The Sobbing Tree

•January 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment
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The Sobbing Tree (furthest to the right, with the most moss…)

A few days ago, I broke down at the base of a tree so large I couldn’t even see the top. Covered in the greenest moss I’d seen in months at the edge of a winding, quiet road on the edge of Butchart Gardens near Victoria on Vancouver Island, I openly sobbed and wept with one hand against the ancient evergreen, doubled over, as cool, refreshing BC rain washed over us both.

I didn’t mean to. That hadn’t been my intention as I strapped up my running shoes in my hotel room and mentally prepped to go for a run. I’d just landed on the island, never having visited before. I wanted to explore a little and also knew I needed to clear my head after a long day of travel and an upsetting conversation (for me anyways).

Running soothes me. It’s been the one thing I could turn to in the last few years that’s truly been mine. It’s all mine. Running is completely selfish. I can shut down when I run. Not think about Owen. Not think about work. Not think about bills. Not think about anything but: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe in, breathe out. It’s wonderful.

I knew I needed that more than anything that afternoon. Rain or shine, I needed it.

And so I went. Armed with a set of poorly explained directions printed out on a sheet from the hotel reception, I left the resort and ventured out into the Brentwood Bay area.

I came across my Sobbing Tree completely by accident.

When faced with the choice to go left or right after getting completely lost thanks to the sad set of directions, I chose left and was met with a steep incline and a winding, twisty road. Large, ancient trees covered in vibrantly green moss lined each side of said road. Before running (as best I could) into the green abyss, I removed my headphones. Rain was falling at a steady pace. No cars appeared. All I could hear was my own raged breath and the rain hitting the leaves in the canopy. It was a beautifully stifling silence.

And so I set out, up the hill and onto the forest-lined road.

As the incline increased and the burn in my thighs and calves became ever more present, my lungs struggled for air, the rain mixed with sweat and ran into my eyes burning them ever so slight, my hands clenched tighter and my arms began to burn, too; and my brain suddenly came to life with every struggle and upset I’d had in the past few months — scratch that, past few years. Every misstep, every uncertainty, every unknown came crashing down on me in mere minutes.

I just quit my current job, which means I start a brand new one in a few weeks. A new job I know nothing about. This panics me a great deal. I’ve kept this panic at bay for now, but as I rose up the hill, so too did the anxiety I feel towards this new venture.

Writing is my escape. It’s the one time I’m me, fully me. I need it to survive, I need it to function. I need it to be Miranda. But am I good at it? I read as much as I write — no, that’s a lie. I read more than I write. I read a lot of very good writing, and I read a lot of really shit writing. And I wonder, where do I fall on that scale? I find myself talking about writers who are complete crap but who’ve published books that I’m reading. Am I like that? Do I shock and surprise the reading world that I’ve “made it” and that they’re reading me instead of someone with actual word power? I clenched my fists tighter as my strides became shorter up the steep hill, pumping my arms hard, feeling my shoulders ache as I felt the anger swell: Don’t ever be one of those writers, Miranda. Don’t let it happen. Unless it already has? Clench tighter.

I don’t have the balls to say the words “I love you” to someone I actually love. I can’t make my lips push the words out, and I know in a few very short months when everything changes for good that I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. The fact that I can’t grow a pair and fucking tell him eats away at me. I’m letting my past get the best of my future. I’m scared of the consequences, scared of the result, the empty silence that could hang in the air after I say it. The possible rejection that I’m not so sure I’m stable enough to handle just yet. As the burn in my thighs grew to epic proportions, to an almost unbearable point, so too did the burn in my heart telling me to actually express myself, properly.

Being a mostly single parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I question my methods, abilities, and choices every single day. Do I say the right things? Do I teach him enough? Am I involved enough? Am I providing well enough for my son? Am I a good mother? These questions circle my brain more than I’d like to admit. Knowing someone’s life and well-being is really and truly in my hands, MY HANDS, it’s fucking scary. Petrifying really. Every day. As my lungs heaved and struggled for every breath, my worries and questions heaved from within too, bubbling to the surface.

The past few years have been a massive balancing act for me. From learning how to live alone for the first time ever in my 32 years to entering the dating world for the first time since I was 17 (and let’s be honest, I wasn’t really part of it before that, either) to learning how to be a fully functioning adult (I say “learning,” but really I’ve not even opened the manual yet) to working my way through a divorce and all the wonderfully shitty things that go along with that to growing my career then deciding to change my path ever so slightly to figuring myself out and discovering who I AM in all of this … fuck. It’s been huge. It’s been heavy. Supremely heavy. Soul-crushingly heavy, actually.

And it all came crashing down on me in staggering succession as I reached the top of the hill and stumbled up to my Sobbing Tree.

