I don’t know

I’m tired of being tired. Dragging and dragged over rocks of grief. Realizing the many ways and places this grief is laid out over years of unmet grief.

July 15

My first day back to work. Four hours. Folding clothes. I may not make it, there are updates to online training that need to be completed. That’s easy. I can do those. It’s the floor that scares me.

July 20

Yesterday, day three. I shook. Forced myself through four hours. Kindnesses of staff.

A coworker called me brave. I was negating myself again; fear of change, fear of loss. Berating myself for falling, hitting my head, struggling to heal. Knowing I’m not okay. Missing Jack. Showing up triggers me. Too many memories of waiting for him to come through the doors. Working apart. Not able to go to him. Listening to people yell or complain about petty things. I’m afraid. I can’t go back to listening to it right now. Doing this … staying alive and learning to grieve … it does not play fair. I had no idea.

I live with levels of stress accumulated in decades of abuse. Crisis a daily reality. I thought pain would go when I left my ex, slide back into something others call ‘normal’. I would laugh off that word telling people “normal is just the fat part of the graph. Statistics.” But this is not funny. Dissociation is a common experience of abuse, of PTSD. So are the panic attacks that wake me at 2am shaking from dreams or something I don’t remember. It’s strange how …. thoughts lost.

July 25

I had rough days this week. More than rough. I get angry at myself for them, for their unpredictability, for not being able to control myself or the days. Long hanging silences on calls to the crisis line, then sobbing because I’m frozen in bed, my body a lump of shock, sizzling. Blood pressure high, pills taken, bathroom done, back to bed, lay and shake. And so I call,

“hello, my name is …. how can I help you?”

“I, um I …” my mind and thoughts racing with guilt and grief and disasters past and pending.

The thoughts freeze in my head. Instinct. Fear; of living, being, lost and labelled. Something my ex would say, A negative judgement on who and how I am. And I can’t do it. Getting it out takes a breath, and sometimes that’s where they start. But first I give my name, the basics of identity. Then the call.

I talk and talk, through getting up, getting going, going to work. Even with the fear. A rational irrational place where emotion and action don’t fit the norm, but given the circumstances I understand. Tears or not, I have to go. I push too hard. Don’t overdo. Am warned. Holding myself back from demanding full hours. I don’t want to hurt myself again. The side of my head that hit the floor is ok, but not ok. Numb or tingles at times. Stress?

There is so much I can’t predict, so much I just don’t know. I’m trying to be ok with that; not knowing. Living and being is the hard job right now. The rest will ease in slowly, not smoothly. I hope, but am learning I can’t expect it. My body needs to purge the grief, but also years of pent up grief or things attached to it. Chaos of layers, interwoven connections, years forming. I’m just taking it a day or two at a time. Feeling useless, but knowing I’m not. Telling myself to be quiet when I want to rebuff the kindnesses and compliments of others. Still so much fear letting others in. I understood that far too well, Jack. We were kind to each other’s broken places. Love lingers in the tenderness.

Sanctuary.

Today the Tears

June 30, 2021

Another possible blog post shunted off to the drafts folder, well really, sitting there for weeks. I may come back to it, but today the tears want out. Not hard sobs, Jack, like when I first learned you drowned. These are worn, frustrated, disoriented tears. The kind that shiver through a body too drained for emotion, but ripe with it. I can picture them, tiny trails gasping their way across scorched rock, cracked clay. Winding through evidences of distress or trauma. Ridiculous. Hope filled lines, tiny breaths rushing between scenes trying to avoid excess anything.

I slept three hours again between noon and three. Not true. I set the alarm, but my body fought letting go at the beginning and surfaced confused, too soon at the end. There wasn’t really a plan for the day anyway. Good thing. There was a brief hour or two of clarity at the beginning where I looked at my journal, reviewed some poetry, and made notes for longer writing.

But phone calls. I’m not over remembering the call, ‘silence’, him assessing the wait as I sobbed. Already knowing why he called. “Jack drowned this weekend.” Memory is tactile for me. It’s how I process. I still feel your body warm beside me, your hands gentle, your kisses soft, and one desperate upon my mouth, before you left. Wanting me. Loving me.

It’s hard feeling things intensely. Touch is important. I joked for years that I listen through my hands. They spent enough time with language falling off them. ASL. My smile at your forming ILY and smiling proud you got it. I love you. Those memories I want to feel. But lately, my body listens too hard. It yells over the memories of smiles. It yells loss.

