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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

With much expectation...40.

After a lovely long weekend with Warren (thoughtful gifts, a surprise bed and breakfast trip, a little surprise celebration at my sisters' apartment) I am 40 years old today.

I thought I would/should have something incredibly witty, insightful and profound to say about this milestone. In fact, I had very much planned to. I'm sure that I planned my profound Turning Forty journal/blog entry all year long, as a matter of fact.

But I do not have those things to say. At all. Curious.

For as long as I can recall, I've used occasions like birthdays, Christmas/Solstice and the New Year as starting points for all these fabulous changes and improvements. I've spent most of my life trying to arrive at some elusive point of perfection, where I would be perfectly loved by all, entirely clear and focused and successful (having done everything I have ever said that I wanted to do by the time I was 40, of course).

I expected that turning 40 meant that I was going to come into a Promised Land where I could finally be completely free of anxiety or regret, and be somehow, totally self-actualized. I more than half-expected some sort of peak experience.

You know what? It simply has not worked out that way.

I was going to write these big huge letters to people I've known, loved, and lost, affirming their significance to me. I was going to carefully place everyone and myself, through my words, into some sort of emotional chart. I was going to review everything about my life and I was going to stick a great big red pushpin on where exactly I find myself at this moment in time. And I was going to draw a comparison between my age and all the cultural symbolism of 40 years.

It ain't happening.

It seems a great deal more energy-efficient (on many levels) to simply...let it go. Not to become apathetic, but to just stop striving to be something all the time. It's too damn hard.

I'm here, now, and I'm thankful to Life that I'm alive and well. I'm engaged to a beautiful, wonderful man, my children are healthy and relatively happy, and I'm realizing my dream of living in Montréal while getting an education. I may not be as glorious and as fabulous and as airbrushed as I was in my fantasies, but I think I can be okay with that.

Wow. That almost sounds like equanimity.

I'd ponder that more, but I've got about 15 minutes to get dressed and out the door.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thinking about slow

I've been reading (in fits and starts) Carl Honoré's In Praise of Slow (when I get the chance, and, er, yes, I know how ironic that is). I'm still quite early in the book, but it's quite readable and it's stoking a fire in my belly.

The chapter I'm in right now is about the Slow Food Movement, and how timely it is. I've struggled for years with eating for convenience or compulsion, and increasingly I've realized (when I have lucid moments) how little I'm actually enjoying food. How little thought I put into what I'm snarfing. How terribly rushed it all is.

Since moving to Montréal almost three years ago, I've been exposed to a somewhat different approach to gastronomy than I ever experienced in Toronto or anywhere I lived in British Columbia. There's a definite sense of discernment and a pride in the quality of good food and wine—which is absolutely necessary in a city that has such an abundance of restaurants.

Happily, we live within a few blocks of Jean-Talon Market , which is an open-air farmer's market in Little Italy. Warren and I have grown in appreciation of better fruits, vegetables and cheese to the point where we have an actual aversion to purchasing these items at a large supermarket.

To be completely honest, this market is my absolute favorite things about living in Montréal. Seriously. It has, in fact, influenced me when I've thought about whether or not I can really live here forever. I may feel at times (usually in the winter) that I want to move back to the west coast (for the mild weather, proximity to the ocean, and the lack of language politics), but...leave the JT Market? It honestly gives me pause. I mean, come on. I just cannot eat Black Diamond cheese anymore. I have to get the 2 year-old Cheddar from the Fromagerie down the street (Lah-de-dah, you say!).

Anyways, I do have more that I wish to say about this topic, but, alas, it's getting on in the morning, and I must get myself and the kids ready to leave for school. I think I'll have some poached free-range eggs and a red, red tomato, sliced

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gratitude can't hurt

I've been having an especially hard time with anxiety over the last number of months. With the impending glorious entry into my Forties (6 weeks from now? Already?) I'm determined not let that demon creep into what I consider to be power years and hang around like a bad smell (I'm not talking about normal fears and worries that all of us deal with. I'm talking about debilitating anxiety that interferes with work, school, relationships and health).

(Fear is the mind-killer...

The things that scare me the most (illness, loss, kids coming to harm, planet implosion, the evil that humans do, etc.) simply will not be staved off with a glib statement of "oh, that probably won't happen me/someone I love". Maybe it will, or maybe it won't. Maybe whether or not it happens is besides the point.

