Sarah and Me

•March 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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I’ve spent the past few months not being OK — at all. Not one bit. Not emotionally, not physically, not mentally. Just not OK. I’ve struggled with friends, with family, with my son, with my fucking cats, with work, with staying healthy and doing things for me. Everything has been a struggle. Nothing has seemed to go my way and everything has just been like pulling rotten, bloody teeth.

This past weekend I think I finally hit a sort of rock bottom. And truthfully, as far as rock bottoms go, it wasn’t even THAT bad; but it was enough to wake me up and to make me take a deep breath.

I find it so incredible how sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest differences, and also how they may seem so very small to me, but be the absolute most massive thing to someone else.

Here’s rock bottom in a bit of a nutshell (and bare with me, I promise I’ll explain…. most of it at least): Pants no longer fit (fuck). Go out for drinks with a girlfriend, end the night hugging the toilet and totally dysfunctional the next day remembering very little from the night before besides heavily making out with some guy I didn’t even know. Pants still no longer fit (fuck). Behind on a million reviews and texts I should have written. See myself on totally visible online video sure to be seen by at least a few THOUSAND people and pants definitely no longer fit (fuck fuck fuck). Childhood friend’s father suddenly passes away, and the next day a 27-year-old also passes away, losing his battle to cancer.

Fuck.

Before my night of debauchery began (ending in the toilet worship), I spent the day at home, lounging on the couch, cleaning here and there and waiting for a new arrival.

I’d agreed to take in another foster cat. She’d recently been rescued from a local kill shelter and I was to be her second chance at life. Sarah, her name is. And I was told she was slightly fearful. No problem. I know cats. I got this.

Sarah arrived just after midday. Rushing downstairs I collected her from the transportation crew and immediately stuck my face up against the cage bars and said in my most convincing and gentle voice:

“It’s OK Sarah. You’re going to be OK. Everything is OK now.”

She looked back at me with the most terrified and absolutely petrified look, pupils the size of her head, ears flat, body absolutely quivering. I recognized that look, that body language, that reaction. It actually made me stop for a moment. Me looking at her, her looking at me.

Shattered.

Upstairs to the condo and I brought her to her new abode: my bathroom. While not overly glamorous it offered heat, shelter, a litter, food, water, and comfy blankets to sleep on (along with a multitude of places to hide and explore should she desire).

Upon opening the cage, Sarah proceeded to bolt straight to the bathtub where she curled up as tightly as possible in a ball close to the drain, head down, attempting to be as invisible as possible. Not understanding what Sarah needed, I reached a hand down to stroke her gently only to be met with wide, wild and scared eyes and a pitiful hiss that begged me to leave her in peace, please.

So I did.

Before I went out for my disastrous night, I ventured back into Sarah’s bathroom. She was still shivering in the tub. I placed food in front of her. Nothing. I cooed and called her name and crouched down beside the tub. Hiss. Wide eyes. Terror.

So I got in the tub with her. I needed to prove to her that she was going to be OK. I needed to show her I meant no harm. I needed to let her know that I was going to be her safe place. I was her savior.

Sitting in a bathtub (fully clothed) with a scared animal is something I’ve not done before. I didn’t touch her. I didn’t attempt to reach out, I just sat there mere inches form her while I watched her haunches shiver and saw her watch me with wary eyes and a skeptical gaze. I talked to her, told her where I was going that night, told her about my day, what chores I should be doing the next day – all things she gave zero fucks about, but I felt she needed to hear me speak, needed to have that one-sided interaction. Then when it was time for me to go, I left. She observed my every movement with NASA-like precision.

There’s something to be said about a night without limitations or inhibitions. I’d recommend it to anyone (though not all the time, especially if you’re past the age of 25 because that shit takes some recovery time). The freedom you feel, it’s unmatched in most cases. Surrounded by those who care for you and want to be near you, who make you laugh and want to see you have a good time: it does something for the soul.

Copious amounts of mixed alcohol, on the other hand, does not. In fact it does nothing for the soul and everything for the stomach (later that night) and the head (for the rest of the next day).

You’ve been warned (but you won’t listen anyways, because I never did or do).

After spending the day comatose on my couch wrapped in a ratty blanket still wearing the previous night’s shirt, PJ bottoms, and mismatched socks, having downed four Gatorades and eventually forcing myself to eat half a bag of Cheetos, I arose from the couch and my horrendous hangover.

I needed to see Sarah.

Entering the bathroom gingerly, I called out to her softly – more because I could barely speak properly on account of having spent the better part of the previous night retching and dry-heaving over a toilet and totally fucking my windpipes and throat, and less because she needed to be coddled as such.

Huddled behind the toilet in the semi-dark, Sarah quivered. Standing in the doorway I watched her for a moment then thought to myself: No, she needs to interact, she needs to get over this, she needs to learn to trust to forgive to move on, she needs to be OK.

