Take Command

Some years ago I was at a client social event with some software vendors. As so often happened, there were 14 men sitting around drinking, and me. The only woman. The men were talking about their wives. A surprising amount were stay at home mum’s. We mustn’t forget Mr. California’s Malibu barbie wife – doesn’t cook, doesn’t clean, doesn’t work. To be sure it’s no small thing to run a house and keep up with kids when your partner is on the road 40 weeks a year.

And there was me. Still dancing backward in my high heels, kicking ass and taking names. The youngest principal, well respected in her field. I am nobody’s little woman. I stayed quiet. Nothing really to say. The conversation was mercifully short, but it took a surprising turn at the end.

One of the men, a Texan, an internationally respected mountaineer, one of the kindest and smartest men I’ve ever called a friend – he held up his glass of beer.

In his drawl . . . “Now, I’m from Texas and we like our women a little different. We want the ones that dig their heels in, the ones that keep their heads when it all goes sideways. The ones that load the kids and the horses up when trouble comes, that circle the wagons and grab a gun.”

And he leaned over and he looked at me and said “Honey, I know you are from Alberta, but in your heart, you are a Texas gal. Strong and tough. Don’t ever change that.” 

It’s a story worth telling on International Women’s day. We come in all shapes and sizes, all forms and functions. And the world needs all of us.

Here’s to the women.

Posted in Feminism | 1 Comment

And So I Lied

She wasn’t prying. I’m in a medical situation, getting a drug, and she had to ask about my past medical history. Pre-eclampsia, with long-term minor kidney damage and very mild hypertension, the fact they gave me a ton of blood, my platelets crashed, that matters when you are getting a monoclonal therapy.

She’s 21 weeks pregnant.

We went through the history. She asked if my baby is ok now.

I lied.

I told her that he was fine and staying with his dad this week.

There is no need for general confession. It was a lie, I know that. I suppose it was a sin, but it was a kindness too.

All the same, I lied about someone I loved. For all the right reasons.

Forgive me.

Posted in Baby Loss, Grief | 4 Comments

Our Penitence and Our Mortality

I went to Ash Wednesday mass last week. I still don’t know what I feel about the good Lord. I don’t believe what I did. I still like going – I’ve been going to this service for most of my life. It’s quiet, grounding. It reminds me to self-reflect, to be humble and to be contrite. Among other things, this is the point of lent – to focus us on brokenness – within ourselves, within our communities, within the world. Possibly creation groans all the time, but the liturgy asks us to stop and abide with that groaning for 40 days. We are asked to be still and watch and listen. We will be broken anew even as we are made whole in other ways.

The sermon this year was particularly interesting. Instead of focusing on the falling short, the Rector focused on why we help and why we don’t let others help. I’m pretty good at knowing why I help others and I call myself out when my motives are not fantastic.

Letting others help me.

Ouch.

oh. umm.

I’m maybe not good at this.

I’m typing this from a new infusion clinic. Over the next 5 days they will pump $65,000 worth of drugs into me. I feel. . .

Look, I’ll just be blunt. I feel like absolute shit. My head is pounding, every single muscle in my body hurts. There are no words to describe how awful my mouth tastes. I’m running a nasty fever. I’m moving like a 90-year-old.  I’d say I have to barf, but I’m not sure I could muster the energy.

Ms. Fab flew out yesterday to take care of me. I confess, I thought the clinic was fussing at me. I’m pretty independent. My biggest worry was going to be keeping myself busy. I had my textbooks for next semester, a crochet project, some work stuff. I thought I’d manage pretty well.

I’m not going to be independent this week. I’m barely going to make it through. I’m going to need every spare ounce of help.

I felt uncomfortable during the sermon. The rector said it’s can be sinful to reject offers of help because we are rejecting love. We are hindering others from loving us. We are so caught up in our strength and virtue we don’t think we need help. The danger in that is that we become immune to needs, we become arrogant in our independence.

