Thursday, May 24, 2018

Remembering ...

Seven years ago today, I was savoring the vacation of a lifetime. I was cruising up the Alaskan coast with a friend I've known ever since I have a memory, en route to meet up with the first best friend I made after our family moved to Edmonton when I was nine years old.

I just spent the past hour or so rereading the blog posts I wrote while I was livin' the dream.If you click "here", it will take you back to May, 2011 and you can reminisce with me for a while ...

Wow. My life has gone through a lot of transitions since then.

As I write those words, I am reminded of the journey my career path took after I returned home from that cruise.

I look around me and remind myself that I still live in the same home but different cats adorn it.

I think of family connections and how much stronger they feel.

As I think back on those seven years, I remember those who have passed during that time. So many of those who were an integral part of my memories, who shared their stories with me so we could assemble them onto the pages of our family history books. I am so very grateful for each and every memory I made.

My relationships within my own little family unit ebb and flow, which is to be expected as each of my children become more of who they are. I hope we will grow closer despite the distance created by our individual growth spurts.

I remember who I used to be, who I became, who I lost and as I reflect on those years, I am starting to feel the stirring of life within me again.

I kind of like the sound of the girl who wrote those posts back in May of 2011. She was a girl who was living the dream. She was looking up, making memories, appreciating the moment and dreaming big.

I remember how my sense of security about the future was shattered when Mom had a health scare in the months that preceded that Alaskan cruise. My senses were heightened after that. I was gently reminded how precious life is. Mom and I made a lot of memories between then and now. I'm so grateful for each and every one of them.

Life was full of ups, downs, in betweens, transitions, living and loss these past seven years. I am grateful for the ability to look back and reread the words I wrote when I was walking that path. I am reminded that throughout the low times, there was a sense of hopefulness and gratitude that prevailed.

I wonder where life will take me the next seven years. Wait! I really do not want to know the answer. One day at a time. Let hope and gratitude rule the day. Write, laugh and maybe dance. Let my actions be ruled by these thoughts and all things become possible.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Breaking Free

My thoughts are all over the map so I have no idea where this post will go. Quite possibly it will end up circling around a few times before going no where and finishing up with no significant point. Oh well. Here goes nothing ...

This abbreviated work week is full of all kinds of diversions and twists from the norm. I don't know how it will end but any week that starts on a Tuesday is off to a running start.

The week started with an afternoon road trip which ended with me visiting with my sister in her park like back yard. The visit was short, sweet and a complete treat. The day wound down by heading off to "Danceland" for a little stroll down memory lane before we headed for home.

Danceland - I love the pictures that waft through my mind at the sound of that word. Yesterday I got to wander inside and take a peek at a small piece of local history which has transcended all time. As I gazed upon the dance floor, I could feel the past come up and touch me.

The desire to dance keeps coming to the forefront of my mind.
  • Dancing is more effective than counselling
  • Remembering those joy filled dance years
  • Keeping in touch with friends from the dance studio
  • An invitation to "like" my old dance studio's Facebook page
  • Mom's love of dancing and her encouragement when I danced ...
Walking into the dance hall at Danceland rekindled all of those thoughts and made me wonder. Could I? Should I? Would I dance again??

Heaven knows I need the exercise! A little side order of "joy" sounds pretty enticing too. 

It started slowly and picked up speed, but I have actually made plans, bought tickets and looked beyond "today" for the first time in a long while. Writing an upcoming commitment on the calendar no longer holds the power to paralyze me as it has done in the past. I'm spending money like there's no tomorrow. 

I panicked at the way money seems to be flowing through my carefully planned budgeting scheme and chastised myself for spending so frivolously. Then I reminded myself that I have done this in the past. I have looked ahead, booked ahead, gone away and made memories. I didn't worry about the money and reminded myself over and over and over again - it all works out in the end.

I have spent much more money than I will be spending this upcoming summer. I did it during a time when my bills were higher, my pay cheque was lower and I had less available time than I do right now. I knew there would be no regrets. I just knew it.