Reaching behind the toilet I gently pulled her out. Hissing half-heartedly and making every attempt to “hide” herself in midair she hung, lifeless and limp in my hands. A tiny frail thing, her body shook ever so slightly. Immediately, I pulled her into my chest, she shivered more deeply and looking up at me with her wild, scared, untrusting eyes, and hissed again.

I smiled at her.

My son has a wooden stool with a carving of a giraffe on top that lives in the bathroom and he’s used it since he could walk and stand. He uses it to get into the bath, to brush his teeth, and he brings it into the kitchen for our various baking and cooking adventures. We’ve had it since he was born.

Together, Sarah and I sat on the giraffe stool. Placing her gently in my lamp I let her settle. Truthfully, she just collapsed as I’d placed her, tail underneath her body, slumped to one side, limbs haphazardly underneath, head to the side, ears flat, eyes feral.

I began talking to her then.

“It’s OK Sarah. You’re going to be OK. I know you’re scared. I know someone or something hurt you. I know you don’t want to trust anyone, but you’re safe here. I’ve got you. You’re going to be OK. It’s OK.”

Slowly, I began to stroke her head and shoulders, run my fingers along her jawline. I could feel her body tense, go rigid, unaccepting of the touch or the affection. And yet I continued.

Often, the things we believe we never needed (ever) are that which we need most. Offering acceptance, help, and understanding can be one of the hardest things in life to do, but once admitted it can mean the world, it can make all the difference.

Sarah continued to hiss softly, body still rigid, and I continued to pet her gently, speaking gently to her about being OK and accepting the help and the safety.

I started to cry.

Here was a creature broken down by humans (possibly other animals, too), by life and by circumstance. Here was a being totally and absolutely shattered in every way. Seemingly ruined beyond repair. And here I was, quite suddenly accepting that I felt entirely the same as Sarah. Together, wide-eyed, petrified, unwilling to let anyone in, trusting no one, scared of making another mistake, unsure of anything and everything.

Sobs racked my body as I sat there with this poor, wrecked cat in my lap wondering if either of us could ever truly be “saved.” For all of my “it’ll be OK Sarah” pep talks; would it be OK? Fuck, I had no idea. I had no idea if it was going to be OK or all right or even marginally tolerable.

Maybe THIS was the state I was meant to live the rest of my life in. Maybe this was the fate Sarah and I had in store; terrorized, broken, shattered. Hiding behind toilets and in bathtubs, half-heartedly hissing to warn intruders but welcoming attention in small doses. Completely and totally fucking shattered.

Sarah began to purr.

It was hard to notice at first; my own sobs were rather noisy and she’d been shaking from fear only moments before, but my hand on her small delicate chest revealed that, yes, indeed she was purring. And at that moment she tilted her head up and looked at me. Her pupils retracted ever so slightly, her ears moved upwards in the minutest way, and she looked at me, and I at her.

Broken. Shattered.

I smiled, laughed a little through tears even and scratched her chin ever so gently. The glorious chainsaw purr intensified as her eyes shut ever so slightly and her body relaxed into mine.

Heaving a deep, shuddery breath I too closed my eyes and rested my hand against Sarah’s softly vibrating chest, my fingers still tickling that sweet feline spot under her chin, while I whispered (much more defiantly now):

We are going to be OK Sarah. We got this.”

When does it stop… ?

•January 13, 2017 • 8 Comments

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I’m so done with feeling. So completely over emotions. So finished with crying and sobbing and experiencing sorrow and discomfort and loneliness.

When does it stop?

Please, tell me it stops. Tell me it fucking ends soon. I can’t function much longer in this state of OKness that suddenly and sporadically morphs into complete and utter ruin for moments, sometimes hours. It’s not healthy. It’s not productive. It’s not sustainable. At all.

If I’m honest, I think I’d be OK if just the crying fucked off.

My parents will be the first to offer up the tidbit of information that I cry; easily and a lot. Well, I used to. When I was young. Make me angry? Cry. Excite me? Cry. Surprise me? Cry. Make me ridiculously happy? You guessed it: Cry.

I was a tear machine, and it happened at the drop of a hat or compliment. And truthfully, I kind of liked it. I got my point across. It made people listen, instead of scaring them away. It opened lines of communication (with the right people) and helped me get through some pretty difficult times as a child and teen.

Yet, for a huge part of my adolescence and young adulthood, all that crying took a back burner. I hid all emotions, and myself. I was careful not to react too intensely to anything (don’t let them see the real you, don’t let them see who you really are and how you really feel … cue the Elsa “Let it Go” music, seriously).

Stay level. Stay neutral. Just keep it even and you won’t cause any problems. That was my frame of mind.

I realize now how fucked up that way of thinking is. How horrible it was for me. How restrictive and contained it all was. I think all that pent up emotion and character were the reason my life took the turn it did.

