Getting there

Getting there

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gala Girl?

It seems, dear friends, that life takes such unexpected turns. This past weekend I was on Facebook, and I was a little bit tired. Life has been a whirlwind of activity with my new writing project, and I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself. I was bemoaning that state of affairs, and commented that after this season of endless galas that I didn't want to hear the word "gala" for some time. I got a response almost immediately from a dear friend. Her reply? "Cry me a river, gala girl".

That response stopped me cold, for two reasons. One, she was clearly right. Bemoaning attending these glamourous affairs seemed rather ungrateful. Two, the words "gala girl" - because I have never, ever thought of those words in relation to me.

Prior to this year I've never attended a gala of any sort. Oh, I've been to parties, some quite elegant (like New Year's Eve in an Irish castle) and some quite raucous (and sometimes elegant ones descending into raucous, again much like New Year's Eve in an Irish castle). But I'd never been to a real gala, never entered that world, and thus it's all been new to me.

I suppose I could have gone to galas before, as they have always been there to attend in my city. I just never really had a reason before. This new project, though, has been an ideal excuse. I have attended some events as a paid guest, some as a guest of others, and some as media (and found different perspectives each time). I have more galas coming up, too, and other special events requiring me to dress up and do hair and make-up - but I'm not complaining. My other life still goes on, too, the life of laundry and dishes and mediating arguments between my girls. The galas, sometimes with my husband, sometimes with a friend, and sometimes on my own, are just a value-added bonus to my life.

I don't think I'll adopt the nickname "gala girl". I think I am the same woman I always was, just one who had to buy some new dresses and learn how to read seating charts. I'm not really a "gala girl" - some days I feel more like Cinderella as I go from scrubbing toilets to swilling martinis with friends. I think, though, that I will savour every moment of these galas as this is all still so new to me, and I am so very lucky - and it has been worth every second of exhaustion, too.

Gala Girl ?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Imperfect Thanks

Photo credit to The Artful Parent

What does it truly mean to give thanks, dear friends? It has begun to seem like such a cliche´, this "giving of thanks" we practice every year at this time. We gather with family and friends, and some of us might even go around the table asking each person for what we are thankful - and yet we have so much to be thankful for, most of us, and to limit that gratitude to one day seems perhaps the height of ingratitude.

I must admit I am like most. Some days I get so caught up in the day to day grind, the problems and issues and minutiae, that I forget all for which I am so grateful. Perhaps this is why having one day dedicated to giving thanks is so precious. Perhaps it is because it reminds us that we should be finding that gratitude every day of every year, and giving thanks on a regular basis. I try to practice this, and have tried harder this year than most of the other years I've spent on this planet - mostly because there is so much to be grateful for this year.      

I am thankful for a husband who loves me even when I don't particularly love myself, who supports me and encourages me, and yet also helps me to stay grounded. I am thankful for my beautiful daughter, who is the centre of my world, and has been since the day she was born. I am thankful for my wonderful niece, who moved in with us this year and turned our family trio into a quartet, and a much more interesting quartet, too. I am thankful for my sisters, who have over the years become my best friends and not simply my siblings. I am thankful for in-laws and a sister-in-law who have also become my family over the years, and who long ago ceased to be nicknamed "the outlaws". I am thankful for a best friend who knows all my secrets and flaws and still chooses to be my best friend. I am thankful for a male friend who started as a friend and has become the "brother I never wanted", with all that entails. I am especially thankful to have experienced a very special reunion this year, one about which I am not ready to write but which I hold close to my heart every day, and which brought me peace and joy - and another child. I find myself surrounded by family these days, a discovery that lessens the sting of the loss of my beloved parents.

I am thankful, too, for the new adventure I began this year. It all started with this blog and went from there, at a rapid and almost dizzying pace. With the adventure came new friends and new opportunities, new ideas, and new ideals, too. I have met people, gone places, and done things I never believed I would or could do. I have climbed a mountain, both in the literal and figurative sense. I have found people that I admire, respect, and adore. I am so thankful for the chance to do all of this, for the good sense I found to seize the moment and embrace it. I am profoundly thankful that the world granted me this opportunity, and that I chose to take it. I am so thankful for all my friends who were there before this adventure began and who stuck around for the ride, cheering me on, offering words of encouragement, and sharing in both my successes and failures.

My life is not perfect, dear friends, and nor am I. In fact, perfection is not something I seek. At one time I thought perhaps that was the goal, being the perfect person. And now I am thankful to see how wrong that was, how it is imperfection that makes the world an interesting place, and how we can only try to be better, not perfect.

My life is not perfect, but it is so very, very good. It is so very worth being thankful. So, for Thanksgiving this year I am thankful for so very much, but mostly I am thankful for the reminder to experience gratitude every day. I am thankful, dear friends, for every day and every experience and every moment. For this, dear friends, is life, the good and the bad, the easy and the hard - and I am thankful for this life, for every single second of it.

Photo credit to d.Sharp journal

Friday, October 7, 2011


Well, dear friends, sometimes this life takes you on journeys you did not plan and did not expect. The last few months have been that kind of trip for me, as some of you know. This journey continues to take unexpected turns, and there are valleys to forge through and mountains to climb. This week has been no exception, and it has brought me to a place where I consider the nature of mistakes, apologies, and lessons.