May long weekend. I felt your heart stop touching mine. I felt it going, fighting it leaving. I tumbled with your heart. I felt it go. I begged to be wrong. And words. The call. I hate words. I love them. I want you Jack, your words, love, laughter, and all the joy I had remembering them. Waiting for you to come home. I have the memory, and words telling me you’re gone. They hit my chest in a wave of imbalance, a tug of fear. Shock.

Why is grief so much fear? Loss such a chasm?

It crashes in where it doesn’t belong. The dentist’s office calling. Jacob’s appointment. Another kind voice, explaining, rationalizing, insisting I understand. I do. But the telling, and retelling. Reasons they may not see Jacob, may not keep him as a client, flood over me. I can’t hold memory together. Focus. Listen. Their email bounced back. No way to call. Who do they email? Why they are calling me. No way to reach his staff. Simple. Fact. Context. Clear. I want to hear what they are saying. That it isn’t because they don’t like him, that it isn’t because he doesn’t need them. That they just need connection. But all I hear is the swish and score of water dragging rocks. Heaving me over the edges. My body. My head swirls.

I apologize and excuse myself. Promise to follow up with the group home. Let them know if I can get through. And even though their words say not my responsibility, I’m awash in words on why they called, I can’t hold them separate. They are loss over loss.

I can’t. Not today. Why? I slept. I’m sure I slept.

Did I sleep? I don’t know. And so I sleep again. After the call. After my text. And two or three emails, to group home manager and staff. Searching out clues. Who do I tell? What do I ask? Why is there an email address I haven’t used and dentist said bounced. And the answer comes back. Adamant. The address is right. It’s the one everyone can access. So I try. But it bounces. Flings itself up and over, bounces back without any sense of why. So I email again to the manager and dentist. One note combined. One clear, concise ask – why? I don’t know. It doesn’t work. Why? Apology. I hope they talk.

And all of this means nothing to the day to day I need to heal. I’m working at it. My head. My heart. My job. Go back to work. Jump box to box, work and home, go back to it all. Rocks I can’t miss. My body complains. At more than this drudge of tears that won’t come.

Why is so much of life about disconnecting? Losing and loss.

I wonder if the motions of my day mean anything at all. Shoppers stuffing buggies with mis-labelled essentials. Pop. Chips. Multi-buys of chocolate bars. Wanting baby clothes we used to share. They say things are opening up. I wonder. Logic disappeared months ago in swirls of ideas like water down the drain. I don’t know anymore what I don’t know. I pushed hard the last months, all my best storytelling used up on pictures drawn in the air. ASL categories, this one and that. Grocery and garden centre, front end with online, eventually curbside. Store areas mapped out as claw-hands drop in locations separate but all there. And cell phone, photo at the ready, curbside number to call. Will it still be that? Wipe, wash, story to spin. Swish. Swirl. A rock falls in, dropped from the air. Ideas weighing. Nothing that helped me hold you. Not Jacob either. He went, but isn’t gone.

I want to hold on, hold together. Know my hands are worth more than grasping at air.

There is no guarantee. No one who can promise me what will come. Just me, in the river. Thrashing. Nose above water. Flailing imagination. Covid brought colours and labels like waves over rocks. Bruises piling up. Mapping the years. Last year and this, promise and pain. Have I ever held on? Has anything I ever wanted held together? Why does it feel like so much repetition? Loss. Longing. The distance between. And always I’m reaching for a solution, a way to hold it together.

She’s right. I come back to it. The sound of her voice, rushing like water. Like she said, it’s not my responsibility. But responsibility isn’t what I was trying to hold. I wanted your love. I wanted time. Not these tears. They come and they fade. Evaporate in air.

Breathe. I have your love. I do. That I will hold.

Writing Life

I started May’s blog post several times. Got nowhere. The long post I eventually arrived at by June 3rd has been saved to files and deleted here.

7:30am June 6th and I’m starting fresh, though that’s a strange word for the circumstances and my now chronic lack of sleep. I passed out sometime shortly after 6pm and retrieved laundry from the dryer down the hallway around midnight when I awoke. Today, I have an essay to tidy and send off to a magazine whose current theme of ‘ancestors’ finally got coherent words from my tired and broken heart.

