Your Own Space

•March 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Adjusting to life alone was harder than I thought.

Adjusting to life alone was harder than I thought.

I’ve been living alone for the first time in my life for nearly a year now. I’m 31 years old. I’d never had my own place before. Never signed official papers by myself. Never paid a bill on my own (on time). Never made decorative decisions with just me and no one else’s tastes to consider. Never hogged the remote all night and watched sappy hospital dramas till it was much too late and I should have gone to bed hours before. Never had my own space.

But now I have that. And I’ve had it for a year.

Let me clarify something first; It’s not entirely “my” space, in reality. My son lives with me 80% of the time, his room is down the hall from mine and this is as much his place as it is mine. But he’s also only 3 years old, so all the stuff I just mentioned above, he has very little input or say about it (save for the sappy hospital dramas which I am already banned from putting on while he’s awake… he’s very opinionated on such things already — I’m in trouble).

This space that’s my own, I love it more than I thought I would and hate it in a way that makes me wonder if maybe I’m just not meant to be on my own. Now, that’s not to say I’m about to shack up with anyone or make sure someone is here to keep me company at all times because God forbid I be alone — no, I’ve come to embrace my solitude and all the things that make me uncomfortable about it so that when I am in someone’s company I truly appreciate it that much more, but it doesn’t mean I have to love every moment.

This is my space, my condo, my dwelling; and I still get scared. A few moments before sitting down to write this piece I was making my final rounds, turning off lights, checking on cats, stepping on random Hot Wheels left in the hallway and simultaneously cursing and smiling, and I accidentally shut off a light that plunged me in near darkness and a millisecond of panic ensued.

I’m a massive chicken. I scare incredibly easily. I believe in a lot of sh*t I shouldn’t, and my imagination murders my sensibility — always. I grew up reading every gory, horror-ridden, thriller book I could get my hands on (much to my mother’s horror and frustration). I love reading all of that stuff. But put me in a real-life situation akin to those books? Um, no. My absolute nightmare.

And so, standing in a nearly pitch-black hallway in my own place of residence where I know full well nothing is lurking to kill or maim me and I still freak out. Every. Single. Time. My finger couldn’t get back to the light switch fast enough, and I very audibly let out a sigh of relief once the light was back on.

Reason not meant to be alone #65: Check.

Dark hallways and never hanging my foot over the edge of the bed while I sleep aside, dealing with all the responsibilities of living alone are almost as scary. From overdue bills to groceries, endless laundry (thank-you 3-year-old boy who seems to wear more than he eats/plays with), taking out the trash/recycling, washing floors, cleaning the toilet; it never ends. Ever. And while Owen is helpful on occasion, that helpfulness is limited to carrying a lough of bread up four flights of stairs to our condo or perhaps (finally) picking up all his cars from the hallway before bed.

And while I may have taken on the brunt of most of what I mentioned above when I was actually living with someone (and married to that someone), I never felt the way I did about it now. There was always the chance that if I didn’t do something, he would. If I forgot something for a few days or straight up told him I didn’t want to do something (which I never did, but that’s a topic for another blog) then it would eventually get done. But now? If I don’t feel like doing the dishes now or for the next 10-12 days then they are still going to be there 10-12 days down the road. Trust me.

Living alone is scary on a number of levels, and I’m aware of that every single day I’m by myself.

I tip my hat (if I were ever to wear one, which is a horrible sight to see… trust me) to all of you who do it in your 20s or even earlier. You are all rock stars in my mind. You’re strong. Courageous. Adventurous, and driven. Sure, it might not work out but you did it. You ventured out. You took that leap and did your best to land on your feet. And you did it without the experience, knowledge or past experiences of those older than you. I am in awe.

I’m in my 30s now, and living in my own place for the first time, ever. I feel like I should be 21. I have all the angst and uncertainty of someone much younger coupled with a resounding sense of actually knowing what’s right and wrong (because I’ve been there, done that). It’s an odd place to find myself. I fee like I should know better when I actually know absolutely nothing at all. It’s a mixed bag of everything good and bad. It’s liberating and encapsulating all at once.

But I’m happy.

I wouldn’t change my living situation (at the moment) for anything. I love my condo. I love the colours I chose, the furniture I have, the wall decals, the pillows, the pictures my father hung (because, let’s be honest, living on my own for the first time at 31, you think I can hang a picture solo?), even my towels and placemats. They’re me. They represent who I am. This is truly my space.

Finding your own space, even if it’s just a corner in a room, is so important. Over the past year or so I’ve come to learn a lot about myself, and this has been a significant discovery. When I lived in the house with my ex-husband, I never had my own space. Eventually, he ended up having the basement as we converted it to a gym. He’d spend a great deal of time down there. I had nothing. I had no specific area that was mine, nothing that was “Miranda.” I’d waffle and wain between the living room and the bedroom when I was relaxing or in a bad mood, but no space was every truly mine. I think that had a huge impact on how I evolved in our relationship, and even how I evolved as a person.

When I do live with someone again (and I’m fully confident I will), I will make sure I have my own space, and my own voice in everything we do regarding the place of dwelling. Where we live is about more than a bed and a toilet. Where we live is about our personal relationships, our connections, our down time, our comfort zones.

Don’t ever give up your own personal comfort zone just because you think it will make the other person uncomfortable. It should, it’s not their personal space.

