A Toronto Transformation

Relationships

When Vulnerability Isn’t Enough

You don't have to be constantly in full bloom. Sometimes we need a winter underground.

I talk a lot about the importance of being vulnerable.

And it is. It’s so important.

There is no love, no triumph, no real life without vulnerability.

But something I don’t always mention, when I’m talking about vulnerability is how to cope when you’ve stood naked with your flaws written all over you for the world to see, and it just doesn’t work.

When the deep, raw, vulnerability of giving your heart, or sharing your talent or just of really trying your hardest at something, isn’t enough.

When there is no one there to receive the love, when there’s no applause, when your experiment just flat fails.

And you know it’s not a case where giving more or trying harder, trying again, will get you the result you were hoping for.

When failure inevitably comes calling, what do you do?

I think that often, the people who recover quickly from life’s crushing disappointments, the ones who can stand to be vulnerable, not just once, but time and time again, are the ones who have built lives for themselves that don’t just revolve around one all-important thing.

They don’t just have one obsession, one person or cause or creation that they live for.

Their interests are many, and their lives are so full that when one part of it falls apart, no matter how tragically, and how much it breaks their heart, they’ve got things to get them up, raring to go, in the morning, people who need them, projects to be completed.

You don’t have to be vulnerable with every person all the time. It’s ok to take a moment, to curl in on yourself and try to heal a bit before opening yourself up  again to the possibilities vulnerability brings.

You don’t have to be constantly in full bloom. Sometimes we need a winter under ground.

Have passion, drive and determination, yes, but don’t make any one thing, any one person your reason for being.

Be vulnerable, yes, but don’t throw everything you have into any one thing.

Always keep a little for yourself.

Reading Rainbow – The Ghost in my Closet

thedress

It’s that time of the month again! The wonderful time of the month when it’s my turn to post a little something for the fantastic collaborative blog with the terrible name, Pooping Rainbows.

Its intricate bead work shimmered and sparkled, winking and beckoning to me from the shop window.

I spotted it early and was suddenly glad we hadn’t eloped.

It slid on effortlessly, skimming here and hugging there.

Like him, I thought. A perfect fit.

We hadn’t yet decided on a degree of formality, but I figured it would be perfect for an elegant cocktail sort of celebration, or to wear as a reception-rehearsal dress if I suddenly found myself swept up in the idea of something more traditional.

I posed and twirled and shimmied in front of the mirror, grinning like the fool in love I was.

Click here to read the rest and check out some of the other great bloggers involved while you’re at it!

What Your Internal Monologue Says About You

internalmonologue

“Let’s run you a nice warm bath, Little One,” the voice says after I’ve had a particularly grueling workout.

“Come on, out of bed, honey. I’ll put on the kettle and you can have a nice cup of tea while you wake up,” she coaxes, as I burrow deeper under the covers on a Monday morning.

It occurred to me recently that this might not be totally normal.

Especially when you consider that I live alone.

It’s the same voice that says, “Enough, already,” when I’m having a bad day and hiss a cruel, shallow insult at my reflection, and helps to keep my self-bullying in check.

It’s the voice that told me, “You’re all right,” when I cried in the shower after my fiance left. “Breathe, girl. You’re ok. You’re going to be just fine.”

It’s the voice that called me a super genius last week when I solved a fairly rudimentary math problem at work (maybe a stretch, but I’ll take it).

It’s my voice.

My internal monologue, to be precise. And I’ve recently realized she’s really, really nice.

I’m not sure when or how exactly I developed this habit of half-consciously soothing myself (with pet names, no less!) I wonder if it’s something I developed while living on my own or while living in the country, when my thoughts were often my only company,  but, besides the concern that I could be developing multiple personalities, I think it’s kind of great!

My internal monologue says to me the kind of things that I would say to my friends and often, the things my kindest friends would say to me when I need to hear them.

While it’s no substitute for the wise counsel of people who love me, I think it definitely helps get me through rough days and keeps me smiling on good ones.

I wondered if I was alone in this, but reassuringly, my friend Sam says she too has a sweetheart of an inner voice, who frequently refers to her as “Baby Girl,” as she goes about her day.

So either this is fairly normal, or we both caught the same strain of weirdo disease.

Hopefully it’s contagious.

Do you guys ever pay attention to your internal monologue? What does it tell you?

