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.

Introducing The Nightcap

At the beginning of September, I invited those of you who are following my Facebook Page to join me live, from my new apartment, for a nightcap to toast my new life.

Your response kind of blew my mind. I feel encouraged to keep going with these live hangouts with you. At the end of the first live session, I invited your questions on life, love, sex, parenting, polyamory, and relationships, and I have some juicy ones to tackle when I return on September 24th at 9:00 pm EST.

To comment during the live cast make sure you’re watching via my Facebook Page between 9pm and 10pm EST. If you’re new to Facebook Live, this link is an awesome primer to help you figure it all out.

I’m off to Frontenac. That sounds like an adventure, doesn’t it? I’ve got a four day writing retreat with my awesome writing group, and I’m going to post a little something here each day. I can’t wait to be near a lake, with my heart wide open.

It’s not too late for more questions for the next Nightcap! You can email me right here with yours. I promise never to use your name, and to respect your privacy.

Here’s my first edition of The Nightcap, in case you missed it:

The Colour of My Eyes

I remember what it feels like to fall for someone.
As they take up real estate previously occupied by mundane tasks,
until even mundane tasks seem joyful.
I imagine how they’ll look at me when they first see me again, after a little while.
How they’ll idly touch me because it feels so easy and natural to touch me.
How they’ll show me all the beauty they have found as they move through their days.
I’ll want to cook for them, and drink too much wine with them.
We’ll stumble into my bed and emerge only when we need a snack.
Slowly, they’ll become the audience I sometimes write for,
The person I think of when I discover something to share.
I’ll want to see pictures of them when they were children,
Ask them questions that I know they’ll find difficult to answer.
I’ll listen, and open up my heart so they know their fragile secrets are safe with me.
My own secrets will become offerings, my tender places rolling over like petals in a rainstorm.
I’ll think about touching them in ways they’ve never been touched.
I’ll help them realize what they never knew they wanted.
I’ll see the world the way they do, and imagine it’s so close to my own sight
that it was just meant to be.

And then what?

I don’t need any more babies.
I have a family.
I don’t want a provider.
I like waking up alone just as much as I like
lazy mornings with company.
I want to explore without limits.
Share whatever I want, whenever I want to.
Keep my meager treasures safe.
Guard this fragile heart.
Make my own decisions.
Kiss the occasional stranger.
Love on my own terms, which I’m only just beginning to lay out.

So perhaps it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what colour my eyes are…

Yours are a clear and golden hazel, flecked with shards of amber.
In them I see fireflies, and shooting stars,
and the reflection of me, exactly as I am in this moment.
And I am falling.

This Broken Heart is Full

Yesterday I found a hawk feather on the sidewalk on St. Paul Street. Despite the gusts of wind, the feather lay in wait. I decided it was waiting for me.

Five months officially in this new life. I’m about to move into my tiny new home, and make a go of thriving on my own. I didn’t see these changes coming until late December, and despite how hard I fought against them, even then I knew they were inevitable. I wonder if the trees try to hold onto their beautiful leaves so tightly?

If you had told me then that I would move through this in all the ways I’ve moved, I never would have believed you. Back then, I thought I would die. I thought the only thing that could get me through such a devastating loss was the love of my children, their need for me in their lives. Back then, I thought that the end of this relationship would be the greatest failure of my life, and I would shut away pieces of my heart forever.

This loss has shattered me, but in this breaking apart, wide open spaces have been excavated and filled with torrents of love. I am surrounded by people who remind me of all the good in me. In the ways they listen, in their gestures of care and compassion, in their encouraging and uplifting words and messages. That love has bonded to me as I’ve pieced myself together, like molten gold that fuses to the sharpest edges of my hurt.

To my friends, my tribe, who have held my hand as I’ve cried and offered me shelter, food, wine, and even a captive audience for a particularly drunken night of angsty poetry; I love you to the ends of the earth. My home will always have space for you. My life will always be open to you. You are as much family to me as my own blood, and I am honored to be able to share this journey with you.

To my parents, who have fed me, given my children and I a home together, gifted me with some of the essentials that will make my own home more comfortable, and endured having much of their space taken over by my bins and boxes; you are exactly what I hope I can be to my own kids – dependable, safe, loving, and supportive in every way. I can’t wait to have you grace my dinner table soon.

To my children who know that I am steadfast and committed to them no matter how my relationship with their other parents has changed; the three of you are the most important people in my life, and you always will be.

To my aunties and my cousins who have stored my possessions, sent me gift baskets, sat with me and cried, sent messages of love, offered trucks and muscles to get me on my way, distracted me with brunch and bbqs; never before has family meant so much to me. I’m grateful to have you all, near and far and I love you very much.

To my far-away-Mary, a new friend who spent many a sleepless night with me, talking me through the twists and turns of the particular intricacies of a poly breakup, despite the fact that her own life was full of incubating, and then nourishing her two beautiful babes; I’m not sure you realize how you’ve cemented yourself in my heart with this kindness.

To Sav, for making a comeback; here’s to friendships that pick up where they’ve left off, and to the steady flow of good food, good drink and debaucherous conversation.

To my Niagara crew Chiara, Natalka, Andorlie, Sarah Y, Elisabeth, Samantha, Laura H, Joe and Merissa, Raine and Miguel; some of you got to see a lot more of me this summer, but each of you has given me something precious that has made this journey easier. I look forward to deepening our friendships now that I am close by again.

To the many, many people who have taken time to send me a message and reassure me, or thank me for my words; you are all precious to me, and when I write, I’m always thinking of you.

To Gordy and Michel for reaching out.

