Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Single Way to be the Best Spouse

Something I've learned is that marriage is not a competition, but when it hits rough patches as they ultimately do, competition seems to be the way discord manifests itself as a symptom.

I'm not a marriage expert.  Unless you call being married enough qualification to be an expert - which, honestly, might just be enough in most circles.

The biggest thing I've learned in my 41 years on this planet and in the 8 years of my marriage is that respect, loyalty, love and honouring your vows are the ONLY ways you can be your best version of the spouse you intended to be the day you got married.

And the single most important thing I've learned is never to click on some crazy person's blog about how to be the best wife, or best husband.

While the husband ones aren't so bad, the wife ones are truly abhorrent and derived straight from the pages of a book that's so antiquated that it forgot to let people who pour over every letter within it, that the world moved on, women wear pants and work bloody hard.  In many cases it forgets to remind those crazy ass women that it's their turn to be the bread winners, so racing home at night to get the house cleaned, dishes done, meals prepared and the beer chilled, just in time to paste a ridiculous frigging smile on your face as your hubby walks through the door, is bloody insane.  It's forgotten that the virtues of feminism and equality prevail in a modern world, and no person with half a brain in their head is wearing the goofy smile anymore.

You can't be a better wife by doing all that - all that can do is make yourself depressed, anxious, constantly on edge and looking for what you might be getting in return AND that's what gives rise to competition and discord in a marriage.

SO - the best way to be your best version of the spouse you always intended to be, man or woman, is to share equally in the work of daily life, without grumbling and begrudging every second of it, recognizing that your spouse is devoting as much or more to the same ugly tasks of day to day life, and revel in the few and rare opportunities you get to be free of those encumbrances.  Respect your partner for all that they bring to your day to day life.  Fawn over meals even if they're dismal attempts and massive failures, with immense praise, knowing how many planets and stars had to align for your partner to even get as far as they did with it.  And be loyal.  Look past the disgruntled face, the worn out sighs, the disheveled hair...pour your martini and hers.  Bring them chocolate and flowers, beer or movie passes.  Get the sitter all lined up in advance, and ask them out on a real date - the way you did before you were married.  Show your partner, that through thick and thin, you see how beautiful they are, you love them, and you respect them.

Marriage is never perfect.  And there's no simple checklist to make it better.  Do what your mama taught you and just be a decent human being.  Everything else will work itself out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm such a softy

My husband kindly reminded me the other day that it's been too long since I blogged.  And he's right. My only response was that I feel like I have a voice that's not worth listening to at the moment.  I suppose it comes from the generic plights of being a mommy.  No one listens to mommy until they're old enough to appreciate how right she always was...that takes a lot of years before it kicks in, and I know it.

The only thing that's eating at me lately is that I'm such a softy.  It's only mid November and I've been a fuelled up crying machine, with tears pouring out of me at the drop of a hat.  Could be the toils we've been through as a nation recently.  Could be frustrations of motherhood, and stresses of wifedom.  Could be mounting stress and feeling a whole lot "less than" worth anything at work.  Could be just plain old gearing up for the holiday season, OR it could be Seasonal Affected Disorder.  Frig - this could be what menopause is like.

What I know for certain is that since I hit my first bout of depression, I'm a total softy.  I cry for anything.  EVERYTHING hits me right in the heart and like straight away.  I got depressed and the floodgates opened.  Welcome Niagara Falls.  My child pokes my rolls and snuggles into me on the daily basis and tells me how soft, and cuddly and squishy I am...and all I can think is, I used to be so tough.  I used to be impossible to hurt.  I used to be infallible.  Audacious.  Sophisticated and Bitchy (in the best possible way).  I was assertive.  I was, in short, pretty freaking amazing and independent.  A one woman hurricane on a gentle summer night.

