Wednesday, 30 January 2013

You complete me...?

Possibly one of the most famous movie lines of all time, when Jerry Maguire walks in to that room full of women and says it to Dorothy, we all believe in true love, even if only for a few minutes.

A little known secret and one of the most important things I've learned is that you don't actually need someone to complete you, you can complete yourself. Being in love is one of the greatest feelings in the world, and I've been there. And apparently everyone wants to be there, all the time. The movie never ends with the girl deciding actually she's ok on her own, saying goodbye to the guy and going home to eat ice cream in her pj's because she's happy to be out of a mediocre relationship and excited for the unknown future.

Looking for love outside ourselves can often lead to disappointment and a broken heart because nothing in this world is constant. Even getting married or having a child doesn't guarantee you automatic love for the rest of your life. People get divorced, they move away, they die, and sometimes they just stop loving you.

Self love is something I've always struggled with. I think most of us do. We don't say what we really feel, or do what we really want to do in our lives because we're afraid. For me, I was afraid people didn't love me enough, wouldn't accept me for who I was if I showed them the real me. So I tried to be perfect me instead.

Of course, that plan didn't go so well, I found myself completely wound up in the life I had thought I wanted, with everything I had worked so hard for, but I was unhappy. It wasn't really me who had wanted those things, it was my mother, my friends, my community.

The problem with that life is that although I hit all the targets that I had been programmed to think I wanted, it was never enough. There was always more I had to do to be accepted and acceptable. It was exhausting and in the end, I had to get out.

That's when I met Adam. I was totally in love with him, and a big reason for that was, for the first time in my life, I was seeing myself through the eyes of someone who completely loved me. No conditions. I didn't feel a need to be taller, or skinnier, or smarter, or more hardworking or less honest. I was perfect, even in my imperfection. And I felt complete. It was intoxicating.

We all know how that ended, and after losing a love that I thought was never going away it's taken me years to get back to being able to look at myself even a tiny bit like the way I did back then. But this time everything is much better, because I'm not with a man that I'm in love with. And I'm not looking to "him" (or anyone else) to make me complete. I just am.

I did meet a man who has loved me unconditionally for real. Over the past couple of years, he, his parents and his daughter have taken me in, accepted me and loved me. And that has made a huge difference. And my family has been there through it all, supporting my choices and the changes I've chosen to make in my life.

But what made the biggest difference for me has been realizing that I'm already enough, just as I am. Sure there will always be a need for personal growth and further education, learning never ends. I hope to get a better job eventually, maybe have a family, be able to do a headstand in yoga, learn to speak Italian, become more patient, be a better person than who I am today in so many ways. But the Universe is always in control of these things and I believe I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, right now.

And at the end of the day, if we can complete ourself, won't we be so much better able to weather the storms that come from losing friends, losing family, losing romantic relationships. One way or another, these changes will come. And they will hurt. And the people around us will try their best to help us come through the other side. But the only person you know will always be there for you, is you. You might as well learn to love them.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Faith, Hope and Love

Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for awhile. - The Princess Bride

This is a re-post. We're only a few days away now from an important anniversary. On Monday, it will be a year since our beloved Ken passed away. I still think about him, every day, but more frequently lately. Haven't slept well this week. I've been thinking of everyone actually; Grandma, my aunts and uncles and family, Louis and Brett and how we were all together this time last year, and that everyone must be having their own internalized sorrow as January 28th comes creeping up on us.

How do we make sense of something as senseless as death, especially when it seems to come much too soon? As natural a part of life that it is, it doesn't feel natural. The reality that this is all of our eventuality should motivate us to stop and think. To re-evaluate how we are spending our days and weeks, where are we spending the majority of our time and effort, how well do we love? Because in the end, our jobs, our bank accounts, our material possessions, things we may spend most of our days and nights worrying about and working for, don't matter at all if we don't have real love, real relationships, real contentment in our lives.

In Montreal, this time last year, Ken was surrounded by his family, his friends, people who loved him so much that having him leave broke their hearts. That is the measure of our true success in life.

I walked in, just minutes too late. Louis fell on me crying. Everyone was crying. I'd never seen my Uncle Rob cry before. Grandma, as usual, was the rock.

It's comforting to know that, while death can end a life, it can never end Love. Love is eternal, it anchors our soul and lives on, with us.

Faith, Hope and Love

Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13

I love my family. I just don't know some of them very well. Until the past year, that was the case with my uncle, Ken. We were rarely home at the same time in the summers, he lived in Montreal, I was in Toronto. He was on the quieter side, and although I always enjoyed any time I did spend with him, I really didn't know who he was.

On the outside yes. Ken was cool, he was a dancer, he's travelled all over, he loved cats, he spoke French, he smoked Peter Jackson - the white package. Our whole family has always been so proud of his career, he was one of those rare people who didn't sell out but instead followed their dream and made a success of it. Ken is a well known and well respected dancer and dance teacher. His students loved him.

