Feeling Certain of the Depth, Breadth and Intensity of my Love for my Family

Ramadan began on May 25, marking the beginning of a whirlwind five week adventure for me and Mister. We caught the red eye out of Riyadh to our connecting flight at London Heathrow, then on to Victoria via Vancouver. It took over thirty hours, crossing ten time zones. Despite exhaustion, the pristine beauty of Vancouver Island invigorated my soul and the lure of connecting and sharing stories with family had me tapping into a third or fourth wind.

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My mother, two daughters, son-in-law and grandson all live on Vancouver Island. I knew it was going to be a challenge to be with each of them in authentic communication within four and a half days, but I was committed. Inspired by Elizabeth Lesser’s Ted Talk, Say Your Truths, which I referenced in a previous blog, I vowed to create space for deep time or sacred awe to manifest. And it did.

We engaged in the usual traditions of preparing and sharing food together while engaging in deep discussions.

Re-connecting with my grandson was a gift to be cherished, from that first moment I peeked into his room and he shyly regarded me for all of a minute before crying out in delight, “Grandma!” and that final heart-wrenching kiss goodbye.

We established our motto, “party every day,” belting it out in an off-key version of The Black Eyed Peas, repeating the chorus frequently throughout our visit.

Our first day Mister and I took Em with us into Victoria where we picked up my mom (nana) and drove to Willows Beach. All the adults were enamoured with Em and we traipsed after him as he navigated the playground equipment with confidence. We ate ice cream and drew pictures in the sand with old driftwood sticks. We ate crispy-gooey-greasy pizza and engaged our imaginations in play. Mister pushed my Mom on the swing and me and Em on the merry-go-round. We dizzy-walked and fake crashed into the soft green grass. I felt present to expansive possibilities and the innocence of his loving young heart.

Driving back home we sang songs and told stories, Mister sharing a smash-up impersonation of Foghorn Leghorn, a character from the Looney Tunes of our youth and me giving my Southern accent version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Em revealed with the frank honesty of young children that my story was horrible because it was too scary. He loved Mister’s Foghorn vignette and kept asking him to tell it again.

The next day Mister and I took Em on a walk down by Fisherman’s Wharf in scenic Cowichan Bay. We spotted fish and looked for sea lions, holding hands and seeing the beauty and wonder of the world through Em’s eyes. We had a pirate pool party in their backyard and I relished the freedom to be childish.

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Whether he was busy being a boy, playing and chattering non-stop or snuggled up to me while I read him his bedtime stories, Em’s soft spirit spoke to me. My time with Em brought me back to my purpose, which as Mister identified, is simply to love.

I didn’t create as many opportunities to connect deeply with my Mom as I would have liked. However, it was a gift to witness her youthful, spirited energy as she interacted with Em. During one of our family dinners Mom shared a little of her Ancestry Circle. I felt honoured that she expressed her vulnerability. The day before we left she invited us to lunch at her place and while  I was in a bit of a muddle that day I gave her a big hug goodbye, managing to stay fully present, if only for a few moments.

Scarlet was at a workshop when I first arrived. When she got back early Sunday afternoon I was thrilled and ran to the door to wrap my arms around her. Tamara supported us in our desire to create one-on-one connection, looking after Em. Scarlet drove us to Mill Bay, to a part of the ocean we used to walk together when I lived nearby. We walked along the waters edge sipping our coffees and releasing all of our heaviness, baggage and updates.

When we reached a craggy boulder overlooking the ocean we spread out her yoga mat and settled into the space, holding hands and sitting in spiritual silence. Scarlet led us into deep and sacred communion. We were in deep time and the hours melted into moments where watches don’t exist and our heartbeats marked the passage of time. I felt like I was glowing, acknowledging the grace and gift from God that is my angel daughter.

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My time with Tamara was not as plentiful as I would have liked. I felt grateful for the time we shared together in Goa. We did manage to engage in a few open and honest conversations. I was able to hold and behold her.

On our last evening, after Em was all tucked into bed and the dinner dishes were tidied away, me, Scarlet and Tamara participated in a spiritual bonding ceremony, sharing our vulnerable hearts in deep connection with one another. I experienced some stickiness, but both my girls responded in their own individual ways to support me. My heart was filled with fiery hot pride of the strong women that my girls have become. At the same time, I was present to the approaching end of my visit and my heart was drenched in the tears of goodbyes.

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So yeah, I left Vancouver Island feeling a lot of things, but certain of the depth, breadth and intensity of my love for my family.

