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:

Let Me Go

Guess who is about to embark on four days of tent camping in Algonquin Park, with the company of her amazing children? I’m ending this insane summer on the perfect note, because I am most myself under a canopy of trees. Here’s a little something I banged out this afternoon in Starbucks, when I was supposed to be finishing up my work.

 

Let Me Go

Let me go into the forest,

and let the lake-fed rain wash clean these sins.

Let the fresh, rich scent of the pines clear my soul,

and the light of a million stars restore my faith.

 

Let me go into the forest,

My sweet babes in hand.

The babe I birthed, the daughters I forged,

And let them see me as I am;

Whole, and wholly capable.

 

Let me go into the forest,

that I may howl like the wolves,

tread lightly with the the fleetest fox-steps,

Leave no trace of the sorrow I have carried all these many years.

 

Let the dapple-leaf sunlight illuminate

this fire in my heart,

this whisper in my ear,

this yearning, so fathomless that I shall never be full

of this sweet and serendipitous life.

 

 

There’s A Whole In The Bucket

I have to confess something to all of you. I am a fraud. I’ve been writing about my life here for years now, and a few of you have taken time to let me know that you have been inspired, that you find my writing hopeful and positive. Guess what? It’s a sham. When I write hopeful things here, 99% of the time it’s not because I’m feeling it, it’s because I need to feel it and I’m hoping that writing from a positive perspective will make it so. Usually it works. Today it won’t.

I suppose I can’t consider it a total waste if I make it to 40 and realize I’ve been doing it all wrong. You might think I’ve got a lot of stuff figured out. You may think I’m a great mom, and an awesome partner. That’s a lie too. I’m not. The sum of my life experiences has made me hard and angry. I respond to stress and conflict by going on the offensive, or shutting down and walking away to avoid going on the offensive. I perceive everyone as out to hurt me, and then I try to hurt them worse so they will back off. I’ve been mean and cold, and harsh and unsympathetic with everyone in my life who I love. Everyone, except Noah.

My son is the first piece of me that I can look at and feel nothing but love, even in the most challenging moments. Noah is my catalyst, who has taught me that the only way I can ever hope to soften and change is to learn to look at all of the other pieces of myself with that same unconditional love. Nothing in my entire life has been harder to do than this, and I am trying like hell to change. To soften. To sit in my vulnerability and share it without anger and blame. You could ask me to become fluent in Mandarin overnight and I swear it would be easier than the changes I am trying to make.

The changing part wasn’t actually the hardest, not after I realized how much of my rage and self-protection (some people call this defensive or offensive behavior) were tied to a traumatic event from my childhood. This illuminated nearly every single behavior that I hated, it contextualized and explained it. It allowed me to see myself stuck as that seven-year-old, stuck in that place of terror, and love the hell out of my little girl self. Once I could do that, it was like a switch was flicked and I was able to empathize better with everyone around me. By loving myself better, I could love others better too.

But here’s the hard part. None of the people around you can see what’s happening inside, and when you’ve been the kind of difficult-to-live with, angry asshole that I have been, they continue to see you as such. You keep trying, and they keep treating you as though the same kinds of negative behaviors are happening, even when they are not. They get stuck, because they are afraid of those behaviors, and their fear makes them blind to anything good that might be happening. I am trying so hard to be better, but it’s not landing, and sometimes it’s a spectacular fail.

To make matters worse, I’m trying to evolve while living with my in-laws. A lot of in-laws. There is often up to eleven people under our roof! Multiple witnesses who have seen every parent and partner failure I have made in the last two years. They are good people. They are wonderful people, and I love them, but I don’t really know them that well. I need privacy. I need a safe space where we can heal, where I can try to flex these new muscles, where I can organically grow, or fall flat on my face as the case may be, and not have so many witnesses. I need safety.

I’m trying to fill the bucket, but the bucket has a hole. Nekky put that quite eloquently this morning, and it struck me as very true indeed. There’s a hole in the bucket. A big one. And I’m so very, very tired of trying to fill it up with good only to watch the good fall through the hole. I feel like I am constantly failing.

Of course I want to heal my relationship with my daughters. What flows freely with my biological child has been an excruciatingly painful contrast to my many shortcomings where my daughters are concerned. I have some serious lost time to make up for, time that consists in equal parts of a total lack of understanding about how children ‘work’ and so much misdirected pain and hardness from my past.

It would be nice to have a healthier relationship with my partners, though I’m at the precipice of deciding that romantic relationships aren’t really intended for people like me. Those relationships need to be a two way street, and I just seem to suck the life out of everyone and give very little back. At the very least, it would be nice to heal some shit so we can at least be awesome friends and parents.

I just don’t know how to keep filling the bucket when there’s a goddamned hole. As always, I turn to the Internet for answers, hopeful that the lyrics to the old folk song will have a happy ending.

