Get it

My birthday was yesterday, and I turned 31 years old. Olive and I are in Invermere, BC, surrounded with the sweet chaotic crush of four of my five siblings, and their various significant others and spouses.

It was an amazing birthday, and I think 31 is going to be a fantastic, strong year. Especially if yesterday was any indication. I mean, I got to second base on my birthday – that’s got to count for something, right?

We went to Fairmont Hot Springs in the morning. It was so unbelievably blissful to sink into that hot water and feel everything white-knuckled in me just let go. It was exactly what I needed.

Olive was sort of unnerved by the situation at first, clinging to me for dear life like a little monkey. She has been in pools before but maybe the steam or the heat or the mountains looming above us were throwing her off. She was nervous and clutched at me, insisting I not allow her feet to touch the ground. She stayed that way, silent, observant, and grasping, for the first fifteen or twenty minutes, protesting any small shift in position or minute movement of my body.

Part of me wanted to push her out – go! explore!  Don’t you see how cool this is?! I wanted her to enjoy herself and have fun, and not spend her time clinging to me for dear life. I wanted her to have adventures and play with her aunts, and I wanted to hear her infectious belly laugh, but I tried instead to just sit with her. I let her hold onto me, and I reassured her. I talked about what was happening around us. I encouraged her to take small steps on her own, but I held her close when she would refuse, saying “I can’t! No, I can’t!”

I kept her feet from touching the ground for as long as she was scared.

Then the talking began and she started narrating life around us, as one does.

“We in a pool! Outside! This guy wearing his bathing suit! And this lady wearing her bathing suit, too! This is trees, and this is mountains. This kid in his bathing suit and this kid in her bathing suit, and I in my bathing suit, too!”

As her usual non-stop chatter resumed, she gradually started exploring more and more, releasing her iron grip on me and taking her first tentative steps towards her aunts and Grandpa.  She’d return back to me every so often, climbing back into my lap and excitedly telling me about her adventures.

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Lately  I have felt a lot like she did yesterday. I have felt terrified and scared, and unsure of my step. I have been clutching desperately to anything I can. Anything and anyone solid around me. Any comfort I can grasp. I have been doubting myself, doubting my ability to take those first few steps on my own.

I can’t! No! I can’t!

I often wish that I could take care of myself like I take care of her. Gently, with patience and understanding. Speaking kindly and with encouragement. Focusing on the positives, and always making sure she is eating well and sleeping enough.

She was scared, but she sat with it until it passed and she felt braver. We both trusted that she would. I often think that Olive has a lot to learn from me – particularly the virtues of clothing, and the limitations of the word “no” – but this is one of many areas where I am trying to absorb her approach to her feelings, and my reactions to them.

I see it mirrored so strongly in myself lately, that fear, and I am trying to begin to summon the same gentleness and understanding in response to it.

After discovering a shallower pool, playing puppy, and running back and forth between all of us, finally letting go and laughing, enjoying herself just like I had hoped she would, she walked back to me. Her step was steady and sure and she looked so strong, confident and happy. She came to sit in my lap and hugged me tight.

Then her hand strayed to my chest and she started patting me gently on the boob.

“I touching you boob, Mummy” she said in a throaty whisper. “I touching you boob in you bathing suit under the water.”

Boom. Second base. I’ve never felt luckier.

31, kids! Thirty-one.

Bring it.

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The Right Thing to Say

Olive and I sit at our kitchen table.

Me: (rubbing my face) Oh god. I’m tired.

Olive: No. You not tired…

Me: (Raising my eyebrows at my suddenly very two-year old two-year old)

Olive: …you perfect. 

Vivid

Nights used to comfort me, but something shifted a few weeks ago and now every evening as the sun sets I find myself gearing up to do battle.

It is somehow easier to be busy and occupied. But after Olive goes to sleep the stillness descends and my mind starts turning over and over, this perpetual motion machine that simply keeps churning away even as I lie there, willing to give almost anything to be blissfully unconscious.

The days knit me together and the nights pull me apart.

Everything looks different in the dark, shadows form and things become magnified and distorted. I am finding it painful. I don’t feel like saying more than that. I know vague blogging is generally frowned upon, but I also feel in my bones that there has to be some measure of grace in this whole thing. There must be some willingness to offer space and support without requiring a bloody sacrifice in exchange. So I am trying to parse out what is helpful to say, and what is not.

