When The Sun Hits Your Eyes (For Tara)

You know those moments of the blinding sun? When you are in your car, and the height of the sun is just so, that there is absolutely nothing you can do to shade your eyes from it? And you cannot see. No sunglasses, no visor, can make your visibility any better. You just slow down and hope for the best until those few seconds of complete sun blindness pass.

I think of Tara. Every single time. I think of her.

Tara was a beautiful friend. She had a radiant smile. A calming presence. The sweetest of hearts. And one evening, when the height of the sun was just so, she was taken from us. She wasn’t seen. And our community was thrown into a spiral of grief. She touched so many people, in the short time she was with us.

I was in grade 7 and at the park with a group of friends. That was our ritual. Meeting at Bready school, sitting on the monkey bars, just hanging out. And that night we were expecting Tara, but when she never arrived, we just assumed plans had changed.

I went home, got ready for bed, living my innocent life before I really understood death. And this is a moment etched in my memory. I will never forget the scene. It’s like I am looking down into our house on 18th Avenue, like a dollhouse, with the roof of the house in my hand. I remember how my bedroom was set up. And my mom coming into my room, her eyes red from crying. To tell me that Tara had died.

And being so young, at the time, I never really thought how Tara dying would have affected my mom. Because as children, we see our parents as resilient. It wasn’t until I read this poem that my mother wrote, for me to think about how the loss affected her, and how she felt as a mother, for Tara’s parents. And how as a mother, she had to tell her daughter that her friend had died.

http://ammerle.ca/amms-story/published-work-updated/tara/

Tara, I think of you often. Especially when the sun is shining it’s brightest.

Time For A New Tagline

I saw my old tagline today, and felt it was time for a new one. I never even saved the last one – it was something like, “Red heels, rock concerts and being a mom without a mom. And OCD.”

I updated it to:Death No Longer Defines Me. Now Onto New Levels Of Growth.

Because looking back, when I was so consumed and identified myself with her death, I had no where else to improve myself upon. There was no room for growth. I was living without really living. But now I am. I am constantly finding new ways to improve myself and finding things I need to change. It’s so refreshing and exciting and rewarding. So I wanted a tagline to reflect that.

Stick Around. I May Do Something Brilliant.

Ok. We all know how much my mom effing rocked. And I mentioned this story once under the amm & Parenting section. But the other day, while I was having a shower, just thinking random mom thoughts, I remembered this one. And wanted to write about it more.

The Scholastic Book Fair time, was one of my favourite times throughout the year. Because I always knew I would be able to order something from the brochure. Remember, one of my mom’s best quotes was, “There is always enough money for books.” And we didn’t have a lot of extra money. Two kids in dance and golf and hockey, with two parents as teachers, didn’t leave money over for yearly vacations or fancy extras. But we could always buy books.

One time I chose a poster. It was of a Maine Coon cat, surrounded by a few paint cans of the primary colours. The can lids were off, and there were paint paw prints, all around the white background. The caption read, “Stick around. I may do something brilliant.” Why did I have to have that poster? Who knows. But I loved it.

I loved it so much, that one day, my mom arrived home with paint and a red poster frame. She announced to me that we were going to paint our little downstairs bathroom all white, then cut out a cat paw stencil from a sponge, and paint cat paws in red, yellow, green and blue, all over the walls. And then frame the poster and hang it in the bathroom. And we did just that.

Why did she want to paint a bathroom like this? It sure looked great to little me, but as I grew up, I thought, “This looks awful from an adult’s perspective. Why did she choose to paint it like this?”

I guess because it was a fun project she knew I would love. And that was the focus of it, not on what the bathroom actually looked like afterwards. And what’s the big deal? It’s just a little basement bathroom.

So many lessons learned from my mom, in just a single afternoon of painting a bathroom…

Don’t Touch Me: Mantouching

What’s the big deal? A guy passing behind you in the bar touches your shoulders to let you know he needs to get by? Isn’t this normal interaction in our society? It’s an innocent act of touching for him to express himself? Or is it his deep routed programming, to assert his masculinity on a female, showing his dominance?

I really started thinking about this more after a new dance friend of mine shared this article on social media:http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/mantouching-john-travolta-joe-biden/. And only within one week of me reading this article, there have been two times that I have experienced man touching, now that I know the definition of it. I know it has happened to me on a regular basis, really, my entire adult life, but now I am significantly more aware of it.

1. My girlfriend and I were out for drinks last weekend. We went to a pub style restaurant, and were standing at the bar, waiting to be seated for supper. Two men, I would guess late 30s and mid 40s, were next to us and leaving, so brought over their stools for us. A kind gesture. Until the first man placed his hand on my lower back when he spoke to me. I had not even looked this man in the eyes and now he is touching me. Then the second came up and did the same to me. And even asked for my hand to kiss it. Two men that are complete strangers to me, I showed no interest in speaking to them at all prior, and both touched me. So, is this just normal behaviour that is acceptable in our culture? Had I told both of them to please not touch me, I am sure they would have been surprised by my response and considered me a bitch for saying so.

