What Happens When You Live Inside Your Own Ass …

When my British Beloved and I first started dating, he introduced me to this delightful and quite descriptive phrase: “That guy is so up his own ass!”

Up his own ass.

I love it. Didn’t totally understand it then but now I think I do. Up your own ass means you have an exceptionally high opinion of yourself. It means your ego is perhaps a bit out of check. It means you might be a touch blind to what is going on around you because, well, your head is in a deep, dark place.

We all go there sometimes. The trick is not to dwell there indefinitely. The trick is to realize that residing in that special sanctum (I said sanctum, not rectum) is stupid because it’s dark and you can’t see what’s going on around you. How the hell can you see anything when your head is up your own ass? As opposed to, say, attached to your neck where it belongs.

The sad fact though, is that far too many folk end up dwelling up their own asses for far too long. This is not to say they become full-fledged ego maniacs. I just mean that instead of a quick trip to “me-and-only-me” land, they choose (for whatever reason) to sign a long-term lease, pack up the furniture and move it and all their other baggage into their own ass indefinitely.

I know this because I did this. Many years ago when my heart got ripped out of my chest, stomped on and then splattered against numerous random walls, I too left the land of the living and moved into my own ass. There I languished in turmoil and pain, suffering, suffering and suffering more because there was only room in my ass for me and my pain. Nobody else fit. So day after day, week after week, my pain and I inhabited my ass. In hindsight (pardon the pun) I think I must have felt safe in my ass. Safe from more pain, yes, but also safe from the anxiety-ridden torture of actually living my miserable and heartbroken life outside of my ass. My derriere provided exactly enough living space for me to NOT have to worry or even think about anyone else.

Here’s the problem. And I apologize but there is no delicate way to say this. When you live inside your ass the only thing you see is shit.

In order to fully experience the wonders of life, the magnificence of this planet, the glories of music and art and literature and Netflix, the warmth of friendship, the devotion of family, the affection of dogs and the taste of a freshly baked apple pie you have to get out of your ass and get on with living. No matter how daunting that task might seem.

So what’s the answer? How do you do it? What concrete steps can you take to get back into the light?

Simple.

Start doing things for other people.

That’s right. Get out of your ass, stop thinking only about you and your problems and start doing things for other people.

Once those wounds started healing, those deeply carved heart-wounds, I made it my mission to seek out and facilitate moments of wonder. Those aforementioned wonders of life. I sought out my busy, overworked single-mother friends and invited them and their offspring for dinner so that they could have a night off from cooking without the price of a restaurant meal. I did this weekly. Sometimes more. because is twas also very good for me. I hosted jams in my home monthly so that my music-minded pals could make music with abandon and not worry about cleaning up the next day. I volunteered at my son’s school so that I could infuse some creative spirit into his learning and also enjoy yearly the absolute wonders of Wonderland (sitting with seven backpacks while my charges rode the roller coaster for the third time). I paid attention to my pals in pain and made sure they had a safe haven (my bar) to vent their sorrows and heal their hearts. I visited my mother weekly. I walked my dog daily. I started a little music group with two other women only because they were SO wanting to make professional music and I was able to make that happen. I just kept going and going like the Energizer Bunny until one day I woke up and realized my life was pretty good. It wasn’t what I expected but it was fulfilling. It was uplifting. It was on a positive trajectory.

I was no longer living inside my own ass.

We all will experience pain in this life. We will all get slammed and slaughtered and hurt or neglected and abused and misused. And yes, we will all on occasion take time to vacation in our own asses so that we can heal.

Let’s just not get too comfortable in that posterior palace. Let’s make a concerted effort to restore, rejuvenate and move forward. In the light. Let’s remember that the world is full of distressed damsels (and dudes). In the grand scheme of The Universe (if it has such a thing) we are just tiny mites of dust. At least we will be soon enough. So let’s just try to big-picture the hell out of this life and put our pain to good work. It comes back tenfold, this I know.

Remember, in the immortal words of this blogger, when you live inside your ass all you see is shit.

So please … just leave that … behind.

(sorry again)

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How Many Selfies Will It Take To Make You Feel Loved …

This morning I read a tweet (turned into a meme) from someone named Bruxy Cavey: “Humans long for unconditional love, but market a false self to get conditional love. Hence, our true selves are neither known nor loved.”

I have no idea who Bruxy is, what he does, if he’s nice or if he’s an asshole. I do believe though, based on this one statement, that he is very, very smart.

This is what I see on my social media feeds every single day. I see people – and when I say people what I really mean is women (mostly) – posting a daily dose of “Look at me and my wonderful life!” “Look at me working out!” “Look at me smelling flowers!” “Look at me having a glass of wine with someone else who wants you to look at them having a glass of wine with me!”