A huge, heaving breath escaped me suddenly, and all I could do was double over. My hand shot out to stop myself from toppling forward, and I caught the edge of my Sobbing Tree. My finger nails dug into the moss, feeling the soft, wet shrubbery. And I wept. Openly, loudly, I wept. Crouching down I put both hands into the muddy earth at the base of the Sobbing Tree. Watching my bright purple nails sink into the rich, dark earth, rain pelting away on my exposed skin and fingers, I tried my best to breathe.

Deep, shuddering breaths were all I could manage. My shoulder pressed against my Sobbing Tree. And I looked up, into the rain, into the foliage, into the nature that surrounded me. And I felt small. My glasses caught drops of rain, and my breath caused the lenses to fog over. I was blinded momentarily, listening to only my whimpering breath and the creaks, shuffles, drips, groans, and sighs of nature around me.

For all the largeness of my problems, I felt tiny. Like nothing. Like a gnat on the surface of Mars. Minute. Microscopic. How could I let my troubles feel so large when I was so fucking small?

Before I left my Sobbing Tree, I touched my forehead to its mossy surface as a kind of thank you. I took one final deep, long, steady breath tasting its earthy scent and feeling the clean, cool air fill my desperate lungs. My Sobbing Tree grounded me in those moments. It brought me back to a reality I wasn’t quite ready to face, a reality I’d tried hard to push aside.

What if you knew when it would end?

•January 18, 2016 • 1 Comment

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As philosophical as I’d like to think I am, I am not talking about the end of days. Sure, the earth will likely implode one day in the distant future with the amount of shit we do to it and pollute it with, but that’s not what I’m on about. I’m not even trying to get into the greatly deep discussion about death. No, I’m talking much more personal, everyday things.

What if you knew when your cat or dog would die? What if you knew when you’d get fired? What if you knew when your parents would pass? What if you knew when you’d get into an accident and lose your car? What if you knew when your relationship would end? What if you knew when your child would move out and you’d no longer depend on them to make you the parent you’ve always known yourself to be?

What if you knew when it would end?

Would you do things differently? Would you not even start to begin with?

I struggle with this daily. Seriously. Every day.

When you start watching a movie or reading a book, you know it’s going to end. You aren’t shocked by the fact that it finishes. You aren’t upset or put out. You went into it knowing full well that it would finish. But between the time you start the story and end it, there’s a middle. There’s a meaty bit. Characters build, things happen, and the ending is (usually) satisfactory. And if it’s not, you’re annoyed, but none the worse for it. You experienced it. You learned something (perhaps not to read a certain author or see a movie by a specific director).

Can that logic be applied to life? Is experience and gaining knowledge and know-how enough to make something worth it if you know it will end?

When I was 27 years old, my 19-year-old cat passed away. I’d had her for more than half my life. She was, quite honestly, my best friend. She grew up with me. I got her when I was just 8 years old. I named her “Spooky” in my infinite creativity because my parents brought her home to me the day after Halloween. She was my confident. I used to imagine I could communicate with her. I’d created a legend of communication with the number of times she licked my hand when I asked her a question; 2 licks for “yes,” 1 lick for “no,” 3 licks for “maybe.” It was all quite scientific — especially to my 8-9-10-year-old self. Spooky used to follow me everywhere. She slept with me every night, even in her old senile days she still managed to jump up on the bed and curl herself up around my head and purr the loudest purr I’ve ever heard come from a cat.

Every day, Spooky would sit in the window and wait for me to come home. Seeing her excited face in the window each day, seeing her mouth excited meows before she leapt from the window to greet me at the door always brought a smile to my face — even on my absolute worst days. The moment I’d sit down on any surface, Spooky was instantly in my lap. We used to sunbathe in the backyard together. She used to “help” me fold laundry, and we always had the best time when I tried to make the bed; she absolutely adored running around  under the sheets and chasing my hand through the fabric.

Then she was gone.

I didn’t know the day it would happen, but I knew it would happen.

Spooky passed away about 2 weeks before I found out I was pregnant with Owen. A close friend of mine at the time told me that it was the universe’s way of opening up my heart for another “baby,” since I loved Spooky so dearly.

I have two cats now. I’m not at all as attached to them as I was to Spooky. Not even Biscuit, who we recently acquired as a kitten. I won’t let myself get sucked in again. I know it’ll end. Not tomorrow, and likely not for many more years, but it will. And I don’t want that hurt again.

Is that what I’ve learned? Is that the lesson I took away from my 19 years with Spooky?

I think a lot about how I’d have felt had I known when my marriage would end. What I would have done differently (if anything). Or if perhaps I made it end when I did. If I chose the date. If I chose the stamped delivery date of our demise. Did I know the end all along? And if I did, did that change me? Change us?

I know, with a good amount of certainty, when my current relationship will end (at least as it is now). No, I’ve not chosen a specific day and time to say, “Thanks for the good times, but I’m out.” It’s a bit more complicated than that.

