A Letter to Present Me from Future Me

Dear Catherine,

(I’m sorry, I just can’t call you Cat. It’s absurd.)

You don’t think you’ll make it through this, but you will. You’re right about one thing, however. You won’t be the same. Nobody is ever the same after grief like this. It’s okay though. Remember how the other grief you experienced made you really learn to appreciate the fragile beauty of life? This will make you appreciate the fragile beauty of holding someone else’s heart. Most importantly, it will help you appreciate the fragile beauty of becoming the keeper of your own heart.

All of those things you’re doing that make you feel better? Keep doing those. Also, be prepared because you’re going to start having to do other things too. Those things you’ve been scared of. You know they’re going to help you get better as well, and if you take a long hard look at the present, you’ll see the time has come. Trust deeply in your ability to survive through this. It’s not going to kill you, and I’m not going to spout any more cliches than I already have.

Your children love you, deeply. If you keep on loving them the way you always have, this love will continue to thrive and flourish. Don’t pull away because it’s complicated. It was always complicated, and now it’s actually simpler in ways that matter more than you can know right now. You may not have the paperwork to prove you are ‘mother’ to all of them, but those two young women have the fiercest, most passionate fairy godmother in the history of guardians. You’re going to rock that role, and they will always be grateful for your persistence.

Stop trying to understand why. You can see how crazy-making that is, and you know as well as I do that it doesn’t matter. Remember that sweet, handsome soul who told you that you’ll feel normal ‘when you can let go of the story of wrong/right as an identity piece’? That particular little nugget will be a game-changer for you. Let go of the wrong/right narrative. It just was. And it was totally different for each of you. Nobody was completely right, nobody was completely wrong, everyone did their best, and everyone lost something that cannot be replaced. See? There really are no winners. Just people, trying to heal and be whole. Stepping away from the story is stepping towards your wholeness.

Start writing a new story. The story of you, taking care of your finances, your children, your heart, your body and mind. Of you finishing books and putting them out in the world because you aren’t paralyzed by anxiety and sorrow. Of you connecting deeply with old friends who know each line on your face. Of road trips to visit new friends. Of adventures with your three munchkins. Of meals that you cook, to thank all of these beautiful people in your life for their kindness and compassion. Plan a trip for the fall when wedding season winds down. Somewhere that connects you to nature. Where your loneliness will feel more inspiring than crushing. Where you might kiss a stranger and learn something new about yourself.

Only you can make this better. Stop asking for the pain to go away. It doesn’t work like that and you know it. Hold that pain like an angry child until it settles and shifts into something else. Hold it while you reach for a different sensation. Send all the feelings on their way and wait for the next ones to arrive. Repeat, over and over until the feelings fall into a new pattern.

Write it all down. Share what you can without making things harder for yourself. Choose only that which truly serves you. Accept this hug and feel it across the miles and the years whenever you may need it.

I’ll see you sooner than you think.

xo

Morgan’s Point

The women in my family know heartbreak like the words to a favourite song. It seems to be written in our DNA, part of the marrow of our bones. So too is the ability to breathe in the beauty of each fragile moment. We are nature lovers who seek solace in our gardens, artists who make music, textile art, paintings and words. We love deeply, we fail spectacularly. We are caretakers and hard workers who make cozy, welcoming homes in any circumstance. We delight in family, and food, and gatherings. We raise babies, and we survive.

In this new life, I follow the path of my ancestors.

The other day, I drove 45 minutes to meet with a wedding couple at their home, where they are getting married in June. (Did you know that I’m a wedding officiant?). They just happened to live on the same road as my Aunt Jackie’s favourite house, and so after interviewing this very sweet pair (who met in later years through a match-making service #hope) I drove to the end of Morgan’s Point Road and walked down to the beach that is part of my aunt’s former property.

Jackie hosted us there over countless lazy weekends in the summer time. She held reunion barbecues, holiday gatherings, and parties on the regular because she was a spectacular cook who loved to entertain. Her home was full of exciting music, delicious smells, fresh flowers and light. I always had the sense that she felt a deep, spiritual connection with this place, overlooking the often turbulent Lake Erie. I slept in the hammock as a child with the warm summer breeze tickling my sunburned skin, listening to the crashing of the waves. Morgan’s Point was Jackie.