Feeling Sentimental; Missing my Father

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I’ve been sending off query letters every week, hoping to catch the attention of an agent willing to take a risk and represent my manuscript, My Father’s Hands. I write about how my relationship with my father inspired and defined me. I share with complete strangers the depths of my connection and the despair I felt in his passing. Sometimes I write those words with a detached complacency born from repetition and the passage of time. Other times the tears streak down my cheeks as if it was only yesterday.

 

In truth, it has been sixteen years. I hadn’t done the math, but the other day I was showing a photo of my dad to someone and they asked when he passed. I told them in 2000, and it was a shock to me that so much time had passed. Sometimes I speak as if it were a recent event. It is often the case with memories; elusive, fragmented and hazy.

 

At any rate, I’ve decided to honour my feelings towards my father in today’s blog by sharing two poems I wrote about him. The first is now the Prelude in My Father’s Hands, the novel. I wrote the poem for his funeral and it ended up becoming the outline for the book. The second is the Epilogue, which I wrote only recently in my thirteenth and final edit. Together they are the beginning and the end; the story encompasses everything in between.

 

Prelude

When I was born

My father’s hands were young hands.

They held me when I cried

And patted my back to sleep.

They tickled me on my tiny toes

And held my bottle while he fed me.

My father’s hands were perfect

For encompassing a baby girl.

 

When I was small

My father’s hands were busy hands.

They held my hands to show me the

Feel of swinging a baseball bat

And threaded bait onto fishing lines.

They pierced marshmallows onto campfire sticks

And steadied my bicycle when I learned to ride.

My father’s hands were perfect

For playing with a little girl.

 

When I was a teenager

My father’s hands were worried hands.

They wrung themselves together

When I didn’t bother to call

And grasped me firmly when

I didn’t come home at all.

My father’s hands were perfect

For caring about his growing girl.

 

When I was a young woman

My father’s hands were relieved hands.

They could let go a little now,

Making room for my husbands’ hands in my life

While remaining strong for me.

They held my excited hands as I walked down the aisle,

Waved to me when I moved away,

And welcomed me whenever I returned.

My father’s hands were perfect

For setting free his little girl.

 

When I became a mother

My father’s hands were teaching hands.

They showed me the “magic touch” when Michelle was crying,

Wound up the motorized swing when Tamara was colicky,

And turned the pages of Kevin’s favorite stories.

My father’s hands were perfect

For nurturing my children.

 

Several years ago

My father’s hands became crippled hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis bent them, giving them pain.

It was hard for him to do the things he wanted to do.

His hands needed medications and operations.

They became tired and it was my turn to be strong.

My father’s hands were perfect

For loving me.

 

Two weeks ago

My father’s hands became ravaged hands.

Infection spread into them yet they comforted me

As I held them and stood helplessly by his bedside.

They managed, even amid such struggle,

To return my affectionate grasp;

An unequaled gift of love and reassurance.

My father’s hands were perfect

For speaking to me.

 

Today my father’s hands are gone.

They are in God’s hands.

They cannot encompass me, play with me,

Care for me, let me go, nurture my children,

Love me or speak to me.

They cannot give him any more pain.

My father’s hands are perfect,

Forever in my memory.

 

Epilogue

Looking out the window into the dark night sky

I glimpse the beginning of a new and spectacular dawn.

The sky in the east transforms from inky black to rusty indigo.

It slowly melts into magenta, then dissolves into a soft cherry pink,

Creating candy cane clouds.

I gaze transfixed.

The sky seems to speak to me of promises and dreams

Of someplace I recognize

But feels like long ago.

 

Daddy, I remember you.

Playing baseball.

Standing at the plate,

Legs planted firmly,

Expression deadpan.

Then looking over at me,

Sitting in the bleachers;

A conspiratorial wink.

The pitcher releases the ball,

It sails through the air.

You swing the bat.

Crack.

It makes contact.

You drop the bat in the dirt,

And start running.

 

I pray that somewhere in that forever sky

You are running free,

Looking over me,

Connected in spirit for eternity.

 

I pick up my pen,

And begin to write.

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Feeling sentimental; missing my father.

“Feeling Challenged on my Letting Go Journey”

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I’ve been on a journey of learning how to let go for a long time now. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that letting go is my life lesson. It has shown up in so many different places, it’s hard to account for them all and difficult to identify when it began.

One thing I know for sure is that this lesson surfaces for me whenever I face a new health challenge. When I was diagnosed with Diabetes I had to let go of my ideas on eating and being a free spirit, unrestrained by routines. Eating regular meals and planning became an important part of my management. I had to let go of my discomfort with needles and embrace having to inject myself daily. It hasn’t been a linear learning curve. I’ve had to make many adjustments along the way, continuously letting go of regimens that are no longer effective and developing new strategies to manage my blood sugars. I’m still working at it, doing my best.

