“I love that this morning’s sunrise does not define itself by last night’s sunset.” 

— Steve Maraboli

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 long time 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.”

— Albert Einstein  

All is grist that comes to the mill.

My heart was big, big, big today.

We’re tired for the usual, multitude of (parental, adult, millennial, equinoctial shifts) reasons, but with spring in the air, defeat never possible and sleep not an option (kidding, I got like 6 hours) I went on a bit of a rant today. It was one of those rants where I kept looking at Aisha – to be fair, it’s been 24-hrs of excited ranting – and telling myself, “Dude, she gets it.”

But you know when you follow through on something, and the breadth and immediacy of the results are so amazing you just can’t handle it? That is what happened. During my “AH HOW DO I CONVEY THIS” Google search today to help direct what I am trying to say, I found a LOT on Feng Shui. I have never really studied the art, but the philosophy appeals to me, though it doesn’t wholly capture what I mean. It feels more like a… magnet realigns in me, making me so frigging solid, and things just start crashing down in beautiful, perfect order. The effect of this is something I have referred to as my ‘bubble.’

My bubble is something I am grateful for, because it is like an emotional, plastic hamster ball for me to roll around in. Sometimes, there are a few tough weeks, and then suddenly there are five untypical and unbelievably gorgeous days in a row; the cardinal, or hawk or some amazing bird will come to catch my eye. I will feel… listless and then BAM! Songs that lift me from cloud to cloud to cloud come floating into my world until I break through them into the clear, blue sky, basking in the sunshine of happiness. I have always hoped to figure out how to maintain this bubble. If we were to sit and intimately talk about it, you would see how superstitious, or spiritualistic, I can be. Which is why I suppose, it took this weird moment of moving my bed, exactly when I did, with all the other factors lined up, to see that it’s me (I totally just knocked on wood, by the way).

When I originally put the bed together, I had placed it where it is now. I don’t know if it was the destabilizing bigness of a stress vs. relief vortex of our October move, or just the multitude of differences from 7th floor stink hole to this amazing home, but it didn’t seem right then. I ended up putting our room together in what seemed like the most logical/functional layout.

The past few weeks though, I have dreamt about it, low level obsessed over it, talked about it and honestly have organized so many other places, instead of just trying it out, that I feel kind of basic not having just done it.

Moving on, the excitement I felt all day yesterday (a day literally full of so much stress and worry that I alluded to in the last post, The Bamboo that bends) had me worried I had somehow managed to like, forget that the stress was imminent. Like, completely, forget. If I were the person to do this, this is where I would say, “I feel soooooo ADD,” except I’m not ADD.

I obviously hadn’t forgotten but the positivity and confidence I was able to wrap myself in was dreamlike. Thankfully, I had a mental adjustment in a hyper-clear moment, and realized, no. I had practiced self care in two way: Aisha is learning and becoming a very talented Reiki student practitioner (I know… are there no ends to the levels we keep revealing about our spiritual side) who gave me the “super-pamper-special” on Saturday, and our bed is now in the “Right Place”.

Amen.

Quick idea of what I am talking about – Which way should your bed face – to touch on the idea of considering how a room layout effects things. I looked over the Queen of Sleep’s thoughts on Feng Shui and, while surprised at her interpretation of directional meanings (my miracle occurred because of a 18°N orientation with our heads and feet away from the door and window), she did make me chuckle.

And then I found this, the Feng Shui Tips.Org page that really does what I need it to do. Why? It is malleable in my brain.  Everything I bring into my thought cycles has to be flexible in its use as an interpretation guide (side note: always wondered if I had been a monk in a past life). I need this because I like to have a complete lens to see through; different ideologies influence me based on the situation, and having more than one viewpoint makes the decision… More complete.

Anyway, kua numbers… what the… and tell me more. What is my Kua number? (It’s 7 – I used biological sex because, well, that’s the fact. If you look into this though, the only time gender matters in the application is in Group 5).

