A Humble Realisation and A Great Outcome.

28 02 2009

I used to hate it when skiers talked to each other in my presence. I used to almost seethe at their wide-eyed excited stance, hands splayed open in exclamation of either: they had just gone skiing or were planning on skiing or were you going skiing or how was the skiing or the skiing was epic and on and on and on. Powder this, sunny slopes that, amazing, awesome yada yada yada….. They would always be horrified, mouths wide open when I revealed that I didn’t ski. A part of me would bristle at their horror and enthusiastic recruiting. It sort of felt like I was the only sane person in a gathering of scientologists. As if they needed to coerce me, to drag me into their fucked up cult. To pound into me how much fun it was.

I had tried skiing two times in my early twenties. Unproductive silliness really. Going with friends who would rather laugh at my expense then nurture a possible passion in me. (Really, I can’t say I blame them, since I fell numerous times much to my friend’s delight…) So it never really lit that spark for me, and I never pursued it.

Part of who I am, you see, is a fearful person. Psycho-babble aside, I have always been a reluctant sort of girl, more worried about appearance and opinions of others and my own possible failure at any new and daunting task at hand. I was always too wrapped up in the what if’s of the pessimistic outcomes rather than embracing wholeheartedly the possibility of success. Without going into my own crazy-ass psyche, I will just say that I am not generally an adventurous person. I mean, it’s getting a little easier for me as I grow older, but these imaginary limits are always there in my mind.

So this year, my son decides he wants to ski for Winter Activities through the school. *GULP* Right. So, at first, I shanghai a friend to ski with Nick for me. I settle for not skiing at all. Because the fear and trepidation of the mere idea of me doing something out of my own realm of ability was a real knee-knocker…. But then, wait a minute, I think to myself.  My son will see me not taking a chance, he will bear witness to me sitting on the side lines, not breaking out of my own comfort zone. He would quite possibly be disappointed in me. That I would rather NOT doing the very things that I continuously encourage him to embrace.

Needless to say, it was an awesome wake-up call for me.

I still was petrified putting on those skiis. I was a bundle of nerves getting on that chair-lift. I fretted about the ramp at the top, and how I was going to make it off the chair without falling on my face. Here I was, pushing 40, and attempting to try a brand new sport, rife with the possibility of injury. Can you imagine? Oh, it was a stretch for me. But then, the most amazing thing happened. I did it. And I loved it.

I think I’m a skier now.


23 02 2009

So, the other night,  I could hear Nicholas and Elisabeth chatting with each other as they lay in their beds. It was Friday night, they had stayed up late, and were in the midst of a conversation. I could NOT resist creeping to the door and listening in on what they were talking about. I did this, not to spy of course, but to revel and enjoy their friendship from afar, since what they have together stands alone from me and my own relationships with them.  You see, they have shared a bedroom for nine years now, and in about a month, we’ll be moving back into our newly renovated home, where they will each have their very own bedroom. These nights of sharing, talking, and confiding with each other are quickly coming to a close.

I heard Nicholas telling a story to his sister. I’ll try, to the best of my recollection, to reconstruct what he said.

“This one time, Lil, I woke up real early. And when I went into the living room, Dad had left a bag of chips and a can of pop on the table.  So I ate all the chips AND drank the pop. Then I played on the computer for two hours. It was the best morning of my life.”

It was all I had to not laugh out loud and betray my snooping. It also impressed the hell out of Elisabeth. Imagine, a whole bag of potato chips AND a pop at your disposal, no bothersome parents telling you not to eat it???? And then, since your mom and dad are sleeping in, unlimited access to the computer??? When you’re 9 years old??? No doubt, the best morning of his life…

No doubt for me, it is the sweetest thing to hear my children confiding to and with eachother. These two, I hope and pray, will always have each other. Fights and disagreements aside, my son and daughter are tight. They get along really well. It thrills me, it astonishes me, it makes me cry to think of their lifelong bond that they share. For the simple fact that I am blessed to have my sibling as my best friend, I can only wish for my children to have the same blessing in their lives.

Tribal Connections.

