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.

All the world’s waiting for you

I’m trying to channel my inner Wonder Woman today. Trying to be like Gal Gadot, innocent to the obvious and just doing what I’ve been trained to do, to slay on auto pilot. Today is a big day. Or maybe it’s not.

Part one of today that has my stomach churning and me listening to guided meditation is a BIG job interview. For a job that will likely punish me if I get it. But first I have to go in and defeat the second tier bad guys before I can fight the ultimate giant villain.

I am a woman in tech. I may as well be Vulcan. Many of my potential peers in this group (all men) lack empathetic leadership skills (not all of them, mind you). They are driven by robotic success. Breaking this up with my loud, my honest, my lay it all on the table, is appealing to me. I’m also highly intoxicated by the idea that we should embrace new platforms like AR/VR/MR to tell stories. I want to be there when we get the chance to explore this.

The team needs a mom. I know that a lot of feminist business books say not to do this, but frankly, I think some teams need this. When there is too much male energy, it’s often easy to forget to celebrate small victories. Anyway, I don’t want to go into it further, but I do need to SLAY today. I need to convince them that they need me. So that’s the first dragon.

Yesterday I went to therapy to talk through all that’s been going on, which—as always—is a lot. From the minute I emailed her a week ago to say I needed a tune-up, to sitting down on her couch yesterday, my whole world view changed. I went from being sad about my marital breakup, to being excited about everything. It’s like I was trying to turn the TV on and getting frustrated because it wouldn’t and then someone walked over and said, “Oh! You just forgot to plug it in!” Duh!

So the second dragon to slay today is my own fear and anticipation around possibly, maybe having sex with someone new for the first time in two decades. I shaved my legs, put on a sexy new dress and some lacy underpants. He might not be available to go out tonight, and I’ve been burning up with thoughts of kissing for a week. Even if there’s a 10% chance that this could happen, I gotta be prepped. But I need to keep my head cool, to remember that this is just a bit of fun.

This is where I’m at in my journey right now. Learning not to overthink. Learning to not get ahead of myself, to just enjoy the moment. Today is kind of delicious with the possibility of what could be, but I know the lesson I’m supposed to learn is to JUST BE. Easier said than done. I’m not a zen master yet, but I’m training for it.

(If you want to do your head, go read this awesome piece from Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit on what Michael Phelps does to prep to slay. I’d love a similar one on Hilary Clinton, or Beyoncé—what do powerful women do to prepare for a big battle? Where’s my auntie Robin Wright when I need her?)

Send me your good juju please? Kthxbai

 

All the time

Last week, on my birthday, I rode to work on a sticky, sunny day, one ear bud in (because two ear buds while cycling through a city is a death sentence), listening to bahamas. I’m a sucker for folk rock or moody emo music, especially if it’s about love and heartache. I’m a fucking hopeless romantic, like most women of my generation, raised on rom-coms starring perfect-nosed blonde women.

I’m about to date. I think this is what’s happening. And as is clear from the blog, I’m overthinking it already. I’m trying not to, honest. But the game has changed in 20 years. Who texts whom? How to respond? Am I asking too many questions? I’m a fucking journalist so the answer is probably yes. But maybe I just say fuck it and I stick to one rule: Just be me.

What have I got to lose? Really at this point, I can date whomever I want. Really and truly. The choices I made in my 20s were so much about ticking boxes and ticking clocks. Hurry up and find someone to make a baby with! Make sure he can get all the accoutrements of adulthood with you: house, car, dinners out, vacations. Dream of all the boxes you can tick together. Ignore that you are hammering a square peg in a round hole. It mostly fits. You’re not a carpenter anyway, just a girl who has boxes to tick! You’re not mad that it doesn’t fit yet, you’re 20-something! Anything is possible!

I’m on the other side now, I’ve got babies and in 10 years, if I’ve done my job right, I will have a mostly quiet house many nights of the week. I’m in the process of buying that house on my own. I have a beater mom-mobile. I’m self-sufficient. And with full days and nights to myself a few times a week, I’ve realized I’ve once again got the sexual appetite of a 20-something.