I am a West Group which provides me with the following information on the significance of direction:

  • NW: money and success
  • SW: health and vitality
  • NE: Love and Marriage
  • W: Personal Growth

Our new bed orientation: 18°N

(Additional side note: Aisha is an 8, also West group)

Crown of your head is supposed to be in a lucky direction, balance the sides of your bed, don’t face a mirror, remove sharp edges (my favorite tip), etc. Do these factors matter to most people? I am not social enough to say. Do they matter to me? Well, if you could see my vigor and the shit that’s slid in to place in a 24-hour time space, you may allow me the mysticism.

When I say, all is grist that comes to the mill, I mean that I do not shy away from anything that helps me keep my head clear and helps me work on myself. Reiki feels good. Bad energy effects me, whether of my own or others influence. When I allow myself to be open to it, I feel ‘higher’, or clearer. Yet, I can be so practical and analytical I laugh at my attempt to be both. At the end of the day, trying can only make me more aware, no? So, it is all processed, ground down, sifted into my mixin’ bowl and baked into what is turning out to be quite a competent, sensitive and thoughtful person.

I feel like I have always been like this, I just wasn’t big enough at the time to hold it all together, so it came out looking weird. Now it’s like I’ve reached a calm or, a perspective? Or… steadiness? I just haven’t managed to fuse all three together, so they alternate, like a pendulum swing. Thankfully, it is slowing, which means more often they line up and I am afforded (what I assume) really cool adult moments of knowing.

The point, peeps, is that when I trust me, life is something else. Not easy, but, fun. For instance: I got two new jobs today with one more contract getting close to closing. One of the jobs feels like it is what I have been waiting forever for, what every other messed up employment had been leading towards (gah, no pressure). I have written two blog posts in two days. I gardened. Duder is communicating and our connection was one of those things that came back, crashing down in beautiful, perfect order. All I did was (literally) open the door. Aisha is ploughing through the tough stuff. I don’t want to go into it, but suffice to say, she dealt with about ten piles of stinking _ _ _ _ yesterday without having a major panic attack, without a painful pattern emerging at all. She was so present, and amazing, Duder was so grounded by her. She was also subjected to receiving inappropriately delivered bad news today, that was just dropped like a stool stack on our doorstep, yet she sits over there now, somewhat calmly, plugging away. She is literally ski-dooing through those ‘hills’ but this shift seems to have changed the mud and stones to water-spray and sun beams (she maybe doesn’t feel this way, but she’ll have to write a reply 😉).

I needed something. I needed forward, a break, a breath. I need Spring and to harness my strength because this is my moment. This is my season and I am bursting with “YES.”

Someday, I will harness this feeling. I will figure out how to loop it around my waist and keep it with me always. Sometimes I have high hopes for forty, other times I see an eighty-year-old staring back at me, confident finally.

Regardless, I know that my learning is so good. And I am proud to be able to say that. My adjustments are like over-coats now; I can feel and welcome situations, because I trust the time, efficiency and accuracy I have cultivated in my responses. The things I allow in, have allowed me to trust myself. And I am just feelin’ grateful.

I wish I could paint, so this was easier to express. Alas,

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” 


― Lao Tzu

I get ya, Lao Tzu.

To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.

– Criss Jami

Jo has written about boundaries before, and I think it’s so cool that since there are two of us writing posts for this blog, you often get two different perspectives (though not necessarily different opinions) on a variety of subjects. We share similar moral values and our opinions are generally the same, but aside from the obvious differences (age, upbringing, hometown, etc) we also have each had our own myriad of life experiences that have given us our views on things now. Boundaries are something we’ve spoken about at lengths, even before we started this blog because, well, frankly — I didn’t have any. Boundaries are generally described as brick walls or barbed wire fences, almost impenetrable save for a certain special someone / something, if they have the will, curiosity and charm behind them to climb the wall, or cut a hole in the fence. My boundaries fall more into the “badly made sandcastle moat” category; you dig for a while and try to carve out a line (or body of water) to separate you from the rest of the world, with the aim of allowing a very select few into your castle, only when you feel like lowering the bridge.