That said, this will be short. Off the cuff.

I emailed a note to a local councilor, telling her that I’d like to talk about a request to name or re-name several local streets in honour of persons with indigenous heritage. I have never put such a request forward before. This one flows out of grief, in honour of someone to whom it mattered greatly, and who was still pursuing a request made several years ago.

The past five years (or nearly) I have had the joy of being in a relationship with a man named Jack who died over the May long weekend pursuing another love of his life, whitewater paddling.

Jack was away teaching in a Cree community in northern Quebec. We spoke every day by text or in Facebook. I started to share my loss here, but found it becoming too poetic. I have written actual poems to Jack these last few years and may write a few more. He was an amazing man, the kindest, most gentle and generous man I know. Honest. Full of compassion and integrity. He brushed it off when I told him so, “Then you’re the only person who knows. Most people think I’m a pain.” I don’t believe that, and would reply, “If so then they aren’t listening.”

It’s still too soon after hearing you died, Jack. I wake shaking some days in shock. I read back through conversations shared and look at how many video calls show up on your side of the conversation thread. I’m glad you wanted so much to talk to me, to share your hopes and joys. To let me know how surprised you are it took you so long to say you love me. I shared it with one of your sons last week, and continue to grieve with him that it wasn’t your way to say it more. I understand why it was so hard for you, and why I said it too much. We shared places in our pasts I’m finally digging deep to understand.

I’m listening now, as I write, to Gabor Mate; a recommended listen from someone I volunteer with in mental health. Wisdom I’ll come back to more this year.

I wish we had more time to enjoy each other’s laughter, the gentleness we shared, ways we gave each other space and were discovering some of the things this man describes that need to heal. Not complicating them with demands, just offering understanding and giving each other permission to ‘not fix’. You said that to me early on, ‘don’t fix’. One of the reasons I told you I thought you were wise. So much of my life was responsibility and demands to fix things not mine to touch. You healed me in a way, just giving me space and telling me I need to respect myself and follow my dreams. Then showing me how, letting me watch you and admire your bravery.

I wonder if we messed that up just a bit at the end. You pushed yourself too hard at times. Your wrist was hurting from last time out. I was afraid you were going again too soon.

We had just four weeks to wait until you were home. You told me every day, soon, and let me know how excited you were coming back me. But the short time pressed against your list of things you wished you’d done last fall when the weather allowed you out on the waters. I understood it from the rush of photos you shared, the video rides you took me on coming back from the land. Waiting for open water. “I wish you could come up.” But the borders had been closed. “I wanted you to see.” I wanted that too. You did your best.

And now, I have to wait a little longer still. I love you, Jack.

Waiting for Spring

April is spring and flowers and beauty and outdoors and sitting on my back deck watching the squirrels chase their way around the pole to the feeder. There is peace in watching the small things. So many birds and small animals grace the yard.

The store is quieter with lockdowns, but there are still shoppers. I’m longing for spring. Seeds and potted plants in many sizes leave looking for gardens every day. I want them. Some already fill spots in front or back garden, and I can picture them, anticipate the colours that will fill the gardens in the coming months.  

We talk as they ring things through. Sometimes I mention the longing, how I miss my house, the bond that forms between gardener and growth, a shock of realization for me, home was outside. The plants held my heart in place.  Not only the peace of times spent there, but the can and can’t of some of the work. My sons doing harder digging or moving of things than I could do. My sons, anchored in that place, house and garden – memories, good and bad, held in context of the places they occurred.

Memories feel tangible; I remember the warmth of a smile, a look, a movement made, the tone of voice, the way a room, the deck, garden, plant or soil felt. Warmed by sun or darkened by mood. Remember.

Someone may ask how I do it. They often do. Ask. Did. Ask.

How do you get Jacob to communicate with you. How do you stand the abuse, the hours put in at two schools balancing needs, the physical effort of Jacob hanging on you, your own injuries.

How do you smile so much. Laughter. If you didn’t have your quirky sense of humour, you’d probably be dead.

I wonder. If the flowers still grow. If the bird feeder is still there. Do the rabbits come, and squirrels. Do blue jays have fights over fresh poured seeds. I saw the fence was gone. New windows stared at me. I wonder. Do you spend time in the gardens? See the same miracles of spring. Wonder. Do you think of me.