And now I'm soft.  I've always been kind, but not to my own detriment.  My sacrifices were well balanced with self service.  Acts I carried out were usually mutually beneficial.  Now.  I give a whole lot, and don't ask/expect much in return.  But by the time I do ask for something, I've let it pile up and boil to the point where I'm ready to bust and the tears and anxiety are uncontrollable.

All this to wind up with the notion that I know I'm not lost.  I'm right here and I still know full well who I am and what I stand for.  My principles have not changed.  But I'm also aware that I'm older.  I care less for people's opinions and in swaying them, than I care about making the world a better place.  And who could argue that such a place in life isn't a better situation than simply being confident and audacious.  I'm still as independent as you could possibly imagine a woman being, but I would be lost and devastated without my family in my corner of the ring.  I guess the only real struggle this change in me introduces is in teaching my daughter how to be just that wee bit tougher and independent and confident when I, though confident and independent, am the first one fighting back floods of tears watching the Christmas parade, or the newest commercial/video online showing a soldier surprising his kids.

In short - I'm a sap.  Pass the syrup.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Good Grief

I just had a big cry.  Well a big"ish" cry.

It seems like the loss of Robin Williams has hit me harder than even I would ordinarily wish to admit.  There are several reasons for this.  I never met Robin Williams.  I only ever watched him on television.  I'm sure I watched every single one of his works from the comfort of my living room.  Otherwise known as the best seat in the house.

I don't ordinarily get choked up at the loss of a celebrity.  Seems this year though, we lost some of the biggest talents I've ever been privileged to witness.  From Maya Angelou to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and finally to the effervescent Robin Williams.  And I'm dealing with several impending losses of my own - a dear friend is battling a terminal illness and is struggling, my mother in law is terminally ill and just days away from moving on in her own journey, which makes my heart break for my husband.  We're dealing with a lost job, and just generally the day to day angst of how difficult parenting and marriage and the life domestica can truly be.

And despite it being 20 years since I lost my father and 6 since I lost my grandfather, I realize almost daily that the men in my life who made me laugh, smile, buck up and get over my own crap, leave.  They leave.  They just go, never to come back.  And Mr. Williams is now one of them.

Since losing my father, my life has been a roller coaster.  Not a single day of it do I regret, however, so much of it has been spent overcoming that grief.  Living up to impossible ideals imposed on me by myself, and some projection of what I believe would make my parents (both of them) eternally proud.  I'm not one for organized faith, but I do believe in supernatural phenomenon that gives me solace that somewhere out there there are little souls of great people past who shepherd me through each stage of my life's journey out of love.

When down and dealing with my mental illnesses, I could usually find a run of Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji or one of his stand up shows on tv, and it wouldn't be long before Mr. Williams cracked the smile on my face.  Even if it was barely present I could feel the monstrous weight of whatever I was being held down with, lift ever so briefly.  Allowing me to breathe, cry, release the intensity of my muscles which had been tightened to the point of painful finger nail imprints in the palms of my hands.  And I guess that my weeping is now because there will be no more "drive by fruitings" or brilliant head sitting.  No more Nanu Nanu's or Russian characterizations of baby delivering doctors to distract me.  Just like my father will no longer challenge me unconditionally to be whatever I want to be, or like my grandpa will never grasp my head in his bear like hand with such firm gentleness that it helped exorcise the demons out for me without even being on purpose.

I hate my demons.  I hate living with them.  I hate having to figure out on a daily basis how to embrace them, just to remove any minute amount of their power over my mind and my heart.  And it breaks my heart more so that my husband can read these demons.  When learning about Mr. Williams suicide, he came up to tell me of his passing (like by some incredible feat of mind reading to know that this would be important), and pleaded with me to "please don't ever do that to him".  My husband knew that in a split second this could be our reality - even likely before I'd have ever been able to truly admit it.

I don't know how to purge the demons.  I try my best to adapt to them.  Manage them.  Rise above them.  Function despite them.