What I know is that it will end. And I’ve known it from the beginning. But I still went into it. I went into it cautiously at first. I went into it thinking I could control myself, my emotions, my brain, my heart.

Fuck, I’m dumb.

Has it changed how I’ve reacted through our months together? I’m not sure. I’ve never done this. And I’ve not had enough experience otherwise to say there’s been a huge difference. The only thing I can say is that it’s stunted me in opening up fully. In trying to protect myself I’ve kept a few walls up, perhaps even built a few new ones as the end gets closer and closer.

Is that why I went into it in the first place?

There are those around me who say that’s more than likely. It was a “safe” choice, a way for me not be alone, feel loved, have a good time, and to gain experience and learn without a huge form of commitment.

To that I say: Bullshit.

I hate being hurt. I hate crying. I hate being upset. I hate feeling lonely. I hate feeling lost. I hate saying goodbye. I hate endings.

Why would I go into something knowing it would end? Why would anyone?

Because we’re humans. Humans who crave interaction. Crave connections.

Things end. That’s life. That’s how the world functions. TV series end. Pets pass. Children grow up. Parents pass away. Jobs are lost. Careers change. Location are changed. Families separate. Things end.

If we all knew when those endings would occur, we’d likely never be as brave or experimental as we are in life.

What if upon meeting a stranger at a bar, the first thing they said to you is: “Pleasure to meet you. In 3 weeks time precisely, I’ll say something really cruel and asshole-ish about your sister, and you’ll never talk to me again, ever. But until then the sex will be great and we’re going to have the BEST time together.”

Would you still do it?

Or if when you went for a new job the last thing you were told in the closing interview was: “You’ll work here for 3 years, 10 days, and 15 hours before HR comes in and tells you we’re downsizing and you’re one of the chosen few because we know you can survive, but it’s going to come as a shock for sure. But until then you’ll gain some serious experience in the field and grow your reputation in your position. Oh, and we have rockin’ Christmas parties.”

Would you still take the job?

Of course you would.You’d call back the person at the bar, and you’d call the next day and take the job.

Because as humans we believe in chance. Hope. The possibility that things will change. We hold on to every ounce of possibility we can. Even when we know, inevitably, there is an end, we hold on to the hope that the ending is avoidable or at least re-directable — kind of like a choose your own adventure book (I loved those growing up, btw… maybe that answers a lot of my adult issues … and is a subject for another blog).

I know the end. But I’ve not turned away. I opened my heart again. I expect hurt, but hold on to the hope that its avoidable, changeable somehow. That the ending can be manipulated, molded, formed into something that’s more of an interlude perhaps.

I’m in the meaty bit of my book, and I’m desperate for it to be a “choose your own adventure” that will keep me in an endless loop in the middle, never reaching the end.

The Evolution of a Relationship

•January 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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I’m the first to admit I know nothing about relationships. Correction; I know very little. I’ve come to learn more over the past few years, some lessons by choice, others by accident, and still others by sheer luck and circumstance. I’ve grown in the department of relationships, and yet am still very much in my infancy of understanding how they work and function “properly.”

Why in bunny ears? Well, because who’s to say what a proper relationship is, really? I mean, I’d like to think I know. But then I only know the “proper” ones I’ve seen in movies and on TV or read about in books. And are those really proper when they aren’t real? Then of course there are the relationships I see around me, but am I seeing the truth?

For years my ex and I put on a good show in our relationship. No one thought anything was wrong. Shit, we didn’t even think anything was really wrong. I mean, I think we both realized that there was an underlying issue, but a lack of experience and knowledge in how relationships should evolve and grow just left us acting the way we thought we should be acting: as the happy, content, perfect little couple. And we weren’t. We so weren’t.

So, how am I supposed to know how a relationship should evolve? Especially now. It’s not like I can follow the same steps I tried to (and thought I most definitely HAD to) way back then:

  • Start dating
  • Be smitten
  • Have lots of sex all the time
  • Move out together
  • Be smitten again
  • Get married
  • Be smitten again
  • Have child
  • Become a parental and couple unit
  • Continue happy marriage
  • Grow old together

I mean, that seemed like a logical progression when I was in my early 20s. Now it just seems laughable. Like, highly humorous actually. In my nearly mid-30s (good Lord) I see the relationship ladder a little differently:

  • Start dating
  • Be smitten (but cautious)
  • Have lots of sex
  • Continue to have my own life
  • Cautiously spend more time together
  • Never get married (again)
  • Never have more children
  • Understand that lots of sex doesn’t mean a healthy relationship and simply spending time together is sufficient and, no, the relationship isn’t going to end if we don’t do it every night
  • Feel like I have no idea what I’m doing 99% of the time
  • Not think about a future because that would be presumptuous and silly
  • Not get attached because good things aren’t allowed to happen to me
  • Try not to get too emotional
  • Be too emotional
  • Panic
  • Hopefully not mess up
  • Try not to end up alone with 40 cats

It’s really not as appealing. At all. But that’s kind of where I stand right now. In my current life situation, I feel like I have to be so bloody cautious about everything. Not make a mistake. Not fuck up. Not be THAT girl. But then I realize I don’t really know how to do the right thing, either.

