We made it. We are now settled in, mostly unpacked, and enjoying the quiet of our new town. Our WiFi was installed yesterday, we had friends over for dinner on Sunday and Jo is now tapping away at their latest batch of editing work, quickly slipping back into their pre-moving routine. We made Duder’s switch off yesterday, sending him for his two-week summer vacation with his dad, which is the first time he and I have been apart for longer than a few days, in all of his 8 years, and I think Jo and I are both silently trying to ignore the fact that he’s gone.
Moving has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me, personally. I didn’t move a lot as a kid, only when it was reasonable and still exciting. I had a “home base” my entire life; regardless of the building itself changing, there wasn’t a house that we didn’t live in for less than 5 years. By the time it was time to move, we were usually ready to start anew.
This move hasn’t been much different in that regard. Our home in Niagara was beautiful; I, arguably, was slightly more fond of it than both Jo and Duder, but it didn’t make sense to stay there. Not only did Duder have a really hard time being alone in a top-floor bedroom at night, we had two floors (upper and basement) that were only accessible by a flight of at least 8 stairs, which I can’t maneuver and it was, unfortunately, super expensive. Above all else, it wasn’t ours, so at some point we all knew we would have to leave.
This is, of course, leaving out the fact that we didn’t have a community, we were inundated with a lot of negative people and had only just managed to start finding people to connect with after we had decided the Niagara region wasn’t interested in having us.
The concept of “home” is an interesting one for me. Up until the house we just left, I hadn’t ever felt like anywhere I had lived was my home. I had a number of different houses I spent time at, but home wasn’t a feeling I recognized; whether that was due to my own emotional and mental wellness issues, or whatever other reason it may have been. I knew that the house I lived in was safe, but home was only used in reference to a place I was going, not to the feeling that comes with “being home”. I think I spent the majority of my life trying to make a home out of a person, without realizing that people were, obviously, more nomadic than the idea of home that I was looking for.
Jo has figured out how to make any space comfortable, having moved over 20 times, and has been integral in making each of our new spaces feel like a home. Our new house already feels more like home to me than anywhere I’ve been, and we’ve lived here for a total of 3 days so far. That being said, Annika Martins makes a great point in her article about home being a place in yourself, when she writes:
“Geography is irrelevant. Your address means next to nothing. What matters is how open your heart is.”
In the article, Annika talks about how she was forever searching for her home; the place where she felt safe, powerful and rooted. She explains how she fixated and obsessed over seeing images of exactly where she was supposed to be; where her home was. She describes feeling “anxious about postal codes” and being in a constant struggle with herself and the universe about where she was meant to be, until she eventually realized that as long as she was open to love and open with love, she was home. This might sound cheesy to some, but the idea of being home, no matter where you are, as long as you are open and accepting to the opportunities and possibilities there, is one that I’m slowly coming around to, perhaps in a less froufrou way.
We drove Duder a bit farther than the half-way point to meet his dad yesterday. I had to go to the hospital for a scheduled MRI anyway, and we had quite a bit of time to kill between the planned 2:00pm switch-off and my 3:45 appointment. As soon as the scenery became familiar to what I remember from my time growing up in the Hamilton and Niagara regions, the air got thick and humid, and my stomach started jumping in loops. Coming back to that area literally triggered something in me, even though we were only there briefly; and I wondered why I never felt at peace, or at home there, no matter where I went. By the time we had turned around and were making our way back to our new home and the cityscape I remembered faded away, all of my panic and anxiety did, too.
This has all been jostling around in my brain since we bought our house, though there have been events and little things that have popped up that have exacerbated the feeling slowly, over time. My biological grandmother sent me an e-mail last week, with a photo from “happier times” with her, my mother, sister and I, wishing me all the best and essentially putting me on notice that they, too, were decidedly finished with their relationship with me. I expressed to Jo later that day that it feels strange to me that we are not even so much as a blip on people’s radar for them to be happy to see us go. But having to return to my “home”town and experiencing a physical reaction to even being in the area, being triggered by the names of streets and highway exits, having flashbacks to not-so-pleasant memories of my time in these places; in the end, I’m happy to see us leave, every time, and that’s becoming all that matters.
I’m realizing that home is not a person, building or city. I have been lucky enough to have moments of home throughout my life; the smell of my grandmother’s cooking was home. The amount of love and connection I felt with friends, lovers, however short lived, was home. Making Duder laugh, every time, is home. Looking up from this screen and seeing Jo tapping away, either at their work or their latest game focus, is home. The places that trigger me now, do so because I experienced trauma, hurt and other terrible feelings there, but not because they weren’t my home at the time. I just looked for home in the wrong places and people, and those places and people hurt me.
That being said, Stratford feels like home already. As much as a town can, I suppose. Perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with the landscape, there are no real memories or moments to be reminded of when I step out the front door. The times we have spent in Stratford have been completely positive — and if they aren’t, Jo and I have had a much easier time coming together to figure it out. The geography of where you are might not matter, but the environment and atmosphere in which you place yourself does. The fact that everything in our new home is brand new — not the items, of course, but the experience and feeling of being here — even for Jo, who is seeing a new, developed side of the town they grew up in, means that there aren’t any moments or memories to hang onto, and the only thing for us to do now is to make new ones.
