two hundred & fifty-three: commitment

even though i haven’t posted here for a really long time, most days, i have looked at the daily word. and wondered if this would be the day i started again. if this would be the day i could scrounge together my courage to post. i know no one really has noticed, no one but me, but every day, my silence here has prickled and poked at me, mocked me, shamed me.

it has been a really, really hard go these past several weeks, friends. i am tired of hearing myself say that, but it’s been really true. again. fuck.

i have been so so ashamed for not being able to follow through on this blog. well, my follow-through on many things has been shit, but on this blog especially. because the commitment i made about writing here was to myself. it was about engaging in a routine, in a healing activity, in a daily practice. my commitment was to creativity, to get writing again, to shoot photos again. to reflect, even if just quickly, on this list of words, and what they mean to me.

and, i also committed to sharing this blog with my best friend, who lives really far away, who suffers similar pain, whose body bears similar and also different hurts, whose mind, like mine, bites and tears at itself far more often than not. i am sad that i have abandoned and failed her, too.

*

the year i fell in love with a woman, i couldn’t have wed her legally, even if i wanted to (which i didn’t; i thought marriage was a bullshit patriarchal institution and i had zero desire to do it, to the chagrin of my family and friends). back then, queer folks had commitment ceremonies. and they were emotional, and beautiful, and sad all at once, because they were unrecognized by the law. it was a political and social act with little clout.

but by the time we had shacked up and bought a cat together, all canadians could legally wed. and for the first time in my life, i wanted to get married. i wanted to bind myself to her legally. i wanted that stupid piece of paper recognizing us as a couple. i wanted to put a ring on it. i wanted to procreate and live happily ever after. i wanted to make the same public commitment to her that my friends were making to their opposite-sex partners. i wanted a wedding cake (and she wanted a different one…so we had two, haha).

it was a very good party, we were told. not for us, as our mothers only united long enough to ruin things mightily, but hey, you can’t win ’em all.

*

in my spinning and my pain, i have managed to orchestrate a divide between my young daughter and i that i fear i can’t repair. she has been going through some really hard things, and i haven’t been there for her. i have been judgmental and harsh, prickly and impatient. we argue all the time. i have not liked her very much lately, because she dares to request that i be her mom, and i can’t handle it. i haven’t been able to handle much of anything. and i see how i have failed her, how she has steeled herself against my rejection: in her body’s language, in her lack of turning to me, in the tone of her voice, in the tilt of her chin.

i have detached myself from her, from everyone i love in a variety of ways, big and small, because i have been caught in a wind tunnel of self-loathing and hurt. and i hate myself the most for doing it to her, coz she’s only little. and she has interpreted my psychic absence as disinterest about her. that she is not important. that she doesn’t matter. i hate me for it.

just now, after writing all of that, i curled around her sleeping body, and i soaked her pillow with my regret and my shame and my guilt and i whispered all the things i don’t have the courage to say to her yet, and also all the things that she doesn’t ever need to hear: my apologies. my mistakes. my fears.

and then after that, to the rhythm of her heart, i whispered my commitment to her, which is really a commitment to myself: to be gentle. to be gentle. to be gentle.

two hundred & twenty: closeness

sometimes, when i’m feeling really small and sad, i have this feeling of needing to be close. like, if it were possible to climb up and wind myself around someone, right up in their neck, hiding in, i would do just that. if it wasn’t weird, i would bury my face in to their softness and they would just hold me really close and we would stay there until i wasn’t so petrified, until the intense neediness for hearing their heartbeat and feeling their warmth abated.

*

i remember hugs and kisses being something that were owed to people; also something that was offered at family gatherings when people arrived or when we went to bed. it was expected. i’m sure i liked some of the kisses and hugs but really it was an assembly line, one relative after the other.

it was the same thing at home, really…before my brother and i laid side by side in his bed or clambered up into the big cushy rocking chair with a book, we’d dutifully find them to hug and kiss them goodnight, but then would tuck ourselves in afterwards.

i can’t think of many snuggles with my parents, is that weird? i do remember one time, when i had the stomach flu and was lying on my parents’ waterbed, watching tv with my mom. some awards show, i seem to recall. and i sat up suddenly, feeling horrifically sick, and threw up in a towel my mom held with cupped hands in front of me. and she didn’t get mad, she didn’t yell, she just stayed there, and held it, and that must’ve been so gross. i remember this often as an example for how she must have loved me at least a little bit.

or maybe she loved her comforter more and wanted to save it, i don’t know.