After that sudden turn, suddenly, all my emotions were out. Good, bad, neutral, weird, enlightened, dumb … there they were.

It felt free and amazing and terrifying and hard all at once. I had no idea how to deal with this openness. I lost friends, lovers, potential relationships, alienated coworkers and acquaintances because finally I was speaking my mind, expressing myself, and being open.

But not in the right way. I was just letting EVERYTHING cascade out of me. Without filter, without control. Mainly because I didn’t know how to reign it all in. Not at all.

Recently, I feel that lack of control again. Not because I don’t know how to keep my emotions in check, because I really do at this point. I’ve had a few years of complete openness and enough emotional up and down to teach me how to really survive through this onslaught of feelings.

No, this time is different. And I can’t explain it. But, please, when will it stop?

The past few months I’ve tried my very best to go about my daily business as per the norm. Work, motherhood, time for me, events, going out … and no matter what, my brain is on high-emotion alert.

I’ve, on more than one occasion, excused myself from a conversation so I can sob quietly in a bathroom stall for a few moments before I can gather myself. Ask anyone who’d been talking to me, and there was no indication that I was upset or on the verge of tears.

And the fucked up thing is, I’m not even aware that I am.

It just happens. This swell of incredibly deep, profound emotion. Like nothing I’ve ever felt before in my life. Ever. It’s both impressive and horrible all at once. I don’t know what to do with myself most of the time.

This evening, while getting ready for bed, I suddenly found myself incapacitated in the hallway, curled up on the floor, sobbing into my knees. I can’t quite explain how it happened. Music was playing, perhaps a lyric jogged a memory or a smell or a thought , but it was enough for my emotions to completely take over before my brain even knew what was happening.

I’ve experienced loss before. This isn’t abnormal for me. It’s not my first rodeo, not at all. I’ve lost plenty of people in my life either by personal choice, their choice, death or circumstance. But this. This I don’t know what to do with.

And I don’t know why.

When does it stop?

I want to not cry randomly at traffic lights. I want to actually laugh out loud and not feel tears welling in my eyeballs as I chuckle. I want to not suddenly have to heave a great shuddering sigh when I’m making a coffee at work. I want to not have to walk away from a conversation suddenly because I feel tears rising. I want to not have to stop in the middle of a run to bend over and opening sob.

I want to be OK. When will it stop? When will I be OK?

 

Forgotten

•December 22, 2016 • 1 Comment

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How do you deal with being forgotten? Being brushed aside and just left to be with the rest of everyday occurrences after you were, for a short time at least, priority…

As we move through life at a horrendous clip, it’s easiest to feel forgotten. For all the emotions and heartache we all may feel as individuals, the notion of being abandoned, forgotten, pushed aside, left by the side of the road; that might just be the strongest.

Why?

I’d like to think I know … digital distractions? Life too full? Hands amputated and vocal cords stolen?

But then I have a moment of clarity and reality: As a society and a people we have become much less tolerant of “useless” relationships.

Don’t answer a text/email/post quickly enough: done. Refuse to tag me in a photo we took together? Dead to me. Don’t follow me back on IG? Well, why the fuck did I even talk to you? Digital relationships are so complex these days, I don’t even pretend to comprehend them. But these relationships leave more people forgotten than ever before.

Do I think it’s right? Absolutely not. But it’s a reality we need to adjust to today.

Having been married, I fully understand what it means to move on. I do. And perhaps my situation was unique since I moved on while we were still in our “relationship.” But that doesn’t mean the notion that we were eventually going to forget one another was there …

I’ve not had a great number of ex-boyfriends. In fact, I can count them on one hand …. and it would require less than half the fingers on that hand. Doesn’t make the “forgetting” process any easier.

And, wait, hang on … I say “forgetting process” but fuck me, I better not be the only one trying to forget here. I struggle with it on a daily basis; being an adult about it, not reaching out, being civil, not crying every time a certain song comes on, holding my shit together when I see a pic of said ex with another blonde on some god-awful social media site. I struggle. But do they?

There’s the real demon of today’s reality. There is no “forgetting” because they’re there every day, all the time. Online. There with someone new. Smiling. Happy. Moved one. Surviving without you, the forgotten one. Living their life. And as much as you want to look away, you can’t . Because you’re in the ether. You’re in the outskirts, the darkness. And so you watch .. dying a little more inside each day.

Forgotten.

Today, I handed over a foster cat to a transport company so he could journey to his forever home. I’ve had this cat for over 4 weeks now.

The day I picked up said cat (Oliver), I also picked up my then long-distance boyfriend from the airport… for those who follow this blog (bless you), know that the weekend with the then-boyfriend didn’t quite go as planned.

Oliver was a constant reminder of the past. Every time I looked at that cat I saw a human him. And yet that didn’t make me love Oliver any less. In fact, it made me want to continue to make him happy. To love him. To keep him content. To make him remember.