Never met. May never meet. Still I think of you. I miss my house, the gardens most. At times I cry for wanting. Remembering comes hard. Distance and the longer view remind me there were things I loved. Beauty comes in many forms. Even our broken places held beauty. Too fragile to not break.

We live apart. Shattered. Borrowed space. Concrete walls. I wish for the world, the great outdoors. Cohesive. The only lines it draws form waterways, cliff edge, a tree line.

Balcony plants. Can’t feed the birds. Don’t tie anything to the posts. Behind the screen of tempered glass. There is no grass to touch my feet, no buzzing bees to hum me tunes. Tiny birds dart quickly past. Red heads where once yellow bright as the corn, came bold within an arms length.

I must climb down. On my own. Cross lanes of concrete. Man-made lights still glowing in the break of day. Walk to find where houses still hold space for sharing. Where trees are tall enough to climb and host nests to birds and squirrels. Open doors for calling. Sounds of spring. Lingering.

Beneath your trees. At sidewalk edge. I hover. Waiting for spring.

Imperfections

February’s been a rough month. March too. I ping between okay and ‘oh so over it’. I’ve hit the wall. All I have left is to write about it.

On one hand, I have a small box called apartment. It’s crammed full of left over bits of past life and the one I’m trying to live now. Creativity wages war with it daily; art and writing supplies, music all fight for space.

I write regularly, paint occasionally. Mostly my keyboard and guitar cower against one wall, asking me to practice. I paid for a month of guitar lessons, tossed a penny into the well of expectation and hope it brings good things. Last week, encouraging words from my teacher assured me that regardless of my frustration with ‘only’ practicing one song and one scale, I have done a good job. Okay. I’ll bite. I’ve done well. Now believe it.

I want to improve my art. Create paintings I love and learn to part with them. To do that, I need a better grip on money and budgets both for home and sales. Even if it’s just for fun, I’d like enough to replenish supplies, I need to let myself learn the basics of give and take, hobby or business.

I want to release things I’ve written. Send them further out. Not just the one or two places I know who are open to it. I want to push past the barriers and broaden my reach.

What scares me about writing? People tell me I’m good, I have a raw way of writing. It draws people. They see it in pieces I’m doing for a memoir. Say, I have a strong, staccato style to my poetry. I read a list of possible literary magazines suggested to me. I probed their online offerings and re-read. Decided to write a cover letter and choose some poems to send.

But then, a tangible restraint on my arms. typing has weight. sleep falls upon me, passing out like with a migraine. and less obvious shut down, internal, my body folds in on itself, origami folding into invisibility. impossible. i need to move. i need to …. submit …. ringing past intentions, rules that bind. breathe swallowed up within lungs that strain hesitation.

Words. They lean towards poetry. They leap at opportunity, but cringe at expectation. Dear words, can you help? I want you to know full expression. I hope this year to let you fly.

Counting Time: 3, 5, 7

February 3, 2021

I’m tired.

People will tell you that is my standard answer. It’s often true, but not always. January felt heavy and I was tired too often. Falling asleep at 6:30 leads to waking at 2:00 and days where the hours slide sideways down the clock. I still think in analogue even though I read digital in both 12 and 24 hour formats. Work and home, home and work; even my battery clock is analogue designed with a false tick, tick, tock. Some nights it comforts me, others it annoys. The month slid by all comfort and annoyance.

Today I will go to work. This is my middle day. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have off, but Wednesday sits wobbling in between. Those who regularly see me in the morning will ask next time why I wasn’t there, whether I’d been off work, and I will say no. I worked afternoon to evening. Not a favourite shift, but not the worst. I’d rather open and then have the afternoon to walk and write or do art. I would if the energy didn’t drain so quickly, The last few weeks, I have done less than I want and my brain says none at all. I’m writing here so that can’t be true. I do write, just not the things I feel are creative or that fit my goals. I’d like to focus more when I have the time and accomplish things I’m struggling to achieve; poem, book or blog.

But I don’t practice enough. Not art, not music, not even words. Want is a strange thing. I want to play songs, but I don’t practice the notes enough to give them flow. I want to do art that sells, but I haven’t offered any to the few people who show interest. I want to be a writer, but I submit so seldom even though I look and look at places where I could send. Why? Is it fear, laziness, lack of skill or desire? Asking pumps adrenaline through my system, grabbing all of my attention, stealing it away from paint, sounds, and story. Images and words spin around me, I hang like a child in the Tilt-a-Whirl, remnants of childhood and challenges faced. Hold on, hold on, the ride will end. The ticket booth not far away.