From Wikipedia:

There’s a Hole in My Bucket” (or “…in the Bucket“) is a children’s song, along the same lines as “Found a Peanut”. The song is based on a dialogue about a leaky bucket between two characters, called Henry and Liza. The song describes a deadlock situation: Henry has got a leaky bucket, and Liza tells him to repair it. But to fix the leaky bucket, he needs straw. To cut the straw, he needs a knife. To sharpen the knife, he needs to wet the sharpening stone. To wet the stone, he needs water. However, when Henry asks how to get the water, Liza’s answer is “in a bucket”. It is implied that only one bucket is available – the leaky one, which, if it could carry water, would not need repairing in the first place.

As I’m reading this, feeling more and more despair, I glance at the title of this post. I’ve spelled “hole” “whole”, quite by accident, but maybe that’s it? Maybe I just keep pouring myself into the bucket, all of me, every last inch no matter how big the hole gets. Put the whole in the bucket, even if it gushes out onto the ground. It’s going to go somewhere, all of that bucket-filling stuff, and if that particular bucket can never be filled, at least I can say I tried. Really tried. Not like I tried with my failed marriage. Not like I tried with countless careers that I gave up on. Not like I tried so many times before until it hurt too much to keep trying. There is no epidural for life. It hurts sometimes, and maybe it’s in pushing through the pain that we are reborn, truly reborn.

I don’t feel better. I don’t feel happier or more positive at the end of this post. I’m not going to lie, I am aching and tired and I feel like giving up, but at least I have a little direction. If I can’t fill the fucking bucket, at least I can water the grass.

Magical Pest Control

Image Credit - 'Demons In My Head' by MissFried on Deviant Art

I was winding my way slowly through the still unfamiliar York campus the other day, extra alert for student pedestrians and enthusiastic protestors, when I found myself behind a white utility truck with a very unusual sign. Across the back it read: Magical Pest Control.

My first thought was “Ew, rats.” Then I paused to consider what made the service magical. Was the company run by wizards who would banish vermin into oblivion with the wave of a wand? Were they armed with potions wrought by a league of ancient hags? Better yet, what if the pests themselves were magical? The theatre department overrun by unicorns, again. Perhaps the Shulich business school was besieged by gryphons. All this time, we are convinced this company has made some silly branding choices when all the while they are exterminating a legion of demons doing the evil bidding of the devil himself right under our noses.

My spring transformation will be a failed exercise without my own brand of Magical Pest Control. I’ve got some real noisy demons in this head o’mine that can really wreak havoc. They bubble up all hungry and ugly and I get so dazzled by them, that I forget they aren’t really part of me at all. If I get diverted from my writing they say “Don’t bother getting back to that novel. It’s silly, nobody will want to read it, and you’re wasting your time.” When I have a bad moment with one of the children they say “You don’t deserve to be their mother. They would be happier without you.” When I disconnect from one of my partners they say “You are too messed up to be in a loving relationship, you should just be alone and that way you won’t hurt anyone.” See? Real asshole demons, right?

Maybe you have a few of those magical pests knocking around in there too? An infestation can be a real disaster, but we’ve all had to deal with unwanted guests of the nasty variety. The following extermination exercises have helped me immensely.

The Sensory Check In

Pause. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply. What do you hear around you? What can you smell? How does your body feel? As you focus on these elements, just recognize them, and breathe through each moment of awareness. Now open your eyes and look around, taking note of the things you see around you. Continue breathing. Feel what it’s like to be present in the moment.

Take a Look at the Beasts

What happens when you turn a blind eye to a pest situation? They run rampant, and multiply, until you are overrun. The same is true for those Magical Pests, those demons in your head. Don’t ignore them. Don’t try to distract yourself from them. Take a look at them. Sit with them in a quiet space and allow yourself to really feel them. Turn to your breathing again and just let the feelings come. Cry if you need to. Feel whatever you feel. Just face those pesky bastards and keep breathing. I’m usually surprised at how quickly this makes them go away.

Pamper Yourself

When the exterminator comes to visit, you usually get to check into a motel for a night or two. When your little demons start raging, treat yourself to something special, like an unexpected night away. It doesn’t have to be a hotel visit, of course. Even a quiet moment of leisure reading with a cup of tea will do the trick. When I neglect myself, or rush through my days, or get too bogged down with stress, it’s like little cracks start to appear in my psyche, allowing the nasty pests to creep in. I’ve started taking the arrival of the demons as a sign to slow down, take time out for me, or do something purely for joy or pleasure.

With the right ammo, and a healthy dose of determination, any pest can be vanquished without burning down the house. I’ll probably need to get rid of a few things, there’s always a casualty in these situations, but it’s usually a saggy couch, or a forgotten box in the basement somewhere that I don’t really need anyway.

Magical Pest Control – another hilarious message delivered by the Universe, exactly when I needed it. Thanks for that. xo