Monday, April 30, 2012

Shadow Side Part II

We carry our past with us, to wit, the primitive and inferior man with his desires and emotions, and it is only with an enormous effort that we can detach ourselves from this burden. If it comes to a neurosis, we invariably have to deal with a considerably intensified shadow. And if such a person wants to be cured it is necessary to find a way in which his conscious personality and his shadow can live together.
- Carl Jung "Answer to Job" (1952)

It's a rainy day after a stormy weekend, figuratively speaking. In other words, I was pretty angry this weekend and I realized I had been pretty angry for a while.

I had a good conversation today about this with a friend and I've continued to think about it all day, between trying to get work done and managing mountains of laundry.

One website I found suggested a person consider the five qualities they hope others would see in them, consider their opposites and find ways to accept such qualities in themselves. As I did this exercise, I did feel resistance about being those shadow qualities -- except for one that I just shrugged about.

I said to my friend this morning: How does a person do it? My question is really how does a person do this civilly and politely, in a way that integrates both shadow and light?

This afternoon I started wondering whether every aspect of ourselves has a shadow side to it, and how we ever function in an integrated, authentic way. The Jung quotation above -- Jung is the author of the concept of shadow -- helps me see that this work is necessary when unacknowledged shadows turn to neuroses, to dis-ease.

I talked with another friend this afternoon -- the laundry was not engaging and the clients had not called back -- about the idea of how to put forward an integrated self, how not to only show the acceptable parts. We decided that the essential work is done internally and that life flows out of that. It's not that we can work hard to show our true selves, warts and all, but just that we be where we are in the world, and work to be more at peace with both shadow and light.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with someone who knows more about this than I do. I'm planning to ask her about this as we talk. I'll report back. It feels unsettling but in a good way.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Feeding the Masses

On travels, we've made detours to the World's Biggest Axe, Pineapple, Banana, Nickel and Apple -- and I'm only getting started. I like big things.

But one of my favourite Big Things is cooking for large crowds of people. In university, I always volunteered to cook on retreats. The bigger the crowd, the more I like the challenge. And the other part of the intrigue for me has always been cooking delicious food for cheap cheap cheap. (The secret: cook from scratch. A million times cheaper than packaged almost every time.)

So, two weeks ago, I got a call from a friend who works at Welcome Home, a refugee centre in Kitchener. She had heard that I was the weird person who liked feeding the masses and asked if I was interested in making a thank you meal for their valued volunteers. Someone else would make dessert. I said yes without looking at my calendar. (Fortunately I was free to do this.)

The last time I remember cooking for a crowd was a couple of years ago when I singlehandedly (and single-brain-celledly) cooked and served a meal for 50 people in my own home. That one was a fundraiser for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. It was during my homemade pasta stage. Don't get me wrong -- I still support wholeheartedly what they do, but by the time the guests arrived, I was ready to collapse into a pile of polenta.

This one would be different, I told myself. With age comes wisdom. Or laziness.

I would have access to the Welcome Home kitchen, which has one or two ovens with stovetops and a microwave, but during the meal itself, I would have plugs only to keep food warm. Some of the attendees would be Muslim and would not eat pork. I assumed it was quite possible that there could be vegetarians in the crowd too.

I solicited ideas but they were invariably too expensive, too time-consuming, too meaty and/or too "same old same old." I had a little idea -- ham in a crockpot with a variety of salads -- so I pulled out my cookbooks and the plan came together.

The meal is tonight. Yesterday I was talking with a friend -- bragging really -- telling her that I thought I was going to be able to make supper for 25 in less than half an hour. "I just made muffins," she said. "It took me longer than that."

It turns out my estimate was conservative, but not by a lot. So, in the interest of public education, I thought I'd walk you through the process of feeding the masses, in case you want to take it on sometime.