Either way, there's something really counterproductive about thinking obsessively on the Maybe. Daily. Repetitively. Intrusively.

The only worthwhile answer I can think of is to find gratitude in what good I experience daily.


I think I'll start with, as an act of the will, being grateful for how my anxiety forces me to grow and to seek out answers.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


1. I passed my second exam!
2. I registered for my course!

On March 25, 2009, I begin a course, 1.5 years in length, that, once completed, will earn me a college certificate in Graphic Design!

I'm very, very excited.

Because I have had to jump through numerous hoops (due to being on E.I.), I'm left somewhat frayed at the edges. I have one more meeting with the government agent to get the final stamp of approval for the funding, but I was reassured today by the counselor at the school that all would be well - this, she said, is due process for all students on E.I. She telephoned my agent just to be sure that all was in order, so, now that I am passed and registered and paid for, I think, I think, I think I should be able to exhale and actually allow myself to be unreservedly excited about this!

Now, for the upcoming weeks: lots of yoga and walks, journalling and reading, a spring cleaning all the way around, and plenty of healing and restorative time with myself. I really feel that I need that.

Finding the Good Space (January 26 2009)

For the last few weeks I've been preparing for the two entry exams for the Graphic Design course that I've been wanting to get into full-time. Between learning completely new material and juggling other demands of the administrative, official and teenagerly sort, I've been increasingly...distracted. I don't know about anyone else but it seems to me that staying centered doesn't come naturally to me.

Perhaps it is true, as so many in my life have observed, that I am way too hard on myself. I tend to think that I am not being hard enough. There are things that I want to accomplish and I keep thinking that if I just kick my own ass harder that I'll get those things done. This ends up being counter-productive as I simply end up slapping myself around in ways that I would never, ever think to do to anyone else.

Without realizing it, I've slid bit by bit into a mild winter depression. Being unemployed for the last five months while feeling somewhat trapped in the apartment (because of the weather) has provided a quietly fertile breeding ground for an insidious mildewy inertia of the soul. I'm a bit bored and lonely and I don't have the momentum I want.

The other day I had the first (and most difficult) of my two exams. The morning started out unhappily as I had a mother-daughter encounter of the confrontational kind. The few hours I had to spend preparing before the test were a bit rattly and rickety and taken up with pacing and shuffling and a phone conversation with my daughter's school regarding discipline issues that are longstanding and exhausting. Writing the exam itself was strangely the most focused and emotionally restful portion of my day - likely because I was fully engaged in this event that I had been preparing for.

When I returned home, there was an emotionally charged situation that provided the spark for a full-scale core meltdown which lasted over twenty-four hours. I didn't fully "pop" until I had one of the worst panic attacks that I'd had in years - almost 30 hours after my exam. I couldn't breathe and came completely unglued.

The fallout from those emotional/chemical storms is as bad (if not worse) than the anxiety and panic attacks on their own. Translation: I have a panic attack, then I feel ashamed enough to want to die from the shame of having come unglued - especially if there's been an audience. It's a vicious cycle, one that I have a hard time disengaging from.

This is where I get into trouble with myself: I know that these panic attacks can be prevented, so when I have them, I blame myself for being foolish enough to let it happen, or worse, to bring them on myself.

At any rate, the storm has subsided and I can breathe again. Warren is fine (despite battling a brutal winter flu) and the kids are completely unaffected.

I'm still shaken, though, and there's work to do before I can feel "better", or more like myself - at least the Self that I am comfortable with. While I believe in "the power of Now", and in being in the moment, I still must work on it at times. I would like it to come as naturally as breathing.

And why should I think that there is any part of me that deserves anything else but acceptance and edifying treatment (as opp0sed to unfettered self-indulgence)? If I'm feeling run down, the last thing I should do is continue tearing down. If I need to apply myself more diligently to anything at this point, it should be to loving myself the way I love my partner and my children, and with the same amount of grace that is extended to me.

Anyways. These words are part of how I feel my way around, checking the spaces, and finding where to sit and rest and be. At some point, though, the words must cease. Words can help - or they can be so much noise.

In the end, it all comes back to being able to breathe.

I can do that.