I didn’t want to be the forgotten caregiver.

When I handed Oliver over today, I quickly returned to my car and I cried. A lot. Not because I would miss his presence in the condo (because, really, he stressed out my two girl cats and caused one to have a UTI and was always knocking stuff over and sloshing water from the water-bowl on the floor…), but because I felt like that that was it …. the final connection between someone I’d loved more than I thought I could love another individual and  I was done — no more. He’d played with Oliver. Cuddled him. Fed him cheese. Asked about his well-being even after he’d left us. Now Oliver was gone.

Forgotten.

Everyone hopes they’re worthy of a memory, a glimmer of a story, a daydream. We all want to be thought of at some point. But how do we know we are?

Over the years I’ve learned that holding shit in is just not good for anyone. If I think about you, dream about you, feel love/hate towards you; I’m gonna tell you. I wish more people were like that, if I’m honest. Most hold it all inside till the “right moment.”

That “right moment” isn’t ever going to happen. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

No one wants to be forgotten.

I’m the first to admit that I recently posted a quote saying, “Sometimes we survive by forgetting.” I don’t disagree. Forgetting is an absolute gem when trying to forget a certain time or occurrence in your life.  But I can’t forget the people involved.

Don’t let the universe make you forgettable, but don’t be so available that you become insignificant.

To the girl whose heart is absolutely breaking

•November 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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Your heart will heal.

That’s the thing about love and relationships, they involve human beings. Human beings are fickle and funny and they can change their minds and their feelings at any moment. They’re full of emotions, and even if they don’t properly express them, they’re there. Always bubbling at the surface, ready to explode.

Ticking emotional time-bombs. That’s what we all are. That’s what you are.

And you’ve exploded.

The immense hurt you feel now, it will pass. I promise you this. Sure, you have no fucking idea how to deal with it all at the moment and you feel completely helpless, lost and so confused, but it will pass. Please believe me. Don’t shake your head, it will happen. You can move past this.

All the emptiness and pain you feel right now, it means what you had was real. It means it meant something, at least to you. Imagine you felt nothing at all? Imagine you simply left him at the airport feeling nothing? Imagine you didn’t cling to each other, not wanting to let go, either of you? Would that really be an better?

I know you want the emotions to stop. I know you want the tears to stop flowing, but you need to embrace them. Each one is there to remind you of a good memory, a happy time, and is teaching you a lesson, a lesson in love you’d not have learned had you not experienced everything you had.

Embrace the hurt.

Don’t shut down like you want to. Don’t block out the world. Don’t beg for numbness. It won’t make any of this easier. I know you think it will, but it won’t. Don’t you remember how that went the first time? The first time you lost yourself? Don’t go back there, please.

Your heart will heal.

I know you’re worried about him. I know you still care. I know you still love him, and that’s OK. You’re allowed. In fact, I encourage it. He helped you become who you are today, a better you, a more complete you. Take those tears currently streaming down your already swollen cheeks and remember the times he helped you evolve. And be forever grateful he was a part of your life.

I’m glad you don’t regret it. You don’t regret him or opening up the way you did. That makes me content, content to know you won’t look back on it all and cringe. At each stage you’re glad you made the decisions you did, because had you not you never would have felt the happiness you did at one point. Remember that. Hold on to that. Never let that go. Ever.

But, stop questioning yourself, overall. You couldn’t have known. You couldn’t have predicted the pain in the end, and even if you thought you could have, would you have stopped yourself from loving him and embarking on the journey? No, I didn’t think so.

You were each what the other needed in those moments, at the time in your lives. Emotionally, physically, mentally; the universe knew you were meant to be in those moments. And that moment has passed. That moment is gone. Vanished.

Your heart will heal.

Stop thinking about the time and effort invested; relationships aren’t bank accounts. You can’t pay into them every month and rely on the growing total to predict the overflowing account of the future. Just because effort was made, doesn’t mean the end result will be positive.

Remember; humans aren’t predictable. Not at all. In fact they are quite the opposite.

Please don’t be afraid to love again. Please know it won’t always be like this. Please know that the pain you feel now really is worth it, and that it will help the next time round.

I’ll take all the swearing as a sign you’re really not prepared to discuss the “next time round.” And that’s fine. Take time for you. For yourself. For your well being, for your emotions to heal, for your head to clear, and for you to really feel complete.

I know you feel like your in bits and pieces. Like you’ve shattered and can never be repaired. I’m here to tell you that you can and will be whole again.

When?

I wish I knew, and I know you do, too. Will it be easy? Nope. Not at all. Will it hurt? Like a motherfucker. Will it be worth it? You bet your ass it will.

I know it seems a distant memory, but I told you all this months ago. I reminded you that even though you gave everything, all of you, every ounce, that sometimes it’s just not meant to be. That sometimes life has other plans and that’s not where you’re meant to be, no matter how deeply you feel you should be.