Thursday: In the half hour before my hair cut, I set off, grocery list in hand, to ValuMart. I bought 17 new potatoes, two pounds of asparagus (from the US -- the season approaches here!!), a pound of baby spinach, a bunch of green onions, two lemons and a clamshell of strawberries. I picked up a spiral-cut ham on a great sale, four jugs of juice, two bottles of sparkling water, two packages of bow tie pasta, four cans of white kidney beans -- and a bunch of other groceries my family needed. (Tip #2 - Multitask your shopping and food prep where you can. It doesn't have to be a separate trip or a distinct task.) I haven't separated out the grocery bill altogether, but I think the cost for the meal came to somewhere around $50 or 60, or $2-2.25/person.

Friday: While cooking our supper, I quartered and boiled the new potatoes. The boiling took quite a while, and I also knew that the recipe (a garlic-lemon-oil potato salad) worked a lot better if the potatoes were pre-cooked and cooled. Chopping the potatoes took about five minutes in total. While they steamed away, I made a salad dressing for the spinach salad -- using rhubarb from our garden, boiled with vinegar and sugar, then strained, and mixed with oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. (Tip #3 -- It makes a huge difference if you have a stocked kitchen. All I needed was a Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce and a teaspoon of sugar. It would have been a far more expensive proposition had I had to buy these kinds of ingredients too.) That done, I turned to the vegetarian dish. I had found a great recipe in a Moosewood cookbook, but when I went to make it, I discovered that we had indeed finally used up all the sundried tomatoes we made last summer. So much for a well-stocked kitchen. It was time for Tip #4: Know where to compromise. In this case, I substitute a can of tomatoes and decided to roast to beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices, rather than sauteeing them. It worked and ended up being a time saver too. I decided to stop there because my fridge space was getting tight. The work of the day probably totalled about fifteen minutes, including time rummaging for tomatoes, but not including cleanup, which unfortunately I had to do.

Saturday: This morning, pancakes were requested of the chef and so while I stood a-flipping, I boiled the water for the pasta, cooked, rinsed and slightly oiled it so that it won't be sticky later. I also broke the asparagus into 1-inch pieces and steamed them. I decided to rinse the spinach even though it was pre-washed. I had food poisoning once and That Was Enough for me: now I don't eat cookie batter if it has eggs, and I'd rather not give people any kind of unpleasantness on my watch. I cut up strawberries for the salad and grabbed some sunflower seeds that will be added in. The potato salad, the spinach salad and the bean salad are all gluten-free and dairy-free. Just before noon, I mixed up a concoction I found in the LCBO magazine a year ago as a glaze for ham -- it's the only one I ever use anymore: almost equal parts of maple syrup and Dijon mustard, mixed with hot pepper flakes. I drizzled it over the ham (discarding the bag of gross sauce that came in a bag with the ham) and put it all in the crockpot on low. It took a while to cook the pasta, but the actual work time for all of this was probably 20 or 25 minutes.

Later Saturday: I have two last-minute tasks. The asparagus pasta needs to be tossed in a lemon sauce that's made at the last minute. Maybe not the best of plans, but oh well. It looks like a sauce that will be fairly easily made, or at least so I hope. I also have to pick up bread or buns at the store. Probably another fifteen minutes. And then to deliver it all.

And that's it. A maple-mustard ham, garlic potato salad, lemon asparagus pasta salad, tomato-bean casserole, rhubarb vinaigrette spinach salad and bread. In about an hour and a half, including shopping time.

Can you see why I like doing this so much?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pregnant at 42

OK, seriously, I'm not. And glad not to be. It's just that I'm really close to meeting a milestone with hits on this blog for this month and I was hoping a controversial title could take the place of another controversial post. Whaddya think? Let me try to make it up to you for tricking you: if you haven't come across this guy yet, you absolutely should. Apparently he was on SNL last week, so I'm a bit late to the party, but he's also just made the Billboard Top 100, so I'm thinking I'm not the only one. The other thing I've been thinking about this week is what I call incidental community. This, for me, has come lately primarily in the form of other dog owners, but in the past it has been other sports parents. When I say incidental community, I mean people who come together on a regular basis, sharing our lives largely on the basis of being thrust together by circumstances. What's interesting is the possibility for depth in such relationships. Now off to eat pickles and ice cream.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Power of Story

