Celebrating You

Six years of amazing you in my life. Six years of your smiles, your clever jokes, your lightning-fast brain. Six years of knowing you’re the single greatest blessing in my life. That the very best parts of me made you.

Oh, my sweet son, I never wanted to raise you like this. Not in a million years. I’d imagined a childhood with a solid family unit, a steady home, parents who loved each other through thick and thin.

This birthday was a struggle for me. I was happy to see you having fun, and of course you were thrilled with the extra celebrating this year. I know you couldn’t see how sad it made me to witness this transformation in our family. To have to hide my own sorrow and frustration, and to see your other mama’s heartbreak, behind the cheerful faces we had to wear at your birthday party.

Had I known this would be our reality, and had I known other things I can’t name here, I wouldn’t change a thing. Without these choices that I have made, I wouldn’t have you.

You are mine and I am yours. I love you in the only way I truly want to love. With unending patience. With limitless strength. With a faith that is deeper than the pain I feel now. With the kind of dedication it will take to trust in the power of time to see me through this. I love you wholly because I trust in you completely. You are a part of me, my very blood is yours.

Maybe you know how much I love you.

How I’d do anything required to be able to care for you.

How I’ll never love someone again unless I know they can love you almost as much as I do. How I’ll never say those words to anyone but you and your sisters, unless I know they’re going to fight tooth and nail for our family. For me.

We’ll make it, won’t we?

The sweet smell of your sweaty head while you sleep is the only thing that’s keeping me here most days.

Everyone says it will get better. Sometimes I get close to feeling that way, and sometimes it’s a mudslide and I’m suffocating again.

You’re handling everything like a champ most of the time, so I know I’m doing something right.

I’m sorry for all of this. You deserve so much more.

I’ll fill your life with joy, and in doing so, my own heart will fill again.

Monday Rainfall

I’m stealing a few quiet moments this morning. There’s a steady drip of rain on the windowsill and the sunrise turns the sky to a milky gray, clouds heavy over the tops of the trees in the ravine. The leaves are slowly starting shift from verdant green to hues of mustard. My heart feels simultaneously heavy and full.

I will never recover from his betrayal.

I will never understand her silence.

I will wake each morning and hold this heart of mine, so full of abundance and hope. I will hold it, because I am the one who holds it most carefully. I’ll meet new love in all of its forms with gratitude. I will quell the terror I feel as I move closer and closer to someone new. This fear will be tempered with careful, measured steps instead of the headlong plunge into love that I have grown used to.

The summer was the easy part, as I lived in the limbo of the comfort of my childhood home. Now, as I start my life here in this tiny and cozy apartment, the familiar routines of school activities, rehearsals, birthdays and Hallmark holidays are a fresh new wound. Each moment is so completely different than it was last year. Each moment has me standing on the outside, watching my family carry on without me. Each moment will never be the same as it was.

There are parts of this story that you haven’t read. There are truths that I haven’t found the courage to tell. They are raw, and blistered, and they may never completely heal. There are apologies and confessions that I will never hear. There’s a scab on these wounds that I’ve built out of believing the good parts of the man I loved made me my beautiful son.

My own child-voice moves her mouth to my ear and tells me what she wants me to do:

“You should allow yourself to fall in love. You should enjoy the way your body feels with someone who is safe, and sincere. You should walk this path and see where it leads, because there is wonder here.”

She says:

“You should do all of this, but you should also make space to love yourself. In quiet moments listening to the rain and the clicking of your fingers across the keyboard. With nights sprawled across the whole bed by yourself. Create that silent space where loneliness feels like a kind of companionship and you hear with utter certainty everything your heart desires.”

And then she says this:

“You must try to love those who have hurt you. It will make soft again those pieces of your heart that have built a barrier against the love you deserve.”

I love you. I’m learning to love you. I will love again, and again, and again.

The Love I Want

I’ve been tucked away in a gorgeous lakefront home in South Frontenac since Tuesday night, on a writing retreat with three dear friends and colleagues who inspire me each week with their talent and tenacity.

This space I’ve created for myself has given me room to tackle a couple of chapters on the YA novel I’ve been slowly piecing together. I’ve also filled a journal and started a brand new one. And of course, I’ve been posting here as promised.