“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and have never been before.”
Oh, holiday Monday. I remember your yester-years, those
casual carefree days, hitting the snooze button and drinking an extra pot of
coffee. I remember you from our childhood days, those teens years, early
twenties – all the way up to last year, really. Fond memories for sure and, you
know, to be fair, I turned the table a bit and stopped working for someone
else, so you may be confused. An ordinary Monday sometimes feels like you’ve
made a drop-in visit, and then… work knocks on Easter. It’s strange, I know.
So, I am very grateful for the normalcy of boy-yo running
home on this beautiful, warm, sun-filled evening. He’s now ensconced in the
arms of his ma, who is perfectly portraying five or so characters from The World of Norm. I love watching them in
these moments. The good and tough evenings, the laughing, cuddling, even the frustrated
cries. I love watching the light move over their faces from the kitchen window.
Dude’s eyes are drooping, but he’s obviously reading along silently, word-for-word
but his resistance to sleep is not as strong today.
As you know from Aisha’s post, This
Morning’s Sunrise, we had an eventful weekend. My mum’s four-day foray
was a whirlwind. We had duderonomy all week AND weekend, which was amazing, and
in my mind, why I had 50% less stress than if he had been away. We may have found
a house while hunting. But I’m far too superstitious to share those details.
What I want to work through here pings close to what Aisha is
starting to poke at when she says,
“I’m constantly learning
about the many ways we, as people, function and relate to each other and how
quickly that unity can turn to disconnect, even if only caused by something as
subjective as our perception of the situation or the people involved.”
This concept of unity and disconnect, especially regarding family, is one I have grappled with for as long as I can remember. To save you the details, just know that this visit had a mature (I thought) and unique set of parameters I was curious to explore, after years of trying other style combinations. One of them being my more upfront approach to my daily life, as you may know. Specifically, my intention towards being a better and more honest person, ability to express needs, allowances, boundaries, and all that. But that means things have shifted in my relationships with people I don’t connect with daily, which in my exaggerated brain have now become something that I am convinced seems like a clandestine undertaking on my part.
A specific example of a shift is that I am on the autobahn of raising a tiny, intelligent human – so things move fast. In general, it means my ‘needs’ in interacting have massively shifted. Broadly, my life had always been about adults, in whatever stage they were at. Independent, usually intelligent, autonomous adults. Now my life is about both adults and kids who are all thinking, learning, growing, shifting, and expanding together until our time evolves to look like what our grandparents and parents are (maybe) now enjoying with each other. Translated, I mean that until duder is thirty or so, we three are strapped into this ride together until he decides to take the “I’m autonomous now” exit.
So, we (thankfully) now have adult-friends, kid-friends, friend-friends slowly stacking onto side a. On side b… well, let’s just say that my biannual family adventures are resulting in tectonic-like shifts because all our needs are now at completely different stages. My needs, while I don’t understand the breadth, have changed. I don’t know how to explain what they look like or where they begin and end. I don’t know if they are about me, outwards; or about outwards into me. I don’t know if they are permanent, or maybe, the ground will swell, and they will shift back. All I know is that for the most part things feel different.
Reflecting on this, and consequently the stress I experience when hosting visitors, these shifts seem fated, and in many instances potentially anticipated by others. Parents acknowledge when their children become parents, and roles shift, making space for the new people. Similarly, as friends age and begin to date ‘outsiders,’ the original group expands, bringing in a transient demographic. This is natural.
I would say, it’s not so natural for me. I don’t think it has occurred to my ma yet, either. So, I become a stress-bag. No, joke. In fact, in moments of insecurity I genuinely believe my mum will give up on visiting for a while. My discomfort during her visits used to be explosive (talk about mental health cues). I would cry the whole visit, looking for assurances and stability there was no way she could provide. I would hate leaving or have a meltdown if we started discussing something I wasn’t prepared for. What used to make it work though, was that we could sit and work through the conversation, she was patient about my ‘growth.’ We saw eye to eye enough that we could commiserate over how similar we perceived an issue and come up with grand plans for fixing it. We have amazing plans for educational reform, social services, medical, political overhauls – you name it, we got it. We just never looked at ourselves.
Then, my maturation and experience of divergent realities from most of my kin, piled on top of the pile and things got fuzzy. The generational, and time, gap finally made a mark on us. She said it enough this weekend, so I’ll say it here. My mum got old; my stress became ingrained and apparent.
I want to go back to the concept of responsibility versus predetermined outcomes or unity versus disconnect. My mother showing up, in grandma mode was awesome, but every other moment she excused something because she is now old, instigated a shift. Last night, we heard running around upstairs. I was exhausted, had to be up early again, for a drive, again, and smiled wearily at what I thought I may find on the last night my mum was here. Well, my eight-year-old was responsibly re-tucking himself in (night-light, sound-maker, stuffies in formation), while my mother was laying in bed confused about the alarm on her mobile phone and uncertain about waking up on time. I tucked two people in. Then went to bed.