I also told you to stop crying. Because, really, what is that solving? Absolutely fucking nothing. So stop. It just makes your eyes swell and your cheeks puff out. Plus your makeup runs. Come on, you’re better than that.

Your heart will heal, and you’ll pull through. You always do.

Sincerely,

The girl whose heart is absolutely breaking

xx

It was what it was (Part II)

•October 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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I’ve already openly admitted to not knowing a god damn thing about relationships. Even after the year-plus I’ve had with the same man through a myriad of circumstances, including a now long-distance arrangement, I still have no idea what I’m doing. At all.

Yet, somehow, we prevail.

Even after sitting through a category 4 hurricane in a boarded up condo with no electricity and no running water for 4 days following the storm.

The day Hurricane Matthew descended on Freeport, GB, I’d come to terms with what I was about to endure. I had no idea what to expect, but I felt like I was in the safest location I could be, with people I trusted and with someone I felt infinitely safe with.

Heavy rain and wind started around midday, and by late afternoon the gusts were so strong it was difficult to stick my head outside (because while I was petrified I was also extremely curious as I watched large palm trees bend and sway as if they were made of boiled spaghetti noodles). The sound of wind plowing into the boarded up windows will stay with me for quite some time. Low relentless and unsettling the wind raged for what must have been the better part of 10 hours.

We lost power around 4:30pm on Thursday, October 6th. As the lights flickered then died, something in me sparked to life: a deep but quickly rising panic. Using our still-charged cell phones we lit a few candles and prepped flashlights for bathroom runs. We also poured a hurricane shot (the first of many) of caffeine-laced Patron (a drink I truly never want to have again).

As I nervously perched myself on the loveseat listening to exterior objects bending, breaking, smashing, and moving, a familiar outstretched arm and an inviting chest welcomed me, comforted me and calmed me. Resting my head on his chest I could instead focus on the rhythmic beat of a heart I trusted and loved instead of the uncertain and chaotic sounds raging outside our boarded-up windows.

Often, it’s the smallest gestures that have the largest impact. I used to think this was a horribly cliched thing to say, but I’ve come to realize this is very, very true. Words are meaningless and empty if not backed up by actions. A hand caressing a nervously twitching foot; the brushing back of wild hair that’s been shaken loose from earlier explorations outside in the wild, wild wind; a stolen kiss before venturing into the darkness for a drink or a bathroom break, just to let me know he cares… in those moments I needed all of that more than he might ever realize.

I also needed the companionship and distraction while Hurricane Matthew raged outside.

Before the storm really started to rage, the boys pointed out that our balcony door plywood doors had a perfectly placed and sized knot in the wood that could, potentially, be knocked out as a peephole. We, the rational females, vehemently disagreed and argued that it would weaken the protection of the plywood and should not be done.

A few hours into isolation and about 4-5 glasses of wine in, and I think I personally handed the boyfriend the hammer myself to knock out the knot and offer us a glimpse into the world of Hurricane Matthew and what was happening (with a step, of course, so my minuscule self could actually see out the opening).

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For the first time, as a writer, I’m truly at a loss of words to describe what it was like to sit through the seemingly endless hours of Hurricane Matthew. To tell you what it sounded like. What it felt like. The thoughts going through my brain. The emotions.

I can’t.

Let me use a few choice adjectives/nouns/words: Nightmare, dream, hell, terror, panic, unknown, petrified, terror, horror, disbelief, amazement, shock, thrill, anxiety, high, illusion, panic.

That night — with Hurricane Matthew raging outside our building — could have gone one of two ways; I was either going to prevail, and be OK (likely rather drunk in order to deal with it all) or I was going to end up curled up in a ball in the corner of the washroom bawling my eyes out in sheer fear and panic.

That night, when we finally retired to our respective rooms, I was most definitely pleasantly buzzed.

Wine.Beer. Caffeine Patron. It had all been consumed, and often, as the winds increased in speeds, and the deafening sounds raged on. Drinking became the best way to deal. The method with which I diluted the seriousness and scariness of it all.

Laying in bed, windows boarded up, zero air moving in the room, and the temp hovering at likely close to the 40-degree Celsius mark, all I wanted was to be held. And he knew that. Or maybe he wanted to be close too.

Perhaps it was a case of both being fragile, unknowing and petrified at what was happening outside our boarded up bedroom window. Despite the heat and sweat, we wrapped ourselves up together as close as we could get that night. Held tight. Breathed deep. Supported. I focused on his breathing, his heartbeat, and his presence as the hurricane beat down on the condo around us outside, and I’d like to think he did the same for me. Fingers intertwined we melted into each other (quite literally). Nothing needed to be said. Nothing voiced. We knew. We felt. We understood.

****

I woke to the sound of birds. Birds and silence. No light. Not breeze. No indication that it was morning, daylight. But birds. I heard creatures and not terrible, soul-wrenching howling wind.