Morgan’s Point was also where her relationship came apart. Where she became a single mom to her son.

I don’t know what I was looking for, visiting the Point. A message from a relative I felt a strong connection to? Some reassurance that things would be okay? A ghostly encounter in the place where her ashes were scattered? I prowled the property line and snapped a few photos vaguely wondering what I might say to the owners if they discovered me in the bushes:

“My aunt used to live here.”

“My family spent one particularly warm Christmas here, shaking the house with our drumming and dancing around a raging bonfire like crazy pagans. I smoked pot with my cousins. Don’t tell my mom.”

“I ate shark for the first time on that back deck. I only did it to impress my cousin’s gorgeous half-brother. I still have a crush on him and it’s two decades later.”

“I just came here to know that I’m not going to die of a broken heart.”

Thankfully, there was nobody home.

I sat on the beach and took a half-assed selfie. I’m getting to the age where selfies feel foolish, but I know I must resist this feeling. Giving in would mean giving up. There were hundreds of little flies swarming the driftwood logs where I tried to sit for a moment of reflection. A moment of connection to Jackie, her essence. Sure, the lake was pretty, but in no more magical a way than any other lake. The flies felt like they were discovering a new home in the mess that was my hair. Finally, I selected a glittering black rock from the beach. Something to remember the moment. Or the complete lack of a moment.

Because a house is just a house. A beautiful property is just a piece of land. Home is made by people, connections, moments; the memories created behind the bricks and mortar. The imprints left by little feet racing across lawns and hurling rocks into the waves. Jackie wasn’t at the Point because we are not tied to places. Everything I need of Jackie is part of me already, courtesy of DNA and grey matter, where a thousand memories of her strength and beauty are stored. All I need to do is close my eyes and hear her wailing the chorus to ‘Blue Bayou’. When I was a girl, the way she sang that song made me burn to understand what it was all about.

I’ve always thought of myself as a nomad. This will sound preposterous to anyone who knows how much stuff I own, but it’s true. I can feel at home just about anywhere. So, I guess it’s time to purge and pack. To find a new place for memories and moments to play out. Time to start dreaming of a space to call my own, to live modestly and within my means while I repair and heal.

Still, Morgan’s Point is awfully pretty. You should visit it sometime if you can.

Full Moon in May

Mother Moon, do you recall at the beginning of this year, when I brought my children out into our snow-covered postage stamp backyard to meet you? We performed our first moon ritual as a family, with both mamas lending their feminine energy to our circle. Each of us wrote a full moon wish on a piece of paper (even little Noodle) and we burned our wishes as offerings before releasing the circle and heading inside for hot cocoa.

I asked you for the truth. You’ve delivered it in ways that have torn my very soul from my body.

Tonight’s moon is not to be taken lightly. It’s my first moon phase in this new life, and I’ve never felt more uncertain and unsteady. I realize now that I must be very careful about what I call towards me. You clearly don’t mess around.

Please grant me the ability to access love, even when I’m moved to feel hurt, anger, betrayal and fear.

Grant me the foresight to make careful, considered decisions for my own future and the future of my children.

Keep sending me moments of beauty and joy so that the moments of sorrow and grief do not cast such dark shadows.

Draw love to me in every form that you believe I can handle right now.

Continue revealing the truth. I will believe it, even if I don’t want to.

Protect my children. Help them see me, and see the love I have for them, and the gifts I have to bring to their lives.

Please grant me financial prosperity and continued success in my work. I need this stability desperately right now.

Send me breath when the sorrow feels too great. Show me there is more than just my suffering.

Help me build a home that is emotionally stable, safe, and a place where I can heal.

Bless all of the incredible friends and family, near and far, who have shown me that I am not alone and that I am worthy of love.

Let me turn this pain into beauty, and let that beauty help others move through their own suffering.

Guard my health so I may survive this time and benefit from the inevitable changes ahead.