Creator friends, I cannot tell you the value of a few days of uninterrupted space where the intention is only to ‘make’. Sure, I’ve also filled the time with hiking, running, yoga, meditation and paddling, but I cleared my work schedule to focus on my writing and here I am. It occurs to me that I need to do this seasonally. What a healing experience this has been. What a way to recognize myself again as a writer.

Maybe it’s because I’m moving slowly and breathing deeply that I seem to be excavating and articulating things I haven’t quite had the words for yet. This tells me something vital about the pace with which I’ve been living. This tells me something about slowing down and making more space.

And so, in this spirit of articulation, today I’m going to tackle love. Not self-love, not a mother’s love, but the kind of romantic partnership I envision for myself when the time is right on my journey.

I’ve learned that it is futile to try to shape or control other people. I’ve learned that it’s all too easy to project things on lovers that I wish to see, but are not in fact, actually there. I’ve learned that I can ignore the clear indicators that alert me that someone is all wrong because I’m dazzled by attraction. I’ve had friends suggest I make a list of exactly the kind of person I wish to attract, and the qualities I want in my next partner. This doesn’t feel right anymore. Instead, I’m going to list the qualities in myself that I would like to have supported and illuminated by my next romantic partnership.

Phew. I’m actually feeling nervous…

I want to move in softness with gentle conversation, soothing touch, sympathetic listening, curiosity, and empathy.

I want to always be connected and searching for what is true to me. What my real feelings are, where my essential needs lie, how moments, touches, revelations feel deep in my bones. I want to understand my impulses and reactions and if I don’t immediately make those connections, I want safety and stillness until I can discover what they are.

I want to feel safe. To know that I am treasured and valued enough to lean deeply into trust. I want to be secure in the knowledge that my partner will be clear and truthful about any matter that affects my safety and security, and the safety and security of the space we are creating together.

I want to be clear and honest. I want to illuminate the beauty I see in the simple ways my partner experiences life. I want to acknowledge the ways in which they make me feel honored and valued and beautiful. I want there to be no confusion about how I feel about them when I look at them, when they touch me, when they share their vulnerable places. I want them to feel that I am safe and steady.

I want to stay connected to love and vulnerability when I am faced with conflict and difficult conversation. I want to feel secure enough with a partner to know that I am not in danger of being abandoned, deceived, or manipulated when things are not in perfect harmony.

I want to be a mother. I want to share my children’s lives with the deep awareness that the person they are sharing time with is someone who values them as people first, and then as my children who are the most important people in my life. I want those bonds to be strong, and honored as entities that exist beyond my romantic relationship with my partner.

I want to be financially healthy. To respect the value and energy of currency. To protect my wealth and grow it with intention and trust so that I may travel, and learn about the world, and someday have a home on a lake.

I want to live fully in my writing. To have space for the pursuit of my craft no matter how I may be earning money to live. I want to trust that I am supported in this, and that my partner believes in my talent and possibility.

I want to be alive in my sexuality, and by extension, in my sensual approach to the world. I want to be a sexual being until my body and soul decide that I no longer need to be connected to the life force in that way. I want my sexuality to be entirely mine, and something that I choose to share, that does not require another person to define it or unleash it. I want to explore, celebrate, understand, challenge, and revere my sexuality with a partner who is unafraid to take a similar, spiritual approach to their sexual self, with their own commitment to a healthy awareness and understanding of their sexuality.

I want nature whenever and wherever I can find it. Walks in the woods, through fields of wild flowers, on the beach, by the canal, quiet moments under trees, camping adventures. I need to be connected to the world in this way.

I want excellent food. I want to cook in a kitchen full of music, with a glass of wine on a slow Saturday, and then savor my efforts by candlelight. I want to wander through the farmer’s market, into cheese shops, visit local bakeries, splurge on impeccable restaurants, and I want to enjoy food from all over the world.

I want to be healthy. I want to move my body, strive for increased strength and flexibility, choose what I feed myself with care, enjoy physical activity with my partner, who I will need to help keep me motivated.

I want family. I want to share my happiness and abundance with my parents, my brother, my aunts, and my cousins. These people will always be an important part of my life, and my relationships with them are something I would love to share.

I want friends. My friends know me from all angles, and still they love me. I want to enjoy their excellent company with someone who will see exactly why I love these people.

I want books, and music, and art, and film, and theatre, and dance. I want to be in touch with my local artistic community and involved in contributing to its overall vibrancy.