So far, all I have got is that it feels as though it would be helpful for me to say that right now I am struggling to accept something very painful. I want to acknowledge that because to not do so feels duplicitous, but also I think I need to simply admit it. Why is it so hard to admit that things aren’t easy? That pain happens and life disappoints, we experience unimaginable loss and we struggle? We all do, at some point or another, but a large chunk of our lives seems wrapped up in slavishly constructing elaborate artifices to prove to everyone that we are fine.

I’m fine!

Perhaps because we so desperately want to be. Or maybe because we don’t feel that things should be this hard at times, or we believe that they are not this hard for others (because of all the artifice and “I’m fine!”-ing, you see), so we sit alone in silence, we shoulder the blame and lie there, stomach clenched and thoughts churning, night after night.

It’s not always easy, it’s just not. And would you want it to be? This place I am in feels desperately uncomfortable, but it also feels like stretching and breaking and reaching. It is not a fun process, or one I would have chosen, but I am trying not to run from it because as prayer-hands as it sounds, I think I can learn a lot more if I choose to feel everything and go through it, rather than around it.

I am reading a book written by Pema Chodron that speaks to this directly, how our hunger for stability and safety does so much harm to us, because nothing is ever safe or stable.  You think something will bring you happiness, but it might not. You feel like something will break you, but it might be a beginning instead.  We expect things to unfold in an orderly manner in the way we planned, but being a mother the first time around I quickly realized that you can not plan life. It is easy to trick ourselves into thinking we can, and are, with schedules and investments and five year goals, but we have no idea. We have no idea.

The tighter we hold on, the more painful it is when we do experience loss or upheaval. And man, was I white-knuckling this thing.

I feel like life is cyclical and perpetual and it comes in waves. I had some rough years in High School, and then a chunk of many many happy, easy, exciting years, and now I feel that I am coming out of the tail end of a few challenging ones.

Quotes  have come to mean a lot to me right now. You know, all the old favourites:

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

The world breaks everyone, but afterward many are stronger in the broken places.                                                                                                     (Hemingway. Of course, right?)

All that is gold does not glitter/ Not all those who wander are lost. (Tolkein)

Sleep helps you win at life (Amy Poehler)

At this rate I am probably three days away from sticking motivational post-it notes on my bathroom mirror. I always said I would never be that person and now suddenly I woke up and I might be that person! Because I might need to be. And I finally understand why those people were those people and now that I may be one of them too it finally makes sense.

Unlike this post. Which I am writing to postpone going to bed. Ha.

I am going to take Amy Poehler’s advice (one should always take advice from Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Caitlin Moran), take one of these magical sleeping pills I have procured (because it is okay to ask for help sometimes), and hopefully start sleeping again and therefore winning at life (and winning doesn’t always mean doing battle, sometimes [like right now] it simply means surrender).

Namaste, y’all. Namaste.

The agony and the ecstacy

IMG_2270.JPGEarly (verrry early. Like, 4:30 am early good lord) Olive and escaped the winter wonderland of Edmonton and took a plane to come bask in some balmy BC weather. We are staying with my mom in Victoria for a bit, and then taking a trip to see Adam’s family. Thank god for spontaneity and seat sales, right?

Olive is currently in Nana heaven, having been gifted with a tutu and a new (to her) pair of shoes. She refused to take either off all day yesterday, so it appears that the solution to having her remain in a fully-clothed state is to funnel clothes through my mother in some sort of elaborate scheme akin to money-laundering. But with socks and pants instead of dolla dolla bills y’all.

I think that possibly the best accessory in the world to a tutu is a little pot-belly, and I really think that ballerinas everywhere should really consider it. I mean really.

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Also occupying top spot on her love-list right now is my mom’s cat, Oliver. She hugs him, pats him, kisses him and smooshes her face next to his and repeats “We the same!” (I…have no idea? Is it their names? The mutual love of all food and snuggling? The unifying factor here eludes me for the moment, but I am going with it.)

He is being remarkably patient with her, for an elderly cat, even yesterday when she had him by the neck, gently but firmly pushing him to the floor whilst muttering excitedly “I make him lie down!”

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This is the face she makes virtually every single time she is near him. I actually want this face tattooed on my face. This is the face of sheer, unbridled, violent glee.

So far we are quite enjoying being able to feel out extremities when outdoors – what a novelty! Today we are taking O to a museum, and on the weekend we plan to hit up the circuit of gingerbread houses, tree displays and the lighted truck parade, of course. Maybe even a visit to the big guy himself.

Posting might be light for a while during all of this Christmas chaos. I hope you and yours are gearing up for a fabulous holiday, whatever you choose to celebrate.