What my 3-year-old has taught me, so far

•February 10, 2015 • 2 Comments
The family that smiles together...

The family that smiles together…

As a parent there’s this universal assumption that you’re supposed to be the teacher. You’re the one with all the answers, the reasons why. You guide the way, shine the light, make those everlasting impressions.

Well, over the past three years — most notably the last year or so — I’ve come to realize my toddler has just as much (if not more) to teach me about life and myself than I’ve yet to bestow upon him. And so, I’ve decided to gather a few of the top lessons he’s taught me together in one place, so he has something to use against me later on in life, of course.

I am not that smart.

It turns out 3-year-olds ask a lot of questions. And most of those questions consist of two words: “But why?” From questioning the night’s dinner choice to the reason why it’s two piece of wood and not two pieces of woods, Owen can question everything and anything with, “But why?” And he does. I was sure I had all the answers or at least a good portion of them. Turns out I don’t.

It’s humbling and embarrassing, but it also helps me learn more. I find myself looking things up so I can get back to him later on in the day. When he asked me why you couldn’t eat the road, I didn’t want to just tell him, “Because you can’t.” I instead looked up the ingredients and told him what was in concrete. He didn’t like the sound of aggregate and so declared then and there that he would never eat road. Glad we dodged that one early.

I love that he asks questions, but it’s also tiring. I’m thankful he’ll often relinquish the barrage of whys when mummy says, “It just is, OK?” He’ll think for a moment then sigh and say, “Oh, OK.”

The funny thing is, I want to have all the answers for him, but I’m also learning I won’t be the one who has them nor will I be able to provide them all for him. He’s going to have to discover some of those (if not most) on his own from other people, experiences, places, things. As he grows his answers will come from all around. It’s hard to give up that power of knowledge and impressionability as a mother. This is something else he’s taught me about myself.

Messy is all in how you look at it.

From toys on the ground to various stages of a meal on one’s face; a mess is all in how you look at it. I have had full discussions with Owen about picking up his toys because he made a mess wherein he insists they need to be where they are for later use and/or because they are happy there.

Well, perhaps he’s on to something there. Maybe the laundry in the corner of my room is happier there. Maybe it’s easier for me to grab a clean glass from the pile of washed dishes beside the sink than to open the cupboard and get it from there. And maybe leaving my makeup out on the counter at all times actually saves me time in the morning instead of having to dig it out of a makeup bag…

Maybe this is something I’m willing him to teach me. Nah, can’t be.

Mornings aren’t stressful.

Unless you let them be. I used to let them be, but not anymore.

My alarm clock is my son. Sometimes I’ll set one if I know I am scheduled somewhere specific, but 95% of the time I’m woken up by the shuffling of pajama-bottomed feet in my bedroom and a gentle, “Mummy?” as he approaches my side. He never wants me to get up right away, nope. Mornings are our cuddle time. He slides into bed with me and snuggles right up. Sure he’s twitchy as hell and I get kneed in the uterus, kicked in the thigh and head-butted every now and then, but these are the moments I live for and they are the prefect way to start the day.

I used to drag myself outta bed, dreading the day before it had even begun, thinking of a million things at once. My brain was awake before my body, and everything was reluctant to start and function properly. Now, I spend the first moments of each day discussing odd tidbits of dreams, questions and comments about life (“But mummy, why does the wind sound like that? Biscuit is hungry mummy, we have to feed her. Check the weather, mummy.”)

Owen greets each day with such joy, such anticipation, I can’t help but feel the same way. Of course, there are the odd off mornings that are stressful and bad for us both, but we’re only human and those are bound to happen. Otherwise, it’s a joy to be around him to start the day. From his over-the-moon excitement about eating (once again) a breakfast bar with his milk while he watches “Dinosaur Train” to him gleefully shouting out the species names to me while I get dressed down the hall, it all brings a huge grin to my face and I’ve learned to appreciate mornings in a way I never, ever did before.

Honesty and humility are key.

If nothing else, I’ve learned that honesty and humility are always the answer. Owen will be the first to tell me I look like a princess in a dress (Every. Single. Time. Be still my heart.) while simultaneously telling me I’m too old to do something (which he believed was the reason I couldn’t stay up on a surf board on a lake at one point in time…).

That’s where the humility comes in to play. I’ve accepted a lot about myself over the past few years, and while much of it was brought on by myself and things I’d done or said, a lot of it was also thanks to my toddler pointing it out to me.

Owen likes to recount a story about the time he was stung on the toe by a wasp at the park. He was in a great deal of pain the afternoon it happened and it was heartbreaking to see. In my infinite mummy wisdom (read: I frantically searched online for a way to stop him from being in so much pain) I made a baking soda paste and he calmed down. However, he remembers it now and speaks about how much it hurt. I don’t try and make him remember otherwise, but instead remind him that the pain stopped and he was very brave about it. And he agrees and says he wants to run in the grass barefoot again.

Owen also often asks where daddy is. I’m upfront about it and tell him daddy is at his place because mummy and daddy don’t live together anymore. This inevitably leads to a, “But why?” To which I respond, because we didn’t want to live together anymore. And for the time being he’s satisfied with that. He’ll then launch into a series of statements about each location and the things he likes and dislikes at each.

