Docked

For the first several summers of coming to the Paradise Lake to camp, I stared at the floating dock. As the mother of two small children, I found myself tethered to the shoreline, staying close to the warm, shallow, pee-infested waters of the small bay.

All day, campers would squeal, giggle and splash, jumping off the dock, drying themselves in the sun, pushing each other off… always out of reach, 15 feet past the buoys that mark the point past which it’s no longer safe for weak swimmers to wade. I wanted to be up there, to be free, but the littles needed me. I let them push me around the bay in an inflatable dingy and built sandcastles until I got bored.


I finally made it, when the kids were in life jackets or had enough swimming lessons to make the trek. And those were glorious summers, beaching our exhausted bodies on the wooden planks, swatting horseflies to death, holding hands and plugging noses for running jumps off the boards, that mini moment of panic until the green water gave way to the light above.

One summer, when the girl child was attempting the dock swim for the first time without a life jacket, we took the inflatable dinghy with us as backup. It was breezy, and when I let go of it to grab the dock, the boat flipped over, trapping her underneath.

In those few moments, I panicked, imagining her sinking nine feet down like a stone. I called to her dad on the beach, but I got to the boat first. As I approached, I could hear her beneath the vinyl, legs and arms frantically treading—survival instinct. I got her safely to the dock and ignored the judging stares and comments of the other, more professional mothers.


We got to the lake this summer to find the beach had receded due to flooding and the dock gone. I had been looking forward to making the dock my bitch. But she wasn’t there. The other noticeable absence from this provincial park, which I consider my happy place, my forest home away from home, was the father of my children. A man who, until very recently, I considered the love of my life.

It’s been a year since he wielded the hammer on the second last nail of the coffin he was building for our marriage. Somehow, one horrible year behind me, I found the strength to pack and prep on my own, to get us up there (singing pop songs the whole way), using all that he’s taught me about camping. On a day when it was storming, I held him in loving kindness during a rare moment alone. I thanked him for all he’s taught me about living in the forest. And then I let him go a little bit more.


“Wish I was sharing a tent with you for a weekend,” said a text on Friday night. Someone’s lit a match to the kindling in my core. There’s no telling how big I’ll blaze once a beautiful birch log has finally lain on top of me. I spend my quiet moments in the tent, trying to imagine this. I can imagine the kissing, I can imagine what I’d like to happen next, but those images are vague. Trying to grab them is like trying to grab a wisp of campfire smoke.

There’s so much I don’t know. Does he cook? Is he squeamish about bugs? Can he build a fire? Does he even like me if he almost never initiates text conversations? A woman’s concerns are so often about security. But also, camping is sacred to me. The forest is where I shed my city self and allow myself to just be. That’s not something I’d willingly share with anyone ordinary.


To book a campsite in my region, one must plan five months in advance. This is how my life goes. I’m a woman and a single mom—there is little room for spontaneity. Little room for docks that just float and sometimes disappear. This year we jumped off the giant boulders on the side of the lake instead. I hoisted a canoe on the ancient stone and leapt into the abyss. And maybe that’s where I need to learn to play: at the junction of my strength and the unknown. Maybe I can get over my fear, my need for control and just jump. Perhaps the key is to give up on an ideal, to find lots of rocks to hurtle myself off of. Or realize there are lots of drops of water in the lake, and I can splash anywhere and any how I damn well please.

In the meantime, send me a hopeful thought the next time you’re roasting a marshmallow.

Blurgh

Mixed signals. Different expectations. Reading between the lines. This is what has fucked men and women up since women started to get a say in all this.

In our grandparents’ generation, women just played the hand they were dealt. You stuck it out with someone and the relationship (if it wasn’t abusive) was an operations team. Who ran the farm? Who raised the kids? Romance? Maybe.

Our mothers’ generation had a bit more choice. They had appliances, the dream of achieving perfection and Valium to help them survive marriages to men raised by PTSD war veterans. They had women’s lib and Roe vs. Wade. They had Petula Clark songs and grew up on a diet of Katherine Hepburn romances. Some of them got divorced. Many of them still relied on a husband’s income to make life happen. (Yes I am painting a heterosexual portrait here, I’m generalizing and writing what I know.)

But now here we are two generations later, with the financial means to make choices, and we have been fed a steady diet of be skinny and hide your smarts and if you are lucky you will find your prince! Take your small nose and your perfect boobs (and ass) and ride them all the way to a neighbourhood full of Audis and Subarus, Pilates and yoga, mojitos and girls nights and spa trips, dad bods and date nights and cottages on the water.

You too can be Meg Ryan or Jennifer Aniston, but not after fifty, because who wants to see that? Snag the prince before the clock turns 12, Cindy! Before your last fuckable day!

And I wonder why I’m a spaz about dating?

*********************

I wrote that last night, upset because my anticipated date, which maybe never was a date, didn’t happen. I was ok with the date not happening, because there are loads of reasons for that, but I kind of felt like I was left hanging. In a typically female way, when I read, “I will let you know in a couple of hours” at 5pm, I expect an answer that evening. Or at the very least, the next day when the date was meant to happen.