I had a massage scheduled for today and because my back has been really bad lately, I decided to keep the appointment, even though I felt very worn out and frazzled after some long days and short nights. My massage therapist could feel that I wasn't in the usual relaxed space for a massage. Part of that was that she had me flat on my back. When we put a pillow under my hip, I was able to relax more, but not completely. We often talk while she massages me but today she had been very quiet, listening to my body. I asked her whether she would be distracted by talking and she said perhaps. I explained that listening to a narrative has the same effect on me that music does for others -- I can ride the wave of a story. So she started to tell me about her upcoming trip to New Mexico. From there, she went on to Henry Moore sculptures and the Newfoundland coast. Because I'm nothing if not an achiever, I asked her at the end whether I had been able to relax, in her opinion. I had thought I had. "Oh yes," she said. "It was remarkable actually. As soon as I started to tell you stories, you dropped all the tension from your body." It makes me think about other lessons I've learned: that relaxation for me doesn't look like stereotypical R&R. I can't sit on a beach for more than about a half an hour, but I can walk a beach forever. I like to learn on holidays, but learning in an utterly informal way. What it takes for me to relax and be refreshed is really just having my imagination engaged in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way. No tests at the end. No heavy mental lifting. Just curiosity being fed. It's been a gray, snowy, sleety day and I'm weary -- but at the same time, learning all this while having a nice massage has refreshed me altogether. I'm curious what stories do for you, and whether they play a similar role in your life. What helps you relax and be refreshed?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Professional Development Day

I found out, not long ago, that the purchase of books can be written off against my income as a freelance writer. It was not for that reason, however, that I took my daughter off today to the local University Women's Club Book Sale. It was for a whim, something fun to do on a PD Day. We spent an hour in rooms of varying heat, browsing through books and DVD's, looking for treasures and for the elusive copy of Nacho Libre that I seek. We got the most in the children's room, where paperbacks cost a quarter: we found HG Wells The Invisible Man, Frances Burnett's The Little Princess, two books about Dog Adventures, a good book by the author of Hatchet, and Mr. Popper's Penguins. We paid our $1.50 and moved on to the Adult Paperback, VHS and DVD room. The instant we walked into the room, my piano-loving girl spotted the sheet music at the back of the room. While I trolled for Nacho Libre, she browsed through folk, choral, and classical music. I joined her and was astounded to see every theory book of my youth. The covers brought back vivid memories. We chose two music books: one inspired by the Narnia books and the other being music about cats. We entered the Better Books room, which was by far the hottest. We nearly bought a 19th-century Canadian naturalist book, a 1929 copy of Pilgrim's Progress, a book about Egyptian art and more, but we moved on to the gymnasium where books were two dollars. There we wandered and found little until the table right before the door, where my daughter found a humourous dog book and I found a copy of The Cook Not Mad, a reissue of the earliest cookbook in Canada. For two dollars. Three receipts checked at several checkpoints later, we were all of $7.50 lighter, and so much richer. ** Late this afternoon, I stopped in at the Waterloo Potters Guild sale. I planned to buy nothing. Famous last words. I collect pottery mugs and I have a lust for pottery bowls. Two mugs spoke instantly to me: they were coming home with me and I was to hand over my credit card and ask no questions. One looks like lush green hills going off into the distance, while the other is pewter-gray on the outside and magenta on the inside. ** Now this is my idea of a day of shopping.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Almost There: The Gray Report

My birthday is less than a month away and I think, by the time I get there, all the dyed hair will be gone. It will have taken less than six months and has been far less painful than I thought it would be, thanks to a great hairdresser and supportive friends and neighbours. I realized today, I rarely think about my hair anymore, where for the first few months, I was very aware of the changes.

However, I had a bit of a setback last month: I went to an event to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, run by my sister's charity ( and my parents and all my sibs were there. It was the first time I had seen any of them since I had my hair chopped off and I was pretty punchy on the way there.

And then, my own mother didn't recognize me. Ouch. "Did you think I was some old lady?" I asked. "No," she said. "You just didn't look like yourself." A friend later described it as a 'prophet in his own home town' kind of moment.