It wasn't until he got sick though that we became close. I started going to Montreal more often, spending time one on one with him. For me, there were a lot of firsts, learning about the people he's worked with, travelled with, danced with. Looking at pictures from all his trips. Hours spent talking about life, relationships, death, religion, God, family, friends. Food - he loved food. Making meals, having snacks, drinking coffee and eating croissants in the mornings. Getting to know his partner, Louis. The times I've spent in Montreal over the past year are very precious memories of making a very good friend.

And not just one, but many, as Ken had so many people who really loved him and were there for him through this time. After finding out he had cancer, Ken didn't give up, but he kept himself busy, reading books, cooking, collaborating on new dance projects. He was good natured and easy to be around, even on bad days when he felt so sick.

I feel very grateful and humbled to be a part of a family of such loving, hard-working and accepting people. Watching my grandma, aunt, uncles and mom rallying around Ken, providing support in any and every way possible was truly inspiring.

Seeing Ken's "Montreal Family": Louis, Brett, Sarah, Sioned, Heather, Luc, Francis and others consistently showing up and doing all they could for their friend solidifies my belief in true friendship and true love.

We all hoped he would get better. But he didn't. And now we need to take solace in knowing he's no longer suffering and have faith that he is somewhere kinder, better and happier than here. Hope and Faith can keep us going during even the darkest, saddest times. In the end though, without Love, the faith and hope wouldn't actually mean all that much.

I say it all the time on this blog, but I truly believe Love is an action. Sure, it's also a feeling, and a great one, but without the proofs of love, can we ever be sure it really exists? When Ken breathed his last breath, he knew he was surrounded by people who loved him, accepted him, believed in him. They had shown him this through their actions over the years, but it became especially evident when he really needed them to be there. And they were.

Having lost three family members this month alone - my grandfather, my great-aunt and my uncle - I feel more than ever the importance of demontrasting love to those we cherish, as much as we can, as often as we can, as vocally as we can. Lots of phone calls, visits, hugs, kisses and "I love you"s.

It's so easy to let busy lives, careers and the day to day issues crowd out time and energy we would like to spend on our important relationships. It breaks my heart to see what Ken had to go through this past year, but I'm also grateful for the time it afforded us to know him better, love him more, and prepare to say goodbye.

Healthy or not, none of us really know whether we'll live to see tomorrow. So no regrets! As Picasso said: "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."

Rest In Peace, dear Ken. I love you.

Monday, 21 January 2013

She sees the world through rose-colored glasses

"You should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.

"I do," Alice hastily replied, "at least I mean what I say - that's the same thing you know."

"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hare.

I don't want to say too much for fear of jinxing things. (I'm probably too old to believe in that.)

Oh well, I am what I am. I met somebody recently, and he's lovely. Sometimes I feel like I'm always going to be that girl, the one who is better off alone, because anytime anyone gets too close, I push them away anyways. Doesn't really matter if they're lovely or not. It's not you, it's me.

But sometimes someone comes in, and even though your first reaction is to get rid of them, you don't. Maybe you can't. We'll see what happens. But for now, I'm pretty happy.

I am pretty fascinated tonight with reality vs. fantasy. I'm as much of a life cheerleader as a lot of you. Sometimes, yes, you can tell I get down, but the spin on most of these stories is hopeful, wishful, romantic even.

And a big part of that is being positive, appreciative, optomistic. I can't help but wonder much of it is a lie? And if we were really honest with ourselves on where and when we were lying, would we make different choices? And in the end, would that lead to us being really happier, for real?

Self-awareness if difficult to attain, for we're told since we were children what is right, wrong, acceptable. We grow up longing for acceptance and wanting to do the right thing. Does that mean what we're doing is the right thing for us? Not always. Sometimes we are merely striving for that acceptance we feel we should want. Even if it leads us down a path that we would never have chosen for ourselves.

On one hand, I'm extremely grateful for my job and the opportunities it affords me. I know I'm lucky. On the other hand, the panic attacks start at noon on Sunday and last all week. How long can I live like that? Until one day it's not a panic attack and it's a real heart attack?

I'm grateful I've repaired my issues with my mother. But that means that now, I'm open to the never-ending stream of emails that blame all my problems, sickness and anxiety on the fact that I left God and the group, and the only way to get better is to come back. (I'm never going back.)

I will probably never fall in love again, because once everyone you've ever known abandons you overnight, new people have a hard time getting in. I have nice friends I'm grateful for, but they're still just nice friends that I'm grateful for.

So what's next? We put on our rose-colored glasses and keep moving forward. But in the back of my mind, I'm going to try to be more honest when I smile and say the right thing. I might say it, but I also need to start listening to what I want to say. And maybe eventually end up doing what I'd rather be doing with my life.

Friday, 11 January 2013

In my Secret Life

I had the great fortune of reconnecting with a former old friend. Someone who, unlike most, undertood me inside and out. Not just because we both had East Coast Irish roots, and a fondness for 90s music and Jameson whisky, but because we were raised the same way, lived the same life, found the same doubts. Feared the same fears.