Getting through January was exhilarating and exhausting. Irritating. I struggle on at work and want to see friends who are still living home bubbles. One day we will sit over tea and reminisce. At the moment, my contacts and connections are all digital or work related. My life, my experience.

I want to do some writing. Get Coursera finished. Write a poem. Finish my memoir. Nothing is moving. I tried here in WordPress and ended up making some notes into my phone.

Why do I have so many words and why do they feel so useless?

The world is a-kilter. Does it kill? I feel tipped over. But we aren’t allowed that relief, tipping over is a symptom of the current times. As are coughing, sneezing, sweating, being tired. Walk carefully. I see runners and we try to avoid each other. I’d avoid them anyway, but this year we mask everything, avoiding as much as we can, and feel guilty if we make eye contact with those we pass on the random trips around the corner for a change of view and fresher air than lives inside the boxes of rest and activity that are home and work.

Listening to Anne Lamott as I type is soothing. She’s talking about jealousy and ravaged bodies. It’s an old scene in YouTube talking about her life and efforts in writing. Not yet at bird by bird but living it. I think she’s reading from it in draft?  There is clapping and laughter. I like laughter. A friend telling me he likes my laugh. Tell me you like my laugh. It makes me smile even more.

February 7, 2021

The week, like my night, blurs. I sat on the couch with my phone waiting for 8pm when a ‘saved event’ was to start. The reminder arrived at 7:30, a good half hour before the event. I left it idling while I played with French in Duolingo. Found both at 1 am still idling but now tucked down inside of the couch. By 4 am all I have achieved is a few thoughts in my phone, some articles forwarded to myself to read again later (my newsfeed may hold them, but I don’t count on it), and this – realizing a work week has passed since I began this post. I found the Anne Lamott video half finished where I left it in YouTube and let another 5 to ten minutes of it play while I write here. Time seems too long and too short this year. I wrote a note at work Friday to prompt myself for a new post. Imperfections. It made me smile Odd. There are so many and lately we are so aware (and still unaware?).

My shift today is afternoon/evening. I’ll come back to my thoughts on imperfections later. For now. Another run at sleep. I’ve turned off the 5:15 alarm. If I can manage to grab an hour or two it may not help, but may ward off falling asleep on my feet before end of shift. Today will go like hundreds of others the past year or two. I’ll head to work hoping the day is kind, hoping I don’t fall asleep the moment I get home, hoping for life and laughter to be the things I remember well. I’ll tell people I’m tired, and be told I always am. I’ll spend more time than I wish too close to strangers, a little time talking to to those who ask if I’m ever not there, those glad I am there, and those who ask earnestly how I am; glad I’m still doing okay. Mostly I’ll give thanks for the online conversations I get to have with those who love me, who make me smile in ways that reach my core and laugh at outrageous or trivial things in our day.

Today, like every other day (if you believe those who say so), people will ask how I am and I will tell them I am tired. It will be true. I will push myself through it again. I may fall asleep too early tonight and repeat this pattern. But at 4 am my end of day reasons to smile still exist in the smiling faces of those who love me, the occasional memes or jokes they send me through the day, and their appreciation of my laughter.

I may yawn behind my mask, but I’ll laugh. I love laughter and the many ways those who love me realize it. And these are the things that count.

Is it Over yet?

The end of a year is time for reflection. Like tradition, we all do it, size up the year past and wonder what the next one brings.

It’s not quite official. There are a few hours to go, but I’ve been wondering the last few weeks what I’d think and feel as the year draws to a close. I’ve heard others say for months now they will be glad to see this year go, but if I’m honest I’m not sure how I feel about it. I wouldn’t choose to do it again, but I’m proud of getting through and oddly a little guilty.

We go blindly into each year with resolutions, making ourselves promises. I came into 2020 telling myself ‘this year, I’ll do all the hard stuff.’ I thought about that all year as Covid demanded more and more. I wanted to face some fears, improve my writing, follow through on goals for submitting to magazines or other opportunities. I wanted to write songs, to practice guitar more, do more painting; maybe even sell some. I met some of the goals, not others. I feel an odd regret in the out of synch places my life reversed that of friends stuck home during the lockdowns. Those who wrote whole books, learned online skills, or like many of my customers cleaned out whole areas of retail lugging home storage systems. Those are still on my wish list and may live there for a time. Like I said, go slow. The real challenge is learn to live with it.