Prodding the body beside me, I implored him to hear what I did. Yes. Birds. Stillness. The storm had passed.

Jumping out of bed in, essentially, what we’d gone to sleep in, we rushed to clamber into a car, blissfully untouched by the storm, and explore the island. What was left of it. What was tangible. What was real.

You know when you wake up in the morning and have that foggy, gooey stuff in your eyes, that stuff you can’t blink away? I felt like that was how I spent most of that first day after Hurricane Matthew. Blinking away the fog. Trying to clear my vision, to comprehend that what I was seeing was, indeed, real life. All of it.

Fuck.

….

It is what is it (Part I)

•October 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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There are very few times in my existence when I’ve been legitimately scared for my life. In fact, I can really only think of two instances: Once on an extremely hairy and bumpy plane ride somewhere over the Lower North Shore in Quebec where we were told by the captain to assume the “brace for impact” position so as to keep our bodies from flopping around; and again when I was in Africa and mere feet away from an adolescent “teen” elephant who was standing directly in front of our open-air Land Cruiser on safari, staring and flapping his ears in a “warning” manner as we all held our collective breath and waited for him to pass.

Otherwise, any “scared for my life” moment has just been an overly exaggerated experience where, sure, I was afraid for a short time and likely felt my pulse quicken and my palms get sweaty, but all in all deep down I knew I was safe the entire time.

Then I went to the Bahamas for a weekend getaway.

I count myself extremely lucky to live the life I do. Sometimes, I take a moment and reflect on what I’ve accomplished, where I’ve been, who I’ve met, and the things I’ve been able to do and experience and I take a deep breath and think, “Wow.” I am so very, very thankful for it all. I know it’s not all luck, as I work so very hard to be where I am and do what I do, but I’m still thankful. For everything and everyone in my life.

So, when I had the opportunity to fly down south to not only spend some time in the sun, but to spend it with someone I love and who I only get to see every few months, who was I to say no?

So, I went.

As a Canadian, I’ve experienced my fair share of winter storms. Howling winds, blowing snow that makes it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of you, and treacherous icy surfaces. I’ve also driven, walked, taken the bus, and flown in all of those conditions without hesitation.

Ask any 30-something-year-old or older Canadian where they were during the Ice Storm of ’98 and they’ll likely have a pretty awesome story to tell. With month-long electricity black-outs, destroyed buildings and cars due to downed trees (from the sheer weight of the ice caked on), the Ice Storm was a doozie. Personally, we only lost power for 5-6 days from what I remember. And while my parents and I were decidedly stinky and cranky from lack of cooked meals and showers, plus we kept running to generator-run malls for heat, I never feared for my life.

I thought I was OK with bad weather.

I thought wrong, very wrong.

Halfway through my weekend getaway down south, and a few days before I was due to leave the Bahamas and head home, the boyfriend suddenly burst into his apartment where I was prepping myself for our dinner date and simply stated, “You need to leave. Now.”

A multitude of thoughts rushed through my brain, first of which was: Oh God, what have you done, Miranda? How did it all go downhill so quickly? I knew you’d fuck it up. Figures it would happen while you were here. What did you say? Did he say something? Did you miss something? WHAT’S HAPPENING?

My brain really isn’t the best place to be most of the time…

Instead of asking him a question that would have undoubtedly thrown us into an unnecessary conversation as nothing was the matter with us, I simply tilted my head to the side in the typical inquisitive puppy-dog style.

“Hurricane Matthew is headed straight for us in the next few days. We need to get you off this island. NOW.”

The thing is, we knew the hurricane was in the “area.” Well, when I first landed on Grand Bahamas he hadn’t even touched Haiti yet. We knew he was large, and we knew he was moving slowly, but we weren’t sure where or when he would turn. So we took a chance.

At the time it seemed like a good idea. But when I think about it now, the risk truly was great. The days leading up to that, we’d watched Hurricane Matthew build in size and intensity via various weather apps. We’d even joked about me being stuck on the island and how horrendous the storm would be when it hit. It was a fantasy, a that’ll-never-happen-to-me thought.

Fuck, I should have known better.

From the airport to the phone with the airline carrier I was to fly home with, we desperately tried to arrange for me to leave the island as soon as possible, to get me home with Owen and safe from the storm.

Truthfully, I was upset at having to leave early. I didn’t understand how dire the situation was. I felt like we were overreacting. Like, if Canada could withstand the winter storms we do, surely a hurricane would be OK.

Looking back on how I was those days leading up to the storm, I was so god damn naive about it all. And while I was due to fly out on an early morning flight the day before Hurricane Matthew was to hit Freeport, GB, my flight home connected through Miami and they shut their airport down in anticipation of the storm and so screwed me out of an escape.

I was trapped.