And it’s always on my mind. Always. I’m not one to overanalyze, but I do think about a lot of stuff. All. The. Time.

What kind of stuff?

I think I analyze my feelings and emotions more than I used to. Much more than I used to. Mostly because I kept most of my emotions hidden and trapped inside for so long, and now they’re all there just bubbling under the surface, how can I not consider them?

But mostly I think about the progression of a relationship, the evolution if you will. How are things supposed to grow? How are they supposed to change? How are they supposed to evolve? And do they even? If a relationship stays stagnant, but is a good relationship, is that really a bad thing? Does it HAVE to change? Do I have to change? Does he have to change? Do we have to evolve together?

Life will inevitably cause some of those changes. Experiencing things together will elicit an evolution (or devolution, depending on the situation, of course). Travelling together, trauma together, good times, bad times, surprises, planned events, they all add to the story you build together and aide in the progression of the relationship. But how do you know you’re on the right path or even taking steps along that path?

I have absolutely no idea if I’m on the right path. I have no idea if I’m headed in the right direction. But I do know one thing: I’m happy. In this very moment, I’m happy. For all my inner anxieties and random panicked moments, I am happy more often than I am otherwise. And that’s amazing to me.

Is that proof enough that I’m on the right path? That I’ve made the right decisions, said the right things? I’d like to think so, but I can’t be sure.

Will my relationship ladder change/improve as the years progress? God I hope so. I can’t go through that process more than once, I don’t think. In fact, I’d like to never go through it again, actually. Dating is horrendous. And dating in your 30s is a fucking disaster. So, no thank you, I’d rather not have to go through it all again.

But here I am, still stumbling along and maybe that’s enough. Maybe that’s just enough to keep me afloat and keep me happy, and keep him happy, too. I’m fumbling blindly, but at least I’m fumbling and not charging ahead like a steamroller imagining I know precisely what I’m doing.

Because I haven’t a fucking clue, but I’m kinda loving it nonetheless.

Wishing you much happiness (and sadness) in 2016

•December 31, 2015 • Leave a Comment
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As a new year begins…

Today’s the day we all sit back and think about the past year; what it’s meant, what it’s done for us as individuals, what it’s brought us (emotionally, financially), and what it’s taken away. We cheer on the coming of a new year in the hopes that it will bring us much love, happiness, and wealth. We eagerly await that clock to hit midnight tonight, to bring us into the future where things are inevitably brighter, better and something to look forward to.

But what if instead we celebrated the past year as fervently as we welcome the next?

As each year comes to a close, I find it harder and harder to pinpoint specifics throughout the year that have influenced me negatively or positively. Everything blends together as a whole, joining up to bring me where I am at this very moment on the last day of the year. I think back on moments, on snippets of time, and I’m not sure if I can classify them as good or bad, they’ve simply changed me in some way. Changed me and brought me to where I am today, and for that I’m grateful. For that I celebrate the year I’ve just had.

For all those moments that made me evolve, made me grow, I celebrate the past year. Sure, not all of them were good, in fact I’d say a majority of them were heart-wrenching and downright difficult, but those were the moments I grew the most, the moments I really became me, the real me. As clichéd as it sounds, it really is the rough patches that make you the strongest.

I chose to move forward, to grow stronger instead of letting it make me weak, letting it beat me down. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun, and I hated the process, but I did it. And I’m better for it.

2015 was an intense adventure from the beginning. I thought I knew what the year would hold, where I was going, who I was going to be with, what my path was going to be; I should have known better than to assume things would turn out the way I thought I’d planned.

And yet, I am so incredibly happy things went the way they did.

In the end, 2015 has been an amazing year, all around. For all the tears, all the emotional pain and growth, there was an equal (if not more) amount of laughter, joy and smiles. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever smiled (a real, genuine smile) as much as I have this past year.

Watching Owen turn into a real, live little boy. Watching him grow up and turn into a little man is always incredible, but as he turned 4 years old this past year it’s become all the more evident just how grown up he actually is… and just how quickly it’s all going. Watching him experience the world, seeing it through his eyes, his comments, and his stories is absolutely amazing. He’s my rock, my sanity when things get crazy, and my home. I am so incredibly lucky I get to be his mother, and I am grateful for that role every single day his smiling and loving face wakes me up in the morning.