Some things I wanted to do because they addressed self- esteem areas, places of grief where I live with a longer sense of missed opportunities. I wanted to be brave and maybe look at other jobs, see if I could find something that pushed me back to using skills for teaching or the social aspects of autism. I applied a few places and scared myself receiving one response at almost year end asking me to reapply to an alternate position. I did think about it seriously. Still think about it. Self-worth and self-esteem are areas still healing after years struggling to love myself in the places I didn’t step up to things – like the other half of teacher’s college I never went back to complete, an art career I was afraid to start. The book I may or may not write?

I don’t switch gears easily. I have it on good authority that I over think things. I research possibilities I’m afraid to try. I take on too many things at once and don’t see it coming. I stare at boxes still littering my living space and don’t want to let go of them because it took so much out of me paring down 35 years of life to the little that fit into 500 sq.ft. of space.

March and April threw me into coping mode. Extra hours at work (one of two people who stayed). End of the winter snow, plows and stress throwing sleep out the window. Work demands and Covid rules changed weekly. I learned to speak up, about cleaning products, personal needs, physical distance, how to handle the challenges and face my fears. Work asked and I assured them I was okay. Crisis is a known place to me, ask when it’s over. I anticipated a few months, this long dragged out season reminds me too often of life before leaving. Abuse and things I haven’t quite solved in real time yet.

I’m starting to believe, or maybe understand, those who told me I am tough. I’ve had to face things in myself I don’t like and haven’t let go. I don’t like feeling afraid and I don’t like not being in control of it. In December, I kept saying to myself ten months. It was hard to believe it has been that long or that I did so well. I am tired. I need to admit that or the next round will hurt worse than the last.

I didn’t anticipate losing one job, pushing through the year on just retail and repeating ‘nose above water’ feeling lucky to have something. I’m more than lucky, I’m resilient. I’ve been told that a time or two (maybe more) the last few years and this year has challenged me to show it. I begged all year for hours to try to make up the ones I lost, then struggled with the challenge of taking physically exhausting hours in place of office hours that allowed me space and opportunity to recoup. My balanced life of retail, physio and mental health volunteering fell apart. It wasn’t until summer that I had conversations to get back on track with the volunteer role, and not until then or early fall that I saw my former workplace while attending a personal physio appointment.

I started begging for full-time retail as the company took on its promised thousands of new workers. Some stayed, some went, some just didn’t show up. Those with other jobs suspended wanted something to do that felt like it helped. Students home from school took on their normal summer hours, though none of it was really normal. All of us faced the confusion of open/closed, safely distanced unreality. I was desperate for anything besides the concrete walls and floors of work and home, my personal determination to limit exposure (mine or others) gave way to a desperate need for green and blue. Walks around the block or on local trails, carefully avoiding others, carrying mask to don when needed yet dropping it to taste the fresh smells of air and earth. Sitting beside the river, watching the ripples of water and life in the plants and animals thriving. I needed this look at life. I watched others grasping at it too.  

Inside too much of the grasping felt like strands of greed twisted between layers of generosity. The angry, selfish people yelling about limits, empty shelves, other shoppers, the masks and rules the stores tried to impose in polite ways while staying in line with confusing expectations I and coworkers tried to follow. I felt out of sorts with myself at times, angry at mistreatment by some customers, not ever sure (besides my regulars) who was local and who wasn’t. Only the ones who identified as out of town while demanding that I give them rights beyond what was allowed.

There were the angry ones. Like a lady who lashed out at me for saying she couldn’t have a second case of water and then heaved one of them at me. A quick jump and it missed me, a shock, but not a major event. People yelling about masks or refusing to distance. Some who wanted to tell me it was all a hoax or blown out of proportion. A few got angry, and pulled off their masks, yelling at me about rules and restrictions outside my control. People telling me they drove from Toronto, Orangeville, Brampton, Owen Sound, Milton, Cambridge, London looking for things they wanted to buy. I couldn’t understand why. Some who struggled all year buying multiple orders as they shopped for themselves, older family and neighbours. Kind people, going out of their way and bearing up under shifting restrictions, who felt they needed to explain themselves again and again. I loved those people and tried to balance rules and kindness.  