I’ve got all the time in the world, don’t you want some of that
I’ve got all the time in the world, don’t you want some of that
Don’t you want some of that, I would if I was you

As my sexy, curvy friend Carla says, “I don’t need you. Make me want you.”

The problem with overthinking is that I’m not ready for someone to take up space in the warehouse. I’ve just spent a good number of months clearing it out. I’m still clearing it out, still purging and coming up with an organization system. I’m still chasing the spiders out and reconnecting with old relics and long-forgotten souvenirs from countries I once occupied.

I just found the dust jacket from a 30-year-old album. I put the record on and listened to the lyrics with adult ears, my experience now layered over my understanding of the songs. I have practiced this language, but speaking it feels different in my mouth now that I’ve travelled the terrain.

I’ve found photos of a girl, laughing on a Georgian Bay beach in a skimpy bikini. She looks perfect, but I know in her head she thought she was fat, she was ugly, not good enough. Another photo, in Acapulco in her 20s, she is wearing PVC and a low-cut top, stripper heels and too much makeup. Night after night, she let a poor man’s Antonio Banderas into her bed, sound of the ocean outside her window. She let him put his hands up her shirt and rub his hard on against her, while telling her when they got back to Toronto he’d be committing to the homely girl who drove him to and from school every day. She was not a girl that guys dated, they told her, she was too much like a guy herself. I decided to tear him out of the photo and hang onto her, because man she looks fierce with that tan.

I had all the time in the world, you wanted none of that
I had all the time in the world, you wanted none of that
You wanted none of that, I would if I was you

I find a box of ugly words that I’ve said to myself over the years. I look at each one, ask myself if they were true and how. Then I burn most of them out back. (I keep a few for days where I want to go nine rounds with my brain.)

There’s a shelf covered in mom guilt. It has to go. There’s a costume that says “Perfect Mother” on the tag. It never quite fit, but sometimes I wore it anyway, just for the Instagram photo op. There are piles of crafts that I always had the good intentions to complete, but never made time for. There’s a cylinder that yells at you when you turn upside down, and then says, “I love you so much, I’m sorry I yelled” when you turn it back the other way.

Put my work in front of my girl, there’s something wrong with that
Put my work in front of my girl, there’s something wrong with that
Something really really wrong with that,
I know this to be true

In the back of the warehouse, under some old skids, I find the giggles of girlfriends, from a time before boys mattered. I find a biography of Duran Duran. I find promises to tell about first periods and first kisses. I find a Dickie Dee bell and a Popsicle stick. I find the absence of self-consciousness and the beauty of a moment.

Behind the furnace, a heart pillow from the 1980s. A prize from a fair, smiling, arms open, beckoning me to embrace it, its fuzzy velour exterior, dusty and worn from neglect. I wipe it down lovingly and squeezed it until it glowed.

I decide to open the windows and let the fresh air in. I sweep and sort some more. I make a donation pile.

I start to envision a space with things in it, but I’m not ready for someone else’s chairs and tables and luggage to accumulate clutter. I’m not ready to share. I know I won’t be single forever, so what’s the rush? But maybe, I could throw one rager of a party in there this summer. Or perhaps host some quiet pop-up dinners in the space. Maybe I just gotta learn to let go of all these plans and thoughts and just surrender to having a little fun, no expectations. I’ve got the keys to the warehouse after all, and I get to decide when to tell everyone to get the fuck out. I’ve got all the time in the world. And for the first time maybe ever, I get to decide what to do with it.

Certainly before the ugly lights come on this time please.

 

 

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…

Don’t be chicken-shit

I rode my bike around tonight, smelling the linden trees and just being grateful that I survived this year. A year ago yesterday, he told me he “wasn’t in love with me anymore.” I thought it was bullshit, just another sign of the issues he’d been struggling with. I own some of that too, of course. I made some regrettable choices in how I behaved, nagging and raging and pivoting until there was nothing but confusion and chaos. But then the marriage counsellor fired us.

After the “how did that make you feel?” (um, like shit? Shall I describe the poo I felt like for you?) she took a breath and said something like, “At this point, I don’t think we should continue. I don’t think I can help you where you are at right now. I would strongly recommend seeking individual therapy to unpack what this means for each of you.”

