starting fresh

photoproject-9803

The last few months have left me feeling pretty shattered. My friend Alex said, “It’s been a rough back half of the year for sure,” and I responded with, “Backhand of the year, more like.” Because I am a comedienne extraordinaire. It has been one thing after another after another, until I find myself cracked and flayed and gasping for breath.

My first instinct is to run. After the latest backhand, I immediately began fantasizing about ways I could get away from everything: find a job in a remote mountain town, drive the car down to Southern California and spend the foreseeable future sleeping on the beach, hole myself up in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I want to be away. I want to tuck myself in somewhere where I’ll be all padded and cosy like a fragile crystal vase in a UPS package, where I’ll be protected from anymore of life’s “jokes” so I can just heal.

But I know I can’t just run away. I can’t out run my problems or run them out (though sweating through the issues seems to help a little bit, if only to clear my head). No matter where I go, I bring all my problems with me. All of my problems and all of myself. Wherever you go, there you are. Relocating myself won’t make me any different. And it won’t protect me from anything. There is nowhere in the world I can go where life wouldn’t catch up with me eventually.

And so I must just stay here and fight through it. Face up to my pain every day and go on living my life while I do it. I open my eyes every morning and for a few seconds, I feel as fresh and new as new-fallen snow, like nothing bad or painful has ever happened to me and there are infinite possibilities awaiting me in the hours to come.

When those few seconds pass, and the world and the past and my pain crash down on me once more, I try to hold onto those few seconds I was free, to carry them with me like a talisman. A reminder that, no matter what happens, for a few seconds every day, I get to start fresh.

starting fresh

one thousand and one days ago

The Irish sky was black outside the window, which was fogging with condensation. The air outside was chill, though mild by the standards of a Canadian January. However, what Ireland has in more temperate temperatures, it makes up for with its complete lack of central heating. My tiny apartment was furnished with a wall heater in the kitchen, and that was it. So most nights you could find me, kitchen door closed, cuddled under a blanket on the couch or at the table, heater blasting for 30 to 60 minutes, making the room toasty warm before I felt compelled to shut it off and save energy (i.e. money). It was awful when I had to go to the bathroom; not only was the bathroom outside the nexus of heat, forcing me to escape into a horrible chill just to pee, but I had to open and close the kitchen door as quickly as possible, to prevent too much heat from escaping. But a bathroom trip meant an inevitable and quick decline from cosy nest to cold kitchen once more, at which point I would have to retreat to my bedroom and huddle under the covers.

It was in this atmosphere, accompanied by heart-crippling homesickness, one thousand and one days ago, that I sat down at my kitchen table across the ocean to craft a list of 101 goals. I didn’t achieve them all. But I certainly achieved a lot, and learned a lot, too, the biggest of which is this:

Goals should be suggestions, rather than commandments set in stone.

People grow and change. Their priorities grow and change with them. Clinging to a goal because it’s on the list, because it’s always been a goal, because I said I was going to do it instead of because it speaks to my soul, are really silly reasons to do anything. I’ve changed a lot over the past two years and eight months. I would go so far as to say I am a totally different person than I was then. Would it make sense, then, to cling blindly to the goals of that Past Me over the goals that make more sense for Present Me? Probably not.

And so that is what I took away from the 101 in 1001 challenge: allow yourself to grow and change. Be flexible. Be aware. Be ever present. Because when you are those things, you will always be self-correcting, and it will be easier to say, “No, this does not fit me anymore, I am going to let it go.” And then actually let it go.

I have a pretty decent fear of heights. It isn’t insanely debilitating; I can still ride in airplanes (though I can’t think about it too much while we’re 30 000 feet in the air), I can still walk across bridges and stand on balconies (though I do, on occasion, picture them collapsing beneath me), and I can still climb a ladder when necessary (one of my fondest memories is helping my stepfather put up Christmas lights and spending a few minutes just exploring the roof of our house). But heights have certainly been the cause of more than a few near-panic attacks and hurried footsteps to get a little closer to safety.