And on and on it goes. Humans longing for love. Longing to be seen. To be recognized. To be affirmed.

“Look at me, look at me, look at me. I’m okay, right?”

Am I okay.

Am I pretty enough, active enough, slim enough, interesting enough, young enough, aging gracefully enough? Am I worthy of your follow, of your like, of your comment, of your …. love.

Before I type another word I will admit to dancing with this devil myself. I work in an industry (media) where “profile” is important. Catering to “fans” is part of the job. Showcasing my work is “necessary advertisement” and publicizing parts of my life comes with the territory.

Parts.

But I have never learned to take a good selfie and now I am glad. I do not want selfies of me saturating the internet. I do not feel an unquenchable need to share every moment of my life. When I go for a walk, I go for a walk. If I see something beautiful or interesting I take a picture. I take a picture of the beautiful or interesting thing. I do not take a picture of me grinning in front of the beautiful or interesting thing. I am neither beautiful nor interesting when I walk. I am typically sweaty and skanky. And ya know what – I do not need to post a picture of sweaty and skanky me (in front of something beautiful and interesting) and hashtag it with a bunch of humble mumbo-jumbo extolling the virtues of “keeping it real” or “getting the job done.”

I do not need to “market a false self” to get conditional love. Love that is conditional on me continuing to market the “profile” I have created. Not the “what’s in my head” profile. The “what do I look like living my fabulous life” profile.

Which brings me to this brief aside: those busy little social media beavers sharing their “insights” into how to be your best self or live your best life or blah, blah, blah … I’m bored. I’m pretty sure you’re not an expert. If I need expert advice I’ll buy a book or see a therapist. Armchair psychology delivered via social media by self-proclaimed “authorities” is little more than a lame attempt to create stardom – for yourself. You may think you’re helping, and maybe your fan-base will even confirm that. But in the end it is still YOU searching for affirmation. It’s weird how there is a whole new star-structure (usually self-awarded) on social media.

I write this blog BECAUSE I want my true self to be known. I know that I’m lucky if half a dozen people read my musings and that’s okay too. I would rather half a dozen people be compelled to THINK than a hundred dozen people believe my life is perfect because I purport it to be so.

Purport is my favourite word when it comes to social media pandering.  Purport: to present, especially deliberately, the appearance of being, often falsely.

This is the time in my blog where I would normally bring forth stories of individuals I know who are guilty as charged. Believe me, I know LOTS of them. I love quite a few of them too, in spite of their addiction to self-promotion. And please understand I am well aware of the difference between promotion and self-promotion.

Promotion: Advocate your work. Advocate your creativity. Advocate your business. Advocate your product.

Self-promotion: YOU are now the product. Everything surrounding you is incidental. YOU are the star.

I can tell you honestly that most of the people I know who fill their feeds with their own face have insecurities. Self-esteem issues. Doubts. Uncertainties. Anxiety. And this oh-so-public addiction is the way they combat those demons. They seek “conditional love.” I mean c’mon – how can it be unconditional when it is ALL based on a photo? On what YOU choose and what YOU purport?

I find it all a bit sad. And so there will be no personal tales in this blog.

I will only say this: I love the sky. Sunrises, sunsets, clouds, huge vistas and starry nights. I love water and mountains and castles. I love happy people making merry and musical people making noise. I love artists who promote their art, businesses that promote their commerce, families that promote their tribe and friendships that promote their familiarity. I love travel photos and decorating photos and food photos and animal photos.

I do not love the blatant “marketing” of self in order to win conditional love. You want unconditional love? Try living your life, not as a continual photo op but as an experience in which you are truly and wholly present. An experience that doesn’t always have to be documented and certainly doesn’t ever need to be purported. A life not designed by your own inner ad-exec, desperate to sell your product, which is, of course … you.

Try taking yourself out of the picture every now and then.

You don’t have to BE the picture.

You can just live it. Enjoy it. Be in it.

Share it.

Or not.

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The Thing About Sex …

Which came first- the chicken or the egg?

I know … a real conundrum. And you thought I was going to talk about sex.

Actually, I am. And the big question is – which comes first? Intimacy or intercourse?

Now I know a lot of self-righteous puritans will chime right in and say, “Intimacy! You must have intimacy first for sex to be meaningful! There must be a sharing of emotions and loving discourse and true participation of souls for sex to achieve its best potential.”

Yeah, maybe.

I know that’s how my friend P feels. P and her hubby haven’t had sex in months because he is building a new business and working exhausting hours. P hardly ever sees him. So when she does, like when he wakes her up late at night or first thing in the morning, looking for a little ‘communion’, she pushes him away. She explains firmly that she is not a “wham-bam-thank-you-mam” kind of gal. She admonishes his lack of emotional foreplay, his utter disregard for physical foreplay and his apparent disinterest in satisfying her needs. P expects more.

