Unraveling

crocus raindrops

This post has been in the works for six months.

Six long, painful months where I’ve watched my life unravel. A thread was pulled too hard, and it all came apart. No amount of skill could repair the damage.

I am alone. In love, anyway. I’m now facing the world as a single mother to three kids. Three kids who now have to move through life without the benefit of their family under one roof. We spoke to them on Saturday morning. My youngest was completely accepting, my middle girl very emotional and her older sister quietly resigned. They all asked incredible questions.

I have an army of support, and I haven’t been shy about rallying the troops. There are so many people who care for me, and without them, and the light they have shone into the darkest corners of my life, I don’t know where I would be right now. I’m not afraid to lean on them, and I will continue to reach out and draw strength from the people who know me and see me.

This is not a choice I ever wanted to make, and yet it became the only choice I could make. Anger continues to swirl through me, a noxious cloud of ‘why’ and ‘should’ and ‘how’, but I hold it gently and tell it to propel me forward rather than drag me through the past or shove me too far into a future that I cannot see.

One breath at a time.

I haven’t lost everything, but when my heart fills with the moments I have lost, it feels like part of my soul has been stripped away. Fifty percent of my time with my children. A partner I thought I would grow old and gray with. A co-parent I thought was a close friend. Had I closed my eyes to the truth that was right there before me? Should I have known better? Was I asking for this in trying to do something that few people before us have done? Is there any point to answering any of these questions now?

I am living in two places; our home where the children stay 100% of the time, and my parents home in Hamilton where I stay when it isn’t my turn on the custody calendar. This post will go live hours before I taste this new reality. This post will go live only because we’ve shared this news with our beautiful babies. I stopped praying a long time ago, but I whisper to the universe, begging that this won’t forever dim the light of those three radiant souls.

Nothing has ever hurt like this. Losing love and my sense of family is like dealing with death. I thought I’d become an expert in grieving. A pro at heartbreak. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

How do I wake up and get out of bed? I have to. I have to be a mother. I have to be an entrepreneur. I have to arrive each day and learn how I will reinvent myself. I have to understand who I am as I move through this world without my love. I moved mountains for that love. Now I have to move those mountains to survive.

This grief feels like I am fighting to breathe. Like my life is a nightmare I can’t wake up from. Like my worst fears in this relationship have been realized.

And sometimes it feels like a glimmer of possibility.

There has never been a shadow in my life so dark that I haven’t seen the light. These last six months have brought me close to yielding to darkness, but with the return of spring, I feel like I can find a balance again. Between sorrow and hope. Between loss and discovery.

I’m not okay, but I think at some distant point on this path, I will be again.

A Mother’s Day Letter to Myself

Dear Mama C,

This year, Mother’s Day marks the start of a new journey into motherhood. One you had never planned on taking, and one that is more than a little scary. I don’t need to tell you that you are not alone. Your own mother and father are in your corner, your brother is your greatest ally, and you have an army of superwomen (and the men who love them) who are there for anything you might need.

It’s going to be hard for a while. Your heart will need time to heal before you can feel your power again. You don’t have to be perfect. Those beautiful children seem to know how difficult this is, and they will understand your tears, and your exhaustion. They love you, and they will see your love for them shine through this (brief) period of darkness.

Mother's Day

You’ve brought so much beauty and fire to the lives of these three young souls. You haven’t been perfect, but they see how dedicated you are to growing, to learning how to be the very best parent you can be. If there’s a silver lining in any of this, it’s a chance to forge your own unique path with your children. Nobody else will be inserting themselves as you problem solve. Your kids will see you, and they will see you shine above all else.

I know you will handle this with grace. I know you’ll be the kind of mother that you wish to be. I know your kids will remark on how steady and capable you are. (Look how steady and capable you have been through all of this!) I know you’ll teach your daughters (and son) what it means to be a strong and truly independent woman who can take care of herself and still remain open to the possibilities the world has on offer.