So for a long time, I had “bungee-jump” or “skydive” as a goal. Despite the fact that my whole body would go numb when I thought about doing either of these things, I felt like it was really important that I face my fear. That I should face my fear (uh oh, should is never a good sign).

But then I started thinking, Okay, but why? Will jumping off a 400 foot platform suspended in the middle of a canyon really do anything for me besides give me bragging rights? The thing is…I am okay with my fear of heights. I push it a little bit when necessary. It doesn’t stop me from living my life the way that I want. And so I said to myself, “I think I am going to let this one go.”

So I am not too perturbed by the fact that “skydive” sits forlornly on my list, uncrossed off and ignored. Sorry, Skydive, but you won’t be on the next list.

My list was a great way to stay focused on some of the things that truly mattered to me: finding a job that I genuinely love, becoming debt-free, and injecting a little more whimsy and fun into my life by doing things like watching a movie in a drive-in theatre, taking a surf lesson, and hosting an old-fashioned slumber party. These were all things that I wanted to do, but I might not have put the energy into actually doing if they weren’t on my list. Which would have been a shame, because they were all great fun!

It has been a long journey, from sitting at that table in my freezing cold kitchen in Cork, Ireland, dreaming of the things that I would accomplish over the next three years, to sitting at this table in my cozy apartment in Edmonton, dreaming of all the things that I will accomplish over the next three years.

They’re going to be great ones. I can feel it.

How did your 101 in 1001 journey turn out? What did you learn? What was your favorite goal that you checked off?

 

one thousand and one days ago

it’s so unfair

We didn’t really tell anyone that I was pregnant again. It felt like a jinx.

We needn’t have worried. The whole thing was jinxed without our help, apparently.

This is my second miscarriage in two and a half months. Logically, I know that I haven’t done anything. That chromosomal mismatch is not something that is under my control. But … still. It feels like my fault. It feels like I am being punished. It feels like I should have done more.

I’m really angry, you know? I’m so angry that this is happening again. Especially so soon. I hadn’t even recovered emotionally from the trauma of the last miscarriage and here I am again, grieving once again. It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair. There are sixteen year olds out there who manage to have babies. There are forty-six year olds out there who manage to have babies. I know, I know, there are many people who have problems. I know. But I think that is deeply unfair too. Why is it so easy for some people and so so hard for others?

At this point, I don’t know if there is something wrong with me that is causing this to happen. Maybe it is a fluke. But I find myself wondering, over and over again, what is wrong with me. And what I can do to fix it.

It is all that I can do not to be dragged under by the tide of my overwhelming anger and sadness. I desperately want to thrash against the indifference of fate, to wail and scream and tear out my hair and have someone say, “You’re right, it’s not fair,” and fix it. But that won’t happen.

All that I can do is focus on letting myself heal, both physically and mentally. I told Bryan early on when we found out I was pregnant again that if we lost this baby, too, I was done for a while, and I am. I can’t go through this – any of this – again for a while. I am going to focus on things that I can control: writing my novel, getting back into running and weightlifting after a long hiatus, saving for another international trip, volunteering, taking a dance class. I am going to focus on living life and being happy, and I will do my best to trust in the universe’s timing. Now is not the time, I guess. Maybe, if I put all of my attention into other things, the right time will sneak up on me.

Here’s hoping.

it’s so unfair

ethical vegetarianism

Creative Commons © 2008 Victoria Henderson
Creative Commons © 2008 Victoria Henderson

Disclaimer: This post contains content that may get a rise out of people. That is totally fine! Feel your feelings. But please, always be respectful when expressing them. Let’s have a calm, productive discourse, like the intelligent adults we all are. Thank you! 🙂 

I have been a vegetarian for three and a half years now. It was an overnight decision, a quick change that stuck fast. I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, and was so thoroughly disturbed by everything it contained that I gave up eating meat immediately upon finishing the last page. There wasn’t a lot of dithering or weighing of pros and cons, it was a gut instinct that this was the right thing to do.