I'm devastated that others like myself, suffering with depression and mental illnesses are still isolated, left to despair.  Mental illness is as physical an illness as any cancer, broken limb or ailment that needs a bandaid, antibiotic or tender loving care.  I wish to god there was a way to make this universally understood.  If a man who is brilliant, a giant ball of energy and exuberance, can be devastated enough by the demons within him to take his own life, how in the world can just anyone overcome it?  I guess if you're reading this, and you're down and not feeling right as rain, I'm begging you to please talk to someone.  Anyone.  Talk to me.  Let's save each other.  Life is so hard.  We don't have to be alone to live it.



Friday, July 11, 2014

Raising Daughters with Body and Smart Positivity

I think I'm going to write another book...One that probably no one will read, but I think it's time to get a mom's perspective on making the choices on messaging we give our little girls about their bodies, and their smarts.  It's not easy.  I've tried so hard to make the right choices about what I "said" to my child and what I "showed" my child about body confidence and smarts confidence.

I put the effort into helping her develop her brain and spend just about equal efforts making sure she eats well, and enough to keep growing and thriving and being smart, and does enough to keep her body moving and getting strong.  I'd be lying if I told you that I also try to model body confidence and a complete lack of body shame when in fact, I carry more of it than even I dare to admit at the age of 41.  It shouldn't matter.  In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter and I know it.  But I'm also acutely aware that what we say, who says it and how is what ultimately resonates and sticks with us for a lifetime.

I remember precisely the one and only time I was ever told by someone that I was "stunning" as a kid.  How frightening is that?  I could tell you precisely the time of year, approximately how old I was and who said it.  I could even tell you what general time of day it was.  EVERY OTHER MESSAGE I got as a child, whether it was spoken or subtext, sent me precisely the opposite message.  So often in fact that it has literally overshadowed my life, lifestyle choices and self confidence, and so much so that this singular moment in my childhood still shines out as if highlighted centre stage with a spot light.  How I wish in the constant drone of all the other messages I heard growing up, that it had been the one message I heard loudest.  Why did it have to be that I was 40, before I believed I could have been exactly what he saw when he saw it, instead of what everyone else told/showed me?

And the truth of the matter is, no one in my life truly did or said anything out of anything but love.  They worried about me, like I worry about my own daughter.  They only wanted what was best for me, but had no other idea of how to share that with me.  And the truth of the matter is also that they were affected by the very same messages they gave me.  They did their best.  Just like I am doing and millions of other very doting and conscientious moms out there in the big bad world.

Body positivity has to be modeled first and foremost.  And when you're raising a daughter mindfully, you recognize that approaching the messages of body positivity with vigilance and rebellion and passion fueled language isn't the best approach.  It absolutely has to be done loudly and proudly and visibly, and thank GOD there are men and women both out there beginning to fight this fight with vigor.  But when you're raising a daughter and you're alone with your family at home, you need to show her through your own self worth, your own confidence and your own bravado to ignore the words and ideals of others.  And let me tell you, this is nothing short of impossible to get 100% right.  And I'll also say, that no amount of "psycho babble bullshit" is going to help us raise our daughters better than good old fashioned instinct.  These are things only active and fully focused mom's with real lives and jobs and personal issues can speak to.

So I'm going to write another book.  One that hopefully brings a fresh set of non-medicinal thoughts to an issue that's at it's core, a gutteral view of how to navigate raising an equally mind and body positive contributor to society.  One that hopefully helps other Mom's like me who struggle daily, find a way to minimize and cope with a life long hurt locker full of shame and body inequity, while learning how not to do it in a way that makes them a vigilante or a target in this hate stoked society we live in.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fat Phobia

This morning, one of my worst parenting nightmares began to take shape in real life.

My daughter told me someone said she had a fat face.  My 30 lb bone rack of a 3.5 year old beauty has been the brunt of fat jokes, and it's hard not to internalize it, blame myself, and curse the world that being fat is like the lowest common denominator - the worst kind of insult that could be thrown at anyone.