To Sally, Lena and Nancy; I’ve been shit at working on my novel these last few months, but the three of you have made me accountable to the other part of this experience that has lifted me and held me afloat – my writing. You inspire and move me, you fill me with determination and belief in myself. I love you, writer-sisters.

To my newest friend. You’re helping me feel like the city I’ve lived near for the last five years is actually my home by showing me all the best places. You give me new music every time I see you. You make me laugh from the depths of my belly. You understand both the space that I need and the closeness that I yearn for. You do so many things that make me feel light, and lovely, and like someone is seeing me for who I am, here in this moment in time. I thought our timing was absurd. Now I think it’s just right.

To my brother; you’ve now seen every single messy space I occupy, and yet you continue to be steadfast and solid. I wouldn’t have made it through Florida without you. I hope I never have to help you through a time like this, but if I do, I hope you know I’ll be there wholly and without hesitation.

It’s with a genuine sense of excitement that I step into this new life. The fact that I am beginning again as we approach Autumn, my favourite time of year, is a wonder to me. I feel like I’m stepping into my own turning of seasons, that I will blaze with colour, just before I turn deeply inward to find my own warmth.

This life I’ve lived, from the time we came together, to the tragic way we came apart, has truly taught me everything there is to know about love.

Everything I Need

I took my children into the wilderness, and we left knowing that we are campers for life. I’d never tent camped before, but this trip was the only sure thing about the last ten months. I needed to show them, and myself, how capable we are. How we could tackle hurdles together, and still see the beauty that surrounds us. This trip was exactly what I needed it to be, and I know my kids needed it too.

I lay awake for hours our first night, huddled together against the eight degree cold. There are still moments where I can’t believe how completely my life has changed. At how fragile and unstable the relationship I had, the one I’d decided was forever, actually turned out to be. The sleeplessness doesn’t come from being afraid of being alone. I’m excellent at keeping my own company. I don’t feel lonely. I have friends of all varieties to fill up my time, and family who love me. I don’t worry about my relationship to the children. I’m very confident in my ability to provide for them, and consistently show them how precious they are to me.

The sleepless moments come from shock. I feel like I can’t trust myself to make good choices about who and how to love. I feel like I’m not cut out for that sort of lasting, domestic partnership because I always choose people who aren’t right for me. I get dazzled quickly, and I want things to work, and I close my eyes and ears to all of the warning signs I can so clearly see once the whole thing collapses.

Is this because I haven’t loved myself enough to insist on what I truly need? Is it because I’ve allowed myself to believe that my life experiences have made me paranoid and mistrustful, instead of trusting that life has actually made me deeply intuitive? Even now, as I type this, I’ve been ignoring signals I’m getting from my ‘deep within’. Signals that say ‘slow down’, ‘switch focus’, ‘put your energy here’. I’ve dismissed this as unnecessary worry, but if I break that pattern, I can see that I should be listening.

My inability to choose partners has nothing to do with not knowing what I want. I’m very clear on that, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to make a list for myself so that I can make sure I’m checking off these boxes first and foremost, before I even begin to consider someone’s ability to contribute. Because that’s it, isn’t it? We can’t ever rely on other people to check these boxes for us. We need to make sure we provide for ourselves. Maybe it’s only then that we can draw the right people to us.

Everything I Need:

  • Care and respect for finances and financial health. Enough money to provide for myself and my son, with some left over to spoil my daughters when I want to, and to take the occasional trip.
  • Friends to fill my home with laughter, wine and good food.
  • My family close by, and connected to my life.
  • The space to enjoy my solitude, and to get comfortable with the occasional lonely moment.
  • A clean and beautiful home that is ready for drop in visitors at all times.
  • Trust and transparency. The ability to hear my inner voice and trust that it is honest and pure.
  • People who believe in my talent and abilities and support my efforts at exploring those.
  • Health and wellness, and conscious choices about food and exercise.
  • Creative outlets.
  • Time in nature.
  • Music, film, theatre, art, food and words and people who love those things as much as I do.
  • People who love to laugh, and are good at making me laugh.

It’s hard to imagine myself in a future relationship. I can’t bear the idea of opening my heart, allowing myself to be vulnerable, only to deal with the same issues of anger, anxiety, dishonesty and betrayal. To feel so weak that I deny what my soul is telling me is wrong, for the sake of staying in some sort of false sense of domestic security. To love someone despite always knowing that they would never really love you the same way.

Could there be another way to approach romance? To take what you need, in small doses? To feel wholly available and present and connected when you are together, and to have utterly separate and satisfying lives when you’re apart? To approach monogamy with the understanding that it’s likely a constraint that is doomed to fail, and give each other permission to explore what other people have to offer, while respecting the sacred space you are building together with some parameters and ground rules? Is there anyone out there who could be so self-aware and transparent that they could love me and not lie? Someone who could honour and delight in my most-important role as a mother? Someone who can see all of me, and still love me anyway?

I can’t stop believing in love. I feel it everywhere, and I see it in every frame. I know I’m worthy of all the love I have, but perhaps the romantic love that I need doesn’t really exist? It may be that instead of ‘a person’, (a concept that now seems less possible than waking to find a unicorn on my lawn) I will have ‘people’. Some who I can drink a bottle of wine with and laugh till I snort, some who will comb through thrift stores for hours and not ask me if I’m done yet, some who will take me dancing, some who will curl my toes, some who will cook for me, some who will make me feel like I’m soaring just in the way they look at me, some who have known me since I barely knew myself, some who won’t be afraid to hold me if I get sick, some who will let me smell their babies’ heads, some who see me and won’t be afraid.

And as those people come and go, I will remain the one constant. I will be everything I need.

On Monday, September 3rd at 9:00 pm EST I will be live on my Facebook Page. Please join me to toast my new apartment and catch up.