New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection, and as I write this on a flight home from a few days away playing with a snowboard on the side of a mountain, I’m reflecting on how truly lucky, blessed, and incredibly happy I am at this very moment. And how this New Year’s Eve will be unlike any I’ve had in the past.

For the first time in years I feel complete as a person. Whole. Assembled the way I was meant to be. The real and fully put together Miranda. It’s quite amazing, actually. Mother, friend, daughter, lover, goofball, writer, editor, driver, occasional adult, weirdo; they’ve all come together as one and I’ve been able to show the world all of me this past year in a way I was never able to before. Incredible.

I won’t be sharing a kiss at midnight (not even with my son as he’ll be snoozing at that point), but it doesn’t matter, because I know I’m loved and cared for, and not just by my parent’s who will be sitting on the couch with me while we watch the ball drop, no doubt. No, by someone else (which is still a shock to me and something I smile about every day); and while we might be on opposite sides of the country at midnight, it won’t matter. I won’t feel alone, and I trust he won’t either.

I think back now on past NYEs and how forced they felt. How I felt I had to be happy, had to be near someone’s side, had to get that kiss at midnight, had to, had to, had to… And in the end, we were no happier for it, neither of us were. It was strained, it was an obligation, not a desire. We were going through the motions. And if it ever came up that we weren’t to be together on NYE, well, it would have been a disaster of disappointment and resentment for sure.

So, to know that I’m content thousands of miles away from someone I’d much rather be beside, knowing that he’s content as well, and we’ll both be silently wishing the other a happy NYE as the clock strikes midnight in our respective time zones makes me realize just how far I’ve come; and what it means to truly be happy. Real life happy. An actual happy. Not a forced happy. Not a pretend smile and fake laugh. No, the real deal.

2015 has made me happy in the end.

Seeing that written makes me laugh a little. If I think back to how 2015 started, I never in a million years would have thought it could end with me feeling that way, with my thanking 2015 for making me smile, for making me happy. Never.

Yet, here I am.

What a wonderful turn of events. We really can’t assume, expect or determine the direction our lives will take at all. We can only control how we as individuals react to situations and handle ourselves, how we are as people.

While I don’t want to go back on what I just said and predict 2016, I do know it won’t all be sunshine, roses and smiles (but then life never truly is, right?). I only hope I can take the strength and happiness I’ve earned in 2015 and pay it forward into the coming year to help me through any heartache I might encounter.

And really, that’s all we can hope to do in life, right?

So, on this New Year’s Eve 2015 I say: Bring your happiness with you into the New Year, but bring your sadness, too. It’s taught you how to be stronger. It’s taught you how to cope. Remember the good and the bad and use that to evolve and develop even more in 2016. Know that the New Year will bring you the happiness and goodness you create and attract. You will be happy if you allow it, so open your arms and welcome it in.

Happy New Year, I raise a glass to 2015 in thanks, and to welcome in 2016 that’s sure to be just as incredible and eye opening.

Trauma together is like travelling together

•November 24, 2015 • 1 Comment

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Luckily (for me) I’ve not experienced much trauma in my life, so far.

My grandfather suffered a heart attack while I was with him when I was about 6 or 7 but I truthfully don’t remember much about it. My mother slammed her finger in a car door (which I had unlock by climbing through the sliding rear window in a pickup…), but I never went to the hospital with her. In my teens, my father suffered a series of symptoms similar to a heart attack, however, it turned out he was simply having a panic attack (which of course only increased the panic attack…). Again, I wasn’t there with him at the hospital and so couldn’t really assess the traumatic experience…

I’m not a fan of hospitals. I don’t think anyone really is. They usually mean something is wrong, horribly wrong. They make me nervous. I think they generally look and feel dirty. I get anxious and feel like crying all the time. I hate being there.

I broke my ankle when I was about 19 years old. It wasn’t a traumatic break or situation, but I ended up in the ER to have a cast applied. It was uncomfortable and I was less than pleasant (according to my ex-husband-then-boyfriend and parents). However, it wasn’t anything too extraordinary.

I watched my aunt waste away in a hospital from Leukemia. It took years of fighting and struggling until it finally got her. I saw her in those final days. I’d never seen anyone gravely, deathly ill in a hospital before her. I visited her in the days before she finally lost her battle. Saw how the cancer had ravished her body, saw how she looked in the sterile hospital bed. I brought her cool cloths from her adjoining washroom. I sat on the sterile, uncomfortable chairs in the room and ate stale sushi in the hospital cafeteria with my mother.

My grandmother passed away in a hospital bed in an ICU ward. She’d contracted some cold or another, and at 90-something years old was unable to fight anymore. Dementia had set in and she refused to eat let alone fight the sickness taking over her frail, cold body. There were never enough blankets to keep her warm.