We got through. We held up. We still are as we head into 2021.

Resilience I suppose is keeping going when you want to stop, picking up the phone when you need to talk, listening to others and seeing need, advocating for resources, laughing even when it hurts, smiling and speaking kindly as often as possible.

This year reminds me of the people who believe in me, those who encourage me. Some of them family or friends, some known through work or community, some offering support in meals, conversations, occasional walks. I am grateful for every one. I’ve been blessed to have many people willing to tell me the good things they see in me and encourage me to continue being my best self.

As we go into next year, I hope I remember the things I’ve learned in the one just past. I can do more than I believed. I am kind to others. I need to be kind to myself. I have pushed through difficult places and will again. I’ll enter into next year with humility and hope. Resilience will be there when I need it. Friends will have my back.

I won’t ask a lot of myself in resolutions. I’ve written down ‘go slow’ and ‘allow failure’. I’ve been afraid of both and faced both this past year. I’m tired but good for another round.

Heading into 2021 will be interesting. Welcome New Year. Let’s see what you have to offer.

Old Buildings

Old buildings. Old people. Memories that tell me stories of life and love. I’m collecting their moods in my heart. 

I love old buildings. At times I take walks along the downtown where history lives. Stone faces and wide trimmed windows. Old wood and brick somehow comfort me. Things slow down and I can breathe.

Walks take me out and away. Both provide and alleviate distractions. The stone in my shoe, a twinge in my hip. Fibromyalgia biting at me. Deal with it. Walk. I love to walk. Look around. Reflect on life.

Today, my walk starts indoors. Shopping. And a customer who likes to chat.

Oh you jumped the fence today, did yah?

I laugh. Yes. I jumped the fence, but I’m in later to work the afternoon shift.

A sweet man. Always friendly. He talks happily about visiting family, going to meet his newest great grandchild. Moments of joy. He will get tested (Covid) before he goes, just to be safe. He’s looking forward to turning 89 next June. Why that year, I’m not sure, but tell him he’s the same age as my mom. She’s aiming high too. He bought pastry shells to make butter tarts. Loves to cook. I knew that about him. He reminds me of growing up, having my parents and grandparents around me, soft smells of home.

Old buildings. Old people. Memories that tell me stories of life and love. I’m collecting their moods in my heart. Letting them fill me with strength and joy. I’m building my own stories. People I love, those who love me. Times and means of being together in this wild year, riding out the unknowns. Alone is better shared. Every puzzle can be solved. Even this one.

It’s hard to believe March is so far behind us. It’s been a choppy ride and promises a few more whitecaps before we’re done. Balance is important. Friends, neighbours, co-workers, customers all contribute and test my balance. Some kind, others … they rock things hard.

Old buildings, long walks, pacing myself. The smiles work their way up from inside. Little bursts of joy to measure the day. Giving myself space to react and remember there were older times and older ways and older folks who lived and loved and steadied themselves in rough times. They made it through. I can too.

One day, the old ways will be mine and others will look back at me and smile.

Fragile

Posts have gotten behind. Wanting yet not wanting to be said, things I think and say to myself. Here inside my room, they are safe. But outside in the world, hopes and fears become more real.

I still think about uncertainty. Around me and in the news. Up close and farther away. The shifts in attention, lens contracting, opening, closing, its focus shifting between my life and world.

Racism. Covid. Politics. Beliefs. Trust. Lack of trust. Distancing. Not distancing. Numbers. Decisions. Fear. Uncertainty. Anger.

Exasperation. I hear it in the people around me. Those overfilling carts, taking more than they need, some out of fear and some greed. Those who will post it for sale online at greater cost to those who couldn’t get it in the rush, those stuck in low pay or waiting for a monthly cheque. Selfishness and fear. I feel it in the tension of shoppers distancing, not distancing. Not sure what to do or where to look. Some little faces, tense behind their masks. And I think of my little ones, now grown. Our lives our hopes. Past, present, future.

A customer comes through buying a coat. He’s working here today and didn’t bring one. He scans the coat as he talks, then gestures towards the nail salon.

When did the real estate leave? I shrug. He tells me he used to live here.

