My Name, In Lights

I shouldn’t have agreed to go.

To the couples’ therapy session we’d waited a month for, I mean. A month that felt like years. A month I couldn’t make it through because I was so exhausted of trying to bridge the gaping chasm that grew so wide between us.

But I agreed, even after I said I couldn’t remain in the relationship. Have you ever had to set a boundary like this with someone you loved deeply? It’s one of the hardest things. 

He’d never asked for anything like this. I was surprised when he did. 
I realize now I was still waiting for him to meet me. To give me a little piece of something to hold on. Instead I saw that he was done. Instead I saw our pattern play out for the last time; when I don’t feel seen, I am activated. When I am activated, he de-activates. It’s a cycle, and it’s brought us to a stalemate.

I know that I was loved, but I know too that love is not enough. I need deep intimacy and communication, and this cycle we fell into made it impossible for both of us. I tried as hard as I could until it felt so lonely that the only thing that made sense was to try to heal myself.

Someone told me I shouldn’t yearn for little pieces. That from day one my name should be written in lights.

A breakup feels as raw and deep as grief. Even if you know the relationship isn’t working. The love remains, and it doesn’t know where to go. What do you do with everything you wanted to believe? How do you extract yourself from the story?

I’m listening to a lot of podcasts. One particularly useful one suggested that I frame the entire relationship from the first moments to the very end as being predestined. That the ending was as certain as the start, and that all of it has created deeper meaning in my life. I like this. It feels less like I’ve failed, again. More like the Universe wove something beautiful and complex and painful in which I can discover, more deeply, myself.

I have discovered that when I am the one who takes all the initiative in the early days of a relationship, I set myself up to always feel like I’m chasing someone. I have discovered that my subconscious beliefs about love are that anyone I open myself up to will inevitably betray me and leave, and so I select and create circumstances where it is impossible for me to be as vulnerable, as empathetic and as connected as I yearn to be. I have discovered that this betrayal and abandonment began long before I entered the realm of romantic love.

I have discovered that when the sobs wrack me so hard I can’t produce sound, it actually works to hold myself in the fetal position and stroke my own hair.

The trees will continue to remind me of all that is wild and beautiful inside me. I can miss him deep in my bones, remember how sweetly I would sleep beside him, remember how the morning light seemed to create a halo in his messy curls, and I can slowly extract the threads that belong to me and weave them back into myself. 

There is someone out there who will love him so much better than I have been able to. The same is true for me.

I have never felt like a half-life. I don’t need someone to help me feel whole. I just wanted to love and be loved. I still want this, but the idea of being open right now feels absurd. I need tending; gentle, daily reminders of how worthy I am. I know I can manage this task myself. I have always enjoyed my own company. When I’m lonely I have an army of witches, healers, mothers and warrior-women to reach for. I have my beautiful children, and my family.

With the new moon I set an intention. I asked to ‘receive’ and I will mend my heart and sink deep into the Feminine and open myself to everything that is meant for me. I will not push, pursue, lead, demand, beg, plead again. I will rest, and I will unfurl like the sweet ferns in the deepest part of the forest. 

The light will find me. It always does.

Pandemic Fall

This is exactly how a Sunday morning should feel; I’m sitting in bed in the warm glow of the bedside lamp, and the rain is pattering outside. The screen of my laptop is reflecting the Gingko tree in the backyard, and she feels like she’s watching over me. My little cat Luna is curled up on the bed, licking raindrops off her coat, and I’m here, talking to you as we approach our first pandemic fall.

I tried again. And again. The space between him and I grew wider and wider. Not for him, somehow, which I don’t think I’ll ever understand, but certainly for me. It’s the worst kind of lonely to be lonely in a relationship.

So, here I am, creating Sunday morning sweetness for myself. 

I shared my decision with so much love. I still feel all of that love, but I’ve made peace with the fact that I can love someone and not be in relationship with them. There needs to be time now for me to understand, with no measure of uncertainty, the cycles we were locked in. Two wonderful people do not always make an ideal pair. 

This time my decision wasn’t a boundary I threw up in the midst of conflict. This time I sat in this feeling, I did the work with my team of healers, I wrote and wrote and wrote. This love was a huge piece of my healing because I filled four books from cover to cover in the space of a year and a half with trying to understand. Understand him. Understand us. Understand who I was in this space.

I could not be myself. 

My son and I are settling into our new life, in our new home, in our new town. I’ve moved in with a dear friend who is also a single mom. She’s got a five-year-old daughter who is full of fire and sweetness. My little guy is adjusting to having her around, to having his own room, and it’s not always smooth, but I am so happy here. 

I sit around the fire with amazing women. We share our secrets and our struggles as the coyotes howl in the distance. My roommate is full of kindness and grace. She’s brilliant and talented and so wonderful at mothering. I wake up to coffee and a huge backyard with the most beautiful Gingko tree to shelter us all. Gingko is longevity, resilience and hope. 

I can’t wait until my daughters come to see this place. I can’t wait to cook for my friends in my home.

What do I need now? I need to focus on my career. I need to give my heart space and time to heal. I need to be in nature, and I need my children. I need to see my parents and my brother. I need to connect more with my dear ones in Toronto. I need good books and delicious food and permission to have days where very little gets done but everything gets processed. 

I need me.

None of us can envision the coming fall. This has always been my favourite time of the year, but now I’m just not sure where it is leading us. I could not have imagined a world where I’d deliver my son to grade three and everyone would be masked and distanced. I couldn’t have imagined a world where he couldn’t have sleepovers with Grandmere and Grandpere. What will happen as our numbers continue to climb? We’ve lost so much, haven’t we?

What have you gained? I’ve gained a clear and unwavering understanding and acceptance of how I need to be loved. I’ve gained permission to fall deep into my own wildness, to grow feral with my need to be connected to nature and the divine. I’ve gained an awareness of how powerful my journal therapy practice is, and how I am truly meant to do this work. I’ve gained another reminder of how precious and fleeting my time is here.

I’ll be sitting more often with you. I need this space again, this space which has been so powerful with each huge transition. I’m going to cultivate the most healing pandemic autumn that I can. How will you adapt your favourite fall routines? 

Whatever we come up with, I hope we can be connected and healthy and aware of how important it is to nurture ourselves.

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.