So I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons. While I recognize that animal agriculture here in Canada is not necessarily exactly the same as it is in the United States, and that most documentaries and books focus on the US, I still firmly believe that we have a moral imperative to treat animals with dignity before we kill them for our food. I still firmly believe that there are many ways that we can be better. I am not morally opposed to the concept of eating meat, not by any means. I don’t think you are a monster for eating meat, or that we are ingesting an animal’s fear, or whatever else. I don’t care that a piglet has a cute little face. I have no issues with using animals as sustenance. I have issues with treating them with cruelty before killing them for consumption. I have issues with the ethos of factory farming. I have issues with the idea that animals are lesser than us and therefore are undeserving of respect and quality of life.

But for the last six months, I have been coming back, again and again, to the idea that I should go back to eating meat. This isn’t an easy thing for me to contemplate. If I had given up meat simply because I didn’t like it, then it wouldn’t be a big deal for me to resume eating it because I suddenly had a hankering for it. But because I gave up meat from a moral standpoint, I have been struggling mightily with the idea that I might go back to eating it. At one point, I was convinced that I would never eat meat again, and that we would raise our children as vegetarians as well.

Part of the reason I am considering transitioning back to my previously omnivorous ways is, yes, because I miss meat. Just a little. When we are staying at my parents’ house and they cook up a big pan of bacon after church, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been tempted on more than one occasion to throw vegetarianism out the window then and there and scarf down a few pieces. Sometimes, I just really want a burger, you know?

But there are bigger reasons than that. And they are this: I don’t believe that abstaining from meat consumption is the most effective way for me to make my stance on factory farming known. If I am standing here, saying, “Factory farmers, you are bad, so I am going to stop eating meat!” then I am also depriving small, ethical farmers of my business. And what is more effective: being a passive bystander, or actively giving my money to the change that I want to see? I want to see more ethically produced meat, and, yes, I am absolutely willing to pay more money for it. I think that this is the way that meat production should be: less quantity, higher quality, more ethical. So I should be putting my money where my mouth is. It isn’t enough to remove my support from factory farmers: I should be transferring it over to the farmers who are doing exactly what I think should be done. If those farmers are out there, doing things right, but not getting enough support, then they are going to vanish, and we are right back where we started.

I haven’t come to a conclusion yet. It is still percolating around in my mind, but every time I think about it, I draw closer and closer to the decision to return to the land of the meat eaters. I am still coming to terms with what that means for my ethics, but I’ll get there.

For now: have you ever made a change for ethical reasons and then changed your mind again later? And if you have any resources on the vegetarianism debate, please feel free to share them.

ethical vegetarianism

A Year of Secondhand Living

Over the past few years, I have been making career decisions based on interest and passions, rather than money. In terms of my happiness, it has been a great host of decisions. In terms of finances, though…well, I took a pay cut to move into child care. And then I took a pay cut to nanny. So now I am making less than half of what I was making two years ago. And suddenly, that means that some changes need to be made in the way that we live life.

I’m okay with that. I mean, I have always valued contentment and direction and purpose over having a lot of money. But, of course, our world runs on money, and having none of it isn’t really an option at this juncture. I’ve been making a conscious effort to reduce expenses: I contacted my cellphone company to see what they could do about reducing my bill (it went down $12 a month right now, and will go down another $20 at the end of my contract in 2 months), I have reverted to the envelope system for all non-necessary purchases, and I have drastically cut back on how much I eat out.

But as I was going over my own personal expenses from the past few months, I realized that there was something else that I could do. I noticed that I had made quite a few clothing purchases, which surprised me, because generally, I don’t spend much money on that. But several hundred dollars had gone towards revamping my wardrobe. And while I do not regret that in the slightest (I love my wardrobe now, and rarely have any problem picking out what I am going to wear, finding that nearly everything goes together and I am comfortable in all of it), I could have reduced those expenses quite a bit by doing one thing: buying it secondhand.