But then something happens; the tide rolls in. You get excited because your moat is full of water! Nobody can get through to you unless you let them in! You’ve created this boundary and the idea seems solid and it feels so good; you’re determined to share yourself and your castle (think of your castle however you please — your body, your time, your heart) only with the people you selectively pick, the people who are worthy. 

Your boundary holds for a while. You have to fill up the moat occasionally as the water sinks into the sand, but a bucket at a time isn’t a big deal. You can refill that bucket every 15 minutes or so, no problem. 

But the sand underneath starts to soften. The water seeps in so deep that it turns that solid sand moat wall into a wet, soft, muddy pile. You don’t notice at first, you can’t see it happening, but eventually, the sides of your moat start to droop, and chunks of sand begin to fall off the walls and into the water and before you know it your moat is dry, and you see there’s a path leading straight to your castle’s front door. Do you start digging and refill your moat? Do you come up with a different plan? Do you give up?

My moat was never full. It didn’t matter how often I went and refilled my bucket, the minute I came back, the water was already soaking into the sand. This is how my boundaries worked. I would (shakily) develop one and tell myself that no one was going to cross it unless they were worthy of my time, effort, space, heart. The problem was, few of the people I had to instate these boundaries with, were worth it, and, regardless, my determination to following through on those boundaries was non-existent. These boundaries were flexible, unsupported and, worst of all, up for discussion. I have been trying to change that. 

I had a lot of my boundaries challenged this weekend, my buttons pushed. It was Broseidon’s 8th birthday party on Sunday and I’d been anxious about it for about a week. His party was priced a little high, but it was exactly what he wanted to do and had been trying to plan it on his own (to the best of his ability) for about a month. We invited his group of 10 friends (have I mentioned I have a really hard time being around children?), my mother and his grandparents from my ex’s side. His dad was away this week, so wasn’t around, and we thought it would be nice to have J-dog’s grandparents there, even if only to represent that side. I have had my fair share of quarrels with this family (as have most separated parents, I imagine) but for the most part, we get along pretty well. Things are amicable as long as I don’t rock the boat, which I don’t like to do anyway, and they are relatively decent towards Jo. 

Where do you draw the line on boundaries with your ex-family (if you have one)? My mother and step-father often had my dad over for dinner when I was younger — an unusual occurrence, I know — so I had a bit of a unique view of what blended families could look like. It was baffling to me that people had separated parents who didn’t get along. I found out as I got older that it turns out my mom and dad were just much better friends than partners, but being able to have the three of them under one roof was both awesome and confusing. 

I don’t necessarily want this for Duder. His father and I made an effort for a little while to try and take him out, the three of us, to do something fun on occasion after his dad and I split up. I wanted to teach him that adults could be amicable regardless of the situation, and that his dad and I both loved him endlessly and even if we weren’t in love with each other any more, we could still be civil enough to do things with him that he enjoyed. Granted, I think his dad and I were both also incredibly lonely and bored at the time, but our intentions in the end were nothing but good. These were organized, civilized outings that were planned in advance; and if I got the slightest impression things may go south, I cancelled.

So how do you feel when people insist on taking more than you’re offering? Duder’s birthday party was our day to celebrate him and give him a couple of hours outside of school to really hang out with his pals; he also had a birthday dinner planned on the day with some family (and friends that had been like family) that kind of decided, very quickly, that they had no interest in me — so, for his sake, we gave up keeping him home for his birthday Monday night, sent him off to a “family” dinner that didn’t include his mother or step parent; so the Sunday party was all we got. He ended up having a lot of fun, but the day and the decisions made by the adults in his life turned it into a very stressful endeavour, for him especially.

I am generally the “stop by any time!” type of friend. If I have a space in my heart for you (which I almost always do), my door is open to you 24/7. Need a couch to sleep on? We’ve got two pull outs. Need to vent about something? Call or come over, I’ll be here. If it’s something as simple as you not having had a home-cooked meal in two weeks — I’ve got you covered. I love taking care of the people I care about, but there is a very fine line you have to cross to get into the “stop by any time” group of folks. 