The day she passed away, I visited her with my mother. She didn’t always recognize who was there, was barely opening her eyes at that point. But that day, she grabbed my hand, desperate in her grip. Her words were garbled, slurring due to her mouth’s inability to move quite right from weakness and a fading mind. I managed to make out one word: “Owen.”

At the time he was about to turn 1 year old. He was pulling himself up on furniture and cruising around. I told her so. She smiled. It was the first time I’d seen her smile in weeks. It was a small smile, but it was there. And as she sunk further into her pillow, closing her eyes and releasing her tight grip on my hand she whispered, “That’s lovely.”

That night we received a call around 4am that she’d passed away in her sleep.

The only good thing to come out of a hospital in recent years has been Owen’s birth. And even that wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. I’ll save the details of that one for another post, but it was just as anxiety-inducing and stressful as any other hospital visit. Full of uncertainties and questions, concerns and worries. Of course, the joy of a new baby takes most of it away, but as a mother birthing a child trust me the worry and nerves are there. Always. Here’s a little person you’ve carried around and nurtured for 9 months, and you’re about to evict them in a rather unceremonious way into a world that’s cold and cruel (sometimes) and harsh for anyone, let alone a newborn. It was a lot.

I hate hospitals.

They test relationships. They push boundaries.

During the inevitable breakdown of our marriage, my ex-husband and I spoke often about the fact that we never supported one another, were never really there for each other. It was, unfortunately true. Over the course of 13 years, rarely did we stand behind the other 100%. Until our son was born. In those hours we were a team. We were together. He supported me, he was there for me, and I wanted to support him and be there for him as a good mother a good wife in those moments when we birthed our child.

Of course, all that mutual support when out the window almost as quickly as my desire to wear anything but jogging pants did after giving birth (don’t judge me).

Colin and I never really travelled well together, either. He was always nervous, I always chastised him for it. I always got annoyed with him losing his documents. I was nervous, I didn’t want things to go wrong. I desperately wanted us to have a good time. I forced too much. And he was indifferent.

Almost two years ago now my body decided the kidney stone it had been storing had to be evicted. As pain started in the middle of the night, I had to drive myself to the ER as Owen snoozed and Colin stayed home with him. However, once Owen was at daycare and I still had hours and hours of agonizing pain and hospital time ahead of me; my father skipped work and spent the day with me. I’ll be forever grateful.

Like my birthing story, the kidney stone story is one for another blog post.

Hospitals are a bit like travelling when it comes to relationships. They test expectations, boundaries, limits, emotions. How does one handle the other; how does one respond to the other; is there trust; is there tenderness; is there hate; is there disdain?

This past weekend I spent more time than I wanted to in a hospital, sitting bedside. I was not the one being cared for, but someone I care deeply for was. As I watched him lay there, sedated and still bleeding, I could do nothing more than sob. Uncontrollably.

It was an accident: a missed stair, a tumble, and a skull that met an iron railing much too severely. Blood was everywhere almost immediately, and the anxiety and worry set in almost as quickly. I knew a trip to the hospital was in order, there was no way he was getting away without stitches.

An hour or so of arguing and general displeasure between the patient and various nurses and orderlies where I’d tried to calm the situation and him, and I was exhausted. When the nurse finally gave him something to stop him trying to take out his IV and remove his neck brace and keep him in bed, all I could do was collapse.

Emotionally I was spent. Physically I was sore. Mentally I was a wreck.

Sitting in the ER “room” being shared by a dozen or so other beds with patients in various states of disrepair and discomfort, I cried. Deep, heaving sobs. The woman sitting bedside next to me brought me a roll of toilet paper. I thanked her between breaths as best I could. In those moments we understood one another.

I could have gone to the washroom, and in fact at first I did. Standing there over the toilet holding myself up on the wall I heaved deep breaths trying to calm myself down. Trying to get a grip. Trying to be OK because I needed to be. I needed to be the OK one here because he wasn’t. I needed to be the one to answer questions in case he couldn’t.

When he finally woke up a few hours later, I’d not slept a wink. I was too wired, too anxious, and too aware of every movement, twitch and sound he made as he lay there, still bleeding from wounds that had not yet been stitched up.

He told me I should have left. Told me I didn’t need to be there. Told me countless times how sorry he was, but also how grateful he was that I was there.

No chains held me. I was not obliged to sit there for hours while he slept. In fact, I didn’t even have to get in the ambulance with him in the first place. I could have gone home. He’s a grown man, he didn’t need babysitting, despite an inability to walk down stairs properly…

Hospitals test relationships.

I’m still considering if the test was passed or not. There were good moments and not-so-good moments, but then I guess that’s what life is all about. Regardless, we walked out of the hospital hand-in-hand (and him still in the hospital gown… but I think that’s a story for another blog, too).

Traumatic experiences, like travelling, only exemplify those good and bad situations. It’s all in how you handle them, all in how you support one another, all in how you get through and come out the other side as a unit not opposing teams.