Which gave me an idea. I had read an article on Coffee + Crumbs a few months ago about how Anna Quinlan had gone a whole year without buying anything new. What if I did the same thing?

And so, a challenge was born (y’all know how much I enjoy a challenge, right?).

The terms of the challenge are simple: for one year, starting on November 1, everything I purchase will be secondhand. There are two exceptions to this rule: 1) things that cannot be purchased secondhand for whatever reason (ex. hygiene) and 2) gifts. Otherwise, everything brought into our home will have been previously owned. I believe that this will force us to re-evaluate what we actually need, as well as push us to be creative in how we obtain those objects.

I’m a little cowed by the prospect, I don’t mind telling you, especially because I will be embarking upon it right before the holiday season, and we are also hoping to get pregnant again within the next year. I thought about delaying it, but then I realized that, at any time, I could probably come up with ten reasons why it would be easier to do it some other time. So I shut those excuses in a box in the back of my head and decided to just do it.

Have you ever done anything like this? Do you have any tips or tricks for me? I would absolutely love to hear them!

A Year of Secondhand Living

Five Hours

WARNING: This might be triggering for those of you have experienced the pain of miscarriage. <3

We had already been waiting for five hours. Five hours, just to get ultrasound results. Five hours in which we’d been moved to three different waiting rooms, seen many other patients come and go, and still heard nothing. Five hours in which the pain became increasingly hard to bear and no one would even give me a Tylenol until the doctor had seen me. Five hours in which my frustration, anger, and sadness mounted to a fever pitch.

We both sat on the ER bed, listening to the woman on the other side of the curtain explaining her symptoms to the doctor, saying, “It might just be the flu, but I need to know, because I work as a Costco sampler, you know, and my boss needs to know if it is contagious.” My legs were pulled up to my chest and I rocked back and forth, trying to breathe my way through the ripping, cramping pain, while Bri rubbed my back and I resisted the urge to rip open the curtain and punch that other woman in the face, screaming, “You think it’s just the flu?! Why are you here?! Why are you keeping the doctor from seeing me with your stupid flu symptoms?”

Five hours they made me wait to tell me what I already knew: I was losing my baby.

Earlier in the day, I’d lain on a bed in a dimly lit room while a sweet ultrasound tech with a raspy, comforting voice named Lindsay rubbed a wand over my belly. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her face. I did not want to see what was written there. I scratched at the corner of my eye and she asked if I was doing okay. Said, “I know it is not an easy thing.”

After that first abdominal ultrasound, the doctor elected for a vaginal one, as well. An intern joined us in the room as a camera wand was inserted between my thighs and craned around at all sorts of strange angles. I had a momentary, insane urge to laugh.

Five hours later, and I was still waiting for the results of that procedure.

The pain in my pelvis was escalating quickly, and I could feel strange pulses of liquid between my legs. They finally moved us into a private room. It was for eye exams, and Bri spent five minutes rifling through the drawers to see what treasures they contained, pulling out plastic-wrapped medical tools and reading out their absurd names. It helped to distract me a little as I bowed over in pain, tears running down my face. I loved my best friend, and I was so grateful that she had driven an hour and a half so I would not be alone, but I wished my husband was there, too. Instead, he was waiting by the phone, a province over, in the middle of an island, waiting for any news at all.

I went into the washroom. There was so much blood. My early pregnancy nightmares of oceans of blood washing over me were coming true. The doctor came in a minute after I returned to the room and confirmed everything I had known all along.

Miscarriage.

No fetal heart rate.

No development after 8 weeks.

As she talked, I noticed that the rippling pain in my abdomen had stopped. I wondered if it was over.

She told me a bunch of other things, too, under those eye exam posters, as I sat curled up in the opthamology chair. I couldn’t process much of it, or really do more than nod. Bri asked a few questions, thinks that made me think, Yes, that would be good to know. But I couldn’t process the answers.

Then we gathered our things and left.