He was a comfort to me, like no other I've found since leaving "the way". He came to me gingerly, as they all do, for no one can trust another of the same path, once we have wandered off of it. There are too many doubts, skepticism, fear.

We learned to trust each other over time, and through summer and fall, he's been a very dear and cherished friend. Being able to be completely open, honest and vulnerable, without any fear of being misunderstood is a rarity for someone in my situation.

So we talked, we laughed, we cried, we drank coffee in the mornings, and red wine at night.

We listened to music, we'd slow dance in my living room. We shared very personal and intimate things. All too soon though, it was time for him to go away. And I'm not quite sure what I'll do now without such a special friend.

Today at lunch, just as he's leaving, I came home and found an envelope under my door. My friend the poet, had left me a parting gift. I'll share it with you.

Black Bird

Black bird upon the ground

From unsafe height did fall

Lost the safety in her nest

Broken down as prey for all

Many told to call her crow

A bird of scorn and shame

Others to the raven pointed

Closed off hearts in blame

Found her on a second wind

Just gaining strength to stand

Tried a chance to lend an ear

Knelt down low to offer hand

Dying summer asked of fall

To change its leaves to rust

I would come around to call

Sharing what I had for trust

In time sadness dried in light

Out of kindness not of love

Turning feathers black to white

and her crow became a dove

On a corner flew seperate ways

Assured she would find her tree

She would also see me a bird

With wider skies alive for me.

It's crowded and my secret life...our song (click)

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

What happens now?

Let's say you make it through a trauma. You figure out how to survive. How to make new friends, enough to replace the old ones. You get a great apartment, do well at your job, people are reading your blog, you go back to school. You make peace with the past, and the people who were part of it. You clear away the anger, disappointment, hurt, rejection. You're on track for everything you wanted, you build a whole new life, completely new, yet not entirely different from your old one. You make it. Then what?

What happens now? You're stronger, but are you happier? You're free, but are you really? I don't know. Sometimes I feel like for all the change I've been through, I'm in the same place. The friendships go up and down, like the romantic relationships do. Sometimes you really believe in whatever it is you're working so hard for, sometimes you feel disillusioned. Maybe it's just that the corporate world is not what I'm built for. I think without a real love in your life, we're always missing something. And it may not be romantic love. Maybe it's a child or a cause or something that you give of yourself for and love more than you love yourself.

Unless you've found something you're willing to die for, can we really ever know how to really live? I doubt it. For all my talk of self-love, which I think is really, really important if you've never had it, at one time I did have a cause I would die for, a man I would die for, a child I would die for. Now, I have none of those things. The cause was a hoax, the man is marrying someone else this weekend, the child won't even speak to me, even though she wasn't even mine and I practically raised her. For all of my "bravery" in walking away, and all of the reasons I could never go back - I've gone too far down a different path, am I really better off? Probably not until I find something else I love and believe in that much.

It's possible all of that was just youth and naïvity, but a lot of it was just faith and love. And love is the greatest thing in the world. Without it, we are nothing.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy

“They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” -Andy Warhol

Three years ago, my life wasn't very happy. A lot of time has gone by since then, and I'm still working on the Happiness Project. They say time heals all wounds, and for many of them, it does. All of them maybe. Healing old wounds though doesn't mean they don't leave a scar.

Three years ago, I fell in love, really in love, for the first and only time ever. We worked together, so insanely enough, some of the happiest times I ever had were spent at the office. I was actually excited to come to work in the morning and I hated the weekends. We worked really hard, and it was super stressful. Found ourselves basically running the whole company at one point, like a couple of kids without a babysitter. But the stress was interrupted by ordering dinner in, going for coffee, drinks after work next door. Some of the happiest times of my life.

Tonight, I had a meeting with a colleague at work who, like so many others there, seems to want to help me get where I want to go. She gave me some good advice over a glass of red wine. And on the way home, I realized I lost my lip gloss. So I went to pick some up and found myself, like so many, many, many times before, in front of my old office. But this time it was different. Because tomorrow, they are moving. They won't be two blocks away anymore, on my way home from work. Running into Adam in the park at lunchtime. So I went in. I walked around, sat at my old desk in my old office, went next door to Adam's office and sat there for a few minutes. Looked out the window, thought about all the times we sat in there talking, laughing, "working late".

Even though those times have been over for ages, there was a sense of finality that I felt there tonight. We cheers-ed each other over a glass of Baileys, caught up for a bit, hugged goodbye. And that's when I started to cry. I'm happy he's getting out of there, going somewhere busier, livelier, less full of crazy old memories. Lots of good memories, lots of bad ones.

I'm afraid though, that for all my effort and hard work and trying to change things myself, and as many blessings I've been granted along the way, and as many great people that I've met, I'll never be in love again. Not the way the way I was with him. And we're fine now, friends even. But, Tonight was the end of an era. I've gotten good at it, but I still hate change.