I have done everything in my power to eliminate the word fat from our household.  Not out of denial, but out of a clear understanding that it doesn't actually represent the people it applies to.  And clearly out of the hope that by taking away some of it's presence, takes away some of it's power, and hopefully allows me to raise my child in a way that develops an appreciation for all people, regardless of what they look like period.  Full stop.

By all accounts, though I am morbidly obese, I'm pretty frigging healthy.  I'm not diabetic.  I've never had a heart attack.  I don't have some of those other disorders commonly associated with obesity like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  I do have aches, pains and generally feel better when I'm lighter, but I'm one of those people who will never be 150 lbs.  It's not in my genetic code to be that way.

I've taken every possible step to lose the weight, out of fear that my daughter would draw bullying based on the simple fact that her mother is fat.  I know how kids are.  I had surgery last year and have lost 40 lbs.  The big win for me has been that I've sustained the loss.  That's huge for a woman who seemed to be an ever increasing size without even blinking an eye.  I cook 90 percent of our meals from scratch and limit our intakes of preservatives and chemicals...I'm wholly focused on making sure that the food that is brought into this house is generally healthy but also not otherwise punitive.  And the reason I haven't lost more than 40 lbs in a year despite my surgery is that I'm keenly aware that I want to exemplify healthy, balanced and non-punitive eating behaviours for my otherwise very petite daughter.  I'm aware with every bite that I take, she's getting either a message that will lead to her own potential eating disorders.  So I'm trying very hard to lose the weight while being as "normal" as I possibly can be.

And still the thing I hear this weekend is that she has a fat face, isn't pretty, or she's drawing fat mermaids.  And I can't stop it.  I can only tell her that telling someone they are fat, isn't nice.  That the other people saying she is fat are simply jealous, and they aren't worth her time or effort.  But the voices have begun, and I have no idea how to protect my child from it and all the ripple effects of every single possible choice I can make.

I'm open to ideas though.  While I'm praying that how I've handled it already has been the right way to do it.

PS. It was an oversight not to call out that part of my strategy in addressing this at home is about self love and body appreciation of all kinds.  My response has been to guide her that all people are beautiful and have infinite value, no matter their shape, colour or appearance.  But speaking louder than her peers and the little voices that are developing in her own mind is already proving to be a challenge.  Fingers crossed I'm louder for a really long time...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

He's a Keeper, She's a Keeper. Wouldn't You Love to be a Keeper too?

I always thought I liked the idea of being a "kept" woman.  I seriously did.  And that may make me sound waif-y or stupid or otherwise snooty, but it's the honest to god truth.  In many ways, I still do.

I saw a valentine's card photo online that said "I'm Keeping You".

At once I was stricken by the overtones of the phrase "being kept".  In my mind it was always about being taken care of, and having an opportunity to be the domestic goddess we all know I actually am.  But in my mind's eye, that never worked with the woman as bread winner, and it certainly never led me to think of it as though I would be kept like a pet.  The dog that wags it's tail at the door waiting eagerly for it's "master" to return home.

I gotta say, domestic goddess or not, in my household even if I were to be a kept woman, would not have resulted in me greeting my husband at the door with drink in hand, smile on face and dressed to the nines.  Then again, it's highly unlikely in any situation, that I'd be greeting someone like Ward Cleaver - suit and tie, briefcase in hand, either.

I think it's also because kept or not, I never ever envisioned myself living the luxe life without contributing my fair share to the overall productivity of the home or family.  If I were kept, I'd be probably selling tupperware, building a business, or working my arse off to maintain house and home and garden...looking after seniors and all that OTHER stuff I already do in addition to my full time paying job.