We laugh at ourselves, a lot. I don’t think I ever did this before. Owen will opening fart and giggle like he’s just told the funniest joke. Falling over by accident? Hilarious! Pants on backwards; like the best joke you’ve heard in years. Mummy’s hair messier than usual? Gigglefest ensues. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’ll drown in our own self-pity and that’s no way to live.

Patience isn’t enough, you need understanding.

They say that patience is a virtue, but I’ve come to believe that understanding is an even bigger virtue and a necessity as a parent. Sure, I can be patient with Owen until the cows come home, but I’ll not get anywhere with him until I understand him and he me.

To me, patience builds frustration, for both. I don’t want to wait for Owen to do or not do something, I want to and need to understand the issues about why something is working or not. And the same goes for him. I see his mind working when he doesn’t get his way or he asks for something and doesn’t get the response he wants. He’s trying to understand me as much as I am him.

It’s a process I believe we’ll continue to be in and develop throughout his childhood and maybe even into adulthood.

Tickling is the best thing ever.

As an only child, I’m not an expert at play-fighting, teasing or anything of the sort. I grew up with a lot of books, a few cats, and my mother who was more content to sit and colour/draw than she was to chase me around the house as the “Tickle Monster” which was fine with me.

Well, now that I have a boy I’ve learned that tickling is a massive part of parenthood. It’s a great way to start the day, break up a mundane moment, change a bad mood, and even as a bedtime routine.

To tickle is to bond, and my God is there anything better than a full belly laugh from a toddler? I really, really don’t think so.

Life is what you make of it.

Winter has been horrendous here: cold, snowy and just downright depressing. Most days it’s been too cold to go out and play, build snowmen, sled, or even skate with temperatures dropping well into the -30C zone. However, no matter how cold it is and how much I tell Owen how cold it’s going to be when we get outside, he’s always fascinated with the fresh snow/weather status. He’ll want to touch the snow, he’ll question why there’s ice, where it comes from and why he has to be careful. He’s genuinely interested in everything around him. And it makes me stop and take notice, appreciate the world around me and take it all in. In those moments, I don’t hate winter as much.

We often get stuck in traffic together, Owen and I, and no matter what the journey always ends in smiles. From questions about the cars around us to spotting airplanes and listening to music he likes (he makes me stop the radio on songs that have pianos because according to him he likes pianos), there’s no built up anger at our situation, no annoyance. Even if he announces he has to go to the washroom, a simple, “Can you hold it bud? We’re not there yet,” is enough to satisfy him and divert his attention back to better subjects, like why the lights on the back of the car in front of us keep lighting up.

Being a mother has taught me so much about myself, both good and bad. It’s brought me to new lows and incredible highs. It’s never easy, but it has fantastic upsides. I wake up every day proud to be Owen’s mother, and satisfied with the job I’m doing (because any mother will tell you she could always be doing better, and I know I could). I’m not perfect, nor do I strive to be. Owen will continue to teach me every single day we’re together, and I only hope I can bestow upon him as much wisdom as he’s already passed on to me.

That time I had an affair…

•January 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment
I'm THAT girl now.

I’m THAT girl now.

And if you hadn’t already figured it out or heard some rumour about it (for those who know me personally), let me lay it all out for you. Yes, I had an affair. I cheated on the man I vowed myself to. I ran away from my problems and straight to another man, behind my husband’s back. I turned away from a relationship that had crumbled and broken years before I took that final step — not that it makes it any better or justifies anything, really.

It happened. I can’t change or undo any of it. I can’t go back in time and in those moments know what they would do to the future, because in those moments I believe I wasn’t really all there — and I didn’t care. About anything. In a way, I didn’t even really care about myself.

Let me rewind a bit here to about 3 years ago. Owen had just been born, I was emotionally, physically, mentally drained of everything. I had a newborn baby who required everything of me and a husband who already did very little (not entirely his fault as I took it upon myself to do it all without asking for any help at all … yet he never offered either…). That was the beginning of my real breakdown. The beginning of the end of me.

I realize now that I’d been losing “me” for years in our relationship. In fact, we’d been losing each other. Ever so slowly masking our true selves to save face and maintain this horrendous evenness in our relationship. This steady water of nothingness that just ensured peace and “happiness” between us. That wasn’t a relationship. It was an arrangement. A quiet way of living life in a ritual of mundane blah. Awful.

And so I disappeared.

I shut down from everyone: my parents, my friends, my colleagues. I stopped communicating entirely. I wasn’t even writing, really. No journal, no blog. Just shut in myself. The only one I opened up to, eventually, was the man I thought could make me feel like me, make me feel whole. The other guy.

I’d spent years feeling like I was never a priority. Like I didn’t matter. Zero support, no enthusiasm for me as a person, no joy in my presence. Sure, I knew on some level that I was loved, but it was never shown to me.

Then, suddenly it was.

And after all the love had been sucked and drained outta me with the arrival of this new little life that took absolutely every single ounce of everything I had left, it was so glorious to have some of that given back to me. How was I supposed to say no?

So I didn’t.

I’m not proud of the hurt I caused when it was all said and done. I am, however, grateful for what it’s done for me as an individual. I’m not sure I’d be where I am now (as the real me, the open me, the Miranda I never knew the world could ever accept or would want to accept) without that affair. It taught me an enormous amount about myself, about my now ex-husband, about my mother/father, and even my friends (and those who I thought were friends).