 

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Compulsory Empathy

We couldn't be violent or cruel if we felt more keenly the pain we inflicted on others.

I recently came across this powerful poetic response to a man on a bus who told the woman he was with that she was “too ugly to be raped,” Presumably he was an alien making his first attempt at what we humans call a “joke”.

Most of the comments in the Facebook thread that introduced me to the piece were messages of gratitude to and solidarity with the poet, but then, of course, one oh-so-helpful commenter pointed out that humour is subjective.

“If everything that someone takes personal is off of the table, what is left to joke about?” he asked. He went on to claim that people only get upset about jokes made about their own pet causes. “Fat people don’t get mad at the rape jokes but get mad about the fat jokes,” he wrote. I just don’t think you can police what other people find funny because humour is subjective…It’s not worth getting worked up over”

My eyes rolled so hard I’m pretty sure I got a brief look at my own brain.

It’s hard to know which trolls to feed and which to avoid sometimes, but I thought I’d give this one the benefit of the doubt and try to explain to him why for so many of us, a joke like that is indeed worth getting worked up over.

I tried explaining that rape jokes are indicative and part of the larger societal problem of rape culture, which is what makes them worth getting upset about even if we are lucky enough not to have been raped ourselves, and I told him that while no one is advocating that we do away with free speech, if we want to live in a better world, we need to approach what we say and what we laugh at with a sense of empathy.

He came back at me with, “So you’re in favour of compulsory empathy? That hardly seems like empathy at all. You can’t tell everyone they have to think like you do and ONLY find funny what you find humorous. How boring is that?”

I laughed out loud at his first question, though I knew after reading it that he was probably a lost cause.

Am I in favour of compulsory empathy?

Um, Hell yes I am!

If I could force every person on this planet to live their lives with a little more empathy (and a lot more for those who are particularly lacking in it), I absolutely would.

If we had a better-tuned sense of empathy, greed would have to take a backseat to eradicating hunger and poverty.

We couldn’t destroy our planet and poison our resources if we felt more empathy for our future children or our nieces and nephews.

We couldn’t be violent or cruel, if we felt more keenly the pain we inflicted on others.

We couldn’t cling so tightly to our ignorance, when someone tried to tell us that our careless words brought on worlds of suffering.

We would have to apologize.

We would have to try to be better.

 

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Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving squash

Happy Thanksgiving, pals!

There are so many things in this life to be thankful for. I think I’m afraid to try and list them all for fear of jinxing myself.

I have a hilarious and supportive family, my health is good (well, chronic DVT isn’t super healthy, but still, alive despite that, so counting it!). I have peace, food and shelter. The basics are definitely more than covered.

This Thanksgiving weekend as I thought about the past year’s tribulations and triumphs and mulled over the things I have to be grateful for, one lovely face after another flickered past my mind’s eye.

Over the past year following the most confusing, heartbreaking and drawn-out breakup I’ve ever experienced, my friends have proved time and time again to be an incredible source of love, strength and support.

So, this year, they are what I’m grateful for.

For Emma, who immediately felt the fury I was too stunned and sad to feel. And who masterminded this hilarious little bit of magic to boot.

For Red, who had the misfortune of picking up the phone weeks after my breakup to hear me, her most dry-eyed, stiff upper-lipped friend, plead: “Hey, can you talk to me? I can’t seem to stop crying. I don’t know what to do.” and who talked to me and made me laugh until my chest loosened enough for sleep.

For my West Coast pal, who promised to have her kicking boots ready, should she encounter my ex-fiance in her travels.

For my cousin, who sat down with a pencil and paper to try to puzzle out with me what the hell had happened, and who shared more sage and helpful advice than she has any right to possess at her age. Dear old soul.

For Sam, who eagerly adopted the role of personal cheerleader, and whose extremely gentle threats towards anyone who might dare to break my heart always crack me up.

For Emily, who would not allow me to feel stupid or at fault for believing in love and magic and my own intuition and who was so empathetic that her dreams cooked up revenge for me.

For every one of you that took the time to check in and see how I was doing, who sent a kind word, held my hand, bought me a drink, listened, distracted or made me laugh.

Because of you, I am just fine.

And that’s definitely something to be thankful for.

