I saw this on the weekend. I’ve decided to watch it once every day until it really sinks in.
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
— Mary Oliver
This week in Schnooville
We adopted a six-month-old bunny. After conclusively deciding that my man is only mildly allergic to rabbits (a very hilarious trip to the Menagerie Pet Store involving a rabbit face-rub was our scientific study) our tribe decided it was time for our first pet. Floppy was the first rabbit I discovered with my lady on Kiji, after the kids had been tucked into bed. Her family was near by, and had made the sad decision to give her up because she was terrified of their terrier. Terriers were bred to hunt small game and rodents. Sigh. They described her as gentle, fun-loving, eager to be pet and stroked, mostly litter trained and adorable. Their photos supported the adorable theory, and she came with her massive cage and all of the goods for a very reasonable price. A steal, really. I sent a note and the next day we went to gather her up. The children decided to call her Ella because she is a lovely mottled grey, and elephants are also grey. She is as affectionate as described – perhaps too much. She keeps making chortles, giving me little nips and peeing on me. Based on my bunny research, she is trying to do what rabbits like better than carrots. Ella will be spayed on Friday which should help with her marking and garlic-smelling poo. So not okay. Nothing I read told me her crapola would smell like cooking. Feeding her more parsley only made it smell like French cooking. Hmmm…rabbit stew. Just kidding, I’m already quite in love.
I have the weirdest cold. One day I’m just a tad sniffly, the next I can’t talk, am hacking up a lung, and wondering whether I might be expelling brain matter from my nose. The cold arrived before the rabbit, so I’ve dispelled the possibility of my own allergies. I’ve cleared my social calendar completely and am behaving like what my friend Natalie would call a “nana” – like a contented old lady who takes naps and sips tea by the fire.
I discovered the amazing poet Mary Oliver through the lovely Liz Green – thank you Liz! I’m hungry for her words like I haven’t been in a long time, and look forward to reading more of her work.
One of my ‘Besties’ (a title reserved for my very closest friends) is relocating to Los Angeles. He’d already moved far away to Montreal, but his lovely Toronto girlfriend kept luring him back for visits. Now they’re shacking up and heading off for new adventures. I’m thrilled for them, but he will be missed. I can only hope that they will follow through on their plans to settle in Toronto permanently. Spring has me thinking of babies, and I’d like to rear all of my young with my friends who I love so dearly close by.
I’m trying to do good and right by the ones I love. I’m taking big steps, reaching out, and reaching in. This week I came to realize how profound one of my big-time low moments in life has affected my present tense. When you have royally fucked up, there are always consequences. My former tendency was to run, under the guise of sparing others from the misery that I decide that I’ve caused them. Grown-up Schnoo is willing to stand and face the music and do whatever it takes to make things as amazing as they can be. It’s abso-freakin-lutely terrifying to stare down the barrel at your own weakness and stupidity. I want to crawl out of my skin or disappear in some moments, but there is such immense power and tremendous love in humility. I wish to foster humility in my girls, because I was only able to embrace it after smashing my head repeatedly in the same spot over and over again. I’m still learning how to really embrace the humble openness that seems to consistently make magic. Nothing is scarier than being that open for a Schnoo like me. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. I’ve been whispering my feelings into the Internet for several years now. Naming them to real-live people is another matter entirely.
With that, off I go to my head shrinker. We’ll have lots to discuss today. I’ve fueled up on a giant maple flavoured coffee while I’ve been typing here. I hope your Hump Day is happy. Tell someone you love something brave and beautiful that is deep inside your heart, and then congratulate yourself for being so bold.
My world is being put back together very carefully, and with so much love. I am so very lucky to have another opportunity at forging the life I’ve wanted with the clarity and awareness and understanding that I now have. That we all have. We are truly blessed.
So many of you reading this have reached out to me with your own stories, and your encouragement, and your love. I really can’t thank you enough. I have no secret solution for solving matters of the heart, but I can try to distill what I have learned, and what I am learning.