When people invade my space, I don’t know what to do. Don’t get me wrong — anybody who aggressively and violently invades my space gets a few choice words and a swift smackaroo, if that doesn’t work, but with people I have to deal with regularly, people I love, people I respect; I’m an absolute disaster when it comes to standing up for myself and saying no. Physical boundaries (people helping themselves into my house when I haven’t asked them to come in, for example) are the worst for me to enforce. Emotional and mental ones (dropping news on me, or asking me to have major conversations without any time to plan), are a close second. I’m getting better at saying “no, I can’t talk about this right now”, while “no, you can’t be here, you need to leave” still feels alien to me. When I invite you somewhere, I expect you to show up — unless you’ve asked, like a considerate human being, if I would be comfortable with extra guests. Especially on special days. 

So, when my son spends his birthday party worrying about his infant family member getting hurt by his growth-spurting friends, there’s a problem. Especially when it happens. When it didn’t have to. Because this young child (that I have absolutely 0 problem with, believe me, he’s an adorable little guy and Duder adores him) was brought to an event by parents who invited themselves (this is an exaggeration — they were told they were invited and didn’t question it, or confirm) there was no preparation, and it put a lot of people in super uncomfortable positions. Including the little guy! He got (mildly) hurt!

I have had to consider my boundaries a lot more now. When it was just Broski and I, things were different — people still didn’t respect me or my decisions as his mother, but didn’t exactly question things either. I almost felt like I didn’t need to have them because the second anything  or anyone threatened to do harm to him, I knew I could turn into a mama bear in a heartbeat. Little did I know, the boundaries weren’t so much for him as they were for me, and I accepted a shit ton of bad behaviour as a result of not having them. As I’m discovering how to create them for myself, I am trying, with tons of help and guidance from Jo, to encourage him to create his own, while he’s young and has the bold attitude to do so with conviction — he has had great conversations with his school-age friends about being uncomfortable with them touching his bum, for example, and now they don’t. It’s incredible to watch. 

So for me, being someone in a pretty openly queer relationship (I don’t mean we have an open relationship, but we are both openly gay / queer) as well as the only one in our partnership that conforms to society’s standards of what female-bodied people “should” look like, I have to throw a lot of dark glances at people who sometimes aren’t kind in the way they look at / mumble about Jo. I sometimes play bodyguard in the women’s washroom (see The Bathroom Mirror). I corrected 7 and 8 year old kids on their pronouns. I was also willing to witness the start of WW3, and battle to the death (not really) if anything even slightly derogatory or offensive was directed at them, and I can say that with confidence now. 

Do you have a harder time maintaining your boundaries or holding your ground with those close to you, or total strangers? I have been conditioned and trained to be overly assertive in my boundaries with strangers, especially, unfortunately, cisgender, heterosexual men. You know the ones — 

I did a self-defence course in high school specifically geared towards young women. We did a variety of exercises, from mixed martial arts to simple holds, and got a lot of really awesome knowledge and experience from a man whose only goal was to teach us to protect ourselves. At the beginning of the course, he stood at the front of the room and told us the main reason most women who get hurt, get abducted, get mugged, etc. don’t make it — we’re scared as HELL to hurt people!! It’s literally wired into us. We have to specifically train our brains to use force and do damage when we’re in danger (specifically at the hands of another person) because if we don’t, our natural instinct is to nurture and prevent pain. I remember thinking to myself, “If this guy thinks I’m gonna sit there like a dead fish when somebody’s trying to haul me off into the back of their van, he’s got a whole other thing coming.” But when we did our final exercise — they staged an “abduction” where you would get pulled into a cube van and had 3 minutes (I believe, this was a long time ago) to do whatever it took to get out; biting, scratching, kicking, punching, you name it — only 3 of us made it out “alive”, because we were the only ones willing to actually hurt our “attacker” (instructor) in order to survive. 