I am solid with this transition. I have known my whole life mum would come to me in her geriatric years. I am grateful I can give back, a small token for the layers of (perceived or otherwise) failure and success on my part. One of the things I have had time to do in preparation, is learn how to make compromises, how to people manage – on my good days. I maybe don’t do it well, because honestly, I only ever have one or two other people close to me at any given time. But also, boundaries and compromises aren’t necessarily comfortable, and when I attempt to create them for everyone, so we all get some of what we need, it can get frazzled.
Compromise can be broadly defined so I’ll give some examples. One. Dude-magoog has trouble sleeping some nights. The reasons are between us but suffice to say we’ve had to do a lot of compromising on check-ins, time he goes to bed, pre-bed routine, and after weeks of trying to be firm, a lightbulb went off. I want to preface this by saying I am not a great bedtime parent. I am ready for him to go to bed, and don’t really get the multiple-check-in-after-the-first-one requests. But, because of where he’s at, he thinks they’re great. The problem is he stays up waiting and waiting and waiting and then is up all night. Me being the final-face before sleep was a situation that sprang up and surprised us all. So, his needs versus my, ‘just go to bed’ mentality, had to be quickly reconciled so the scale didn’t tip over. We finally stumbled on a great compromise – he gets a second check, before I go to sleep, on Sundays (or, Easter Monday). Sometimes, you just have to go to bed. But, sometimes, it really sucks when things are over and you feel overwhelmed or happy and excited, or whatever, and you just need an extra check.
I want to draw your attention to, is our willingness to compromise and continue
to find the best solution with our kids because they are learning to be their best self. We are instilling lessons
about self-respect, boundaries, and good decision-making practices. More than
that, self-care, and self-monitoring. We inherently understand what we need to
give up to successfully raise kids; time, sleep, privacy. We choose to have
kids because we are ready (for the most part) to do this, in one way or another
– no matter what that looks like to someone else.
does that stop? The willingness to continue seeing things from the others perspective
so you can stay on track. Does it stop for everyone? I know a mother who, to
this day, calls all four of her kids daily, visits monthly (so, is not home
often!), babysits, goes on vacations, and invests themselves in helping her kids
raise her seven (or eight) grandkids. Lovely, no? Don’t think that my mum is
not invested in family. She is very committed to her mother, being present in her
aged years, transitioning from home to nursing home. This is firmly where she
wants to be, and I am in no way judging that decision. It is what she needs,
and I had to come to terms with that eleven years ago. She is available to me via
phone, text, letter, and travel. This was a lesson that was carved into my brain
with a corner chisel. Deep, slow, and measured… a distancing that was forced to
be accepted; like breaking up with someone you still love, because they want to
be with your best friend. My mum will (in the kindest meaning possible) ‘get around
to us’ when she is ready to spend more time in Ontario.
Being subject to enforced separation is not new to me. My mother is notorious for her 1-3 pm nap schedule (worthy of its own blog post), my sister left home without a way to contact her when I was ten, ma moved to Nova Scotia, blah-blah-blah, the list will be on paper eventually, I’m sure. In hindsight, I suppose I took exceptionally well to the, “you wait here until I get back” conditioning. In the “non-absence-absence” I feel with my family I think I tried to stay 23-year-old me: agreeable, quiet, unassuming (also banshee wailing with confused emotional needs). I did this so that they’d… I don’t know, recognize me?
can see now that that was, well… uh… bad and am thankful for being on this side
of that lesson now. But, as I said to my Madre, I don’t think she realized that
this whole time she was encouraging me to change, the change wouldn’t be
controllable, or reversible. So, I was stuck trying to figure out how to
explain our speed bumps (too many to list, but consider every geographical,
generational, genre-based, interest based difference and you’ll have begun to
cover it) to her, but had to pin that to tackle the interrupting that was
taking place during the conversation. We literally had to institute an “is it
my turn?” policy before speaking our point. But, I’m willing to do that,
instead of just ignoring things.
is hard and when, like a parent bird, you push your babies out of the nest, you
need to be ready for them to come back looking different. In time, they may
come back stronger than you – or still dependent. They may not come back for days;
they may build a nest next to yours. Who knows? I haven’t pushed yet. I am not
getting this from actual experience. I am getting it from thinking about what
people need and what they want, and whether those things can coexist. What mine
looked like, and obviously, what duder’s will look like when it comes.
others when you are trying to take time for yourself (grief, growth, whatever) is
not easy. Considering others when you have had to forge a lonely path, is not
easy. Working through the things that tie us up, is not easy. Making boundaries
and expressing real needs, is not easy.
I distance myself most often from people based on one principle. I get confused why my perceived list of expectations is seemingly much more exhaustive than others. Knowing it is partially self-created, I am not looking to point fingers. I am trying to figure out what the heck I’ve been doing. Remembering a longer list of details than the nuances that are recalled about my life, being one example, and further, being forced to hear their details repeated. I don’t forget, and even if I were to forget, they would upset – tables turned, if you knew as much about me and forgot a tidbit, I’d get over it. Genuinely. The grey zone of gatherings and commitments is a different expectation I haven’t quite grasped. Having important plans cancelled is confusing, and forces you to wonder if the repairs you’ve attempted to make to the disappointments you’ve caused, haven’t worked. But then again, you know it isn’t about you, per se, so the cancellation request is granted, and you put your hope on the shelf. Because how could you ask, when it costs them more?