When we finally clambered into bed after close to eight hours at the hospital, despite being unbelievably sore and recently stitched up, he made every effort to roll on his side in all his discomfort.

“I just want to cuddle, I just want to have you near.”

Trauma is like travelling; and getting home is almost as important as being out on the adventure.

 

Good Luck and Don’t F*ck It Up

•November 8, 2015 • 1 Comment

Don't mess up

I don’t have an RBF. For those not in the know, RBF stands for Resting Bitch Face. I’ve been told this on multiple occasions. I’m open, I’m inviting. People talk to me, people talk at me. I engage in most conversations as I’m usually curious and give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they’ll be interesting, hopefully funny and that they might have something to offer me in life (at least, I do now … I wasn’t always as open or engaging).

So, when I’m out and about in the world I tend to talk to a lot of people. Some conversations are great and I get to learn about someone new, and learn a bit about myself in the process. Some great connections and friendships have emerged from my lack of an RBF, and I’m grateful for it.

Of course, there’s a downside to it as well as I seem unable to avoid the creeps and oddballs slurring derogatory comments and snide remarks thinking it’ll get me to drop my panties and head home with them… Guys, take a hint: That shit doesn’t work. Seriously.

Last night I went out for drinks with a few girlfriends. They chose a local wine bar lounge, and I showed up later in the evening. The place was packed, so we were squeezed in beside another table already occupied by two men and a woman. As we were already four and wanted to add two more, we were eyeing the table beside us in the hopes that they would leave. To clinch the deal, I said I’d ask the gentleman closest to me if we could steal their extra table in the meantime. I have no issues approaching strangers.

Upon asking the Random Stranger if we could steal his table, he smiled and said of course or we could join all our tables together and hang out. Of course, the latter happened.

As I was seated next to the Random Stranger I originally questioned about the table, we started chatting.

I wasn’t always open about myself, hell, I wasn’t ever really myself at all until recently. However, now, I’m an open book. I’ll tell you how I feel, what I’m thinking, and if you ask me a legitimate question I will give you a straight, true answer. So, Random Stranger and I start chatting.

He immediately spots my wrist where I’ve got Owen’s name tattooed. This is often the start of bar conversations. Men gravitate towards easy targets and topics of conversation like tattoos (plus, I’m fairly certain they want to ensure “Owen” isn’t my partner’s name).

I explain the significance and his eyebrows go up (as men’s usually do when I say I have a child). I openly discuss his age and what a good (most of the time) kid he is. And his next question is: Where is he tonight? And at first, I was a bit weirded out by the question, then I realized it was a clever way of asking if I was a single mother or not. My response: “He’s at home with his father, my ex.”

Look of relief on Random Stranger’s face.

“So, you’re single then?”

A smile, a laugh.

“Um, no, I’m not married, but I’m not single.”

From there the conversation circled around what I do for a living, which inevitably lead to talk about cars. And when Random Stranger and his group eventually got up to leave and he said goodbye to me, he leant over and said:

“You look really happy. Good luck with the new guy, and don’t fuck it up.”

As he said it, I laughed and jokingly said I’m trying not to. I mean, what else was I supposed to do? But inside somewhere a part of me was inhaling sharply with a look of panic and worry.

Don’t fuck it up, Miranda.

Ugh.

I’m bound to fuck it up.

It’s what I do.

How did this Random Stranger tap into that? I know it’s just a turn of phrase like “break a leg” or “everything happens for a reason,” but it hit too close to home for me not to think about it a bit more after the fact. Here’s someone I’ve known for barely a few hours and he’s already made an observation about my demeanor and commented on my life. Perhaps it says more about him than me, but I was still thrown off a bit by it all.

Don’t fuck it up.

I don’t want to. I desperately want to make it work or rather to continue to make it work. However, I’m fumbling along in this whole relationship thing like a blind cat trying to scrounge food in an alley, while simultaneously trying not to get hit by oncoming traffic. I have no idea what I’m doing. At all. I’m just trying to keep it all alive and well and on track.

No, trying is the wrong word. That makes it sound like work. What I’m experiencing now is not work, not at all. But it is something I have to work on internally.

I announced early on that I had no idea how to be a girlfriend. He seemed OK with that, and I was open and honest enough to reveal that I really had no idea (and still don’t, really) what I was doing.

I’m comfortable. I’m happy. I’m myself. I feel appreciated and cared for. And all of that makes me wonder when it will eventually all go wrong. Because how is it that I’ve come to deserve all that good? All that happiness? Am I bound to fuck it up in a self-sabotage kind of way?

Random Stranger hit a nerve, a nerve I’ve been nursing and covering for the better part of a few months now.

“Good luck and don’t fuck it up.”

I seriously need to work on my Resting Bitch Face, and pronto.