I didn’t let myself cry right away. I forced myself to act calm, to keep my voice as steady as possible as I uttered any inane thought that entered my head. I didn’t let myself go until I was walking to my car, alone. The sobs clenched my heart and shook my core. I couldn’t breathe.

I lost our baby.

Bryan called as I was pulling out of the parking lot. I sobbed even harder at the sound of his voice. All I could get out was, “I’m so sorry.” To which he responded, low and fierce and full of heart-rending grief, “You have nothing to be sorry for.”

I know it’s not my fault. I know I didn’t do anything. But I still feel an awful lot like it’s my fault. I lost our baby.

Bri and I sat in Boston Pizza. The AC was on high. I tried to be normal. I might have even laughed some, I don’t know. Bryan called again. He was the one crying this time.

As we stood up to leave, I realized that the hem of my shirt was oddly wet. I looked down at my seat; it was drenched. My chest constricted and things slowed down as I swiped at it with a napkin; it came away bright red with blood. I stared at Bri, unsure what to do, my brain grinding to a painful halt as I hovered there. She waved a hand at me and said, “Go, I’ll deal with this.” I balled the bloody napkin in my hand and hurried across the entire length of the restaurant to the washroom.

The whole back of my pants were soaked in blood. I mopped at myself, crying again. I checked my reflection; it wasn’t even noticeable. But now that my pants had been off, they were cold and wet against my skin. Not damp. Wet. Would the pain and frustration and humiliation of this day never end?

I just wanted to go home.

It has been a few weeks now. I feel okay, considering. It hits me randomly every so often; as I bound up stairs without wanting to collapse with exhaustion, as I order a beer at a bar, when I notice pregnant women and tiny infants on the streets. Oh, right. I’m not pregnant anymore. But I’m coping with it better than I ever would have anticipated. Which brings a whole other slurry of emotion with it; why aren’t I more devastated? What is wrong with me that I am this okay about losing my baby? Am I a terrible person?

I am sad, and I am not, and I am okay, and I am not, and all of that is okay. There is no right way through this pain. There was a baby, and now there is not, and I feel horribly, thickly sad, and I also don’t. I don’t know if that will ever go away.

But one thing never changes: I wish I could have my baby back.

Five Hours

it’s not about me

I have been realizing this more and more lately: it is not about me.

For a long time, I have felt this gaping hole in the center of my chest, this sense of missing something, of being, slightly, crookedly, incomplete. I have spent countless hours worrying about it, thinking about it, searching for it, whatever it is. What is my purpose? What am I supposed to be doing? Why am I here? How can I make myself feel whole?

And I am starting to realize that it probably isn’t really about me, after all.

I received an email in my inbox the other day from an online business guru, talking about how people always say things like, “I want to run an online business and have passive income and work a flexible schedule.” And his response is, “Well, la de da, who cares what you want? What does your customer want?”

I have been reading a book entitled If You Find this Letter by Hannah Brencher, the founder of The World Needs More Love Letters, an organization that I discovered through her book and fell immediately, passionately, manically in love with. It is funny, because I thought, somewhere, she said the words, “It wasn’t about me.” And maybe she did. But I have been scanning and scanning and scanning the book, and for the life of me, I cannot find it. So I am forced to assume that it was an idea that was conveyed subtly, rather than explicitly stated. Either way, it hit me in the chest, and I immediately pulled my journal towards me and wrote the words IT IS NOT ABOUT ME across the top of a page in big bold letters.

Because maybe what I am looking for is not about me. Maybe it isn’t about what I need, but about what other people need, and how who I am can somehow meet those needs. Maybe I have been looking in all the wrong places because I have been focused on me when I needed to be focused on those outside of me.

At this point, I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know what that will lead to. But for now, I am committed to seeing the world from a slightly different perspective; a “what can I do for you” perspective, rather than a “what can you do for me” one (thanks, JFK). I started, simply, hopefully, with writing a few anonymous love letters to leave for strangers. I think Hannah would approve.