So, unity and disconnect, perceived expectations. This is starting to take shape. Let’s add a final detail. I don’t know when an appropriate time frame is for getting over it or having to get on board. When to modify or raise the expectation to get on track. I am only learning to ask for things, or refuse requests, in a calm, logical, considerate way. One that is respectful of the recipient’s time and space, and includes what I honestly (bare minimum) need to make the compromise worthwhile.
requests or admissions may seem out of the blue, I supposed. But I keep
considering ‘you’ after you’re gone. I allow myself time to consider and
process, which means I had to get comfortable revisiting something in a conclusive
way and am now here to approach you with it.
instance, I finally asked my mum to stop being “HELPFUL” when negatively
commenting about my hair, weight, look, clothing, because well, she is not a
potential partner so her input isn’t helpful
if it’s counter to what feels good and attracts my partner to me. It is
contradictory and negative. I have had to move out a notch on my ‘belt’ with my
sis, hoping its enough space for her, finally.
do I mean? Ok, here are random statements and my internalized response:
worry you are overwhelmed, that you aren’t ok, and I don’t know how to help you I either overly defend, get angry, cry,
lie, fall apart, or… manage a good conversation about how I am doing, and we
can look at my new reality
are always saying you’re unhappy, you don’t get enough, you can’t do x, y, z I get confused hearing this, feeling like
I don’t talk about my stresses unless we are together, which is usually for
eleven to fourteen days a year. And the odd phone conversation where I can mask
the heart palpitations.
just don’t feel like I belong here But I have waited for my family to piece
back together in an archipelago of sorts, made up of grandkids and partners,
evolved from the small islands that drifted.
guys, unity and disconnect; in or out of the cart.
I am now an adult with a big brain who is working hard on integrating my care-taker personality with my hard-line-boundary marking, compromise making, parent-self, who had to build and scrap a few (many, who am I kidding) models of what a ‘unit’ was to me. So, I inevitably changed, didn’t stay the way I was thirteen years ago, so now she worries I am experiencing foundation issues, that I am not ok. I am ok, though. I just don’t look or sound like I did. Because there are important things we aren’t addressing, things that changed.
Speed is a theme here, but I mean the speed that is determined by what stage your relationship is at – in time. This abstract relationship has a serious impact on physical relationships. It can take over connections between people. We don’t have patience, because we are moving fast and don’t have time to fill ‘you’ in. Ma comes in for four nights (I go to bed at 9:30…) and three days, so I am JACKED on trying to come across as ok. Why? Probably because my major concern is convincing everyone I am ok, now that I am honestly ok because I want to make room for that elusive quality time.
am seriously contemplating writing a manual for how to navigate my family
depending on your proximity to the players (obviously for secret, internal
consumption only). Namely, because in my own head I get ridiculously caught up
in the nuances of the private, important secrets that I try and navigate with
and for people I have a long history with. To answer part of the original question,
it isn’t only subjective factors that affect unity and discord. Having too much
information can be detrimental.
made a few big decisions this weekend and set hard lines down. I’ve shared some,
other’s I just can’t (here, or otherwise). Some of them make me sad, seeing the
immediate ripple cascading down the corresponding timeline, shaking the foundation
just a bit. Others are freeing, and empowering, and may lead to some cool honesty.
I don’t know who in the world is not vulnerable when sensitive to, aware of, and trying to facilitate the needs of any other, without also being sensitive to subjective mistakes. Unless there is an ‘is it my turn’ policy, interpretation can be difficult. That, friends, is when we need the storm. We need things to tumble and shake loose so that fresh buds can sprout.
My ending question then, is this: what, if any, relationships have you stopped working at being tied to that surprised you. Was it gradual; did you resist? Is it final? I am working through a lot, obviously, but mostly because I like to feel resolve. My present state is not affected, majorly, by the ruminations so why not clear the ol’conscience, right? As Aisha said, why not challenge ourselves to reflect more?
Since starting this piece, we found out the hopeful-home is now off the market, the owner feeling everything was going to quickly.
are on a fast train baby, so if you’re on it, buckle up.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. Steve Jobs
Ah, Sunday. Good morning to you, you overcast, chilly day.
Sundays have become a favourite day of the week for me. Duder is usually away with his dad until the early afternoon, so Jo and I occasionally get the chance to sleep in a little bit and the normally bustling, busy street that our house sits on is actually… quiet?
This is an unusual occurrence in a typical week for our family; somebody usually has something on-the-go, somewhere to be, something to do… So we’ll sometimes try and pack a few things into our Sunday afternoon, considering it’s the only real “free” day we have to do anything fun with Broski. Most of the time though, he’s pretty wiped from his weekend away, Jo and I are feeling like we, too, need a break after a busy week — so Sundays usually result in a quiet, relaxed afternoon and evening at home.