P’s hubby sighs with abject frustration, staggers to the shower and then bolts to work, committed to face yet another 12-hour day with no satisfaction in his back pocket.

This goes on for weeks. And then months. P’s hubby finally stops initiating sex altogether and P figures he’s just too tired to care. She reckons when they finally take that Cuba trip he’s been promising her, they’ll figure it all out and get back to carnal knowledge.

Yeah, no.

You see, right or wrong, noble or evil, P’s hubby is now banging his colleague. As a matter of fact, P’s hubby has actually fallen in love with his colleague. No matter that they’re having quickies in the board room and “wham-bam-thank-you-mams” in the parking lot. P’s hubby and his colleague have somehow forged intimacy in the most un-intimate way and are planning a new life. Together.

P does not have a fucking clue.

So I ask again. Chicken or egg?

What if P had indulged her hubby? What if P had agreed to a morning interlude that wasn’t perfect but was maybe – necessary. Necessary for her hubby to face the grind for yet another day. And what if this unbalanced program ran for months?

P’s girlfriends would say, “You deserve more!” They would say, “This isn’t fair!” They would say, “Hold out until he understands what YOU need!”

But what if P replied, “I need intimacy with my husband. But right now, at this moment in time, I need to support my husband more than I need to get what I want. And maybe – just maybe – if I fuel his tank with the gasoline he needs, he will find the energy to bring what I need to the table. Or the bedroom.”

That is exactly what happened with N. After many months of “negotiating” (read: bargaining) with her partner, N realized that fighting for sex, romance, intimacy or all of the above was an exercise in futility. They were both frustrated with the dialogue and frustrated with the end (or lack thereof) result. So she “capitulated”.  “Let’s just do it!” she exclaimed one evening after the kids were sound asleep. Not with hostility or disdain but with enthusiasm, like an adventurer stoked to attempt a new climb.

It was quick and efficient but N had fun. N’s partner had fun. After all that fun, they passed out cold.  And the next morning N initiated playtime again. Her partner was incredulous – and thrilled. That night he suggested they plan a “date” for the weekend – kids to Grandma, romantic dinner a deux and some leisurely time in bed. N’s guy had gotten the message – gratefully – and was now prepared to do his bit.

I’m with them. You see, I believe sex begets sex. The less you have it the less you need it. And the less you need it the less you want it. And the less you want it the less you’re willing to give it, even when it is highly and fervently desired by your beloved.

But the more you have it, the more you realize it DOES bring intimacy to your relationship. The egg doesn’t always have to come first. Sometimes a quickie gets the job done and renews the special bond you share. Face it, in a monogamous relationship you’re only having sex with one person. It’s your special treasure. The unique and exclusive jewel in the crown of your commitment. Something to be valued, polished, cherished and yes – practiced. When you don’t, well, that tiara loses its luster pretty damn fast.

Okay, sorry, bad analogy.

But please don’t believe for a minute this is strictly a man/woman dilemma. As in “man wants frequent coitus, woman wants frequent romance and/or infrequent congress” (no, we’re not talking politics here although when I think about it, maybe we are?). On one level perhaps it is an age-old problem. My buddy D explains to me that most guys need sex to feel intimacy. His take is that most women need intimacy in order to feel sexual. This may well be a hardwired neurological basis for reproduction. Think about it – men were the pursuers. Women were the deciders. Men would test the waters with sex and if it felt right to them they would start feeling intimate. This would maintain the relationship. Now the women needed to feel the connection FIRST in order to have sex and reproduce. Kind of a neurological checks and balance system. It guaranteed good and long term mate selection. Not to mention survival of the species.

But in modern relationships, we typically get to a place where  sex is more for pleasure than propagation. And that is where “appetite” comes into play. And just to be clear, it’s not always a Mars/Venus thing. As it turns out some women are way hungrier than their men.

So I ask … do you have to be starving to eat? Do you have to be famished to enjoy a fine meal? Do you have to eat only celery for dinner in order to enjoy chocolate cake for dessert?

In the formative days of a relationship (and I mean that in its truest sense … not a hookup, not a fling, not a dalliance – a liaison with legs) I do believe intimacy should come first. How I know this is irrelevant (okay, I’ll probably write a blog about it tomorrow) but I DO know it from personal experience (if you don’t believe me, read my book).

But when you’re in it and everybody (the two of you) gets complacent and lazy and smug and FORGETFUL, things screw up. Things get chippy. Things get way too BUSINESS-LIKE and the contest over who-gets-what-when ultimately turns into detente (silence – when nobody gets anything anytime), outright hostility (when argument because the new passion) or – like in P’s case – replacement.

