Pandemic Pink Moon

Noah in the hollow of a willow at Victoria Lawn Cemetery

We’ve been living in the COVID-19 pandemic for four weeks now. It’s our first full moon, and the pink supermoon at that. The overcast skies may prevent me from seeing the moon in all her glory, but I’ll light a candle and whisper prayers nonetheless. Prayers for a new world. Nothing about the moment-to-moment details of our life is the same, and yet this feels so familiar. 

How have I been able to find contentment when there is death and fear and disease in every news report? Why am I so comfortable despite not knowing where my next paycheque is coming from, how I’ll pay the bills, or when we’ll be back to normal? Why do I know precisely what’s happening with my kid when he is glued to my side one minute and raging at me the next?

I bet there are some of you who know exactly what I’m talking about; this sense of ease amidst the dis-ease of the world. And if you know what I’m talking about, it’s because you’ve been through the fire and have emerged on the other side.

Our little altar, Victoria Lawn

One of my greatest lessons in life is that I have no control. I cannot stop terrible things from happening, and when they do, there is no holding on to the familiar. I know upheaval. I know grief. I know what it is to feel powerless. But I also know that the key to surviving all of this lies within. I am my compass, and my map. No matter how stormy it gets, I have found my way back. We all have this power.

Please don’t mistake these musings as me saying I’m having a grand old time over here. While I deeply love the opportunity to sink deeper into my spiritual practice and read more books, there are some incredible challenges. They’re likely similar to yours, so I won’t whine. In fact, maybe yours are greater (if you’re reading this and you’re a front-line worker, I love you and I appreciate you). 

“I think that tree must know all of the stories here.”

Think about how your life has (or has not) prepared you for this time. You may surprise yourself with your own resilience. How have you been asked to bend and change in the face of the unimaginable? When have you been shaken by the cruel and random nature of things? What did you learn in those moments and how did those times shape you?

We are alone, together. Each of us has a unique vantage point, and unique ways of moving through this. Our very understanding of the world, of ‘normal’, of security and safety has been collectively destroyed. This is no small thing. It’s okay to feel that. It’s okay to grieve what we’ve been asked to sacrifice. It’s okay to know that you will eventually be okay. It’s okay to wonder if you won’t.

Germ outlaws.

I feel hopeful when I imagine us down the road, all gathered together at our favourite local establishments, listening to our favourite bands, generously boosting the economy and the pockets of our beloved local artists again. There will be grand festivals to celebrate the arts, because the arts kept our spirits up during this chrysalis time. We’ll emerge transformed and get to hug our friends and visit with our elders. 

Meanwhile, I have to tell my seven-year-old that our secret cemetery playground is now off limits. I welcome any and all suggestions for safe outdoor time when one is an apartment dweller. It’s no coincidence that we’ve been forced to spend more time with our kids. Our imaginations will be our saving grace in all of this.

State of Emergency

A blog post series about the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Day One – March 17th 2020

Last night, my 75 year old mother read me a bedtime story for the first time in several decades. Okay, she wasn’t reading it to me, she was reading it to my seven-year-old son via FaceTime, but it was still pretty damn sweet. She and my dad, who is also in his seventies, have decided to self-isolate at home. We’ve been asked to stay away. I have no problem with this because my dad fits the profile for the people who are hardest hit by the virus.
It feels so strange to not be able to visit. I see them and speak to them every day right now, when before I’d call once a week. 

I’ve been largely self-isolating too because I live in a building full of seniors, and I want to protect my neighbours. I think of Ernie, a 97 year old vet who rolls his oxygen tank around and parks himself in the lobby so he doesn’t get lonely. Ernie was out to get lottery tickets the other day. My son wanted to run up and chat, as we usually do, but I had to stop him. I scolded Ernie for leaving the building, but he waved me off. Maybe it’s a different perspective when you’re almost 98 and have lived through a war.