You cannot love or be loved without the willingness and ability to make yourself vulnerable. The more you fight that, the more you will encounter strife, grief, and heartache. It’s terrifying to open yourself up, particularly once you’ve learned a thing or two about life, but nothing less will work. Especially when the one who loves you is willing to open themselves up for you. Vulnerability is essential, and sometimes impossible. It’s a constant struggle to check in and identify what is preventing your heart from opening up.
Trust is paramount. You simply have to give it over. For me, giving over trust was like stretching my hamstrings. It fucking hurts, and at first I could only stretch a little bit, and the next day I’d be aching. Eventually, as my body realized I wasn’t going to rip or tear anything by trusting, the hamstrings of my heart began to relax and I could go further and further. I was hurting myself and everyone around me a lot more by tensing up and resisting. Strains, sprains, and tears everywhere. Not pretty.
Trust cannot be taken away. At the end of the day, trust is not about hoping people won’t take advantage of your vulnerability and annihilate you. We really have no control whatsoever over what other people will do. Trust is about trusting yourself and your heart to survive anything life might throw your way. Trust is about knowing you have the strength and tenacity to rise above whatever difficulty or heartache you face.
Love is everything. When you find someone who loves you well, for who you are, who believes in you and inspires you and makes you want to be a better person, hang on to them. The way to hang on to them is to constantly strive to know and understand yourself. Understand what you are contributing to the relationship. Understand how you might be damaging the relationship. Know yourself. Love yourself. Understand that you are worthy of their love and that you won’t make a mess of it.
Don’t listen to fear. Though it may roar louder than the angriest ocean, it is almost always false. The more you have to lose, the louder the ocean of fear. Only you can quell it. Take a deep breath, do a quick survey of what is actually happening around you, understand the difference between what is happening and what you are afraid might be happening and tell fear that it is simply reminding you of how much you have at stake. Then be grateful for the abundance that you have and move forward. This will have to be repeated on a daily basis for some of us.
Communicate. Open your mouth and breathe out the things in your heart and your mind. Breathe them to your loved ones, breathe them to your confidantes, breathe them to your diary, breathe them to yourself, breathe them to the Universe. Speak with love. Listen with love. Listen with more love to the things that are difficult to hear. Accept difficult truths and embrace them with love. Understand why they hurt you and understand the call to change. Answer the call with love and resolve. Understand when words should be ruminated upon and when they should be shared. Share with calm and with peaceful intention.
Banish anger. It will eat you alive. Hear it, look at it, hold it in your hand and then send it away. Find other words to describe that feeling, peaceful words that open the door to transformation. Anger is a wall that is high and mighty and will shadow you from the healing light of love.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m sure there will be many more lessons to share. I welcome your lessons too. Share them here, in comments, so we can all grow wiser.
In the background some chilled out trance music with a smooth beat and a sitar woven through its rhythms acts as a backdrop. This quiet moment where I can share my heart with you feels like an awakening.
I know what I want. It’s what I’ve always wanted. I have it, I accept it, and I am eternally grateful for it. This is my time to shine. Are you ready? I finally am.
Adventures in Schnooville is my personal space on the Internet. If you’re here, it’s either because I’ve invited you in, or you happened by and I decided to leave the door open.
Are you hearing me? This space is mine. For me. Please don’t forget that for a second. All of the thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, and frustrations expressed here are my unique perspective on my very own unique life.
If you see yourself reflected here, if you discover experiences that are similar to your own, if you can relate, then I am of course delighted. That’s rather the point, isn’t it? We are compelled to write to combat feelings of solitude and isolation, and we are compelled to read to discover common themes and threads that tie all of us together. It makes me happy to know that for some of you, reading about my personal journey has made yours a little less lonely. If I do nothing else in my life, I think that’s a very fine thing.
If you know me beyond the realms of the internet, if you know a little bit about my life and the players therein, you are sharing even more of my personal experience, and if you’re reading this, then you ought to honor that. It’s rather like I left my journal open on your coffee table, isn’t it? On purpose. This is where I walk through my emotions, and here you are, sharing that with me. If it upsets you to read this, then walk away. Don’t read. Cancel your subscription, un-friend me on Facebook, delete me from your news feed, or take a break and come back some other time. I’m not writing for you, and I never will be. Commenting on the emotions I am expressing is futile because I can and will continue to express what I am feeling here. Always with as much sensitivity as I can muster, but as long as I’m here, I’ll be writing here.