P told me once many years ago that she had decided firmly to NEVER indulge in “duty-sex”.

And now she doesn’t have to.

I prefer to call it “loving-sex”.  A physical manifestation of your affection, desire and TRUST in your beloved. An act of generosity so profound and so unselfish it transcends the minutiae of everyday life and invites just a little bit of heaven into the mundane.

There is no chicken and there is no egg. There is communion – the interchange or sharing of thoughts or emotions; an intimate communication.

And that is the exact thing about sex …

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My Crazy Messed-Up Sock Drawer (and other weird personality markers I keep hidden) …

I haven’t blogged in a while. Mostly because of that book I just published (you know how kids are … most of the work comes after they are born) but also because I am moving. Again. 8th time in 16 years. It’s not that I’m a glutton for punishment. It’s more like I am a seeker, continually searching for my true home. With this next move I do believe I’ll be getting closer.

But that is future-Vickie’s problem. Current Vickie is up to her eyeballs in packing, culling, organizing and preparing. Which brings me to my sock drawer …

I used to have a dedicated sock drawer. Every laundry day I would pair up those cute little toe-warmers and neatly place them in their home, lined up like good little soldiers ready for their next march. For the record, I also had a dedicated panty drawer and a dedicated bra drawer.

Not anymore. It would appear that in the last several years (and moves) I have given up all semblance of organization. Orderliness is out the window. Systematization has become irrelevant. I now have an underwear drawer. Or two. And where everything lands is a total crap-shoot.

But wait … there’s more! When I dress for my daily walk I just grab whichever two socks show up first. Sometimes it’s a purple one and a green one, sometimes it’s a white one and a striped one and sometimes I hit the jackpot and they actually match! I don’t care. I am not walking to put on a fashion show (if you’ve ever seen me you know this to be true) and I really don’t care if my tootsies correspond. A sock is a sock is a sock. It only has one job to do and harmonization is not on the resume.

I have recently taken my delinquent sock system a step further. I no longer match up my beloved’s stockings either. They’re either navy or black and they all go into the same drawer. He can sort them (or not) when he gets dressed. Not my problem anymore.

I think with all this moving (not to mention learning and growing) I have come to realize quite succinctly what IS a waste of my time and what is not. Matching anybody’s socks is way down on my list of priorities. Folding panties and cupping bra sides together (I know people who do this!) … never! Organizing separate drawers and then keeping them neat? Not interested. You should see me fold a fitted sheet! I mean, I don’t. I flip it around a few times until it looks like it might fit into my linen closet and then I stuff it into my linen closet.

So why? Why have I chosen to abandon propriety in the name of renegade socks and messy linens?

I think it has to do with freedom. Freedom from conformity. Freedom from what we “nice girls” were taught was important. Freedom to spend our hours in pursuits that matter to us.

And THAT is the kicker. Pursuits that matter to us. You see, I do like clean clothes and clean sheets. I also like writing books and cooking dinners and walking miles and making music. I like all of these things more than I like an orderly sock drawer. Sorry socks … you lose.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t iron your sheets and line up your perfectly-paired socks IF THAT IS YOUR JAM. Always jam your jam, people, whatever it is. My pal M recently did me the hugest favour of doing a load of my laundry when I couldn’t. I was fully prepared to pull my stuff out of her dryer, throw it back into the basket and deal with it when I got home, wrinkles be damned. But nooooooo. By the time I got even close to those clothes M had folded then so beautifully and so precisely you would have thought she ran a laundromat for royalty. Full-time. Like she had a PhD in Wrinkle-Removing.

I love M with all my heart and was delighted by her jamming her jam. Or, in this case, my jam (read: dirty clothes). But I am not ever going back. I mean, I’ll go back to M’s anytime (even if she doesn’t fold my clothes). I’m just not going back to caring about laundry. In my new home all of my dainties will reside in whichever drawer they land. I will continue to wear mismatched socks (and probably mismatched everything else) when I walk. My sheets will find their way to my bed, wrinkles be damned. I will write another book, more blogs, drink wine, cook dinners and make music.

And I will continue to walk as long as my two feet carry me. Next time you see me out pounding the trail, check my socks.

I bet you a bottle of wine they won’t match. And I hope we both laugh.

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I Was The Prettiest When I Was The Unhappiest

I have spent some time this past week amalgamating old photos on my Facebook feed. I have four laptops on the go currently, all filled with digital pics. And this of course does not include the many ancient photo albums – the real kind – also in my possession, also filled to the brim. And so, in the interest of simplifying my online existence, I have been sorting, sacrificing and saving.

