A Year Ago

Do you remember who you were a year ago?


I was frustrated. Impatient. I felt like I could see all of my dreams like puzzle pieces, but like a dream, I couldn’t get any of the pieces to fit together. Deep in my gut, I knew how fully I loved, but on the surface a lot of it wasn’t making sense. I kept forcing the pieces together because I wanted the big picture.


Now, I am the big picture. The whole thing from start to finish. I’ve lost lovers, friends, co-dependent connections, homes. I’ve moved three times in a year. Three times. Every twist and turn my life takes pushes me closer to myself. I feel this in a way that’s so clear, I can surrender to the disruption and uncertainty, because the outcome is always my own autonomy. 


You won’t have a solid romantic relationship, but you will have a burgeoning journal therapy practice and do the work you were always meant to do.


You won’t be able to live out some Golden Girls fantasy life with a roommate, but you’ll have the means to have a lovely home for you and your children.


You won’t be able to keep all of these friends and lovers, but you’ll be so rooted in yourself, you won’t be lonely.


I was driven by a longing to find that one, great love. Now I feel like a Whitney Houston song. 


Have you ever heard of a twin flame? No, it’s not another cheesy 80’s ballad. It’s the notion that there’s a relationship out there that mirrors your own soul. This other person doesn’t complete you (because we are all complete when we are connected to self, and source) but they hold a mirror up and invite you to do some of your deepest healing work. If both people can recognize and embrace this, it can be a deeply powerful connection. 

If they can’t, well, they continue to mirror each other’s deepest wounds.

My last serious relationship (also a year ago) was exactly this. Why else would I have felt such a deep, safe connection at a soul level, and total confusion and frustration on the surface? He’s a good person, not malicious in any way, I just think we kept showing each other where we still needed to heal. Not a very useful thing, if we’re not ready for the healing.


So, I took all the information I received from that connection and I’ve been working on my own to mend and understand those places; the need for validation, the co-dependence, the attention-seeking, the fear of focusing on my own talents and passions, my understanding of how I can experience other people’s energy, my sexuality, the filling of my own cup. 


This kind of work is the work of a lifetime, but I feel tremendously rooted in what I’ve discovered. I’ve found outlets for some of my behaviours and needs that are powerful and useful, and in fact, can serve others in an entirely healthy way.


I’ve abandoned the story of finding my other half in favour of embracing my wholeness. 


My love remains, but I can hold it with gratitude for the lessons and release everything that isn’t meant for me.


Do you ever try to imagine returning to a packed bar or restaurant, filled with the people you used to see? When I entertain this fantasy, I imagine that nobody will recognize me. I’ll be familiar, yet strange. I’ll be a wizened, tested version of myself, simultaneously older-looking and more compelling. Maybe they will come and say hello, or maybe they’ll turn too fast and I’ll know they’re avoiding contact. 


It won’t matter now. I have a seat at my own table, and no matter who joins me, it always feels full.

The Crow Herald

It’s been just over a week since I asked him to leave. At the new moon last Tuesday, I committed to transparency. To look at the last year, our year, and identify patterns. To search for the lessons in old journal entries, poems, blog posts and to uncover the truth that I must realize in order to move forward.

I have lived so much of my life in fear, and that fear has informed so many of my reactions. Now, we are collectively gripped by fear, fanned daily by the media and the ever-changing reality we find ourselves in. I don’t like where my fear has led me. Not in this. Not in so many past relationships.

The need to protect myself from perceived threat becomes greater than all else when I am in conflict with my love. Perceived threat can be blown way out of proportion by my lizard brain. In my reactivity, I seek to guard rather than to find any empathy or compassion. I retreat into myself, and the intensity of my emotion. It makes it impossible to connect. To collaborate. To build trust.

Another discovery: a “sky is falling” feeling that comes up in the face of relationship conflict. The moment I fall into that ‘perceived threat’ place, it feels like it’s the end of everything. It’s not a disagreement between two people who love each other, it’s the end. With this filter, my close friends and confidantes often get a skewed perspective of relationship. My hurt, scared, confused perspective.