Note: This program was obviously all carried out with our consent / the consent of our parents, and really an AMAZING experience that I learned a lot from. It’s designed to teach us to be more assertive in our self defence as women in order to protect us in any potentially dangerous situations — and something that way more teen girls need to see. 

I wasn’t friends with my instructor. We spent some time together, he taught our little group of 8 things that I will carry for a long time and that may save my life someday if I ever need it (hopefully not!). But I wasn’t worried about my boundaries with him. Yes, he helped develop some specific ones: don’t ever let somebody you don’t know get close enough to grab you, don’t let someone keep you quiet if you’re in danger, don’t ever be afraid to hurt someone if their sole intention is to hurt you, if someone tries to grab your purse, throw it to them and run as fast and as far as you can in the opposite direction. Well — I’d like to let me partner touch me, or grab me, so when is too much… is there too much? What about if I’m not in danger, but somebody is trying to keep me quiet, even if that just means not allowing me to speak my truth when I’m with them? What if someone’s sole intention is to hurt me, but it won’t damage me physically? What if what they’re taking from me isn’t in my purse — what if it’s my love, patience, generosity, time? I’m not going to bite and kick and scream at my ex’s family when they cross the line, or when Jo maybe says something that hits me in a sensitive spot; so what do you do when it’s your friend, sibling, parent, partner? 

Like I said, I, admittedly, am terrible at standing up for myself to the people I hold close to my heart. I attribute this to low self-worth (emotional view of self), which is something that’s slowly improving now that I don’t struggle as much with low self-esteem (physical view of self). I’ve let a lot of people, who were not ever supposed to, treat me badly. I’ve been in abusive friendships, relationships, partnerships and have let those continue for far longer than they should have. People who said they loved me. People who let me continue loving them in the way that I do; wholly, endlessly and without expectations, while having expectations of how that should feel, how I should express it, or how deeply I should immerse myself into it — with no consideration of how it feels to simply be tossed aside when someone has gotten all the benefit they can from you. I’m still trying to figure out how to do it, day-by-day; how to heal from the people who have hurt me, how to stand my ground so it doesn’t happen again — and I’ve been practicing by taking a stronger position for the people that I love, regardless of whether or not they return the favour. Jo and I are each others’ biggest and loudest cheerleaders, and even we have had moments where each of us felt like they could have been more present for the other. 

So I’ll end this with a vulnerable story, because sharing my mistakes may help someone else avoid a similar situation and this particular occurrence had a huge effect on Jo and I as a couple, as well as on my views of who my “friends” were and whether or not they were people I wanted to be calling my friends to begin with. 

I had a super close friend, we’ll call them K. K and I had a pretty complex history — I was kind of crazy about them for 2 years — but for the most part we were beer drinking, cigarette smoking, stayin’ up late kind of buddies; we got together a few times each week, even after I left the job we both worked at, and I thought the world of them for a long time. They are an incredibly, incredibly intelligent person with a world of experience, wisdom and a shit ton to offer, but it would be like speaking with the Dalai Lama and finding out that, even with all of his wisdom, knowledge and experience, he’s a member of the KKK, or supports a Nazi agenda. How? How can you be an intelligent and thoughtful individual, but still have such close-minded, misogynistic, racist, supremacist views? This was a thought that came to mind more and more often with K as we neared the end of our friendship and, one evening, they finally showed their true colours. This is going to be extremely hard for me to write about, so please be gentle with me.

I invited K over to the apartment soon after we moved in. They and Jo had met once already, I had been super excited for them to get to know each other because, of course, I loved them both dearly and would have loved to have had another pal we both enjoyed spending time with (K being an alcoholic and Jo being pretty much sober by then, seriously I don’t know what I was thinking). K brought a few cans of beer to share, forgetting that both Jo and I are sensitive to wheat, so then proceeded to polish them off of their own. Not a big deal, maybe a little inconsiderate, but fine, right?