I think you will find that if you give yourself a week, and then come back and re-read whatever upset you, it will be a very different experience. Or perhaps not. Whatever the case, it’s your responsibility to deal with how my emotions might be making you feel if you chose to read these pages.
Comments of reflection, relation, sensitivity, encouragement, sharing, and inspiration are always welcome here in Schnooville. Harsh criticism, judgment, and hurt are not. Start your own blog.
Finally, I would like to say that nearly a month in this chrysalis has given me a keen look at what it is like to be one of those people who absolutely dread this time of the year. For you, every year beyond this one, I give a little slice of my heart. I’m not sure if it’s the cold and snow, or if it’s the result of carefully planned propaganda, but this time of year wants sad and lonely people to hurt more than ever, and that’s just wrong.
Here is the challenge I throw down – make a list of everything in your life, right now, that offers you a consistent sense of warmth. Notice I didn’t say people? People are not so constant, but I can bet a warm mug of tea (with a nip of scotch perhaps) is always a little bit of comfort. If you have even one constant person who can be counted on for warmth, even if you don’t know them well, add them to your list. Warmth is warmth when it’s especially cold.
A whole month has passed almost since my life began to change shape again.
Last year, at this time, I knew it would be the last Christmas that I found myself in the circumstances I was in. I didn’t predict this change of course, and within the many layers of pain and sadness is a layer of unexpected surprise. A change of course that illuminates, and offers hope in the power of love. Hope that I have always held hidden beneath my layers of fear and cynicism. Now this hope has a face, and a name. It is real, and I will hold it close to my heart and recognize it over and over again each day.
There will be no fresh start because life continues moving forward. If you keep moving with it, your landscape will always change. In these dark winter months, the light at the end of the tunnel is impossible to see, but as spring waits tucked around the corner like a blushing virgin, so too is the light hidden away, waiting for the moment of revelation.
I raise a mug of warm scotch to you, and remind you that you’re not ever really alone.
I drifted in and out of sleep, waking only once with the panic of feeling like I was having a bad dream (and that dream was in fact my own reality). Instead of being woken by my step-children, I was greeted with a tiny dog that looks like Samuel L. Jackson crash-landing on my sternum. In a flurry of slimy dog kisses and the faint aroma of corn chips I regained my bearings and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
I quickly realized that my low-carb, high protein lifestyle does not match my parent’s peanut butter and jam toast for breakfast routine. At least coffee is universal and the grocery store is on the corner.
As I woke up slowly, instead of packing tiny lunches, I opened email after email from concerned friends. Some who I’ve known for years and who really are my family, some who I barely know at all who wanted me to know that I was loved. This made it possible to imagine the next few steps in my day with some measure of lightness in my heart.
My parents insist on keeping their home like a meat locker. Thankfully, it’s a cozy home, despite this sub-zero climate. I donned my fingerless mitts to hunch over my computer like some red-headed lady Bob Cratchet.
Cooking is path that leads to happiness. There will be cooking in my future, and I’ll be diligent about sharing recipes here. We can call it the “Broken Hearted Feast”. Then I’ll publish it like a cookbook and make millions of dollars. Don’t steal that.
I’ve just done some actual Coquettes work to set a client up with everything she needs to convince her board to let us show our tatas in Owen Sound. Fingers crossed.
Before that, I took my mom’s ridiculous little dog for a walk around my old hood. He has a new winter coat which he seems to be terrified of. I think with firm patience I’ve broken him of this paralyzing fear, because his little legs finally got moving and he was able to make a poop. Tiny victories.
This simple stroll around the block was a snapshot of my entire life in The Hammer. My parents have had the same house since 1975. I think their refusal to move had less to do with economics and more to do with their desire to give my brother and I the stable home that neither of them really had as children. They live in a complex of townhouses, and I think they are one of three original homeowners who remain here from the glory days.
