Reminders –> Dismiss All

I replaced my Mac last week. This is a mostly seamless process, with a few things. (The new mac doesn’t have an ethernet port. That was a startling realization at the office, where we are completely wired!)

Outlook spent most of yesterday evening importing emails and calendars. Working backward from Yesterday (PG for SF Convocation), I watched netflix and watched outlook work through the last 10 years of my life.

I was still married (Date Night. Star Wars!) I was still friends (Send Matt’s birthday card, Adam’s birthday). I was still working for my old firm (VBE trip, staying over weekend). I was still at ATB (Daily Defect Call). My mother was still alive and in my life (hold for Mum’s cataract surgery). My father in law was still alive (Mail Otto’s Birthday card). I was still going to church (Hold for Altar Guild Lunch and Training). I was still trying to get pregnant (Hold for HSG). I was pregnant with Gabe (Midwife Appointment).

Possibly it’s because I’m “Home” this weekend. Staying in a hotel where I last stayed for another niece’s grad. Only that time I was still married. The church I was baptized in is a short walk away. The funeral home we held my father in law’s service in is a quick drive. The hospital I was born in is just out of view from my window.

The reminders were mostly innocuous. Things that I didn’t even remember. (I went to a doula workshop? Really?). Lots of bookings for nieces and nephews. I didn’t realize I had been meeting the same set of friends for a drink’s night for quite that long. Some transported me. (Jamaica, San Francisco, Florida). Some took my breath away (Gabe’s post mortem).

Not quite 2 months ago I was inexplicably stricken with anxiety. Not for a single thing, but a nameless sort of dread which stalked me. I could and would calm myself down. I would go from short of breath and pounding heart to calm again. Several times a day.

I spoke to professionals, did much soul searching. It could be MS. Perhaps also this: There has been deep and profound change. They kept telling me this and I kept brushing it off.

And then I watched the reminders roll past me. Outlook took me past what my life is now and what it was and there is very little that is the same. This morning I find myself both weary and sad.

This was not the life I thought I was going to have.

I am working through the anxiety in a variety of ways. I know it will be ok.

That’s the other thing that Outlook did for me. They were just appointments, but they took some strength to get through. Sometimes they gave me strength. All of those things, all of the things that took my breath away, all of the times I wondered how I would cope –

I managed.

Just like I will this time.

 

Posted in Divorce, Feats of Wonder, Tiny Points of Light | Leave a comment

Do Not Say We Have Failed

I am “home”, which is Prince George. I am here for one of the nieces’ graduation. This means that at 8 am this morning, my ex husband picked me up. He came in the house, carried my bags. He asked if I wanted to bring a pillow and blanket, and when I demurred, he reminded me that I like to nap on the drive. We chatted off and on, caught up on what we have been doing. We stopped at the Willow River, where we spread Otto’s ashes.

We had a coffee, Owen signed the cards. He transferred the money for his share of the gifts. We drove past his dad’s old place, past the garage his father and mine built. I am staying at a hotel tonight. He is staying at friends.

I say all of this against a back drop, an idle comment from someone that they are sorry my marriage “failed”.

I was and still am surprised.

Failed?

Tell me, what has failed?

We spent 8 enjoyable hours together. He reminded me that I should have a nap and I put my hand on his shoulder as I saw him think about his dad. We signed cards for our nieces as we ever have.

That’s not failure.

Failure? Failure would have been an inability for both of us to be at a grad. Failure would be uncaring. An inability to laugh. An inability to talk about our memories and the good times.

Failure would have been contempt, it would have been hatred.

Is the only successful marriage is where you die at the end, still married? Even if you hate each other?

For almost 16 years we were married. We loved, honoured and cherished each other. And then that didn’t work for me. I tried to make it work. I tried for years. I just couldn’t. Contempt would have come.

We aren’t married any more. Something else has taken its place. Something that still involves love and care. Something that still has space for history and memory. Something that still has laughter. It still stops, without asking, at Willow River. It still drives past the old house and remarks that Otto would have been glad they kept the Canadian Flag.

Do not tell me my marriage failed.

It, like all things, has simply changed.

Posted in Divorce, Mr. Spit | 3 Comments

Still Hanging Mary

I wrote about the friend-ish and how he says I am driven and determined and how he doesn’t get it. If I’m honest, he’s scared of me. I suspect. I can’t quite understand why anyone would be scared of me. It seems to be common.

I often refer to the two Margaret’s. We have 2 Canadian authors and they both shaped me as a young woman. I have words from Margaret Laurence inked on my shoulder. I liked her better. I liked her characters, her form of storytelling, the world she built.

I love Margaret Atwood’s poetry. Mostly because I loved Half-Hanged Mary. As a young woman, discovering what it meant to have a uterus and be a threat, it was the verses about living alone, having breasts and some property to call yours. They gave words and shape to what it meant to face sexism.