I look back and think back on those whimsical trips and I was right. Even at the time, I was pretty sure I would never live to regret those indulgences, the memories made and the money that fell through my hands during what were some of the leanest, but best years of my life.

The dream has to come alive again. It is coming. It is a little frightening but I am starting to break free from the cocoon I have spun around myself. 

I have to break free of these restraints myself. I have not yet found the courage to say "yes" to everything. My wings are not that strong quite yet. But what I have found is that I am regaining my strength by learning when I need to say "no". When the mere idea of saying "yes" saps me of all I have become, I know I need to say "no". 

Small steps, accepting and issuing easy invitations, choosing what I know I am capable of doing and inviting others to join me feels empowering.

My wings are fragile but they are becoming stronger with each invitation to come out and rejoin the world again.

Will I dance again? Maybe. Just not quite yet ...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Little Things

Too much time with not enough to do does not equal great things for me. There was a day in a land long ago, when I could and would utilize a three day hiatus from the day to day grind and do amazing things. Not anymore, my friend. Not anymore.

What did I do with three long and luxurious days off?

I immersed myself in all things "royal". The royal wedding, old YouTube videos on the royals, perusing books on Princes Harry and William, a TV movie and a few television programs on Harry & Meghan, with "The Royals" on Netflix capping off the Royal Weekend.

I completed watching "How I Met Your Mother". The final episode of the series included a wedding. I watched Harry & Meghan's wedding the same day I watched Barney & Robin get married. I thought that polished off the day quite nicely.

I ate. And I ate. And I ate. Then I ate more. Oh ... my achin' stomach. 'Nough said. More on that another day.

I mowed the lawn, I colored my hair, I vacuumed and I picked up a few groceries. Whew! I almost broke a sweat there. It is unfortunate, but one thing did not lead to another. Back in the day, one small household task (like clearing off a counter top) would lead to another, then another and the next thing I knew, I had cleaned a room. No more, my friend. No more.

My new motto seems to be "You did one hard thing. Now you can rest."

I rested, I reclined, I sat outside with the cats, I read and I wasted so much time on the computer.

But after all that time I "invested" playing working on the computer, I DID find a solution for accommodations for our upcoming family reunion so my internet time was well rewarded.

I went on a cat toy hunt which was greatly appreciated by all. I have an idle mind which likes to be challenged by knowing which cat toys are missing after I have scoured the house. After my cat toy treasure hunt was complete, I knew I was missing a new blue pom pom and an old yellow pom pom, after finally finding the lost sparkly red one (an all time favorite).

In the middle of the night, my feet grazed the sheets as they tried to find a new, cool spot to rest and sure enough, what did I feel under my covers, at the foot of my bed?!? The missing blue pom pom!! We are now only missing one yellow cat toy (as far as I remember).

Maybe, just maybe I could pull the house apart and clean until I find it.

Maybe not. Those ploys used to work on the "old me". The "new me" is not easily fooled I'm afraid. But you can be sure that every time I look in, under and beside a nook I have not looked in for a while, that that little yellow ball is at the top of my "to find" list. That ... and several income tax and Microsoft Office programs that have disappeared since my Time of Great Culling.

It is really no wonder that I have lost my ambition to reorganize things around here. Something goes missing. Every time. In fact, I wrote a list of all the things I have lost so I could cross them off as I found them. Guess what? I lost the list.

I didn't accomplish great things but I did feel serene while doing so. The haze of "missing Mom" is clearing and sadness does not wash over me in the way it has.

I spotted an unfamiliar yellow bird in the neighbor's tree this morning and stood at the window watching it for as long as it remained in my line of sight. Suddenly it seemed to dive off the tree it was in ... just the way the little birds seemed to line up on the eave of Mom's garage, then jump off one at a time and land in the peony bushes below. They did it over and over and over again. It was a light and easy memory of my last summer with Mom. We sat so very many hours in her sun room.