This weekend has obviously been a bit different. As Jo mentioned briefly in Go back?, we had their mother staying with us for a couple of days so we could make the day trip to Stratford to house-hunt. Overall, I suppose it went well; Duder was great, as patient as an eight year old can be, and tackled what would normally be a “hang out with dad day” turned “5 hours of driving and boring meetings day” with the maturity of a teenager — still having blips of boredom but, in the end, being a relatively respectful, polite and well-behaved kid. For that alone, I am eternally grateful.
I think that the adults that were involved in the day, believe it or not, had more of a struggle than the bored kid. I have had a hard time all weekend; the driving, walking, getting up and sitting down, attempting to tackle stairs in potential homes to see whether or not I can realistically manage them — and, as much as I hate to admit it, it takes me a longtime to adjust my living to newcomers. It’s a fault of mine that isn’t often an issue; Jo and I don’t have people stay with us much and I’ve had nearly the last two years to adjust my habits to mesh with theirs, and truthfully, when I have to stay with other people, I have no problem doing things “their way”. When it’s my home, however, and my routine — sometimes I can get a little sticky about it. It’s not even that I’m unwilling to adjust! I just need longer than four days to do so.
So, in recognizing this as a major flaw of mine, as well as taking the time to reflect on the weekend; I was kind of a miserable cow. I got short with Duder on more than one occasion, my patience was practically non-existent, and I ended up doing some things I probably shouldn’t have (ie: climb a 14-step staircase, twice) out of the desire for some space. I’m really not entirely sure what the issue even was, guys — I usually try to be far more agreeable than I was this weekend, but something about it was just… hard. I am the first to admit that, frankly, I have a bit of a short fuse. Not in regards to my temper — I’m usually pretty even keeled and don’t get angry at much, but to put it in layman’s terms: I have a shit ton more pet peeves than most. It makes me think of the recent surge of people admitting to their utter disgust and aggravation at the sound of people chewing (also a pet peeve of mine); but I have the same reaction to a lot of things; actions, habits and behaviours, that even I’m unaware of until I’m almost vibrating I’m so annoyed.
I don’t need to tell you that this obviously causes problems in my interactions and relationships with people. I am particularly sympathetic towards Jo in this regard; the amount of patience I have for them and their habits, tics, quirks, etc. is infinite. Additionally, they hold the unique position of seeing me in a parenting role and observing the areas where I struggle with Duderroo, but also the instances where I can dig deep and find an immeasurable capacity for tolerance towards him, regardless of how many times he and I have had to have the exact same conversation (pet peeve two). I realize that, from the outside, this ability to self-evaluate can look relatively effortless, and I concede to the bias that I have towards the two most important people in my life. Why can’t I find even a portion of that for people outside of my immediate familial unit?
I ask myself this question a lot, especially on days when I’m feeling particularly snappy. My irritation and annoyance are emotions that I find very difficult to disguise and this disadvantage has a propensity to manifest in the tone of my voice — I, admittedly, have a proclivity for sarcasm. Jo approached me with this earlier in the week, having noticed a change in my demeanour and attitude and I have since recalled that I had to address the same issue when I was last prescribed medication for my ADHD (as covered in my last blog). Jo mentioned that they think I have just become more assertive, which, in my opinion, is entirely uncharacteristic of me, and that it was just going to be a matter of them adjusting to the shift in my personality. While this may be true — I don’t suspect that the things I’ve had to accomplish and the list of potentially uncomfortable situations I’ve had to put myself in to do so would have been as successful had I not found this… “tenacity”, if you will — I tend to forget that sarcasm is a life-long defence mechanism that I have been tirelessly perfecting for twenty-six years.
When I’m feeling insecure, my normally light-hearted, playful, humorous, though sometimes backhanded satire can quickly become caustic and hostile. Though I never have the intention of offending anyone or legitimately hurting their feelings, I notice the blatant similarities between my behaviour and that of the quintessential bully of my childhood. I have vivid memories of my mother sitting me down, quickly mopping up the puddle of tears I’d turned into; quieted my uncontrollable sobbing after the mean kid that lived across the street had angrily bulldozed me into a rose bush. “People who bully others; people who put others down are only doing it to boost themselves up”, she’d said; and I think she was right. I mean, it’s been proven time and time again that the majority of people who pick on others suffer from low self-esteem, or have negative feelings about themselves for one reason or another.
I don’t consider myself a bully and I know that my sarcasm and the defences I put up are not malicious. I used to be the type of person that would insult my “friends” as a means of “showing my affection”… I know this practice seems to be today’s norm, with a new “Roast Of…” premiering on a regular basis, inflicting physical pain on others being a recurring theme even in “kid’s shows”, and, one that really grinds my gears: prank videos — and the terrifyingly high number of adults creating said videos who are now involved in child abuse/neglect/exploitation lawsuits, all for the “enjoyment” of their subscribers.