We’d started exclusively taking the stairs about a month before this all began, as part of a personal fitness challenge. Nobody takes the stairs in this building. We’d also started having groceries delivered, to save time as we throw our energy into the businesses we’ve just launched. I’m blessed to have some income from online business, and I’ve become very good at staying in and amusing myself. I’ve also had a solid year of homeschooling under my belt. I think I’ll feel the strain, but I know I’m well-suited to adapting and getting by.

My greatest fear, after spreading contagion to the vulnerable, and worry over something happening to my parents, is finding myself unable to see my kids. I think this is something lots of families are facing, when they’ve been split into two separate households. I’m very grateful that things are pleasant enough with my exes that we can gather together for dinner and game nights. It’s the only place I go. If we are asked to shut down and not leave our homes except for essentials, I’ve decided I’ll move in there for a little while. It’s a whole house with five bedrooms. I’m in a one bedroom apartment. My daughters had stopped coming over here for regular visits well before the pandemic because there was no break-out space for homework or for taking a breather from their little brother. Now my new partner lives here too.

He’s said he understands my need to be with my children. He’s also welcome in the ‘family bunker’ as we’re calling it. The kids are very fond of him and my exes are cool with it. Just as he understands my need to be with my kids, I understand how odd it could be for him to be living there.
Until we are ordered indoors, I’m staying in except to visit the kids and go for walks. People are spread out enough that I can do this without encountering anyone else. There’s a large cemetery where I live, and it’s my place of choice, though an odd one during times like these.

The kids are taking this in stride. My eldest is sad about missing school this semester because she was excited about all the courses she was enrolled in. She’s been hard at work at gruelling rehearsals for her high school musical, and she’s worried about the fate of the production. My middle kid is a highly-social creature. She’s always thrived in a group, and she’s feeling stir crazy already. Her grade eight class has had a hell of a tumultuous year, cycling through a few teachers and losing their graduation celebrations to the teachers’ strikes. The whole thing seemed doomed. My son could not be happier about the idea of not having to go to school. He loves his teacher and his friends, but I know he’s one of those kids not cut out for traditional education. He’s created a home school schedule and can’t wait to get started.

I’m looking at creative ways to serve others and still generate income. I’m moving all of my guided journal coaching sessions and workshops online, and offering these for a ‘pay what you can price’. (You can find these at The Sacred Pen). I’m posting daily writing prompts so people can hit a pause button and connect with their Reflective Writing. So many of my amazing friends are offering free movement classes online. I’ll start sharing these in days to come. I’ve let my novel podcast fall by the wayside. It feels a bit silly now.

I feel for my friends who are largely artists and small business owners. Our wedding industry has been suspended, all of the small retail stores are closing, performance venues shut down a week ago. So many people in the same precarious financial boat at least create a need for help from the powers that be. 

Despite being cut off from seeing most of the people I love, I feel more connected than ever. Everyone is checking in with each, making sure we’re all safe and managing stress. Everyone is staying close, despite the physical distance.

I feel you all, and you’re in my heart.  How are you moving through this?

Momentum is a Funny Thing

Suki Tsunami of Les Coquettes Cabaret

Man, I don’t know about you, but I love this January energy. I feel like I can do everything and anything right now. I’m motivated, I’m exercising regularly, I’m experiencing a creative explosion. I really love this feeling, even if it borders on manic sometimes.

How on earth do I make it last?

I’m making lists, checking in daily with an actual, physical day-planner type journal, I’m giving myself stars on the calendar for each day I work out, I’m taking note of how I feel when I’m productive. I’m taking vitamins. I’m being conscious about what I eat.

I think the secret is to find a rhythm and a system that feels great, and then repeat.

Life will trip you up, or slow things down. Instead of feeling guilty, I’ve found it’s much more productive to reset and return to the systems that feel the best.

A handful of years ago, I wrote a novel. I was even lucky enough to get support from an Indiegogo campaign. It was in its final stages, nearly ready for the world, and then my life took an unfortunate turn. My creative writing was sacrificed so that I could survive. My reflective writing took on a whole new life.

I’m ready to share my novel with the world.