Beyond the walls

•October 15, 2015 • 3 Comments
Walls

We all put up a means of protection

We all put up walls. We have to. It’s part of what gets us through the day, what helps us succeed at work, what lets us thrive in society. Without walls, that protection that keeps our most inner selves from emerging, we’re vulnerable; we’re exposed; we’re weak. So we build walls.

It’s natural.

I built walls. I spent years building walls. Hell, I built walls in my marriage, which is a huge reason why it failed. I built a veritable Fort Knox around myself, my feelings, my heart, and my mind. I kept it all to me. I kept it all hidden. I was afraid. I was embarrassed. The real me was behind those walls. The real Miranda I’d never really let anyone see was there. And I didn’t dare let her out.

Then I did. I let her out to someone I probably shouldn’t have. I let her out in a way that wasn’t exactly intelligent. I let down my walls for a man I wasn’t sworn to. I opened myself up to someone I shouldn’t have. I have no regrets in doing so (besides the hurt I caused), but it did make me build up thicker protections after everything.

If I’d built a barrier before the affair, afterwards my walls were 20ft thicker, 100m taller, and covered in fire-breathing dragons. No one was getting in. And I was happy with that.

I never let anyone past the surface. Never let them really see me, understand me, feel the real me. I was content with surface interactions. Physical satisfaction and inconsequential interactions. A flirt, a snide comment, a kiss on the cheek and poof; we’ll never see one another again. It worked. I was protected. I stayed safe. I stayed within my walls.

Then suddenly it all changed.

I let someone in. They found a crack, an opening I didn’t realize was there. Somehow, I let my guard down. The dragons must have been sleeping (bastards), but he got in. He got inside. To me. To the real me. And I let him stay there.

It’s fucking scary.

Here I’d spent all these years completely alone in this isolated place with me (the real me), watching these interactions from afar, knowing I couldn’t get hurt, knowing I was safe from the BS of relationships and partners and all the emotional crap that came with it. Knowing I could observe from a distance, never having to participate (but of course offering advice to those who are, because that’s what friends do!). And over the past year I’ve isolated my heart, mind and soul even more.

For protection.

Or was that fear?

No one likes to be hurt. Why would we? We know the result, the outcome. Why would we subject ourselves to that process, those emotions? Which is precisely the reason my walls came up. Why the hell would I want to be hurt again? Why put myself through that nonsense?

I find it amazing and refreshing how easily Owen throws around “I love you.” And also, how I know he means it every single time. Often, we’ll be driving somewhere, and in the middle of a conversation about something random he’ll throw out a; “Mummy, I just love you.” And it melts my heart. It’s so pure. So whole. He has no walls. He has no boundaries. And as happy as it makes me, it also makes me sad to think that as he gets older, he’ll become so much more guarded with each hurt, with each bad experience.

I’ve not told anyone (besides my child of course) that I love them (truly love them) in well over a year.

How important is it really to say the words, though? When someone is let past our walls, do we need to shout it out loud? Are actions enough? I don’t know… on the one hand I crave those three little words, yet they simultaneously scare the shit out of me.

I remember when I was about 12 years old, I attended a summer school program to help improve my French. There was also an English-language program happening at the same time. I met a boy. He liked me. I liked him. His name was Angel (I shit you not). He was from Mexico, so was there for the English not the French. We started “dating,” which basically meant hanging out and holding hands and sharing a scared, timid kiss every now and then. About 2 weeks into our “relationship,” Angel said, “I love you.” I panicked. I said, “Thanks,” and removed myself from the situation.

It’s not that I didn’t care for him. I cared for him a great deal. But to hear those words, something in me just panicked, recoiled, and wanted to get away. To protect.

Feeling it is one thing; voicing it entirely another.

So, it got me thinking: If we let someone beyond our walls, do we really need to say those three words? Is it necessary? Doesn’t it eventually lose its meaning and its significance?

I distinctly remember a time in my past marriage where I’d often (very often) throw out “I love you” and simply get a, “me too” or “uh huh” in response … it no longer had meaning. It no longer mattered. It was dried out.

So, how am I supposed to use it again? I tell my son I love him every day, multiple times. And I mean it every single time. I love him with every ounce of my being. Telling him I love him makes me feel whole, makes me feel complete and it makes him smile and I cherish those moments.

But what about someone else? What about someone who’s penetrated my walls? Someone I’ve let in. It terrifies me. Three simple words terrify me. For their meaning, for their significance, for what they mean to the other person (or not). Rarely do we make connections in life, but when we do we want to express them. But is it necessary to say those words?

I’m learning every day, every moment. This is all new territory to me. This is all the unknown. I don’t know how to proceed. I don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. I know what my heart and head are saying though, and they are usually at odds with one another … so which one do I listen to?

We put up walls for a reason; so what happens when someone gets beyond them?

 
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