Now, remember the boundaries we’ve been chatting about. Because K and I were very close, spent a lot of time together, and discussed some pretty heavy shit, we would inevitably disagree. Usually, we’d cheers to our difference of opinion, and move on. The only thing we could not talk about, though, no matter how many times it came up in discussion, was politics. K is a Rob Ford boosting, Stephen Harper worshipping, Conservative. Where I generally vote for the candidate I think will do the most effective job over the party they lead, based on principle alone I lean more towards the ideals of the Liberal party. I boast an all-for-one, one-for-all attitude most of the time, and believe things should be equal and that we just need to be decent f-ing human beings. I support the forward thinkers in their legalization of cannabis, our attempts to end the stigma around mental illness and our acceptance of LGBTQ+ communities, gender neutral washrooms and the like (for obvious reasons).

K sat up and wanted to tell us all about the “great” things Rob Ford was going to do for Ontario when I got the feeling that things were about to go downhill, really fast. Reversing the plan of allowing “do not wish to disclose” and “unknown” options for Trans and GNC people on medical and official documents was one of said great things. Eliminating any possibility of public gender neutral washrooms was another. We didn’t even touch on his plan for schools, healthcare, sex-ed — K wanted to get right to the stuff that would hit a nerve, because that’s just who they are. Before I even really had a minute to figure out what was going on, K had moved into pronouns and how pointless and idiotic they thought picking your pronouns was, and…

I said nothing. 

This is where I feel vulnerable, though. I just told you that I would’ve gone to war for Jo this past weekend, but that wasn’t always the case. I didn’t always feel like I could, like I was strong / brave / big / bold enough. So I let them down, hard — and they let me know, in front of K. Embarrassing, sure, but nothing compared to the dissociation that comes with being an agender person, being constantly misgendered, or having their gender choices / preferences / identifications ridiculed by someone that I had spoken so highly of. They trusted me and my judgement of K and thus, welcomed them into our home without much question — and was, essentially, shit on. I asked K to leave, noting that things had started to feel a little tense and awkward (still such a pushover, eh?) and let them leave without really saying what I thought I should have, but couldn’t find words for until later on.

Jo and I had a long, very difficult discussion about where I fell flat and what I could have said, and I obsessed about my mistakes and what I should have done differently for days. In the spirit of being vulnerable, I will be honest and tell you that I kept in touch with K for a while after that. I think we went for coffee once and I tried to explain to them what had happened, that they’d obviously hit a soft spot and probably shouldn’t speak about gender or sexual identification / orientation if they were going to continue to be in my life, and even then, my dear readers; I look back on it now and see that even that hadn’t been enough. It wasn’t about soft spots, or opinions, or language — their morals and perspectives are so. completely. different. from mine and I was discovering that that difference, unfortunately, wasn’t something I could ignore. I could dive deeper into it and talk about the fundamentals of human rights and how that includes people of all races, denominations, genders, identities, ages, abilities etc etc etc, but I trust that you, dear readers, are good people, and we agree on these things — I still think K is a good person, but their good is exclusive and I needed friends that were inclusive; not only of my partner but of my child, my lifestyle and the fact that we are a queer as f*ck family. 

I deleted K’s number the last time we were in Stratford. Actually, I went through a deleted a lot of people’s numbers. If I hadn’t talked to them in 3 months, they were gone (with a few exceptions). It didn’t feel “good”, perse, because they were a reliable friend and I’d hoped we’d be able to stay that way, but boundaries are something I’m trying to work on, and one of them is treating my family and I with respect. If you can’t manage that — you don’t get to see my castle. 

Perhaps, the problem is not the intensity of your love, but the quality of the people you are loving.” 

– Warsan Shire

This was a long one, guys — thanks for sticking through it with me.

— Aisha

All that glitters, is not gold.

I had one of those days yesterday; actually, I had one of those weeks this week where most things seemed a lil’intense. By intense I mean, not only did Friday appear and we had one box of duder’s school snacks left (no big deal), we literally have no kid-appointed-food-in-the-house. Still, no big deal but whoa – not my style.