We’ll see where all this goes. But I have hope.

it’s not about me

the depression chronicles: radical self-care

wpid-2015-08-19-06.06.06-1.jpg.jpeg

I was doing all right. The day had been a little lighter than the ones that had come before it, but anxiety was knocking at the door again, a bit of darkness pressing its face against the windows, and I knew that I was going to have do something a bit bigger, a bit stronger, a bit more radical.

So I hauled myself out the door. First things first: get out of the house.

I didn’t have a plan. I headed to the mall, thinking I would run some errands, but as soon as I set foot in the cool, echoey interior, I knew it was a mistake. Malls are depressing places; I rarely ever see people smile there. I hustled out as fast as I could and headed to my go-to happy place: the library. But I knew that I had too many books at home to read, and the growing pile, far from giving me pleasure, was starting to feel like a chore. Instead of heading inside to peruse more chores, I stopped at the threshold and went into Second Cup instead. I bought myself a green tea lemonade and a croissant, plonked myself down at a window table, and enjoyed my snack. I didn’t pull out the book I had stowed in my purse, nor did I pull up the Feedly app on my phone. I answered a few texts, but mostly, I just sat, and ate, and drank.

wpid-2015-08-19-06.06.05-1.jpg.jpeg

When I was done, I headed back out into the sunshine, with the vague notion that I would head to the river valley and find somewhere shaded where I could sit and write for a while. The previous day, in my counselling session, my therapist and I had talked about grounding techniques: take your shoes off and walk in the grass, literally hug a tree, put your hands in the dirt and let it sift through your fingers. She laughed a little, and apologized if that sounded too hippy dippy for me, but it sounded exactly right, and I thought that now was the time to put those ideas into action.

Walking past the imposing Fairmont Macdonald, I noticed there were some flowers out front that I had never really noticed before. I cut back across the street I had just crossed to check it out, but the benches were all full in the sun, many of the flowers looked like they hadn’t been watered in weeks, and there were three or four people sitting around, smoking. I try to avoid secondhand smoke at the best of times, but now that I have someone else to worry about, I am militant about it. This was not where I was going to rest.

I continued on past the hotel, to a staircase I had never ventured down. It took me down into the river valley, to my favorite path, which I have not been on much over the summer. It is my running route, but I haven’t been running for the past three months because of my leg injury, and I hadn’t realized how deeply I missed it. Not only the act of running, but the location. A huge smile spread across my face as I meandered past the trees, occasionally stopping to press my hand against the rough bark of one.

wpid-2015-08-19-06.06.02-1.jpg.jpeg

wpid-2015-08-19-06.06.04-1.jpg.jpeg

Eventually, I slipped my shoes off and put them in my purse. The pavement was hot under my feet, almost unbearable, but the shock of it, the here-ness of it, brought a huge smile to my face. Sometimes, when I am very depressed, it feels like there is a wall between me and the world, a wall that I cannot break through or knock down, no matter how hard I try, and so I cannot feel anything. I can see the world, but I don’t feel part of it. I can objectively feel the air and smell the smells and see the sights, but there is no subjective experience attached to it. Here, curling my toes against the hot asphalt, feeling the roughness of the tiny pebbles against my skin, I came slamming back to reality with such force I am surprised I managed to remain standing.

wpid-2015-08-19-06.05.11-1.jpg.jpeg

I went on like this for nearly two and a half hours. Turning left when I usually turn right. Breaking into a near-run, skipping whenever I felt like it. Not only returning people’s smiles, but actively seeking them out. At one point, I wanted to go down to the river, so I found a little path that took me to the edge of an incline, which I slid down on my butt, and found myself just a few feet from the water. I sat on a tree branch, so knobbly that my derriere was asleep within minutes. But I sat there for nearly half an hour, taking pictures, drawing, and writing in my notebook. My shoes squealched in the mud, and I watched as four or five ducks swam in front of me, circling and quacking and completely oblivious to my presence.