I am the reason my marriage physically and openly came to an end. While we are both to blame for the breakdown, I am the one that hammered the last nail in the coffin, so to speak.

It’s changed me. Hardened me in some respects, but also made me feel so much more. I spent years hiding my emotions, saving face and not rocking the boat to keep things neutral. Now? Not so much.

I’m also the Miranda that has to live with the knowledge that, yes, I cheated. I have to wear that “label” forever, rather like a scarlet letter I suppose. I’ll always be THAT girl. And as silly as that sounds, it’s not easy to deal with. I never wanted to be THAT girl. Never in a million years. I didn’t ever dream I would be. It wasn’t my intention, wasn’t my plan. Hurting people is the last thing I’d ever want to do, ask anyone I know they’ll tell you the same (but not my ex-husband, please).

I’ve noticed that an immediate reaction to my infidelity is usually, “But what about Owen?!” Well, what about him? He was being cared for in the best way possible. I never once neglected him or pushed him aside. I was the best mother I knew how to be to him in those moments — he was always a priority for me, despite the selfish nature of my actions. What I did neglect was an already failing marriage, an already on-the-rocks relationship with next to no communication and a daily ritual that was beginning to feel like nails on a chalkboard sound.

I think back on it now and I’m not even really sure how I did it, lead that double life. Because you really are leading two lives — I’m not sure anyone else would admit to cheating or having an affair, but if you do you’ll agree it’s not simple. At home I was this mundane, closed off, depressed, exhausted mother. Out in the world with the man I felt could “save” me I was open, lighthearted, and happy. But it wasn’t sustainable. It was taxing in its own way, draining me of whatever humanity I had left, really.

I only woke up to the reality of it all when it was all said and done, when it was all out, when everyone involved knew the truth and all was out in the open. Then my emotions came crashing down, then my humanity came rushing back, then the real me looked at the monster I was and simply mouthed, “What. The. Fuck.”

So, why bring all this up? Because we all have demons. We all have things we wish people didn’t know, but they are the things that make us who we are (even if they aren’t the nicest to talk about). What I did is a part of me. It will always be a part of me, and if I don’t accept that and embrace it then I can never grow from it. I can never move on fully because that tinge of guilt and shame will always be there. That secret skeleton in the closet that will always be on the tip of my tongue, willing me to say, “I had an affair once…”

Also, I bring this up as a bit of a reminder to all mothers/wives/girlfriends: Don’t lose yourself. Don’t let yourself be forgotten in your relationships. Remember you ARE important. And if your partner isn’t making you feel that way then say something. Don’t let it linger, don’t let it drag on. I did. I let myself fade away into oblivion, and at the slightest glimmer of recognition, I jumped. And I jumped in with both feet without ever considering my landing options.

Don’t be THAT girl. It’s a heavy sign to hold. Trust me.

So, 2014, thank you.

•December 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Here's to new beginnings.

Here’s to new beginnings.

We’re always told to look forward, anticipate the future, plan for what’s to come, don’t dwell on the past. While I’m all for that and hate to dwell on things that have come and gone (especially if they’re unfavourable and can’t be changed nor done over), I realize that seeing where you’ve come from is so important. What we’ve been through, who we’ve interacted with, what we’ve done/said/experienced, it all leads us to where we are right now, in this very moment; the present.

So, as Owen takes his last nap (please, just fall asleep and stop playing with your Mike the Knight swords) in 2014 and I sit amongst a mix of crayons, Hot Wheels, cat toys and dust, I’ve decided to look back — and not in some cheesy, flip-book Facebook way, either.

This year has been… there really isn’t one word for it, and so instead I’m going to categorize it in terms of what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown.

I’ve learned that being untruthful to yourself is the worst thing you can do for you and for those around you. Not being the real you, not doing what you want, being who you want to be, it’s just toxic. And those toxins will spread and infect everyone around you. I’ve learned to tell myself the truth, and in turn that truth has spread to those around me.

I’ve learned I have amazing friends, and not so amazing friends. I think this has a great deal to do with properly entering my 30s, too. Instead of wanting lots of friends, I am happy with a select few who don’t judge, who stand near me no matter what, who love me (even my black, undesirable bits). Thank you all (you know who you are). Your kind words, your support, your love, your understanding, it’s meant the world to me. Without you there to hear me in my good and bad times, I’m not sure how I would have gotten through this year, truly. You have been my lifeline when I thought I had none.

And to the not-so-amazing friends, I’m going to guess you know who you are, too — and I’m going to assume you aren’t reading this. However, if you are; I wish you all the best in the future, truly I do. I wish you no ill-will. In fact, I wish you health, happiness, and love. I know I’m not the most angelic, perfect, wonderful person in the world and I’m OK with it, but I know you aren’t which is why we don’t talk anymore.

I’ve learned I’m a helluva lot stronger than I ever thought I was. Physically, mentally and emotionally. This year has been about a constant up and down, the ultimate stomach-churning roller coaster of emotions. I’ve hit rock bottom and soared in the clouds — sometimes on the same day. Countless tears were shed, but I’ve also laughed — A LOT. My strength has shocked me, to the point where I’ve looked in the mirror sometimes and wondered who was looking back (in a very good way). I see Owen grow and progress everyday and know that I had a great deal to do with that, and it makes me swell with pride and strength.