2. There is a man I see on an almost daily basis, due to our similar schedules. He is almost 20 years older than me and we speak only on occasion. The other day I was wearing a looser, large necked top and he thought he saw something on my shoulder and actually reached out to pull down the neck of my shirt to look at my arm. A man I know has a family, but don’t know him well enough to even know their names. I grabbed my shirt and stepped back and said, “Don’t touch me.” And he just continued speaking to me as if I hadn’t even said anything.

So, what is this? Women overreacting? Men asserting their dominance over us? Innocent interactions? What I do know, is that I can not remember the last time I touched a male friend, or male stranger, in any way. Except the time last year at a music festival where a drunk guy fell into me, used my butt to steady himself and I chest pushed him off of me.

I also know that the last paragraph of the article describes how I felt, that night out for drinks with my girlfriend.

“You might not think a pinched cheek or a shoulder caress is something to lose sleep over. But the next time you see a man put his hand on the small of a woman’s back, look at her eyes. Look at her smile. If you’re looking closely enough, I bet you can see her faking it. I bet you can see how painful it really is.”

I’ll Have An Order Of Me, With A Side Of Her

In past years, when my mom’s grief still consumed and defined me, I spent her birthday doing things that she loved to do. At the time, it felt like it was a way to honour and hang on to her. I now know, that was just grasping at the past, at what once was.

Today, I did me. Me consists of sleeping in, and being woken up early by my dad, even though I told him I would call him when I woke up. Then me is meeting my dad for brunch at his fav spot. Then me is meeting my trainer at the gym and having a good session, not only physically, but mentally too. Then me is going to Whyte Ave. Parking, walking, having lunch alone, sitting at the bar of a fav restaurant, having a beer. Then hitting up stores and businesses for donations for an upcoming fundraiser event, for the burlesque troupe I am in. Then me is shopping and making purchases at three of my fav stores. Then me is heading home, being lazy, having another beer, and then another one. And now me is going to paint my nails in front of trashy tv.

Turns out, me is her. And I just have to be me.

Happy Birthday Mom

I Wanna Talk About Hormones – RIGHT NOW!!

Oh, those wonderful signaling molecules that make us females have the luscious full hips, allow us to feed our newborn baby at the breast, process problem solving in ways our male partners physically just can’t and provides us the internal strength and wisdom that only females possess. How could something that creates such worshiped traits, makes me so bat sh*t crazy on a regular cycle?

I despise hormones for many negative reasons. Let’s just put it all out there, shall we? Acne. Hair growth where women should not have hair. Making me unable to make a simple decision. But this is what I do have going for me now: I can now recognize it. I recognize when I am in the days of the hormone clouds. And I think this has just come with age and being more in tune with myself. I think it also helps that I have not been on any form of hormonal birth control for years now. And this is a decision that I have made for myself, specifically because of the hormone control. As much as it the idea of being “hormonally regulated” is tempting, I feel much more myself when my body just effs my emotions up on their own, with no little pill assisting.

This topic may seem to be a misplaced circle on my traditional blog post web of ideas. I tend to write about my grief openly, and do this for my own therapy, which in turn can help those who read it. And with my closest friends and family, I am also open with my struggles and challenges that are not specifically grief related. So it seemed like this was something I should share too. How when I am hormonal, I am a mess. I am so hard on myself. And extremely sensitive. And react to things that I normally wouldn’t react to. And I eat like I will never have the chance to eat again.

“So, like what’s the big deal?” you may be thinking. We all know and joke about how women are when they are PMSing. But I want to share the really dark side of it. The scary part. The things that you may not want to admit.

My last hormonal cloud was one of the worst. There wasn’t a single thing I could eat that would satisfy me. One day I wanted to go get perogies AND a hamburger for lunch, because I didn’t think that either alone would stop the salivating. And then that night, I ate an entire medium pizza. I ate so much and so quickly, that I threw up. My stomach was so upset that I puked. I knew I shouldn’t have ate it. But I physically and emotionally was unable to control myself. I can laugh about it now. Like I just ate an ENTIRE PIZZA AND THEN THREW UP. But when you think about it, those hormones really have such power over us, and it can be frightening when you feel you don’t even have control over yourself and your choices.

In these days of the hormonal cloud, I just try to have more patience with myself. And I find comfort in knowing that these feelings and cravings will soon pass. But it’s almost like I can only function on the surface these days, as nothing else will be accomplished.

If you feel so low during these times for you, I encourage you to speak with your friends or doctor or therapist. Hormonal depression is something that we tend to joke about, but if it’s making you eat an entire pizza, or have even darker thoughts, then it’s something we need to not be too ashamed to ask for help with. Or just talk to someone we trust about.