I need to trust myself in my capacity to handle the unknown in love. I need to trust the love I create to be the light that guides us out of the murk together. 

This is my piece in the struggle for trust that has afflicted my romantic relationships. I’m not shouldering blame for all that went wrong, (relationship dynamic is created by both people and we both made some unhealthy choices) but if I’m not humble, where do I find grace? How do I know what to take to my mindfulness practice? To therapy?

I looked up my astrological chart last week. I’m a Leo sun, and now I know I’m a Taurus rising. This means I’m stubborn as hell, which isn’t a surprise to me, or to anyone who has tried to love me. This particular phrase felt like a gut punch: “Stubbornness and persistence can get you places. However, it can sometimes cause interpersonal problems, mainly because people close to you can be tempted to approach you in roundabout ways simply to get their way. If this persists, relationships can become toxic. Aim for more flexibility and place more value on others’ honesty and directness than peace and harmony in the moment.” (From astrologycafe.com)

I have not been the partner I want to be. I want to extend the same kind of empathy and compassion to my partnership that I have no trouble accessing in friendship, or with family. I want to offer that compassion to myself as I realize where I’ve acted out of integrity. I want to create stability and trust. I want to be reliable and steady, even when I’m hurt and scared.

We met yesterday in the cemetery. This place has now become a sanctuary for me, for my child. The sunshine had returned, and it was warm enough to shed my jacket. I sat, leaning against the stone columns, watching honey bees buzzing in the dandelions and creeping veronica. As I waited for him to arrive, I saw a dragonfly. It’s not even May yet, but there it was, just above me. I was filled with light in that moment. In my family, dragonfly is widely recognized as a visit from my Aunt Jackie, whose wisdom and strength (and independence) I call on frequently.

In the realm of animal omens, dragonfly signals the presence of magic.

He arrived, and we sat eight feet apart from one another. No hug, no kiss. How does one navigate relationship strife in a pandemic? We eased slowly into a conversation. I knew I had to make space for his feelings and his beliefs, no matter what emotion either conjured in me.

A crow landed at the top of a tree several feet behind him. Crows always feel like guides to me. This one wasn’t leaving, and I felt a stirring somewhere deep inside. We continued to talk, and the crow flew over us, landing in a tree behind me, just a little up the embankment, maybe ten feet away. I remarked that it seemed to want to be closer. It started to crow.
We continued to talk, and the crow kept cawing. “I hear you,” I said.
It wouldn’t let up. I looked at my love and said,  “I think it wants me to go over there.” I stood and headed to the tree.

The crow got louder, it swooped down to a lower branch, screeching. A huge white and brown owl unfurled its wings and burst off of the bough where it slept, into the tree next to it, the crow giving chase. The crow dove at the owl, and a confetti of downy owl feathers rained down. One for me, one for my love. The great bird flew over our heads, across the cemetery, the crow in hot pursuit, still cawing away.

What kind of insane crow attacks an owl? Why didn’t the owl fight back with its huge talons? Were they playing chase? Was the owl roosting in a tree too close to the crow’s nest? 

I believe these rare moments of animal magnificence are messages. I believe that the crow wanted us to see the owl. Because of how powerful this moment was, I was open, and listening with more than just my ears. 

Crow means an invitation to transformation and new awakening.

Owl invites us to see the truth we are afraid to see.

I heard his heart. I was present. I could feel all that we have been to each other and all that we could become. I saw my worth, his worth, the intensely fragile moment of this deep, harrowing uncertainty. Not just the uncertainty of love, but of our very existence, as humans, in the world at this time.

Will we find our way back to each other? I don’t know. I believe this relationship has merit, because within it, I have uncovered so much, in such an accelerated time, about the places I still need to heal. He has met all this with continued patience. A patience that humbles me.

