Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Tough Ol' Year

For all of us.

Not that we hadn't been warned way ahead of time. For years. A virus would get us in the end, they said, something invisible. With a breathtaking virulence and multiple mutations. That's something out of sci-fi, we thought, sneering. With all our medical knowledge we would slay it within weeks, look what we did to all the old diseases, diptheria, whooping cough, measles, polio. We are smarter than any virus. Yet here we go stumbling into 2021 and the virus is mutating and outsmarting us all right behind us.

And look what's happened. Millions dead. And still more will be dead from the after-effects. Not to mention the suicides and debilitating depressions and the undiagnosed non-Covid illnesses like cancer, heart disease, with people too afraid of hospitals to go for tests and diagnostics.

So yeah, it was tough, as we limp into 2021, still uncertain of what the future holds.

As to me? I read a lot. I wrote a lot. I streamed a lot. Didn't knit as much as I wanted to.

The gifts of Covid, not in any particular order:

(1) Zoom meetings every Sunday afternoon with my five siblings, we are scattered througout the world but we all show up faithfully week after week.

(2) Seeing clearly what's important and what isn't in life.

(3) Missing really ordinary bits and pieces I took for granted like sitting in cafes with friends mulling over the state of the world. Never realizing that that was a something I took for grantd pre-Plague. Live theatre, live music.

(4) Zoom Meetings with long time friends in Ontario whom I miss so much.

(5) Seeing how local friends misbehaved in not following the protocols, never realizing how truly selfish they were in not protecting others by wearing a mask.

(6) Forcing myself to fix computer and tablet issues when challenged. It hurt the ancient brain but I managed. And felt inordinately proud when successful (hello new bluetooth connection which took an inordinate amount of time.)

(7) Precious travelling trip to the Great Northern Peninsula with Grandgirl and Daughter. Grandgirl had to self-isolate for 2 weeks when she got here before we all set off and I am so grateful for her concern and caring of her old grandma.

(8) Enjoying cheap flowers like never before, here's a picture of the irises I bought yesterday:

Here's a pic of Grandgirl and me at the Viking Settlement, I wish I had the picture handy of me pushing her in her jogging stroller 25 years before as we I ran in a Toronto road race! It would have been one of those perfect circle of life treasures. I'll never forget her lisping over and over "Go, grandma, go!" Now it was my turn to urge her on through the trails!

And here's a bunch of Irish wishes for all of you out there as we bravely face this brand new year.

Friday, December 18, 2020

A Girl In Ireland

There are all kinds of forces in our childhoods that form us as adults. I was forged in an Ireland that today sounds like the Taliban. Men and women were separated in all kinds of ways starting with church.
A mantilla

In my time - late forties early fifties in the last century - men and women sat on opposite aisles of the church. As soon as a girl hit puberty her head had to be covered in a mantilla in church. I was one who always asked why and the answer was that a women's hair could tempt a man. We had to be vigilant about throwing any temptation in a man's way as they quickly "went out of control."

Education was an awful waste for a woman as she would throw it all away when she got married, which was the end goal.

And speaking of end goals: There were 3 options for a girl's life:

(1) Become a nun (highest calling, a girl would be the bride of Christ. Chirst was obviously a polygamist but saying that was blasphemy of the highest order - hell fire and damnation were yours.

(2) Married, giving god all the children she possibly could and even more, if one of her sons was a priest she could go sit on the right hand side of god once she died (usually early being worn out from constant pregnancies.)

(3) Staying single but dedicating one's life to (free) community work in the church and supporting the clergy's housekeeping, etc.

Careers for women were frowned upon severely as
(1)If it was outside the norm (teacher, nurse) it could be offputting for a man who might be interested in you.
(2)You refrained from buying a car as you might as well say goodbye to any good man finding and marrying you.
(3)Keeping your intelligence to yourself, men find "smart" women saucy and forward. "Intelligence," said my father, the youngest of the family of six - all girls until his precious self, "Is always wasted on a girl."

Sex education was strict.

(1) Tampons would "destrioy" you. Why? No man would want you. Why? Tampons destroyed his pleasure.
(2) Never let a man touch you below the neck or above the knee - see "out of control" section from church rules.