When I experienced depression for the first time I had to let go of a definition of myself that didn’t allow me to accept what I was feeling. I had a concept of myself as a positive, optimistic and happy person and that just didn’t seem to fit with what I was feeling. On that journey of letting go I came to understand that there are different experiences of depression. What I suffered from was situational in nature, not chronic. When I identified the triggers and dealt with them I no longer suffered from depression. The in-depth story of that journey is the theme of the novel I am currently writing, Darkness to Dawn.

In 2014 I was diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease, but it was the almost two years before my diagnosis when I had no idea what was wrong with me that was the most challenging. I was told I might have Lupus, among other auto-immune diseases. I struggled with the pain and the worry of not knowing. I had to let go of an image of myself as strong and vital. At one point I could barely walk up the stairs I was so weak, let alone practice yoga or work-out at the gym. I had to quit my teaching position because I couldn’t manage the demanding work load. I couldn’t even keep my arm raised long enough to write on the whiteboard. I let go of the mainstream approaches to curing Lyme’s and embraced a naturopathic/homeopathic/western medicine integrated approach that was completely off the grid and totally individualized and now, two years later, I am cured.

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During one of my periods of feeling challenged my oldest daughter bought me a copy of Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. Reading that book helped me to recognize the value in letting go of all of my limiting ideas about how and who I should be. Pema wrote that when you feel fear you should feel lucky, for it is an opportunity to grow. Furthermore, she postulated that you need to let go of your old identities in order to become someone new. It comforts me to meditate on this wisdom and recognize how illness brings up our ultimate fear of death. I believe that working through fear with grace, resilience and faith is key to achieving happiness.

All of these health challenges had something else in common. They pushed me to let go of all limiting ideologies. In order to achieve wellness, I had to be open to all points of view, including sometimes conflicting western and eastern approaches to well-being. Self-help books provided some insights, but it in the end, I had to create my own individual path. I had to trust my intuition and recognize that I know myself best. I had to take the time to be silent, so that I could hear the whisperings of my heart.

Becoming a parent has been another facet of my letting go journey. I discovered I was pregnant with my first child when I was still a child myself. I was sixteen in fact, and unmarried. I had to let go of my idea of what it meant to be a single teenage mom, because quite frankly most of the role models and societal views were limiting and negative. I had to let go of the discouraging associations and learn how to create an image of myself in that role that was strong, resourceful and capable.

That journey began with yet another letting go. I had wanted to pursue a career in journalism. Trying to support a child on your own with the unpredictable pay and hours of a beginning journalist seemed unrealistic to me. So, I chose to go to university to become a teacher, knowing that I loved education, loved working with children, and that the work hours would support me in raising my little girl. It was a perfect choice and I cherished being a teacher for many years.

My father’s death in 2000 was another pivotal moment in my letting go journey. Losing him was like losing a reflection of myself where the image projected was perfect. My father and I shared such an incredible bond that it took me seven years of grieving my loss to truly accept his death and move on. Letting go of his physical presence and learning to connect with his spirit took time, patience, and determination on my part, but it happened. I recently finished writing a novel based on my relationship with my dad titled My Father’s Hands and I’m looking for an agent to represent me.

As each of my children have made the transition to adulthood, my letting go journey has been challenged yet again. When they have made decisions as adults that I don’t agree with, I have had to accept their choices. It is no longer appropriate for me to tell them how to live nor advise them, without their requesting my advice. I have had to summon all of my strength to have the courage to allow them to live their own life journey, even when I’ve been scared of the possible outcomes. The truth is, there are no guarantees in life.

Which brings me to the current situation that is having me feeling challenged on my letting go journey. I have someone in my life whom I love dearly who is struggling with mental health. I feel that from my position of relative objectivity, experience and wisdom, I have the opportunity to make a difference. I feel like if my advice could be listened to and followed, there would be a greater chance of success in managing the illness effectively. I have felt a need to have control, fooling myself into believing that I have the power to keep her safe. I have felt so scared of losing her that I have allowed myself to forget my letting go lesson. I have come to understand, from a place deep in my soul, that her journey is hers to live. It isn’t my cupboard. I need to find the strength and courage to allow her the opportunity to discover her own self. I need to have faith. I need to remember that the only thing I really have to give is love. Loving her is easy.

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So yeah, I am feeling challenged. I’m also feeling the power of hope, prayer, faith and love.