As always, I am grateful for your light and divine feminine energy. I realize that even in the midst of this suffering I have an abundance of blessings. Underneath the heaviness, there is a part of me that is both curious and hopeful about where I will be at the end of this cycle. The path forward is unclear, but I will trust that I am exactly where I should be.

Advocating

Saturday.

Friday was a day filled with tears, with a wedding to perform smack dab in the middle. Oh, the terrible irony of working as a wedding officiant while my crushed heart struggles to keep beating. Channeling years of stage training, I got dolled up, wore killer heels, and got through the wedding like a boss. Then I headed to Hamilton to the safety of my parents’ sofa and my work. I just couldn’t imagine anything else, so I cancelled plans and hid away.

Saturday morning I slept through the yoga class I’d scheduled, but I awoke with a clear sense of direction. A decision that was reinforced first by a long overdue visit with my closest women, and then by a gathering of my Coquettes tribe. I won’t leave my home. The lease is in my name, and that lease is a form of security. I can’t work and live between two cities and be so far from my kids. I consulted the internet, which proved that my morning revelation was also the typical right afforded to traditional couples. In the shock, the pain, and the numbness of all of this unraveling, it hadn’t occurred to me to be clear on my own rights in this situation.

I never wanted anyone to leave our home in the first place.

But I’m not leaving. In the eyes of Canadian law, within this polyamorous relationship my legal rights are fuzzy. I’ve been promised a separation agreement, but until all of those details are sorted I deserve a home, and by rights, I should have one close to my children. So I’m staying put until that’s a possibility. From the safety of my familiar space, close again to my kids, I can heal all of this loss that I couldn’t control. I’m not willing to lose everything in one fell swoop, or put myself in a position to be neglected. I don’t think anyone could bear that kind of grief.

Isn’t it tragic when a love you once thought was unshakable has been reduced to contracts and numbers? Reduced to rights you must insist upon and advocate for, from people who feel like strangers? This is the part that everyone warned me about, and it’s terrifying.

But this is day three without crying.

 

Lilac Wine

My grandmother had twelve children, eleven of whom survived through infancy. She lived with an alcoholic husband, and dealt with all of the hardships that come with such a life; poverty, violence, heartache, fear, before finally realizing her power. Each May, she’s in my thoughts. Her birthday was the 17th and her favourite flowers were lilacs. Even after the polar spring we had, the lilacs are bursting forth, and my heart is full of Grandmaman.

What would she say to me if she were here right now? She’d tell me to pray, because her faith was her shield. She’d tell me to take good care of my heart. Grandmaman would give me a crushing hug and her glasses would dig into the side of my face. She’d smell like garlic and brown sugar, Sunlight laundry detergent and that rich, earthy smell that was uniquely hers. She would tell me to never be sorry for trying to love someone.

There’s a shift in my turmoil. Each day presents a new version of moving through this pain. Now, when I’m suddenly hit with a wave of panic or despair, I take a moment and remind myself to breathe. I hold on to my love. I feel it so deeply and completely, and even though it’s not reciprocated, it’s mine. I am full of love. I don’t have to be ashamed of that, or try to stuff those emotions away. I feel love, and that love will shift and change. If I don’t bury it with anger, with questions I can never answer, with fear of what I do not know, it will remind me of all the reasons why I tried in the first place. It will heal me. It’s okay that I continue to feel this love. I just have to accept that it belongs to me now.

I can do this. I can put one foot in front of the next and re-invent myself. My grandmother got up again every time she got knocked down by life. What other choice do you have when you’ve got eleven kids? We are strong stock, the women of my family. We are survivors. I don’t pray, but I can accept that this is where I am right now. I can take back my power and move forward with grace.

I can sit in the food court of a sunny mall with my bestest besties and recognize the appreciative glances I receive. I can imagine a future me, sipping drinks on a patio with a handsome stranger while my shoulders collect more freckles. I can almost feel what it’s like to breathe and not battle tears.

After my grandfather died, my Grandmaman bought herself a new nose (she’d always hated hers), rented a tidy little apartment, and had a string of boyfriends to take her dancing until her dancing days were finally over. She wore heels until it was impossible, had her hair done every week, and never stopped flirting.

And each and every May, she filled her home with lilacs.