We had a great evening, but the reaction rankled. Afterwards, though, as I reflected on it, I realized it wasn't so much what was said as the distance between who I am and who I've been perceived to be. I feel surprisingly comfortable with this decision, but I have a fair bit of insecurity about whether others will roll with it or be taken aback, whether my decisions unnerve them or are a non-issue. It's not so much that I need bolstering, but the opposite reaction makes me quiver.

It made me think, too, about the decisions we make that are contrary to our family cultures: the women in my family go gray very early and conceal that fact. What does it mean if I swim against that tide? And why should I then expect to be recognized?

On a lighter note, I bought Lush's Daddyo shampoo: it's purpler than purple and smells of a patch of springtime. Apparently it whitens and brightens white and pale blonde hair, although if you use too much, your hair takes on a faint purple hue. So far, I'm not turning into Katy Perry. I've used it twice. But it makes me happy to smell it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Five Things on an April Morning

I. Want to know what is weird? Watching The Titanic movie for the first time and reading a glossy lifestyle magazine during the commercials. I watched the non-first-class passengers get caged up so they had no chance of freedom, and then read about vacation homes in developing countries that are barely used by their owners. I started to feel more complicit than usual and I put the magazine away.

II. Last night at the park, my pup was the It Dog. Three different pooches decided ours was their Best Friend, and our Lucky had to take turns wrestling each one. He loved it.

III. I am very excited that we have booked our short trip to Newfoundland. Dave was born there, at the northern tip of the province, and hasn't been back since he was a toddler. He's presenting in St. John's, and then I'm flying out a day later to join him in Deer Lake, sans children. We're staying at a B&B, then driving up the Viking Trail (THE VIKING TRAIL!!)to St. Anthony where we will visit the Grenfell Mission where his parents worked at the hospital. I'm also hoping our visit will coincide with icebergs, whales and a Viking Feast Dinner Theatre (A VIKING FEAST!) Then we head back down the coast and spend a day exploring Gros Morne National Park, staying at a place that has been described as an IKEA showroom. (Maybe a VIKING IKEA SHOWROOM!) And then we come home. Or, away, depending on how at home we feel on the Rock.

IV. My back is really bad this week. I need to call my physiotherapist but I'm waiting until it feels better.

V. I'm loving what I'm doing, work-wise these days. There are huge challenges and decisions to be made, but most days, I'm astonished that people pay me to have such a good time. One of the things I'm noodling over this week is the idea of running writers retreats. I think it's going to happen, but there are a lot of ways it could go. I would welcome any ideas about what your perfect writers retreat would be like. (And no, I don't think Joseph Boyden would be available to rub our feet and tell us bedtime stories...)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dog vs. Mulch

Years ago, my mother-in-law had a great line for the neighbours who would commiserate with her over the sad state of her lawn. With four boys born within five years, she would say, "I'm raising children, not grass."

Well, with one dog born in one year, I am raising canine, not grass.

When we moved into our house, the yard had been, let us politely say, sorely neglected for a long time. The mere act of mowing the lawn caused neighbours to stop us, place a grateful hand on our forearms, and thank us. There was a tilting, rotting deck, a writing mass of vines, goldenrod and sumac, creeping charlie, and deliberately stunted maple trees.

We've hacked and removed, added mountains of mulch and plenty of perennials. We resodded the backyard, added a vegetable garden and a few shrubs, and transplanted in some raspberry bushes.

And then we added a puppy.

Who has play dates in the same backyard. Whose play dates involve ripping yard cloth from under mulch and digging holes in vegetable gardens.

Don't get me wrong -- it still looks so much better than it did when we moved in. The problem is that we live on a street that backs out onto a golf course, and this street has attracted people who keep their lawns golf-course-like. And us.

It's an in-between season anyhow -- plants are just peeking above the ground and it's too early to mow and weed, really. But I'm not sure whether to go the way of my in-laws and shrug off the collateral damage, or to try to win the battle against puppyish exuberance.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Week End

Cue the long, deep sigh.

It's been quite a week. Easter coinciding with a mild virus, a visit with family, bringing food to my mom whose back got hurt after a chair collapsed, my nephew's surgery, unexpected animosity here in blogland, a delightful writers' group with a birthday celebration, finishing up good work and starting new projects, three less-than-full nights of sleep, the most interesting episode of Survivor I've seen, rugby matches, and perhaps most surprisingly, my new novel taking shape at more than 15,000 words. (Where did *that* come from?)