The week began badly, I admit, and it was because of an error I made. It was an error in judgement, an error born of my own flaws and frailties. I hurt someone. I damaged a relationship. I was wrong, very, very wrong, and very, very repentant.

And then, just as I was moving on from that incident, after the one I had hurt was working on forgiveness, someone hurt me. They involved me in an episode that I shouldn't have been involved in, and they angered me. I was on the other end, this time, the victim, and suddenly I felt the hotness of that place.

What saved me from that incendiary anger, though? What kept me from tipping over the edge? It was because when I was the transgressor, when I was the one who had done wrong, I was forgiven. I was shown grace and dignity by the person I had injured. They told me I was wrong - they expressed their anger and their hurt - and then they forgave me, and we moved on. It was as if the universe knew I needed an opportunity to "pay it forward" - to take the forgiveness granted to me and bestow it on someone else. And I did.

I forgave the person who hurt me. I told them of my anger and my pain, and then I forgave them. It doesn't erase what they did, and I hope they learned what they needed to learn from the episode (as I learned from mine). What it did, though, was free me. I had been shown a kindness, and now I showed that kindness to someone else. My karmic debt was balanced. I know the universe doesn't design these things, dear friends, and that this is sometimes just how life works, with these little coincidences and synchronicity. To me, though, it seems this week has been designed to show me both sides of the forgiveness equation, to experience both ends in a short time frame, and to glean whatever lessons I could from it. What I learned is that forgiveness is a gift you can both give and receive - and that it is freeing whether you are the recipient - or the giver.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Black Dog That Was Really A Fog

After I experienced it I did some reading about it. The phrase that kept coming up to describe it was "the black dog". Apparently that is what Winston Churchill called it when he experienced it, and it's a nickname that might have even older origins than that. What is "the black dog"? It is depression, dear friends.

The metaphor of a black dog that haunts you is an apt one for depression, and yet my own depression was not a black dog. No, my depression was a sort of misty fog that rolled in slowly after the unexpected death of my mother. It stole in quietly, until it blanketed my world and obscured all beauty from my view. I suppose that's why I didn't recognize it. Unlike a black dog that suddenly appeared where before there had been none this fog was sly and insidious, infiltrating my life so subtly that it simply seemed part of the landscape. Perhaps this is why it took me so long to acknowledge it, long after those around me had noted it.

My mother's death was tragic and quick, with but a few brief days in the alien world that is intensive care. I was there when she died, and I thought I handled her death, and the subsequent funeral, well. I did not really cry, or break down. I thought that signified coping when really it was nothing but denial and forestalled pain. I went through the funeral and the family visits afterward, and returned home to normal life - except that nothing was normal, especially me.

I began to experience severe stomach pains, pains that would wake me every night at almost exactly 3 am. I began to think this was a sign of a serious illness, and I sought medical attention. As the days went on the pain intensified, and I was slowly becoming incapable of eating or sleeping. The fog was growing daily, and yet I could not see it. I could not see the spring leaves on the trees, the flowers beginning to poke through the ground, or any other signs of the greening of spring. No, I was focused on this intense pain inside me, a pain I became convinced was connected to some horrible disease.

I went through two CT scans, an endoscopy, several rounds of lab work, x-rays, weekly visits to my doctor, and several ER trips. Each one found exactly nothing to explain the pain I was experiencing. The pain was real, it was intense, and it grew daily, just as the fog surrounding me seemed to increase. Finally, my husband, my clever, clever husband, insisted I needed help. I needed to see a therapist, and I needed it now. He arranged it, and I went. It likely saved my family, my sanity, my happiness, and my life, dear friends.

You see, the pain I was experiencing was real, but it was simply grief turned inwards. As I poured my heart out to my therapist, as I cried rivers of tears and told her of my pain, it began to diminish. The more emotional pain I expressed over my loss the less physical pain I felt. The more I cried the more the fog cleared. I began to see the logic behind my fears over the physical pain. I was afraid - no, terrified - at the prospect of leaving my daughter due to an unexpected illness - just as my mother had left me. The thing I came to realize, though, was that it was the fog that was stealing me from my daughter, not some mysterious illness. She was already experiencing losing me, losing me to a fog that she did not understand and could not see.

I had a few sessions with the therapist, and the fog began to clear, gradually but with increasing pace. One day I woke up and there were simply a few wisps of fog left, and I could finally see all the beauty again. This time, though, it was beauty intensified. It was as if seeing it for the first time, because the fog might have obscured my vision but it also left me with a newfound passion for that beauty. The fog left me with a hunger that needed to be fed, a hunger for music and words and excitement - and beauty.

I was fortunate. My depression was of the situational kind, brought on by an unexpected death and not a function of my body chemistry. It was not something that has dogged me throughout my life, although I know it could return some day. I am wary now, though, and I watch for those tendrils of fog licking at the window frames of my mind. I hope if the fog ever rolls in again that I will recognize it quickly and be able to address it just as promptly. I have seen the fog, though, and thus I have great empathy for anyone who suffers, whether theirs be a fog or a persistent black dog. I escaped the fog, and I hope they one day find the fog lifting or the black dog retreating into the distance. I am grateful every day for a family that loved me enough to help me clear the fog. I stop every day to appreciate something of beauty, whether it is a song or a flower or the face of my daughter. My black dog that was really a fog is gone now, and it left behind a renewed desire to live. I embrace that daily, and that embrace is just another way to keep the fog at bay.