[ side note / random facts: apparently, over five million youtube videos are watched each day. I’ll save you the math and just throw out this number: one trillion eight hundred twenty-five billion — which is a very loose estimate, but is the rough number of views youtube receives in a single year. In 2015, prank videos alone accounted for 17.7 billion of those views. ]
I think the normalization of abusive language, obscene and abrasive behaviour as a show of friendship and/or endearment as well as our desensitization to it, and acceptance of it as appropriate interaction within our society overflows into countless other areas — the doofus that is in charge of running our province, and the other doofus in charge of our neighbouring country are both perfect examples of what happens when we, as a society, laugh off offensive and inappropriate behaviour. In saying that; on a smaller scale, I realize that I have also been desensitized to the level and intensity of sarcasm that I use when I’m feeling threatened, overlooked, unheard, etc. and that those feelings lead me to behave in a way that doesn’t necessarily speak for who I am otherwise. And I have to admit, moments are coming up more and more often that make me wish I could find some way to teach this capacity for self-reflection on a broad scale. Imagine what the world would be like if we could eradicate the concept of ego and, instead, people weren’t as resistant to acknowledging their flaws. When we aren’t feeling self-conscious and defensive of traits that we perceive to be “less appealing”, we are less likely to project that onto the people we interact with — and when the feeling of being “lesser than” no longer exists; the covetous emotions like jealousy, envy, greed, etc. are also quickly disqualified. In my case, I get my knickers in a knot when I believe that someone else is perceiving me as less than. Whether this means not including me in discussion, interrupting me (pet peeve three), brushing off my input, etc, etc.
It’s ridiculous, right? I get antagonistic because I’m not feeling confident in my position, opinion, physicality, whatever… Then project that onto the people I think are most likely to feel the same way; this weekend, for instance, that included Jo’s mother, the realtor we worked with and even Duderroo, at times. It’s a lot easier to be sharp and terse with others, blanketed under this predetermined (though inaccurate) belief that those people are opposed to you for some reason, than to take a moment to sit back and recognize that the only person responsible for your feelings of inadequacy is you. It takes some serious mindfulness to be able to notice these things in the moment, but I’m trying to at least recognize my trip ups after the fact — like having negative feelings towards Jo’s mom, literally with no cause other than that she gets nearly all of Jo’s focus when she visits and we spend the majority of our days together; so I was jealous. Still had nothing to do with her, but I twisted it around in my mind to look like she was being too demanding, or whatever. Or, when we spent the entire day walking around, getting in and out of cars, etc. and the only person who checked in specifically on my back was the realtor so, irrationally perceiving that my pain levels just “weren’t a priority”, I proceeded to trek up and down as many flights of stairs as possible, it seemed. I wish you could see me rolling my eyes at myself right now. What a cry baby, hey?
(I also want to add in here that this previous statement is more than likely false; I guarantee that Jo checked in on how I was doing physically on more than one occasion, but there was a lot going on and when I fall back into old tendencies — specifically, dissociating when I sense tension, get overwhelmed, feel anxious, etc. — I almost “black out”, per se, and my memory and awareness of what is happening in the moment gets convoluted. So; I wanted to express what I was feeling at the time to give you an accurate and honest image of my perception of the situation, but also nip any criticism in the bud.)
There was a lot of tension swirled into the super-exciting-but-overwhelming combo of flavours we had going on. Having had a schedule mapped out a couple of weeks in advance (Jo’s doing; no surprise there), we felt reasonably prepared. This plan was kind of unexpectedly kiboshed at the last minute when an exciting part of our day was axed, which was disappointing, to say the least. I’m still trying to figure out how to sum up my thoughts on the delivery of that particular information, but it’s bubbling around in my brain the way an idea does just before the proverbial light bulb illuminates. The elusive Eureka! moment is coming, friends, I can feel it — when it does, you’ll be the first to know.
The new plan supposedly meant that we were going to be able to zip through some houses quickly, break for lunch and be home hours before we’d originally expected, but also meant we were starting the day sooner and, therefore, needed to hit the road a bit earlier. Waking up at six thirty in the morning is really only ideal for one person in our house — me — and even then, I have to be the one choosing to wake up at that time. I used to have a habit of throwing alarm clocks; hence why I no longer have one. The house we had set our sights on ended up accepting an offer a few days before we were due to drive up, which was a bit of a downer, we were quite ahead of our new schedule nearly the entire day, so there was a lot of idle, sit-around-and-wait-for-the-next-one time (though I will say, our realtor took us out for coffee and lunch, which was very generous and left the four of us feeling well taken care of). The first house we walked through was adorable (and, based on photos, our number two pick), but tiny for the four of us; the second house we saw, Jo and I had to walk through alone because the smell of smoke was so overwhelming we didn’t feel comfortable having the young or elderly members of our unit in the house at all.
The third house, however… Guys. Just wow. The owner is an incredibly talented artist, so her design style, though a bit old-fashioned for my taste, was so warm and welcoming — we walked in and it immediately felt like home. There’s some work to be done; we’ll have to renovate the basement a little bit to add in an extra bedroom, but I’m looking forward to doing that work possibly more than I am to move, period. After some awkward and snippy banter back and forth, a(n adult) tantrum or two, a bit of visualizing and then some carefully strategized persuasion, the four of us came to the conclusion that this little home was a near-perfect fit for us. Jo and I are moderately superstitious, so that’s all of the details I’ll reveal for now as I don’t want to jinx it for us, but my fingers and toes are so crossed for this to have a positive outcome that I’m worried I may not be able to uncross them again.