It's supposed to rain most of this weekend and I'm glad. Our patch of earth needs it, by which I mean southwestern Ontario. I need it too, a chance to be quiet and still and listen to the sound of rain on the roof.

I hope it comes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Minor Miracle*

Martha Stewart, I ain't. I regularly sent my children to visit our friend Ingrid when they were small because Ingrid knew how to do crafts. I knew how to make messes with craft supplies. I figrued kids needed to be able to do both, so between Ingrid and I, they learned about product and process.

I have an impulse to do crafts, mind you. I walk around our local Michael's craft store and marvel that Some People Know What To Do With These Things. But I am not that people.

And that is why the wreath hanging on my front door could be classified as a minor miracle. Because I made it my own self.

It started out before St. Patricks Day. I decided our front door needed sprucing up, needed some wearin-o'-the-green. I looked online, gulped at the prices and then had a mad, rogue thought: perhaps I could make my own wreath.

I saw one I liked: with felt rosettes in different shades of green, adorned with a bow. I looked up How to Make Felt Rosettes, and lo, it seemed possible.

I rounded up scissors, felt and a hot glue gun; cut out circles of varying sizes, cut them into spirals from the outside in, wound them from tail to centre, dabbing them (and my poor thumbs) with hot glue every few twists. Behold -- a rosette! A half-decent rosette. And then, a scattering of rosettes, a pile, a bouquet. From there, it was easy -- arrange and glue on, add jaunty shamrock bow and voila.

Then, when spring and Easter demanded more colour, I made yellow, pink, purple and white rosettes, wedged them into place (so they would be removable next time -- how crafty, n'est-ce pas?) and changed the bow.

Not one person -- save my daughter -- has really noticed. I really should invite Ingrid over to see it. But for now, I find I hold my shoulders back a little more proudly, recognizing that the impossible has been achieved.

If that's not a miracle, it's certainly at least A Good Thing.

* A title only an Agent Provocateur could love, right Chuck?

Monday, April 9, 2012

To My Atheist and Agnostic Friends

* The controversy this post has engendered has frankly made me think more than twice about writing publicly without an editor to help me clarify my writing. This letter was NOT meant to be an open letter to all atheists and agnostic -- just as I have published letters to my children and to public figures here, this one was actually written to a few people in particular, and probably should have been sent to a smaller, private list. My other biggest error in this piece of writing was that the categories of atheists and agnostics I mention appear to be my idea of an exhaustive list -- there are these two types -- which are you? That was NOT my intention at any time. How could I presume to know where you come from and how you have arrived where you are? My categories are based only on conversations with real people, and are descriptions they themselves would affirm.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Year

It's been exactly a year since our cat died. We still miss her surprisingly often, despite the distraction of a dog and the rest of life, although the grief is no longer sharp.

Today I heard mourning doves cooing outside, just as they did a year ago. Maybe they remember too.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Cross