After my son’s death, when I ate a lot of casseroles dressed with loneliness and recrimination, it was the verses about compassion being in too short of a supply to go around. Enough to understand that when tragedy strikes people flee.

As I struggled with my faith (and struggle still) the verses about being angry and trying to understand. The verses about changing your relationship with God. She expressed rage so much more powerfully than I.

And now? In the midst of freedom and overwork and constant anxiety? When I have over spilled myself on many someone’s, wishing I would learn to be more mindful of investment?

Before, I was not a witch.
But now I am one.

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Half Hanged Mary

A friend-ish frequently comments that I am driven and determined. He simply does not get it.

I am neither.

I live with almost no fear.

It is simple and profound. The sort of thing that cuts beyond the quick and leaves you breathless (well it should).

I held my son for half an hour while he suffocated to death and died.

There is no amount of money that could stop his death. There was no Plan B. No risk mitigation. There were no guidelines, no checklist and there was nothing to be done.

He dies or you both die.

Sometimes that’s the way life works.

****

So I sang him lullabies.

Someone took a photo.

It sits on my dresser.

****

And then I came back, slowly. Painfully. Found ways to integrate the sorrow in my life. Reasons to smile again. New sources of joy.

I am not driven and determined, I am fearless.

What more can you take from me? What do you think you could do that I could not survive?

Gabe’s tree is taller than 6 feet.The main trunk is thicker than my arm.

I pruned it heavily this year, taking two branches to make a wreath. I think of this, of the little boy who isn’t, of the size of his memory, the size of his tree and the depth of my reserves.

And I am comforted.

Posted in Baby Loss, Gabriel | 1 Comment

I should learn this

In certain circles, possibly after a few drinks, I’ll tell you the story of the call I took with a very, very senior executive. The call lasted for half an hour. I took it completely nude, standing in the bathroom, the shower I had just gotten out of running behind me. I stayed in the bathroom for the duration of the call. I was realizing that I hadn’t brought the towels up from the laundry when my phone rang. So. Nude it was.

In certain circles, I’ll point out that the call yielded a quarter of a million dollars in work for my team. The client never knew. I’ve never told him. It’s a funny story, mostly because if you know me you can see how I did it and how strange it felt and how perfectly capable I am of compartmentalizing the fact I am nude in my bathroom and still talking about my professional skills. The fact that I was on medical leave in 2014 was immaterial.
All of this to say that I was getting dressed this morning, about 10 minutes before 8 am. My phone rang and I answered it. I carried on a call about a project plan with my bra half on.

These men. They wonder why I have a hard time meeting their eyes sometimes.

Don’t answer your phone.

I should learn this.

Posted in I'm With the Cool Kids | 3 Comments

Public and Private

For the most part, you build a sort of scar tissue. On Monday morning, you exhale.

Mother’s day is not for me. The only thing Mother’s day does for broken children,  for the bereaved mother and the barren woman is to remind us of how we are not whole. Of how we are superfluous. I turn off social media, hide and simply endure. I used to say it was the second worst day of the year. This year I have decided it’s the worst, simply because it is so public.

This morning I went into the office on the exhale. The last of the statuses on social media were gone; I could return to my usually scheduled 2 cats, 1 dog, 0 houseplants workaholic persona. I wasn’t an abused child, I wasn’t a bereaved and barren woman. I was just me. My brokenness and tragedy were not on display.
***

The colleague is a bit of an imbecile. When I told him I don’t celebrate, he demanded to know why.

Let me step back. There were many things I hated about the tragedy of Gabriel’s death. One part, the part that stayed with me, was the visibility of it. I was the woman whose baby died. When your baby dies, I promise you, they whisper about you in hallways, in offices. Rooms go silent when you walk in them. Everyone knows and no one says anything. You are very visible and very ignored, all at once.

Time has passed and fewer people know.  The 10th of December, it is a private remembrance.  If I take the day off, I don’t tell you why. If I am sad in the days leading up, no one really notices. I mostly glide through the season now – stumbling over some of the larger waves of grief, knowing I will wind up under water on the 10th and on the 11th I will have survived.

No one is looking at me. No one wonders. No one knows there is a reason to wonder. I carry Gabe in my heart and share him with few. It is my private tragedy.

I excused myself from the conversation. I was polite and dignified. Just as I Always am.

This is what I did not say.

Dear Nosy Colleague –

My mother didn’t like me. She locked me in closets. Made me stand perfectly still in the so she could scream at me for hours. Broke rulers and wooden spoons over my hands for the crime of having a snack.

My son gasped for breath and died in my arms while I sang to him. My babies bled from my body and I was powerless to stop it.

