Sunday, August 16

Taking Stock

Recently, I got out of an abusive relationship. One designed by circumstance, by chance, perhaps by a naieve blindness. When we moved into our new home, we knew there was a young family living in the basement suite. This felt like a good thing, the daughter was about my daughter's age and from our brief talk, the couple seemed nice.

A few weeks after moving in, during which it was necessary to de-skeeve the home formerly occupied by drug-users and sellers, as well as stare at the piles of belongings ad trash that were very, very slowly making their way off the property, the couple parted ways. She found a new place to live and he found a new sense of freedom. Soon, we were not only listening to his obnoxiously loud music, but our yard was regularly overrun with his equally obnoxious and loud friends.

We were good sports, we also were clear about our expectations and boundaries - we know from experience that living underneath an active young family can be a unique and not always pleasant experience. We did our very best to open the lines of communication and picked our issues mindfully. Things got better - briefly.

Then the 'others' moved in - people who would couch-surf, or simply crash at the neighbour's place. People whose names and faces we did not know, people who often appeared intoxicated and spoke with a vulgar and sometimes violent flair. People who smoked inside the house then lied about it. People who threatened us with physical violence. People who not only knew where I lived, but had easy access to my home and intimate knowledge of my comings and goings.

I felt trapped and frightened.

Calling the cops was an option, but what would happen when the police left? What about my kids? Was it really as bad as I imagined, the nights I lay awake listening to them party? Was it just me being paranoid?

We complained to our landlord, as did a neighbour. Another neighbour called the cops. The landlord, who is forever trying to help people out of difficult situations, finally evicted basement-dude. It was only then that I realised how frightened I'd become.

Now that he (and company) were at the end of their time here, what was going to happen? Would there be a last act of retaliation? Were we safe?

The month of July was difficult and largely sleepless - I feared every night that something terrible might happen to us. When I left the house I wondered what I might come home to. When we went away for a week, I lost my head with worry.

They moved away over two weeks ago, but have left a pile of stuff and have therefore been back a dozen times. Every time, I get the same tightening in my chest, the same anxiety, the same sad fear. Sadness for the man whose life temporarily ruined mine - he's a sweet guy, but his judgement stinks. We hope that his new life will be a good one and we are happy to wash our hands of him and his friends (mainly his friends).

And now that my life is mine again, no more fear, I am taking stock. How did I get so wrapped up in these remote possibilities? How far does my mama-bear protectionism go? Did I do enough? (I believe I did, WE did - I can not ever discount my husband's role in looking out for our family). How would we handle the situation differently? What did we learn?

And how do we get balanced when we're so mired in our inability to control anything?

Tuesday, May 26

the mistakes we make

Every day, every single one of us makes a ton of mistakes. We speak out of turn, we cut a guy off, we forget to be gentle, we leave our travel mugs at home, we do any number of little things that we might wish we'd done differently.

Some of us have an easier time of mistake making than others, I am one of the others. Small mistakes linger in my head, taunting me with their un-do-able-ness, I worry long after the repercussions are past. This is a part of the mental illness that I take medication for (OCD), but it doesn't need to be as powerful as I allow it to be.

I am slowly (and deliberately) learning how to make mistakes with grace, but it feels so counter-intuitive. Somehow I've got it in my head that if I am going to do something, I must do it flawlessly. This backwards thinking paralyzes creativity, because it leads me to believe that there is one "right" answer and many "wrong" ones. It is nearly impossible in creative ventures to know if I've got something "right" until it is completed, so if I consider that the chances of getting it "wrong" far outweigh getting it right and I won't do it unless I know I'll do it flawlessly, you end up here - where I barely do anything.

And when you further consider that I am a very creative person, you can better understand why I've spent so much time unhappy.

That voice of wrong is the main reason I have so many UFOs in my studio, it is also the main reason I have had an empty Etsy shop for as long as Etsy's been in existance (I shit you not), it is also why I feel ineffective as a parent. I fear doing things wrong.

Last night I made a small something for my son, a felt and fleece eye-patch for his wandering eye. I was down to three sticky patches and was tired of the battle to get them on, tired of the daily layers of waxy paper trash they create, and tired just thinking about sourcing the neat-o printed ones he likes in our new city. I did a little research and found a lot of uggo patch styles before finding the style I went with, it was easy, so I styled it up with an embroidered rocket ship and blanket-stich border.