I think it’s a fun story. It’s the love-child of my decades as a burlesque producer and artistic director and my life-long fascination with the superhero genre. That’s right. Superhero meets burlesque. My protagonist is a sardonic, witty, triple-threat performer who is experiencing a career nosedive until everything changes. I’m in love with the cast of characters who inhabit this world. I can’t wait for you to meet them.

Starting in February, I’ll be posting a chapter a week, right here, every Thursday. I’ll also be reading each chapter on my Instagram page, in case you’d rather listen.

If you’d like to read Bump and Grind, you can sign up below to make sure you never miss a post.

And of course, I’ll still be sharing the usual ‘slice of life’ stuff that I’ve always shared here. I just feel it’s time to get this girl out of my head and heart and into yours instead.

What are you excited about in 2020?

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A Snow Fall for a New Decade

The view from my desk, and Noodle’s allowance jar.

There is nothing more peaceful than waking up to discover everything blanketed in fresh snow. My home is a very modest one-bedroom apartment. It’s small, but the best feature is the wall of windows in the main space that overlooks a ravine. I woke up this morning full of words, and then the beauty outside made my heart want to burst.

I am starting 2020 full of love. 

This tiny apartment is home to three now, and it almost never feels too small. We’re building our life, and waiting for the perfect home to grow into. There’s no rush, and there are so many moments where I’m glad to be in here, cooking good food, sharing laughter and warmth and letting the outside world go on while I’m safe and full.

We’ve found the sweetest connection in drafting our dreams. There aren’t a lot of flowers or expensive dates. There are marketing meetings over brunch, walks through the moonlit cemetery while we hammer out our business model, morning sessions over coffee while I read my latest story or post, or we listen to my podcast.

Flowers will wither. This is growing into something lasting and fruitful. I have never approached love this way. 

I’ve never been with a man who can read the slightest shift in my mood, before I scarcely recognize it in myself. I’ve never been with anyone who can meet me with vulnerability like this, and a willingness to grow and learn. There is a sweetness in him that invites me to drop all of my self-protection and get to the heart of things faster than I ever have before. Loving this man is making me a better person.

He makes me feel beautiful. He recognizes my power and celebrates it. He believes in me.

He loves my son. He approaches his ever-growing role in my child’s life with curiosity and humility. He asks excellent questions about my kid and my parenting style. He appreciates the amazing parts of my boy, and wonders at the challenges he comes with. I see his desire to teach, to lead, and to love and it fills me with grace and gratitude.

He is delighted by my daughters. He is a gentleman who is engaged and indulgent. He’ll play too many rounds of the game of the moment, and laugh at the healthy competition. 

He is a good man with a kind heart and pure intentions. I have felt this from him since the beginning.

And yet…

There are nights when I wake up unable to catch my breath. The family I once had feels like it still exists in an untouched state in an alternate universe. Everything good about this love feels like it could be ripped away in an instant. My fear and self-doubt remind me that what I’ve learned about love has shown me that it won’t last, and that what I’ve learned about myself is that I make bad choices and behave poorly.

This perfect, glittering snow won’t last. I can still be breathless with the wonder of it while it’s here. 

And though nothing lasts forever, I cannot know what the end of this story looks like. This moment in my life is a gift, and I can hold it like it’s a fragile thing that I am certain to break, or I can pull it over my head and wrap myself in the splendour of it. I have to choose the latter, every single day. I have to stop allowing fear to step between me and the joy I deserve.

In 2020, I will stop listening to the voice that tells me I am not enough. I am whole, and worthy of the gifts that I receive. I am worthy of sharing my gifts with others. I am worthy of stepping fully into love, into my dreams, into my relationship with my children.

In 2020 I will give and receive love. I will celebrate the wonderful friends I have made over these last two years of healing (and yes, if you are reading this, I will always include you here, even if you are hurt right now). I will nurture the precious friendships I have made over the last decade of my life. I’ll create moments of greater connection with my family. I will reach for joy, over and over again. This is my word for this new year. How wonderful it would be as a word for the entire decade ahead. 

