Friday, December 21, 2012

Endings, and floating around

Today is a day of many endings, or as I prefer to see them, beginnings.  It has been a long time since I feared an ending; I was always taught that in order for there to be beginnings and new things, other things have to end.

Though the world did not end today (though you could have fooled me with the snowstorm outside) it is the end of a Baktun in the Mayan calendar.  It is also The winter solstice, or yule, where the darkest part of the year is over, after that we start regaining daylight.  It is also my birthday in a few days, and the start of a new calendar year soon too.  As with most people, this time of the year gets me to thinking about the state of my life, am I where I want to be?

For the past few years I kind of chuckle when I think of this question, mostly at the thought that no one really close to me expected me to make it past 27.  I have a long history of depression, with suicidal tendencies, paired with a lot of really reckless behaviour during my teens and early 20s.  Put those two together, and it is the perfect recipe to die young.  I, and a lot of other people just assumed that one day the depression or the recklessness would get the better of me.  It really wasn't a negative thing, more of a sad acceptance thing.  I never really imagined myself past that age, so I didn’t plan.  I spent those years living like there would not be a « next year ».  I didn’t put much thought into what I wanted after 30.

Then for the past couple of years (28-30) I have been kind of floating by, seeing what would happen, part of me just happy to still be around, barely knowing where I am, let alone where I want to be.

In a few days, I’ll be 31, still young by most standards, though older than I ever expected to be. This year is different, I actually feel 31, I am on pretty solid ground and I know where I am in my life, even if this place scares the bejeezus out of me sometimes.  I feel like a grown up, I have a grown up job, and a family, and a partner.  I feel mostly secure in my « me-ness », I feel like I know who I am.  It’s like I’m in front of one of those « you are here » maps.

The question is, where do I want to go?  I know who I am, but not who I want to become, where I am, but not where I want to go.  I have a tattoo that id the runic symbol that means « voyages », I got it to remind me to never stop moving, evolving, or taking risks.  To not just take physical voyages, but internal ones as well.

So I guess that is what I’ll be doing for the next little while, taking a long look at all of the roles I play in my life, for myself and others, and trying to figure out the next plot line, the next story arc.  From what I see around me, looking forward and mapping out one’s life is second nature, for me it is a brand new experience.  I don’t expect, or want, to map out my life, but I do feel like I need a general direction.  I’m tired of just floating around

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some random things I learned recently

Despite what people told me in my childhood, cobwebs ARE spider webs, not just accumulations of dust.  I’m sure the reason that they told me this was so that I would stop going all « ninja karate chop freak out » when I encountered them during spring cleaning, but still, not cool.  The thought that I have been nonchalantly brushing aside spider ass excretions for the past 20 years or so grosses me out.

At almost 30 years old, you would think that I am old enough to have finally grasped the concept of not licking/eating things that I am unsure of, but apparently not, as evidenced by the fact that I licked what I thought was a sprinkle off my hand, but it turned out to be dried soap.  In my defence, it was pink.

Being in a confined space with about 50 or so people dressed as Santa, but in spandex, is unnerving to say the least.  Still, props to the people raising money by participating in a Santa fun run.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gifts and expectations

One of the best, albeit harshest rules I learned at a young age was that life’s not fair, and you can’t have everything you want.

My mom was young, uneducated, and single with no help, frankly  I’m pretty amazed that she succeeded in keeping us in basic necessities.  There was no money for things like video games, or even a VCR.  There are a lot of things that people around me take for granted that I never had, a washer and dryer in the house, a dishwasher, or an air conditioner.  My mom didn’t have a car, we took the bus.  There was only one thing that she always found money for, and that was books.  If I wanted a book, she found a way to get it for me.

To this day I still marvel at how convenient it is for me to just throw in a load of laundry whenever I fell like it.  No more having to plan out an afternoon at the Laundromat.  I still don’t have a dishwasher, or air conditioning, or cable.  My definition of necessary is very different from other people.

I remember one Christmas I got a TV, it wasn’t big, 15’’ I think, but I remember how happy I was to have my very own TV for my room.  Now I think about how much my mom must have scrimped and saved to buy it.

This may be the reason that I have so much trouble dealing with other people’s expectations of Christmas.  This year the BF and I have dealt with some pretty harsh backlash because we have said no to overspend on gifts, and stuck to our guns.  I think we’ve gotten to the other side of the gauntlet, but it has been a pretty rough ride the past couple of months dealing with everyone’s projected expectations.

The fact is this has been a very expensive year for us, what with the move, and getting the kids set up etc.  And we just don’t have the money to be spending hundreds of dollars per kid. 

The ex told us that she had decided to buy the boys Nintendo 3DS each and she wanted us to go in on it with her.  Of course she had not asked our opinion.  We said no, absolutely not.  My BF had bought the boys a Nintendo DS each for the birthdays last year, and sent them to her house with them, despite our usual rule about not sending things over there.  Within a few months, they had lost one and broken the other.  We saw no reason that we should help pay for new ones when we had already bought two.  We told her that we were keeping Christmas simple this year, no big gifts.  She kept bugging us until November.  We didn’t contribute, and she bought them anyways because that was what they wanted.  No thought about what they needed, or the consumerist message that there are no consequences for not taking care of things, just buy new ones.