It wasn't perfect, but I remided myself of its purpose (to cover the eye) and that it would be the first of many and decided I'd done well enough. It took me an hour to get to that point of acceptance, but I did!

Today, I sewed my son a skirt from old curtains, at his request. It had been so long I had forgotten how to use my sewing maching (thank Maude for manuals) - and even though I could list every little imperfection, I am doing a decent job of letting them go. He loves it and wore it all day, even to the park!

And tonight I am writing this, it could be full of errors (I have decided not to proofread it because my battery is almost dead) but I am posting it anyways.

Take that, perfectionist mentality!!

Tuesday, May 19

it is what it is

I used to be so angry. I was like a bomb, ready to go off at any sign of life not fulfilling my innate sense of entitlement and when I went off - oh man, I can only imagine what it would have felt like to be on the other end.

That was 10 years ago, since then I have quieted my anger with compassion and perspective. I still get riled up over things, but now they tend to be the things a person should get angry about - world hunger, the systematic poisoning of our planet, green-washing - as opposed to the occasional tomato on my sandwich when I am 100% positive that I requested none.

My life is better. It is nicer, calmer, happier when I stop keeping score and make the sometimes difficult decision to drop the rope and let people worry about themselves. I still prefer to be right, but as my wise old man put it, the trick is to realise that being right doesn't make everyone else wrong.

This isn't how I grew up. My parents were angry for most of my childhood. They'll deny it, but I remember the tantrums, the snide remarks and most of all the feeling that there was no way I could ever be right enough or do well enough. I spent my twenties working through that and will likely spend a lot more time convincing myself that I am capable of more than I feel I am.

I went to the mall the other day to renew my license. I took the opportunity to window-shop, checking out trends in both fashion and marketing, because evil or not, it is a huge part of who I am. Something I also checked out, though somewhat involuntarily, were current trend in public parenting. Basically, I witnessed a whole lot of grown-ups treating a whole lot of kids like shit. I didn't witness any overt abuse, instead I saw parents treating their kids like disobeying puppies. Kicking them with words and looks and loud sighs. As I broadened my scope I saw people all over doing this to others, to partners, to staff, to strangers. And I went one step further and though of my own recent behaviour, came up with a few examples of my being cunty to my kids, to Drew and to the world at large - where did it stem from?

Believe it or not, I am not judging any of the parents I saw - I am a firm believer that it is rare that we can get the whole picture from witnessing an isolated interaction - I reserve judgment for myself. Do I generally treat people well and where could I stand to improve?

Generally, yes, I am a nice person. A little narcissistic and impatient, for sure, but I am a benefit-of-the-doubt type and a see-a-need-fill-a-need type. So where can I improve? It almost always comes down to compassion. Compassion for the person who makes an ignorant remark, compassion for the person shooting me an angry glare, and compassion for myself, a woman who is trying very hard to do right by her kids and who is mothering without a map.

With that compassion I can cut everyone else slack and truly let things go. This gives me the mind-space to look at what I am feeling that is manifesting itself as this bitchiness and what I can I change? Often, reflecting is hard. So hard that I have done as little of it as possible this past year. I do the easy stuff, like ensuring I get enough sleep, eat well, de-clutter, get a little exercise and drink my water - and then I stop. It has been a band-aid solution, but it worked while it worked.

And here I am today. Full of compassion and optimism like I haven't felt in ages. It will take some work and time to train my brain away from negative thinking, but I am ready for the challenge.

Wednesday, April 29

this post is hardly worth reading

In two and a half weeks, I am turning thirty. After some reflection I came to the realisation that I am not as calm about it as I outwardly project. My anxiety doesn't stem from the expected sources, I am happy with my body, happy with my family and really falling in love with many aspects of my life. My major anxiety comes from the memory that keeps popping up of my friend who killed himself last year, right after he turned thirty.

This will be a tough birthday, it coincides with our 5th wedding anniversary and bring up all these mixed-up memories. Sean introduced Andrew and I, Sean was Andrew's best man, Sean was Sebastian's favourite uncle and his godfather, Sean was thirty. At times like these, I still get so angry that he wouldn't consider how his death would taint every special moment for me (am I selfish, or what?).