As this New Year begins to unfold, I wish that each of you will be able to find moments of pure joy, no matter how deep the twilight may be. May you always find the balance between the shadows of your past and the haze of your future, and live in the clear, bright present.

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

But I finally know what I need. Which feels timely, because I’m in the midst of another immensely challenging moment. I feel a little lost, frankly.

It’s funny how life will knock you on your ass with a well-timed round house. Sometimes you need a few of these before you can clear away the stars and canaries and see what you’re supposed to see. I’ve got my fists in front of my face at this point.

I thought the best plan for me was to lean on a student loan and get two degrees so I could have the career I’ve been dreaming of. Then I realized I couldn’t earn money while making this happen, and I did the math. It made no sense to keep digging myself into a financial hole. The school plan isn’t going to work.

Maybe I can find my way to a career in therapy via private school? It takes less time, but there’s no hope of government funding.  

These writing workshops I’ve been leading though…they feel like magic. I’m trying to teach people what I’ve done for myself for years; to float on a raft of words over the sea of life. Sometimes clinging through the tossing and roiling. Sometimes floating and feeling breathless at the beauty of the cloud formations. I believe so deeply in the power of words that I’m taking on private coaching clients. It feels like the work I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it’s a plan that could grow into something.

So many maybes…

I’m trying to be good at being in a relationship. Sometimes I think I’m brilliant at this. Sometimes I dream of building a life and home and family with the person I am loving. I want it so deeply that it keeps me awake at night, wondering how I can have the audacity to want such things again, knowing what I know.

About love. About life. About trust.

My childhood trauma was triggered two weeks ago by a drunken idiot at one of my favourite local bars. And this week, something else happened that I can’t write yet. There’s nothing like trying to find your way back from a vivid PTSD moment to really put life into perspective. Of course, any of you who have embraced your trauma know that it’s not the kind of perspective anyone wants to live with. It’s the kind of perspective that makes nearly everyone you know a source of danger. It shines a light on all the broken parts of you. It feels like you’re in a yolk, designed to show the world that you are so deeply flawed that you’ll never quite be part of the pack. Yes, I booked a therapy appointment as soon as I could. Yes, I’m laying low and trying to be easy with myself as I move through this. 

But I need care right now. I need gentle words, lots of loving words. I need to be told daily about the parts of me that are lovable. I need touch and physical affection. I need sweet, romantic gestures. I need someone to make me coffee in the morning.

I’m trying to be good at being in a relationship. I want to build that life. But building that life means needing to trust someone again with my whole heart. And my whole heart needs safety.

There it is. The thing I need. Emotional safety. Not a solid life plan. Not a career change. 

What’s safe for me isn’t the same as what’s safe for others. I have grown from a complex mixture of intuition and experience. I have an abundance of patience with myself and with the people I love. I know when I’m being anxious and when irrationality is slipping in. I’m willing to hit the pause button and try to gain a different vantage point. If I feel uncomfortable enough to voice discomfort, believe it. I’m too old to doubt myself any longer about these kinds of things. I’ve kept my mouth shut for too long, far too many times before. If I’m asking for something, it’s because I’ve thought it through.

For my entire life, I’ve been trying to protect myself from the thing I couldn’t when I was a little girl. I can see how this has made me difficult. I can also feel pride in how I’ve grown enough to accept my part. I’ve been in the stranglehold of life enough times now to know when my self-protection serves me and when it doesn’t.

I’m not settling without that safety. It’s not about being stubborn. It’s about accepting what is possible, and what is doomed to fail.

I need to lean in hard and know that I won’t be left to topple. I need steady hands to hold me when life pulls at those unhealed child places in me. I am so often the one people seek out when their lives feel overwhelming. I need someone who will be present and nurturing when I am the one who needs care.

I am a mother. I am a minister. I am a writer, a poet, and now a coach. This sounds like a solid life and a rewarding career. I will do my very best to be a strong partner, to build a home with someone. I’ll take all that I’ve learned about life and love and trust and apply it with my whole heart. Maybe this time it will all work out.