There was also a lot of high-hopes at the beginning of the week, rallying to get on top of all that stuff, and then… a bump big enough to take over Monday night and Tuesday and leave stain marks on Wednesday and Thursday. One of those things that even though you don’t want to give it attention, the number of places it affects leaves you constantly bumping into it when you think you’re in a safe zone thinking about, I don’t know, when you’re going to clean the shower next week. I will say that having just watched Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, it is easier to put weeks like these into perspective.

I don’t want to talk about all that stuff though, I want to talk about a cool moment last night where I found myself to be… Bored. Yup, the vacant brain, task-list pretty complete, no book to read and no games of interest, boredom that rarely settles over me. I will say, I’ve rarely experienced boredom like other people seem to have. I enjoy my own company immensely, and can usually think of something that I need, or want, to get done. Last night though was a mix of, “I don’t want to do what’s left” and “There is no evening activity I feel like doing right now” which usually means I’m asleep by nine. Exciting, I know.

So, what’s the big deal with boredom? Well, I found it refreshing. It was nice to turn my brain on autopilot and just sit. Aisha and I have had a few interesting conversations lately about the phrase ‘adulting’, which, thankfully, not many people in our life use. It’s one I don’t have space for, namely because I am finally in a life stage where I feel successful. Where being anal, and on top of things, and paying your bills and having life insurance are cool, so, I am by proxy ‘cause, I’ve got it lined up! But at the same time, the undercurrent of what ‘adulting’ means to people who resist the obligations of being thirty-plus started churning. How by having embraced ‘adulting’ I am doing ok. For instance, I needed some personal time the other day, having had a raising-a-boy-as-a-strong-minded-adult moment, so I decided to clean the shower before I showered, while I was in the shower. I got to ‘play around’ before getting down to business. This was a big moment of blending a duty with a need because my showers are usually the most functional eight minutes you’d maybe ever witness (not, an invitation 😉). I have just recognized the things that need to be done and imagine that my moving through my day (actually just doing chores) I’m actually doing amazing trick shots on a skateboard, swooping down to grab that piece of laundry then springing up with an awesome kickflip to pay the electricity bill two days early. But, as you can imagine, this means that I do not have a lot of idle time.

On to my point. I was inspired to start thinking about boredom when a friend posted the New York Times opinion piece, “Let Kids Get Bored Again”. I can attest to having parents that were into us learning about idle time. I was alone a lot, which is not to say I was bored. I’m blessed with an epic imagination so with the toys I had, my time was well spent. I look at kids today, especially after a week of watching my two favorite kids interacting and getting to know each other and wonder if they even actually know boredom. I don’t think boredom exists in the same sense, but something else does. Like, boredom for me was day five of August, before we went to Nova Scotia, with no TV and no friends around. I’d be sitting under a tree in the backyard listless. No camp, no friends, but I wasn’t sad or lacking. I was just… day five of self-entertaining day play while my parents were busy. That was boredom lol. I like how Pamela Paul fosters an excitement for boredom, for being told to ‘go out and play’ or torturing your sibling in the backseat of a long drive. I was telling duderonomy on our drive to Stratford that when we would go to Florida our ‘entertainment gift’ was a box of clementine’s we could challenge ourselves to peel in one go. We would play eye-spy or I’m thinking of an animal, sleep, read or do word-searches. We’d sing and listen to music. I think my lil’guy would be fine with that, but he does like the reassurance of his electronics.

Do you get bored? Are you ok with the word bored, or is there a different one you prefer to use? I looked into it a little, because I feel that boredom – as a concept, needed to be flushed out for me. I found the article, “There Are Five Types of Boredom: Which Are You Feeling?” which was cool because I like when people separate within one concept. I think the five types fully capture what I would consider the good and bad of boredom, but at the base of it, the worry is it can be a non-productive, uncomfortable space.