It’s been an interesting journey to say the least. Looking back into my 20s, 30s and 40s I see “Vickie the Performer”, “Vickie the Mother” and “Vickie the Broadcaster”. There are a few more in there too (Lover, Daughter, Friend and Goofball) and I find all of these Vickies to be quite fascinating. Mostly because I realize that A) I did not peak in high school or my 20s – neither physically or professionally and B) when I did peak, at least physically, I was a pretty unhappy girl. I was pretty. And I was unhappy.

I was heartbroken, guilt-ridden, lonely, unfulfilled and confused.

But damn, did I ever look good! I was slim (hello Trauma Diet) and I was sexy and I was pretty. Hey, don’t take my word for it. A few days ago when I posted a slew of photos my old pal R said something like “Damn Vick, did you ever look good!”

Did.

He said “did.”

That “did” photo was from ten years ago. Man, can a lot ever change in 10 years.

I’ve gained weight, grown some gray hair, earned more wrinkles and somehow developed bags under my eyes. My face is fatter, my legs aren’t exactly show-stoppers anymore, my lips have disappeared and I have these weird brown spots, you know, like a human liver-spotted Dalmatian.

But guess what? I am no longer heartbroken, guilt-ridden, lonely, unfulfilled and confused. Okay maybe still a bit confused, and that is no doubt because I overthink everything and keep expecting that blinding flash of illumination to brighten my skies. For the record it hasn’t. But a reasonably bright glimmer has invaded my psyche and I am good with that. I am good with my journey and its present status. I am good with the life lessons I have endured and the wisdom I have incurred. (It’s all in my upcoming book, please buy it).

So why can’t I be the prettiest I’ve ever been now? Why can’t my outer package mirror my inner flowering? It’s not like there are 30 or 40 years between Current-Me and Prettiest-Me. Only 10. Ten measly fucking fairly content years, devoid of gut-wrenching despair and soul-searching torment. A decade still filled with examination and quest, yes.  Just not jam-packed with agony (and the occasional moment of ecstasy).

My guess is life just doesn’t work that way. We earn our silver hair and wrinkles. But we don’t just earn them. We progress toward them every day. An undeniable and unavoidable journey. Whether happy or sad, content or still striving, we get older. And out prettiest-me days fade further and further into memory.

Well, you know, except for social media, which is delighted to remind us daily of how we USED to look.

Fair enough. Here’s what it doesn’t remind us of. How we used to feel. I mean, unless you are one of those blessed serene souls who has waltzed through life with nary a scratch or a bruise, photos will only tell a two-dimensional story.

Here’s the other thing I learned this past week, looking at all those photos. I had this smile. This “ready-for-my-photo” smile. Closed lips, controlled, very fucking pretty. It’s the very smile that is on full display in that photo of R and me, the one where he said I “looked so good.”

I have no idea what happened to that smile. It doesn’t really exist anymore. I’m not really sure where it came from and I’m not really sure where it went. It sure made for a pretty picture. I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with me.

So here I am in this new phase of life. I suppose I could lose weight, Botox my face to the hilt, colour my own hair and wear makeup every day.

Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t.

What I WILL do is look back on that oh-so-pretty girl with fondness and nostalgia. A bit of melancholy when I remember her innate sadness. A bit of mirth at her Mona Lisa smile. A bit of envy of her killer legs.

A bit of relief that she matured into a cup-fully-full woman who is hopefully defined by the huge grin that envelops her face completely when she’s happy, fat cheeks and baggy eyes be damned.

When R posted his comment about how good I lookED, I was delighted that two of my gorgeous girlfriends replied, “SHE STILL DOES!” I know his remark was “innocent” and unintentionally hurtful. He is a good man with a huge heart and I know he meant no harm. I also acknowledge he may have been (inadvertently) uttering the truth.

The other thing I truly believe is that women get it. We get it and we support each other THROUGH it. Because IT is inevitable. We are so lucky to have come out the other side of our prettiest-ever days and still be in the game. Hopefully we now get to enjoy our contentest-ever days. Our realest-ever days. Our LUCKIEST-ever days.

Also I’d like to mention that I really like lobster mac and cheese and wine. And chocolate.

Thanks for listening.

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“When We Come Out Of This …”

How many times have you heard that phrase in the past two months?

Or perhaps “When this is all over …”

Or “When we finally get back to normal …”

We’re a funny lot, aren’t we? Always aiming for a finish line. An end-point. A conclusion. We are a race weirdly preoccupied with the race. (Hmmmm – coincidence?). We strive for closure. A solid outcome. A finale.

Kinda silly when you think about it, right? I mean the grand finale is death (or so we think). I don’t know many people who are in a big fat hurry to get there. And yet we spend so much of our lives waiting for the next thing.

“When I finally finish school …”

“When I get my own place …”

“When I get married and have my own family …”

“When I lose those 20 lbs …”

Oh, the list goes on and on. There is always an endgame that, when achieved, will bring the penultimate thing – whatever it is – that we crave.