11 02 2009

If you ask my opinion on what is missing in our society today, I would say the major component that is remarkably absent  is tribal unity. This unity, this tribal connection, this deeply rooted desire of human beings to be together, to commune, to live and love as a whole group, to stand witness to each and every delicate, fragile and ultimately so very precious life….. To stand witness of birth, life, and death.

This isn’t to say that I am going to run off and join some commune in the boondocks, and live out my days farming quinoa and chanting African rhythms every Friday night and changing my name to Sunbeam. Far from it. It is to say, though, that we humans, and more specifically, we North American humans lack a very basic component in our day-to-day life. To live as a whole unit with our fellow human beings.

And no where is it more apparent to me, than in our entrustment of our old people. Gone are the days of the obligation of taking in our elders, into our own homes and caring for them to their death. Hell no… We are quick to shuttle them to homes, we are hesitant to trust our own instincts to care and nurture for these people who sometimes have deep-rooted wisdom and family ties. We are sometimes incapable of coming to aid those who need it most. Jobs, children, lack of space in our homes, divorce, finances. All reasons, all valid reasons, yes. But did the very same people  100 years ago have some, if not many of the same reasons? Perhaps they did… And yet, Grandpa would come to live with his oldest son after his wife passed away. Aunt Martha, the spinster, would pack her bags and move to her great-niece’s house to stay the summer, and never leave. Grown children would foster these elders, and in return would reap the benefits ten-fold sometimes. An on-hand babysitter whenever was necessary. Someone to help with the laundry. A story teller to charm the children on snowy evenings.

I am sure many of these live-in situations were responsible for family arguments, long term resentments, and bitterness. The drudgery of illness, the animosity of crotchety family members, the accountability of caring for someone so frail and yet so benignly petulant probably made many women and men alike regret the decision to care for these people.

And yet, who are we to forsake these Elders? We all know, in Native ways, the Elders were acknowledged as leaders, were revered for their wisdom and were cared for with love and good intention to make their last days on earth peaceful and rewarding to them as well as to all others in the tribe. Elders told the stories of long ago around the fire. Elders were in charge of teaching young warriors. Elders showed the best ways to dry berries and cure leather.Elders were listened to and revered.

Don’t get me wrong. I know, as well as you do, we are who we are in our own society. In many ways we are so much more fortunate than those gone before us. So many comforts. So many indulgences and so many luxuries unknown to our forebearers. And our elderly, our sick and our frail, we have the option of ultimate care through long-term nursing homes. Proper medical attention. Safety and peace. And a 45 minute visit every second Sunday afternoon, dragging our reluctant children in tow.

Am I up to the task? I ask myself this so many times. I am staring down the barrel of 40, and I know this, that one day, my own parents will be frail and weak. They will need medical care, they will need help and guidance. Will I step up to the plate? Will I choose a home for them to live in? Or will I concede to tribal unity, will I go a different direction and bring these people, these wonderful caring people who raised and loved me into my own home? Will I give them all the comforts and love they need until their dying day? Do I have that inner strength to give back all that I was given? This, I don’t know.

But I do know that in my own elderly days, as a doddering wisened woman, wrinkled and cackling, telling my own eyebrow-raising stories to my grandchildren, that I would prefer the option of my last days to be one that is surrounded by the people who love me best in the whole world…..


6 02 2009

Like so many mothers, I look forward to the end of the day.  That precious time, after the kids are asleep, when there is peace. Peace, that blissful state, encompassing me like a fuzzy warm blanket. No agenda other than the decision to veg out and watch TV, or indulge in a hot bubble bath, or maybe do some yoga, or crawl into bed early with  my book.

My favorite time though, is those few minutes where I check on my sleeping children, and tuck them in one more time for the night. In those still moments, I feel the prayer of motherhood issue forth  from my heart in a torrent of love. To keep them safe from harm, to raise them well, to help them venture into the world as sentient, compassionate, courageous, free-thinking people. It is the one thing that truly humbles me, when I take those moments to see all that my children are. To encompass and grasp the vastness of life and all the terrifying wonders that it brings us.