I want magic. I’m not religious, but I feel connected to something larger than this life I’m living. I look for magic every day. Some people might trade the word ‘beauty’ for ‘magic’. Whatever we call it, I believe in it, and I need to always make space for it to find me.

As I write this list, I’m clear on the fact that as a lone wolf (which my son has taken to calling me) I’m actively living this. The wonder will be in finding someone who can see these qualities in me, and celebrate them. Someone who will never attempt to alter or diminish them. Perhaps the right person will even help me add a few qualities I’ve never considered. The next time around I will guard these qualities and never compromise them.

Now, as far as a list of qualities I want in someone else, I’d say the following is a pretty good marker. Again, the real power has been in identifying how to live these truths on my own. This poem came to me on this retreat, first in a conversation on the drive up with my friend Lena who told me about it, and then in an amazing coincidence as Lena spotted the book tied to this poem sitting on her writing desk on the retreat. Check out the dedication page:

The Invitation
By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesnt interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/the-invitation-by-oriah-mountain-dreamer

The Skin I’m In

Last night I dreamt that I was walking through a field and I came upon the enormous, shed skin of a python. According to the Internet, this means I am being reborn into something more suited to my growth.

I miss my family. The moments together, just being. A table full of snacks while we watched a movie. Spontaneous picnics in the park while the grown ups covertly sipped wine and watched the kids play, or lay on a blanket with a book. Sunday morning breakfasts with perfectly-cooked bacon.

These are the moments I have to re-create in my own little home. In my own little space with the children. These moments and more, uniquely ours. Things that only I can give to them. I need to make a list of all the ways we can share our time with meaning and connection. I want to be with them wholly in the precious space we have before they are grown, and gone.

What kind of mother am I as I parent alone? This incarnation of my mother-role feels completely different, now that there is only me. I have more stillness. More quiet space to think about what I want my relationships to look like with these amazing people who I am shaping. There is more weight to this role, because the balance is tipped. In the other house, there are two parents. I have to fill up that space all by myself. Who is this woman that I’ve become, who never imagined becoming a single parent?

She’s the woman who could take on a tent-camping adventure with three kids and turn it into a summer highlight.
Who wants very little time on devices and very much time sharing, and creating.
Who will teach her children how to cook.
Who is invested in the truth. In real emotion and expression.
Who wants to pass down the skills of her ancestors.
Who needs time in nature, all year round.
Who loves farmer’s markets and craft fairs.
The woman who visits pumpkin patches and maple farms.
The woman who loves books.
Who puts family first.
Who shows her daughters what strength, compassion and self-worth truly mean.
Who shows her son how to support and appreciate strong women.
Who will go to any lengths to protect her children.
Who only allows good people who are positive role models into the lives of her kids.
Who teaches her children the value of money.
Who teaches her children to be independent.
Who teaches her children to be vulnerable.

How do I create lasting memories with very limited resources?
How can I make a convertible sofa feel like a second home?
How do I grow from here, on my own steam, so I won’t always have to live in a one-bedroom apartment?
What do my children each need that I can uniquely give to them?
How can I trust that I am enough for them?

How can I forgive my children’s parents, and co-parent gracefully with them?

I didn’t realize how completely I’d have to re-define my life after this separation. Maybe I was too numb with shock to look that far ahead. Maybe there was a part of me still hoping that someone would realize they’d made a terrible mistake and everything would be forgiven. Maybe I didn’t realize how strange my reality would feel away from the shelter of my parents’ home, and the freedom of a summer schedule.

This life won’t be easy. These changes are huge, and unfair, but I’m clear and confident in the woman I am. I’ll make a home for the children, anywhere I end up. We’ll make new memories. I’ll keep finding ways to pay the bills, and make strides towards continued stability and security. I will thrive, as I have, and fall deeply in love with the person I’m becoming.

I’ll choose me, again and again and again.

The Light-Dappled Leaves

*Trigger Warning. Please proceed with your heart held close.

When I was a little girl, maybe eight years old, I was chased from the swing set on our neighbourhood playground and tackled in the bushes by a fourteen year old boy. Troy was pretending he was in a trance, and that he’d become possessed by a demon. He sat on top of me and wrapped his hands around my throat, and there was no pretending in the strength of his grip. Troy made me realize for the very first time that I could die.

