.

I’m almost 40. This is just waiting. Eventually, I’ll move forward. I hope.

Posted in Learning Life | 4 Comments

No, It’s You

In my very first residency for my MBA, one of the instructors, talking about constructing an argument, told the story of where she looked at her friend and said “You know, I’m 45. If an argument doesn’t make sense to me, it probably just doesn’t make sense.”

There was this terrific sense in letting go when I heard that. The idea that maybe I was smart enough to know bullshit when I heard it, that my gut had something worthwhile to say.

This week, I have had 4 different people say things that were breathtakingly rude and or cruel. One person gets a by because they are 10. It may have been cruel but at 10, it wasn’t deliberate.

The other three.


The other three.

On Monday someone who knows me well commented that Mother’s day must have just been another day for me, given that my mother and my son were dead. Uhh, no.  Not quite.

Last night, at a corporate dinner, I wound up alone at a table. A colleague turned up. She asked me if I could move seats, didn’t say thank you. She and another colleague sat down, completely ignored me and carried on a conversation. It was like I wasn’t even there.  I suppose you could say that our mother’s obviously taught us different things about how we act in public.

I’m not going to talk about the third thing. It involved me getting dumped and frankly, it still stings. Rather a lot. I’m short on perspective.

Usually, when I am treated rudely or cruelly, I wonder if it’s me. I wonder what I’ve done, thinking that normally people aren’t rude or cruel for no reason. The interesting thing is where I landed last night. The moment where I realized that these people had been rude or cruel and that it had nothing to do with me. It said more about them than it ever did about me. In fact, in some sense, it wasn’t even about me.

It’s them.

Posted in Learning Life | 1 Comment

Boundaries of Absence

It’s a challenge, a double-edged sword. There’s an assumption, implicit, but there, that my personal time and my social life have less value because I don’t have children. There’s an assumption that I can work overtime, stay late, come into work early because I have no children at home.

And it’s true.

I want my colleagues to spend time with their children. I want them to take them to school, to read them stories, to eat dinner with them. In a great many senses, I’m happy to do the extra work. The years are short. Their children will only be little for a while. Memories take time to happen.

I know this because I don’t get to make those memories. I can tell you the value of those memories because I have mapped the boundaries of their absence.

Posted in Learning Life | 3 Comments

Also, My Mother

I am fighting with Netflix. I realize it must look like I am blogging, but what I’m really doing is fighting with Netflix.

Also, my mother.

I’ve been fighting with my dead mother since Monday at about 8 am. That was the fifth poke to start the IV for my MS drugs. I have great veins you know. They don’t always last, but they are large and mostly straight and it’s easy to start a line in me. It hurt. I have massive bruises on my left arm, but more than that, it hurt. It was really painful. I was mad that my mother the OR nurse, who could have gotten a line in, wasn’t there.

I was mad on Tuesday when the other two women had their mother’s there. I was alone. Thankful for the friends who drove me,  but I wasn’t going home to a mum who was going to make me dinner or tuck me into bed. I was alone. I was sick and I hurt and I was upset and my mum wasn’t there. I needed someone to take care of me, and she wasn’t there.

I was angry on Thursday when I got the drug rash and drove my sick and itchy self to the neurologist who prescribed more steroids. I was angry I had to take the elevator up with a coughing toddler because I’d just spent 3 days destroying my immune system and his cough could put me in ICU. He’s just a kid with a cough and he’s 2. He’s not going to cover his mouth.

I was angry at the pharmacy when they informed me that my insurance would only cover the generic, which came in the smallest dosage, so I was going to have to swallow 16 pills at once, on an iffy stomach. If I wanted the non-generic, so I would only have to take 6 pills, that was going to be a thousand dollars. I started to cry.

In my arguments, as I get mad at my mum, she points out what she did for me.

My mother gave me grit. The grit that got me through the IV starts, the grit that got me through the bone pain, the grit that let me bill 20 hours last week, the grit that got me out of bed each morning so someone could put poison in my veins. It was the grit that got me to the doctor’s office for the steroids, the grit that made me swallow the pills.

“Do you want cookies and TV? Or do you want to know you can face each day as it comes? Do you want to be cosseted or do you want to survive? I gave you survival. I wasn’t so bad.”

In my saner (and less prednisone rage induced moments), I know that she’s right.

It’s just that those moments aren’t these moments. So I’m fighting with Netflix. And my mother.

Posted in MS Gets on Your Nerves, The language of families | 1 Comment

All my Thoughts on Thoughts and Prayers

I’m gearing up for my next round of MS drugs. For those who haven’t been following along, this is where evil pharma shells out $70,000 in compassionate coverage for drugs that my insurance won’t pay for. These drugs are chemo drugs, which means that I barf and lose my ability to taste anything and I suffer from crippling fatigue for a good two weeks. The bonus is that I will probably lose 10 pounds before my convocation. So there’s that.

Preparation consists of buying an absurd amount of over the counter drugs to manage any possible complication from barfing (which won’t help), to Tylenol, for the headache (also won’t help) to a wide variety of anti-allergy medications (which also won’t help, there will be a rash). I’ve also laid in a store of Boost. Mostly because I can tip it back while plugging my nose. This will help because I can’t taste anything anyway.

I posted the photo of the Boost on Instagram and Facebook. With a pithy comment. Most of the reactions were fine, except for the one from someone who was praying for me.

I was a Christian for most of my life. When they say that they are praying for me, I believe it. I know it to be an earnest and sincere offering. I suppose I’m not clear on what they are praying for or what good it will do. If you are praying for a cure, well, about that. It’s just, that’s going to be stem cells. And since those are ethically a problem, if you are a Christian, well there’s a dead baby thing. So, you aren’t praying for a cure, or at least not the obvious one.

Which leaves me wondering if you are praying for me. Only, if that’s what you are doing, it does seem that you might want to ask for what I need. I could use some prayers for a quiet week at work, or that my veins would hold up through all the days. If you must pray –

There’s an obvious problem with that too. Really, if I can have my druthers, what I’d like are a few casseroles. Maybe some company. A willingness to run for Gravol when I run out. Or maybe, if I know you and I like you, you could hold my hair and give me something to wash my mouth out after I barf. If that’s a bit too servant leadership for you, perhaps you could shovel or walk the dog. Those would be handy. You could just come for a visit (if you are healthy).

As it stands, an atheist, an agnostic and a Buddhist are going to take care of me. They’ll drive me to my appointments, make sure I have food, shovel the walk, walk the dog and make me tea. They aren’t going to pray. They’ll be rather busy.

So sure, you pray. Someone probably should.

Posted in MS Gets on Your Nerves, The Cheerful Agnostic | 6 Comments