So I did that. I also started to put myself out front, started to see that the only place I didn’t see myself as awesome was in his presence. I spent time with girlfriends, spent time on my bike, spent time going to yoga, spent time reading. And I did the work. I woke up every day at 6 am and meditated (thanks Andy and Headspace app). I processed my feelings with a therapist. The goal was mental fortitude, I thought, so I could steel myself from these insane verbal assaults. But the outcome was an understanding and acceptance that calling it quits did not make me a bad person or a bad mother.

Six months went by and we went through the motions. And one morning, a proposition was made to keep the marriage going that I couldn’t abide. It just wasn’t me. I cried for two days, while he played “Flamenco” by The Tragically Hip on the guitar.

Does it diminish your
Super-capacity to love?

Yes. The answer was a resounding yes. My marriage was diminishing my super-capacity to love.

I had booked a flight. Four, actually. From Toronto to London. We were meant to go on from there, the four of us, to visit his family elsewhere in Europe. It was six months away, but how could I go? How could I face everyone looking at me like the love fool that I was? They’d all seen it, seen me diminish, seen me become an angry, unhappy version of myself. No, I couldn’t go. And that is how I began the most painful but liberating conversation of my life.

Walk like a matador,
Don’t be chicken-shit
And turn breezes into rivulets
A whisper of an idea emerged, I would travel alone. I never had. Not for more than business. Not beyond flying to see him when he lived in London. London was our place. It could still be. Neutral, like Switzerland. But a jumping off point to other destinations.

Flamenco-sweep the air
And weave the sun
And stamp your feet for everyone

Over one of the most tumultuous weeks of my life, the plan took form. Spain. I would go to España to visit a dear friend, a healer who had been at my daughter’s birth. I would see a flamenco show. I would weave the sun and stamp my feet for everyone.

But this is not a post about that. That would take too long right now and frankly, there’s a very cute book title that is going to be on the cover of that story. No, this is a post about the universe.

Yesterday morning, I was low. I was regretting this break-up. I was thinking that I should not throw away a 20-year project and start over. I was feeling lonely and missing him. I didn’t want to feel that way. I emailed my therapist and told her I needed a tune-up.

My day began to get better! I had lunch with a former colleague and she is so great at filling my bucket. I know she’ll be glad when she gets to read me here, as she’s always been so encouraging of my writing. Then, while standing on a street corner, I got a call from another former colleague. She’d spotted me from inside a cafe and I got to hang with her and her baby for a while. Like Mario jumping on a Power Up, I felt myself getting stronger, feeling happier.

After work, I had plans with another former colleague, a man whom I have deeply admired and respected for a long time. Ok, and maybe had a bit of a crush on. When we made plans, he’d typed, “It’s a date!” But that’s just a thing people say, right?

As I walked to the restaurant I thought, is this a date? Whoa. But I’ve just spent a decade silencing any sexual spidey sense I have. I’ve just spent a decade not vibing off any male energy. So I went in, sat at the bar, ordered a cocktail and waited for my friend to show up.

Does it exhibit your
Natural tendency to hate

A year after that horrible night, where I was told that the man I thought I was spending the rest of my life with didn’t love me, my life was completely different. And in walked my handsome dear friend. Who proceeded to get very touchy with me. I thought, “Wow, he’s really friendly outside of work!”

It took two drinks before I blurted, “Are you flirting with me?” Yes, apparently, he was. In fact he’s been thinking about kissing me for a long time. And then he did.

Maybe a prostitute
Could teach you
How to take a compliment

We sucked face for HOURS. First base all evening. When was the last time you just made out? I have an answer. May 1998. This kissing was A++ even when my nose got in the way. I was gobsmacked. Was this REALLY happening? Was this young, super smart, well-dressed, lover of life telling me I was beautiful and putting his gorgeous lips over mine, over and over? Nah. Can’t be happening!

He knows me. He’s seen me at peak performance and peak stress. He knows I’m funny and smart and good at my job and he’s not threatened by it. It’s actually a turn on. He’s funny and smart and good at his job, too. He’s a romantic and a logic brain, and quite different from a lot of men I know. And holy shit, dudes! I think he’s super into me! (And no, I’m not ready to share his name, so if you’re texting me to ask, don’t.)