*

i do remember wanting cuddles, and getting them. my grandmother. my grade two teacher, who i loved with every inch of my seven year old heart, and who i followed like a puppy. (i adored her, i just wanted to be close to her, especially when she was on recess duty, so i could hold her hand, feel her warm next to me. she didn’t even have to talk to me. i just loved feeling her hand in mine.) a trusted family friend, who was soft all over and who smiled and called us ‘sweetie.’

*

sometimes pocketbrit takes my little one (i know i’ve said this before, it’s no surprise that after 220 days i’m getting redundant), and when she does, i often feel her leave me with an audible sort of thumping whoosh. and i don’t know if pocketbrit can feel her arrival, but her little body has the sense of being pressed so so so tight in, arms thrown around her, face pressed into her neck. my wee one doesn’t even move, it’s like she just wants to be part of someone else’s body, no space in between, so incredibly desperate.

and ugh, the hurt of it, how much we wanted closeness. how much we didn’t get it. how it doesn’t seem even possible to quench this boundless need with the love and closeness we do get today.

these are the times when i feel most tender towards her, when i feel the simplicity and rawness of her deepest desires: to be held. to be close.

and then i just want to rock her forever, never let go. poor love. poor sweet love.

one hundred & thirty five: grace

it’s hard not to bump into grace, in the theological sense, when thinking about this word. like only by the grace of god do i _____ sort of dealio. and of course, i thought about people’s graceful movements, like ballet dancers or gymnasts or even those lucky people who carry themselves with some sort of innate grace (hint: not me).

but i have actually been thinking about grace a lot, mostly in terms of it being a gift that i need to give myself. it is akin to forgiveness (yes, i know i haven’t written that post, it’s a biggie for me) but it is greater than that. it is a choice we can make, when we are impatient or judging or angry with being in the same old miserable place, with feeling stuck, with whatever, honestly. instead of name calling and derogation, maybe we could choose grace.

i mean, what might that actually be like? instead of joining forces with shame and piling on with the mean voices of my past when i misstep or make an error, what if there was kindness, understanding, acceptance, generosity? what if i knelt down in front of myself, saw my downwardly-cast eyes, put a gentle hand under my own chin, and whispered, hey you. it’s okay. i know you feel bad, my love, mistakes always do, but you get another go at it, promise?

i’m not there yet (not even close), but the moments of grace i have experienced so far in my life are memorable, life-saving, and difficult to describe in words. so so healing, so warm, such an antidote to shame. and…what if i could do this for me? what if i could be full of grace for myself?

it’ll be revolutionary, i imagine.

one hundred & twenty eight: embody

i aspire to embody love.

(where embody is taken to mean: to manifest, stand for, represent, give human form to, symbolize, epitomize.)

if i do anything in this life, i mostly just want to be love. coz maybe, just maybe, i could make something good out of the shitshow of my innards, my gross past, my grief, my shame, my family’s rejection of me, my guilt. re-purpose it, re-jig it, come to re-know it as something of which i can be proud.

*

coz yeah, i also want to be in my body, just generally. like, inhabit it. live in it. feel grounded in it. maybe even like it?

no small feat when i’ve spent years loathing it without quite knowing why, trying to ignore its comings and goings and gurglings and reminders. stuffing it and shaming it and punishing it.

*

the closest i ever felt to gratitude for my body was while i carried our daughter. i was curious about how it felt; had to attend to it, pay it heed. my body made me hear it, and for the first time, i wanted to listen. i was, quite literally, embodying another human form, within mine, and i was alternately awe-struck and terrified.

*

i just want to feel like myself in my body. to walk past a mirror and not think, ugh. or to walk past a mirror and actually, purposefully look in it (rather than avert my eyes). to see myself reflected back, my self-in-body.

myself, embodied.

one hundred & twenty: release

like people around the globe, we have been on the instant pot train for a couple years now. i love that appliance, i really do, and if you’re thinking of buying one, i’d say you should. (no this post is not sponsored. i don’t even know how i would go about getting it sponsored. and no, am not interested in finding out). (oh and ps, it was invented by a canadian, pocketbrit! which i’m well aware will instantly incite disdain and eye-rolling, you predictable ridiculous woman.)

but why i thought of my instant pot was because there is this thing on it called a release valve. when you are using the pressure cooking function you can wait for things to cool down (a “natural” release), or you can hit the valve, and in an instant, all of this hissing steam comes blasting out of the lid, fogging your windows, and filling your house with the smell of whatever you’re cooking.

and somehow, yesterday, i seemed to have hit an internal release valve, except what came pouring out was grief.