Apparently, this won’t be an issue for me this week.

Posted in Living Deliberately, MS Gets on Your Nerves | 3 Comments

Zen Like

On January 6th I emailed my Neurologist to confirm I wanted to switch my MS Drugs. This morning I got the notification that while the insurance paperwork wasn’t complete, the drug company was covering my drugs anyway.

55 days.

I had a 2-week window that I could do 5 days worth of infusions required. There was no way I could stop work and school, but I could stop work. Ms. Fab arranged to work from my house so that she could take care of me (the side effects can be awful). I started the process 60 days in advance.

For 55 days I have been nagging some combination of a neurologist, an MS nurse, an insurance company and a drug company.  Forms upon forms upon forms. Blood work. An EKG. A TB test. At least a phone call or an email a day. It was 21 days from the time I sent the Neuro the forms until his office sent them to the MS Nurse. Another week of phoning the MS nurse every day. The neurologist sent the insurance forms late and then to the wrong number. My neurologist failed to actually explain why the switch was required – apparently, he felt that “pt needs new drugs” was sufficient justification for $65,000 worth of drugs. Oddly my insurance company disagreed. They asked for more justification (or any justification). It took another week for him to write a 2 sentence letter.

There was the day that I called the MS nurse and my broker. My MS nurse to figure out if I could pay for the drugs on my own and my broker to find out if I had enough money in my RSPs to do it. The MS nurse (who works for the pharmacy and the infusion clinic) was very clear that they would not even tentatively confirm a bed for me to get my infusions until they were very sure that they would be paid for the drugs.

I called the drug company to ask for compassionate coverage. I called the College of Physicians and Surgeons to ask them to help me get my neurologist complete forms more completely, more quickly and send them to the right place the first time.

I’ve lost track of the hours I’ve spent. I have been the single point of contact. The MS nurse (who was supposed to do this) has failed to return phone calls, is rude and unhelpful and has come astonishingly close to lying.

I’ve cried. I’ve cried in a Starbucks, sitting on a train, as yet another medical professional failed to do their job. I’ve found myself unable to breathe – terrified at the thought of what happened if I couldn’t get the infusions when Ms. Fab was here to take care of me. I could afford the cab rides back and forth, but I couldn’t think of anyone who would come and take care of me. If I couldn’t get the infusions during the break, if I had to wait until my next school break, what happens if I had a relapse because I wasn’t on meds?

Our healthcare system is great in Canada, some of the professionals within it are less than patient focused. I wonder, what happens when you can’t speak for yourself? What happens if you don’t have a voice and a job that allows you to spend an hour or two a day making phone calls and following up?

Perhaps more than anything I’m left with a sick feeling. The neuro will never know or care about the panic and stress he caused. The MS nurse will carry on not returning phone calls or explaining the process. I’m the only one who will hold any accountability and that doesn’t help the next patient they fail.

Posted in MS Gets on Your Nerves | 4 Comments

Upon Leaving

This morning I left the house for work. It was moderately cold out and not at all sunny. My neck hurt and I had a busy day ahead of me. I left for work because that’s my job, but it wasn’t exactly a day I bounced out the door.

As I was leaving, I called out.

“Guard the house, eat all the burglars. Have a good day.” 

This is nothing new. I’ve been saying that to my dogs (and I guess cats) for years. This morning I realized – I am the sole source of support for the furries. I’m the only one bringing home the bacon. (Or in the case of Coda, the cocktail shrimp to mix in with his stupidly expensive vet cat food so he doesn’t pee everywhere.)

All of that to say that I wish that at least one animal had at least looked up from their morning nap to acknowledge that I was going to work to ensure their nice, cozy life.

Posted in Dogs, Furry Slugs | 2 Comments

Thresholds

Owen moved out on Saturday morning. The truck was full and he was driving away by 10 am. He was moved into his place by noon. I came home from helping out a bit at his place and I sat in the car.