After a while, I had to head home, because I was ill-prepared for my adventure and had neglected to bring either water or a snack. As well, I have to pee about every five seconds nowadays. But I went home with the biggest smile on my face, having immersed myself in pure joy for the afternoon, a kind of radical nowness, and it was exactly what my soul needed.

How do you practice radical self-care?

the depression chronicles: radical self-care

all of the feelings

wpid-img_20150818_125840.jpg

Well. The cat is out of the bag: we’re having a baby.

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the whole thing. When we found out, I sobbed uncontrollably for almost an hour, completely overwhelmed with happiness and fear and anxiety and hope and basically every other emotion a human being is capable of feeling. I wandered around in a daze for the rest of that day: we went to IKEA and saw the movie Southpaw, but I barely remember any of that. Mostly what I remember is standing in the middle of an aisle in the IKEA warehouse, unaware of where I was, thinking, over and over, Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. 

Then I called my mother.

The sheer panic of those first few days has lessened somewhat over the last few weeks. The idea that we are going to have a baby, that we will go from a couple to a family of three, has become a bit more comfortable (though no less terrifying). We have told our family, our friends, pretty much everyone we know, and so I don’t have to keep it a secret anymore. When I am overcome with a wave of exhaustion so intense I can barely stand, I don’t have to pretend I’m fine anymore. I don’t have to make excuses.

I am happy. Very happy. This is, after all, exactly what I wanted.

But there’s more to it than that. Over the past few weeks, I have also been more depressed than I have been in a long, long while. There have been days when I have been unable to drag myself out of bed for more than a few hours at a time. Given the level of exhaustion I’ve been feeling, it has been hard to engage in many of the things that I like to do, which has been frustrating and demoralizing. There have been a million things that I feel the need to think about, now that a mini Cooper is on the way: is this the right place for us to be living right now, what do we do about the fact that our neighbor’s cigarette smoke is constantly seeping into our apartment, what kind of stuff are we going to need for the baby, what do I need to do in order to take fullest advantage of maternity leave, life insurance, a will, RESPs, the list goes on and on. Sometimes I lay in bed at night, with these thoughts and worries chasing themselves around my head like a dog with its tail, and it is all that I can do to keep from screaming. And I look at myself, curled into a protective ball under the blankets, and I think, “I should be happy.”

But I shouldn’t be anything. My therapist told me, “Pregnancy is an experience like anything else, and there is no should about how you feel. You feel the way that you feel.” And so I am practicing self-compassion again, giving myself permission to be how I am, whatever that may be, letting myself know that it is okay to not be okay. That maybe pregnancy won’t be a meadow full of flowers and rainbows for me, and that is okay. That it is okay for it to be whatever it is going to be.

I just want to embrace it while it is here, however it is going to turn out. I only plan on having two children, maaaaaybe three, so this is a rare experience, and I want to really experience it. I don’t want to spend the whole time wishing it was over. I want to be here, now, not only to be truly present for all of the ways in which my baby is growing and my body is changing, but to experience the last few months that Bryan and I have to ourselves. I really don’t want to squander that time. I want to spend it cuddling and talking and laughing and exploring the city and having new experiences and doing things we’ve always talked about but never gotten around to. I want to spend it planning how we are going to adjust our dreams and aspirations to the presence of a tiny person in our world. I want to spend a little bit of it pretending that a baby isn’t coming at all, and that it is really just the two of us for a while longer.

All I know is that this whole thing has come with a shit ton of feelings, and I am doing my best to lean into them. To be here and now, while I can be.

Mostly, though, I am just little-kid-on-Christmas-morning excited that I am going to be a mother. (OH MY GOD.)

all of the feelings

the origins of love

The first time I watched my favorite movie, at the tender age of 14, seated between a close friend and the boy who had a strange and uncomfortable crush on her, I hated it. Reviled it. Love Actually? Abomination Actually. I couldn’t figure out why we had wasted time or money or energy on it. It made me feel weird. (Especially given my seatmates.) I told everyone about how awful it was. I went on and on about it at length. Probably too much length.