As adults, we are not really talking about the light, idle, directionless feeling kids should feel. Ultimately, I think adult-boredom is static, but I like how this article makes me reconsider whether that is negative through their differentiation: indifferent, calibrating, searching, reactant, and apathetic. Most adults who ‘catch a moment’ would be in the category of ‘indifferent’ boredom. Calibrating, searching and reactant all seem to have potential to stir motivation or change, with reactant seeming almost volatile and obsessive. Apathetic boredom seems to be what many may confuse for depression, and the one that flags my brain.

The problem is, most people don’t really do the work in moments like these to consider what type of bored they are and whether they should follow along with the recommended course of action. I would also argue that you can be 90% fine but bored with the room you spend most of your time in, and that can cause a type of restlessness. So, when we talk about boredom, whether as adults or in reference to kids, what matters?

There are (sticking with condensed reference materials here) Six Scientific Benefits of Being Bored that occur when people use their boredom to motivate. When Wikipedia gets involved, you can see why I worry about the other unspoken side of boredom – motivation.

“Boredom can act as an emotion, a drive, state of mind and numerous other constructs which may be both state (environmental) and trait (internal) based in nature. Everyone experiences boredom differently…Boredom interferes with many of our behavioral, cognitive and physiological constructs, often to the detriment of the individual. In the context of motivation, boredom may have an even larger effect. Being motivated requires a number of processes not limited to attention, well-being, satisfaction and reward. Individuals who are more prone to boredom find it harder to focus and attend to stimuli in their environments…Although boredom is mostly seen as negative, recent evidence supports its necessity in our daily lives, particularly for goal setting.

Wikipedia

Motivation is a huge interest of mine. Namely because it is literally behind everything we do in our lives. Are you a go-getter, do you make altruistic choices? Are you interested in doing well in school, or at work? Do you plough through everything for that moment that you can experience the thing that truly brings you happiness? I don’t think motivation is something that can be taught, but it can be fostered. I think teaching someone to be motivated is insanely hard. How do you introduce a concept that relies entirely on the individual that is a constant ‘job’ to a kid? Or an adult for that matter – “if you stopped buying a ten-dollar game every pay-cheque, you’d have x-number of dollars saved” – because now is so much better, no matter how old you are. Motivation is like the balance of everything so boredom can be enjoyed. But the rewards are always far off.  

Motivation is best identified as the unbelievable stories of anyone who has directed a crazy life change and a) went back to school and did some crazy philanthropic project b) lost a ton of weight and is now the spokes person for ‘x’ or whatever story you know. Motivation, when harnessed is an incredible power. Unfortunately, I seem to be a motivated adult who has no where to put it. When I was solo, I committed to Muay Thai and reading, nutrition, and a super intense physical workout regime. So, it was funny after being in a state of “how the hell do families find anything to do in Niagara” for the past year that I found this piece (on reddit and I wanted you to read, so I hope this is legal):

So, for my brain with all these considerations I guess the natural place I arrive at is this: do kids need to go back to boredom, or do we need to up our motivation game?

As an adult, I have moved, relocated and changed my environment often, to downplay the actual amount. What keeps me motivated falls on a, small to fear-inducing, scale that I am trying to figure out how to impart to my lil’fam cautiously and calmly, but the fact that some motivators literally have imaginary monsters chasing me as a consequence, doesn’t make it easy to kid myself that it would help duder with HIS overactive imagination.

But how do I teach duder motivation, when YouTube and all kids-entertainment-systems teach how to engage, win, compete, move from activity to activity, and not be bored. Can an almost-eight-year-old hear beyond the “not right now” to figure that he is the coolest thing he’ll ever know? I think not, but I don’t know how to- nor do I want to- fabricate a motivational ‘ah ha’ moment. For anyone!

I suppose the question is, does being bored mean we make space for motivation? At what age does Nancy Colier’s assertion, “It’s not only ok to let your child be bored, it’s paramount that you do so” (Psychology Today) change? How do you accept boredom as an adult?

“…I also believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.”  

― Susan Cain