I stopped. I needed to stop. I remembered Owen carrying me across the threshold when we bought the house. I remembered the friends and family that have come through the door. Carrying Gabriel’s crib in, and all the nursery furniture out. The times we have carried drywall and flooring through that door. My house is a home, part of that home was Owen.

Yesterday when I crossed the threshold the house was just mine.

The dog greeted me. The kitten sat on the newel post, just like he always has. Coda came around the corner. I told them it was ok, that I was home. Nothing had changed, not really. Most of the furniture is still here, I’ve moved books around to fill spaces from Owen’s, swapped out some photos. I moved my bedroom furniture around. Bought new and very feminine bedding. I have throw pillows on my bed (this is ridiculous because I never make my bed.)

I’ll throw a load of laundry in tonight. Shovel the walks. Change the cat litter. Make myself a sandwich for dinner. Do a bunch of studying.

I crossed a threshold in my own home yesterday. It’s still a place filled with love and care and hope. It’s still where I come when I am small and broken; it’s still where I put myself back together again. The house is still home. A different home, but still home.

Posted in Divorce | 2 Comments

Tempus Fugit

As I age, I realize that there are moments when you watch the end of time. Moments when one thing is passing on to the next when something is ending. The time of one thing ends and another begins.

Actually, that’s not what I realize.

I’ve always known when I watched the end of time. When I said goodbye to a childhood friend who was moving away. The first time I sat with a pet as they died. When I broke up with my first boyfriend. Graduated high school. Births, deaths, leave-takings. They are the end of time and I’ve always known that as they happened.

I’m learning what to do at the end of time.

I don’t stand back and let it happen. I try not take myself out of the flow too quickly. To not grasp or try to hold on, keeping myself present. I’ve tried to imagine it as if I were letting time run through my hands. I’m there. I weigh and measure, cradle it, but let it go under its own force.

I suppose you could say my marriage ended on January 4th when I asked for a divorce. Or maybe it ended on February 14th when we signed the separation agreement. Maybe it ends on Saturday when Owen carries the last box out of a moving van and into a new apartment. Maybe they are all endings.

15 years, 6 months, 12 days 

15 years, 7 months, 23 days 

15 years, 8 months, 3 days 

That’s not nothing. That’s an ending.

Tempus fugit.

Posted in Divorce | 3 Comments

Keeping Myself Warm

A few weeks ago  I came home from a business trip. I’d had a really good day. I got to do something that I loved, I had fun doing it. I got to teach some people about how to make their lives better. I got to drive home on a sunny Alberta day. That’s a pretty good day. Oh, and there was pie. Cherry pie.

I let myself into my dark and empty house and . . .  well, the dog barked. The cats wanted their dinner. No one really cared about my day or the sunset or the fact that there was pie. I fed the animals. I watched some TV. I did some readings for school. I think I might have gone to the gym.

Owen was at his girlfriend’s (yes, I’ve met her. She’s lovely. The divorce had nothing to do with her. I wish them both the best. Yes, I actually mean that. Yes, all of it.)

Alone.

This is my life now. And it’s, well, it’s ok. Except for the moments where I want to tell someone about something. If I could have phoned a friend. I could have done many things, but I didn’t. I watched TV, I went to the gym, I had a glass of wine.

It’s tough. The good days and the bad. The days when I am tired, when I don’t want to shovel the snow, make another dinner I will eat alone. The days when I want to complain to someone. For a month now I’ve sucked it up. It didn’t seem that I had the “right” to complain about being alone when I decided I wanted a divorce. A divorce is pretty much “leave me alone” country.

But here’s the thing. Feelings are just feelings. They aren’t right or wrong. Being alone sucks even if it’s the necessary step to happiness. I asked for a divorce in part because I couldn’t do the thin strand of unhappy any longer. I have been setting myself on fire to keep other people warm for most of my life. It’s kind of my natural inclination. I’ve stopped doing that.

It occurs to me, I have to figure out how to keep myself warm too.