And so, yeah, I subscribe to the "keeper" theories when it comes to finding the ones you love, but no one should ever approach a relationship with anyone like it shouldn't be hard work.  Loving someone is as much a choice as it is a feeling, once you get through that whole infatuation and lust stuff.  And working hard to make it work is pretty intense sometimes.  But like everything else, when you choose to keep with someone, the great times are the most wonderful moments in life.  And any sacrifice you have made to have that, well, those moments make each one worth it's weight in gold and so much more.

So as valentines approaches, and my husband and I officially get past the rocky stretch of road we've just gone through, I'm glad I kept him, and I'm really glad he kept me.  And I'm glad to have a partner in life, as opposed to a pet.  Pet's NEVER clean up their own mess.  At least my husband helps with the dishes!

I love you this much sweetheart.  Forever and Always!
Me.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Time Flies

The past week has been quite the emotional roller coaster here.  My husband has been violently ill, to the point of scaring me, and it's looking more and more like the reason for it is stress.  I'm afraid of how much of the stress he's feeling is my own doing, but am also afraid not to intervene and try as hard as I can to pressure him to let up at work and let things start really breaking.  I mean for real, break til they can't legally enforce any more.

I want to beg him to take a leave of absence, knowing that might cause him more stress than not doing it, and I want to beg him to put this house up for sale and start looking at trailer park solutions.  I know we can't keep going the way we're both going forever.

Which brings me to my own work.  It's making my eyes twitch and giving me a chronic migraine.  Yep.  I've inherited quite the crap storm and I'm left trying to sort it out, streamline it, fix it just so I can figure out a way to co-exist with it...all before I lose my own marbles, and need another crazy sabbatical of my own.

Add to this that last week I registered my baby girl for junior kindergarten and I'm left emotionally drained as a dried up grape.  Only the raisin that's left is pretty bitter.  She is sooo very excited to be going to big kid school, she even started doing her letters and numbers in high gear.  She's already told me she wants to wear a dress on her first day of school, and daily she checks out their progress on her new school.  You see her school is being built right at the end of our street, and that means she can watch as construction progresses...many days she can't understand why it's just not done already.

I on the other hand, as excited as I am to see her happy and diving in with both feet, am emotionally devastated at the thought that my last chances to be a stay at home mom have come and gone.  Literally, there's no way, unless I was choosing to home school her, that I will have that "opportunity" to be the kind of mom I always wanted to be.  I used to dream that I'd stay home with my kids til they were in school full time.  Then I'd go back to work.  And that was when full time school didn't start til kids were 6 years old.  She's  just going to turn 4 in June and will be going to school full time in September.  Unless I win millions so that I can take the summer with her, this is never going to happen for me at all.  It makes me all the happier that I was able to take the full maternity leave.  It was worth chewing up 6 years of my retirement to take that year.  Thank GOD I did that much.  She still snuggles with me, and holds my face in her tiny hands and tells me that I'm a good mommy.  And that fills me.  And her stellar behaviour, politeness and caring for others shows me every single day that I'm doing right by her.  But my god how I wish that I could have done this for her.  Been a 100% visible, dedicated and fully attentive mommy.

Every kid deserves that.  And every mom deserves to be able to do that for their kids without pushing themselves to the brink of death trying to be super mom, breadwinner, housekeeper, and CEO.  Exhaustion kills...My husband and I, and our grey skin tones are virtual proof of this.  I guess at least if we keel over tomorrow, our child will remember snippets of awesomeness, and will hear the stories of how we killed ourselves trying to give her the best we could.  That's reassuring for kids, right?

In the meantime, my little monkey has become a butterfly ready to leap off the leaves and float through the sky.  She's buoyant and light, and graceful, and sweet.  This world is changing because she smiled at it.  And she's about to be let loose, to get her footing and show the world what she's capable of.  I'm infinitely proud of her.  Of the person she is and the woman she will become.  I'm so terribly sad I've not been able to soak up 1000% of her moments the last 2 years.  And so thoroughly grateful for the hundreds of moments I've been given in place of them.