I’m not sure. I only lived here a few years.

Oh, where did you live before?

He turns as I tell him. And gives a nod.

Oh, Acton. Did you live there when the KKK sign was on side of the highway?

OMG yes. I told people there was a sign there, but they didn’t believe me.

No. It’s true. It was there. My friend lived nearby. I saw it often when I visited.

I’m not sure how to feel. A short, quick conversation in the rush of day. It rattled me. Rattled some memories and my sense of truth. I shook my head as he left. Disbelief. I’m thrown a distance, a former place.

I think, or want to think, I live in a good place, a good country, but every day I see or learn things that question it. I try to stand tall, believe in hope, smile and treat everyone with respect. I lived through abuse and like to think it’s not common. There are kind people, generous people. But I’ve also heard horrible things said by shoppers going through my work area. Some just generally bad, others more ugly, targeting people; family, friends, strangers. Some wanting me to agree with their caustic beliefs and behaviours. I won’t. And I cringe at how little impact my determination towards good has on them. It shakes my faith in people. It shakes my faith in myself. I think of some little faces, unsure whether to smile at me, and I wonder if it’s a natural shyness or the colour of my skin.

Memories kicked loose skitter through my thoughts. There were skinheads at my son’s school. His justice raged against their presence. I was shocked when he told me, shared some of the words and attitudes he ran into there. We lived in a tiny town. Seven churches. Good people. I couldn’t understand the dichotomy, the smiles and kindnesses, yet ugliness interwoven. It shook my faith. It shook his faith too. I watched the grief and anger go through him every time injustice appeared. Watched his heart break.

Our hearts broke so often through the years. Gentle justice is not an easy place. Home was hard enough. The world is a weight that needs many more hearts and much love.

Perception. I feel naive. There are bad things everywhere. Racism, hatred, abuse hurts everyone. Even where we think we are sheltered, there is no shelter. These things shake the ground under our feet. Put us off balance, impact our actions. Seeing and doing nothing dulls us like the frog in a pot, the end comes but all we see is the illusion.

At times things seem calm, the news is busy with other things. I wish that was an indication of change. I’ve prayed for change longer than a decade or maybe two. On a personal level, for our family to move beyond the abuse we faced. On a community level, for equality to be given a fair chance. For attitudes to shift. For strength to fight for it. To stand firm. I wanted and feared the process.

Change feels so fragile. My efforts like wisps. They blow with every wind. Dust kicked up in their place. Please G-d send some love on us. Hope for a new day. At times it’s wanting. I know you’ve heard it too many times, but believe me, we are so fragile and hope is getting sparce. Fill us again.

Uncertainty

Certainty. Words. Ideas. I’m always curious. Tilt at will. I love etymoligy.com, the story of words, of their history. But sometimes what I seek is less clear, a bit uncertain. Chasing it, I get stuck.

Day trips ideas this summer. I feel resistant. In the midst of Covid and the amount of self isolating I do, coming home after the many unknowns of work, I’m just not sure I want to take on those places. Knowing has never felt so exhausting.

For me, that’s a strange place. I spent 30 years researching, knowing: deafness, autism, surgeries. A constant flow of decisions to be made for my son. I went at them with every ounce of energy I had. I learned a new language (ASL), made many unexpected connections (hospitals, therapists, agencies), drove to a different town for a preschool geared to both Deaf and hearing, then moved to another community when he entered kindergarten in one of the provincial schools for the Deaf.

Exhausting in the moment, these things all upped my energy and activated my curiosity and love of puzzles. I threw myself into believing he would catch hold of the things I was teaching and run with them. There were unknowns. Uncertainty was just part of the journey.

Lately, I watch others struggle with uncertainty. It feels heavy. An unseen weight pushing in so we cannot breathe. Blocking our way so we cannot move or get around it. Our sense of time has tipped, an unknown pattern whose end we can’t predict. Days and weeks drag. There is no normal, just the stretched out bits taking their run at us. Statistics bombard. No matter how we graph it, the ends have their way.

I guess I’m left with this, I’ve been through uncertainty before and I’ll do it again. Uncertainty is an ongoing journey. I may not have every resource yet, but when I needed them for my son, friends, family and my own curiosity found a way.

Certainty. Uncertainty.

I choose to believe, stubbornly if necessary, that what I need for this round will find a way.