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.