From the beginning I saw that I was more of a worry than my four brothers. For I could "fall" pregnant. By any stray man. I remember living in fear of toilet seats if a man had used it prior to me. I could "catch" a stray pregnancy. And I was told about these dark and smelly places where girls who fell were incarcerated scrubbing sheets for the rest of their lives with their hands covered in chilblains and carbolic soap, dawn to dusk, living on bread and water and beaten by the nuns if they complained.

I remember looking at my brothers and thinking they have absolutely no idea how much freedom they have. None. The most they were told was not to climb into cars with strange men offering them sweeties. They didn't have to fear endless laundry work and were free to spray any female with an "unwanted" pregnancy and walk away.

the most imporant rule of all: I had to avoid these lurking pregnancies as I could wind up with carbolic hands in a dark damp dungeon for the rest of my born days.
To be continued.

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Art of Empathy

I try not to speak in platitudes or cliches or tropes. That's not empathy. Examples: Every cloud has a silver lining, into each life a little rain must fall, God closes a door so you can open a window, ad nauseum.

If someone is suffering or complaining or sharing, I try not to rain on the parade of it, the pain or regret of it.

For instance, the other night, a long standing friend shared her pain over her son getting upset and estranging himself from her because she criticised his new wife. Her son is in his fifties.

I am wise to such stuff. For instance when Daughter split up with husband when Grandgirl was only a few months old, I decided I never would criticise her husband (and he was a jerk of the highest order) which would spill over into any relationship I had with him. Why? Well, if anything happened to Daughter I needed access to Grandgirl, the light of my life, and he was not going to concede that access to a raging and seething granny, now was he? I had to see her ex periodically as we would have to pick Grandgirl up or drop her off with each other while Daughter studied or taught. It was always civil and kind.

I've passed this on to other grandparent friends as to how to conduct a relationship with their children's exes even though homicide/femicide might be on their minds. Suck it up, you will reap the benefits.

A sibling and the rest of her family spouted off at her son when he broke up with his wife. They tore his wife up six ways to Sunday. And guess what? The son reconciled with the wife and and told her what his family really thought of her and things have been frosty as ice since.

Keeping the old lips zipped is extraordinarly difficult, especially when you are asked by an adult child, "What do you really think of (insert name of hated in-law here)?". Recommended answer: "As long as you're happy, darling." And excuse yourself for a minute so you can staunch the flow of blood from your tongue. Or "the bastard's gone and left me, mum!" Recommended answer: "What can I do to help you, sweetheart?"
I only share my own experience. I never presume to offer advice for circumstances that have not affected me. And only when asked.

And to go back to the recent pain of my friend and her son and his wife.

My friend P went on a diatribe to her son calling his wife a "skank" - she was only after his money and pension and holdings. To say I was flabbergasted is to understate my reaction to her words. I desperately wanted to criticise her beaviour towards him but I wasn't going to add to her pain. I wasn't going to join in on the downtake of her DIL. I asked her was she ready to apologise and she just about screamed at me: "I wouldn't take back a word of it. She's an effin skank!" But at some level she's ashamed of this because it happened a year ago. A whole year and he refuses to speak or engage with his mother. And it was the first time she shared it with anyone.

Now P has had a turbulent unsettled life. Married 5 times, I met them all and yeah, some of them were also "skanks". Many times her son lived with her parents as she pursued the latest hubby across continents. So definitely pot and kettle come to mind. But I only feel a huge compassion for her. I've had some wonderful fun times with her over the years, we fought for acceptance as female executives in hostile male working environments and always supported each other in all our endeavours. I care for her deeply. And do hope she sees the way of healing with her only child.

So few ask for advice. But empathy is always needed.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Once Upon a Time

My estranged daughter's birthday was on December 9th. I did something a little different this year. I wrote a little poem about how I felt and sent it to a sibling who had lost his son on December 10th (a crib death). And in that act, which was spontaneous, there was the recognition that reaching out and sharing pain can be so healing.