“Is this a THING?” I ask incredulously in between kisses. Because I’ve known him for so long, but NOT like this. I mean I KNOW him, I trust him, but I’ve never touched his skin until this moment. He looks right into my eyes and says, “Yup, it’s a thing. I just want to go to cute places and artsy things with you.” It’s the reason I deleted the dating apps, because all I have room for right now is a companionship built on mutual respect that also scratches some itches, and finding that on a dating app is a huge time suck. But here he was on my couch with an ideal proposition. My friend, who I now think about kissing all day, just happened to drop in at the perfect time.

Whenever we get scared of the new direction we’re taking, the terrifying unknown path that we need to be on to reach our destiny, we want to retreat back to what we know, even if deep down we know it’s not good for us. Last night, the universe said, “Shhh, stay on the new path. I’ve got fun stuff planned for you.”

And as crazy as it sounds, I am just going to surrender to that idea.

Maybe I’ll go to New York,
I’ll drag you there
You said, “no one drags me
Anywhere”

Does it diminish your
Super-capacity to love

For the first time in a long time, no.

Songwriters: Gordon Downie / Johnny Fay / Joseph Paul Langlois / Robert Baker / Robert Gordon Sinclair
Flamenco lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

Stop and smell the peonies

June, the month of glory, where the humble yet majestic peony embosses every Instagram post of every girl who needed something new to signify she’s alive and of this earth. After posting the crocuses (to symbolize the thaw), the tulips and daffodils (oh, here comes spring), and an ever so brief dalliance with the sakura (cherry blossoms), the peony signals the acceptance of spring’s growth and the anticipation of a brief, thigh sweaty summer.

She was a peony once, tight and furled into herself. New. Next to her was a bud, attached at the junction that leads to the root, growing alongide her, together but apart. The sun kissed them, the rain fell hard upon the pair, but they weathered the storms as best they could. It’s not easy being exposed, some buds have stronger stems than others. They kept each other company, laughing at the silliness of alliums around them, and just as they felt lonely in the space they occupied, two tiny ants appeared.

She, without thinking, fed them and in turn, they pollinated her. It was exhausting, but rewarding, giving the these little-legged creatures room and board. They were ceaseless with their demands. But without them, as June waned into July with a great celebration, she would not have become as beautiful as she realized she was that day. She would have remained closed in the bud, failed to bloom fully. They occupied her petals, forcing her to open wider than she could have imagined. Their efforts, their relentless crawling all over her, their quiet naps in her folds, helped her to blossom. They chose her  she needed them to survive

Her best bud, however, refused to open. He wanted to stay outside as long as possible. He did not want anyone to notice him, lest he be cut down too early and taken indoors. He did not mind the epic rains of that June, they cleansed him. He convinced himself he was happiest alone anyway. Oh sure, he enjoyed the ants. They helped him to find calm. But he was completely uncomfortable with how passersby to stop and smell the blossoming flower he was attached to. He despised her social media success, her showy display. He found it confusing that she seemed to get energy from the appreciation, that she enjoyed her minor celebrity status. They were so different, he thought, how could this possibly work?

He began to pull away, to stay tighter within himself and reveal nothing but his pain and distaste for her. After a particularly windy storm, she began to feel the weight of it all, began to feel herself drooping, dropping petals. The time spent trying to make herself smaller and to contain her beauty, dull her fragrance, make herself invisible—so as not to make him leave her—became unsustainable. She knew what she had to do to survive. The season was almost over for her, but she still had a shot. She woke up one day, conscious of the need for a bud to love her for who she was, to appreciate her awesomeness, to be co-pilot on her quest for life’s beauty. Someone to hold her up and support her during the torrential spring rains that flooded basements and created lakes in parking lots. But first, she knew she had to learn to stand on her own.

She said her goodbyes and cut herself down, liberating herself. It was painful as fuck, but eventually she graced a dining room table, the centrepiece for family conversations, present in the moments that mattered. She knows she is wilting and that the ants will soon abandon her, in search of toast crumbs hiding on the unswept kitchen floor. But for now, her pollen is enough to sustain them, and their company enough to sustain her.