For example, I once told a co-worker that if he didn’t stop asking me why I was in sh*ty mood, I would throw my chair out our 9th floor office window, and throw him out afterwards. Hormonal cloud.

Check Yo’ Self Before You Wreck Yo’ Self

The other night I had a thought. I had just done something that reminded me of the Oath to My Daughter. That is always a sign for me to revisit those words that I wrote about 2 1/2 years ago. As I read this oath today, some things were hard for me to remember why I included them. Others were very memorable. And I wondered how my oath today, would be different compared to that one I originally made, had this been the first time writing it.

Oath To My Daughter

I think once we have made a change, we always needs to take a step back when things are new to us, to ensure we are on the path we want and should be. And then realign and continue.

And I am one who analyzes and evaluates and plans and thinks until it hurts. So what am I going to do this time with this challenge? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that scares me, and I wonder if I can do it. But it seems that doing nothing makes it less of a deal than it is or should be, so that makes sense.

I just took the service road for a bit. Kinda like Gasoline Alley in Red Deer. Stopped in at the Donut Mill. Checked the map. Back on Highway 2.

“It’s like the Bible.”

That’s how my dear friend described Women Who Run With the Wolves. I mean no offence to those whom the Bible means more to them than it has ever meant to me. But what my friend meant, was that you pick up the Wild Woman book always at the right time. For whatever powers compel you to read a few more pages, those pages hold the answers and enlightenment, just as you need for whatever you are facing at the time. Just like the Bible does for so many.

This came from me sharing how the other week I found myself thinking a lot about the past. And the anger I have felt and in some cases, still hold on to. And questioning my process because I still catch myself remembering. And then I started reading the chapter on Rage. And I read so many crystal clear analogies and explanations and moments that connected with me and allowed me to to feel content with how I now view past hurt. And Rage. And the passages in this chapter were some of the best I have read. And want to write them all out, but don’t know how to choose!

“Allowing oneself to be taught by one’s rage, thereby transforming it, disperses it.”

“None of us can entirely escape our history. We can certainly put it in the background, but it there nevertheless. However, if you will do these things for yourself, you will bridge the rage and eventually everything will calm down and be fine. Not perfect, but fine. You’ll be able to move ahead.”

And from Rage, comes Forgiveness. And the stages of Forgiveness are examined and it reminded me when I learned about the stages of Grief. I just kept reading and being awoken and comforted, in how I have felt and processed my own Rage and Forgiveness. And Forgiveness does’t have to be directed to a person who wronged you. It’s Forgiveness of situations and powers you don’t understand and circumstance. “How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, and you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him.”

And now the pages are transitioning to examining Grief. How fitting, as I feel the emptiness of my mother more recently. During this same conversation, my friend reminded me, “Remember what time of year this is for you. It’s starting to be connected to the hardest times for you.” And I said, “I know.” But I don’t know until she told me.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks of a gunshot wound. You are shot, but not fatally wounded. The bullet is removed, you live, and then pain of the gunshot lessens within a week or so. But what about the shrapnel? The shrapnel remains inside. This is why you may feel no pain of that bullet for months, or even years, but then you feel the shrapnel.The little bits, that remain a part of you, that still hurt. Still are reminders. And over the years, the time between feeling the shrapnel lengthens and maybe the pain tolerance increases. But it’s still there.

I feel the shrapnel.

I Saw Her Again…She’s On To Something

I had another dream of my mother. Last night, after two challenging days, similar to the ones I had when she entered my dream just three weeks ago.

This time she was in the hospital. She had died already, but then someone notified us that she was alive again. The dream started with me at the nursing station, urgently wanting to be told what room she was in. But I kept being told she was having tests and would be back to her room shortly. Once she was back, she just started chatting with me like she had never died. She knew she was in the hospital and was showing me around, as things had changed since we were there last. She was in palliative care again, and all the rooms had been divided into long spaces, where the width of the room was really that only of the hospital bed itself. I don’t remember what we spoke of. But it was clear she was dying of CJD again, but the symptoms had not progressed as fast as they had before.

*And that is something that I still struggle with today. In real life, did she know she was dying? I asked her that in a round about way at the time, but her answer was as round about as my question. I just didn’t have the strength to ask her, “Do you know you are dying?” It was one of the questions that I asked a doctor who specializes in the disease even, but there is no way to answer that.*

And that was sort of it for the dream. I remember seeing other people in the hospital and visiting with her, but still feeling a sense of confusion about how she was alive again and her current health status.

So this morning, when I woke, I tried to make sense of her visiting me in my dreams again. I took it as a sign to stand up for myself and be a bit more forceful, in the quiet way she was. And to know that I did all I could do for myself in this situation and then start moving on from it. Because some things are not always worth our time…that is something she taught me many years ago. And one of her best quotes I hold close to my heart: “You can’t control other people’s emotions.”

I hope she starts to visit me when I have wonderful days too. Because having to go through hurt, just to see her in my dreams seems like another cruelty I am faced with her, all over again.

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