I’ve learned the beauty of travel and what it can do for the soul, for the heart. Travelling back to my childhood stomping grounds, bringing my mother and son the second time around… it did something in me. It wasn’t an exotic location, but it was eye-opening, it was revolutionary. It taught me more about myself, my state of mind, where I wanted to be in life and who I wanted to be as a person.

It also opened Owen’s eyes to the world of travel and other places. He came back from that trip a different child, an aware child, a confident child. No more hiding behind mummy’s legs when someone says hi, he’ll have a conversation with anyone (as long as mum says it’s OK). I am so very grateful I was able to open his eyes to the world at such a young age. And our recent adventure to Jamaica only broadened those horizons and his imagination.

I’ve learned to be present. I spent a great deal of time trying to not be where I was before 2014. I wanted to escape my life, my brain, myself. I wanted out of everything, and so I was never present. I stopped listening, I stopped participating. I lost myself.

Well, no more. 2014 has been the year of me being present, being there, being fully involved. It’s tough work. It’s demanding. It’s emotional. And it’s not always pretty, but it’s incredible. I feel like an entirely new person (and truthfully, I kind of am).

I’ve learned that reinventing yourself is about more than changing your hair colour (which I tired). While I loved being a redhead for the first time in my life, it turned out to be just another mask to hide behind. It wasn’t really me.

I’ve learned I am successful in my career and line of work. I may not think my writing is the best, but someone out there does. Despite my focus shifting a bit from the office to home life (being a mostly single parent will do that to you), I know a great deal of people in my industry respect me as a writer and an editor. That makes me feel proud. I have had so much support in 2014 from colleagues across the country, and I can’t thank you enough. I often feel judged by those closest to me, but this year has proven to me that sometimes I just need to take a deep breath and accept that I’m pretty good at what I do.

I’ve learned being a mother is fucking hard (‘scuse the French). It’s demanding. It’s tiring. It’s long days, short nights; rushed meals, lots of “but why?”, tears, bloody noses, various spilled liquids, lots of trips to the bathroom; but it’s also hugs, kisses, I love yous, colouring and Play-Doh, sunny afternoons at the park, swimming in the ocean, building sandcastles, getting new kittens, early morning cuddles, and being called a princess when you wear a dress (every. single. time).

I’ve learned that taking a break from it all is OK. I’m not a bad mother when I feel a sense of relief and relaxation when Owen is with Nanny and Poppa. That time for me, alone, is just as important as every moment I spend with him. And I’ve learned to be alright with it, and even look forward to it.

I’ve also learned how to be an honest, open partner and friend. By not being present in the past, I was also very closed off. I’ve learned the liberation that comes with being open and honest (even if you know it might hurt the other person, because the truth is better than telling a lie to protect them).

As 2014 comes to a close, I can truthfully say I’m happy it’s over. But not because it was so horrendous I want to turn the page and never look in it again. No, I’m happy it’s come and gone because it’s put me where I am now. This past year I experienced great triumphs, huge disappointments, hurt, love, loss, ego boosts and embarrassments — sometimes all on the same day. I’ve seen people I thought I knew well transform before my very eyes into something completely different and opposite, and I think I’ve done the same. All for the better.

So, 2014, thank you. Thank you for kicking my ass. Thank you for offering up a hug. Thank you for making me a better person. Thank you for all the experiences. Thank you for all the loss. Thank you for all the gain. And thank you most of all for proving I can do anything I put my mind to and that I’m strong and confident, and a damn good mother and writer.

Now, I look forward to getting to know 2015…

The moment I knew I lost myself

•December 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment
It wasn't until I was completely lost that I began to fin out who I really was.

It wasn’t until I was completely lost that I began to find out who I really was.

There’s a certain beauty in breaking down. I didn’t see it when it was happening, and I’m fairly certain those around me didn’t see anything particularly pretty about it either, but it was there. This shimmer of something, and perhaps it’s only really ever visible after everything’s done, crumbled, shattered, and torn apart. But the beauty’s there. I think if you can’t see it, then you’ve not truly been broken.

It’s a strange thing when you no longer know who you are. Wait, that’s a lie; you know who you are through the eyes of others. You know how you need to be to satisfy them. You know what they need from you and you willingly supply that, even if it goes against something deep within you. You change and manipulate and morph to suit each situation. And you lose yourself. Completely.

I did.

Sometimes, I wish I could pinpoint the exact second something in my brain said for lack of a better word: WTF? Obviously, I can’t. But I can at least narrow it down to a moment, a slice of life in which I took a moment to assess myself and what I’d been doing to self-destruct, implode, and generally waste away what little was left of the real Miranda.

It took a lot of breaking, a lot of shattering to get to that moment. It took waking up to the shame I’d built up over time. A shame I’d kept hidden from everyone, even myself. I didn’t understand the shame, but I knew it was there. At the time, I knew it as guilt, which was false.

Oh sure, I’m guilty of doing and saying things, things I can’t change nor take back, but that’s not what broke me. Guilt is regret for an action, shame is a disagreement with who you are as a person. No, my shame broke me. My inability to be vulnerable — with anyone, but most specifically, with myself.