There is a great peace that washes over me as I quietly remember Mom as little things trigger small memories. There is a lightness in my heart and a feeling that "this" is how Mom would want to be remembered. In the small things. Light and easy.

There are so many times I wish I could ask Mom to clarify something for me. It saddens me to know she cannot provide those answers for me any more. There are only a few who can. I should write a list of what I wish I knew so I could ask when I come across someone who may know the answer. Then again, would I be able to find that list when I wanted it?

The great circle of life. I work a little, then rest a lot. I clean a little, then lose a lot. I remember a little, and I'm afraid I will forget.

I continue to write down these little memories of Mom because I fear the day when I will have forgot.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Royal Wedding - Audience of One

My eyes popped open around 3:30 this morning and I immediately remembered there would be coverage of the royal wedding. I tuned in and inexplicably managed to stay awake for most of the pomp, circumstance and ceremony.

Before the ceremony started, I listened to the conversation between the host and co-hosts and learned a little more than I knew before I opened my eyes. I heard Oprah was in attendance, there were many shots of George Clooney and his wife (I had my eyes on George for a while and tried to superimpose myself in Amal's place. I couldn't have walked in those shoes. Good thing George didn't choose me).

My head was filled with new thoughts, images, memories of prior royal weddings as I watched the scene set out before me. The house was still and dark. I was alone, among the billions of others who tuned in to watch the ceremony along with me.

Then the wedding began.

All conversation stopped which is probably the reason I awoke (I must have dozed off there for a minute) and there she was. Meghan was ready to make her entrance (did I miss the procession before her I wondered?).

Meghan walked down the aisle with a smattering of small children behind her, reminiscent of Diana's young wedding party.

The camera panned to Harry and I soaked in his smile. His expression reminded me of my son (maybe we are related - I always told Mom I thought she had blue blood in her). The moment was serene in a very openly public way. The looks Harry & Meghan shared were simply special.

I was so pleased to see Charles openly welcome Meghan into the family by escorting and presenting her to Harry. I had heard Meghan's father wouldn't be able to go to the wedding. It felt and looked so very right to watch Charles step up.

I watched, I listened and absorbed what I could in my sleep deprived state. I must have nodded off again because when my consciousness was awoken again, it was to the impassioned words being spoken about love.

I listened intently to this talk and wondered if this was the same minister who started the ceremony. I don't pay attention to those kinds of details when I'm taking in other important matters like how Harry is looking at Meghan, the twinkle in her eyes and special glance she reciprocated in kind.

I was captivated by the sermon, the subject matter of "love" and how the message applied to not only the royal couple, but to the entire world. I immediately wondered how this sermon, the platform and timing would be received by the world.

It was then, when I appreciated my isolation. I could sit alone with my own thoughts before surveying the Internet and social media to tell me what to think. So I thought. Alone. Without input.

After this impassioned speech ended, it was followed by a gospel choir who sang "Stand By Me". Wow.

It was in and about this time when I started to notice the cultural diversity which was a huge part of the scene in front of me. Was this lady the camera kept panning Meghan's mother? Hmmm? I had a faint memory of hearing the phrase "bi-cultural wedding" being tossed around in the days before the wedding. I honestly hadn't noticed.

Once your consciousness wakes up, it sees more. Suddenly I was looking at this royal wedding in a way I had never seen a royal wedding before.

I heard the music. I thought of how deeply moved Mom was, when it came to music. I fell off the royal wedding band wagon and thought of Mom's funeral - I wish it had been more of "this". Music is a universal language. It is powerful and speaks to the soul.

I thought of Mom. I think she would have liked this wedding. I believe she had a soft spot for Harry (he reminded her of one of her great grandsons - see?? There is that royal blood connection again). I was certain Mom had a book on Harry. But not one of Harry and Meghan. That story was still developing.

My thoughts drifted from here to there to everywhere as I watched the remainder of the wedding ceremony.