When they bought the house it was a promising little suburb surrounded by orchards and farm fields. Now, it’s The Hood. Two clusters of low-income apartment buildings sprung up, and the neighbourhood deteriorated accordingly. This place went from a sea of kids who were similar in age to a land with few children who could speak the same language, blue collar workers, and immigrants who are trying to get a foothold in their new life.
As I grew older, the parks and playgrounds got meaner. Used condoms, hypodermic needles, shifty, greasy men in dark corners, strangers with slow-moving cars, crack dealing public school thugs and angry girls with babies in their tummies became more and more common.
The family-minded neighbourhood die-hards stood their ground. There is a handful of home owners who insist on maintaining pristine gardens that they tend with love (my mother is one of these). One of the low-income housing buildings even takes up a tenant fund to create a glorious landscape of hollyhocks and snapdragons each summer. Some of the people in this neighbourhood have real pride in where they live, and a great number of our neighbours are one welfare cheque away from having nowhere to live at all.
Welfare cheque days were the most dangerous in this neighbourhood growing up. From what my parents have told me, the new immigrant population has now outnumbered the white trash conglomerate, so things aren’t as exciting as they used to be. I clearly recall Friday evenings spent dodging beer bottles soaring from balconies across the street, parties that lasted two days with the strains of Waylon Jennings floating from open screenless windows, and the police here, in multiples of three from 9pm until way past my bed time.
And yet, my mom and dad managed to carve out a little oasis.
Now, my old school is an adult learning centre. The public school next door to where my school was shares it’s massive field with a recreation centre and fully-loaded playground, and there’s a cricket field, soccer field, and cluster of benches under a group of trees where the Sikh gentlemen sit conversing and sharing food year-round when the weather permits.
Bailey wore his powder blue and silver coat, and I floated along my route to school and my usual trick or treat route in a cream-coloured Calvin Klein coat, a brown Valentino scarf, my Coach sunglasses and a vintage fur hat. The men I encountered were ruddy-faced middle aged white men who seemed to have nowhere to go, and the women I saw were scale tipping ladies and girls who poured themselves into jogging pants with words written across the bum. And of course the Sikh gentlemen.
My point here is not to establish status. My designer articles are things I loved that are the product of my extraordinary ability to source mad bargains. I don’t spend insane amounts of money on clothes and accessories. My point is to illustrate that in this place, since I was six, I have always felt like a stranger in a strange land. How many other twelve year olds have had a collection of signature scarves?
As has always been the case, I felt everyone I encountered eyeballing me. Perhaps that’s why I’ve grown so comfortable in the spotlight in my adulthood? Embracing the attention has certainly been useful in my life.
Our therapist made a very astute observation yesterday that I hadn’t even arrived at yet. My experience of the relationship I was trying so hard at was that no matter what, I would always be the outsider. I’ve felt like an outsider for my entire life and have experienced some real pain and feelings of inadequacy as a result. My struggle to belong has shaped me as an individual, and the pain of struggling for acceptance in the context of my relationship was simply too great.
I regret deeply all the hurt my honesty has caused. There are so many people who, when faced with their own difficult truths, can brush these aside and exist in a place of denial and trying to maintain status quo. I did this once, for four years, and I promised myself to never, ever do it again. It pains me to think of my loved ones feeling so sad. We tried to do something quite unique, and we discovered some amazing things about ourselves, the complexities of love and relationship dynamics, and each other as individuals. I don’t feel like it was a failure, but rather a very necessary journey for us all. I hope that through the pain we now face each of us can hold on to that. I hope that we can hang on to the love we’ve found, in the way that mature, open-hearted, self-aware individuals can do. I also hope we can shelter our children from the complicated nature of adult relationships and cushion them through these transitions with all of the love and security they deserve.
Sadness is like a deep well right now. I have to make sure to hang on to the bucket.
I’m making dinner tonight for my parents and my brother. Here’s the menu:
Roasted Sweet Potato
Sauteed Green Beans
Perhaps some time in the kitchen will make me feel a little bit better.
Updates to follow.