Over the past year I’ve learned a great deal about myself, things I’d either ignored or pushed aside for years, decades perhaps. I’m not the most interesting person, in fact I think I’m rather dull. I don’t have profound thoughts very often. I say some really dumb things more often than I should, and I think simple humour is actually quite endearing and makes me laugh more than it should. I am a hopeless romantic. I love sappy movies. I fart a lot. I absolutely hate disappointing people (the key to me losing myself, in fact). I’m a horrendous cook, but I make a mean cookie. I don’t always want to smile and say hello to everyone I meet, sometimes I feel angry and bitchy and I want to be that way (too bad). I don’t think my writing is that good. I know I make mistakes all the time when I write and when I edit. I still hate running (see previous blog entry). I’m petrified of change, despite desperately craving it.

I’ve struggled to accept the real me, the me I thought I had to keep hidden to save face and be the girl everyone else was satisfied and happy with.

That broke me.

And from that break emerged me. From the fissure rose something better, something stronger, something real.

The moment I knew I lost myself was the first time I saw a glimpse of beauty because I’d broken, badly. It’s extremely hard to see through all the shards, all the bits and shrapnel. It’s not easy nor is it in the least bit pleasant. But keeping an eye on that beauty, understanding how fleeting it can be and wanting to hold on to it, that will keep you whole.

I’m still picking up pieces. Still catching glimpses of hidden beauty and rays of the real Miranda. It’s not a short and easy journey, not in the least.

Being a mother, a writer, a recently separated wife, a runner, a daughter, a friend, an enemy, an unfaithful partner, a lousy friend, a lover, a hater, an idiot, and an occasional genius all played a role in how I lost myself, and they are playing equally important roles in me discovering the real me.

There’s a beauty in the break, a beauty I’m still embracing and exploring. It’s still tarnished and dirty and not quite appealing to everyone yet (and it won’t ever appeal to everyone), but it’s there. And I’m so grateful and happy that it is.

Running is horrendous

•December 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Anyone who tells you it isn’t is either completely delusional; trying to get you to join them in their misery; or they’ve been running for so many years that the synapse that registers pain/misery/suffering/general discomfort has long been severed and lays dormant.

Trust me, I speak the truth.

I started “running” roughly 8 years ago. I say “running” because for the first 5 years at least it was more like glorified shuffling mixed with heavy breathing and frequent stops and lots of swearing.

My father was part of a local running group, along with his twin sister, her husband, and my cousin. They bugged me week after week to join (see above explanation) citing good health, weight loss, self-confidence, blah, blah, blah. I’d only ever run on a treadmill. I loathed the idea of running in the heat/rain/wind/snow/any weather/circumstance, really.

Eventually, I got sick of all the harassment and I decided to give running by myself a go. I strapped on some old running shoes I’d purchased for a college-level gym class of some sort, dressed in my bummiest clothes, and off I went.

I think I maybe made it 20 seconds down the street before I was doubled over and heaving. No joke. I felt like I weighed about 900lbs (truthfully, I was quite tubtastic, but nowhere near as weighty as I felt). It was discouraging. It was terrifying. It was ugly. And yet it was motivating in an odd way.

It took me a few days, maybe even a few weeks, but I ran again. Then again. And each time I went a little bit further, walked a little less, and my breathing became a little less ragged. I by no means enjoyed it, though.

Because misery loves company…

A year or so later, I joined the aforementioned running club with the rest of my family (and even my now-ex-husband joined in on the “fun”). We dutifully attended the 3-4-times-per-week running sessions where warm-ups were often 5-6km worth of “jogging” before the 8-10km run. Um, what? Yeah, I spent a lot of those “stretching” and walking.

I dutifully signed up for races: lots of 5km runs at first. My fastest 5km run was around 33 minutes. I was happy with that time, I felt proud, I felt empowered that I was able to do it without stopping, without a lung falling out, without peeing myself (which I actually did upon crossing the finish line of my first 5km race — don’t judge me).

When I ran my first 10km race, I had my triathlete aunt running alongside me. She’d just completed a full Ironman the day before. This 10km race was her cool down. I felt like a failure before I’d even begun standing next to her, horribly nervous and horribly envious that she had all this strength, determination and drive to do an entire Ironman, and here I was unsure if I’d even be able to complete 10 measly kilometres.

I did finish it. It took me nearly 70 minutes for that first race. Seventy agonizing, horrendous minutes in which I told my aunt on numerous occasions to please just fuck off and let me be as she endlessly encouraged, motivated, and chatted away as if we were strolling down the main street in our Sunday best.

That was 6 years ago. I know because I still have the t-shirt that says “2008 Canada Day Race” on it. I often wear that shirt now when I run and remember every suffered step on that first 10km race. Because it makes me push further.

run

Why do you run?

I hate running.

I make no illusions about enjoying a run. I’m quick to tell someone it’s been uber beneficial to my weight loss after having a ginormous baby, and it’s been equally good and cleansing for my soul and mind as it’s truly my time, something I do 100% for me. However, 8 years into the same activity (the same movements, process, activity) I’m no “better” at it.

Every step I fight my brain. My mind is my biggest enemy. Before I even strap my shoes on to go it begs me to go back to the couch. To get in from the cold. To run tomorrow. To wait till it’s not so hot. To have a glass of wine instead. And when I do make it out the door it begs me to stop. Just walk for a bit. Get to that sign then that’s enough. Oh, don’t try and do 5km, 3 is enough. You had salad for lunch, you don’t need to run for more than 8 min, you’re golden.