That Voodoo that You Do

voodoo doll in a shark's mouth

I may have mentioned that I have amazing, hilarious friends.  And like all of my favourite amazing, hilarious people, they have a delightfully dark and twisty side.

Never was this more evident than a few weeks ago when a couple of them presented me with a post-breakup voodoo doll (they may have a wee spot of lingering resentment over my breakup) they had made me, complete with a black heart sewn into his chest and a stupid deep V-neck t-shirt sewn onto it.

It’s quite possibly the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen and I think I belly laughed for 15 minutes straight when I first encountered it.

As much as I wouldn’t wish a horrible breakup on anyone (well, almost anyone), it really has been amazing to see how people being furious on your behalf can be cathartic and make you feel so very loved, especially when you aren’t great at displaying any kind of towering rage yourself. While we’re on the subject, taking the high road, trying to be magnanimous and accept things with grace is utterly exhausting sometimes, no?

And what do you do with a breakup voodoo doll? Well, if you’re my friends, you get pretty creative. Every time I leave one of them alone with him, they come up with some preposterous new discomfort for the dear thing.

Oh, and if you’re my friend’s cat, you attack him in the night, biting a hole in his neck where tiny bits of the bulgar he’s stuffed with occasionally spill out.

voodoo doll strung between two lamps

voodoo doll with his head in the VCR

Yeah, I still own a DVD player and VCR. What of it?

Sure it’s a little macabre, but then, so’s life. You might as well laugh about it while you’ve got the chance.

What’s the best breakup cheer up gift or piece of advice you’ve ever received?

voodoo doll hanging from a dragonfly mobile

Reading Rainbow – Once More Unto the Breach

It’s that time of the month again! The wonderful time of the month when it’s my turn to post a little something for the fantastic collaborative blog with the terrible name, Pooping Rainbows.

As I begin to cast the occasional suspicious squint at the faraway world of dating from the protective cocoon I’ve been living in for the past few months, I know there are some things I need to address. Remnants of the past year. The whirlwind, the hurricane.

I was so determined to be open to love and unafraid of pain. I don’t know any other way. How do you love without vulnerability?

So I did. I loved with my whole entire heart. I was brave.

I wonder if it was worth it. Because I got them both. The love was breathless and exhilarating and oh it fit just right.

I knew there was risk, but I didn’t know how much. The odds had never seemed more in my favour.

Click here to read the rest and check out some of the other great bloggers involved while you’re at it!

Reading Rainbow – Envy

It’s that time of the month again! The wonderful time of the month when it’s my turn to post a little something for the fantastic collaborative blog with the terrible name, Pooping Rainbows.

During a game of truth or dare this weekend (yes, my friends and I are 12 going on 20/30-something – if we play while drinking wine it’s grown-up, right?) one of my friends asked me “Who are you jealous of?”

The game ground to a halt as I mulled this one over. I definitely experience twinges of envy fairly regularly, but let’s face it, sloth and gluttony are more my style than full-blown jealousy.

There are, of course, things that other people have that I would dearly love to have for myself, but there are inevitably flipsides to all of those things. I might envy someone’s salary, but no sooner does it occur to me to be jealous than I realize I wouldn’t want the stress or the hours they go through to earn it.

Click here to read the rest and check out some of the other great bloggers involved while you’re at it!

How We Fight

SuperBat

Legend has it you should never go to bed angry.

I’ve never been much of a fighter. Give me a topic I’m truly passionate about and I’ll argue/debate it for days on end. But let’s face it, you’d probably agree with me before it came to that.

Even as a child I was big on keeping the peace. In fact, now that I think about it,  I was actually a designated playground peacekeeper in elementary school, providing mediation for kids who just couldn’t share their Puppy Surprise or stop biting each other or whatever.

My parents didn’t yell at us often, which meant if they did, we were in deep trouble, mister. They would argue like all humans sharing a living space must, but I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard them raise their voices at each other.

I know I had some loud, dramatic fights with my parents on occasion when they’d get fed up with my angsty, ungrateful little teenage tornado of belly tops and silver eyeliner and hormone/boredom-driven antics (is there anything on earth more dramatic than a teenage girl’s social life?).

They actually didn’t yell when I came home at 16 years old and threw up a vodka slurpee and about half a bottle of scotch one night after my first big heartbreak. They just told me to drink some water, take an advil and go to bed.