The soft breath of exhalation, the contentment of their slumber. Tousled hair, legs and arms awry, lips parted, hands curled like lotus flowers. Eyelashes that lay against soft cheeks, tummies rising up and down. Quietly and peacefully, I watch my children sleep.

I take that time, I allow myself to be swept away in love. I take that time to treasure the here and now. All those minor irritants of daily life, perhaps the trouble they were in, the fights they had, the anger and frustration I directed towards them, they all flake away. It sloughs off, leaving behind purity, and the raw brilliance of devotional love. This one moment in time, the only time I am truly guaranteed to have these people in my life. I give in to the emotion. I kiss them a few times, I cherish my gifts. I am brought to my knees in all the true splendour mothering was meant to be. I marvel at the softness of their cheeks, and how little they still truly are.

The next few years will bring so many changes to our family, with the kids growing up and away from me. Bodies will morph, voices will change, demands and attitudes will hit me like a tsunami. But not yet. Not right now, not while they can still be truly held to my heart as my children.

A Lifelong Affliction.

3 02 2009

I have foot in mouth disease. Yes. Yes, I do. You aren’t shocked, if you know me. That excruciating condition of placing my idiotic, blabbermouth foot directly into my giant should-always-think-before-speaking maw.

In my time  I have said and done some socially inappropriate things. I have, in no particular order:

-Asked an overweight woman if she was pregnant.

-Referred to myself as “handicapped” when I couldn’t open a jug of cream, in front of a woman in a wheel chair.

-Called a guy I knew “Cancer-Man”, because he was always smoking, just like that character called Cancer-Man from that old show The X-Files, who was also always smoking cigarettes. Yeah, and of course, this poor guy was going through cancer treatment. ( This irony of smoking with cancer was not lost on me though….)

-Asked a infertile woman if she was pregnant.

-Tried to pull a kid’s finger when he farted, and yeah, you guessed it, he was a thalidomide baby. He only had two fingers on each hand.

But you see, I have no intention of hurting anyone’s feelings, and I definitely don’t go out and purposely try to make myself look like an asshole. Yet, these truthfully passive but outrageously insulting comments and actions just come out of nowhere and bitch-slap the hell out of a nice social situation. Bitch-slaps it, farts in its face, spits on it and renders me, for the moment, a social pariah of sorts.

On American Idol the other night, Ryan Seacrest was interviewing a blind contestant, and to congratulate him Ryan tried to high five him, obviously to no avail. After I cringed and even blushed for the poor idiot, I laughed, only because I know that I would do the. same. fucking. thing.

I once worked with a woman who named my disease “Krisitis”. And, yeah, holy crap, that still makes me laugh. Good times.

Anyway, I usually end up fretting about it non-stop, constantly replaying the scene in my mind, second-guessing the whole degrading incident, horrified over and over again at my cringe-inducing behaviour. And these flashbacks tend to linger. You know, it’s been years since I exclaimed to Debbie, “Oh, congratulations! You’re pregnant!”, a sweet woman who was only experiencing the difficulty of losing 25 pounds (I only know this because she told me.) after having a couple children. As adults, as mommies, we all know that story now, how hard it is, how achingly defeative it can be for some women. Ugh. It’s like I lobbed a big old insult sandwich at her and it spewed gooey abuse all over her somewhat large tummy, all over what we now refer to as a “muffin top”. Poor Debbie. Can you imagine what it’s like when a perky skinny teenager who occasionally babysits for you asks you if you’re pregnant? And you’re not? And I wonder sometimes if she stood in front of that mirror later on and maybe had a little cry over that. I sure didn’t mean it like that though, and I constantly question where this comes from, these off-the-cuff remarks, hurtful and slicing. They fly unheeded from my mouth, these words that I never mean to be hurtful.

Maybe I have Tourette’s.

I could list multitudes of embarrassing breaches of etiquette that I have committed. Humbly, I know that in retrospect, these make some amusing stories to share with girlfriends over glasses of wine. We all have our moments. I just happen to have way more than others.

I will leave you with this. When I was about four years old, I approached a man of African descent, and, in front of my mortified mother,  asked him if he was “the same colour all over.”

I have to take a deep breath and reluctantly admit that this has been a life long affliction.