In conclusion, the last few days have made me reevaluate my ideas and interpretations of family, if I’m to be honest. Familial relations are these ambiguous concepts that I can no longer comprehend and I don’t know how to build a place for myself within them. I have now been left out of more than one family get together without explanation, the people I had perceived as my “unit”, however spaced out they were, no longer take me into consideration unless they need me to facilitate their contact with Duder, Jo’s family is threatening to evaporate — but, on the other side of the coin, our little unit of three has been steadily fortifying and toughening, the progress in making this relocation happen has helped Duderroo and Jo reestablish their awesome step-parent/kid relationship and overall, the three of us inherently know that our lives are about to get so much better.
Getting my shit together was the start. Getting my mental health under control allowed me to talk to my ex, inform the other members of my “family”, get myself semi-organized and manage a stressful weekend full of information, emotions, scheduling changes and the like, without having a full-blown meltdown. I’m proud of myself for that and grateful that I didn’t flare up while Jo was also experiencing the same, if not worse, agitation. But part of what I love about becoming more motivated to write for this project, and writing for this blog in general, is that I try to commit to authentically and honestly contemplating my behaviour and actions, because I feel like it helps me become a better person. I love that writing about our four day foray into the world of first-time (for me, anyway) house purchasing also brought my shortcomings into focus as far as my temperament and my approach to uncomfortable situations are concerned. Addressing these flaws and picking them apart, piece by piece, is what helps me identify my triggers retrospectively and recognize the moments when I’m at risk of going off the deep end. Maybe it’s years of therapy coming back to me in the moments I need it most, because this tactic doesn’t feel alien to me, but regardless, I appreciate having the insight, as well as the patience with myself to peel back the layers upon layers of learned self-preservation to just be comfortable with experiencing this life for what it has to offer.
Yowza; before I get caught up in getting philosophical, I’ll wrap this one up. I’m constantly learning about the many ways we, as people, function and relate to each other and how quickly that unity can turn to disconnect, even if only caused by something as subjective as our perception of the situation or the people involved. I, too, am guilty of this — obviously — but refuse to reject my potential for improvement. I think the excuse of “this is just who I am, deal with it” is a cop out; everyone has the capacity to be a good person, so rationalizing and excusing the fact that you’re an asshole only because you’re uninspired to do anything about it is no longer grounds for bad behaviour. The desire to stagnate needs to be made obsolete, not turned into an art form. We must strive to be better, whether or not the people we surround ourselves with are on board — because when you become better, the people who gravitate to you will be better; better friends, better lovers, better coworkers… Better people. End of story.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
One of my favorite songs to sing to Duder in moments of ‘ok-frustration’ is the “Uh oh! Grass! Long wavy grass!! We can’t go over it-” remember that one? I think these two probably only ever hear the ‘can’t go over it’ sung in that weird, deeper-monotonous voice, reserved for that awkward key ‘catch-all’ community songs are written in (Happy Birthday, He’s A Jolly Good Fellow, any children’s song).
Anyway, I sing that song a lot
to myself – making me realize I am still a farmer, needing a song to keep pace
to. The ‘Can’t go over it’ song was the first lesson I learned of pushing past
something to just, get through it. Believe
me, I appreciate the motivation in this song far more than the “I’m being eaten by a boa-constrictor…”
(in swimming class…)
What is this about? Well, with
a Georgia-font flourish, I can unveil the grand plan; what all the secret,
heart-blossoming hype we’ve alluded to has been about. Moving. We, our lil’ family of three, are moving again.
When we moved from the apartment to this lovely home, I was
silent about what number this tallied for me. Because I am tired of feeling
like I jinx it by saying ‘Well, this is number X, so it has to be the last
time!’ but in this case, it is the last of something.
This will be my twenty-first
move, in my (soon to be) eighteen years of living ‘independently’ and I am moving
back home. Yup, we’re moving West (well… 166km and 2hrs West).
This decision is not new, it had
been thrown around in that weird, super uncommitted way you do early on in a
relationship. That sense of invincibility, the excitement and passion of our
blossoming relationship found kinship in the food, wine, arts, and general
cultural scene of Stratford. But, after our own set of challenges, a couple of
years, the whisper didn’t fade.
There is a very large queer
population, an especially prominent transient population in the summer, as it
is a theatre town. So realistically, there has always been that safety-appeal.
With everything else that has piled up, it seems like a natural choice to make
when we realized, we have to move.
I aspire to be a normal,
awesome citizen instead of cloistering myself away. I could comfortably see
myself volunteering at duderonomy’s school. We have friends, obviously
originally ‘mine’ but they have wholly welcomed Aisha, as an individual, who
just happens to also have captured my
heart. And duderonomy has friends, already.
My fabled sister lives there,
and while that is going to be a short-lived reality, it will be cool to run
into her, or call her up for a walk. My niece and her boyfriend will be there
for a while, which I am so excited for, also realizing it will probably be more
of a ‘run-into-ya’ thing. Maybe not!