No question I was reeeeaal grounded though.

On those rare occasions when all semblance of cool was abandoned in favour of plain old angry shouting, it was never long before either they or I ran out of steam enough to relent at least a little, apologize for any hurt caused and calmly explain our frustration. And even before amends were made, I never doubted that I was loved, or that I was welcome in my home.

Some people say that it’s healthy to fight in relationships. To even go ahead and shout if you feel like shouting. To get things out in the open and express yourself honestly. I have to say I’m skeptical though. The few fights I’ve had within relationships or friendships where there was yelling or even overly harsh words exchanged in overly harsh tones have never been the ones I found the most productive.

Maybe it’s just my personality, or the aforementioned lack of yelling in the home I grew up in, but I find it extremely shocking and upsetting to be yelled at. Maybe I just need a thicker skin, but the second voices are raised or angry tears are shed, a deflector shield around my own emotions is activated. If I’m attacked, I just shut down. But the words don’t bounce off. Some of the message might still get through, but I carry angry words thrown my way around with me for years and that can overshadow what might be a legitimate point the hurler of words is trying to get across.

That said, I have been known to lose control from time to time with, looking back, kind of hilarious results. I remember one late-night/early morning fight with an ex that ended with him being so fed up he left the bed and went to sleep on the couch in what was in my mind an attempt to punish me. So I one-upped him by leaving the entire apartment and wandering around the streets in the snow to punish him. Except that, of course, he was warm and cozy on the couch while I was freezing my ass off. It probably cooled me down though.

Our other most memorable fight ended with me being so furious at not only whatever we were fighting about but the fact that he could barely keep his eyes open to listen to me rant about it that I leapt out of bed, ran into the hallway and hurled his drying Gi (jiu jitsu robe thingy) down the stairs.

That’s right, don’t mess with me or the laundry gets it!

So much for laying out my case in a calm, unaccusatory and rational manner.

Which makes me think, maybe sometimes it’s not so bad to go to bed angry after all.

A Horrible Day

One of my favourite things to read on the internet are Peter Dewolf’s letters to his future wife, not necessarily knowing whom that future wife might be. They are sweet and hilarious and smart. In fact, I challenge anyone to read through them and not want to marry him at least a little bit. This week, Peter challenged his readers to write letters to their future spouses. With my own future husband no longer a work of fiction (although he’s so darned awesome sometimes I wonder) I couldn’t resist the challenge!

Dear Future Husband,

Someday we will have a terrible, horrible, no good day.

Someone will get demoted, the kids will just be real jerks, we’ll have to take the dog to the vet, Stephen Harper V 3.0 will win the election, someone will die, I will forget to do that thing I keep promising I’ll do – again. You’ll start to seriously wonder if it’s on purpose. If I was, in fact, just put on this earth to deliberately find ways to frustrate you.

So basically we will be cranky. Real cranky.

We will both feel a little mean and small and fed-up.

With no one else around at the end of the longest day, and no energy or ability left to accept things with grace, or laugh it off, or just go the heck to sleep and do things better tomorrow, we will turn on each other. And we will fight.

We won’t fight fair, either.

We will prod at tender places and spit salt and lemons into secret little cuts. Seeds and all.

Odds are, I won’t swear, or call you names, but I’ll find some way to take a dig.

Then we’ll circle each other warily. Tired but stubborn. Nursing our hurts. Not ready to let go.

If you weren’t so mad at me, you’d probably just stare in some combination of fascination and abject horror as I work myself into a most unreasonable lather, and stalk around the place like a thundercloud.

It won’t be adorable. In fact, you’ll probably never be less attracted to my mean little face. And let’s face it, you won’t be looking so hot to me either.

A horrible day.

But here’s the thing, Future Husband.

I’m kind of looking forward to it.

Or, I suppose, more accurately, to what comes next.

I’m looking forward to that moment when we’ve seen each other’s ugliest, meanest, maddest faces. When we’ve been comfortable enough to let a glimpse of our very most shameful worst be laid out on the table, when we have been our absolute hardest to love.

And we decide that it’s not so bad.

That if this is our worst, our best or even our average more than makes up for it.

And we choose to let it go, or be the bigger person, or take our turn to back down.

I’m looking forward to the day that we’ve chosen each other every day for years.

And we choose each other again.

Horrible days and all.

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