But …  as good old Dr. Faustus (Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan tragedy) learned (after he made a deal with the devil), as soon as we get what we crave we want something new. Something different. We require another finish line to strive for. It’s human nature.

So now here we are. Having survived (and sadly not all of us) the first stage of this pandemic, we are champing at the bit (and no that’s not a typo, it’s the original and true word) to GET BACK TO NORMAL. Suddenly NORMAL has become the mission. The destination. Normal is what we all now desperately crave.

Not me. I never much liked normal anyway and I’m pretty sure if you added up all the descriptors attributed to me over the years “normal” would be absent from the list. But I also truly believe that when BIG SHIT happens it is meant to be a wakeup call. The Universe is kicking our asses. Shaking us out of our doldrums. Forcing us to decide if “normal” (whatever that was) is really worth aspiring to. We are supposed to be utilizing this big fat intermission to contemplate our existence, evaluate our goals and just maybe redefine our endgames.

I have another idea. Let’s just cancel our endgames. Let’s stop being a society of achievers who must at all costs achieve. Let’s forget about getting back to normal and let’s set out to just be present in this next phase.

Covid Act II.

It ain’t over and we are not back to normal. We’ve just endured the first act. Now we move forward. Not towards another finish line. Just forward, step by step, day by day,  through LIFE.  Life as we currently know it. Life in ACT II.

Yes, oh yes, I am looking forward to getting some long overdue hugs. Cooking for my friends. Sitting around a bonfire and jamming with my musical pals. Hopping on a plane and exploring new lands. Going to HomeSense for two hours (is that just me?).

However … I will not sacrifice common sense, scientific knowledge or rationality to achieve those goals.

Oh shit. I just said “achieve”.

Allow me to rephrase – I have no endgame. Nothing to achieve. Okay, that’s not entirely correct. I’m publishing a book. I’m starting a YouTube channel. I’m planting a garden and I’m cooking dinner tonight. I have lots to do. But my life henceforth will never again be what it was. “Normal” is off the table. My life is now focused on living in this exact moment. Loving this exact moment. Being grateful for this exact moment, even if it is Covid Act II. Whatever Act III delivers (and geez, I hope I’m here to bear witness) I’ll deal with then. My new normal is exactly what the Universe wants me to experience. And if this new normal puts brakes on my plans and desires, so be it. It is totally up to me to figure out how to deal.

We’re not going back, my friends. We are going forward. Not towards some old, worn-out target. Towards this evening. This night. Tomorrow morning.

How lucky are we?

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Will You Suffer From Returnaphobia?

Yes I just made up that word. Because at present there is no word to describe the fear some of us may experience when the time comes to re-enter “normal life”. When the time comes to sit on a plane, or go shopping to the mall, or host a birthday party or go to a concert.

Sure I know there are many people who even now, against all advice, are soaking up the sun in Florida, attending jam-packed funerals in New York or secretly socializing beyond their bubble. All those protesters (I much prefer the term “Yahoos”) who are so desperate for “normal” they are willing to sacrifice a few old people or health workers or even children … well you can bet they won’t be suffering from Returnaphobia.

But what about those of us playing by the rules? Staying isolated, staying safe, keeping others safe. Will this new normal gradually become THE normal, to the point that even when it’s no longer required (or mandated) we still feel immense trepidation at the prospect of gathering together with our herd?

Back in my 40s I was felled with a ruptured appendix. I mean that quite literally – felled. Thanks to an inept emerg doctor I got sent home BEFORE it ruptured (with symptoms raging) only to return the following day (in an ambulance, where it actually did rupture) screaming my bloody head off. I was in hospital for a week, hopped up on morphine, antibiotic IV drip, open wound needing a painful cleaning every day and the worst roommate you could imagine (she was a fan, and I’ll tell ya, recovering from a ruptured appendix with a not-very-sick fan in the next bed is no fun).

I really wanted to go home.

And yet I kinda didn’t. Because in the hospital I was safe (after I changed rooms). I was tended to. I was given nice drugs and peach yogurt and daily walks and visits with family. I wasn’t afraid (even though there was huge infection raging in my abdomen) because I was safe. In the hospital.

When I got home I wasn’t safe anymore. I also didn’t have morphine anymore but that’s another story. When I got home I had to be a grownup and tend to all my health complications (there were many) and look after my 4 year old son so my husband could actually get back to work and think about my own job and nobody brought me peach yogurt. There were times I desperately wanted to be back with my nurse-buddies, all safe and looked-after.

And that is why I now think about Returnaphobia.