We are purchasing a house with
Talk about setting roots. Family,
friends, a house, work is taken care of, we have support – so maybe Aisha will
begin to heal. Moving, once upon a time, was something I obsessed over. My mum
and I would troll open-houses, talk about moving, look at the paper and… dream. I don’t know why; we had an
amazing house. We were able to travel; we spent time in other homes.
But then I started my own
personal apartment-carousel. The obsession soon made way for exhausted
resignation. It all started when I turned eighteen, and my parent’s
conservativism (prudish and maybe semi-homophobic-in-the-parental-way mindset
*god I hate qualifiers*) and my requests were not harmonious. So, I, in a much-needed
break from what was going on, moved out with a friend from high school, and my
How do you decide if you are
ready to live independently? Looking back, though I recognize it would have
been detrimental to stay, I wish I had waited! I didn’t have it that bad – I
would have had more time with my dad. We could have compromised about my
request (no secret, I wanted my girlfriend to sleep over because she lived out
of town, they thought we would have crazy lesbian sex all over the house…). But
that’s not what happened. So, with my multiple jobs and being almost finished
high school, I moved out.
I needed to not be at home
helping with my dad (as terrible as that sounds), but I ended up feeling over
worked anyway. I finally graduated, the romance ended, my second and third
apartments were quickly experienced, and jobs started to ‘pile up.’ As did my bad
choices, mapped across cities and decades.
But the thing is,
I was not ready to live with my significant other. I was not ready for sharing
spaces with… strangers (not my family members). But I really kind of had no
choice. I learned a lot from this first space: boundaries, fragile lies for
gullible people (me), how to be cheated on and deal with it, and a host of
other things I don’t think I would have necessarily ever been prepared for. But
what followed… Well, I don’t know if you would have been either:
Here we go. From
home to Apartment 1 (move 1) and then two other apartments (move 2 & 3) in
two years. Then, new city: Toronto (apartment 4/move 4) – home (move 5) – Toronto
(apartment 5/move 6)– home (move 7) – Toronto (apartment 6 & 7/move 8 &
9). Then, my small trip to Nova Scotia (apartment 8/move 10) where changing drivers
licenses and addresses, getting insurance, etc., was not worth the hassle when
we moved back eighteen months later. Apartment 9 and move 11, I’m in St.
Catharines. Suffice to say the next few years were a fast-forward of homes 10-18
and moves 12-20.
The move to this
house, as I’ve said, felt like a break. Like we could get our bearings, be
on-top of parenting and get better in general. We did it too, which is the
funny part, and maybe why I feel less stress now. Aisha was successful with her
businesses. I was doing well and getting to where I am now. We were learning
great lessons, getting into a groove, and then… dun, dun, dun – the back thing.
What does your
derailment look like? Because, to be honest, all my moves, all of my changes have
made mine quite… elegant if I must say.
I’m kidding. ‘Twenty moves’ starts as a
frazzled-pull-out-the-boxes-you-didn’t-bother-unpacking, and eventually evolves
into just not having that much to pack anymore, because you’re tired of packing
so you ‘declutter’ every time you go. But the support and joy at our recent decision
(on the ending end) has affirmed what we knew: we’ve gotta go. Even duder, in a very mature
conversation, admitted he recognizes that he needs a little more schedule
consistency, which can best be obtained by removing the…
(what is proving a… thing… is not a thing but the tension of sleepovers elsewhere weekly, when the
child wants to, but does terribly when allowed to, is… well…).
My love, my ever-surprising gov’love, chomped it and slid the
last, hard, and oddly shaped piece into place this week and asked/told duder’s
dad about the move. Which meant it was/is official, everyone (for the most
part) knows. The meeting went well. Until there was a moment the next day, that
also, realistically, went well. But God, that heart pang. Not even just for me
– yes. I want and need to move home.
But also, for duderroo. For that brief moment where I forgot how reasonable
this is, and that we can go- I honestly thought we may have to stay.
What am I getting at? All of it. My magnetic
shift, the time-alignment and auspicious
reason/timing of it all, and well, y’know,
the stuff I deal with. And now, we get to go. All of this good and bad is pressing
at the lip of the volcano and our world is about to be washed anew again. This
time, I am feeling that feeling
I don’t like but in this scenario it is more like a comfortable sweater. The
hood falling perfectly, the arms just long enough.
I am excited to move home. To give duder and my girl what I
had, hoping I can find it for them; that we can make it together. I am sad to
leave certain things and what had felt like chances and optimistic opportunities,
but what is meant to continue, will.
Am I excited to pack up again? Book the truck, get boxes,
tape, and then undo it again? No. Not at all. Am I excited for my mum to arrive
tonight and show her the listings? Did I love showing Joey, and every moment
Aisha and I debated and hand-picked each one? Absolutely.
I love that, even though I feel overwhelmed, a part of a lot more than I am used to, and
inundated by things I wouldn’t have been otherwise, I am feeling ok with it.
Like it is manageable. Something will blip, without a doubt, but I genuinely believe
this is why home became two people, until we needed more.
“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Zahir