I didn't feel as broken as I normally do on her birthday. And I know her birthday is long forgotten many birthdays in my family. Obliterated. I feel she is erased. Which doesn't help my solitary pain. Apart from her sister - we remember and commiserate and share and overanalyze her distance and cautiously explore the one media outlet we are not blocked from. We have become professional lurkers as one false click or move will set her off again and we will have no updates. By updates I mean that we know she's alive and hasn't killed herself or been killed. And I don't say that in high drama mode. She has attempted it before. So we tread lightly, as we always have with her. The eggshell dance.

And another thing, a friend reached out to me and shared that her son had estranged himself and she was in such pain. She is one of quite a few who have done this now, mainly because I am open with my sharing of it. There is no shame or blame as some people think. It just is.

So here's a pic of my glorious girlie in absentia and the poem I wrote.

For JJ December 9, 2020.
Another trip around the sun is completed.
And I reflect on the day of your birth
Again. And again. And again.
And how my reality
Didn't match your reality.
I thought there was
Unconditional love
I thought there was joy
And recognition
And humour
And connection.
I was alone.
My memories are
Crystal clear.
For now.

Monday, December 07, 2020


We all have it. Some have trunks, some suitcases, some carryons, some as light as a fancy knapsack. But there is no escaping it. I've always loved the analogy of someone running far from home, even to escaping on a boat and when she finally pulls into harbour, there's all her left behind baggage waiting for her on the pier.

I'm talking emotional baggage of course.

So I was inspecting my baggage this morning. It does change from day to day, week to week. I no longer have trunk loads of the stuff.

But I do have some. A mixed bag (ha!) now. Some of it is light and fluffy, some dark.

(1)In the bigger suitcase is a long time friend whose cancer has spread. To say I am devastated is to understate it. I can't imagine life without R in it. And this opens up all the other losses of dear friends, nearly uncountable now. This is the price tag of aging but it still doesn't alleviate the weight of the pain. It also opens up in a different way how R has been so supportive over the years in all kinds of ways. Each memory pops up in light and fizzles in darkness.
(2) My PC is not performing well after the recent long 6 hour update (seriously). Everything has slowed, and in the way of my head and living alone, this takes up enormous worry space in the luggage.

In the lighter train case today, is gratitude for friendships and dear ones who check up on me. Also grateful for the advice of an expert at my local CBD store who recommended a brilliant new tincture. It alleviates the worst of my pain. Three new books from the library are there along with the groceries Daughter picked up for me on the weekend and the countless acts of kindness she so freely offers so many times. The fog is coming and going today, I absolutely love the fog, smothering sound and landscaping with abandon. Hiding the numerous birds and blurring the trees. My larder is full and a new shelving unit was delivered for the (large) locker room in my apartment which I will photograph a la Andrew when I am completely organized (dream on, I say, dream on). But I always stack my goals in the traincase. We all need some kind of target.....

Thursday, December 03, 2020

A Sliver of Life

I wrote this snippet this morning as I picked up the knitting after quite a dry spell and noted immediately how my mood lifted. Note to self: creativity restores your humanity. And our lives are just moments, if we think about life. This was just a moment in my day.

Herewith the sliver:

Knit Me A Scene

Needles clicking
Clock ticking
Silent birds
In circling herds
Cloud the pond
In the beyond.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Blog Buddies

I am gratified in being alive when the interwebz came into being. This amazing technology introduced me to others around the world I'd never have met in real life.

Subsequently, I met some and the F2F friendships always confirmed the virtual connection. When I had my small B&B around the bay, several came to visit me and it was joyful meeting them.

When I brought my play to Ireland, others showed up from great distances with overnight stays in the town.

When I mentioned I'd like some simple yoga practise for my continuing mobility/physical issues, an email fell into my box with great diagrams.

I've received cards and bookmarks and tea towels and scarves and knitting patterns and letters and books and even old fashioned hairpins which touch my heart.

I've sent out wee bits and pieces as well.

I grieve when bloggers die. And miss their writing. The loss is real.

I feel validated in all the complexities of my life when I post from the heart here. It is a rarity to be condemned and belittled (though it does happen). Those who attack, I suspect, haven't looked inside their own hearts and thrown the windows open to alleviate the darkness within.

So a big thank you to you all out there.

Today and every day.