by John Donne

SINCE Christ embraced the cross itself, dare I
His image, th' image of His cross, deny ?
Would I have profit by the sacrifice,
And dare the chosen altar to despise ?
It bore all other sins, but is it fit
That it should bear the sin of scorning it ?
Who from the picture would avert his eye,
How would he fly his pains, who there did die ?
From me no pulpit, nor misgrounded law,
Nor scandal taken, shall this cross withdraw,
It shall not, for it cannot ; for the loss
Of this cross were to me another cross.
Better were worse, for no affliction,
No cross is so extreme, as to have none.
Who can blot out the cross, with th' instrument
Of God dew'd on me in the Sacrament ?
Who can deny me power, and liberty
To stretch mine arms, and mine own cross to be ?
Swim, and at every stroke thou art thy cross ;
The mast and yard make one, where seas do toss ;
Look down, thou spiest out crosses in small things ;
Look up, thou seest birds raised on crossed wings ;
All the globe's frame, and spheres, is nothing else
But the meridians crossing parallels.
Material crosses then, good physic be,
But yet spiritual have chief dignity.
These for extracted chemic medicine serve,
And cure much better, and as well preserve.
Then are you your own physic, or need none,
When still'd or purged by tribulation ;
For when that cross ungrudged unto you sticks,
Then are you to yourself a crucifix.
As perchance carvers do not faces make,
But that away, which hid them there, do take ;
Let crosses, so, take what hid Christ in thee,
And be His image, or not His, but He.
But, as oft alchemists do coiners prove,
So may a self-despising get self-love ;
And then, as worst surfeits of best meats be,
So is pride, issued from humility,
For 'tis no child, but monster ; therefore cross
Your joy in crosses, else, 'tis double loss.
And cross thy senses, else both they and thou
Must perish soon, and to destruction bow.
For if the eye seek good objects, and will take
No cross from bad, we cannot 'scape a snake.
So with harsh, hard, sour, stinking ; cross the rest ;
Make them indifferent ; call, nothing best.
But most the eye needs crossing, that can roam,
And move ; to th' others th' objects must come home.
And cross thy heart ; for that in man alone
Pants downwards, and hath palpitation.
Cross those dejections, when it downward tends,
And when it to forbidden heights pretends.
And as the brain through bony walls doth vent
By sutures, which a cross's form present,
So when thy brain works, ere thou utter it,
Cross and correct concupiscence of wit.
Be covetous of crosses; let none fall ;
Cross no man else, but cross thyself in all.
Then doth the cross of Christ work faithfully
Within our hearts, when we love harmlessly
That cross's pictures much, and with more care
That cross's children, which our crosses are.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Time for Recess

It's been a crazy week of coordinating five people and one car, deadlines and tournaments, important stuff and urgent things, early morning practices and late night games. And yesterday was probably the busiest of all.

So the fast food stop that turned two stomachs, including mine, late last night was not terribly welcome: I got about three hours of good sleep and a wonky hip from contorting into a child's bed during the night.

I took the day slowly but there were still lots of things to be done. Early in the afternoon, the puppy began to whine so I leashed him up and set out, a zombie in the bright sunshine, for a walk.

Fresh air and exercise didn't fully revive me, but enough that I could fully open my eyes to appreciate the daffodils and the Easter wresths and flowers on neighbouring houses.

It was recess time at our local school when we made the turn to our home stretch and several girls ran over to ask about our absent child. I talked with them and then watched two girls poring over a book, three boys running to stomp on a bench, with some yelling about a power plant needing to be shut down; two quiet girls building with sticks, and a tribe of shrieking children running between bushes at the perimeter of the property.

It made me think of spring lambs, gamboling. It made me think of my own refreshing experience of being outside. It made me think how simply grand it is to have recess -- and how we all need that, and probably every day.

Some of us need to sit quietly and read the books we choose to read, while others need to run and yell at the tops of our lungs. We all need to stretch our muscles and air out our stale brains, whether we are six or fifty-six.

The other night I listened to John Tesh on the radio as I drove between science fair and hockey game and back to science fair. Apparently Tesh offers Intelligence for Your Life, and really I shouldn't mock, because that is precisely what I got. He reported a study that said only 1/3 of all Americans take a lunch break at all. The rest eat at their desks or skip lunch altogether -- even when company policy dictates otherwise. The study also showed that the lunch-takers experienced far fewer sick days and less stress on the job. It's not rocket science, but we forget, don't we?

It's why I got a dog: because good intentions are far gentler than something actually scratching at your leg, far less compelling than a set of sad eyes, far quieter than a plaintive whine.

And yet, boy oh boy, our bodies and spirits cry out for recess. We need to play in the sunshine -- even for a few short minutes. This weekend, you've probably got a million things to do, people to see, meals to prepare (and in our case, hockey games to attend - grr) -- but make sure you take a few minutes to run around and play outside too.

If you need help, I'd be happy to lend you the dog.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

shadow side

After I posted my Lenten fast post, where I talked about the discipline of gratitude on Facebook, I had a couple of comments back from people, about how cheerful and joyful I always am. It got me thinking, because, people, I am not always cheerful and joyful. (Also, I double-checked with my husband and daughter and they confirmed this. There was eye rolling and tentativeness that suggested they were scared this was a trap of sorts.)