I went to the grocery store to collect provisions (food for the next few days when we’d undoubtedly lose power and running water, but had access to a BBQ). I felt like I was in some sort of end-of-days movie. The parking lot was teaming with people, and inside the grocery store there were even more patrons. Shelves were stripped bare. It was difficult to navigate aisles, and finding stuff in a store I was already unfamiliar with became damn near impossible.

Like a deer caught in the headlights all I could do was stumble up and down the aisles looking at food I knew not what to do with. Fruit and veggies seemed like the right choice, but without a fridge and in 30-degree+ weather and no AC, how long would they last? Protein is necessary to stay strong and healthy and survive, but meat needs to be refrigerated, too.

With my cart holding only bottled water, eggs, peanut butter, bread, bagels, and bananas, I felt like a complete idiot. And as I stood in front of the granola bar shelves trying to choose the best “hurricane survival flavour” a light tap on my arm made me jump.

“I coulda snatched ya phone and ya wallet. Ya don’t wanna be leavin’ them there like that, miss,” said a decidedly very tall, very muscular and very tattooed local in a basketball shirt and shorts as he walked passed me, gesturing towards my belongings I’d left in the top part of the car while I gazed stupidly at useless granola bars.

I’m often surprised by the kindness of strangers. And with well over $500 USD cash, and various credit cars etc. in my purse, he could very well have made off with all of it, along with my iPhone6. But he didn’t. I think he saw the fear and confusion on my face. I’d like to think he pitied me in that moment. And I will be forever thankful I looked as pathetic as I did in that grocery store aisle that afternoon.

With my absolutely useless groceries acquired, I made my way back to the apartment to make sure I’d packed up all our belongings properly and entirely as we would not be staying in the ground-level, close-t0-the-beach location when ocean swells were set to hit 15-20ft in height.

Earlier that afternoon as I’d folded all our clothes and placed them in their respective suitcases, it still hadn’t hit me what I was actually doing. It kind of felt like we were simply going away for a weekend. When I thought about how I was packing to keep all our belongings safe from the hurricane destruction that would ensue, I felt silly. I may have even chuckled at the thought; again thinking it was all a bit extreme. All a bit too much.

The morning before Hurricane Matthew was due to hit, I was on the beach. Blazing sunlight, clear blue skies, and a gorgeous turquoise ocean lay before me. As I waded into the ocean, floating on my back, face turned up to the open sky I thought, “Is this really going to be the last time I experience this beach like this? Is it really all going to be gone by tomorrow? Disfigured by the storm? Is that what nature is really like?”

And as a wave engulfed me and I spluttered on salt water that burned my nostrils and eyes, my immediate thought was, “Yeah, nature can be a bit of an asshole sometimes, especially when you’re not prepared.”

I wasn’t prepared.

I mentioned the kindness of strangers above, and it is indeed that kindness that got me through my first hurricane. Not strangers to my other half, but to me. The couple we shacked up with to stay safe from the storm are very much the reason I made it through the experience the way I did. I will be forever in their debt and grateful for them and how they opened up their home to us.

A home with fully boarded up windows. Plywood covered every opening of the second-story condo unit, save for the door. When I first saw it, I found it almost comical. And theirs was the only unit with such precautions taken. The only one. Again, I found it all a bit much. Come on, it was just going to be a bit of wind and rain, right?

Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti as a category 4 storm, and as it passed over Cuba it downgraded to a 3, however, as it moved up to hit the Bahamas it intensified back to a category 4.

These numbers meant absolutely nothing to me a few weeks ago. In fact, I never considered hurricanes if I’m honest or tornadoes for that matter. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Perhaps naive or ignorant of me, but I felt more concerned with how many feet of snow might fall during any given snowstorm or how hot a summer day was going to be. Nothing more. Silly Canadian.

There are only 5 stages to a hurricane, and a category 5 is complete annihilation. Decimation and leveling of homes, trees, land, and people. You do not come out of a category 5 hurricane unscathed. And a category just below that was baring down on us.

This all became glaringly true the evening before the storm hit. As I sat in a bar drinking entirely too much beer to drown an ever-growing fear of the storm I was trying desperately to ignore, I’d just said good night to Owen via FaceTime.

And it hit me.

My little boy is miles and miles away from me. I’m trapped on this island. There’s a category 4 hurricane coming. I don’t know when I’ll see him again. Talk to him again. Hug him again. This shit is real. This is no joke.

Cue hyperventilation and crying. In a bar. With a beer in my hand.

I told you, being in my brain is not at all a fun place to be most of the time.

Again, the kindness of strangers “saved” me in that moment. The owner of the bar we were excessively drinking at is owned by a Canadian. He immediately swooped in, took me to his office, sat me on his couch and talked me down.

“Listen, I’ve been here 17 years. I’ve seen plenty of storms and a few hurricanes. We always make it through. Nothing major is going to happen. You’ll be fine. We’ll all be fine. Sure it’s a big one, but you’ve got a safe place to stay. It is what it is.”