Mother's Day

Remember how you used to fantasize about being a lone wolf, answering only to her pups? Well, the Universe works in funny ways. What will you do with this new reality? It’s time to trade in yoga pants for vintage slips and soft kimonos. This is your new stay-at-home-uniform. Don’t be tragic, be fabulous.

Sometimes brokenhearted lovers are left with nothing but memories and dreams that will never come into fruition. You get three glorious examples of how the love you’ve poured into the last nine years was absolutely worthwhile. Stay in that feeling, let the rest slide away.

You can do this. You were meant to do this, in exactly this way. It’s time to embrace this new path and move ahead in love and wisdom.

But don’t get out of bed until you absolutely have to today. You’ve earned it.

Five Quick Ways to Feel Better

I’ve had two coffees this morning, but I still can’t think of a strong opening sentence for this post. I’ve got an abundance of cliches rattling around in my head, so why don’t you just pick one on the theme of ‘life’s peaks and valleys’ and insert it here? I’ve been in a valley since mid-October. It’s a new record for me, and it’s not the weather. I’ve run the gamut of feelings about what’s happening for me from scared to resigned, but I’m starting to notice a trend. When I put a bit of effort into lifting myself up, it works. Sometimes it’s temporary, but even temporary is awesome right now. So, for those of you who are enjoying a long walk through the shadowlands, here are five quick ways to feel better.

  1. Move Your Body

    I won’t presume to tell you how to do this. You know what you like, and if you don’t, you’re probably smart enough to figure something out. I’m on a tight budget at the moment, and I’m feeling anti-social most days. Walking has been working well for me. I know it’s February in Canada. If the temperature dips below -10, I wait until the afternoon when the sun has warmed things up to a more palatable -7 and time my 30-40 minute trek to land at the bus stop to meet the kids. I bundle up, and I’ve been listening to audio books because I’d been lamenting my lack of pleasure reading time. The fresh air, the crisp cold, the occasional flash of a cardinal or blue jay at a neighbour’s feeder, these are all helping me have more energy. I feel more connected to the fabric of the universe. Plus it’s breaking up all the time I sit at a desk to work. YouTube has gazillions of exercise videos including yoga and pilates. There’s bound to be something for everyone.

  2. Make a List of Things You Love

    I’m a list junkie. When I die, someone will find lists that cover everything from all the bills I need to remember to pay to reasons why I continue to indulge my love of writing. Instead of resolutions this year, I made a list of ‘Things I Want More Of in 2018’. I didn’t tie this to money or success. I focused on simple pleasures, and things that I know make me happy. Like quality scented candles and journaling. Make your list. Keep it handy. When you’re feeling low, try at least one of the items on the list. Don’t include things that may land you in jail.

  3. Call a Friend

    Do you do hide away from the world when you feel bad? I do. I feel like I’d rather not bore anyone with my tedious problems. I’d rather just deal with things on my own than have to launch into yet another conversation about the things that aren’t going well. It turns out, (and I think there’s probably some science behind this) that bottling up and hiding away is the exact opposite of what we should do when we’re feeling crappola. I’ve been better at this recently, and the trick is not to take up the entire visit with your own pile of messy life stuff. Share a little, and then be an ear to your friend too. Your vulnerability may help them open up, and before you know it, it will be clear that we’re all flawed and we’re all struggling. Then you can both cry or laugh and move on to talking about how much you hate Donald Trump. Before long, you’ll feel like a valued member of the human race again.

  4. Do Something for Someone Else

    One of my favorite ways to get out of my own head is to do something meaningful for someone else. You can start small with this, like helping your kid finish their chores, or shoveling the neighbour’s driveway. Or, you could make a larger commitment, which can sometimes mean you have to leave the house and be around people. You’ll gain some perspective, and get a nice little slice of that connection to a greater purpose business.