it took me by surprise – not the grief per se, that had been there, simmering in the background, after a series of difficult texts with my mom, whose main purpose in life seems to be to remain clueless about difficult things and to undermine anyone who challenges her cluelessness. i had just been grocery shopping, and the tears had threatened close while i was there, as i texted with pocketbrit, but were easily blinked away. i parked my car in my driveway, clicked the ignition off, and was going to open the door to get out, when i started sobbing. full out, full on. no particular precipitating thought or reason for it, just pure, unfettered anguish. and so, i burrowed my chin into the beautiful soft scarf pocketbrit knit me, and let it out.

my grief fogged up my car windows. the wet on my cheeks felt so cold, and my feet froze in my boots as i sat and waited for its waves to subside. had i not been startled by a sensor light turning on suddenly at the side of our house, i may have sat there even longer, my breath ragged, my voice not even seeming my own. but as quickly as it started, it sort of stopped, and i made four chilly trips in and out of the frigid black evening to bring in the groceries, and then started to unpack them.

my daughter didn’t see my face, but my wife did, right away. and she put her hand on my arm, wanting to draw me into her, but the thought of it made my eyes well up again and i choked out that i couldn’t, not just yet. i poured myself a cold glass of water, hoping to swallow the lump in my throat, but instead my eyes spilled over and i could feel another wave coming, so i excused myself into my room, and i muffled my sadness into my stuffed dog and my pillow for i don’t know how long. and eventually, the waves became ripples, and my breathing slowed, and i mopped my face and nose and went back to join my family.

and then, my sweet daughter noticed my puffy eyes and splotchy face, and suggested that we have a cuddle in our beloved cuddle chair (a big leather chair in our living room, perfectly suited for the snuggling of one grown up, and one growing-but-not-quite-grown kid). so we did that, and she asked what had happened, and i just told her i was sad, so sad, i wasn’t sure why, but the feeling just go so big, did that ever happen to her? and she said it did, and she also said that it was okay, that i could be sad if i needed and she would be there. (and frig, that almost made me start up again because hello, who is this beautiful, sensitive creature who is just freshly nine years of age?!)

so then we had dinner, and did our bedtime song and dance, and after i’d tucked that beautiful, sensitive creature into bed and crawled into my own, there was a part three to the release. and i don’t know what exactly precipitated this series of releases, what button i hit, but even though it was exhausting and made my head pound and my eyes burn, i was just so grateful for the emptiness it left behind, for the feeling of my exonerated, exhaled grief in the room.

and in fact, it is only just now that it strikes me why it felt okay, why i can feel grateful, and it’s because of how gently i was held through it: by my wife, my child, by pocketbrit. by my t, when i told her about it today. and mostly, that i managed to hold myself through it, that somehow, i managed to sit with it, and let it be there. that i finally discovered a mute button to shame, under whose rule i’ve been living for weeks.

i know the relief cannot last, but for today, it is enough, it is welcome, it is good.

one hundred & thirteen: gratitude

the very first thing i thought about while reading this word was this song by ani difranco. what does my body have to do with my gratitude, indeed.

*

my parents expected unending gratitude for nearly everything we received. gifts. compliments. none were without strings or conditions. they were pseudo-generous; they gave things frequently, but expected to be thrown a parade in return. i remember hating that, the way they talked about people who didn’t express sufficient gratitude for what they were given, or didn’t return the favour adequately; how they seemed to give to others for the recognition, rather than out of the goodness of their hearts.

*

i also just thought about all the genuine, life-giving gratitude i have for still being here. for the people who have carried me through, especially the past three years. my wife, my kiddo, my sweetest pocketbrit, my friend s, my therapist. i could never have done it alone. i don’t know how anyone does.

*

i think about how how frequently i say the words ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’, often in the same breath. how i apologize for my existence and then thank people for not leaving me, for staying near, for not hurting me, for loving me. how deep my gratitude is, when i say those things, but in typing it now, how sad that is. that people sticking around, or loving me feels like something unexpected and exceptional, rather than something we all deserve.

and now i’m just fucking sad again.

 

 

ninety-six: empathy

sometimes i wish i had less of this. it would make things more simple. less hurty. more easy to tell what is mine and what is yours. there are some days that it seems that i can feel all of the pain, where i look at my wife and my kid, at pocketbrit, at my friends, at people in the grocery store, and their hurts are like a thousand little darts into my heart. i see their pain, and it hurts me, so much.

and how i got this way, ugh. and then ugh again. it was trained into me from a young age, and it was functional, of course, served as protection. i mean, not actually, i still got hit and violated, but how much more would it have happened if i didn’t know how to read others? if i didn’t value how other people felt, couldn’t see things from their perspective?

as messed up as it sounds, it is one of the vestiges of being raised by the family i had that i wouldn’t trade. despite how often they criticized it (while simultaneously benefiting from it), how often i was seen as being too sensitive. i don’t want to be any way else. i don’t want to be checked out or unaware of your hurt, of your joy. i want to know it, i want to feel it, i want to be with you through whatever it may be…because honestly, how else are we meant to live?