Posted in Divorce | 4 Comments

Go home to your families

I was sitting at Starbucks, trying to answer some emails from my family (they get short shift) when Owen texted me.

****

I have listened to the Vinyl Cafe for oh, at least 20 years. Long before the age of podcasts or that kind of thing. I started listening to Stuart when you had to turn on the radio. Which was not hard because I grew up in a house that listened to CBC. Even so, noon on Sunday’s.

Some people probably started listened for the music. I can’t lie – I hated the music at first. Well, not hated, but it was so annoying that there was music because what I really wanted were the stories. The stories of Dave and Morley, Sam, Stephanie. Arthur the dog and Galloway the cat. Stories of being human.

It’s hard to do this well. Get it wrong it’s craven cynicism or it’s maudlin or grotesque. Stuart never got it wrong. Somehow he held us up as we are. The stories that were the best of us. The most human of us. The ways we are funny, silly, odd and so very, very human.

For those of you who have been around for years, you might remember December of 2009. I didn’t know it then, but that was when I came back to life. That was when I realized it was somehow going to be ok. I wrote Stuart that year and told him about this, about his concert and why I was there in 2009 and why I wasn’t in 2007. He wrote me back, a very kind email saying thank you. I think he knew about sadness and grief.

Stuart McLean died today. There will be no more Dave and Morley. I won’t get to laugh at Mary Turlington. No more Wong’s Scottish meat pies. Stephanie and Sam will maybe age, but there won’t be anyone to tell me about it.

 

I am thinking of this – of how his family became sort of my family. Of how he brought music into my house. So many of the bands I now love I heard from him.

Stuart ended his concerts the same way all the time. I know this because I went to many.

Go home to your families.

And he was part of mine.

So long for now.

Thanks Stuart.

Posted in Grief | 2 Comments

Your Opinion

It’s human to judge. We do it all the time. We take an incomplete set of facts and we make up our mind. Being gloriously human, we then legitimize our judgments by calling them opinions, values or common sense. Don’t tell me you never judge. You are trying to tell me that you are not human.

The challenge in judging, in opinions, is that they separate us from each other. This is a particular issue where the judging and opinions were unsolicited. It’s profound presumption that your opinion so valuable and so correct that the other must listen to it. That moves it from separation into downright rudeness.

My SIL, a kind and loving woman, sent Owen and I a long email imploring us to stay married. She was worried about my financial future, convinced that all the people my age are single for a reason and the grass wasn’t greener on the other side. She remains sure that marriage is not there to make you happy, so she thinks we should give up on romance and be a platonic couple. All of what she said, it was based on her mental framework. She told me far more about why she had stayed married than she told me about what I should do with my life. It was opinion, not fact.

The trick to mitigating the separation and the presumption of offering an opinion seems to lay in understanding your framework, your biases, your thought patterns and your triggers and then asking the other person if they want your opinion. When they ask, it means taking yourself out of the situation as much as you can and simply offering thougths.

I made my decision carefully. There were people I spoke to, we worked through the impacts of their decision together. I wanted their opinion because I knew they were aware of their mental frameworks, their biases. I listened carefully to what they said. In the end there was one opinion that mattered – mine. I needed to be ok with my decision. I needed to know it was carefully made, that it was done as kindly as possible and it was the best possible outcome.

As for the rest? I suppose if you are someone I care about, I’ll politely tell you that I’m good about asking for advice and assistance when I need it. If I haven’t asked you can rest assured I’m comfortable with my choice. If I don’t know you and I haven’t asked? I’m still going to be polite, but I’m going to tell you in no uncertain terms that I’m not interested in your opinion and to please keep it to yourself.

Which should explain to my charming commentator, who has been rather aggressive with the opinions about my divorce, why I blocked you from commenting. If you aren’t polite enough to realize that your opinions weren’t asked for, then I don’t feel like I need to read them.

Posted in Divorce | 8 Comments