I thought of the queen, who is the same age as my aunt would have been (Mom's sister - that royal blood connection again), watching on as her grandson was married. Mom attended the wedding of her oldest great grandson last summer.

So many of my thoughts pinged back and forth between the royal wedding, the history, the future of royalty and Mom as I watched Harry and Meghan's wedding before the hosts came back on and recapped the events of the hours preceding.

How often are we truly "alone" with our thoughts these days?

Checking in on social media is habit forming and impedes unique thinking. Being able to Google something without trying to force the memory of something you know you should know must slow down the brain's ability to fire those neurons which click into gear when digging up a memory from long ago.

As I quietly revelled in being alone with my interpretation of the royal wedding unfolding in front of me in real time, another part of me was curious about what "the world" would have to say about this history altering event. I had not yet turned off the TV before I tuned into the world wide web to satisfy my curiosity.

I enjoyed revelling in my own thoughts. I need to unplug myself from this eternal need to feel connected at all times.

"I might miss a text ... or invitation ... or phone call" or "What if someone needs to get ahold of me?" Do you know what? We managed very well in the days before cell phones, computers, WiFi and internet connections. Maybe we missed a few calls that could have changed our lives. Maybe now we are taking too many calls and headed down paths we were never meant to take.

I have a "completely unplugged weekend" booked next month. I have been declining this invitation for years. This year, I finally said "Yes".

It is time. Time to think my own thoughts without weighing them against the opinions of the world around me.

I enjoyed my private invitation to watch the royal wedding. Alone. Without the dialogue of the hosts slanting my view. My view where I saw little more than two hopeful people in love and promising to forge a future together.

It isn't a storybook ending. It is a storybook beginning. I wish Harry and Meghan the best. I will pull out Harry's book from Mom's library and attempt to "unplug" for the remainder of the weekend. Or at least cut back. I need to hear what I'm thinking again.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Following My Bliss

My thoughts feel light and breezy this morning. The sky is blue, the air is crisp and a long weekend is nigh.

A long weekend with no plans. I have no idea where it will (or will not) take me. As I thought that very thought this morning, a voice inside my head uttered "Follow your bliss".

I like that.

Bliss = great  joy. What brings you joy? These are a few of my most joyful things:
  • quiet mornings
  • meaningful conversations
  • spur of the moment outings
  • laughter
  • family & friendship
  • writing ...
Yes! Writing. I think the heart to fingertip to paper connection is starting to fire up again. The connection was broken for a while. Maybe it wasn't. My heart was hurting and sore so the words that escaped from my fingertips were without joy. There was sadness, hopelessness and so many thoughts of The Year of Mom continually wafting in, out and through my thoughts. I couldn't silence them.

I'm grateful I didn't. I needed to think, feel, talk, cry and write it out. As gradual as things happened with Mom, at the end it all happened fast. There was so much to do, so many tasks to tend to, so much thinking, doing and being. When all the activity came to an end, I was not expecting the crash. My feelings finally caught up with me.

I talked it out. Thankfully I have so many patient and compassionate ears to listen to my stories on repeat. They let me ramble. They weathered this storm with me. They listened and let me feel.

I remember shortly after our much loved cat Andre died, Mom and I went out to see my uncle. My uncle is the world's best listener and has the kindest, most compassionate heart I know. He is also a lover of animals. So I started telling him the Story of Andre's Last Days.

I showed signs of weakness, my voice broke and I had a lump in my throat. Mom immediately told me I didn't have to talk about this. The message I felt was "If it hurts, tamp it down, don't intentionally bring it out and don't talk about what makes you sad".

I have often thought of Mom and how disappointed she would have been with me after my emotions started catching up with me. There were some dark days. I lost my way. I was going through the paces of living but I was just putting in time.

Mom would never have shown weakness the way I did. How could she have not felt similar emotions as life dealt her the hand she was given? She was strong and feisty. She showed us the side she wanted us to see. She was a master at tamping down thoughts and wearing her brave game face. It didn't mean the feelings weren't there. She simply didn't wear them on her sleeve.