 

ninety: final(ity)

i, too, thought of death when i saw this word. but my associations made me too sad to write last night, so i didn’t.

i thought about when my grandmother died. one of the only people i felt was on my team…though i think she probably was on everyone’s team, that’s the kind of person she was.

she died of cancer, wasted away over a series of months. knew it was coming, could plan. as she got weaker, during the days she would still bother putting on her wig, before the days when she stopped eating and would only sleep the awful moaning sleep of people tortured by chronic pain, she would send me into the corners of her basement or her linen cupboard or her bedroom closet to seek out jewellery boxes and tea towels and other precious things. wanted me to pick things out to keep, for after she was gone. i kick myself now, because teenaged-me couldn’t bring myself to choose anything, it was too awful…but what i wouldn’t give to have a bracelet of hers, or one of her rings, or her clip-on earrings. or her nightgowns, even. or her eyeglasses, oh god, that makes me cry to think of those. something i could hold in my hands, y’know?

the last weekend i saw her, her sister-in-law was visiting. and for some reason, this stupid old cow, who was shitty to her in life, who was coming to do her duty, who was coming to gawk and stare and ‘pay her respects’ would not get the fuck out of the room as i was saying goodbye to her. like, my final goodbye. she sat there, this stranger i had only seen maybe twice before in my life, watching me as i completely lost it, as i held my grandmother’s soft, translucent hand to my cheek, as i cried so hard i could hardly breathe, where my mom eventually ushered me out of the room because i was ‘making a scene’. and yeah, i fucking was. coz who would protect me now?

so, that’s what i thought of. i miss her all the time. it will be 28 years next month, which is unbelievable. i’ve been without her far longer than i had her, but i still feel her love.

seventy-nine: weather(ed)

i keep thinking of the weathered hands of elderly people: the geography of aging. the smattering of brown speckly age spots, the raised, snaking veins, wriggling their way between bumpy knuckles and fragile tendons. the delicate creases in the pliable dough of their palms. i love hands, anyway, and i love the hands of old people perhaps the very very most of all.

and now, i am thinking of their skin. have you ever held the wrinkled hands of someone very old? or brushed your lips against their soft, lined cheek? their skin is like silk… so soft. so dry and so soft. the calluses of their younger days mellowed, the strength of their grip and sharpness of their joints diminished by time.

even though it has been nearly thirty years since i held the cool, knotted hands of my grandmother in my own, as i sat with her, in the throes of fitful dreams induced by the narcotics to dull the cancer that was eating her body from within…even though it’s been so long, i can still imagine her soft, soft hands like it were yesterday. as though she were right here, smoothing my hair back, wiping the tears that are suddenly on my cheeks, stroking my face so gently, so carefully, with such love.

fifty-four: birth

whenever someone’s child has a birthday, i wish the kiddo a happy birthday…and then, wish their parents, a happy birth day.

never mind the nausea and heartburn and ten-month takeover of your mood and hunger by a growing parasite who seems to reside simultaneously on your bladder, in your crotch, and between your second and third ribs…or the physical pain pushing a miniature human out a narrow stretchy tunnel that happens to be an intimate part of your body, or the weeks of bleeding afterwards. i’m talking about the creation of a whole new person and being responsible for bringing them into the world. yeah, it happens every day, in all sorts of ways, all over the world. but it changes you.

it changes your body. your identity. your shape. your function. your meaning in life. your role. how your body works. who you are. who you’ve been.

birthing our daughter changed me in ways i never thought possible. most obviously, i became a mother (and what a tangled identity that is, more so now than ever). i grew her in my body, from a microscopic bundle of cells, to a fully formed tiny human. and then, i fed her from my body, on the outside, for several more months. i never felt more powerful than i did in those first few weeks; at least once a day, i would find myself looking at her in wonder, thinking, i made that. as her cheeks filled out and the dimples on her knuckles deepened, i marveled that i was sustaining her, growing her, nourishing her.

it was the one time in my life i appreciated my body for what it had done, and was doing. it was the one time in my life i felt i was in the right place…if not just for a few months.