Yes, I miss my family and my friends and yes, I long for hugs and live conversation with more than one person and yes, it’ll soon be beach weather and yes, I miss having options. But I wonder how exactly the “return” will go? At this very moment I should have just got back from a Bahamas getaway with a close friend. This was a wee junket we were both SO looking forward to. It has now been postponed until next February. But what if I still have Returnaphobia? What if my fear of airports and planes and proximity to strangers outweighs my desire to spend a few days in the sun with my girl?

I guess a vaccine would be nice. And apparently the fine folks at Oxford U may have one by the fall. Or not. I’m just wondering how our mindset may change going forward. Especially for those of us nearing the “vulnerable age”. Will our spirit of adventure be diminished now that “danger” may lurk at every turn? Will we willingly forego former pleasures and pursuits because Returnaphobia has got the better of us?

I hope not.

I read a social media post the other day purporting (with numbers) that most of the folks contracting Covid and most of the folks dying from Covid are old and in retirement homes so really, let’s try to be safe but geez, let’s get back to normal. Something like that.

Maybe it’s my age? I’m not typically a woman governed by fear. I just think we all need a little more time “in the hospital” before we venture back to “normal”. We need a little more science, a little more space, a little more safety and a lot more sense.

If not, I truly fear that I will become a victim of Returnaphobia.

Who knows … maybe I already am?

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Tiny Pet Peeve Rant Alert … LOL

There are lots of big things to concern ourselves with these days. So this little thing truly means nothing. It’s just a little thing that has been bugging me for years so I thought heck, I’m writing about it.

LOL

That’s what my pet peeve is. LOL

I know it’s suppose to signify Laugh Out Loud in techy communication terms. Some folks think it means Laugh On Line. Certain (usually older) people still assume it means Lots of Love.

Whatever it means, I’m just not exactly sure why we use it. And why some correspondents use it ALL THE TIME. I mean we have emoticons (and lots of them) at our disposal. But more importantly we have the English language. This beautiful seemingly endless collection of descriptive and illustrative words that we can assemble any way we like to convey our message. And I guess the bottom line for me is this: if you are being funny, why are you announcing it? Why are you emphasizing it? Is it just in case I’m have an extra-blonde day and I don’t get it? Is it in case you’re not really sure if you were funny and you now need acknowledgement? Is it in case you’re worried about inadvertently offending me so you make light of what you just typed with a virtual guffaw?

I asked my son. Millennials know everything about everything when it comes to modern communication and typically have little problems reminding us old folks that we are still living in the dark ages. Here’s what he said: “It’s an entirely new grammatical entity that applies to the new wave of quick text-based communication.”

Yeah, so apparently I raised a smarty-pants. He also added LOL is used to “add some lightheartedness to a statement that would otherwise read as gray or abrasive.”

Which leads to this question: why would you type something gray or abrasive if you want it to be lighthearted? Why not just type something frothy?

I can understand the use of LOL when responding to someone who made you laugh. Normally I just write back “You’re funny” but sure, I get it, LOL is fast and easy. I just don’t get the LOL when referring to your own scribbles. Isn’t that kinda like a comedian laughing at his own jokes?

I have long been called The Grammar Police (badge of honour!) and I know I am a Word Girl and I know I am being nit-picky here. I guess my hope is that we can all just take the time to choose our words carefully, take pride in our use of the English language and trust in our ability to make people laugh. If we need assistance I personally prefer a nice smiley face. Or the one that is crying and laughing. Or even the crazy face cause sometimes, you’re being, you know, crazy. Funny crazy.

Not necessarily ROTFLMAO but just a nice chuckle. Last night my son started to explain to me what that acronym signifies. We didn’t even get to the part of the conversation where I would have explained to him that back in the late 90s when he was 5 years old, I (his ancient decrepit mother) was USING that ridiculous combination of letters. I was a sophisticated, trendy, with-it chick and there was no way I was going to get left behind. I got hip to the lingo pretty damn quick.

LOL

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Be the First (and don’t be shy)!

When I lived in Guelph I did most of my daily walks on trails. I said “good morning’ to anyone who passed but mostly I just kept to myself, listened to music and trucked on. At Hope Bay (my summer paradise) I mostly walk on the (one and only) road. I listen to music, truck on, say good morning to anyone I pass AND I wave at any vehicle that drives by. Any vehicle. Sometimes I know the driver, sometimes I don’t and sometimes I’m not sure. But I smile and wave regardless. It just seems like the friendly, neighbourly thing to do.

When I landed back in Meaford full-time last October I split my walks between the Georgian trail and the streets. And on those streets (sidewalks, actually) I trucked and listen to music and didn’t wave at anyone.

I did not wave at anyone.

I have no idea why.

Sure, it’s a bigger (and more populous) place than Hope Bay. I never would have dreamed of random waving in Guelph (unless some attentive driver cut a wide berth to avoid killing me) and I guess I just didn’t dream of random waving here. These drivers all seemed to have somewhere to go. They certainly weren’t waving at me. We each stuck to our own path.