Then in October, it was the eldest birthday.  He told us that he wanted the Skylander starter game.  We had already bought him a small gift, but we looked online to see how much the game was.  When we saw that it was 75$ for the starter pack, but then there were about 50 other characters to buy at 10$-20$ each, I said no way.  Especially for a video game.  My BF hesitated, wanting to make the kids happy, but quickly came to the same conclusion as me.  We had been working on limiting screen time for months, and this would not help.  We told him that no, we would not be buy the game, and we told him why, it was too expensive.  He wheeldled and cajolled and tried everything in his eight year old’s toolbox to convince us, and finally understood that it was no.

In the end my father in law bought it for him, and you know what, he appreciated it immensly.  He started to understand the concept that things cost money, and that things are not a right, or essential, they are just things.

The kids aren’t unhappy at our house without cable, or air conditioning.  Kids adapt to what you teach them to expect out of life, and while I wholeheartedly agree in teaching them to aspire to greatness and reach for the stars, I also plan to teach them that aspiration is not expectation.  That while you should strive for more, take time to apreciate what you have.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Love on its own is not enough

I was 19 and unexpectedly on my own for the first time.  My mom had moved away, and despite my dad’s family wanting me to move closer to them so they could help, I decided to stay where I was.  The reason…a guy.  Not just any guy, this was true love, The One, or so I thought at the time.  Within a couple of months, I had found my first « grown-up » job, in an office no less.  There I met my first mentor, everything was perfect.

She was smart, quirky, and exactly the kind of person I wanted to be.  She taught me how to navigate office politics, manage my time, and juggle priorities, most of all she let me learn.  I learned most of the skills that have allowed me to work as an admin assistant at that job, but the most important lessons she taught me were life lessons.  The first was that you really can be true to yourself, and do your own thing, and still find a place in society.  She taught me to compromise, but never to conform.  The other lesson was one that would save me a lot of heartbreak.

After about a year of working there, things were not so great with the guy I was with.  We were just too extreme.  We loved fiercely, and fought fiercely, everything was either really great or really bad, but we were in love, and at the time, I was young, and naive, and I believed that we would be together forever, because it was love, and when you are in love things always work out (at least according to the movies).

One day, after a particularly harsh fight with the guy, we had broken up, again.  We were in her office and she just said « you know, sometimes love isn’t enough. ».  I remember looking at her as if she were crazy.  She continued « I could meet some wonderful man tomorrow who makes me feel crazy head over heels in love, but I would be foolish to run off with him.  I love my husband, and more important, we have built a life together of common goals, values, and respect.  Love on its own is not enough to make a relationship work. » I replied « but relationships take work, it can’t always be easy » she said « there is a big difference between something taking work, and something being destructive.  A truly great relationship is when you both push each other to be better at being you, not trying to change the other person »

At the time I dismissed it, we were in love and would be together forever, end of story. 

About a month or so later, her words were still swimming around in my head.  Here was this woman whom I respected immensely, who had taught me so much and had yet to lead me in the wrong direction, telling me to let go of my one true love.  Could she be right?

Within a few months after that conversation, I left that guy, after two years of trying and failing to make it work.  I also left that job not long after, and moved to be closer to my family.  I have never regretted my decision to initially stay to be with him, mostly because if I hadn’t I would probably still be wondering « What if? ».

Her words have stayed with me ever since, and while I still love being in love, I never settled for just love, and I let go of the idea that things will work themselves out if you love each other enough.  Her lesson has allowed me to stay grounded in my relationships.  I wish I were still in contact with her, so I could tell her that I finally found my « great relationship » of love, respect, and common values and goals.  I wish I could thank her for putting a fork in the road of my life and helping me see the right direction.

Inspired by Mama Kat’s pretty much world famous writing prompts 12.10 - What did you learn from your best boss?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sometimes parenting hell is worth it

We had a fun filled weekend planned.  Fun activities, Santa, the whole deal.  The kids however, had decided otherwise it seemed.  Instead of bouncy castles and the such, we got full fledged parenting hell.

First off, one of the boys decided that he didn’t want to do anything. Nothing at all.  Every request to participate in an activity, whether it was getting dressed or hockey was met with a no so fierce I almost expected father Karras to knock at the door.  The oldest, whether it was in solidarity to his brother or just plain rebellion, decided to do the exact opposite of anything we asked, all the while singing an annoying song over and over and over.  The youngest, usually my sunny princess, apparently decided to catch up on all the terrible two-ing she missed.

It was one of the rare weekends where the BF and I both kind of look forward to them going back to their mom’s, essentially, they were jerks.  Our patience was nearing its limit.

