The In Between Moments

It’s not that I’m afraid of being alone.

I don’t despair about the notion of getting old without a husband. I don’t worry that I’ll choke to death and nobody will come to my rescue. I don’t fret about my beauty shriveling up or my vitality fizzling out if I cloister myself for a while.

It’s just that when it’s me and these four walls, the pain floods in. The wasted, reckless ruin of my love sits like a specter in the corner. Time can tick, death can loom, it’s the grief I can’t make peace with. I don’t want to. But I can’t feel like this a moment longer, and this feeling lurks just beneath the various masks I wear to get through each day.

How could I love like that, feel that way about someone, and end up where I am?

Why would I ever try to love again?

And so I won’t. I can’t right now. I could stand in a field of poppies and still not believe in the colour red.

I performed a wedding this evening. An intimate gathering of nearest and dearest in the home of the bride and groom. Their love was palpable. Every few weddings, I get to see that. Real love. People who might actually make it through the insane shit storm that is life. People who understand how rare and precious that kind of connection is. People who can transcend their own mess to meet where they each feel deserving of that kind of love, and unafraid of their ability to give it.

I yearn for that, and yet it’s so clear to me now that I have a long way to go before I’ve transcended this mess. I’m not being dramatic when I say that I may never completely transcend this. There are those lessons in life that we carry around forever.

I can’t give my heart away in pieces.

I don’t know how to put it back together.

So here I will hibernate, applying gentle pressure until the bleeding stops. Until the seal is affixed. Until the bond is secure.

I spoke to a friend last night, on the phone, old-fashioned like. My brother and I refer to this friend as ‘The Wizard’ for his uncanny ability to peer inside me, and for the way he seems to feel a disturbance in the force every time I think about him, or need an ear.

I’d drafted everything you’ve read above just before calling him, and here is what he said to me, without reading any of this, of course:

“You gathered up the pieces of your heart and put them in a bag, which you moved to that pretty little apartment you so love. The bag has been on the floor, and now you are unpacking those heart pieces, re-assembling them slowly, discovering where the pieces fit. You can’t rush that.”

I’ve stopped being gobsmacked by his ability to pick up on my consciousness. Instead, this idea gave me the image of a beautiful jigsaw puzzle, half-completed, on a table in my apartment. I need to spend some quiet moments, working on the puzzle. Sipping wine or tea, watching the snowfall from my panoramic view, that YouTube channel with the holiday music and roaring fireplace lighting up my television screen.

That’s all I really need right now. The in between moments. The space to make friends with this pain, who no doubt knows exactly how this puzzle fits back together again. As always, I’ll tackle the outside edges first and work my way into the middle once the framework is in place.

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.

 

 

The Things I Do Instead


Instead of spending lazy Sunday mornings with a Paul Simon soundtrack while he fries up eggs and I watch from the kitchen island thumbing through magazines, I run. I tear through the streets of my childhood stomping grounds listening to driving beats, willing myself to run towards that place in the future where there’s more pleasure than pain. Sometimes I think I’ve arrived. Sometimes I realize there’s a long way to go.

Instead of stolen moments covered by iTunes playlists before a sweaty little boy clambers into bed between us, I now live a half-life with hours and hours to spend in bed, uninterrupted. Maybe some day I’ll be able to sleep through the night again. Sometimes there are interesting ways to spend those sleepless hours.

Instead of sending him that article I found, that new album I discovered, that crazy indie movie I saw a trailer for, I’m building a trove of treasure to enjoy in my own way, in my own time. My friends tell me that some day this won’t feel so lonely. That I’ll relish these new discoveries that I can enjoy all by myself.

Instead of texting him to tell him just about anything beyond pick up times and changes to the schedule I write it down. Occasionally, I write it here. Every once in a while I’ll send that text, but only if I’m sure I won’t regret it.

Instead of asking him for help, I am helping myself. I have more resources than I realized. Maybe it’s not always the best way, or the cheapest way, but it’s my way. It’s important that I realize that I don’t need anyone else.

Instead of wondering how she was able to completely erase me, not speak to me, not ask me about how the future should look, I sit quietly and wonder if I should still be waiting.

Instead of sobbing, I shed the occasional tear. There are plenty of reasons to be grateful and those tears won’t change a thing.

Instead of anger, I look at the worries I am moving away from. I’m responsible for everything now, and most of the time I feel like I can manage this.

Instead of wanting, I listen to new music at loud volumes while I drive. This fills me with the profound reassurance that just about everyone has felt the way I do, and many of us can turn that into something beautiful.

Instead of thinking about writing, I am writing.

Instead of fearing solitude, I sink deeply into it, like the way I settled into the cushions of that futon. The cover often slips off, but it’s easy enough to straighten it up.

Instead of getting everything all at once, I am combing carefully through thrift stores and garage sales for just the right pieces. Every time I get an itch to hit up the closest shop, I find a perfect something.

Instead of worrying and wondering, I am being. This is the greatest lesson from these last ten months. Life has tried to tell me how little control I have over anything beyond my own responses. I am finally learning to accept this.

Instead of wanting to change what happened, I am living my life. This new, strange life is full of possibility and enough shadow to make the light almost blinding some days.

Instead of mourning my family, I’m building a new one with my three beautiful children. The pack is smaller, but the love feels bigger somehow.

Instead of working, I lie on the beach sometimes.

Instead of dwelling on what has been taken from me, I am exploring everything that is now on offer. Some of it fits, some of it doesn’t, but everything feels worth trying.

Instead of feeling like I’ve failed, like I’m not gentle enough, or beautiful enough, like I’m not worthy of love, or family, or commitment…I’m folding my heart tenderly into me, managing it’s occasional fluttering before releasing it to the open sky again.