I look back and think of Mom and the way she rolled with life. I want very much to be as strong as she was. I want to weather life's storms and come out smiling. I want to laugh in the face of sadness. But sometimes? Just sometimes ... I need to shed a tear, tell a sad story and be honest with how I feel. This is what works for me.

When I am honest and open, I tend to attract honesty and openness into my life. The relationships I have with my friends and family feel "real". I'm not hiding. I live out my truth. In return, I have found so much strength and kinship with those who share their truth with me.

No, I won't tamp down the stuff that isn't pretty. I may write it out, talk it out, cry it out or (this is what I think I may need to do more often) sing and dance it out.

This weekend? I shall chase my bliss. Or maybe I will sit quietly and let it land on my shoulder. May you find your bliss and revel in it. If we believe in it, it will come.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I Love Mornings!

I love mornings!

I wrote those words yesterday morning and my head had a half hearted idea about what I may write next. But what happened next was "The Bird" post which fell straight out of my heart, through my fingertips and onto the page.

I love when that happens.

Which brings me back to yesterday morning's thoughts. My love for "morning" has returned. I wake up, allow my thoughts to linger, then hop out of bed and into the day with a quiet anticipation of what lies in store.

My inability and lack of desire to open my eyes, let alone get out of bed and confront the day during the The Longest Winter of my life seems to be behind me. I wake up, "great ideas" come to me, I act on them, I write a little, I figure a little, I dream a little ...

Yes, my dream state has been reactivated.

I don't have a bucket list and doubt I ever will. What I have instead, are little scraps of paper where I write down ideas as they come to me:
These are the highlights of one side of a scrap of a paper in front of me at the moment. On the back of that same tiny piece of paper are dates of up and coming commitments.

I can write down a date in the future without feeling great angst overcome my being once again. This is new. This is SO new!

Life had a lot of lessons to dole out over the course of the past seven years or so. Yes, I remember the initiating incident. It was March 11, 2011 - I started writing about it here: "When Life as You Know It ... Isn't".

As I scan a few of the posts I wrote after the "initiating incident", I can clearly see my search for the lessons immediately in the aftermath. I wrote the words:

"Challenges force me to confront issues. One always has a choice in life. Do I choose to do nothing and expect nothing [should read] something to change? Do I have any control over any aspect of this situation? Is there any way that a compromise can be made? Do I have the courage to make a change?"

As I reread those words, I can replay incidents where I acted and reacted to what happened next according to the way I processed life after that point in time.

Seven years. The list of "what happened next" scrolls through my mind like the opening scene of a Star Wars movie. The list is long. There was so much loss during that time. So many life transitions. So many lessons ...

There have been ups and downs, hills and valleys, so many memorable moments and no matter how much sadness there was stirred into the mix, gratitude and acceptance sifted to the top every time. Every time.

As I started the walk of The Year After Mom, I lost my way. I lost the identity that "Being Mom's Daughter" gave me. I had no idea how much of myself was wrapped up in the way I defined myself.

The lessons just keep coming.

As I opened my eyes, cleared the fog and became open to receive the wisdom of the world around me, a few quotes seemed to be reoccuring.

Children are often asked "What do you want to DO when you grow up?" It has been suggested that the better question is "Who do you want to BE?" I  just listened to Abby Wambach's commencement address she gave for the Barnard College Class of 2018. She encompassed these questions and summarized by saying, "What you DO will never define you. Who you ARE ... will."

My identity is no longer wrapped in the word "daughter". Yes, I am still a daughter. I can label myself in any number of ways. But more importantly, "Who do I want to BE?" is the question I must ask.

If I could be described in one word, what would I want that word to be? I believe if I could simply be defined as "kind", that is who I would want to be, become and remain true to BEING. That would be enough.

If you feel like you are losing your way ... have lost part of how you identify yourself ... are wandering aimlessly without passion and drive ... ask yourself, "Who do I want to BE?"