Running is 99% mental. That is 100% the truth.

After all the years of running, I’d never surpassed the 10km mark. Ever. It was a solid wall I’d created for myself. Laughing at the idea of running even 200 metres more than that 10km distance. No, I’d never be able to do that …

Then my marriage fell apart and my husband and I separated. I bought my own place. Became a largely single parent with a rapidly maturing and still-so-needy son who’s just turned 3. I found myself discovering internal strengths (and conversely weaknesses) I never, ever knew I had. I embraced running for the freedom. And I signed up for a half marathon with a close friend.

With a half-marathon training schedule printed and stuck to my fridge, I began the process of tacking on the kilometres. 10km runs turned into 11, 13, 15 and finally 18. I wasn’t to run the full 21.1km till race day. I thought I could handle it.

But running is 99% mental, and I guess I forgot that.

Race day.

It was cold. Stupidly cold. Mid-October in Toronto, Canada, I should have known better. Shivering from the chill and sheer anxiety and nervousness I waited to start my first 21.1km race. I had a plan. I had a pace. I had a goal: 6min kilometres would give me a decent finish time in the 2:10-2:15 mark. I could live with that.

My friend and I crossed the starting gates confident, pumped, chatting excitedly and taking in the atmosphere. At the 1km marker we high-fived and LOLed (as you do). A the 3km mark I informed her we were running a 5:42min/km pace, so we could slow down if we wanted. We cackled joyfully and pish-poshed the idea of slowing down. Why would we? It felt great!

At the 7km mark I had planned a break. Stop for 45 seconds, drink electrolyte water and pop some energy jelly beans and/or shoot an energy gel pack. We did as was planned and continued on our way.

By 10km my legs were starting to feel a little iffy. My next scheduled stop was at the 14km mark. My running partner had a bum knee so she’d fallen back around the 8-9km mark. I wanted to stay on pace as much as possible, and so I kept on trucking.

When the 14km marker emerged from the throngs of pulsating, suffering runners I came to a screeching halt to drink my water and suckle on an energy gel pack like it was the first thing I’d ingested in months. I also waited for my companion for at least a minute or two, but she was nowhere to be seen, so I trundled on.

Around 15-16km, my trooper of a friend caught up with me just as I was hitting a mental wall. To see her there suddenly threw me off. Was I really going SO slowly that she, with a bum knee could, catch me so easily? I told her I needed to stop, regroup, wrap my head around running a full 21.1km race. I was mentally panicking about the whole thing. She told me she couldn’t stop or her knee wouldn’t allow her to keep going, so she went on ahead.

At 17.5km my brain told me to sit down, relax, take in the scenery. Just stop for 20-30 min, then maybe do the last 4km.

By 18km I was nearly in tears. Every fibre of my being wanted to stop. My bum-knee running partner sent me a text at that moment that read: “YOU GOT THIS.” And seconds later she tried calling me. I couldn’t bring myself to answer. Instead, when I hit 18.38km I came to a dead stop, and doubled over in sobs and heaving breaths. I was disturbingly close to calling it quits. I had no reason to keep going. Why would I torture myself?

That’s when I texted my ex, the one person who through all the years I’ve been running has been able to get my ass in gear to get me going, and with the simplest phrases — even after everything we’ve been through. And after writing a too-long-message (as is normally the case) about my wall-hitting marathon predicament, he simply wrote back:

“Harden the fuck up and finish. You’re almost done. Just do it.”

No wishy-washy “You’re amazing!” “You’re a star!” “You’re the best runner ever!” “Think of how good you’ll feel!” just the facts. I wasn’t about to be coddled and babied into finishing this horrendous affair, and he knew that. It was just enough to get me to take a long, shuddering breath and take that step I needed so desperately to take in order to bring the 21.1km torture to an end.

Between 18.5-20km I didn’t even know what planet I was on. I couldn’t tell you which streets I was on, what I ran past or even if I was running with someone or flailing wildly on the edges of the crowd as we all shuffled our way to the finish.

Upon crossing the finish line at 2 hours and 16 minutes, I was so delusional I was convinced the announcer said my name just before I crossed the line and so threw my arms up in exultation (there’s video proof of me doing it and him clearly not saying anything at all resembling my name).

I’m proud I did it, but I still hate to like running.

Now, nearly 2 months after my first half-marathon I haven’t fallen any more in love with running, but I know I’ll sign up for another half marathon at some point. In fact, it’s been a rather disgusting struggle to get back into a rhythm of running since I’ve got nothing to train for anymore.

I call myself a runner. Eight years in and I still struggle with it. Every. Single. Time. I’m not an expert, I don’t even think I’m particularly good, and perhaps my synapses are starting to fizzle out because I am one of those runners who recommends running, but not because it’s good fun. No, because it’ll kick your ass. Hard. Every single time.

I recommend getting your ass kicked on occasion (by running, of course). It’ll remind you that you’re alive, and that’s not a bad thing (trust me).

Wedged between motherhood and life

•November 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve just picked up a hallway littered with Hot Wheels, fished a half-eaten, 3-day-old pear wrapped in a baby wipe from my $800 Coach purse, stepped in something sticky, set another load of laundry, cleared the kitchen for the nth time, fed the cats (again), poured myself a glass of wine (again); all the while thinking about the business trip I’ll be taking on Thursday, what bills are due at the end of the month, how I want to start my next vehicle review, and when I plan on squeezing in my next run.