Now, I watch it at least once a year and cry happy tears and fist pump from my couch at the end.

Similarly, both of my best friendships began with some level of hate.

1936491_1119564002597_4617600_n

My cousin and I have a rocky origin story. I remember this only peripherally, mostly from family lore rather than my own experiences. I have one memory of sitting on my grandmother’s lap, sobbing that Matt and Aly were being mean to me, but other than that, our early animosity seems to have left little imprint on me.

Not so the years of love and companionship that followed. There was a simultaneous discovery of Harry Potter (well, truthfully, she beat me to one of my truest loves, informing me that Quidditch was amazing and giving me a knowing, oh-you-don’t-know-what-you’re-in-for look when I said, “What’s Quidditch?). There were extended shopping trips, and a loving snarkiness when I would babble on, happily using words like “daft”, and she would say to me, “Why do you use such big words?” and I’d respond, “Daft is only four letters, Aly,” with a withering sarcasm that hid my self-consciousness.

© Kaihla Tonai
© Kaihla Tonai

There were the long, lazy summer trips to the lake that seemed to go on forever, where we shared a bunk bed and mooned over the hotness of David Boreanaz while we snuck my stepmom’s Cosmopolitan magazines into our room and locked the door, laughing uproariously over the stories of blow jobs and sex in the backseat of a cab, horrified and thrilled and wondering if our lives would ever be like that (thankfully, not really). We horrified my siblings with stories of the Turtle Lake monster (which I thought we made up, but there is a Wikipedia page for it, so maybe not!). We stayed up late, talking far into the night, sometimes while she slept and I didn’t even know it until the next morning.

And later, we celebrated the births of her children, and my marriage, and many other things together. On visits, we make peanut butter cookies and talk about everything, stuffing our faces and laughing. She is my best friend and as close as a sister. Our origins are overshadowed by the bright love that we share now.

208532_18493853680_5025_n

The tumultuous beginning of my friendship with Bri is a lot clearer for me. We met in grade 10 English, and she was smart and pretty and popular, and I loathed her. I remember muttering, “I hate that girl,” one day in class after she gave a (perfect) answer, and the guy next to me gave me a look of surprise. “Who, Bri? She is so nice.” I brushed it off with a disbelieving grunt, but I slammed up against that surprise again and again and again, at which point I had to grudgingly admit that perhaps was the one being hateful. I tentatively reached out after yet another friend of mine had insisted upon Bri’s wonderfulness, and we began spending a bit of time together during class projects. I clearly still hadn’t gotten over my initial aversion to her awesomeness, though, because one day, while working on a project in the computer lab, I made a comment about thinking that Diane Kroger was the most beautiful woman in the world, to which Bri responded, “I think you’re the most beautiful woman in the world,” obviously meaning to be sweet and complimentary. I gave her the most cutting look I could muster (and my cutting looks can be razor sharp) and said, “I think you should go die.”

She still tells that story.

But we became closer and closer, and I have been lucky enough to call her my best friend for years. Nearly a decade, in fact. We have had our share of rough patches (some rougher than others), and there have been times when our friendship teetered on the brink of utter destruction. But we have always come back from those times stronger and better than ever, and in the last five years, as we have grown and matured together, those times have become fewer and further between. In fact, I don’t remember the last time we had one. Though she lives far away from me, across the country and several time zones away, I still text her every day. To share news, to ask her advice, just to tell her I am thinking of her.

1239048_10201361629476010_1714141211_n

Origins are important. Knowing where we come from is essential to our identities. But our origins do not tell us where we are headed. They do not tell us who will we become. The way something begins does not predict the way that it will end. Assuming that it does would have robbed me of the two most exceptional, beautiful friendships in my life. Know where you come from, so that you know where you are starting from. But then turn and face forward, and walk into the future, knowing that it will probably still surprise you.

the origins of love