  5. Feed Your Body

    Take your vitamins. Set a reminder if you have to. Be aware of the food you choose to consume. If you need a few potato chips to add a bit of joy to your day, have a small bowl instead of a whole bag. Keep a stash of chocolate in your desk, but enjoy a row with tea or coffee, and make a bar last the week. Eat foods that make you feel strong and healthy. Avoid foods that cause bloating and gas. Be aware of what you put into your body, and make clear decisions about how you want to feel. When you have a day where you ‘eat your feelings’ (I have these, believe me), be gentle with yourself and have a re-set the next day. I just realized I forgot my morning vitamins, so I’m going to take those now.

Do you have more to add to these five quick ways to feel better? Share them in the comments below.We’ve all got tried and true methods to lift ourselves up a little.

If you think you might need professional help, don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor. Any mood-altering prescription should always come hand-in-hand with ongoing therapy. The tips above can help, but you may require deeper treatment, and some help with regulating your brain chemistry. I’m not a doctor, but I care about you, and I hope this post was able to bring a bit of light into your day. You can also check out this post on natural ways to boost your energy.

Can We Meet for Coffee?

Get a cup of something warm before you sit down to read this.

I’ve been meaning to write. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been staring at the mockery of my barely-touched bullet journal thinking, “Hey, I’m supposed to write a post a week.” I haven’t even made it as far as opening a new post page until today.

I snapped a couple of photos on my walk this morning, thinking the rather bleak, snow-covered road against the solemn slate sky seemed like some kind of metaphor. (As a side note, the walking thing has been executed with regularity. I dare say it may be all that’s keeping me sane right now.) If I had an image, maybe I could write something. A little snapshot of this particular January in my life. At the very least I could throw it up on Instagram and appear both connected to nature and committed to exercise.

These words dribble onto the screen, and yet I’m not sure if I’ll hit publish. How have I gone from willingly, eagerly even, opening my veins here to feeling stunted every time I look at the home page of my blog? I can recall, (albeit with the haze of a woman looking back on a more substance-enhanced era of her life), a time when I would race to the keys whenever there was a crisis brewing or tiny victory to celebrate. I never felt lonely when I was posting about my life.

My newfound reluctance to share could have something to do with the handful of devastating times where my candid vulnerability online came back to bite me in the ass. Those moments when my own truth-telling didn’t coincide with the schedule of the other parties wrapped up in the drama. Or the instance when my polyamorous relationship was outed to my in-laws by a spiteful extended family member with an itchy cut and paste finger and a current familial email list. (Hi, hope you’re healthy and well, by-the-way.)

For the first time in years, I’m compelled by the urge to vomit all of my sorrows and frustrations here, yet I’m reaching for the little paper bag instead of wanting to hit ‘publish’. I haven’t cried to a girlfriend yet, not really. I haven’t even really seen a close girlfriend, in person, in a setting in which I could cry. We could blame Facebook, for creating a false sense of keeping in touch, but this hermit-like behavior on my part could just be a by-product of approaching middle age. I’d have to drive somewhere, select an outfit, put makeup on that I will inevitably smear with tears, and for what? To have them pat my hand and say “You’ll get through this.”

Of course I’ll get through it. I’ve been through crazier shit than this.

What is the poop-mire I’m currently wading through you ask?

No big deal really.

Just a relationship crisis that strikes at the heart of my childhood trauma. A delightful little reminder of how I’m nowhere near finished with my own therapy. Lucky for me, I live in a town with a month-long waiting list to see a therapist.

Oh, and a major restructuring of our family dynamics. I’ll get into that more another day.

Lean financial times. This is a slow time of the year for nearly all of our businesses and my efforts to generate income can be described as feverish at best and absurd at worst.

A crisis of faith as I dip my toes into the dauntless task of pitching the novel I’ve been working on for nearly five years to agents who are bombarded by similarly hopeful would-be authors. Yesterday I got a rejection in only an hour and forty minutes. Yikes.

This feeling that my light is dimming. That I am growing invisible. If I could just lose five pounds, or get out in public more, or may just a little Botox here and there. Jesus Mary and Joseph, did I actually type all of that? Should I be looking at hormone replacement therapy? Is it time?

The bizarre conflict of both feeling lonely and like I don’t have the energy to go anywhere or see anyone who might have a sympathetic ear.