On the eve of my son’s third birthday I catch myself taking a very deep breathe, reflecting on what’s been, how far I’ve come and equally how many steps I’ve taken back. A lot can happen in three years, and never has that been more true than in these past 36 months.

I live alone with my son now. As marriages tend to do, ours fell apart for reasons you never think will happen to you, but they did. Both parties are guilty, both admitted defeat, and so we separated. Now that we live apart, we’ve perhaps become closer and (sometimes) better than we ever were before (but that’s a subject for another blog).

I knew having a child wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it wasn’t going to be this fairytale of cute little rose-scented burps, gurgles, coos, and smiles till he was old enough to feed, dress, and care for himself. No, I knew that wasn’t the case. I may be blonde, but I’m not ignorant. And so I took the sleepless nights (for nearly 2 1/2 years), the dirty-everything, the feeling like I always came second even when I didn’t need to, and the realization that I was perhaps doing it all wrong, but wouldn’t know until Owen grew up to either be an architect or the next Jeffery Dahmer with a sigh and a “It’s just a phase” mentality.

Somehow through all of that I desperately wanted, and somehow managed to keep, my career, as well.

And here’s where I find myself now, walking this very narrow plank wedged between motherhood and a son I absolutely adore being with and raising, and the beginning of my 30s where I find myself single (in a weird, I’m-not-dating-but-I-don’t-live-with-anyone-and-my-ex-and-I-still-see-one-another-a-lot-so-a-new-guy-would-get-pissed-instantly kind of way), the smallest weight-wise I’ve ever been in my entire life, very well situated in a field I adore and in my career, finally free of personality shackles that held me back for years, and full of confidence I never knew I could harness.

It’s a crazy place to be, but here I am.

My doppelganger, the love of my life.

My doppelganger, the love of my life.

I devour mommy blogs about career-oriented mums. I lap up pseudo-serious columns about wearing barf as accessories and how to get Sharpie off your bathtub. I adore no-BS write-ups from mums who tell it like it is. I take it all in, and I want to believe I absorb it all and use it on a daily basis without even realizing I’m doing it. Because it’s all so important, it’s all so necessary this support in motherhood, this watching out for one another (even if we don’t know that’s what we’re doing).

Do I think I’ve done a bang-up job up to this point? No, not really. I had a rough first year and a half with Owen. I felt disconnected from everything, from myself. With the strained marriage and the introduction of a needy, wailing child, I lost myself entirely. I’m not sure if it was post-partum, but it was something, and it was horrendous. I look back now and I don’t recognize myself. Not one bit. I shut down from the world. The only person I gave an ounce of care to was Owen, because I felt obligated. That’s not motherhood, that’s not even mothering, that’s just duty.

So, no, I don’t think I’ve done a superb job up to this point.

I’m learning every single day. As Owen enters the “But, mummy, why?” stage, I once again have to learn to take a deep breath and readjust. Life truly is all about change. All about little tweaks, tightenings, shims, and maybe a bit of Crazy Glue. Nothing is ever perfect, and if you try to make it so (or believe it should be) you’ll spend a lifetime failing. That’s no way to live.

I know mothers who are content with a lifetime of Sesame Street, Rice Krispy Square cook-offs, bubble baths, and Crayola. That’s not me. I love doing those things with my son, but I also love my time. I like going to bars. I like concerts. I love to travel (alone). I like loud music. I like to drink. I like to dance. I’m an adult, and I have a personality that doesn’t have to be lost in motherhood.

I know mothers who would ask, “But, isn’t being with your child excitement enough?” And to that I’d say, “Sure. But when that child goes to bed/day care/Nanny’s house/nap time, I should be allowed to be the 31-year-old who enjoys a dirty joke and a glass of wine every once in a while.”

And I know that most who would ask that question wouldn’t at all agree with my response. And they’d judge. And that’s horrendous.

Mums/moms I’m talking to all of you. We are mothers. Whether we stay home with our kids all day or we run companies in CEO positions, we birthed children. We carried them for 9 months, we let them feed from our bodies for months after we evicted them, we bathed them, changed their diapers, wiped snot/barf/poop/tears/food from wherever. We did it all. And we are still human. We are still women. We are still individuals. We are more than just mothers, and we always will be.

Being a mother just adds another level of empowerment, of awesomeness, to who you are as an individual. Don’t lose you. Ever. And don’t let anyone tell you that you need to lose you to be a better mom.

I run. I run as often as I can. I’m always asked how I find the time. I say I make it. I didn’t always do that. I used to make excuses (I was super good at it): there’s laundry to do; I didn’t get enough sleep last night; the kitchen is dirty; what if Owen wakes up early from his nap; I’ll wait till tomorrow when the weather is better. All of those weak, pathetic excuses were draining me of me. They were weakening me as a person, as an individual. I hated that.

So, I made the changes necessary (which meant taking a long hard look in the mirror and accepting that I was allowed to be this way and that it wasn’t going to make me a bad mother or person in any way) and started living for me as much as I live for my son.

I’m proud to be a mother. I’m proud to have a son. I’m proud to have a career. I’m proud to have a life. I’m proud to be healthy.

It took nearly three years and many, many ups and downs, but I’m here.

I want every mother to feel this, always.

 
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