Anyway, I won’t get into further detail about things I’m discovering in this new world of maybe sorta dating, like the green light in FB Messenger (something I’ve paid ZERO attention to previously). But I made the best of it and went for manis and drinks with friends.

I woke up this morning, feeling like I needed a zing. And zing! My phone was alight with messages from another old friend/colleague man, who is super fun and super hot. A bit nutty and drinks and smokes too much for my taste, but totally good for a debaucherous night that could end up… zing!

Then on the way to work, stewing about my shite day yesterday, where I failed to smash the patriarchy in that job interview, zing! The first man I’ve gone on a date with in two decades, a dude I met on an app, sends me pretty photos from his Mediterranean vacation. Zing!

So what I’m trying to say is, while some of this is total donkey balls, it’s also kind of fun. I don’t need any of this to go anywhere. I just want to be treated with respect and courtesy. If you want my sunshine to shine down on you (and it’s some damn fine sunshine if you can earn it) then make an effort. I am looking for a feminist fuck buddy. And the only prerequisite is that you treat me nice (oh and truly believe women deserve equal rights). But I am realizing that it’s going to take a lot of auditions before someone has the good fortune to land this part. And that’s ok, because God invented battery powered devices for a reason.

I don’t need you, make me want you. Be a mensch. Treat others as you’d like to be treated. Make me feel like the queen that I am. Let’s go to cute places and do artsy things and I will make you feel like the king that you are. I’m not ready for someone to govern the kingdom with me… yet. But I’m not ruling out the possibility either.

Love me now (like it’s all I have)

So there’s a new boy in my life. Well, a new-old boy. Someone I’ve known. Someone who would pop into my thoughts from time to time, but now I. Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. Him. Sigh.

It’s actually, rapidly becoming a problem, because I don’t know if I want this – the thought stream. I want the boy. I want his hands on my body and his mouth on mine. I’d like to see him with his clothes off. But I do not want to see myself like this. Needy. I don’t want to become infatuated. I don’t want to overthink everything, or get too far ahead of myself. Because that’s not solving this problem that I’m on a journey to solve. The goal right now is “I gotta get right with me.”

But today, while meditating, I realized that this, too, is a lesson. Because constantly checking your phone to see if someone has texted, or updated his Facebook, or liked your Instagram photo—it’s the same nutty, distracted thought pattern that occurs with all social media. It’s a form of seeking external validation and also has to do with impulse control. You are bored, or uncomfortable, or just not liking yourself for a moment (you may not even be conscious of this), so you flip to social media (or if you’re on a desktop, one of the 376 tabs you may have open). “Let me see what everyone is doing,” you think. Or, worse, you’ve posted something and then it’s, “Let me see who likes/loves me,” you think.

You need that zing, because we are all addicted. Our brains are wired such that we often get addicted to some kind of zing: that 2 p.m. coffee, the after work drink, picking at your cuticles, buying something with Amazon 1-click, binging something on Netflix when you know you should exercise or sleep. I’m currently reading/listening to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and the key, according to the book, is to replace bad/unproductive habits with good ones. You’ll never really change the impulse, but you can change the action using a system of cues and rewards. Let’s park this for a moment.

Then I read this today, after it came through my Medium email and Kris Gage totally nailed it. Most of what we think is love is bullshit. It’s us trying to love ourselves using outside influences, rather than work through the shit in our minds and learn to love ourselves from within. Those who have reached enlightenment will say that it’s because we don’t really know what we are. That because we fill our lives with noise and don’t make time to let the divine in, and as such, we can’t truly understand just how loved we are, right from the source.

I find the idea of divine love very appealing, frankly, and I don’t care how crazy-Oprah-woo that makes me seem. Because I don’t mind being vulnerable. I’ve spent my whole life trying to beat everyone to the punchline. I am learning not to mind being judged. How I choose to experience and perceive this life is up to me. And how I feel about me is up to me, not due to anything anyone else says. But this takes PRACTICE.

The new-old boy and I have had just one date (that I didn’t even know was a date), so really, when I feel like texting, “Just had jerk chicken and thought of you,” that’s just me looking for a bit of something to boost me up. That’s me seeking a, “You’re so hot” text in return. I mentioned my current obsession to my friend and unofficial guru, Dr. X, today, to which she smartly replied, “Don’t be infatuated. Take each moment, each happening in the present moment. Stay grounded and enjoy.” Awesome. Great. But how?

So this week, I’m going to work on that. Every time I start to check my phone to see if I got a bite on my last cast of the line in the lake, I’m going to take a moment to love myself instead. It’s gonna take a mantra of some sort. Something like, “I offer myself kindness.” Or, “I offer myself love.” It’s certainly no crazier than checking my phone 1000 times a day to try to get a little lift in my mood. Or, I’m going to come here and write until the urge to be loved by others passes. Because writing, for me, is loving myself. It’s tipping a respectful hat to who I am, feeding my passion, grounding myself in the present by synthesizing my thoughts. And heck, it seems like a good habit to replace the bad one.

Besides, we have date #2 pencilled in for later this week. And this one, I am completely sure, is a date. Which will lead to more snogging. Oh god, here we go again…