I'm going to try to be quite honest here. I think I'm a bundle of contradictions. I do genuinely see the best in people almost all the time, but I'm also deeply scared of rejection. I write to get at the truth but I also try to put my best foot forward. I take great delight in my family, but I also avoid them way too often. I am grateful for seasons and senses -- and actually there's no counter-weight on that one. What comes across as cheerfulness has more than a smidge of anxious energy in it.

I think too of a scene in one of L.M. Montgomery's books where a smitten Gilbert Blythe can't associate sorrow with the vivid, joyful Anne, and the omniscient narrator comments that those who feel the deepest joys also feel sorrow the keenest too. That's me: joyful but also pissed off and cranky. (Although doesn't keenest sorrow sound nicer?)

I hope that the fact I come across as cheerful doesn't mean either that I'm being deceptive about the darker side, or that I come across as shallow. There isn't a lot of training in this world for how to politely express your disgust/anger/grief/anxiety. I also know that I don't like those parts of me very much -- I tend to cloister myself away when I get too far into any of those emotions. I'm trying to learn to live more openly with them but it's socially easier to live with and associate with someone who at least acts with grace. It's also scary to ask for help when you aren't sure help will come.

Last year really challenged my equanimity. I spent a good deal of several months feeling quite sorry for myself, angry, needy, frustrated and helpless. Some people knew that -- and they still loved me. Now things are better but it's made me think about the same question.

I'm not sure that cheerfulness is virtuous anyhow. I look at the readings for Holy Week and I sure don't see a cheerful Jesus. I see anger, fear, frustration, joy, need, sorrow. I see passion -- dark and light, shadow and bright.

So, here's to complicated people. Here's to being able to say I'm not ok when I'm not, and I am when I am. Here's to sucking the marrow out of each day.

Monday, April 2, 2012

growing pains

there's this one relationship in my life that's kind of sour these days and i find myself as vulnerable as a newly-hatched butterfly when it comes to this person. i can be glad and productive and then i turn into a moody, edgy teenager with this person. thank heavens we don't live together. i've been fretting over this for two weeks now and today i realized how the pieces fit together: the happier and more me i am in my life, the more I feel the disconnect with this person, the less i want to be treated like i'm crazy.


my boy came back from NYC today and my heart sang to see him. slightly sunburned, greasy-haired and oh so tired, we went straight to the rugby field where he scored a field goal and had his hand stepped on. tonight at supper, he told us about his walk through Central Park, all by himself. everyone else was busy with wedding rehearsals and he was allowed to go off on his own to see the cherry blossoms. i was enchanted and so glad no one had asked permission ahead of time -- the mom in me might have said no, and the person who loves him is so very glad he had the chance to be all by himself for an hour in the big smoke. tonight he said the one thing he worries about is that he won't see Toronto as big anymore. he showed me his one thousand photographs, faces in half-light, long lines of architecture, icons and everyday. he looks taller than when he left but he still wrestled with the puppy.


i lost money this weekend on a workshop i hosted but in the end I'm ok with it because i learned a lot. i had a rash of cancellations right before the workshop and had no policy in place -- and I learned about that. I also learned how good it feels to bring people together and help them see that their dreams just might come true, and how. i loved the fact that i gave our brilliant, humble, witty speaker a bouquet of pussywillows, and she said she had been looking for pussywillows for years.

that's how it goes.

Madly off in all directions

"Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what's been taught them." -- Jonas Salk

I like this quote. I'm living it too. Saturday, our eldest was in New York City at a family wedding, looking after my sister's kids; our middle child was in Toronto at a social justice conference; Dave stayed in Toronto for the day, working at a library; our daughter went shopping with friends; and I ran a workshop for my company.

It gives me a glimpse of what life will be like, increasingly for us. We're still at the stage of most people being home most nights, but the wings stage is starting, and I can feel my little birdies flexing their muscles as they prepare to leave the nest.

But not tonight. Tonight we get to eat supper all together. And to be grateful that we're together and for the things we've done apart.