The only thing I remember once Troy started squeezing was looking up through the branches of the bushes and watching the way the light played across the leaves. I left my body, moving towards the green and the sun, and suddenly Troy decided to let go, or someone pulled him off me. I don’t remember how it ended. I don’t remember walking home. I didn’t tell my parents until I was 36 years old.

Troy is the reason why I feel safest in the forest. Why I feel alive when I’m near a lake, surrounded by trees. I guess I should thank him for that.

I’ve been searching for Troy for years, and it’s only now that I realize why. I’ve been on a quest to try and stop him. To help him see that he could be interesting without having to hurt anyone. To show him that there’s a reason why he zeroed in on me that day, and that this reason is because I am good, and full of light, and not because he could see all the ugliness inside me.

For years I have believed that I am full of something ugly that drew Troy to me. A putrid fog that hung around me, and enveloped us both.

I didn’t have to look hard, because Troy has found me over and over again:

In the four strangers who tucked themselves around corners so that while I was walking home at night, or walking through the school yard, or riding at the back of the bus, or browsing the toy department, I would see their purple-veined penises gripped firmly in their hands.

In the twenty-year-old brother of a friend who grabbed me at a birthday party when I was 12 and held me on the erection in his lap until my friend threatened to tell their mom.

In the boy I dated in college who decided to strangle me the first, and last time, we ever had sex.

In the ex-boyfriend who lied about a simultaneous relationship with another woman for the entire four years we were together.

In the friend who I passed out drunk beside, only to wake up to him going down on me.

Troy has found me, and I’ve always searched for Troy because for a long time I believed that I wasn’t meant for anything else. That the ugliness inside me was clear and obvious, and therefore I could only be met by a partner with the same kind of darkness in them. That the body and soul violation of lies and deceit were a part of love. That everyone was dangerous, and it was only a matter of time before their hands were around my throat.

I believed that those people who radiate goodness, sincerity, light; they made great friends but they could never really love me. Never understand me. I believed I couldn’t love them because I would tire of them. I would find excuses like ‘we have no chemistry’, ‘they aren’t deep enough’, and the one that really breaks my heart – ‘they’re too good for me’.

Every time a loved one lies to me, feeds me a half-truth, hides their real emotion, or avoids transparency, I am laying on the ground beneath Troy, fighting for my life. Deception unleashes the fury of a freckled little girl with spindly arms and missing teeth who is drowning in her loss of control. Because I’m not eight anymore, I fight back in a way I never could when I was too weak. I fight with words, I fight by shutting myself away, I retreat from love and light and allow the raging darkness to consume me.

Here’s the worst thing that Troy did, and what all the future Troys consistently tried to reinforce:

He convinced me that my intuition was paranoia, and my gut could not be trusted.

That the damage he inflicted would make me mistrustful and make me treat every future lover like they were Troy.

Troy, and all the future Troys justified their lies, their violations, by telling me they couldn’t be honest because I would react in a way that made it difficult to share their truth.

As if truth should have conditions.

As if my anger wasn’t justified.

As if I couldn’t feel the lies, or the unspoken realities swimming beneath the surface.

Now I sit beneath light-dappled leaves and I choose not to fight anymore. I don’t need to show Troy anything. I don’t need Troy anymore. Allowing the light to filter through doesn’t take a struggle. It requires stillness, and faith that those illuminating rays will reach down into the roots and feed what needs to be fed.

It’s not easy to move towards uncomplicated love. To allow myself to share heart space with someone who feels guileless and sincere. To silence the part of me that wants to run towards what I know is unsafe. To consciously move away from the stranglehold of the last Troy who tried to love me. But I made a promise to an eight-year-old girl that I would listen to her. She was the one who got the closest look at Troy. She can spot him from a mile away now. I promised her I would listen to her, and jump off that swing set. That I’d race home as fast as my legs can carry me.

Because I know it’s better to be alone than to be on the playground with someone who would take the breath from your body and then tell you that you’re overreacting.
That you haven’t even tried to see their perspective.
That you somehow asked for it.
That they don’t remember doing it.
That you shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
That you’re paranoid.
That you’re damaged and unclear.
That you have anger issues.
That your anxiety is taking over.
That they lost control.
That they were caught up in the moment.
That they couldn’t feel safe being honest.

I see you Troy, and you can’t hurt me anymore.

Join me for my next Facebook Live on September 24th at 9pm EST. Email me here with any questions or subjects you’d like me to tackle.