Okay, so that’s all the whining I’m prepared to offer up for today. Maybe that’s why I’m not posting. In the constant deluge of horrible news, my petty little problems seem like a gross thing to clog someone’s news feed with. I’m sorry if you’re rolling your eyes reading this. I know I have a lot of beautiful things in my life too. It’s just that I needed to connect. Sit down with a coffee and share a little. Please feel free to unload whatever’s bringing you down in the comments section below. I’ll publish this post, just so you know I’m listening. And the best part is that I don’t even have to leave the house.

2018 Wish List

Happy New Year!

Photos by Kyle Andrew

I hope the festive season was good to you and those you hold in your heart. This year, we slowed things down for the holidays. We knew we wanted to try something different after a particularly maudlin 2017 Christmas, but this decision was reinforced by a series of daily meltdowns I had leading up to the holidays. (I can’t talk about that yet, but I will soon). Christmas Day was spent at home, all day, in our PJs. My parents, brother, auntie and dear cousin joined us for a small turkey feast and we played cards, ate too much, and shared some laughs. This felt so completely right, that it’s gotta become a new tradition.

Tweens hugging

Another new tradition is crafting a list of things I’d like for the brand new year. I won’t call them resolutions, because I feel the pressure just typing those letters. I wanted to write something for you as we sail into the New Year, but everything I started to craft sounded like trite horse shit. I’m sitting on a mountain of change, and I can’t talk about it yet. I’m avoiding sharing my feelings with you because they’ve been messy, and unpleasant, and embarrassing. Instead, I give to you my 2018 wish list.

Health

  • More fun ways to exercise
  • A return to a keto lifestyle
  • Increased energy
  • Gratitude for my healthy body
  • Creativity in the bedroom
  • Time in nature
  • Time in the kitchen
  • Stress management techniques that work
  • A sense of security

Happiness

  • More face-to-face time with my friends
  • More time connecting with my kids
  • Down time
  • A gratitude practice
  • Bubble baths
  • Reading for pleasure
  • Frivolous ways to spend time
  • Opportunities for volunteering
  • Dinners with family
  • A sense of security
  • Truth bombs on the daily
  • Saying no to things that make me anxious and resentful

Creativity

  • Crafting time
  • Journal time on the regular
  • Crafts with the kids
  • A sense of security

Work

  • Organization
  • Discipline
  • Growth
  • Daily writing practice
  • Regular efforts at promotion
  • A published novel and/or literary agent
  • A sense of security

In addition to this list, I intend to spend the next few days mind-mapping all of the ideas rolling around in my brain when it comes to work. I don’t actually know what mind-mapping is, but when I imagine myself doing this, I’ve got colorful markers in hand and I’m puking out random ideas onto an empty page. I have some power over my work life, and I’d like to exert control where I can.

Another thing I just did, not because I’m feeling particularly nostalgic, but because my SEO optimizer prompted me to add some internal links, was go back through this blog and ready every post I’ve ever written around January 1st. This hurt my heart, and in particular, I could see a real turning point in 2014. As I type, I find myself yearning for the articulation and joy of 2016 (my brother’s awesome photos really say it all, though). These posts are inconsistent, but I’ve linked you here in case anyone would like to read my evolution:

2009

2010

2011

2013

2014

2016

Kid drinking milk christmas pajamas

It’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in 2018. It seems that each year, there’s a sea change, and trying to prepare for such a thing seems like a guaranteed way to get washed out. I’ve become an expert in self-reliance, and that’s something. In fact, I think that’s everything, now. I can count on myself. I can take care of myself. I believe I’m a good mother, though certainly not perfect. I have sometimes believed that I’m a good partner, but I don’t know about that anymore.

I’d like to find stability and trust in 2018, even if that means trusting my own two feet to carry me the rest of the way. If I’m deeply honest, (and vulnerable in the ways you’ve always seemed to love), I’d like to know that lasting romantic love does in fact exist, and that it’s safe to trust another person on a profound level.

What’s on your 2018 Wish List?