 

Aging vs. Adulting

•September 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

do-not-regret-growing-older

I’m very quickly approaching my mid-30s. Like rapidly. Lightening-quick, fast approaching them. Like where-the-fuck-did-the-time-go coming up on them. As in, I feel like I just hit my mid-20s and OMG what have I done with my life? My 33rd birthday is literally around the corner.

And I’m oddly calm about it. Kind of.

I feel like I just celebrated my 25th — because for the longest time I was perpetually 25. And I promise it wasn’t some female logic that I was forever going to celebrate my 25th birthday. No, it really was that every time someone asked me my age till I was about 29 that the first thing to pop out of my mouth was, “I’m 25!” Those who knew me would give me odd, WTF looks or call me out on it immediately, then mock me for not wanting to age.

That wasn’t it at all.

I have no issue with aging, truly I don’t. It’s not getting older that freaks me out, it’s what comes with the number that scares the shit out of me. Completely terrifies me, actually. Age is honestly just an arbitrary number, and you can either let it define and control you or you can embrace how you feel as a person, as a soul.

A few days ago, my family lost someone. Someone we all loved a great deal. Someone who, according to the numbered age on his license, was still young, was still in his prime, still had so many years to go. His death was sudden. It was unexpected. It rocked us all. Shock is an understatement.

And it made me realize how fucking useless age as a number is.

Ricky lived in the moment. He didn’t live as an about-to-turn-62-year-old is “supposed” to. The morning of the day he passed away, he ran 12km. He had recently kick-started his health, started taking better care of himself. He often attended concerts, art festivals, cultural gatherings. If you looked through his 5,000-odd Facebook friends you’d see ages ranging from early 20s right up to, well, I’m not even sure. But the age range is there. And they all loved him. All connected with him. All have amazing stories to tell about how Rick touched their lives.

Age is a number. Whether Ricky had been 32, 42 or the 62 he was meant to be, he still would have been “too young” to leave us when he did. His spirit, his passion, and the way he lived his life makes his death so incredibly sad and horrible and makes us use the phrase, “He was so young.”

How do you want to live your life? Passionately? Without regrets? With a smile on your face and a happy heart? With confidence and strength and compassion?

I dunno about you, but that’s how I want to live.

How you live your life is so important. It’s taken me long enough to realize this, and as I’m about to enter my 33rd year, never has it been made more clear than in the wake of Ricky’s passing.

I always joke about not being able to adult properly. Paying bills, keeping my house clean, being responsible in general (as in taking out the recycling more than once every 3 months and actually owning a plunger), it’s all a challenge to me. Is it because I’m not mature enough? Because I’m not old enough? Do these skills magically kick in when I turn 33? 35? Or maybe not till 43? I doubt it.

No, that’s not it at all.

Instead of chastising myself for not washing my floors every few weeks or for eating pita and dip over the sink for dinner after Owen’s gone to bed instead of all the major food groups or for leaving my laundry till I’ve got three or four massive basket loads full, I should celebrate my lack of adulting.

I have perspective.

Instead of spending the day washing my floors and cooking a three course dinner my child and I very likely wouldn’t even have eaten, we spent the day with family, then the evening in the park running through sand, chasing each other up and down hills and swinging on swing-sets while we sang Mary Poppin’s tunes.

What’s more important; laundry or spending time with my son? What am I more passionate about?

Now, I’m not at all criticizing or chastising the parent/mother/father/caregiver who spends a great deal of time doing all those adult things during the day, putting those things first so they have a clean and tidy home. Not at all! In fact, I applaud those people and are slightly envious.

Adulting is hard. It’s about priorities and perspective, and passion.

This past weekend put a lot of things into perspective for me. It taught me that life is fucking short, so fucking short. No matter what numbered age you get to, it’s never going to be enough.

Not to sound extreme, but none of us have time to waste. Want that job? Apply for it. Always wanted to travel? Find a way to do it and get to that destination you’ve always dreamt of. Have feelings for someone, love them even? Tell them. Failure is part of the experience. It helps you grow. Makes you stronger. Makes you more driven for the next attempt.

I don’t want to be that person the survivors talk about in terms of, “Oh, she always wanted to do that, too bad she never got the chance.” Or “Aw, she was so looking forward to maybe one day experiencing that… guess that won’t happen now.”

Over the past few years, I’ve pretty much grabbed life by the balls and really lived life the way I want to, the way I need to. I’m much more confident in myself, my needs, my wants and my desires. And most of those centre around my son and keeping him happy, but they also have to do with my career and more recently my love life. We all deserve happiness. We all deserve to live passionately and do the things we’ve dreamt about.

Even if that means putting adulting on hold for a bit.

As I start another year of aging in a few days, I’m not so sure my adulting skills will improve, but I know for damn sure I’m changing my perspective, my priorities, and I am going to do my very best to live every moment to its fullest.