Then last week I started to think differently. I noticed all the signs on front lawns praising our essential workers and health care professionals. I noticed the colourful handmade drawings in front windows stating, “We are all in this together.” I noticed that the roads were decidedly quieter and the sidewalks a bit busier. Every single person I passed (on the other side of the street) had a smile and a wave. So many people were reaching out, trying to connect.

So I decided to start waving. Not just at pedestrians but at every single vehicle that I encountered.

The effect was instant and amazing. I saw looks of surprise. I saw looks of downright shock. I saw the odd person not look at all and I saw most people bust out a huge grin and wave back. By the time I got home I was grinning too. Non-stop, face-swallowing smiling.

Smiling is such an easy, contagious, joy-inducing activity. Waving is the icing on that very sweet cake. It’s win-win.

But here’s the thing – someone has to do it first.

That someone can be you.

I know it’s difficult if you’re shy. If you fear rejection. If you don’t get a wave in return. But honestly, it’s just a numbers game. The more you wave, the more waves you’ll get back. If you don’t wave at all, you’ll get back as many waves as you offered. And nobody will be smiling. We’ll all just carry on, scared, reluctant, frozen and alone.

I urge you to try it. BE the first. BE the one who instigates connection and joy. Wave with as much exuberance as you can muster. Smile as big as your lips allow. And do all of this as often as possible.

In these strange times we all muddle through as best we can. YOU decide how much to accomplish (or not). YOU decide how much connection you require (or desire). YOU decide how much (or how little) you can offer the world.

I just hope YOU decide to wave. Be the first. Open the (physical distancing, silent) dialogue. I guarantee it will come back to you tenfold.

Hey Meaford – I’m the chick in the beat-up old pink hoodie, big honkin’ white headphones and a blonde ponytail. I’m that crazy grinning girl waving at you.

I hope you wave back. And smile.

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Now Is Absolutely Not The Time To Hold Your Breath …

This morning I awoke to the news that a lovely friend had died. This death was not Covoid-related nor was it entirely unexpected. But it still smacked me upside the heart. I mean seriously, life is stupid enough these days and then this?

And then this afternoon I got a call from my son. One of his father’s closest pals had just dropped dead from a heart attack. Also far too young and this time out of left field.

WTF? Doesn’t seem fair, right?

And that’s when I remembered that on this 14th day of April in the year 2020, life – and death – still go on. Even though it feels like the earth has stopped spinning (or at the very least slowed down to a snail’s pace) life and all its great, mediocre, minor and inconsequential events has not stopped. People are still having babies, getting divorced, celebrating birthdays (in isolation) and dying. Not everything is related to the Corona Virus. Even though it feels like we have been sucked into a vortex of sci-fi proportions, the earth is still spinning. I mean for crying out loud it is actually snowing as I write this. It is April, after all. The earth is still spinning and Mother Nature still has a sense of humour.

So I am reminded. I am reminded that holding my breath for the last 4 weeks, the next 4 weeks or even the next 4 months is not an option. Even though it’s weird and solitary and unnatural, this IS life. It is the life we are all in right now. It is the only life on offer and instead of huddling in a corner, shutting our eyes tight and hoping to wake up to a brighter day, we must choose to create that brighter day today. Tomorrow. Every day. We must choose to NOT hold our breath. We must choose to breathe. In and out and in and out and when we get scared we must remind ourselves (and those around us) that breathing is the only answer.

Today in my world there are two families grieving in isolation. There are many friends and relatives surrounding them, also grieving in isolation. There can be no reunions and hugs, no services and fellowship, no coming together to mourn and offer solace.

But we can all still breathe. We can reach out to those in pain and offer words. An ear. A note or a text. A video chat or even a heartfelt card. We can all remember that this damn virus may have knocked the planet off its axle but there are many people knocked to the ground daily by other fountains of anguish. And now THEY have to breathe twice as hard. Twice as consciously. With twice as much hope that one day life will again hold joy.

Please don’t hold your breath waiting for some finish line with this pandemic. Instead find ways to draw as much joy as you can out of every day. Figure out how to do it. Figure out how to create joy. Give joy. Share joy. Every. Single. Day.

The two sweet souls who today left this world no longer have that choice. But you do.

In the half hour that I have been writing the sky pretty-snowed like Christmas Eve, then the sun came blasting out like a hot June afternoon, then it went dull and grey and sleety and now … the sun is once again fighting for supremacy. They call this “pathetic fallacy.” When the weather mirrors the plot.

Our current plot is nuts. Sci-fi unbelievable. Yet here we are. And real life and death are still here too.

So as long as you have the choice … breathe.

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