I am broken, bereaved, barren.

It’s not precisely a day of celebration.

Posted in Baby Loss, Grief | 4 Comments

It isn’t Me

Patently the virtue of a day’s grace in editing is that you can find your errors quickly. I use this trick when writing papers. It is not a surprise that I find them on my blog.

I would look at my blog entries as I was looking at the comments and I would see a typo. I would wonder how I missed it. Surely in my quick scan, I could not have missed a half written word? You all must have thought I was becoming a gormless idiot.

It happened again this morning. This time I remembered the editing process. I know I moved that paragraph around and it wasn’t altered in the posted blog entry.

I don’t know why my edits aren’t taking but at least it isn’t an inability to write legible prose.

Posted in Grammar | Leave a comment

Surplus to Requirements

I’ve never liked Mother’s day. Trying to please a mentally ill mother is no one’s idea of a good time. I did or didn’t become a mother, depending on how you want to define that word. My mother died.

I am surplus to requirements on Mother’s day.

It sits somewhere between the hell of heartbreak and the hades of a sandpaper based smugness. My mother wasn’t fantastic when she was here, Now she isn’t here.  My reproductive abilities are sub par.

They don’t mean me when they talk about Mother’s. There’s no room for my kind of “mothering” in there. There’s neither room for the nurturing of various nieces and nephews nor for the various women who have nurtured me.

Mother is a word filling me with chaotic and clashing feelings.  It’s messy. There are dead babies and ambivalence and second guesses. There’s no closure. There’s just this day.

And I don’t know what to do with it.

Surplus to my requirements.

Posted in Baby Loss, Learning Life | 5 Comments

Content

I was having a beer with several of the neighbours, chatting idly about how life has changed since Owen left. I said that I was thinking about getting another dog.

Thinking, mind you. Thinking enough to look at Mastiff Breeders, not thinking so much about actually getting one. Just. . . thinking.

My one neighbour immediately suggested that I should have fewer animals. This would free me up to travel.

I am bewildered. It isn’t as if I have been wandering around telling everyone I wanted to travel. I don’t think I’ve told anyone that. I’ve told people that I need to re-stain the back deck and the front porch and build a small path out to the car. The neighbour and I are planning on staining the fence. I’m going to grow wax beans. I haven’t talked about travelling. I’ve talked about home.

I had a profound realization.

I like going away. I like going away and seeing new places doing new things. Mostly I like the idea of coming home. Of the cats on the newel post and the dog barking from the bathroom – where she has locked herself in again. I love the idea of home.

You may call it small and boring and even fussy and punctilious. I like the part where I put my clothes out the night before, I like packing a lunch, making some toast and putting the dishes in the sink. I like doing a bit of yard work here and there, doing laundry on Sunday morning and cleaning the cat litter on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I remember to take the garbage out, I hang the towels up and I haven’t run out of coffee or cat food, yet. I figured out how to unplug the bathroom sink.

I have lived with chaos and sorrow. Not Owen, but for longer stretches of my life, there as chaos and sorrow. My life is quiet. Unexciting. There is me and the pets and work and school. It’s frankly boring.

I love it.

There’s nothing wrong with small and quiet and boring.

My neighbour? She has itchy feet. She wants to go, to be free.

I told her I’d watch their dog.

Posted in Divorce, Learning Life | 2 Comments

Orphan

Sometimes you can strike exactly the right note in a blog, so you type it out and hit post and it’s brilliant. Sometimes you can’t. So you turn it over in your head. And you want and need to write about it, but you can’t find words. You throw stuff at the screen and hope something sticks and that you can make some sense out of it.

A colleague texted me on Good Friday, asking if I wanted to go to church with them. Sometimes I go to church, but I had zero desire to turn up at a megachurch filled with strangers. I had no desire to be part of the annual outreach program. I’ve run the annual outreach program – I know what’s coming. I will be exhorted to holy living and Jesus. They will call it community building. I will call it inauthentic marketing.

What I wanted was someone to do what I have so often done – to reach out and bring me into their tribe for the night. To tell me to bring the buns and show up at 5. Let me play with children and talk to the grumpy and elderly aunt and help set the table. Hand me a tea towel and get me to help with the washing up. It has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with kindness.

So I went to the art gallery. Had a terrible cup of coffee and some very excellent shortbread. I went to a cafe, had bread pudding for dinner and got caught up on my corporate finance readings.

I am an orphan with no children. There was nowhere to go and no one to see. There was no point in making ham and scalloped potatoes for just me. This is the hard part of being alone.  I will adjust. I will make new traditions. It won’t always hurt like this, it won’t always feel so lonely. I know that.

But last week, that first holiday? It sucked.

Posted in Divorce | 4 Comments