I truly believe that once a person's energy is clearly focused on something, they unconsciously start drawing an energy toward themselves which makes that outcome possible. BE who you want to become and lets watch the results unfold together!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Bird

I was sitting at the table this morning when I heard the distinctive sound of a bird who had just flown into the kitchen window. My thoughts immediately returned to the last time I heard that very sound.

Mom and I were sitting in her sunroom, enjoying a gorgeous summer day and the unintentional bird sanctuary which was Mom's yard. Suddenly out of nowhere, a little bird flew into Mom's sunroom window.

I immediately went to check on it. It had landed on the park bench which was right under the window. I watched it take its last breath. I hoped dearly that it wasn't. I desperately wanted it to just be a concussion.

Mom and I were both hopeful and sad as we knew the fate of this poor little bird had already been dealt. I lightly stroked the bird's chest as I willed it to breathe again. Nothing.

"Move it onto the grass," Mom suggested. A softer place to land. A more natural setting for this bird to lie.

I moved the bird to a soft, grassy patch below and it was an easier sight to see. Please take another breath, I quietly wished.

That little bird never took another breath.

"Did you realize you were petting the bird?" Mom asked. Yes, I did. I knew.

I knew my days with Mom were numbered and the tenderness I felt for this innocent little bird was a foreshadowing of what was to come.

With the gentle act of being there, letting that little bird know it was not alone while it took its last breath, I felt Mom watching over the scene. "I will be there for you, Mom. You will not be alone. I can accept what is coming. I will be tender with you, your memories and the moment. I promise."

Of course I didn't say a word of what I was thinking aloud but I felt Mom listening to my thoughts. I think she knew what I was thinking, just the same as I hoped she would find comfort in knowing I would be okay when she took her last breath.

That little bird was an omen of what was yet to come.

When the little bird flew into our window this morning, I wanted no such omen. I ran out to check on it. It was lying on its back. But it was breathing steadily. I watched. I waited. I made sure it wasn't just a breeze blowing the bird's feathers. No, it was breathing. Soon, I could see the bird struggling to get back on its feet. It was alive!

I went to get a pair of gloves so I could help the little bird off of its back. By the time I returned, he had flipped himself over. This was a very good sign...

Its eyes were closed. But it was breathing. It was going to be okay. I didn't want to leave the little guy alone, vulnerable to any forces of nature which would prey on it while it was down. I stayed.

I walked away for a few minutes and returned to find this strong and courageous little bird on his feet. His eyes were open and he was becoming more alert.

Still at first, but eventually reacting to the sounds around him. He started turning his head, our eyes met, he knew I was too close for comfort but he stayed. He wasn't quite ready to fly.

I sat still, I made little clicking noises I make when I think I'm speaking the language of nature. I encouraged him. I told him he was safe with me.

I could feel the moment coming. Then it arrived.

My little wounded bird flew off to join his friends. He was okay.

There are so many little triggers I feel within this "Year After Mom". The knowledge that moments are fleeting, life is precious but it is not eternal.

I needed a sign of life. A happy story.

We often speak of Mom's wish to fly like an eagle if there was such a thing as reincarnation. We have watched the sky and many family members have had out of the ordinary eagle sightings. Not me. I have not had nature speak aloud to me (though I did wonder about the rabbit who ran across the shopping mall parking lot just as I was approaching my car).

But this morning. Long after the moment ended. Just this moment in fact, I wondered ... if Mom could find a way of communicating "life" and that she is okay, would she not choose to recreate the moment we shared with that little bird whose life touched and united us in quiet thought? She might.

Life is a precious thing. You can be flying along, enjoying a perfect spring morning when "BAM!", out of nowhere, the wind is knocked right out of you. We are very fortunate when we can pick ourselves up, shake ourselves off and fly off into our future. It doesn't always happen that way. But when it does, it is reassuring to share the moment with someone who hears your thoughts.

You were not alone, Mom. You were not alone...