I can’t force this, or try to fit this connection between us into a tidy narrative. Perhaps we are only meant to bump up against each other’s wounds so that we can see how easily they still bleed? Perhaps we are the light that illuminates each other to tend to our healing. 

The cemetery, the space we shared, the dragonfly, crow, and owl have led me to my own threshold. I can step more deeply into myself and tend to what needs mending. Alone or together, I will be forever grateful for this moment.

What’s This Day?

I woke up sandwiched between my seven-year-old and the cold wall of his bedroom. We’d slept cramped in his twin bed the night before. He couldn’t get close enough. He hasn’t been able to get close enough to me since we’ve found our way into this pandemic. At first I thought he was missing his grandparents and aunts and uncles. Only last night, when he refused to roll over onto the adjacent twin mattress, did I realize why he hadn’t been able to get as close as he wants to his mama; I’d been barricaded.

Later that morning a friend of mine asked, “What’s this day?” 

I knew she was referring to the day of the week, but in realizing that days have lost all meaning, I also realized we can now attach any label we want to days of the week. 

So, instead of Monday, it became ‘Day of Decision’.

I will agree that this virus and the blink-of-an eye transformation of society is unsettling, but it hasn’t been the major cause of my personal blockade. Or maybe it has. It’s hard to be certain anymore. COVID-19 has become the plot twist in which I’ve been forced to examine all of the places I still need to heal. My romantic partnership became the chapter in which I fought against all of my old demons.

My partner and I fell out of alignment in the ways we feel about our liberties being suspended, and perhaps forever altered. We weren’t on the same page about how to weather these social-distancing demands. While I was feeling trapped inside myself, he was feeling trapped within the walls of our apartment. Maybe he was feeling trapped in the relationship too. The cracks that existed began to spread. At some point we fell into one, and there wasn’t a hand to help us out. The point is, home was not a safe place for either of us to shelter, and right now, home is all we have. 

 I asked him to leave. It took all of my courage to listen to my gut. (Those are the moments your need to listen the most). In all my adult years, I’ve never consciously ended a relationship with so much still invested. I needed to move on with love and respect still very much a part of the equation. When it dissolves so far that neither of those things can be accessed anymore, that’s when love becomes a tragedy.

I prefer for love to be a noble epic of courageous questing, demon-slaying, unearthing lost treasure, transformation, and protagonists shedding monster enchantments to emerge as golden heroes. It’s a story I’ve never been able to read from cover to cover. I have given all I have to this particular epic, and the time has come for me to heal myself completely from an old wound that will seep and fester over and over again with each attempt I make at loving at my own expense. 

Maybe it’s a bookmark on the page. Maybe I need to re-write the story; love is about comparing battle wounds and making sure you’ve both healed enough to combine forces against the demons.

Love is about wholly loving yourself and recognizing that the sticky-handed touch of a softly snoring little boy is worth more than a library of badly-written endings.

I am grateful for the beautiful light that I got to touch before the shadows settled in. For the sweet, tender earnestness that I was so drawn to. 

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not challenge our boundaries. Love does not tell half-truths, or facilitate omissions of truth. Love is not easily-angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love doesn’t demand to know where you’re going or who you’ve been around multiple times a day. Love is built, bolstered and healed only in total transparency and safety.

I’ve not been myself. I’ve been trapped in my fear. Not of this virus, or of death. Not of the government, or how I’ll manage without all of the normal daily things I took for granted. I’ve been trapped in being afraid of being wrong. Of not listening to my gut. Of knowing that it’s time to put the book on the shelf.

Let’s all just tend to our hearts. If we can’t weather the pandemic together, let’s get through it alone. Let’s just all be whole, and safe, and well. Answerable only to ourselves and those who truly depend on us for their safety and care. If there is one thing my life has taught me, it’s that I can take care of myself. I can give myself all the love I yearn for. I can make myself a priority in the way I deserve to be prioritized. The Universe has got my back.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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. 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?