Sunday afternoon came, and it was time to go to my office’s children’s Christmas party, and we seriously considered not going.  Did we really want to show this side of our family to my colleagues?  In the end we decided to use the party as a last ditch effort to salvage some semblance of family fun this weekend.  So we bundled the grumpy kids (and adults) and went.  At first they were shy, reserved, and not talking to anyone, but the girl in charge of the event was great, and soon the kids were having fun.

Santa came and there were presents, they played, we rested.  Then the girl in charge brought out a parachute.  Almost all of us adults looked at eachother with knowing smiles, remembering the sheer joy we had felt when we were kids and someone brought out the parachute in gym class.

There were not enough children for all of the parachute handles, so the BF volunteered.  They were playing a game where one person is on top of the parachute, and one under.  Everyone else shakes and moves the parachute making it difficult for the person on top to see the person under.  The person under tries to avoid capture.  After my BF had had his turn under the parachute, and was to be on top, the organizer suggested that since I was so good at heckling/teasing my BF, I should take a turn under the parachute.  I, being a participator by nature, took off my shoes and got under the parachute. 

Our oldest, the one who had held out hope for so long, as all children of divorce do, that his parents would get back together, the one with whom we’ve had the most trouble, loudly and proudly exclaimed « Those are my parents playing, those are MY parents! ».  It was the first time he had ever referred to me, in public or private, as a parent, or as anything other than his dad’s girlfriend.  Then the youngest begged to replace her dad as the person trying to catch me, he conceded.  The middle boy, the one who had spent the weekend grumping and growling cheated and helped his sister catch me.  All the kids were laughing as I got up, brushing off my pants.  Then I looked up at the BF, and we smiled at each other while thinking the same thing, we are a family, and it was all worth it. 

It was one of those spontaneous moments where you know right down to your core that you are in the right place, at the right time, and doing the right things.  No matter how hard it is.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mommy issues

Lately I have noticed that most of my writing, as well as my life, has revolved around my relationships with other women, my mother, my mother’s in law, etc. 

In the past, this has always been a subject that I pushed to the background, mostly because they were either painful relationships, or unimportant ones.  I have a few, fantastic, female friends, who for the most part I have been friends with for over half my life, but other than them, my relationships with women have been strained at best.

Lately, this has been changing, for the better.  I don’t know if there is some weird cosmic thing going on, but the dynamics with the women in my life have been dramatically changing, and while it is mostly positive, it has also been exhausting.  I am pretty good at adapting to change, but when I am in a period where many areas of my life are changing at the same time, I get tired, both physically and emotionally.  The fact that all of this is happening around the holidays does not help things.

That being said, it has helped a lot to write it and get it out there, even if no one reads it, its therapeutic.  So I guess this was all to say that for those of you who do read this, bear with me, there are a few more mommy issue posts comingJ.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mothers and daughters 2

I took Friday afternoon off work and went to pick her up.  My insides were a pit of nausea and anxiety.  She looked much the same, but her voice had changed, much deeper and raspier than before, but she has been a smoker most of her life, so I guess it’s to be expected.  She got in the car and we headed to my place.  We chatted, mostly small talk about her trip.  Neither of us too sure of how to act.  We hadn’t seen each other in over 5 years, and before that visit was another five.  A lot had changed.

We got to the apartment and my BF had made lunch, so cute.  Clearly trying to impress his mother in law whom he had never met.  She was duly impressed.  We ate and then headed to my hometown, to see my dad’s family, none of whom she had seen in almost 15 years.  I hadn’t warned anyone other than my one cousin, I figured I may as well have fun with this, see the look on people’s faces.

They were all completely dumbfounded, seeing me with my mom in their town was probably the last thing they expected short of a zombie apocalypse.  The last stop before going home was to see my dad.  And this I dreaded more than anything.  They had both expressed a desire to see each other, for curiosity or old time’s sake, who knows.  All I knew was that having my parents in the same room was never a happy memory for me, and the last time my mom punched my dad.  Despite everyone’s assurances that they had grown up since then and water under the bridge yadda yadda, all I could see in my head was essentially a parental cage fight with some passerby yelling « finish him! »

Surprisingly, it went well, they talked about old times, about how foolish they had been, and how proud they are of me.  This was the first time I could remember seeing my parents smile while in the same room.  I took pictures to prove the event really happened.

Then we went back to my place for a quiet night.  I barely slept.  The next day she met the kids, we all had fun, and because the kids are awesome, she fell in love with them.  When the kids left we took her out for dinner.  Then another quiet night in.

She talked openly and honestly about her family, my childhood, and her life.  It was refreshing.  My BF would later tell me that he had always had a small lingering part of him that wondered if my childhood and family was a messed up and weird as I said it was (which is natural given that his ex is well known for her talents of exaggeration) but that having my mom there, saying all the same things was a relief, sort of.  On the one hand he was relieved that I had not overly exaggerated, but on the other hand, holy crap was my childhood screwed up lol!

On Sunday, when it was time to take her to the station, I was relieved that it had gone so well.  I was happy to honestly tell her that we would do it again.  Things had ever been so close to normal between us.  I watched her get back on the bus, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I felt hope for us.